Agent Link December 2018

AGENT LINK To empower those who change lives for the better

DECEMBER 2018

A TALE OF TWO CARRIERS Part II

can’t measure it, you cannot manage it,” 1 and my personal take on that when it comes to a marketing funnel: That which is measured tends to improve.

On the other hand, a number of Carrier A’s recruiters seemed to expect a level of initiative on the prospect’s part as well as higher interest in contracting with much less interaction, relatively speaking. When discussing potential pitfalls in the follow-up process, we were not surprised to find out that very few metrics were kept. Funnel metrics were just too simple and inadequate; limited to the number of agents who contracted and a count of subjective assignments of “good leads” and “bad leads.” There are two lessons I learned from this experience. The first thing I learned was that without an existing benchmark, one can’t possibly evaluate how well or how wrong something is going. Without having worked with Carrier B, their tight metrics and their outstanding follow-up, I would have not spotted the holes in Carrier A’s process. As an analogy, you cannot see what is wrong with your puzzle if you don’t have the box to compare it to. The second thing that I learned is that there seems to be a strong correlation between having numerous metrics and good producer contracting numbers. It’s all in the funnel management. The lesson may seem simple, yet it is powerful. This story is not about whether or not one has any metrics at all.This is about how well one could manage with metrics. Without ways of measuring key elements in a system, one simply cannot hope to predict any sort of bad outcome before it’s too little too late. As I bring this story to a close, I’d like to borrow from the works and expertise of management consultant and author Peter Drucker: “If you

We return this month to a distant galaxy in which two bold adventurers have enlisted the help of our services to tackle the wild frontier of marketing. Despite the seemingly similar circumstances we found each carrier in at the beginning of our tale, their journeys have gone in two very different directions. In comparison, both carriers had very similar spending for the year, their response and lead numbers were in the same ballpark and the method by which we delivered their prospects or recruitment opportunities was the same. But their contracting numbers? They were polar opposites. As I shared, Carrier A had deployed their campaign and things seemed to be going well — until we were told that their contracting numbers were very low. By contrast, Carrier B’s contracting rate was significantly higher. Upon comparing and contrasting, it became apparent why Carrier B’s outcome was so much more successful. Carrier B’s recruiters had a proactive approach with prospects and had a sharp response time.The time elapsed from when we delivered each recruitment opportunity to a recruiter having a conversation with the producer was very short; sometimes immediately after. At Carrier B’s offices, the number of times their recruiter would try again was monitored and so were the number of conversations. When asked for feedback, Carrier B’s personnel rapidly rattled out metrics — numbers that clearly showed a progression of leads through their funnel. Carrier B exhibited relentless follow-up, a manager monitored funnel metrics and recruiters had multiple interactions with each prospect. Results manifested as incoming contracts and producers going on to write business with them.

As business owners and as marketing executives, there’s a desired, even dreamed of, state of predictable growth: having the ability to predict within reasonable margins of error the new business a marketing investment will bring about. But without funnel metrics it is difficult, if not impossible, to measure return on marketing investment or diagnose what could have gone wrong when a campaign hasn’t resulted in business growth. We believe our Funnel Analysis will help you take one great step towards optimizing your process. So we conclude our tale with the inevitable question: How does your funnel process stack up? Visit www.agentlinkmarketing.com/funnel-analysis.

-Stu Gramajo

Footnote: 1) Source: www.druckerinstitute.com/2013/07/measurement-myopia

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THE CHICKEN OR THE EGG?

Why Nurturing Employees and Customers Is the Key to Retention

Who comes first: employees or customers? When posed this classic business question, Southwest Airlines co-founder Herb Kelleher had an easy answer: employees. “If employees are treated right, they treat the outside world right,” Kelleher explained. As Kelleher knows well, employee-customer relations are a cycle — one that fuels recurring business. Engaged employees deliver services that convert to sales, a fact backed up by a Gallup report. Gallup cited a 20 percent increase in sales as a result of this process. Even as you’re courting leads, you can’t ignore your existing producers. Likewise, even (and especially) as you grow, you have to nurture your employees.The cost of losing either is too high. In the holiday rush it’s important to not lose sight of your priorities. Get them hooked on your service. Have you ever asked a client why they return to your business? Do you think it’s because they can’t find your product or service anywhere else? Probably not.Think about the last time you returned to a restaurant. Was it because it’s the only place in town that makes amazing Thai food? Maybe. It is more likely that you enjoyed the welcoming host, attentive waiter and positive experience you had there. Starbucks is a great example. Even with immense competition, they deliver consistent service and quality products to customers, no matter if they are in Oregon or London. And they do this by providing competitive wages and benefits to their employees along with training and learning opportunities. Employees who are knowledgeable and excited about what they are offering pass their enthusiasm on to customers. Own up to mistakes. Even the best businesses make mistakes. When it happens, own up to it. There’s probably been a time when you put in your order at a restaurant only to receive the wrong thing. How did the business handle it? Did they admit their mistake and offer you a new meal? How a business treats customers when things don’t go smoothly is a

Strategic Planning f Encourage Producers to Get It Done “If you really want to be successful, then focus your thoughts first on ‘getting it right.’ Then focus your efforts on ‘getting it done.’ That’s my advice for you. Think first; then do.” –Verdis Norton, Gillette and Kraft chief strategist and formulator of StrategicLink Every BGA and IMO we know wants to recruit quality producers, contract more of them and have them writing business efficiently in the year to come. As an organization whose success is tied to the producers you contract, you know how valuable they are. So what are you doing to help them? One surefire way to ensure better results in 2019 is to motivate your agents and advisors. In their article “Think More, Do More,” Tyler Norton, founder of StrategicLink, and Jerry M. Toombs, 26- year Million Dollar Round Table member, describe how strategic planning techniques can motivate your producers to deliver results in the coming year. Stimulating a Change in Perspective Norton’s strategic planning starts with careful assessments to identify critical issues. Norton and Toombs are aware of the potential pitfalls here; namely producers who are used to the “just do it” mentality, but have identified a way to overcome them. By posing challenges as

good indication of how they’ll handle adversity in general. That reaction starts with employees. Set the precedent for employees that a mistake is their opportunity to go above and beyond. A transparent environment will make employees feel more comfortable, which will make producers excited, rather than apprehensive, to engage with your organization again.

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Key Metrics and Planning Are Key to a Successful Campaign

On the operational level, we’re not thinking in terms of years, because that’s more than anyone can tackle at once. We think in terms of quarters and other defining metrics that keep us and our teams accountable. But you can’t manage the specifics on a quarterly basis.Those need to be managed daily and weekly to evaluate progress. On our team, each person has quarterly metrics, but they’re not just evaluated every three months. We evaluate our numbers weekly as a team, but within smaller teams, we do it hourly. A great example is call times, connection rates and appointments generated.This ensures we are quick to act when things don’t’ go as planned. Measurable units tracked on a daily and weekly basis give your team something tangible to work toward and help them evaluate where improvements need to be made in order to hit their bigger-picture metrics. If you don’t have these in place, how will you measure success?

Did your parents or maybe a former teacher live by the mantra “10 minutes early is on time; on time is late”? It was probably eye- roll inducing to hear this when you were a kid, but that approach is exactly what makes for a successful marketing campaign. In this industry, we have to work a quarter ahead to deploy a campaign on time. For example, even our direct-mail campaign for the new year started early, in November. When it comes to marketing, you have to think a whole quarter ahead to strategize, set goals and put a plan in place to get where you want to be in three months’ time — or, when planning for the bigger picture, in three years’ time. This approach is also useful when it’s applied to the big picture of your business. When was the last time you evaluated your business plan? If you haven’t looked at it since last year or since you started your business and you’re waiting until the new year to take another look, that’s too late. From a marketing perspective, we’ve seen many organizations wait until the new year to start evaluating where things are and setting goals for the coming year. By then, they are already in March.This doesn’t allow any time for planning, implementing, and executing what needs to happen in the next 90 days.That’s not a lot of time.

-Senia

r the New Year ight

questions instead of facts that can’t be changed, a practice they call “questing,” the framing exercise empowers producers to engage in critical thinking about the challenges in their industry and how they can overcome them. The Difference Between Strategic and Operational Planning Strategic planning is the big-picture, large-scope business plan. It builds the framework for an operational plan, which puts the strategic plan into a day-to-day practice. An operational plan focuses on a 12-month period, while a strategic plan looks three to five years out. Your organization can focus on the bigger picture and help producers connect to it on an operational level. At the operational level, planning identifies key priorities and deliverables for the year.These can be daily, weekly and monthly activities your producers engage in that measure progress, serving as evidence that the strategic plan is working. With these in mind, your producers gain a connection between what they do during the day-to-day and how it contributes to the overall success of the company. It might be the change that, on a macro level, can help them internalize the link between their success and the success of the company they’re writing business for.Thus fueling their drive to produce. Why is this change in perspective so transformative? As Norton and Toombs describe, “It will motivate them to want to think more and establish a planning- and-execution process that will yield strategic clarity and focus, organizational alignment, individual and team accountability, tactical urgency and sustainable results.” Don’t we all want more of that in 2019?

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INSIDE

1. A Tale of Two Carriers: Part II

2. Don’t Let Retention Slide in the Holiday Rush

– Why Planning and Metrics Are Crucial

3. The Key to Effective Planning

– Have a Laugh

Chip and Dan Heath’s ‘Made to Stick’ Uncovers What Makes Ideas Matter

are often subverted in an effort to use business jargon and other neutered forms of language. The Heaths deploy John F. Kennedy’s famous speech about putting a man on the moon as an example of a compellingly relayed idea. “Had John F. Kennedy been a CEO, he would have said, ‘Our mission is to become the international leader in the space industry through maximum team-centered innovation and strategically targeted aerospace initiatives,’” they explain. Nobody would have been excited about that. If you’ve ever thought that you had a great idea but couldn’t get your employees to buy into it, a lack of stickiness may be the cause. Understanding how to present your ideas in an inspiring way could unlock the key to increased productivity and growth like you’ve never achieved before. The next time you present an idea to your team, a group of conference attendees, or any other audience, ask yourself if that idea will stick. If it won’t, you’re just wasting your time. If you need a little guidance on how to make your ideas punch a little harder, “Made to Stick” should be on your holiday book list.

Have you ever wondered why certain stories that have no basis in fact get spread around like wildfire? Whether they’re rumors, urban legends, or conspiracy theories, these tales can often gain more traction than important ideas and facts. In their book “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die,” Chip and Dan Heath explore the qualities that give ideas relevance and pass-around value. “An accurate but useless idea is still useless,” they write.This point is key to understanding why people get excited about certain ideas and ignore others.The Heaths argue that the presentation of ideas can have just as much of an impact on their “stickiness” as the content of those ideas. After analyzing hundreds of examples, they note, “We began to see the same themes, the same attributes, reflected in a wide range of successful ideas.” “Made to Stick” explains those attributes using myriad examples to illustrate how stickiness works in the real world. Early in the book, the Heaths share six key principles, demonstrating how good ideas are made valuable and exciting by their simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, and credibility; are capable of rousing emotions.These are often presented in the form of stories. While these principles are relatively straightforward, they

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