are-you-leaking-agents2A good friend of mine, who is a senior marketing executive at a major carrier, once told me that “every agent you have will leave you. It might be 6 months, 5 years or even 10, but one day they will move on to greener pastures or just die on you.” That’s a scary statement, but unfortunately it’s true.

In order for a marketing company or carrier to reach its full sales potential, it must be in front of the market and always looking for new producers. In this industry, it is not uncommon to see 20% turnover of your producers annually.  More than half of the annual turnover is typically caused by factors outside of one’s control, such as death, disinterest, lack of business, retiring or changing markets. But the fact remains that in 5 years, you will have to replenish almost all of your producers.

In order to combat the ebb and flow of your field force, you have to take control of one of the most critical components of your success, and that is finding new producers. If you aren’t replacing as fast as you are losing, you are paddling against a tide that will eventually swallow you whole.
Since no one has figured out how to rub two sticks together and instantly get contracted producers, you have to be constantly on the lookout and position yourself to attract new recruits.  In order to attract and find new producers, you have to market in multiple channels using multiple types of media.

As Jay Conrad Levinson, the father of Guerrilla Marketing, once said, “The days of single-weapon marketing have been relegated to the past; you need to be practicing what guerrillas call 360-degree marketing, which is talking to people from all angles and being everywhere they are.” Your mission is to continually build your “house list” through external marketing and to work it over and over.

The most successful marketing organizations and carriers know that they can’t survive on one method of marketing. They use every means available to surround producers and broadcast their unique message wherever their ideal producers are, whether it’s online, in their favorite magazines, in their mailbox or in their inbox.

Having multiple funnels in multiple channels is a great thing, but there is something fundamentally wrong with funnels that sets companies up for failure. Anyone with a set of eyes can see that funnels dump everything out at the bottom once they go through a qualification process. In our business, it’s about finding out whether agents are contracted and, if they are, moving on to the next lead, hoping the contracted agents will come around when they are ready.

Recruiting is all about timing. It’s about being in the right place, at the right moment, when that fine thread of discontent is broken and the producer is ready for a change. And when that moment happens, if you aren’t there at that magic moment, chances are that agent won’t be doing business with you.

The fundamental problem with funnels is that everything ends up dropping out of the bottom. Agents either do business with you or they don’t. And that’s where most funnels leave off. It’s unfortunate, because a lot of time, money and effort is spent filling the funnel and not enough is spent on what happens next, and next after that and so on.

While I like the analogy of a funnel, because it’s about collecting as many prospects and suspects as possible, I think it’s time that we retire the funnel and start thinking about the hourglass, because the real work (and profit) starts after people reply to your ad.

In the June 2014 issue of InsuranceNewsNet Magazine, I interviewed the author of Duct Tape Marketing, John Jantsch, about the “marketing hourglass.” He said, “When it comes to marketing, there are 7 stages that we want to move people through. They are ‘know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer.’ The marketing team, the sales team and the service team all bear a responsibility in helping people logically move through those stages.”

Back in the marketing funnel days, we would move people through very linearly. They would see our marketing message or our advertisement. Then they would call the company, which would have a salesperson who would convince them to either buy or not buy, and hopefully the salesperson would toss them to the service folks who would turn them into loyal and repeat customers.

What has become increasingly difficult is that customers now have more ways to know us, like us and trust us through a myriad of channels and sources. That journey is no longer a straight one, by any means. It is a very jagged and crooked path, sometimes moving forward and sometimes backward, along which customers get information.

It’s our responsibility as an organization to blend the marketing, sales and service aspects of our business to make sure that, wherever they enter the path, people are able to seamlessly and consistently move through the experiences they encounter along the way.

The beauty of the marketing hourglass framework is that you take the time to nurture your leads after they respond. And no, nurturing isn’t just about calling them for two months. It’s a process of education that you lead your prospects through. From the first email follow-up to the seventh, to the newsletters, to all of the communication you deliver, the hourglass should be systematic and seamless. Then after all systems are exhausted, you have a pool of prospects that you can sift through when you turn the hourglass over and start the process again.

By running your leads through the marketing hourglass framework, you become the guide who will take your prospects on a journey from a stranger to a friend to a client who writes business with you.