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New e-Guide: Effective Insurance Marketing on a Limited Budget

Strategic Insurance Software (SIS) is pleased to announce the release of its newest e-guide: “Effective Insurance Marketing on a Limited Budget.” Geared toward agencies that want to increase the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns without breaking the bank, the guide focuses on key ways independent insurance agents can generate positive exposure for their agency, gain a stronger digital presence, and leverage the tools already at their disposal.

Marketing can be expensive, however, you don’t need to break the bank in order to effectively market your agency. The fundamental secret to creating a high-impact marketing plan on a limited budget is to optimize what you have and focus on capturing the customers that will provide a return on your investment.

The e-guide will help you with the following aspects of developing a cost-effective marketing for your insurance agency:

  • Engaging people with social networks – online and off
  • Getting the most of your social media use
  • Using “local search” to get more traffic to your website
  • Maintaining and building an effective website
  • Mining your agency management system

Executive Vice President of Sales for SIS, Michael Doran, sees the e-guide as another opportunity for SIS to help independent insurance agencies grow their business: “SIS is always listening to independent insurance agencies to learn how to help them solve their problems. Through these interactions and our own experience, we have learned marketing tips that we want to share with independent insurance agencies everywhere to help them grow and maintain a sustainable business.”

Keep In-Touch with the Best Cloud Communication Apps

Any experienced insurance agent will tell you the key to successful business is good customer service. The key to good customer service? Communication. Communication within your team and communication with your clients is essential to building a good brand and a successful agency. Cloud communication tools are making it easier than ever to keep in touch with your employees and clients. These applications allow you to stay in touch while you’re on the go and are essential for agencies with multiple locations.

Using cloud apps to communicate gives your agency the benefit of face-to-face communication without the costs of time and money to get from one location to another. This can be particularly helpful when explaining service options or agency tools to clients. Seeing a real human being explaining the ins and outs of your policy creates a sense of trust and security that makes for loyal clients who will sing your praises to all they know.

Using cloud communication tools within your team brings the benefit of not missing a single new idea. Through meeting face to face, you can pick up on when someone needs to interject or read facial expressions to know if a new idea is falling flat or taking off. Meeting via the cloud will also create a sense of community within your team, which any agency owner knows means more gets done, and gets done better.

There are many options out there for cloud-based communication tools. We’re going to look at three of the best tools, each with a different use, that can help your agency stay in touch, increase productivity, and provide great customer service no matter where you are located.

Join.Me

This screen sharing app is great for teaching clients or employees how to use systems or for collaboration in making new, innovative ideas come to life. It’s free to join, and up to ten people at once can look at and/or manage a single device’s screen. All you need to do is generate a secure code, provide it to the participants and, voila! It’s like you’re standing right next to them, watching their screen.

Join.Me is already used by thousands of businesses to provide direct assistance to clients who may be new to technology. Your agency can benefit by providing personal assistance in understanding how to file online claims or to check policies on your website. You can even record sessions and post them on your website for a step-by-step instructions that are always available.

Your team can benefit from using Join.Me to collaborate on a new website design, new agency strategy or any number of projects needing input from multiple members. The application is intuitive, making it easy for those with little tech experience to pick up quickly, and is secure. The application uses 256-bit SSL encryption, the same used by most online shopping and banking sites, making it hack-proof to give you and your clients piece of mind about your information’s security.

GoToMeeting

True to its name, GoToMeeting is a great tool for virtual conference sessions. You have the option for HD video for up to 6 participants or call-in only for up to 1,000, and it can be used on almost any device, including tablets. Many use GoToMeeting to host webinars or training sessions as participants can call the toll free number and listen in while watching live video, shared screens or both. Multiple individuals can sit in as presenters, and you can switch from one presenter to another in the click of a button. This is especially helpful during question and answer sessions. All sessions can be recorded, meaning no one ever has to miss a meeting or training: even if they can’t tap in virtually, they can watch the session in its entirety at a later time.

This application was one of the first of its kind, making it a pioneer in the cloud communication venue. Like Join.Me, GoToMeeting is easy to use and using similar tight security. To use the application, one presenter clicks a button to invite other presenters and provides a toll free number and access code to those who plan to listen in.  Since the application uses phone lines for audio, it comes through crystal clear. GoToMeeting is a fee-based app, but the $50/month price tag is worth it.

Google Hangout

Google has gone way beyond a search engine, and is now cornering the market on cloud computing. It’s communication app, Google Hangout, is typical of most Google applications in that it is compatible with every possible device and is easy to use. Since Hangout is a Google application, you know it’s secure. Google pays close attention to security across the board due to its high profile and growing number of cloud-based applications.

Google Hangout is, like all Google apps, a free service. You can use Hangout for meetings or problem solving sessions with up to 10 individuals. What makes Hangout different is you are able to see the faces of all the individuals in the meeting at one time, allowing you to pick up on nonverbals showing someone is confused or has something to add to the conversation. Hangout has great video quality, and it auto-adjusts to brightness and contrast automatically. Google’s recent acquisition of YouTube means top of the line YouTube integration, which allows you to watch videos in real time. When a video is played, mics adjust automatically to mute, but someone can interject by pressing the “push to talk” button to bring down the video’s volume while they’re speaking.

To use Hangout, all you need is a Google ID, which you can now get without needing to sign up for Gmail, Google’s e-mail platform. Just type in whatever e-mail you use, create a password and you’re ready to “hangout”.

We hope this intro to a few of the best cloud communication tools makes the world of cloud computing a little less scary and more accessible for you and your agency. In order for your agency to serve the needs of your clients, you’ll need to begin to embrace these new technologies to keep up with new expectations. We at SIS know it’s important to stay one step ahead and, with applications like the Partner XE agency management system, we are taking that step for you and passing it along to your agency. To find out more about SIS and Partner XE, contact us at 800-747-9273 or email sales@sisware.com.

Looking Up to the Cloud: The Future of Your Business

Cloud ComputingThe offices of 2013 are going unplugged. Look around any semi-modern independent insurance agency and you’ll see laptops and tablets have replaced desktops. Printers and scanners are wireless and cell phones have made handsets a thing of the past. What you don’t see is another part of this trend to unplug: the cloud.

The cloud had its time as the wave of the future, but now the future is here. Cloud based applications are the new norm; allowing successful agencies to be more flexible in their workspace, offering greater data security and keeping up with ever increasing bandwidth needs. And the cloud isn’t limited to online data backups or document sharing; more and more daily business operations are moving to cloud based systems.

Here’s why so many forward-thinking independent agency owners are choosing the cloud to help them weather the storms:

1. Flexibility in workspace

Using cloud computing systems allows you to access what you need anywhere using almost any device with an internet connection. This means you can access and edit documents on your work computer, at home or even from your mother-in-law’s basement. And, you don’t need to buy new systems to keep up on cloud based applications that help with your day to day operations, meaning there is no interruption in your workflow.

2. Innovation through communication

Giving your employees the ability to access projects anywhere at any time means they can put good ideas to work whether in the office or not. Communication cloud applications allow employees to share these ideas with their co-workers – even if they aren’t in the same city or even country. There are dozens of new ways to communicate via the cloud, making it easier for agencies with multiple locations to talk face-to-face at a moments’ notice, which helps foster innovative ideas that may be the next big thing in the industry.

3. Data security and recovery

Just like the postal service, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night can keep you from accessing the information you need in the cloud. Your data is stored in a remote location and, since cloud computing itself has innovated, many cloud-computing companies have data stored in different locations. If one is knocked out, the others will continue to maintain your access. This means a power outage at the office doesn’t shut you down for the day, and a stolen laptop doesn’t mean your data is lost or even at risk of being shared. Since data isn’t stored on individual devices, you can also upgrade to new technology easily without the hassle of transferring thousands of files and can easily access it on the go.

4. Staying ahead of the curve

Cloud computing applications have a “set it and forget it” way about them. As cloud applications are upgraded, you automatically receive patches to keep your version up to date. These auto-updates mean your agency has the latest technology without an increase in cost and you can stop worrying about whether or not you’re using cutting edge tools. Cloud applications also easily increase bandwidth as needed, so your technology can grow with your agency instead of holding back growth.

5. Low cost, high yield makes your budget happy

One of the best aspects of cloud computing is its ROI. Many cloud-based applications, especially marketing applications, are free and the rest certainly won’t break your budget. Most fee-based applications allow you to budget out monthly costs, making your investment predictable. And it’s easy to customize each application to your needs so you only pay for what you want, and leave out what you don’t.

With benefits like this, your agency is at risk of falling behind if you don’t embrace the cloud. We at SIS know there are hundreds of cloud-based tools out there, and it can be tough to know which are best for your agency. To give you a leg up, we’ll be exploring the best cloud-based tools in our coming posts, so you can be sure to get the right tools to help your agency grow.

To find out more about SIS and how we can help your agency stay on the cutting edge, call us at 800-747-9273 or email sales@sisware.com.

Press Release: SIS Double Carriers Integrated with Partner XE

Partner XE Carrier ListStrategic Insurance Software (SIS) has more than doubled the number of carriers that integrate with its Partner XE agency management system in the past year. Momentum continues to build. In the last three months alone, 12 carriers and 32 lines of business have been added, and the company is continually adding more, as requested by its agency partners.

“SIS is continually working to certify downloads from carriers in response to the needs of our customers,” said Tami Scott, Director of Client Services. “As we expand our reach and add new agencies from different areas of the country, we are encountering the need to add to our list of certified carriers.”

By being able to connect to more carriers through Partner XE, SIS’ partner agencies are able to serve their customers more effectively. SIS works closely with its agency customers to identify the insurance companies and lines of business they need for RealTime connection and information download. The SIS certification team manages the process from initial introduction to final certification.

“SIS prioritizes integrations with carriers based on the recommendations of our customers,” said Scott. “We want to provide the connections that are most important to them.”

SIS CEO, Alex Deak, sees the growth of the carriers integrated with Partner XE to be parallel with the growth of SIS’ offerings to its customers: “The rate of growth in companies mirrors the growth of our overall business. We are adding new agency customers and expanding relationships with existing customers all over the country. SIS is committed to delivering a comprehensive solution that gives our users the information they need at their fingertips.”

About Strategic Insurance Software 
Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Strategic Insurance Software (SIS) is the team behind Partner XE– an innovative web-based insurance agency management system that helps independent agencies streamline workflow and grow their business.

Built on a foundation of strong technology and exceptional service, we’re moving forward with a constant eye on innovation that will make independent agents’ lives easier. Supporting downloads from nearly 300 carriers, real time interaction, integrated agency accounting, and much more, Partner XE is a full featured system at an affordable cost for the independent insurance agency.

Responsive Websites for Independent Insurance Agents

Mobile Website DesignResponsive website design refers to designing a website that presents itself in the best possible way for the device it’s being viewed on. The SIS website uses responsive design, so if you’re using a desktop computer try changing the width of this window from stretching all the way across your screen to shrinking it as small as it will go. As you change the size of the window, you’ll see parts of the site rearrange themselves. That is responsive website design.

Why Responsive Design

More people today are using mobile devices like phones and tablets to access websites than ever before. You never know how someone may access your site, so you want to prepare for all possibilities.

Traditional sites can cause a few problems when viewed on a smaller screen like on a phone.

  1. The text can appear very small. The size of your font and the length of your lines of text might look nice when they appear on a computer monitor, but they could be unreadably small on a phone screen. A responsive website will resize the text and change the line breaks to keep everything readable.
  2. Traditional menus can be difficult to use on a phone. Typical website menus that require you to hover your mouse over one item on the menu to see the other menu-items that are “below” it in the menu-order sometimes don’t even work on a phone. Instead, responsive websites usually entirely change the menu to function as a drop-down list, making it much easier to navigate on a small screen.
  3. Many site layouts are designed for wide screens, not vertically aligned phone screens. Your computer screen is probably horizontally aligned. That means if your site were designed only for your computer monitor it would probably have multiple vertical elements (like sidebars). When the width of your screen is only three inches across, though, it can be difficult to make sense of what you’re looking at. A responsive site will take sidebars and move them from the side of the screen to below the other content when viewed on a phone.

How to Use Responsive Website Design

Taking advantage of the benefits of responsive website design is surprisingly simple. Many of the common website-building tools (like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal) include templates and tools to help you build a responsive website. If you are working with a marketing partner to build your site, ask them about responsive website design, and make sure your site will be responsive.