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Why You Must Have Video

video-iphoneWebsites have come a long way in just the last two years.  Two years ago, content was king.  No new content meant no one cared, and two years ago, the buzz was all about mobile.  Now, if you’re not mobile, you’re simply not relevant.

Today, websites without video are just not very effective compared to those with.

Insurance agencies may feel a bit overwhelmed with what is needed to keep up with all of this.  After all, we’re insurance people not internet marketers!  Or are we?  The truth lies somewhere in the middle.  The fact is that almost all commerce, including insurance purchases, takes place either directly on the web or is influenced by it.

So, like it or not, keeping up with what consumers expect in their web experiences isn’t an option, at least for today’s winners.

With that said, are there some best practices for video that can be adopted by anyone?  Yes, to begin with, web videos should be short.  The stats seem to indicate that past 30 seconds you begin to steadily lose viewership, although interestingly people will currently watch videos longer on their mobile devices.  Go figure.

Of course, videos need to be interesting.  That can be a challenge if you only think of insurance in policy terms.  But think about Progressive’s, State Farm’s, and Farmer’s ads on TV.  They manage to convey a message, with humor, in 30 seconds.  You can do the same thing with web video if you flex your creative muscles.  Or, you can put some of the videos your carriers have created on your site.  That saves time, money, and creative brain cells and leverages their brands with yours.

Make it personal.  This goes a bit against the last paragraph but where local agencies have a real opportunity is to personalize their offerings.  This is especially valuable when you share the video beyond your site into your social media posting.  You’re posting on social media, right?

Be topical.  What makes videoes go viral isn’t production values, its interest.

Turn it over frequently.  Change things up every few weeks.  Anything on your site that is a year old is, well, old.

Being a 21st century marketer is challenging, but so was being a 19th century marketer.  Try things.  Fail.  Get better.  But try.  Video is where it’s at in website marketing for now.  Who knows what will be hot and required in another two years.  Virtual reality anyone?

May I Recommend Chris Burand to You?

captureChris Burand is an active consultant in the independent insurance industry specializing in financial analysis, sales, and marketing.  Chris writes a well-respected column in the “Insurance Journal,” and I find his writing to be entertaining, informative and thought provoking.  I frequently find myself quoting him to agents, or groups of agents, with whom I speak and work.

In a recent column, Chris has written one of the best defenses as well as criticisms of independent insurance agents!  Without attempting to summarize his writing here, I would just like to suggest that you read it.  If you’re not a subscriber, simply go to www.insurancejournal.com and select the April 3, 2017 issue.

Is There a Future for the Independent Agency?

jimOAA and its 135 member agencies, held our Annual Success Celebration last week where we gathered to celebrate our collective success in the past year.  That event was highlighted by the attendance, and remarks, of Jim Masiello the founder of SIAA, which OAA is a part of.

During one session with Jim I asked “how confident are you about the future of the independent agent?”  I pointed out that he has two 12 year old grandsons and I have to sons in college.  I asked “would you recommend that they consider the business for their careers?”  Without reservation Jim’s answer was yes!

Interestingly, the current issue of the Insurance Journal contains the results from the “2017 Young Agents Survey”.  The results indicate that young agents agree with Jim.  According to the survey 58.1% are very optimistic about their career while 29.2% are optimistic.  Thirty seven point nine of these same agents are very optimistic about the future of the independent agency system while 41.5% are optimistic.

Overwhelmingly, those in whose hands the future of our industry rests, believe we have a bright future!  I agree with them.

Those who read my postings here will note I believe that our business will be changing over the next few years.  But I also believe we aren’t going away.  The independent agent’s fundamental value proposition of choice, advocacy and trusted relationship is more valued than ever, by more consumers than ever, as indicated in other surveys of consumer attitudes.

With all of this optimism it is certainly a privilege to participate in the creation of dozens of new agencies each year here at OAA!  How can we help you move forward with your business and career?

“You Just Got to Want It More Than Other People” – Russell Westbrook, Thunder Point Guard

 

 

If you are a fan of NBA basketball, you know who Russell Westbrook is.  If you’re not, let me introduce him.  He is not just an incredible athlete, but someone who is focused single mindedly on playing his absolute best every minute he is on the court.  Russell’s comment quoted in the headline came after an incredible 57-point scoring night in which he single handedly created a victory for his team in the second half of a game where they were down by 21 points at half time.

Russell Westbrook is the epitome of a competitor.

In the business of building a company, whether an insurance agency or any other kind, we are competing with many others for the dollars of prospective customers.  As business owners and sales people, we are competing every day in a zero sum, win or lose, game that determines the future for our business, our careers, and our families.  How many of us play with the single minded focus of a Russell Westbrook?

I believe that there are some valuable lessons for us to learn from Russell.  The first is continuous progress and improvement.  As I’ve watched Russell’s career develop over the last nine years, he’s gone from a wild, almost out of control, inconsistent performer with tremendous ability, but not much to show for it, to superstar.  That’s happened as he has gradually worked on his focus, his team work, and his fundamental skills.  As business owners and sales people, do we do that every day?  It is a key to success for every star player.

Russell seizes opportunity and takes risks.  This year his long time team mate and team leader departed.  His team was widely considered washed up, but the absence of the other super star gave Westbrook an opportunity to develop greatness if he stepped up and took the risks.  He did, and the result has been one of the best seasonal performances in history.  As business people, we are faced with new challenges and opportunities frequently.  Do we conquer our fears, as Russell has, and take on the challenge and risk or settle for the status quo?

As he has improved his performance, Westbrook has also worked to improve the performance of his teammates.  He has made them better, and in so doing, they have contributed increasingly to his success.  Most of us aren’t in business alone.  We have team mates, too.  What are we doing to improve their games?  This is an incredibly powerful key to continued and increasing business success just as it is in basketball.

Finally, Russell Westbrook simply wants to win and does everything he can, without any excuses, to make that happen.  What about you?

What’s up with the Unemployment Rate?

I’ve been reading a lot of optimistic news about the future of the economy lately.  And, I count myself as one of those who are pretty optimistic.  One of the measures of optimism that economists track is hiring plans.  The more businesses who plan to add employees the more bullish businesses are seen about economic prospects.

As one of those bullish employers, I watch the “unemployment rate” carefully because it helps me understand how easy, or hard, it’s going to be to find help.  It also gives me insight into how much employees are going to cost.

As I’ve contemplated all of this recently, I’ve been a bit perplexed.  The “unemployment rate” both locally and nationally is improving.  That is it is falling, but I’ve noticed that we are receiving more responses to our advertising for new employees.  That’s counter to what I expected.  Why?

I think part of the answer lies in lies.  You see there are multiple “unemployment rates.”  The rate that is always published in the press and talked about by commentators is the “U-3” rate, but that statistic only counts people who have looked for a job in the last four weeks.  Currently, the national U-3 rate is about 5% (considered “full employment”).  There are other rates of unemployment, and they are a lot higher.  The “U-6” rate includes part time workers who want full time jobs, discouraged workers who have given up looking altogether.  That rate, at the end of the year, was close to 10%.

This “real rate” of unemployment is probably the one we employers looking to hire should be focusing on as it’s the rate of people who are available for full time employment.  What the current rate tells me is that there are a lot of people out there who need and want jobs.  It tells me the job market, though improving, is still pretty soft.  It squares with my current experience.  Check out the U-6 rate easily found on the internet.  I think tracking it will give you more insight into how many people are looking for work when you are hiring.  I hope you are hiring – because that means you’re growing!

OAA’s Annual Success Celebration is April 12th

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OAA is gearing up for our annual Success Celebration and Conference!  This year our event will be April 12th at the Embassy Suites in Oklahoma City.  Our members, strategic company partners, and team members will get together for education, networking, and a celebration of a outstanding 2016!   OAA members will be recognized for their achievements, we will honor our Rookie of the Year, Top Producing Agencies of the Year,  Most Profitable Agent and Member of the Year.  Who will it be?   This is an exciting event where we will celebrate millions in profit sharing dollars only available to members of OAA through the incredible partnership with SIAA.  If you want to learn more about becoming a member of OAA please contact us.

Celebrating Mutual Success with our Partners at Safeco!

OAA is proud of the way our Strategic Company Partners work with OAA members to provide great products and services.  Our national partnership with SIAA allows OAA members to access the best contracts with the best companies and the most profit sharing available to an independent insurance agent.    Our friends at Safeco stopped by to drop off our 2016 profit sharing check last week.  We immediately went to work distributing that money to our members and we will celebrate along side them at our annual Success Conference & Celebration on April 12th.    Pictured left to right:  Tony Caldwell, CEO at OAA, Myrna Estrada, Kennetha Caldwell, Nancy Lyons and Paul Jones of Safeco.

 

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Why Do Some (So Many) Small Businesses Fail?

reason-small-business-failureIn my last post, I discussed the varying views on how many small businesses don’t make it.  There is debate on the rate of survival but not on the difficulty.  Many experts have theories, and, while I’m not an expert, I have helped over 100 people start a small business and watched some of them fail.  Here are some of my observations about why.

  • Lack of planning. I see a lot of business plans.  Most of them are too vague and nonspecific.  The ones that most often succeed are highly detailed in terms of how they will attract prospects and convert them into customers in a given period of time.
  • Lack of capital. Stories of starting a business with virtually no money are legion.  I started mine that way, but, in a small business, the founder needs to identify how he and the business will survive the inevitable financial challenges that come in a new business.  It can be spousal income, savings, investors, or other sources, but very few businesses and their owners can survive the time period required to establish regular cash flow with only the income from the business.  A realistic assessment of this is almost always lacking in failures.
  • An unrealistic marketing plan. The number one job of a founder is to create revenue, but many budding entrepreneurs way underestimate the number of prospective customers that will be required to get to a certain level of income.  In addition, they have no certain means identified to produce those prospects in necessary numbers.  Most insurance agency startups are created by sales people.  Many of those don’t understand how to make the phone ring.  Before you hang out your shingle, make sure you do.
  • No Unique Selling (value) proposition. The failures I see think that a lower price than the next guy is enough.  It isn’t.  It never has been.  It won’t ever be.  Especially in a day in which customers can easily shop many sources quickly, being cheapest isn’t enough to stay alive.  Since virtually all agencies tout “service” as their USP, that doesn’t work well either, unless it’s really true, and it usually isn’t.  What is your USP?
  • Inadequate work ethic. How much time should a founder expect to invest in their business on the way to success?  I’ve heard a lot of theories.  My answer is: all of it.  To be successful in starting a business, the founder needs to be ready to commit all of their time to it, except the time required to eat, sleep, and eliminate.  I’m not kidding.  Look at those who made it, and that’s what you see.  Yes, starting your own business should (eventually) allow you freedom of time, but it won’t for the first few years.
  • Wheel reinvention syndrome. There are many startups who invent a new product and become fabulously successful.  Legions more who don’t, but in the small business arena (like insurance agencies), usually success involves following well established paths to success.  When involved with companies like mine who have a well charted set of success strategies, follow them.

 

This is the land of entrepreneurs and the “overnight” success story that often takes many years.  There are lots of paths to success and some pitfalls.  The ones I’ve listed here are common and 100% preventable with some effort.  Good luck to you if you head down the path to independence!

AccessPlus Adds New Professionals!

OAA has gone through some changes in the last few months, not just new scenery with our recent office move, but we’ve also added several new faces!  Our AccessPlus team is member focused, and we’ve been working hard while stretched thin these last several weeks.  After an exhaustive search for the right fit for our team and yours, we are so excited to introduce our new AccessPlus professionals.  Please meet Robbie Hoffman, Sylvia Smith and Caleb Wonn.    Be sure to welcome them to the team during your next AccessPlus interaction.  They are here to help you and are training hard to do just that!

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OAA’s newest team members are pictured left to right.  Below you will see their answers to these 3 questions:

  1.  How many years of experience in this industry?
  2. What is something you think you are good at that will lend itself well to helping our members?
  3. What do you enjoy doing outside of work, hobbies, interests, volunteer work etc?

Robbie Hoffman

  1. 20 years
  2. Knowledge about the industry; I really care about what I am doing; helping clients to the best of my ability
  3. Spending time with my 3 grandchildren & my family; Reading; Cooking; Being outdoors

Sylvia Smith

  1. 20 years plus
  2. I enjoy helping people and it’s important to me to exceed expectations, and give the best customer service
  3. I love to run in my spare time and I also have 2 grandchildren that I love spending time with

Caleb Wonn

  1. 7 years
  2. I love crunching the details of coverage. I think that knowledge will be beneficial to the members as a way to distinguish themselves
  3. Fishing, camping, boating, water skiing, play piano and guitar, being a husband and dad to three girls fills a lot of my time

Persistence

basic

How do you know when you’re going to be successful?

I remember when I started my career as an insurance agency owner and commercial insurance producer.  Each month I called on an endless succession of business owners asking for X dates and it seemed like forever before I got to actually quote.  Then I sold a few policies and could begin to see that I’d eventually have some income.  I remember going home and telling my wife we had victories to celebrate!  Nursing an infant, working full time in her own business and exhausted her question was “where’s the check?”

It’s really tough to start and build a business.  Most people can’t do it.  But those that do have something highly unusual going for them.  Persistence.  They simply won’t quit.

I saw the movie “Founder” last week about Ray Kroc and the building of McDonalds.  It was inspirational to me.  Ray was an entrepreneur who started, and apparently failed, at a lot of things.  Early in the movie we see him carting a mixer from drive in to drive in with little success.  Each night he is staying in a flea bag motel, alone with nothing more than Canadian Club whiskey for company.

He also had a record player, with a single record about persistence.  As he falls asleep each night the voice quotes Calvin Coolidge saying:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.   Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Kroc of course goes on to build McDonald’s into the world’s largest restaurant chain and becomes fabulously wealthy.  At the end of the movie he rehearses a speech about what made him, and his company, successful.  He begins “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence…”

How can you know you’re going to be successful?  By making the commitment to never give up!