Tennessee agent OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2011
VOL. 53, NO. 5
I N T H I S I S S U E — S T R AT E G I E S F O R A G E N C Y S U C C E S S Vision—A Lesson in Leadership Marketing—2011 Agency Marketing Guide Management—E&O Prevention Tips
OFFICERS Elaine Morton, CPIA President Morton Insurance Agency, Inc., Bartlett Ph: 901-382-4600 email: email@example.com Steve Peay President-elect Boyle Insurance, Memphis email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tina Hutsenpiller, CPIA Vice President Hutsenpiller Insurance Services, Mt. Juliet email: email@example.com Herbert Montgomery Secretary Clay & Land Insurance, Inc., Memphis email: firstname.lastname@example.org Donnie Hogan, CIC Treasurer Fred M. Smith & Son, Inc., Springfield email: email@example.com Glen Page, CIC, CPIA Immediate Past President Page, Chaffin & Riggins Insurance, Cordova email: firstname.lastname@example.org
N AT I O N A L D I R E C T O R June W. Taylor, CIC, CPIA, CPIW, DAE Wilkinson Insurance Agency, White House email: email@example.com
DIRECTORS Carl Butcher, CIC, CPA C. L. Butcher Agency, Knoxville email: firstname.lastname@example.org Andrea Bond Johnson, CPIA Golden Circle Insurance Agency, Brownsville email: email@example.com John Keisling, CPIA, CISR Keisling Insurance Agency, Inc., Byrdstown email: firstname.lastname@example.org Joe Kerr, CIC, CPIA Kerr Insurance Services, LLC, Brentwood email: email@example.com Britt Linder, CIC Peterson Insurance Services, Inc., Bartlett email: firstname.lastname@example.org Bill Oglesby, II, CIC, CPIA Brown Insurance Group, Crossville email: email@example.com Barry Wilson, CIC Mid-South Insurance Office, Inc., Memphis email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tennessee agent TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S October/November 2011 Vol. 53, No. 5
Articles A lesson in leadership The staying power of the band Journey offers a leadership lesson. Charles Marshall describes this lesson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11 Tips to avoid E&O claims Curtis Pearsall offers suggestions that will help agencies to avoid an E&O claim. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13 PIA publishes Agency Marketing Guide The 2011 Agency Marketing Guide focuses on Internet marketing. The guide offers several articles from experts that will help agents to market their services effectively using the Internet. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17 PC running slooooow? In this Tech Bit article, Gregg Marshall writes about a software program that simplifies tuning up your system. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22
Columns Welcome New Members . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4 President’s Perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6 Vision for the Future . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 PIA Calendar & Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16 News from National . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20
S TA F F Brennan J. Paris, CIC, CRM Executive Vice President email: email@example.com Pamela D. Cass, CPIA Convention, Education, Membership firstname.lastname@example.org Sandy Clive, CPIA E&O, Member Services email@example.com Lochiel Gaines Communications, Trade Show firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tennessee Agent (ISSN 1081-566X) is published bimonthly by the Professional Insurance Agents of Tennessee, Inc. Statement of fact or opinions expressed in any article are solely that of the author and does not imply opinions of the officers, directors or staff of PIA of Tennessee, Inc. The publishing of any article or advertisement does not imply endorsement by PIA of Tennessee, Inc. No material within this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part without the consent of the Editor.
Editor: Lochiel Gaines, email@example.com Advertising inquiries should be made to the Editor, The Tennessee Agent, 504 Autumn Springs Court, A-2, Franklin, TN 37067. Telephone 615/771-1177 Fax 615/771-3456 Email – firstname.lastname@example.org Website – www.piatn.com
Welcome, New Members Active/Agency
Bill Richards, LUTCF Harold Keller Community Insurance, LLC Greeneville www.greatci.com
CMS Insurance Service, Inc. Tyler Siddens Ripley, West Virginia www.cmsinsurance.net
Sondra Goldstein Goldstein Insurance Agency, LLC Nashville www.goldsteininsurance.com
THE TENNESSEE AGENT October/November 2011
President’s Perspective BY ELAINE MORTON, CPIA
arthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes… And certificates of insurance!…OH MY! 2011 has definitely been a year of destruction and huge financial loss to the insurance industry as a whole. As agents we try our best to make sure we place the right risk with the right carrier. Yet no matter how hard we try to control our losses, there is little we can do when it comes to "mother nature". She tends to rush in with a vengeance at the most inappropriate time. Tennesseans are still trying to recover from the floods as well as the hail storms and tornadoes we experienced in the past 9 months. It is my understanding that there is still a 3-9 month wait for some to have hail damage repairs made as well as roofs being replaced. Typically this is the time of year we take a breath after the crazy spring and summer weather and think about bracing ourselves for what lies ahead for the remainder of 2011. My hope is that Mother Nature is on an extended vacation! In early September I took a trip to the East Coast. I have always been fascinated with lighthouses, not only for the photographic landscapes they provide but for their representation. To me a lighthouse represents a source of direction, strength, guidance, light, protection, and stability—A lighthouse is where I would like to be in almost any storm that arises. As corny as it may sound, I think that PIA serves as a lighthouse to all our members. In the mid 80's,
THE TENNESSEE AGENT October/November 2011
PIA served as our lighthouse as we weathered the most difficult internal storm in our agency's history. It was my father's associations with PIA that encouraged and supported us in rebuilding our agency. At this point I realized PIA would serve as a lighthouse for me as well. PIA can help provide the navigational tools to become a successful insurance agent as well as a successful insurance agency. Similar to a lighthouse, PIA represents a source of: DIRECTION in guiding agents to new resources available, cutting edge technology and the latest legislative changes STRENGTH in a board of directors and staff that are 110 % committed to innovation and the future of PIA GUIDANCE in the education programs offered and knowledgeable instructors that are within our own association. LIGHT by being our "go to" staff for industry questions and issues PROTECTION by providing our E&O coverage as well as keeping abreast of legislative issues that effect our agencies and companies. STABILITY by providing a staff with over 50 combined years of service and dedication to our association I hope that you allow PIA to be your lighthouse and that you commit to being a "keeper" of that light by using PIA products, participating on a committee, serving as a board member, or becoming a company partner in our new partnership program. PIA is the beacon for the independent agent. As President, I am honored to serve with such a dedicated staff and board of directors. You continue to encourage me to be a better insurance agent and a better me. •
A Vision for the Future B Y B R E N N A N J . PA R I S , C I C , C R M EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT
can’t believe fall is already here and by the time this magazine is released the college football season will be half over, and unfortunately my Georgia Bulldogs have not gotten off to the fastest start! That being said it’s amazing how time flies, and I think a lot of that has to do with how busy we all are. That rings true for the PIA as the staff and I have been hard at work to make our association more visible throughout the state and ultimately to make your agency or company more successful. I have been working on building relationships with our leaders in Tennessee. I had a very good meeting in August with Michael Schulz in Senator Lamar Alexander’s office discussing the top national issues our industry is facing, such as health care reform and the reform and extension of the National Flood Insurance Program. This meeting also served as a building block in getting to know Sen. Alexander and his staff and building a rapport with this leader of Tennessee. Mr. Schulz was very accommodating and intrigued by the issues of the insurance industry and is excited to work with us more in the future. I will to continue to meet with other leaders, including Senator Bob Corker, our representatives in Congress, and those in the General Assembly to voice your concerns about our industry, so do not hesitate to contact our office so that we can make sure your voice is heard on Capitol Hill here in Nashville and in Washington. We have announced the date and location for next summer’s convention—the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel in Nashville from July 30-August 1. We are excited about this new venue for our convention, as well as the new dates that break away from the early summer time slot when it is wedding season, graduation season, vacation season, and other major events that occur across the state. We think this new convention time will give us a fun and exciting finale to summertime. We also are shaking up the schedule with new events and a different agenda that we will be a fresh approach to the PIA
THE TENNESSEE AGENT October/November 2011
annual convention. We will host an industry forum that will consist of a panel of insurance and political experts who will discuss current important topics in the insurance industry and the country as a whole. We will have an opening night party featuring a performance by the southern party band, the Swingin’ Medallions; another new event will be a leadership luncheon, and we will close our convention with a general session featuring a guest key note speaker. We hope you will go ahead and mark your calendars for the 2012 PIA of Tennessee Annual Convention in Nashville next summer! . Last month I attended the PIA National annual fall meeting in San Francisco, and it was a great opportunity to hear how National is working for us in D.C., as well as meet other PIA affiliates from across the country and hear/share ideas and concepts that have or have not worked in the different regions. The big topic of the week was the rollout of PIAPRO, a captive risk retention insurance company that PIA National has created for agency E&O coverage. The underwriting company is Argo Insurance Group, domiciled in Montana, and this company should be a huge help to the states that currently do not have a viable E&O market. I am pleased to announce that Tennessee is one of two states, the other being Louisiana, to be fully operational with PIAPRO. Utica is still our premiere E&O market, but we felt it was important for us to have an alternative market for our agencies that are not a fit for Utica, and we also want to support National in this effort to strengthen the PIA presence in more states by giving them another option to secure E&O business. Please continue to send Sandy Clive your E&O information for quotes, and she will work with the company that best fits your agency. I also am pleased to announce the date of PIA’s inaugural SEC Partnership event at the Auburn vs. Vanderbilt basketball game on January 7, 2012 in Nashville. We will host a pre-game hospitality suite at Memorial Gymnasium, and game tickets at a discounted price will be available through PIA. Most analysts have Vanderbilt as a preseason top 10 team. All season ticket packages have been soldout, so if you want a chance to see a great SEC basketball game, as well as a chance to network with your colleagues and company personnel, mark your
calendars for this fun event. Watch for more details to come later this fall. Lastly, we have rolled out our brand new PIA Company Partnership Program. This program has been designed to provide value added benefits to our company partners for their support of PIA Tennessee. There are four levels of partnerships available, with each level outlining more and more benefits as you go up. The reason for the restructuring of our company membership is that I want each company to clearly see what they get for their financial support to PIA Tennessee, similarly to our agency members. Under the previous structure a large majority of the benefits of being a member of the PIA were geared toward agents, not companies. Therefore we have separated the two, so that we can focus on bringing our companies items throughout the year that can make their company successful in Tennessee and will allow us to continue to evolve membership benefits to fit your needs and make your agency for successful. This is an exciting time for PIA of Tennessee, so help spread the word about what we have going on and please let me know of any agencies or companies out there that you feel would benefit from being a part of the PIA family. Iâ€™ll be happy to meet with them and let them know why they should belong to the PIA family! â€˘
THE TENNESSEE AGENT October/November 2011
A Lesson in Leadership BY CHARLES MARSHALL
y the late 1970s, Journey ( the band) was pretty much finished. The band had recorded three albums, all of which had been critical successes but market failures. They had managed to sell several hundred albums cumulatively, but in the recording industry, selling one- or twohundred thousand units per album is pretty much like selling none at all. At the core of the group were guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Greg Rolie. Neal had started his musical career at a young age, joining the legendary group Santana at only 15. Years later, after leaving Santana, Neal partnered with his former band member, Greg, to create their dream band. In its early stages, Journey was still finding its way, creating songs that featured expert musicianship rather than the song craft for which the band would later be known. It seemed the group had most of what they needed for success but, for some reason, fell just short of their potential. They were missing some key ingredient. Meanwhile, in another part of California, a young man named Steve Perry had given up on his dream to be a singer. Steve had been a member of a promising new band named Alien Project, but on the eve of signing a recording contract, the band’s bass player was killed in a car wreck. Steve was devastated and decided to quit the music business. He moved back home to work with his stepfather repairing turkey coops to pay back the debts he accrued recording his demo tapes. But then Steve got a phone call from Herbie Herbert, the manager of a struggling band named Journey. Herbert convinced Steve to give a career in music one more shot by trying out as the lead singer for Journey. Journey members Neal and Greg met with Steve one afternoon to get a feel for his style and find out what he had to offer. Afterward, Neal told Herbert that essentially he just wasn’t feeling it—that he and Greg didn’t want Steve to join the band. However, Herbert had another opinion on the matter. He told Neal that it had already happened and that Steve was now in the band. Done deal. Matter closed. Fast-forward two or three decades, and
Charles Marshall is a nationally known humorous motivational speaker and author. Visit his website at www.charlesmarshall.net or contact him by email at email@example.com.
Journey has a place with the top-selling bands of all time. Their music is played regularly on radio stations all around the world, and their albums continue to sell at a healthy pace. But none of it would have happened without the visionary leadership of their manager, Herbie Herbert. The way I see it, Herbie Herbert did several things right in making the tough decision to bring Steve into the group. 1. He had a vision. Herbert wanted to create one of the best rock and roll groups in the world and felt that he could assemble the talent to make it happen. No business will move forward unless its leadership has a vision of what that business can become. 2. He communicated his vision. Herbert wasn’t shy about his aspirations for his group. He constantly communicated his passion for the band and his belief in what it could become. Any leader who desires to transition his group from mediocrity to greatness needs to constantly communicate his vision of that possibility to his team. Without that communication, the team continues to accept what is right in front of them as their standard rather than the possibility of what lies over the horizon. 3. He stood by his vision. He made tough decisions to support that vision and then made those decisions work. Being visionary is never easy. If your vision was obvious to everyone around you, then it wouldn’t be a vision; it would be the norm. Standing by your vision when no one else gets it is one of the things that separates true leadership from aspiring leadership. When your vision dies, when nobody else sees your potential or the potential of your vision, how do you react? Do you give up and go build turkey coops with dad, or do you continue with your vision despite the odds and opposition? Great leadership always begins with great vision. Give careful consideration to your vision for your career, community, and business, and be sure to guard it as one of your most precious possessions that you take with you on your leadership journey. • © 2011 Charles Marshall; reprinted with permission. THE TENNESSEE AGENT 11 October/November 2011
Tips to avoid E&O claims B Y C U R T I S M . P E A R S A L L , C P C U , A I A F, C P I A
Educate your customers he insurance industry has some unique terminology, so the possibility exists that some customers don’t totally understand their policies. It is undoubtedly better to educate them before they have a claim rather than after. Develop an education campaign to help your customers better understand their insurance program. There are many approaches, including 1) a newsletter in paper or electronic form; 2) posting information on your website; or 3) writing a blog. For many agencies, a blog has provided tremendous benefit as it shows your expertise and your desire to help your customers learn more about their insurance coverages. To develop material, start with the questions your staff is being asked by your customers.
Mr. Pearsall is president of Pearsall Associates, Inc. and Special Consultant to the Utica National E&O Program.
The insured’s signature The insured’s signature could make all the difference. Oftentimes disputes arise over the accuracy of the information on an application. In such scenarios, a key element of the defense can be the presence and authenticity of the insured’s signature. If the insured has signed the application, generally they will be held responsible for the content. An unsigned application does not carry the same weight. It is highly recommended that you never give the insured a blank application to sign and advise them you will fill it in later. Moreover, never—and I mean never!—sign the insured’s name even though you believe you have the authority to do so.
Staf f meetings Staff meetings are a great way to address current issues, changes in company binding levels, new coverages, education opportunities, etc. In addition, ask your staff what they may be doing that could result in an E&O claim, then discuss how to “fix it.” You may be surprised at what you hear. Staff meetings present the perfect opportunity to stress key agency practices, such as the importance of thorough and timely documentation in the files.
The mirror test This speaks to the process your agency should undertake when you move an account from one company to another. If you are considering moving the account, identify and bring to the customer’s attention any coverages they will be giving up with the new carrier. Always get their approval and written sign-off. To perform this completely and accurately, the coverages, limits, exclusions and other key issues of all of the companies you are considering should be noted on a spreadsheet and shared with your customer.
Be honest with your carriers This may sound like common sense and it probably is. A major element of the relationship between your agency and your carriers is trust. It is critical to provide your carriers with complete and honest information. If they ask for further information, make sure it is truthful.
Classification Limitation Endorsement You need to use the excess and surplus lines marketplace to place some risks. While this segment of our industry serves a vital need, it also has some uniqueness that can spell E&O trouble if not properly handled. Many general liability policies written in the E&S market
THE TENNESSEE AGENT 13 October/November 2011
will contain a form/endorsement called the Classification Limitation Endorsement. When this endorsement is on a policy, coverage only applies for activities included under the listed classification. Be on the lookout for this form. If it is on the policy, bring it to the insured’s attention and get their approval to proceed.
However, in the E&S market, carriers are not required to provide advance notice of pricing/coverage changes on the renewal. Thus, when you receive the renewal terms from the wholesaler/E&S company, carefully review them to identify any changes. Any restrictions/reductions in coverage should be brought to your insured’s attention.
E&S policy renewals When a carrier reduces the coverage in the admitted marketplace, they are required to send out an advance notice.
Agency Procedures Manual There are many benefits to an Agency Procedures Manual when the manual is current and effectively used. This man-
ual can be a solid part of an agency’s defense in the event of an E&O claim, demonstrating that all employees perform the stated procedures. However, the manual must be current and used consistently. An outdated manual or instances where staff members do not follow the manual have the potential to significantly hurt your defense of an E&O claim. Cover letter In most states, the insured has a responsibility to read their policy and is bound by its terms. To reinforce this, include a cover letter when you send the policy to the insured and urge the insured to fully review the policy— including the declarations and endorsements—for accuracy. Include a statement noting that the insured should immediately contact your agency if they have any questions about the policy’s contents. If you deliver the policy, it is still advisable to include this cover letter, making sure you bring the letter to the insured’s attention. Keep the letter general and do not include a summarization of the coverages, as this could suggest to the customer that they do not need to read the policy since the agency has told them what’s in it. Agency promotional material In the event of a claim, the plaintiff’s attorney will review all of your promotional material to learn what words you use and what message you send to customers. They want to see what they can use against you. Bottom line, the content of this material and what you say can have an impact on how an E&O claim is resolved. Be careful not to words such words as “expert” or phrases such as “we make sure you are properly covered.” While these may be solid marketing phrases, they could be used against you should a claim arise. Accepting payment onsite If a customer comes into your agency to pay their premium, it is strongly suggested they meet with the Customer Service Representative/Account Executive who handles that account to verify its status. There is the possibility the account could be in cancelled status and further action will be necessary.
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Get it in writing Customers make policy coverage changes, and while your staff may feel confident they took down the information correctly, mistakes do occur, and at the time of a claim your customer could deny requesting that change. Bottom line: get a customer’s coverage modification request in writing. Another approach is sending the customer an e-mail recapping the conversation as your agency understood it. In the written communication, ask the customer to contact your agency promptly if their understanding of the conversation is different than yours. Monthly quality control Are there mistakes in your files? Probably. The problem is that you’re unsure which files the mistakes are in. If you knew, you would fix them. Finding these mistakes oftentimes can be accomplished using quality control. This QC should be handled at least monthly and should involve a random sampling of each staff member’s files. Not only might you identify a file that needs correction, you also can determine if the work is being performed accurately and within your agency’s time-period guidelines. Many agency management systems provide the tools to assist with performing QC. Exposure analysis checklist This checklist is the closest thing to a “silver bullet” in avoiding EO claims. For many years, the number one cause of E&O claims has been failure to provide the proper coverage. Exposure analysis checklists provide a systematic approach to ensure you are asking your customer the necessary questions to identify the various exposures. In addition, these checklists contain extensive information for each of the more than 650 SIC codes. This will enable your staff to essentially become experts in various coverages and exposures. Within each class, you have access to a full narrative on the exposures. You will be provided with a questionnaire that indicates pertinent questions, plus a client coverage agreement prompting you to review all the coverages and document the final disposition. If your customer declines a specific coverage, you will have concise documentation for your file.
Binders and policies Until the policy is issued, oftentimes, the binder will serve as the basis for the settlement of any claims. Make sure the binder is completed promptly and accurately. When the policy is received, ensure its accuracy and promptly get it in the customer’s hands. Divorce issues These matters require strong focus because you may be rewriting coverages for one or both of the couple. It is key that you look at the named insured definition because most personal lines policies are based on the named insured and the residence location. Make every attempt to meet with each party to discuss the matter to better understand their needs and desires. Your primary goal is to secure the appropriate coverage for both parties with no reductions. Fax transmissions This tip is easily implemented. When sending a fax, keep the original copy of the cover sheet showing that the fax was accepted by the other party. In the event of a problem, this document could be important in proving what you sent, when you sent it and to whom. The most common problem seems to arise when a fax is sent binding coverage and there is a claim early in the policy period. The other party may state they have no record of receiving the fax and thus coverage is not considered bound. Valuation calculations In reviewing E&O claims involving property, the majority allege the agent did not correctly determine the proper limit and thus, at the time of the loss, the insured did not receive a proper settlement. If it is necessary for you to do the calculation, precision with all necessary information is required. Also beneficial is including a disclaimer that the value calculated is based on the information provided and is not a guarantee that losses will be fully paid. It also is appropriate to include in the disclaimer that engaging a property appraiser is the most reliable way to calculate replacement costs for buildings and other structures.
Carriers ratings Your agency should have a guideline for the rating of carriers (including E&S) with which you will do business. Many agencies require A- or better. Have a designated person assigned to periodically check carriers’ ratings. They can check monthly or subscribe to a service that alerts the agency to changes. Carrier ratings do change, and don’t expect the marketing representative to tell your agency that their company’s rating has dropped. If the rating drops below a set corporate level (or becomes an NR rating), consider notifying your customers of this new rating and tell them what it means. There may be situations where you want to advise the customer that you strongly recommend replacing the coverage. Document, document, document While this is the last of the tips, it is by far the biggest issue impacting the direction in which an E&O claim will go. Is your file well documented or is the documentation somewhat sparse and sketchy? Use your agency staff meetings to stress the importance of timely and accurate documentation. Items to cover include: Customer interactions—Without documentation, it’s just hearsay. Requests to modify coverage—Pull the file to ensure you fully understand the request. Get the request in writing or send the customer an e-mail documenting what they requested. This will help alleviate any misunderstandings. Phone calls, including cell phones— Producers or anyone in the agency with a cell phone should be required to document any key business conversations in the agency management system. Declined coverage—When a customer declines a specific coverage, get that declination in writing. Once again, this will serve as vital protection should a claim arise down the road and the customer disavows declining the coverage. Implementing these 20 tips will improve the professional liability culture at your agency. This could help reduce the likelihood of E&O claims against you and help provide an effective defense if a claim does occur. •
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Calendar of Events PIA LOCAL CHAPTER MEETINGS • East Tennessee Contact Ron Welch, 865/689-6254 • Memphis Second Tuesday of every month in Memphis Contact Steve Peay, 901/766-0200
77TH ANNUAL CONVENTION & TRADE SHOW • July 30-August 1, 2012 Lowe’s Vanderbilt Hotel Nashville
• Nashville Nov. 3, 2011 Contact Tina Hutsenpiller, 615/773-2886
Classroom Education CPIA INSURANCE SUCCESS SEMINARS • CPIA 3 November 3, 2011 in Nashville 8 hours C.E. credit
Online Education P R E - L I C E N S I N G E D U C AT I O N
C O N T I N U I N G E D U C AT I O N
• Property & Casualty, Life & Health, Series 6 & 63 Online study or traditional self-study manual
• CEU.com (The American Institute for CPCU) Approved in all 50 states and D.C. Available 24/7
TRAINING FOR NEW EMPLOYEES For employees with less than 12 months experience • Agency Orientation
• Learn.net (PIA National) Tennessee-specific courses; 12 hours for most. Ethics, flood, E&O, healthcare reform, long term care partnership, and more.
• Delivering Quality Service to the Customer and the Employer
D E S I G N AT I O N P R O G R A M S
• Personal Lines Coverage Basics 12 hours C.E. credit
• Personal Lines Coverage Specialist (PLCS)
• Commercial Lines Coverage Basics 12 hours C.E. credit
• Commercial Lines Coverage Specialist (CLCS)
To register for education or to find out additional information, logon to www.piatn.com/education.
2 0 1 1 E D U C AT I O N P A R T N E R S Accident Fund of America • Arlington-Roe • Bolton & Co. • Grange Insurance PIA Advantage Services Corp. • ServPro • U.S. Risk Insurance Group • Utica National Insurance Group 16 THE TENNESSEE AGENT October/November 2011
Agency Marketing Guide focuses on Internet marketing IA National has published the 2011 edition of its annual Agency Marketing Guide. This edition contains hands-on marketing advice from experts in and outside of the insurance industry. The focus is on how agents can market their services using the Internet. The guide offers specifics for agents who want their agencies to be better positioned on search engines and who want to make their agency website more sales focused. “The Internet has greatly changed how Americans look for information,” said Fred Thomas, immediate past PIA National president. “Although insurance buyers overwhelmingly prefer to purchase their insurance through a local insurance agent, they increasingly find that agent through the Internet.” “Today’s insurance marketplace requires that agents remain nimble,” said Alexi Papandon, assistant vice president of communications for PIA National. “They must be willing to embrace change on an ongoing basis. Those that do will be able to provide the conveniences and accessibility that the Internet makes possible, while providing the personal attention and expertise one can only get through a local, professional insurance agent. These agents will be greatly empowered and will experience great success going forward.” Excerpts from some of the articles in the 2011 Agency Marketing Guide follow.
Time to Get Your Agency Online “Many businesses today have adopted an Internet marketing strategy because they recognize that the purpose of a web site is to let potential customers know they exist. Web sites increase visibility and give you the opportunity to build your business brand and differentiate yourself from the competition. It’s very likely that prospects may want to know more about you, your philosophy, and you business before they meet with you.”—Paul Peterson, president of Emerald Connect.
The Five Biggest Mistakes Made in Managing Internet Leads “With over 75 percent of today’s insurance consumers beginning their search for insurance online, we must be successful in marketing online if we expect to stay in business.”—Carl Moulton CPCU, CLU, ChFC, co-owner of Insurance Agent Internet Marketing Systems (IAIMS), Inc. Making Internet Lead Marketing Work for your Agency “Over the past few years, many independent insurance agents have begun purchasing, or have considered purchasing, Internet leads to help fill the personal lines prospect pipeline and grow their business… As with any prospect source, it’s important to remember that you’re buying an opportunity, not a sale. Agents must have a process in their office for working the leads in order to be successful. Online leads require a disciplined contact strategy to maximize success.”—Alexi Papandon, assistant vice president of communications for PIA National. The Secret to Sales: Marketing that Works “Marketing is the dynamic communication to and from a carefully selected target population of prospective clients. Here we clearly outline the solutions we have developed to solve their unique problems, and most importantly we let them know who we are, not just what we do. “Sales on the other hand are the tactics and protocols we go through to complete the value for value exchange. This is where you open and close the deal. This you know how to do well, if you get the chance!”—Phil Beakes, 32-year veteran of the insurance business who recently has returned to the agency side of the business to lead Associated Insurance Services in Westlake, California.
THE TENNESSEE AGENT 17 October/November 2011
Win Business with Content Marketing Campaigns “In this competitive environment, driving organic growth and standing out from the competition means more than just regularly reaching out. It means going even further to ensure that each time you do reach out, you provide value that clients and prospects can’t live without. Bottom line? Your communication has to mean something to your client or prospect…meaningful content that directly speaks to those needs keeps an agent in front of prospects or clients, creating legitimacy, increasing brand loyalty and facilitating cross-selling.”— Dave O’Brien, executive vice president and chief marketing office of Zywave, Inc. The Agency Marketing Guide is a piece of the overall PIA branding program, Local Agents Serving Main Street America(SM). The branding program extends the reach of professional, independent insurance agents into their communities with an advertising and promotional campaign that highlights what agents bring to the table. In addition to the Agency Marketing Guide, the program includes print advertisements in English and in Spanish, radio ads in both languages, and the PIA logo utilizing the Local Agents Serving Main Street America wording. It also includes the 2010 Agency Marketing Guide, which focused on the use of social media to support an agency’s sales strategy. In August 2011, PIA National was awarded the APEX 2011 Award of Excellence for the 2010 guide. The award was “based on excellence in graphic design, quality of editorial content and the success of the entry in conveying the message and achieving overall communications effectiveness.” Print and radio pieces of the branding program are free to PIA members. Both the 2011 and 2010 guides are available in print and as an electronic document. For more information on how to sign up to begin using the Local Agents Serving Main Street America branding tools, contact PIA of Tennessee by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the office at 615-771-1177. •
18 THE TENNESSEE AGENT October/November 2011
PIA of Tennessee thanks PIA Trust for its Sapphire Sponsorship at the 2011 Convention & Trade Show
News from National IA National held its fall meeting in San Francisco September 24-25. Representing PIA of Tennessee were National Director June Taylor and Executive Vice President Brennan J. Paris.
2011-12 of ficers installed PIA National officers who comprise the Executive Committee were sworn in September 25 in San Francisco during a board of directors meeting. Each will serve a one-year term from October 1, 2011 through September 30, 2012. The new officers are: Thomas C. Adderhold, president; Andrew C. Harris, president-elect; John G. Lee, vice president/treasurer; Richard A. Clements, secretary/ assistant treasurer; and Fred Thomas, immediate past president. The PIA board confirmed the success of the officers, and Clements was elected unopposed. Excellence in Social Media award Mark Suhr, a PIA member from Seward, Nebraska, received the 2011 Excellence in Social Media award. The award is presented to honor a member who is on the cutting edge of using social media in their business. Mr. Suhr has taken what he calls the “community approach” to social networking. When his agency started using Facebook, it was uncharted territory. People in his community who were older than college-age were just getting into it. So his strategy was to help in the development of Facebook pages by people in his area, not just putting up his own page and hoping others joined in. His Facebook page is www.facebook.com/suhrlichty. Westfield Insurance named Company of the Year The PIA National Company Award of Excellence honors a company for its commitment to PIA, to the American Agency System and to furthering the interests of professional insurance agents by creating a better business environment. This year’s award was presented to Westfield Insurance. “Westfield Insurance is a market leader and an ardent supporter of the agency system. Westfield Insurance views its agents as true business partners, providing them with an excellent product portfolio, combined with unparalleled support that agencies can use to build their success,” said PIA National President Fred Thomas, who presented the award. 20 THE TENNESSEE AGENT October/November 2011
“Our Westfield mission is to provide peace of mind to consumer and our agents. We do that by sharing knowledge about managing risk through our insurance products and services,” said Jim Clay, Westfield Group Chief Executive Officer. “The advice and counsel of a professional independent agent is essential for consumers to making sound decisions about their protection. We partner with many of the best agencies, and they are an integral part of our Westfield value proposition.” J.M. Wilson named MGA of the Year This award recognizes outstanding achievement in furthering the interests of agents, a commitment to the agency system and successful efforts to create a better business environment for professional insurance agents. “Team members from J.M. Wilson are always asking how they can be involved to help agents build strong agencies,” said PIA National President-elect Thomas Adderhold, who presented the award. “Their motto is ‘Relationships—It’s why we stand out from the crowd.’ And each of their employees lives out this motto—developing solid relationships with agents and with PIA.” J.M. Wilson Corporation writes commercial transportation, professional liability, property/ casualty, personal lines and surety for independent agents in 24 states. It is a third generation MGA and surplus lines broker with offices in eight states. Company Rep of the Year Edward J. Fernandez, president of the Palisades Companies which is part of the Plymouth Rock Assurance of New Jersey, was named Company Representative of the Year. “Throughout his career, Ed has always been an outspoken advocate for professional, independent insurance agents,” said Andrew J. Harris, PIA vice president/treasurer, who president the award. “He has implemented programs to assist agents and make sure they are full partners in the decision he makes.” Mr. Fernandez has 35 years of experience in the property/casualty insurance industry. Prior to Plymouth Rock he was with Chubb Insurance for almost 20 years, holding several management positions. He developed a strong track record for profitable growth and innovation and a reputation as a strong supporter of the independent agency system. •
Tech Bit PC running slooooow…try this BY GREGG MARSHALL
indows PCs seem to develop plaque over time (Mac computers may also, I just don’t have experience with them). The visible result is your PC seems to run slower over time. That plaque is the result of the various programs the average user installs, knowingly or unknowingly, while using the PC. Updates, website add-ins, etc. all add software to your PC. By far the cleanest solution is to back up • A nationwide network of insurance agents on the everything, erase your Internet. Why be on the interhard disk, reinstall net alone when you can netWindows and the applicawork with agents across tions, and restore your America? data. But for many PC • We’ll take care of your web presence so that you can conusers, finding all the tinue to sell insurance. installation CDs can be • Email for your staff challenging enough to • Custom-designed websites keep them from doing a • Website hosting real scrubbing. • Search engine placement on There are a number of the Top 50 engines • FREE edit time monthly to free tools to let you keep your site up to date address some of the issues • Discounts for PIA of TN (e.g. registry bloat, hard members drive fragmentation, etc.) • And so much more. that I’ve written about in Cost? Pennies or dollars per day the past. Way back at the — you choose. beginning of this “Tech We’re the ONLY web design, web Bit” series, I wrote about hosting company created BY an a commercial all-in-one INSURANCE AGENT FOR the software package called INSURANCE AGENT! System Mechanic, then at XChange Insurance Network version 7. Its advantage is (formerly The Tennessee Insurance XChange) Toll Free: (877) 377-1212 it combines a number of E-mail: Info@XChange Insurance.com separate functions into a Website: http://www.XChangeInsurance.com single software package
22 THE TENNESSEE AGENT October/November 2011
that simplifies tuning up your system without resorting to scrubbing it. I have System Mechanic 10.5 on my notebook computer. It has found 844 unused registry entries I didn’t need, a bunch of system clutter, optimized my hard disk and generally cleaned up my system. Since benchmarks in the real world don’t really measure performance in normal usage, I didn’t run before and after benchmarks. What I can report is the system is perceptibly fast and I think a bit more stable (I haven’t seen a mysterious crash one of my applications had occasionally since I’ve done the System Mechanic cleaning of my system). If I have any complaint, and this is true about more and more software, is that System Mechanic assumes during installation that you want it to run and keep cleaning up all the time. I find that frustrating if for no other reason that every program running takes a little bit of the computer’s RAM memory and processor time, effectively slowing down the computer a little. As an example Adobe has an program that runs all the time just to check for updates. While System Mechanic helps with disabling some of those “redundant” programs, it replaces them with itself. If you are not a computer geek, having a program like System Mechanic to help optimize your system is a good idea. • Gregg Marshall, CPMR, CSP, is a speaker, author and consultant. He can be reached by email at email@example.com, or visit his website at http://www.repconnection.com.
PIA Boosters PIA thanks our Agent and Booster advertisers! For advertising information, fax the Tennessee Agent at 615/771-3456.
v P.O. Box 270 Columbia, Tennessee 38402 800/346-6071 800/296-0419 fax Tom Wilson, Marketing
3200 West End Ave. Nashville, Tennessee 37203 888/432-9488 ext. 3371 423/591-9337 fax Karen Tidwell, CPIA
Farmers Mutual of Tennessee P.O. Box 3428 Knoxville, Tennessee 37927 865/523-5153 Gordo Watson, CIC
THE TENNESSEE AGENT 23 October/November 2011
Tennessee agent 504 Autumn Springs Court, A-2 Franklin, Tennessee 37067
Published on Oct 25, 2011