Building your brand is one of the most important projects an insurance agency can undertake. Whether you’re a small captive agency or a large independent agency.
Paradiso Insurance started in June 2006 with just me, with no email, no website, no marketing budget, and certainly no brand. Today, our insurance agency continues to grow, and in double digits, and we are a team of about 20 professionals. This success is due to going back to the basics and defining our brand and brand identity and then implementing a branding strategy that would help us become recognizable in our our community.
In today’s ever-changing marketing and technologically driven world, it’s easier than ever to build an effective brand strategy that will give your insurance agency a major edge against your competition. But, what exactly does “brand,”“brand identity” and “branding” really mean? The second question is this: how does branding affect my agency?
These are all great questions that I’m asked just about every time I give a workshop on branding. Simply put, your brand is what your clients think when they hear your insurance agency’s name. It’s an impression that is built upon their experience and the messaging you’ve communicated to them. Your brand already exists it is derived from who you are, what you stand for, who you want to be, and who people perceive you to be. Your brand is perception and that it is why it is so very important to your insurance agency’s growth and its future.
If you’re worried about what people might think about you, I have great news. The definition of branding is: actively influencing the impressions people have of your brand. We’ve been successful in doing this with our Paradiso Promise. It communicates to prospects/customers/clients what they can expect from us, and it differentiates us from our competitors, whether it’s a local competitor or national direct insurance writers such as Geico. That’s not the only way we are branding Paradiso Insurance – every communication we have with a client, from a facebook posts to how the phone is answered in our office, all shapes the perception of our brand. It’s all branding.
Once you understand that EVERY communication, regardless of channel, is branding, you can see that consistency can become an issue in a heartbeat. This is why brand identity is vital. Brand identity is defining how you want to communicate your brand. This includes: how to write in brand (verbal communication), how to look in brand (visual communication), and how to create feelings in brand (customer experience). Your brand identity serves as a guide to all communications. You can see our brand identity guidelines here.
Defining Your Agency’s Brand Identity
Defining your insurance agency’s brand identity is a journey that our agency went on quite some time ago with a great company called Agency Appeal. This journey can be very difficult and challenging, if you try to do this without professional help, but with Agency Appeal it was seamless. The process is very time-consuming, which is why I would recommend you to find a professional that specializes in building brand identity. It’s also very personal, so make sure you feel comfortable with your vendor. The first step in building your brand identity requires that you answer the questions below:
- Who are we?
- What makes our insurance agency unique?
- Why are we here?
- Where do you see the insurance agency going?
- How do we as an insurance agency communicate?
- What does your staff think about your insurance agency?
- What is your insurance agency’s mission?
- What are the benefits that your insurance agency offers?
- What features does your agency offer for your products or services?
- What do your clients and customers and prospects already think of your insurance agency?
- How does you make your prospects/clients feel when they come in contact with your insurance agency?
- What qualities do you want them to associate with your insurance agency?
You must invest some time and research into it, but I promise you that it will pay off with big dividends. Take the time to learn the needs, habits and desires of your current clients, and make sure you are surveying them twice a year, because their perception is your reality.
Many insurance agency owners and agents rely on what they think and not what their clients think (or feel) and that is why, when I ask owners what separated them from other local competitors, the first thing they said is their service. I have news for you though, we all get paid a commission to give good service, so you can’t use that one. Being different and defining what it is that makes you different will bring you brand equity.
Since defining your insurance agency’s brand identity and developing the strategy can be difficult and very time consuming, consider leveraging the expertise of a brand expert. A well defined agency brand identity, should include the following:
- Brand Guidelines – The core messages that you want to communicate. This should include things like the story of your agency, the mission of your agency and the foundational values of your agency. Every teammate in your agency must be aware of these items and able to repeat them.
- Visual Identity Guidelines – How you your agency looks is one of the first impressions you get to make on potential clients. Clearly defined guidelines on how your logo should be presented, the type of photography you should use, and the fonts and colors that are unique to your agency is key to making sure you knock your first impression out of the park every time.
- Verbal Guidelines – Are composed two elements tone & voice. Tone elements create the foundation of the overall voice of the agency. ALL written communication, marketing materials, sales, or otherwise should follow these guidelines. A great way to think about tone & voice is to ask yourself, is your brand conversational, loud, fancy, professional, conservative, etc? Whatever it is, define it and then you’ll be consistent in it.
- Experience Guidelines – Branding extends to every aspect of your agency. Guidelines on how a walk-in or a phone call should be handled, ensure consistent experiences for your clients. That being said there’s more to experience than just those two things: what your staff CSR’s or your salespeople wear on sales calls, what your agency’s office looks like, how claims are handled, whether or not you text your clients are all part of the experience they have with your agency.
How do I actively start branding?
What is involved in an effective branding strategy? Well, it starts with answering, who, where, how, & what.
- Who is my audience?
- Where can I reach them?
- How should I target them?
- What should I communicate?
Your branding strategy should start by defining the audience you want to connect with, you can do with the help of a persona guide. A tool that allows you to evaluate who your clients are and what is important to them.
Your next step is to figuring out where & how to reach them. Your distribution channels are a key focus of this step of your branding strategy. If you are an insurance agency that only writes large commercial accounts, and you are trying to build your brand using Pinterest, there’s a good chance you’re communicating to the wrong audience. How many business owners are looking for solid strategies to lower workers’ comp premiums on Pinterest?
Finally, what you communicate should be crafted to reflect both the visual and verbal attributes of your brand identity. Right now visual content is king. You could write the best blog in the world with amazing insurance content, but without visuals (or with the wrong visuals for that matter), no one will ever read it!
Some Things To Consider:
- Basic rules on visual content: use of the same color scheme, place your agency logo on material in the same way, use the same fonts, and make sure your photography is similar.
- Create Branded Collateral-Your letterhead, business cards, trifolds, agency emails, website design and social media posts should all match your brand.
- Use Visual Branding Templates – These can be simple adjustable templates that help you create a visual to pair with written content. They should be created in brand so when you’re ready to use them they already match your brand.
- Please use a professional. Design matters it creates a first impression.
How does branding affect my insurance agency?
It’s simple: if you are consistent with your branding and strategic with your approach, you’ll develop a strong brand that will bring in equity to your insurance agency. A great example of this is Apple; they are a company who has never had a sale. Just think of that for a moment – try to name one other company in the world who has a stronger brand than Apple.
If done right, branding will build equity for your company. Great branding influences perceptions of quality and if done right will create an emotional attachment. A positive emotional attachment to your brand will ensure when your clients are up for renewal they don’t stray and best yet, when they are asked who they use they say your insurance agency’s name.
But you can’t get there unless you follow the golden rules of branding:
- Be true, Be yourself – Creating a unique experience for your prospects; leads more referrals and larger retention numbers will follow.
- Consistency. All of your hard work will fail if you are not branding in a consistent way.
To all agents and brokers, I hope you see the strength that branding can bring to your agency. On all of your endeavors, happy marketing as usual!