The Importance of Networking and Community
As a successful independent insurance agent, you live the importance of networking and community ties every day. Because of this, you cannot miss an opportunity to connect with your peers and forge new relationships in person.
At SIS, we also value creating strong community spaces, which is why we are excited that our NASPA user group has announced the date for the 2015 NASPA User Conference in Columbus, OH. From October 15-16, Partner XE community members, users, and business partners will gather to network and engage in technical roundtables and practical work sessions on Partner XE 2015.
Round Tables on 2015’s Important Topics
This year, the conference brings together experts on topics like cyber security, perpetuation planning, and content marketing. These sessions promise to be engaging, high-level conversations with leading experts and packed with strategic insight that can help change your agency.
Partner XE 2015 Work Sessions
In addition to high-level roundtables, there will also be group work sessions lead by experts on Partner XE 2015. With the updated version of the agency management software coming out in August, you do not want to miss the opportunity to work through the software’s updates as well touch on improving workflows, client and policy management, tracking commissions, sales and pipeline management, and much more.
Save some money and register now
If you register between now and August 31, you qualify for Early Bird discounts. Normally priced tickets are $150, but the Early Bird discount drops the price down to $125.
The basics of the event have just been announced, so we’ll keep you updated as more information becomes available. To learn more or to register, click here to visit NASPA’s event page.
In our last posts, Cyber Security and Your Agency, Protecting Your Agency from Cyber Risk, and The Most Important Elements of Cyber Liability Coverage, we took a look at the growing cyber security threats and how the insurance industry is tackling this issue. To wrap up our series, we asked the experts – independent insurance agency owners. Here’s what some agency owners had to say on the topic.
What is the biggest cyber threat to your agency?
- Leslie Huesman, Huesman Insurance Group: “We worry most about people hacking into our system. Criminals are at work day and night to access personal data (for identity theft).”
- Steve Kramer, Kramer Insurance: “Our biggest risk is our people. We need to educate our staff and agents on how to handle (personal information). We worry about anyone being lax when it comes to handling such data.”
- John Heinsz, HSG Insurance Services: “The hacking of our database (and corruption of data).”
- Larry Harb, IT Risk Managers, Inc.: “The biggest threat to any agency owner is their employees and human error. When employees take home laptops, flash drives, or other mobile devices with sensitive information, it can easily be stolen leaving the data on those devices exposed. Data can also be lost or corrupted through viruses downloaded by individuals.”
What preventative measures can be taken to safeguard against data breaches?
- Steve: “Developing a plan for cyber security and covering how to handle (each piece of data) as it comes through the door. (We put together) a written ‘Information Security’ program and give each agent a self-assessment checklist. It’s not just a security plan, it’s a business plan.”
- Larry: “(You) need to set up preventative items. We want everybody to have security in place (in their agency), meaning encrypting data and using secure passwords. Our biggest asset is our data, so that data needs to be backed up and protected against computer meltdowns, too.”
What are the most important points of cyber liability coverage?
- Leslie: “There are two important parts: first is the money to pay for the damage to customers, second is providing our clients with a quarterback to run the show. This person helps our clients through the process of notification and meeting all requirements of a company that has had a data breach.”
- Larry: “The biggest piece that everyone buys is notification coverage, since database notification laws are set up in most states. It’s been estimated 60% of small businesses suffering a data breach go out of business within 6 months without such coverage. There is also electronic media coverage, which pertains to liable, slander, infringement of intellectual property rights, and online advertising violations committed by anyone associated with the covered business.”
What do you see as the future of cyber liability coverage?
- John: “Cyber liability coverage will become automatic coverage in most business policies and home policies, like Loss of Income in BOPs or Identity Theft in Home policies.”
- Larry: “Currently there is no standard policy language or definitions. When I talk to insurance agencies, I like to call it data based coverage. I’m trying to demystify this concept, telling business that cyber liability coverage is as important as sprinklers in your building. You can insure a building without sprinklers, but it’ll cost more.”
Each of our interviewees stressed the importance of adding cyber liability as a point of coverage for their customers. We at SIS know the importance of adding such coverage, which is why we made adding a new point of coverage as easy as creating a new template and adding it on to a new or renewal review.
To learn more about how Partner XE protects your data, check out our website or contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As an independent insurance agency owner, you know the importance and value of creating good relationships— with your clients, with community members, and with your business partners. It is relationships like these that make your agency what it is and help it grow and improve. While each of these connections is valuable, it’s also important to connect these individuals with each other and your agency.
Forming communities from these separate relationships brings benefits to both you and these communities. Such connections create a positive feeling, thus growing your agency brand. Also, these community groups create space for members to share ideas and ask questions, leading to innovation and improvement all around.
The key communities your agency should concentrate on growing and connecting are your clients and partners/suppliers. Each community needs a different level of care and support, but both share a common need to communicate regularly with each other and with you. Some great ways to connect are:
- Online forums where individuals can ask questions, give advice, and hear directly from your agency
- Social media accounts to create space for ongoing conversations between you, your clients, and your partners/Suppliers
- Regular meetings to connect people in person and help put a face to your agency
- Social gatherings for a more relaxed way to network and foster connections
- Local workgroups formed in areas with a high concentration of your clients or partners
- Community surveys to gain feedback, and open communication between your agency and your partners/clients
Creating these communities is an important part of your success as an independent insurance agency. We at SIS know the value of such community spaces, which is why we strive to foster communication and collaboration with our staff and Partner XE users alike. Our NASPA user group helps Partner XE users connect, and its national and regional conferences provide space for getting together to learn, share, and improve. It is this regular meeting and connecting that fosters a community atmosphere among our customers.
To find out more about NASPA, the Partner XE community, and how Partner XE can help you create a community of clients, contact us at email@example.com.
As an independent insurance agency, your local presence is central to who you are, what you represent, and your overall value. Unlike large, national agencies, you have the ability to know your customers personally, and knowing your community is a big part of that connection. In order to know more about your local area, your agency needs to take intentional steps to become engaged in and support your community. Here are some great ways to get started:
- 1. Identify Needs
Pay attention to and find out about the biggest needs in your city or town. Is it education? Neighborhood beautification? Unemployment? Once you know the areas of need, get involved in ways to help address such issues. By taking on issues of importance, you show you care about investing in what your community really needs.
- 2. Ask Questions
Survey your customers: find out what they expect from you and what they want to see in their neighborhood. Even this simple task of asking conveys your level of concern, and shows your customer’s opinion matters to you. Use the information you gather to inform changes you’ll make and specific ways you’ll give back to your community.
- 3. Make a Plan
As always, it is important to create a plan to ensure your whole agency is involved in your community on a regular basis. Start with the goal in mind, such as improving your local elementary school. Your plan could involve organizing fundraisers, volunteering at school events, or regularly collecting supplies such as pencils and notebooks for donation. Make sure your plan is sustainable – meaning your agency has the time and funds to be involved to the degree you decide.
- 4. Partner Up
Get to know and work with organizations and individuals who are well known in your locality. This could be community government members, local nonprofits, or community activists. Take the time to build relationships with these individuals and organizations, as they are your key to connecting and being in the know about what is going on in your community.
- 5. Spread the Word
Once you’ve started engaging in and meeting the needs of your community, make sure your customers and potential customers know. Blog about your involvement, include references in your advertising, and get your agency’s name on charity event banners and flyers. Don’t be shy! At the least, be sure you include a page on your website detailing your commitment to your community and how you show it.
Once you get to know your area and engage in community happenings, your brand awareness will increase and you’ll find your agency buzzing with new leads. Each lead is a potential customer, but conversion from lead to customer rests on the relationship you build with that individual.
Our Partner XE has a host of capabilities to help you keep track of new leads, and stay on top of your current customers relationships. By building and fostering these relationships, you’ll create life-long customers, meaning stability and longevity for your agency. To find out more about how Partner XE can help you create these lasting customer relationships, contact us today at 800.747.9273.
Community engagement is an excellent way to help your independent insurance agency stand out from the crowd. When you show you know and care about your local community, you show yourself as a trustworthy organization. Additionally, a recent Entrepreneur Magazine article shows many individuals, especially millennials, consider community engagement when looking at an organization*. So, how can your agency become more involved in your city or town?
1. Sponsor an event
Local 5Ks, charity auctions, and other such fundraising events always need sponsors. Step up and offer to support. Donate money, supplies, or even your time through employee volunteers. Being a part of such fundraisers shows you care and gets your name out there on the promotional materials (t-shirts, banners, programs, etc.)
2. Get involved in schools
Schools are the center of most communities. In your agency offices, collect supplies like pencils and folders to donate, or advertise for school events like plays or concerts. These small touches show you care about your local schools and don’t take much effort on your part.
3. Start (or sponsor) a team
Get your agency involved in a local volleyball, bowling, t-ball or other league. Your team need not be restricted to your staff – extend invitations to customers and partners as well. Being involved in these leagues will give people a chance to know your agency personally. Forming a team not only engages your community, but builds community within your agency as well.
If you don’t want to get sweaty yourself, sponsor a local youth sports team. Not only will you have a grateful group of kids and parents, you often get free advertising with your name emblazoned on the jerseys.
4. Volunteer your services
One of the best ways you can engage in your community is by giving your time and talent. Offer to help local community centers and nonprofits figure out their insurance needs or provide free advice during a local street fair or community festival. Donating your services gives people a taste of your agency’s personalized service, and shows your agency has a heart for giving back.
No matter what you do, make sure people know you’re doing it. Put pictures on your website of volunteer events, and list dollar amounts of what you’re giving away. Blog about events you attend or groups you sponsor. At a minimum: post to social media. Current and potential customers need to know how you’re engaging in the community in order to see you as a local presence.
We at SIS invest in our local community here in Columbus, and in our Partner XE client community. To find out more about SIS and Partner XE community, visit our website at here!
We engage with and live in a variety of community environments throughout our work and life. Our workplace, neighborhood, running group– these are all groups of people that form communities. When it comes to your independent insurance agency, the first community you might think of is your staff. However, there are many others—from the town you live and work in to your Rotary, state or national professional insurance association, or your agency management system user group. Not to be forgotten are your customers. Of course, depending on your level of involvement you may not really consider these groups to be “communities,” just people living where they live and doing what they do.
Formal definition aside, the true benefit of community comes of what YOU make of it. You need to recognize the benefits and foster relationships within your various groups.
Why do we form these communities? What is it that draws us together? Why should your agency be concerned about community? The usual response is that communities fill a human need to be connected with one another. Although coming together in such groups does speak to this need, forming and fostering communities brings other benefits as well. As a whole, communities:
Each individual in a community has certain assets. By joining with others, the number of available resources multiplies. As we know, no one person can “have it all,” but a community can come close!
Even if a community is not multi-generational, it still has the power of continuation as new members join. This creates stability for the group and opens up opportunities to create big change, knowing the ideas and plans put in motion will continue on after those who set them up leave.
Relationships can grow and strengthen within a community. As relationships develop, members are apt to introduce new connections. Similar to the multiplication of resources, each group member has its own connections to others outside the community. These connections can be fostered and utilized for the benefit of its members.
At SIS, we value community within our workplace, and beyond our office walls by participating in community service locally here in Columbus. We want our clients to experience that same community, which is why we invest in NASPA, the Partner XE user group. Through regional learning sessions, national conferences, and product improvement workgroups, NASPA connects Partner XE users across the country. NASPA not only helps Partner XE users connect and form relationships, but educates our users on the most effective ways to use Partner XE and its capabilities. To find out more about NASPA, including our regular regional conferences, contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.