Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with hundreds of the fastest growing agencies in the country; installing technology and implementing the cultural change necessary to meet the growing demands of the modern consumer. One of the biggest challenges agencies face is making sure their entire organization is in alignment. Absent of alignment, there is no technology, widget, gadget or social media strategy in the world that will generate the desired result.  Based on my extensive experience there are five steps which are critical for maximizing the effectiveness of any new initiative.

Step #1 – Vision (the “what”)

Your agency vision is simply “what” you are trying to accomplish. It’s the future picture of what you’d like your agency to look like. Without a clear vision, your employees will make up their own, causing poor alignment of priorities. I’ve dealt with this often, as an agency tries to implement a new piece of technology or sales strategy. If your vision is to round out more accounts in 2010 but you haven’t clearly articulated the importance of that vision, chances are slim that your vision will be realized. If you have a partner, when was the last time you sat together talked about each other’s vision? You may want to focus more on personal lines and your partner on commercial lines. Talk about it. You’ll be amazed at what you find. That conflict may be stifling growth.

As the leader of your agency, you are responsible for clearly articulating your vision so everyone is heading in the same direction toward a common goal. This may sound simple, but you’d be surprised at the number of agencies that don’t do this.

Step #2 – Mission (the “why”)

Defining your mission is the next step. Your mission is “why” your agency exists. People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. A clear mission is essential for motivating both your employees and your customers. I’m sure you’ve seen the disturbing trend in the insurance industry. Insurance has become a commodity. The modern consumer seems to only care about price, or do they? To get out of this trap, talk about your mission with those who come in contact with your agency.

I’ve seen digital marketing and social networking help differentiate agencies from their competition, making insurance “fun” and changing the sales dynamic. Your mission could be as simple as, “to make insurance shopping fun”. It may sound crazy, but look at how many major companies are marketing themselves (a lizard, a caveman and a cartoon character). Your competition says that it has the best polices at the lowest prices too, so you must be different and your mission helps you clearly communicate why you do what you do.

Step #3 – Strategy (the “how”)

Once you’ve done a good job of articulating your vision (the what) and your mission (the why), you must communicate the “how,” your strategy. I’m amazed at how many agencies don’t do this and suffer for it. How are you going to accomplish your vision? At Astonish, we’re focused on helping agencies implement a strategy that helps them FIND, SELL and KEEP more customers. Again, this must be communicated with all parties involved or your employees could apply strategies that actually undermine your vision and mission (I’ve seen this all too often). Digital marketing and social media strategies are not simple and they change on a regular basis. For example, two years ago Facebook wasn’t as important as it is today. Who at your agency is making sure your team is in alignment and is implementing these strategies to their fullest extent? Making sure your entire team understands these strategies involves constant communication from the top down.

Step #4 – People (the “who”)

As your business grew, you began to realize that you couldn’t do everything. Here’s a simple reminder, your employees are the ones that implement your strategy. That can be scary, especially if you haven’t done a good job on steps 1-3. I’ve seen many agencies get frustrated when their employees don’t do what we want them to. Then the light goes on. Agencies principles realize that the vision, mission or strategy had not been clearly communicated. Typically, employees want to do a good job; they just need to know what’s expected of them. Ask yourself the following questions:

(1)   Do I have the right people (are you asking a non-salesperson to act like a salesperson)?

(2)   Are my people doing the right things? (Does your team know HOW to ask for more business, are they prepared to deal with the modern consumer?)

(3)   Are my people doing the right things right? (When was the last time you listened to your employees speak to your customers on the phone?)

Evaluating your staff on a regular basis will help keep your agency in alignment and moving forward giving you the opportunity to make adjustments where necessary.

Step #5 – Metrics

Every agency should have several key metrics (some call them key performance indicators) that if measured over time, help to guide AND predict future results. Again, you would be surprised at the number of agencies that don’t do this. They may look at the financial indicators, but they don’t drill down to the metrics that drive those numbers. Make your staff responsible for reporting their numbers back to you. No salesperson wants to report that they’ve sold zero insurance policies day after day. You’ll be amazed at how this one step will help keep your business strong and growing.

For example, once we’ve installed our digital marketing system in an agency we begin measuring results. I can think of many instances where the agency realized they didn’t have a problem with leads, they have a problem with sales. The last thing they needed was leads, but needed to train their staff. Metrics can help you find a problem and fix it.

In the end, it’s all about alignment. I am convinced that if you focus on just one of these steps in your agency, you will experience incredible results.