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Are you Ready for the Change?

I'd like to invite you to the largest P&C insurance conference on the west coast at the beautiful, award-winning JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa. The 2014 American Agents Alliance Convention & Expo is action-packed this year including over 100 exhibitors, $10,000 in cash giveaways, entertainment, networking, 34 hours of CE and over 23 additional hours of workshops!

The focus of this year’s insurance conference is to empower independent agents and brokers with the latest and greatest industry insights, sales strategies, agency best practices and cutting edge digital insurance technology, which are crucial to growth and success in this rapidly changing marketplace.

The past 12 months have yielded many alarming insurance industry reports, most of which came after McKinsey and Co. released the Agents of the Future, The Evolution of Property & Casualty Insurance Distribution report in June of last year. The report detailed how personal lines insurance is becoming commoditized, particularly auto insurance, and claimed that the traditional agent model is beginning to “unravel.” Its projections sent shock waves throughout the insurance industry.

While I do not agree with all of McKinsey’s predictions, I do feel that agents need to evolve in order to continue to be the distribution channel of choice in the insurance industry. In a world that is changing, standing still means losing ground. While it is tempting for agency owners to bury their heads in the sand, focusing on their “day job” and the all-consuming tasks of running agency operations, the forward-thinking agency owner keeps one eye on the world, monitoring trends and demographic shifts.

The challenge for all agents and brokers is how well we anticipate and adapt to the changing insurance marketplace. Studies of consumer trends show a demographic shift from the “Boomers,” to the “Gen Xers,” “Millennials,” and Women, who are becoming more active in the economy. Those who understand industry trends and make strategic decisions based on these observable demographic shifts will prosper by capitalizing on these opportunities.

Due to the changing marketplace, agents and brokers need to re-strategize and re-assess their value proposition. The flood of price-centric marketing by the direct writers has conditioned many consumers to focus on price as their primary buying factor. Agents must to learn to compete on value differentiators other than price. Innovation is the business of creating value. The independent agent must, increasingly, seek to add value, not just pass it on. We must get out of the “Commodity Business” and find ways to deliver a deeper experience so consumers see our value.

Today, consumers have “gone digital” and they expect us to do the same. To remain successful, agents and brokers must embrace technology and use it to interact with customers on their own schedules through multiple channels (e.g., e-mail, text, video chat, online self-service, click-to-chat, Twitter and Facebook).  Traditional local marketing tactics are also no longer sufficient. We need to leverage technology and increase our digital presence to find new and more effective ways to get in front of potential customers.

Independent agents and brokers are not in danger of extinction, but the role we play must continue to evolve.  Successful agents will need to move beyond the local geographic paradigm, take a broader view of the market and have a clearer understanding of our target customer and associated product offerings. Savvy agency owners can see what’s coming around the corner. These winning agents will deliver tailored and relevant expertise and excel at multi-channel marketing, while increasing sales and operating efficiency. They will become industry experts and great teachers. They will embrace new technology to broaden their client outreach radius while diversifying revenue sources, offerings and services.

Many industry leaders emphasize the importance and financial benefits that come from participating in affinity and mastermind groups. The Alliance Convention & Expo provides the ultimate platform for us to come together as a group of like-minded professionals to share valuable insights, experiences, information and ideas with each other while learning from some of the most bold, innovative leaders in the industry.

The 2014 Alliance Convention and Expo is jam-packed with value. I encourage you to take action. It is crucial for us, as independent agents and brokers, to evolve and reinvent ourselves. Review this year's insurance conference program to determine which carriers, vendors, and industry experts will help you make the most of your convention experience. Whether you are a brand new producer or a seasoned agency principal, the tools and resources you need to thrive in today’s market and to succeed in your business endeavors are awaiting you! 

About the Author: Brandon Strausbaugh Convention Chair, American Agents Alliance

Sources: McKinsey & Co. (2013). Agents of the Future: The Evolution of Property and Casualty Insurance Distribution. Retrieved from: http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/Financial_Services/Knowledge_Highlights/Recent_Reports/~/media/Reports/Financial_Services/FutureAgents_V_FINAL.ashx  

Agency Revolution (2013). The 2014 State of the Industry: 3 Reasons Insurance will Never be the Same Again, by Michael Jans. Retrieved from: http://www.agencyrevolution.com/resources/all-resources  

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