Sunday, June 24, 2007

Are you a Chamber member?

If you are, are you taking advantage of your local Chamber of Commerce? Last week I worked with an agency's personal lines manager to assist them in developing and implementing a marketing plan. Their phones weren't ringing as much as they'd have liked, partially due to the competition from direct writers.

First, I learned this agency's sales goal, which is readily achievable, especially given the exponential growth in this region. Next, we looked at a big problem this agency faces: It doesn't have a physical location in that area.

This agency belongs to three or four Chambers but hasn't attended regulary. So we took the proverbial bull by the horns and went to two Chamber mixers at the same Chamber. (We're not going to spread ourselves too thin; this Chamber has over 1100 members and is booming. Next month, we may hit the other Chambers, but there's plenty of work to be done here first.)

The first meeting we went to was a marketing committee meeting where we volunteered our services to help get ready for the Chamber's annual dinner. There we met a realtor, a loan officer in a bank (my client's bank, by the way), and an Avon lady, to name a few. All of these people can help her and she can help them. These are informal strategic alliances.

How can an Avon lady help an insurance agent, you might ask? First, this isn't just any Avon lady. She's a retired pit boss in a Las Vegas casino, we learned when we chatted as we worked, so she has to be sharp. And, she's going to be in about every home in that area, we could tell just from her demeanor--she's a go getter. Next, she's in the the age range of this agent and that can be very important. Generally speaking, we like to work with people of our own generation. We laugh at the same jokes, we often hold similar values and we feel more comfortable with people in our own age range.

Before we left the marketing meeting, I made an appointment for us to chat with the Chamber's executive director. The next day, we returned for a morning mixer where attendees had a few minutes to talk about their product and we introduced our agency. After the meeting, we met with the Chamber's director, and picked her brain.

She had a few good ideas. She told us that each member can obtain a mailing list annually (1100 members, remember?) of all Chamber members for the cost of the labels. We also confirmed that there was office space available if my client needed to meet a client in the area. This will be a great help until they build business enough to open an office there.

Next, we stopped by a local realtor's office to determine where some of the local realtor groups met and found we could leave flyers for the Realtors. It was that simple.

Finally, we went back to the office to devise our flyer and postcard campaign. How long did this take? It took us about three days total and we're ready to enter Phase I of this agency's growth plan.

As I told my client, you cannot send only one mailing and expect that your business will grow. You have to continue with mailing, Chamber attendance, Chamber sponsorship, flyers, and advertising, because it can take from to four to eight contacts to potential clients, keeping your name before people or organizations, before they think of your company when they need insurance. You have to be patient and persistent to see your marketing efforts take root.

Using Microsoft Publisher, we're able to do all the flyers we need using one or two templates. Using an online publishing company, we ordered new business cards with more "eye appeal" and postcards for the Chamber mailings.

Marketing doesn't have to be expensive to pay off; it must be look professional and you must be persistent. And you must follow up. I met with a retired agent friend of mine while in town and she told me a great story. She worked for an agent who did a big mailing and received over sixty responses. He never returned one phone call to any of these prospects. This, she said, is the norm for the agencies where she has worked, not the exception.

This is probably the number one rule of a successful salesperson. Follow up. If you obtain an expiration date, call. Why spend money on advertising if you aren't going to follow through? Why join a Chamber if you're going to attend just once or twice a year? After all, there are many agents out there who will. That's why their successful.

1 comment:

Mark Colvin said...

Great post and so true! The chamber is a business machine but it takes consistency to make it work. Mark Colvin