Think Social, Be Local (Part 1)

Part 1: Independent Agents Win with Education, Community, Service

The Weimer Group, a thriving independent insurance agency in suburban Philadelphia, shows a keen understanding of today’s insurance consumers. The firm excels at using social channels, educating consumers, connecting with local businesses and consumers in the community, achieving high levels of customer service and satisfaction, encouraging referral business, and earning repeat and cross-sell business.

The agency’s efforts are comprehensive and are greatly focused on customers within the context of their local community. The agency reaches out to consumers through community involvement and support of local charities. For instance, the agency serves as a drop-off location for community food banks – not just once a year, but every Friday throughout the year.

A related element is that The Weimer Group actively reaches out and supports other businesses in its area. David Beck, an agency principal with the Perkasie, Pennsylvania firm, is active with the chamber of commerce and serves as a director and chairperson for the chamber’s local business expo. Dave is also involved in many other community organizations. Agency leaders say it’s an effort to repay clients’ trust and support the local community. As a sign of good will and support, The Weimer Group’s website features local businesses and offers online coupons and incentives.

The Weimer Group is highly active with its virtual presence, starting with its website, blog and other social networking tools. The agency follows up with solid information, pays close attention to service, and makes a sustained effort to maintain strong client relationships.

The Weimer Group’s marketing success shows that:

    1. The insurance transaction is personal. Keep it that way, and you’ll build trust.
    2. Relationships matter, and a sense of community is important. An agency is born and lives in the local community. An agency must continually reach out, both in person and online to build a lasting connection and prove reliable to its clients.
    3. Agents must recognize and protect clients’ treasured assets. It’s vital to listen and understand what matters to clients. For many, the most-prized assets are collector vehicles and collectibles – and these are as important as a home for many consumers.

Dave Beck recently took the time to answer questions from American Collectors Insurance about what makes his agency tick – and, more importantly, succeed. Here are his thoughts:

First things first: What do you believe makes The Weimer Group successful?

It’s a combination of:

    1. Having insurance experts who are committed to furthering their insurance knowledge, to be the best they can be in the insurance arena,
    2. Dedication to embrace the changing market conditions we are faced with, and
    3. Passion to apply what we know and create ways to meld with the modern consumer.

Taken together, these elements demonstrate our flexibility to embrace the future. And yet it’s vitally important to remain human and understand that our customers are the main reason we are here.

What’s the most important reason a consumer chooses an insurance agent?  

Even though the Internet age is hot and will continue to be, we believe consumers still select an insurance agency based on referrals and how they are treated when they speak to us. Trust is a major factor. Consumers know they can count on us to advise and take care of their coverage needs.

Does being part of your local community still matter as much now as it once did for independent agencies? How is it different, or how has it evolved?

With people constantly on the move, it is difficult establishing relationships. Our belief is: We have gone through a period where the sense of community has not been foremost in the minds of some people. We see that changing, moving once more to a time where customers know and appreciate a dedicated, experienced agency strongly rooted in the communities we serve. Social networking is also a big help.

How is the agent / client relationship different in 2013 and what has remained the same?

Having an online presence is crucial to cater to the needs of the technologically astute client.  Customers are emailing, texting, or commenting at their convenience. They value your relationship – but on their terms and what works for them. What has remained the same is that you must look out for their interests and communicate with them when new products/coverage become available. Even though the majority of clients research options online, the fact remains that clients still desire one-on-one interaction with an agent.

For example, recently I had a client stop in who has a fully restored Ford Model A truck. When we finished our business, I asked how he made out at a recent car show. He was impressed that I remembered the truck, and that he entered it in a show, and that I was interested in the outcome. You can’t get that kind of relationship from a computer. You get that from a local agent.

In part 2 of this article, David Beck covers specialty insurance products (and how central they are to personal lines consumers), as well as social networking.

About David Beck: David is agency principal with The Weimer Group. Dave began his professional career with The Weimer Group in July 1974 as a sales agent in the personal lines and life insurance departments. In 1988 Dave became an agency partner. He earned the prestigious designation of Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) in 1990 and holds a membership in the Certified Professional Insurance Agents Society.