This article was orginially written by Ron Hettler and published by IA Magazine.
One of the biggest advantages of being an independent agent is the ability to shop around for coverage on behalf of your customers. But today, new online tools give customers easier access to quotes and the ability to comparison shop for themselves, particularly in personal lines.
Although Google killed off a car insurance comparison feature in 2016, a new crop of websites continues seeking to disrupt the insurance market: TheZebra.com, NerdWallet.com, Insurify.com and Gabi.com, all of which act as licensed digital insurance agencies in many states.
Via direct relationships with dozens of carriers—200 in the case of TheZebra.com—it’s easy for homeowners and personal auto shoppers to use these websites to compare policies by price and coverage. Backed by venture capital, these startups are a new contender in the insurance marketplace.
The things these new agencies do well is digital marketing, adopting the latest web technologies, creating mobile-accessible websites and utilizing conversion-optimized quote forms.
How can insurance agencies compete? Here are five strategies to consider:
Eliminate the need to visit the office
For millennials and Generation Z, the need to make a phone call or attend a face-to-face meeting to buy insurance is a hassle. Putting a phone number on your website is not enough to sell to those generations.
Instead, add a chat widget to your homepage, which is faster than email and allows for real-time dialogue. Additionally, encourage prospects to text your office phone with questions or for quotes.
Embrace mobile technology
A lot of insurance shoppers use their smartphones to browse for policies, and Google recently announced a new mobile-first ranking algorithm that ranks your website based on the speed and usability of your mobile website.
That means a website that was designed five years ago is outdated. Your website must have a responsive design, which means it adjusts its display settings based on the screen size it’s being viewed on.
Offer real-time quoting
One of the main assets of this new breed of websites is their quote engines. Relying on APIs between carriers, some of the sites can automatically pull basic quoting information and show the cheapest policy within a few minutes. For insurance agencies, comparative rating technology can provide a solution.
Advertise your carriers
Many independent agents fail to disclose their carrier relationships online, even though this gives the client more options. Advertise your carriers like a badge of honor. If you are the only agent to work with specific companies in your area, highlight it!
Promote the benefits of working with an independent agent
Make sure your agency is in front of consumers with an Advantage subscription on TrustedChoice.com. Remind prospects about scenarios you can insure, such as SR-22, rideshare vehicles and more. Share how you are an advocate for your clients both throughout the quote process and during claims.
Life’s complex. A conversation with an independent agent is sometimes the best option.
Ron Hettler is a certified insurance counselor and president of Hettler Insurance Agency in Lubbock, Texas. Hettler has been an independent agent for 25 years and is looking to the future of technology in insurance.