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Official publication of Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of Washington 11911 NE 1st St., Suite B103, Bellevue, WA 98005 Ph. (425) 649-0102 Fax: (425) 649-8573 Web:

American Modern Anderson & Murison

Officers of IIABW President: Mary Stien, CIC, Parker, Smith & Feek, Bellevue President-elect: Pat Otter, Otter Insurance, Lynnwood Secretary-Treasurer: Mike Button, AIP, Western States, Richland IIABA Director: Sue Knobeloch, CIC, CPIW, Lovsted Worthington, Bothell Executive V.P.: Daniel Holst, IIABW, Bellevue

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Board of Directors Mike Button, AIP (Benton), Western States Insurance, Richland Ryan Douglas (King), Propel Insurance, Seattle Craig Field (Chelan/Douglas), Mitchell, Reed & Associates, Cashmere Nancy Frost (At Large), Propel Insurance, Tacoma Duane Henson, LUTCF (Skagit/Island), First Insurance, Mt. Vernon Kim Krogh, ARM (At Large), Fidelity Insurance, Spokane John McDonald (Snohomish), McDonald McGarry, Edmonds Dave Merrill (At Large), DeFranco-Merrill Insurance, Seattle Darren McEuin, CIC, (Past President) Conover Insurance, Pasco Pat Otter (At Large), Otter Insurance, Lynnwood Melissa Power, ACSR, CIC (At Large), Homestreet Insurance, Spokane Michael Rydbom, CIC (SE WA) Associated Independent Agencies, Pullman Nick Stay (Pierce) American Underwriters Insurance, Tacoma Robert Trask, Jr. (Grant), Robert Trask Agency, Moses Lake Larry Trefry (Spokane), Andre-Romberg, Spokane Chris White, CIC, CRIS (At Large) Bell-Anderson, Anacortes

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Staff Daniel Holst, Executive V.P. - Susan Scott, AAI, Sr. V.P. of Education - Ashley Kuaea, Director of Member Programs - Bill Stauffacher, Stauffacher Communications, Contract Lobbyist -

IES 31

Advertising For more information on advertising, contact Jim Aitkins, Blue Water Publishers, LLC 22727 - 161st Avenue SE, Monroe, Washington 98272 360-805-6474, fax: 360-805-6475, Big I Washington is the official magazine of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of Washington and is published quarterly. News items from IIABW members are requested. IIABW does not necessarily endorse any of the companies advertising in this publication or the views of its writers.

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3 15

Table of Contents



A Message from Mary Stien, IIABW President

Online Strategy


B&O Taxes Could Triple


Young Agent Bowling Event


Industry Updates Road Shows


Make a Wish Washington “Walk for Wishes”


Be Careful of Giving “Inducements” For Referrals


Big “I” Lobbies Congress

25 WSRB Launches Risk Hazard Mapping Program - PropertyEDGE™


The Washington Health Benefit Exchange


Why Google+ Should Be a Part of Your Agency’s


The Top Five Sales Myths


Young Agents Conference: June 6-7

Service: We never tire of hearing our loyal agents express how impressed they are with our service and speed.

Earthquake: Yes, we’re still writing EQ! We have new markets and additional capacity for both commercial and personal.

Serving over 2,200 agents throughout Washington and Oregon, and a proud supporter of IIABW.

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IIABW President


Are You Connected?


n June I will celebrate my 21st year with Parker, Smith and Feek, the last before I retire. It was just about this time of year when, as a much younger and braver version of myself, I set out to find a new career opportunity. Within a week of sharing my goal with trusted insurance colleagues in Chicago, I was connected via a mutual friend to Susan Scott, who worked for the Big I Washington. Susan was both welcoming and informative. Within a week, I was flying out to interview for my dream position. Susan and I were connected by a common thread of friendship and mutual respect for a colleague we both worked with in our past careers, in different cities and at different times. My entire career has been spent building connections. Those connections allowed me to create a strong, profitable department, full of talented people. Their gifts to me are lifelong friendships, faith in teamwork, and a willingness to share of their time and talents. Connecting to others can be a powerful tool; there is considerable science around the idea that the connections we make can move the needle on our well-being and career paths. Today, my networking and communication methods are quite different, as is most people’s. I would first send out a mass message to all my friends on Facebook to create a tag list of those I felt most helpful with my search in Linkedin. I might ask my marketing reps what’s happening in our area, or reach out to my counterparts at other agencies. Recently, I used these resources to reach out to my friends with the Big I community. I was

struggling with what should have been an easy farm placement. The client’s property was in great condition, they had no losses, they sought high limits of liability and were not price sensitive. The clients opened their farm to community outreach by teaching grade school kids to understand the harvest to table concept and sent kids home with seeds lovingly planted in paper cups. To my surprise, I was turned down by no less than 7 carriers and suddenly was faced with my non-refundable Cabo vacation looming closer. I realized Cabo would probably have to be postponed if I didn’t find a solution fast. My Big I network quickly came through for me and sourced a viable solution just in time to enjoy a stress free trip. Being connected to a strong community within the IIABW has expanded my knowledge, aided in my ability to best serve my clients, kept me informed on the issues that can most affect my business and set a standard for benchmarking my efforts. Being on the board has shown me the power of working towards a common purpose, knowing the ideas may need to germinate from one president’s term to the next. Over the last few years we have relocated our association office and uplifted our brand in the process. We have tackled budgeting issues in a difficult economic environment, joined with the PIA to have successful joint conferences, and this year we have connected with you, our valued members on your home turf with our recent seminars. Individual talent and skills are important to personal and career success, but creating and nurturing connections are equally essential. I encourage you to deepen your connection to the IIABW, I assure that you will be enriched by the experience. Mary Stien, IIABW President Parker Smith & Feek, Bellevue




Tax Increase Defeated

he Washington House Finance Committee passed an amended tax-increase plan on April 23rd that does NOT include the proposed tripling of B&O taxes on insurance agents’ commission income. This is a terrific political win for IIABW and other producer groups. IIABW would like to thank all agents and brokers who responded to our call to action and contacted their legislators. It surely shows how effective a well-organized industry can be in our democratic system. Agents shared their views on the proposed tax and our legislators responded. IIABW’s top legislative priority each year has been to keep agents’ B & O taxes low and we have been very successful. Agents currently pay B&O taxes on gross revenues (i.e. commissions) at a special rate of .484%. We were successful working with the state legislature to set up this special rate in 1983 at the rate of 1.1% and then reducing it two times since, most recently to .484% in 1998.  Over 50 types of professional services (including stock brokers, real estate brokers, CPAs, bankers, etc.) currently pay a B&O tax rate of 1.8%. Under the House of Representatives tax proposal, our rate of .484% would have been repealed and our taxes would have more than tripled to the general services rate of 1.8%. This draconian tax increase would have cost agents $1,316 in additional taxes each year for every $100,000 in gross revenue. This would be a tax increase of $6,600 each year for an agency with $500,000 in commissions and $26,000 for an agency with $2 million in commissions.

Bob Hashimoto, IIABW’s Govt. Affairs Chair, testifies before the House Finance Committee •

IIABW partnered with WSRB to conduct 9 road shows around the state this Spring in which 500 industry professional registered. During IIABW’s legislative update, we discussed how the budget proposals would impact agents’ tax rate.

IIABW testified before the Citizens Commission for Performance Measurement of Tax Preferences on September 14, 2012 and the House of Representatives Finance Committee on April 19th in opposition to the tax increase.  IIABW launched its largest grassroots lobbying campaign in a decade. The response from members was overwhelming. We heard from legislators and legislative staff that agents were at the top of the list of calls to legislative offices.

IIABW would again like to thank everyone who contacted their legisla11716 WA IIABA ad.pdf 1 12/18/12 3:55 PM tors and contributed to the Big I Pac. It surely made a difference! Personal Umbrella endorsed by IIABA

Persuasive messages were: • Local and small independent insurance agents’ get hit by a commission-based tax increase - making agents less competitive with national direct–selling insurers who do not pay a commissionbased B&O tax; C



• •

The inability of agents to change premium and commission rates to recover or pass along tax increases to the customer; Agents’ commissions are taxed up to four different times throughout the insurance transaction.





IIABW’s Actions • IIABW members contribute over $60,000 every election cycle to our state political action committee, Big I Pac. We have given these dollars to legislators who are in key leadership positions and educated them about the importance of our special rate. •


IIABW collaborated with the rest of the insurance industry on another successful All Industry Day at the Capitol in January. 80 industry professionals attended the conference this year and met with legislators to discuss how B & O taxes impact their agencies.

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Industry Updates Road Shows


he Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of Washington partnered with the Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau on nine road shows around the state. The purpose of the meetings was to share important legislative and underwriting tools to agents. Over 500 industry professionals registered for the free seminar. As the legislature considered tripling agents’ B & O taxes, IIABW felt it was critical to explain the issues face to face with the industry so when action was needed agents would be ready to act. It turned out to be an effective way to reach deep into our membership on such a critical issue. We’d like to thank Tracy Skinner and WSRB for being a great partner on these meetings. WSRB used the meetings to unveil an exciting new service, PropertyEDGE, which will help you more effectively serve your clients by aggregating many valuable tools into one easy to use web based program. See page ?? for more information on the service.



When it comes to placing personal insurance for high-net-worth clients, your success is our success. Grow your business by partnering with Burns & Wilcox. By working with our Elite Client Solutions team, you do not have to turn away clients: We have the products to cover all their needs. Our high-net-worth specialists have the expertise to create personalized solutions. Plus, our unrivaled access to markets allows us to create solutions with speed and diligence. Making personal insurance even more personal is what Burns & Wilcox does best as the largest independent wholesale broker. San Francisco, California | 415.421.4244 | toll free 800.759.4855 fax 415.421.0620 |

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sing monetary incentives as part of a marketing strategy is common. Everyone has seen the “$50 off your next purchase for referring a friend” advertisements and/or promotions that promise to enter you in a raffle in exchange for your email address. Unfortunately, due to an outdated Washington statute, insurance agents and brokers who launch these type of marketing efforts may be breaking the law

RCW 48.30.150 provides: (1) No insurer, insurance producer, title insurance agent, or other person shall, as an inducement to insurance, or in connection with any insurance transaction, provide in any policy for, or offer, or sell, buy, or offer or promise to buy or give, or promise, or allow to, or on behalf of, the insured or prospective insured in any manner whatsoever: … (c) Any prizes, goods, wares, or merchandise of an aggregate value in excess of twenty-five dollars.

This is broad language. In addition to prohibiting monetary inducements to insureds themselves, as interpreted by one Washington federal district court, RCW 48.30.150 prevents brokers and agents from “providing any middleperson [i.e. referral source] with gifts worth cumulatively more than $25 in any twelve-month period.” Though the $25 limit seems absurdly low, the Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) enforces it. Agencies and brokerages have recently have been fined by the OIC for activities like putting the names of referral sources in a monthly raffle drawing. Some of these enforcement actions have even resulted in court cases. For example, the case of Blaylock v. First American Title Ins. Co., 504 F. Supp. 2d 1091 (2007) arose out of an 18-month investigation by the OIC into “whether Washington title insurance companies were flouting statutory limits.” The report found the companies did little more than what most companies do to drive business through referral sources: “title companies provided gifts to middlemen; invited 10

By Tristan Swanson, Ashbaugh Beal

them on golf outings, sporting events, and ski trips, and hosted parties for them... .” Still, according to the OIC, the 18-month investigation was justified because “while there may not appear to be a clear connection between these illegal practices and a negative impact on consumers … [i]t is undeniable that these practices cost money and it’s clear that the consumer, who ultimately pays for the coverage, is the only source of money for these illegal expenditures.” This conclusion is misplaced at least with regard to independent agents and brokers. Independent agents and brokers have nothing to do with the insurance rate setting process and, therefore, their marketing expenses are not reflected in insurance rates. An independent brokerage’s decision to enter referral sources in a raffle whose grand prize is an IPad has zero effect on what insurers charge for their policies. Other justifications for RCW 48.30.150 are similarly unpersuasive. For example, one of the statute’s animating purposes appears to be to protect the insurance industry from itself. The idea is that without a $25 limit insurers will be so competitive they’ll bankrupt themselves and then not be able to pay out on policyholder claims. However, given that RCW 48.30.150 doesn’t affect many types of advertising, it’s hard to see how the $25 limit could keep an insurer intent on bankrupting itself through marketing from doing so. Moreover, this policy concern is wholly inapplicable to agents and brokers. An agency/brokerage bankruptcy has no effect on a policyholder’s ability to make a claim on his/her policy. “Reverse competition” has also been cited as a reason for RCW 48.30.150. Reverse competition happens when a referral source and a seller team-up at buyers’ expense. For example, in exchange for an undisclosed kickback, a real estate agent may drive all his/her clients to a certain title insurance agent and recommend the client buy the most expensive product. This hurts consumers because the recommendation to buy the expensive product maximizes the title agent’s commission and the real estate agent’s kickback but is not made with the consumer’s best interests in mind. While RCW 48.30.150 may prevent reverse competition, it does so heavy-handedly. For example, a law requiring agents

and brokers to disclose monetary compensation to referral sources would seem to address reverse competition much more directly and get rid of an outdated, arbitrary dollar limit on certain types of marketing. Likewise, a law defining and specifically addressing kickbacks would almost assuredly do a better and more precise job of preventing reverse competition than RCW 48.30.150. Then there’s the question of whether reverse competition needs to be addressed at all. Society loses as a whole if the cost of enforcing RCW 48.30.150 is more than the costs to consumers because of reverse competition. Furthermore, a broker/agent already has an incentive to sell a consumer the most expensive insurance product. However, there is an equal if not greater incentive to sell the consumer the best product for the consumer’s needs in order to make the consumer a happy and, therefore, returning customer. Because market incentives already protect consumers, RCW 48.30.150 appears largely if not wholly redundant. So what should brokers and agents do? Advocate for a legislative fix. The $25 limit is far too low, the reach of RCW 48.30.150 is far too broad, and the OIC has better things to do than police raffles. However, until a legislative fix is enacted, agents and brokers should be wary of the $25 limit and may want to go as far as getting pre-approval from the OIC prior to implementing a marketing strategy that has the potential to run afoul of RCW 48.30.150. Tristan Swanson is a lawyer at Ashbaugh Beal. Tristan’s focuses his practice in insurance coverage litigation. He can be reached at 206.386.5900 and

IIABW’s Views on RCW 48.30.150 The Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) has recently determined that some agencies are out of compliance of these RCWs for referral programs: giving gift cards totaling more than $25 to an individual in a year and for annual drawings of larger gifts. IIABW has begun a dialogue with the OIC on a fix. Over the years, the OIC has been very open to studying older statutes that do not work as intended in today’s marketplace and collaborate with the industry to modernize them. Until a change is made, agencies are encouraged to make sure their referral programs are in compliance with the current RCWs. IIABW believes that rewarding people for referrals is an appropriate marketing practice that is common in almost every industry. We believe that giving away gift cards or holding drawings should be legal as long as people who participate (i.e. give referrals) participate on a non-discriminatory basis and entry/winning is not conditioned on their own purchase of insurance. IIABW believes that offering something of value for referrals is different than tying it to the sale of insurance. We look forward to working with the OIC and the rest of the industry on this important issue.

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The Big “I”



n April a group of IIABW members attended the Big I national legislative conference and met with eight members of Congress and their staff. We discussed the following issues:

AGENT LICENSING REFORM Because past attempts to reform non-resident licensing has not been successful, IIABW is strongly encouraging Congress to pass S. 534/H.R. 1155, the “National Association of Registered and Brokers Reform Act (NARAB II).” This bill, which passed the U.S. House the last two years, would establish an entity which would authorize agents to sell, solicit, negotiate, effect, procure, deliver, renew, continue or bind insurance in any state they choose to apply to and pay the required licensing fees. Agents involved in NARAB would be exempt from the following requirements outside of their home state: • complying with additional CE requirements; • obtaining a nonresident business entity license; • complying with discriminatory laws and regulations; • registering as a foreign company. NARAB II would improve the state-based system of insurance regulation by providing complete, nonresident licensing reciprocity through a board of state commissioners and industry representatives. TERRORISM INSURANCE We advocated for the passing of H.R. 508, the “TRIA Reauthorization Act of 2013,” which would provide for a five year extension of this important program. The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) was enacted on Nov. 26, 2002 in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the ensuing inability of the commercial P & C insurance markets to underwrite terrorism risk. TRIA has been reauthorized in 2005 and 2007 and expires on Dec. 31, 2014. TRIA is a federal reinsurance backstop which would be “triggered” if there were $100 million in aggregate industry insured losses. This limits the federal government’s involvement only to large scale attacks. If the $100 million threshold is crossed, each insurance company would then have a deductible equal to 20% of its commercial P & C premium written. Insurers are also responsible for a 15% copayment for relevant losses, with the government picking up the other 85% up to the program cap of $100 billion. TAXES 2013 IIABW encouraged our congressional delegation to oppose any additional effort to raise taxes on individuals and small businesses as this will hurt job creation in this tough economic environment. 12

Sue Knobeloch and Rep. Derek Kilmer

Daniel Holst, Pat Otter, Senator Maria Cantwell, Sue Knobeloch, Mary Stien

Mary Stien, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, Pat Otter, Daniel Holst

Congress has expressed strong interest in rewriting the tax code with the goal of increasing simplicity and promoting economic growth. The Big I is encouraged by these discussions, but urges Congress to address rates for individuals and small businesses along with corporate rates. This is so important to the Big I because the majority of our member businesses file at individual tax rates since they are Subchapter S Corporations, Partnerships and Sole Proprietorships. The Big I believes that any tax code overhaul should provide simplification and certainty for individuals and small businesses, along with their C Corporation counterparts. CROP INSURANCE We shared the Big I’s strong supports the Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP) and urged our elected officials to reject further cuts to the program as it considers a long-term Farm Bill. Over the past five years, crop insurance has already sustained severe cuts totaling $12 billion through both the 2008 Farm Bill and the 2011 Standard Reinsurance Agreement (SRA) spread over 10 years. We shared our opposition to S. 446/H.R.943, the “Crop Insurance Subsidy Reduction Act,” which would roll back crop insurance subsidies to pre-2001 levels and, thus, make policies prohibitively expensive for farmers. We also shared our opposition to the unreasonable caps that were placed on agent commissions by the 2011 SRA.

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A New Market for Producers:


By Keith Bell, Director of the Small Business Health Options (SHOP), Washington Health Benefit Exchange


any producers in our state have likely heard about some of the changes associated with the Affordable Care Act and are curious about how this will ultimately affect them and their business. A key component of the Affordable Care Act is the creation of health insurance marketplaces where people can go to easily shop for health plans and gain access to financial assistance from the federal government to help pay for their coverage, depending on their income level.

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange is a quasigovernmental agency created in 2011 to implement an online health insurance marketplace in our state. Known as Washington Healthplanfinder, the marketplace will allow individuals, families and small businesses to: • Make apples-to-apples comparison between Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) that meet minimum essential health benefits such as preventive care and vision services as outlined by the ACA. • Determine eligibility for federal tax credits or less expensive co-pays and deductibles. • Receive personal assistance finding, selecting and enrolling in the right health plan to meet their needs. The Exchange will offer plan products from the state’s leading health insurance carriers, but will also help determine state residents’ eligibility for Medicaid. Families with incomes between 138 – 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level ($32,500 to $94,200 for a family of four) will be eligible for savings on their insurance premiums. A program for small employers (1-50 employees) called Washington Healthplanfinder Business will provide small businesses with new choices, including the ability for employers to offer their employees a single plan or from a range of plans within their budget. Employers can also choose the level of contribution toward their employees’ coverage and make a single monthly payment rather than making payments to multiple plans. Open enrollment through Washington Healthplanfinder begins on October 1, 2013 for coverage that begins January 1, 2014. 14

The Role of Producers in the Exchange The Exchange has designed its state-based insurance marketplace to allow producers to play a critical role in helping Washingtonians access health plans offered through the site. The marketplace will provide exclusive access to an untapped market of consumers and small businesses who may now be eligible for premium subsidies or tax credits to help pay for their insurance coverage. More than 280,000 individuals are expected to enroll through Washington Healthplanfinder in 2014, with 60 percent of those individuals previously uninsured. Producers may also work with existing clients to offer health insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder. The site will offer producers: • A password-protected login and dashboard to track their client database, client contact information and application status. • A unique profile for each producer in the Washington Healthplanfinder system will allow consumers and small businesses to easily locate them by name or zip code. • Customer service will be available to answer questions and provide support to producers as they work with clients. Producers who are authorized to sell Washington Healthplanfinder products will be able to present QHP offerings to individuals and small businesses in Washington State. Training and Compensation Licensed producers can become authorized to sell health plans offered on Washington Healthplanfinder upon completing a training course. Producers must also be appointed by respective health insurance carriers to sell specific plan products .The Exchange is currently developing a robust training course and training schedule to take place this coming summer to ensure preparation for open enrollment on October 1, 2013. Producers will receive compensation from their appointed carriers for sales of insurance plans offered on Washington Healthplanfinder. Health carriers are currently submitting their health plans and plan rates to be reviewed by the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner in partnership with the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. These plans will be announced in late summer. For questions about how producers can get involved, please email

Eric Sawyer |

VP Healthcare

Eric has been with the Seattle office for more than three years, but he came with an extensive background and over 10 years in the Healthcare insurance industry. With all the industry changes, you need a professional like Eric to guide you through the perils and pitfalls that your healthcare clients can encounter.

A Line Up You Can’t Ignore • (206) 538-5082 If you’re looking for experience,

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With over 30 years of Property experience and most of it as a surplus lines broker, you’d be hard pressed to find someone to assist you with your property risks. In addition to Property, Chris is also available to assist you and your clients with Inland Marine risks. • (206) 538-5077

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professionalism and service, look to Worldwide Facilities, Inc. Our Seattle office team will make you a winner with your clients for every quote, every time. Make the move and contact us, today.


With over twenty years as a retail broker, Stan has made the move to the wholesale brokerage side. He’s the person to call about your difficult-to-place accounts because as a former retailer, he knows what you need to get that sale. • (206) 538-5076

Ruth Boozer |


With more than 20 years in the property & casualty industry, Ruth has worked as a retail broker, MGA underwriter and now as a wholesale broker. She concentrates in the Financial Services arena and stands ready to help place your clients’ risks for: E&O, Management Liability, D&O, EPLI and Privacy/Cyber Liability. • (206) 538-5074

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Concentrating on casualty placements, Erik can assist you and your clients for Construction, Products, Environmental, Products Recall and Umbrella/Excess to name a few. Erik has more than 20 years career experience as a retail broker, program manager and wholesale broker. If you need casualty risks placed, call Erik. • (206) 538-5078

Mike Stutsman |


Mike has over 30 years industry experience placing difficult Construction (Commercial and Residential), Products Liability, Environmental, & Energy accounts. If you have questions about the primary & excess non-admitted marketplace, call Mike. His strong national and international carrier relationships gives you the edge you need. • (206) 538-5083

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Why Google+ should be part of your agency’s online strategy Participation in Google+ can help an agency considerably in maximizing its local search optimization. Google+ local business pages have replaced Google Places and if a consumer’s search suggests local intent, Google includes Google+ local business pages in the search results. The author provides some great tips as to how an agency can get started with Google+ and use the tool to its full advantage. The article also contains a number of links to very helpful additional information that will help agencies increase their visibility online.

By Matthew Marko, Progressive Insurance


f you’ve been following Google’s social experiment from afar, you may have lost Google+ in the shadow of social media’s 800 pound gorilla, Facebook. But before you dismiss the search giant as an also-ran in social, take note of Facebook’s own pet project, Graph Search ( Facebook’s foray into search despite Google’s clear dominance (two out of every three searches online are conducted using Google1) reveals the cracks forming in the wall separating search and social. Both companies are preparing for when the wall comes tumbling down, and now is the time to position your agency to capitalize. If Progressive’s marketing data holds true, many more agents are opting for a place on Facebook over Google+. Here’s why you should diversify by building a strong presence on both. Google+ is much more than social Google+ does have social strengths, such as the ability to easily segment and target communications to customers using Circles and host Hangouts with customers on insurance topics. However, for now the primary insur-


ance agency benefit of Google+ is local search optimization. Americans conduct 3.6 billion local searches on Google each month, and Google+, acting as an online business directory, is the most effective way to capture those prospects.2 It’s also the best way to do so without having to compete with big brands’ multi-million dollar online advertising budgets. A key reason to engage with Google+ is to acquire new customers in a way that no other social media site or online directory can currently offer. From Places to Plusses Google reports that one in three searches have local intent, and 83 percent of consumers search online for local businesses.2 If a search query suggests local intent, Google includes the Google+ local pages in the search results, typically near the top. Formerly called “Google Places,” Google+ local business pages now include social elements as well, making an agency’s participation in Google+ (and customer interaction on the platform) a growing factor in showing up in local searches. Here are five steps to start taking advantage of Google+ for local search:

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To become appointed with us, call or email: Kelli Woosley, Business Development Representative Ph: 513-947-6172

1. Claim and verify it If you haven’t done so already, claim and verify your Google+ listing. This is something you can easily do on your own ( Be sure not to create a duplicate Google+ listing for your agency if one already exists. It’s against Google’s rules. To check if your business already has a Google+ listing, simply go to and enter your business address and phone number into the search bar. If a listing shows up reflecting your business name, then your agency already has a Google+ local business page. Ensure it is under your control through the ownerverification process. If someone in your agency does not already have the log-in information to manage your Google+ listing, click on “Manage this Page” on your business’ Google+ page to begin the verification process. Owner verification is a critical step in building trust with Google and guaranteeing that you control your business information on Google+. Progressive research indicates that as of November 2012, more than half of independent insurance agencies had failed to complete this critical first step, significantly diminishing their ability to rank highly in local search results. If you’re not the do-it-yourself type, programs like Progressive’s ListAgent ( or local

search packages from Trusted Choice®’s Project CAP ( can help you with claiming your business listings online and optimizing your local presence. While you’re at it, it’s an excellent idea to also claim local search listings at sites like Yahoo, Bing and Yelp. 2. Build trust in it Review your Google+ listing for accuracy and be sure that you’re using the identical name for your agency and its contact information across all directories, on the internet and on your agency website. Search engines like Google look for consistency in your agency’s name, address and phone number (NAP) online, and your visibility in search results improves if you have consistent listings. Exact NAP match is important. For example, you don’t want your agency website to say “ABC Insurance Agency” while your Google+ listing says “ABC Ins Agency.” GetListed. org and offer free, simple tools to assess the consistency of your agency’s name, address, and phone online. You also can improve your local search ranking over time by creating references to your agency NAP on additional local directories. There are hundreds of local directory sites where you can submit your NAP

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information for free, with the only cost being the time it takes you to manually claim them. Alternatively, Progressive’s ListAgent program can do this for your agency for less than $100 a year. 3. Connect it Google changed its local ranking algorithm last year to favor Google+ business listings that link to welloptimized websites, making your agency website’s search optimization an important factor in both organic and local search results. While website optimization can be timeconsuming and expensive, here are a few simple changes to help your website’s local search optimization: • Include your agency’s name, address and phone number in text (not as an image) in the header or footer of every page on the site. • Include your city or town name in your title tags, meta descriptions and header (H) tags. • If you have multiple agency locations, create a separate location page on your website for each location, and a separate Google+ local business page for each location. Submit each location’s page to its respective Google+ local business page. • Start using Authorship Markup

( on your agency web site and blog posts. If you don’t have a website, consider using a carrier directory page in place of a website in your Google+ listing. For example, the agent directory offers Progressive agents free locally-optimized agency pages that work well for this purpose. 4. Populate it Populate your Google+ profile with content. Thoughtfully consider your business description, including key search terms that describe what your agency does. Make use of all business listing categories available and include photos and videos. Providing this content not only helps your agency rank higher in local searches, but it also makes your listing stand out to consumers and increases the likelihood that they’ll do business with you. Visit www.davidmihm. com/local-search-ranking-factors.shtml for more tips on optimizing your local listings. 5. Legitimize it On your agency website and within your established agency referral processes, ask for reviews on Google+ as well as other sites like Yelp and Citysearch. Not only


are reviews important to your prospects, 70 percent of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, according to BrightLocal. Reviews are also known to be an important local search ranking factor. Progressive research indicates that the average independent insurance agency has less than one online review, so creating a slow-but-steady review generation process can really make your agency stand out. The battle between Facebook and Google remains fierce, and both are making big moves to enhance their value to consumers and businesses. Questions may remain over social ROI, but there’s no question local search is critical as more and more people start their insurance shopping online. Adding Google to your online strategy brings a few social benefits, but the local search impact makes it a clear plus. Matthew Marko is a Marketing Process Manager for Progressive Insurance. Matt wrote this article for ACT and he can be reached at He works to provide local marketing strategies and tools to help independent agencies grow their business, and has developed online marketing programs and webinars for Progressive agents on He is one of 40 local search experts invited to contribute to the authoritative annual Local Search Ranking Factors study. This article reflects the views of the author and should not be construed as an official statement by ACT. Matt also recently did an Insurance Journal podcast on this subject which can be found online at References: 1 2

Tough, high-hazard property, casualty, transportation and professional and management liability risks require detailed expertise and specific industry experience. At RT Specialty, our brokers draw on the most comprehensive resources worldwide to provide better, faster, smarter insurance solutions. We do whatever it takes to find the solution that meets your clients’ complex coverage needs. When it comes to tough risks, experience the difference a tough broker can make. Tough risks demand tough brokers. For more information, contact: Ed Bukovinsky | 206.708.2074 1200 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1910 | Seattle, WA 98101

R-T Specialty, LLC (RT) is a subsidiary of Ryan Specialty Group, LLC, specializing in wholesale brokerage, MGA/MGU underwriting facilities and other services to agents, brokers and carriers. In California: R-T Specialty Insurance Services, LLC License #0G97516 Š 2013 Ryan Specialty Group, LLC



Young Agent Bowling Event 


ver 50 producers, CSRs, marketing reps, underwriters and other insurance professionals attended the Young Agent Bowling Networking Event in March at ACME Bowl in Tukwila. It was a wonderful opportunity for professional new to the industry to share information and have some fun. The IIABW’s Young Agents is a network of insurance professionals striving for professional growth. Working with other insurance professionals allows us to discuss industry concerns, programs, sales, and other insurance related topics with colleagues who have had or are having similar experiences. If you are fairly new to the industry (and young at heart) you are encouraged to participate in the IIABW Young Agents. For more information contact the Young Agents Committee Chairs, Brian Fassburg and Jillian Fassburg at Pacific International Underwriters - 800-562-8403.


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WSRB Launches Risk Hazard Mapping Program -



he Washington Surveying & Rating Bureau (WSRB), a Seattle based, not-for-profit insurance rating bureau, has launched its new product PropertyEDGE. PropertyEDGE gives insurance professionals the EDGE by using GIS technology to provide you with the information you need to get the job done efficiently and accurately in Washington and nationwide. PropertyEDGE is a one-stop resource for a broad range of information on an exact location. You no longer have to spend time gathering information from all corners of the web for every risk you write. Quickly and easily gather information on protection class, fire districts, parcel information, census bureau demographics, catastrophe exposures like earthquakes, tsunami, flood, and much more, regionally and nationwide. Custom Reports can be created within the program to provide tailored information on a specific location. PropertyEDGE also has built-in tools to measure elevation, distance, and area for any location nationwide. Learn more or get PropertyEDGE now by contacting or 206-217-7149.

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The Top Five

By John Chapin

As someone who has been in sales for over 24 years, and now as a sales trainer, speaker and coach, I continually hear debate over the following five sales myths. In this article I will expose and throw light on these top sales fairy tales.

THE TOP FIVE SALES MYTHS DEBUNKED Sales Myth #1: Sales is NOT a numbers game. The more people you talk to, the more business you will do, even a blind squirrel finds a nut if it keeps looking. Granted, you want quality behind the numbers and, depending upon your business, it may be helpful to do some research on the person you’re calling before you call. That said, in order to be successful in sales you need lots of good solid relationships and the only way to get those relationships is to go out and talk to lots of people. The bottom line is: if you talk to enough people during the day, you will eventually run into someone who says, “I need what you have” or “I know someone who needs what you have.” Know the number of people you need to talk to during the day in order to be successful and then go out and talk to that many people and more. Sales Myth #2: Cold calling is a waste of time and doesn’t work. In over 24+ years I’ve built four different businesses primarily through cold calling. Cold calling is simply the fastest, most pro-active way to get leads. The reality is: if you are new in business or struggling, it’s more than likely you don’t have enough leads and you’re not getting enough through networking, referrals, and other sources... Time to cold call. Yes, cold calling is the most difficult, most time consuming task you can do, yet unless you have millions of dollars to spend on marketing campaigns, cold calling yields results like no other prospecting method.  Also, cold calling builds character and keeps you grounded. The reality is: if you can cold call effectively and with confidence, nothing will stop you, you will be able to do any other sales task you need to do in order to be successful. That is why I recommend you never stop cold calling even when 26

you are extremely successful. Granted, you may only make one or two cold calls a week at that point, but this will keep you sharp and on your toes.  Sales Myth #3: Friday afternoon is a bad time to call on prospects and clients. Most salespeople believe that prospects either take Friday afternoons off or, if they do work, that they don’t want to be bothered by salespeople at this time. This is simply not true. Not only do most prospects work on Friday afternoons, they are also in a better mood at this time than at any other time during the week. As a result, Friday afternoon is a great time to prospect and close business. In addition, because most salespeople don’t make calls at this time, you will stand out as someone who is dedicated and hard-working. The bottom line is: Friday afternoon is one of the best times to prospect and close business. Sales Myth #4: A good salesperson can sell ice to Eskimos. The premise here is that a good salesperson could sell someone on something that is so obviously not needed. Nothing could be further from the truth. Top salespeople, over the long haul, don’t take advantage of people by selling them something they don’t need. Top salespeople make it all about the other person and they always do what is best for them, even to the point of sending someone to the competition on rare occasions.   That said, are their some “temporary” sales successes who take advantage of people and make lots of sales by selling them items they don’t need? Yes. But in the long-term those people get caught, burn out, find that their personal lives in shambles, or a combination of all of these. The bottom line is: you can’t take advantage of people for long and live a happy, fulfilling, successful life. The top salespeople are honest, have integrity, and focus completely on the other person. They only make the sale if it is a win-win.

Sales Myth #5: The customer ISN’T always right. Salespeople I’ve seen with this attitude seem to have a chip on their shoulder. It’s an attitude of arrogance in which they seem to believe the customer should be privileged to be doing business with them as opposed to the other way around. If you have a mindset that the customer isn’t always right, chances are great that you will not go above and beyond, you will not do more than expected, and you will not deliver top-notch, second-to-none follow-up and service after the sale. If you do not do everything within your power to ensure the customer has a great experience, odds are they will have a mediocre experience at best and you will never stand out. That said, is the customer always right? No, but you’d better walk into that conversation convinced they are, or they will pick up on your suspicion and indifference quickly and as opposed to running into that 1% of unreasonable people, you’ll find the number closer to 50%.

  For access to John›s free monthly newsletter and white paper on what it takes to be successful in sales, visit John›s website at http://www. Have a sales question? E-mail John at johnchapin@ John Chapin’s specialty is helping salespeople and sales teams double sales in 12 months. He is an award-winning sales speaker, trainer and coach, a number one sales rep in three industries, and the primary author of the gold-medal winning “Sales Encyclopedia”. In his 24+ years of sales, customer service and management experience, he has thrived in some of the toughest markets and economies.


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For Nov. 2011

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