Originally Posted by HCCIA
Good luck! Time to cut the fat and get lean. Things will turn around.
Thanks HCCIA. That's good advice. We run it lean and mean. We have experience in the industry but still learning how to run the agency/business. So far, it's a three-man operation, 2 of us being 50/50 owners, one 1099, we have very low operating expenses, but honestly could use some improvement in a few areas so those expenses will only increase next year.
When I say I appreciate the advice, I mean that I genuinely, honestly thank you for it.
We do not have the luxury of a big brother mentor. We could use one who knows online marketing/SEO
. With every mistake we make, we have to payoff that gangster, 'BabyFace' Due Diligence. We been lucky so far, keeping problems small and easily/quickly correctible.
In the past, working under a seasoned agent in exchange for comm split, leads, and mentoring are how things are done. Unfortunately, times are a changing. Most agents here are independent and comfortable, one-man operations who got into the business 5-10 years ago and who have no interest in an exit plan other than a quick book sale. No 80/20 or 70/30 commission only. The rest that I come across are looking to make you into their slave. Multi-Level Marketing, MLM Pyramids or similar and Insurance Mills that exploit agents, keep you in the dark offering you nothing more than empty promises. Way too many of them around who's idea of selling insurance involves shoving a script in front of you that you bark at every customer for 12 hours each day while paying you $10-$50 for processing 1 enrollment application, no salary, no benefits, no renewals, no equity, sounds too much like.....no future to me. Since your name is NOT listed as the Agent of Record, doubt you will get paid for all the work you actually do. Too much greed, too much focus on quantity rather quality that will last long term.
As far as my own business, every penny is accounted for. Of course we had to pay our dues, learning what works and what does not.
The absolute biggest, most important, thing I have learned since going on my own is this:
if you offer a product or service, marketing is everything. Be a marketer first, agent/salesman second. We are learning that lesson now.
We didn't budget enough money for marketing. There are some other problems that we didn't have the foresight to anticipate or prepare for, causing the deficit in our marketing budget.
First, didn't anticipate the marketplace would aggressively seek customers like they are this year. I would go as far to say that the Marketplace is ignoring state laws by:
- allowing navigators/advisors to transact insurance without an insurance license, provide insurance advice to customers (although they do not claim to, they do it anyway)
-engage in super high pressure marketing tactics. I entered my e-mail address in there and get 6 or 7 e-mails EVERY DAY - "It's not too late to enroll". " Enroll Now" "Call Now" "You must apply or else"!!!
-I called the marketplace and made the mistake of entering my phone number and they call me EVERY DAY and try to get ME to enroll lol
3. Insurance companies appear to have invested more money than every into TV Commercials, radio, internet, and so on. I may go 15 minutes before I come in contact with some type of marketing
4. Everyone and their mother is advertising and selling health insurance now. Went into my local credit union, seen a sign/advertisement offering healthcare. Walked into Walmart, same thing, except Walmart has a HUGE sign and person standing there handing out flyers. (Do I really have to compete with Walmart now)?
5. Local Market is dominated primarily by one insurance carrier that does not work with independents. They offer $0 premium AND $0 deductible, all on the same local HMO
network. What happens when they enroll 10x more people than anticipated or more than the network can realistically handle? 3 -6 month wait to see a Dr?? Curious to see how that works out.
6. Market Place Games! One carrier hall but killed their ACA program and the rest of the insurance companies we offer are either not on-market, or not competitive in rates and/or plan benefits, leaving us with one carrier to write business with. Only problem is no one has heard of them. No brand recognition in comparison to the other. Leaves us with a lot of wasted time and little enrollments to show for it.
Although we are in one of the best markets in the US, we did not align ourselves properly. Additionally, local marketing is not treating us well. We have other licenses in other states, and the rest of this state we can draw business from. Aside from online marketing, which we are late to the dance on, we need to draw leads from other areas and we need to do it ASAP. That takes capital. We looked into giving up a percentage of ownership in the agency in-exchange for investment. Finding the right partner was like stepping into an episode of 'Shark Tank'. The only other thing we can do is leverage some assets and sell off others.
I am confident we will make it in the long run. We have some very good things going for us, I mentioned we are in the best market not only for ACA but also Medicare, the majority of the agents I come across are nearing (or past) retirement age and do not keep up with the changes, we are young enough and everything we do is high quality enough to take over. We have some very unique marketing ideas and are committed to building a virtual agency as well as building a strong local market presence, unfortunately didn't have the capital to execute much of it this year.
Buying leads is not a good long term strategy I understand, however, it is a must for now, in addition to doing some last minute, online marketing.
I am interested to see what everyone's opinion is.
Adding to my previous questions:
I understand that quality SEO
takes some time and requires some investment. But I have seen others in this forum mention some turn key website operations be made to work pretty well with a small initial investment.
How quickly can one set up a site and see quality leads come in?
Again, I appreciate your help.