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Agent Sales News

Scientific methods to build your customer base

All insurance agents—and sales professionals in general—are constantly looking for new ways to build their customer bases. They may be shiny new technology-based techniques or proven methods that have worked for colleagues for decades. Whatever works, right?

If you’re looking for proven techniques to build your base, science is a great source for inspiration. And there’s no lack of scientific research that examines the nuts and bolts of how people think and behave. With a little imagination, you can translate the results of many studies in unrelated fields—politics, fundraising, for example—and adapt their findings specifically for the insurance industry.

Consider these insights:

  • Take advantage of labels: People self-identify when you label them positively. Why apply for a mere credit card when you can apply for a “Platinum-level card that caters to discerning consumers”? Instead of leading with “We’re looking for employers to do business with,” label the prospect in a positive light: “We’re looking for proactive (or quality-conscious or some other complimentary term) employers in growth mode to do business with.” The prospect will respond more positively when you include the aspirational stroke in your pitch—even if the stroke seems overly broad. What employer isn’t proactive or quality-conscious? The benefit is, prospects likes to hear you say you perceive them that way.
  • Set smaller expectations: When asked to make a big change in behavior, prospects experience a quandary called “action paralysis.” The requested change has so many implications that the prospect feels comfortable making no change at all. Better to make your ask more manageable—something that’s easier to say “yes” to. One nonprofit tested two pitch letters: The one that added “Every penny helps” outperformed a more generic “Please support our organization” by almost two to one. Instead of asking if the CEO is willing to move his entire insurance program to your agency, start small. See if you can slice off a piece of the program first. Give the prospect a chance to see you perform on a small scale. Then you’ll be in a position to land the whole account.
  • Take responsibility for a fix: When you’ve failed to meet the expectations of a prospect or existing client, you’ll recover faster and more completely by leveling with the person than by shifting blame. This is true whether the expectation itself is reasonable or not. Blaming an external force or explaining that something was out of your control reinforces the notion that you’re not in control. In contrast, taking responsibility for fixing a problem—even one you didn’t cause and cannot reasonably be held responsible for—boosts your credibility and underlines your problem-solving action-oriented approach.

The best thing about these techniques is that they’ve been proven in carefully controlled scientific studies. Try incorporating them and see if they don’t start lifting your numbers.

Source: Inc.com

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3 great reasons to register at FloridaBlue.com

Florida Blue’s secure member website has useful tools and information––including smart ways for members to get the most from their plan. Members are encouraged to register and establish a unique user name and password: visit FloridaBlue.com and click Login/Register.

Once registered, members can:

  • Find a doctor or pharmacy in their plan’s network.
  • Compare costs and save on services, treatment and prescriptions.
  • Choose a payment option––including hassle-free automatic payments. After log in, click on Claims & Expenses then select Bill Paying Services.

Members have 24/7 access to other important information such as health topics, videos, health statements, benefit information and more. They can also download the mobile app to get information on the go, including directions to pharmacies and Florida Blue Centers.

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Use these powerful self-service capabilities in BluesEnroll

                                              

The feature-rich BluesEnroll website offers many capabilities that make routine tasks easier for benefit administrators and agents. These include:

Canceling or terminating employees

It’s important to differentiate people who left employment (who resigned or were released, for example) from those who just want to be removed from the group policy (who have coverage under a spouse’s plan, for example). This distinction affects the group’s offerings under COBRA.

Viewing eligibility wait periods

  • Log in to BluesEnroll and search for the group you want to view.
  • Click the Dates & Rules tab
  • Then click the edit-pencil icon on the left to see eligibility rules for various benefit types

Other capabilities

As an agent, you can perform many other routine tasks on BluesEnroll:

  • access all employer groups assigned to you or your agency to view and/or manage benefits (not available to BAs)
  • change employee and dependent demographic information
  • approve benefit elections and changes initiated by employees
  • add, terminate, and rehire employees
  • process qualifying life event changes
  • manage employee login IDs and passwords
  • track enrollment history
  • run standard reports or create your own

Using BluesEnroll saves time and puts powerful capabilities in your hands to make you more flexible. This information is included in Agent Sales Bulletin #15-016. Instructions for using BluesEnroll to terminate employees or cancel their coverage were provided to BAs the week of January 19.

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Stay in touch without annoying

Most businesses have mechanisms for staying in touch with existing clients and active prospects. In the insurance industry especially, this activity becomes vitally important for a number of reasons—including the shifting needs of the client base and a high degree of competition within the industry.

While regular client contact should be a year-round priority, it takes on added importance during the holiday season. But this is also a time when it’s easy to overdo it, which can backfire. There’s a fine line between maintaining contact with clients and annoying them. Consider these techniques for striking the right balance.

  • Take your clients’ needs into account. Instead of focusing exclusively on your desire to close a sale, see your reach-outs from the client’s point of view. Share an article or key piece of relevant information the client or prospect will find useful.
  • Take advantage of Facebook and other social media: Follow your clients to see what’s going on in their worlds. Perhaps they won an award, or they reached an anniversary. Use those opportunities to reach out on the same channel. At an absolute minimum, don’t hesitate to use the “like” button, though it’s better to comment supportively. Either way, it shows you take an interest in more than making a deal.
  • Introduce people: Help your clients grow their own businesses by making personal introductions to others you know. If you can see a natural potential connection, take the initiative and offer to make the introduction. Even if it turns out to be unproductive, your client will remember that you thought enough of them to be proactive. That helps cement your relationship.
  • Personal email or call: Check in to see how the client is doing on a personal goal. Or invite them to an event. It shows you’re interested in the client as a person and value the relationship.
  • Revise your newsletter: If you go to the trouble of producing a newsletter at regular intervals, make sure it has content people actually want to read. Keep it informative, relevant or fun—the kind of content you would read if it found its way into your own inbox. You want it to support your brand. But if it’s too sales focused, it will get deleted—and people will eventually get annoyed and unsubscribe.

By nurturing your relationships through regular contact in a variety of formats, you can avoid the trap of coming off as insincere. And in the process, your proactive contact stays fresh and productive.

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Using other people’s time efficiently

As an agent, you depend on relationships to build your business. And building and maintaining any relationship requires a commodity that’s always in short supply: time.

Each engagement you have with a client or prospect is, on some level, a request for someone’s time. That goes for every phone call, email or face-to-face meeting you initiate. So it’s a good idea to stay mindful of the dynamic and use only as much time as you need. Consider these tips for using other people’s time more efficiently:

  • Make an appointment: People have busy schedules, just like you do. So whether you’re in the neighborhood or on the other side of town, whether you want to meet in an hour or next month, do the courteous thing and schedule the time in advance. That allows everyone a chance to prepare themselves mentally and focus on the topic. Drop-ins may seem friendly and neighborly, but they’re often disruptive—and disrespectful.
  • Be upfront about your meeting agenda: Be clear about what you want to achieve. If you want to meet with a prospect to pitch business, say so. If it’s a more generic meeting just to check in with an existing client, say so. Well-intentioned sugarcoating usually backfires.
  • Never bluff about deadlines: If you need a decision by a certain date, like the close of open enrollment, by all means give a deadline. But never create a fake one just to add urgency for its own sake. It will work against you, and your client or prospect will feel needlessly pressured.
  • Avoid unnecessary back-and-forth: Use the communication channel your client or prospect prefers. Be clear and complete about what you want (“Could we meet for 30 minutes next Tuesday at 2 in your office?”). Once you get agreement on details, move on. How many times can you say you’re looking forward to the meeting anyway?
  • Be prepared: Anticipate likely questions and objections, and have your source material ready, so you can respond without fumbling—or resorting to the dreaded “I’ll have to get back to you.” If you’re cold-calling, do some research in advance and find out the name of the person you need to speak with. When it’s obvious that you’ve done your homework, you’ll get much farther.

No matter what communication channel you use, it pays to demonstrate respect for people’s time. You might even save a little of your own time, too.

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Cultural competency resources

As one of the most culturally diverse states in the nation, Florida has whole population segments that need to be considered. And while the state’s population grows more diverse, so does Florida Blue’s member base. Addressing these differences and communicating effectively and sensitively with people from diverse cultural backgrounds is more important than ever.

Cultural competency can help Florida Blue do its part to reduce health care disparities, enhance health literacy, and provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services. That’s why Florida Blue offers extensive training and resources to help health care professionals and providers build their cultural competency skills.

In our podcast, Health Care Disparities: Why Florida is a High-Definition Reflection, Dr. Deborah Stewart, Florida Blue’s client solutions medical director and Carl Patten, director of the Florida Blue Center for Health Policy, explore why health disparities in Florida are especially challenging, and how Florida Blue is addressing them. Our cultural competency webpage links to numerous additional resources, including:

  • quick reference guide on health and health care disparities
  • tips for communicating with patients from different cultures
  • computer-based training for providers on cultural competency
  • patient education materials
  • resources for interpreter services

These materials are detailed here. For more information, contact Deborah Stewart, M.D., (904) 905-7922.

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Marketing tool for agents: Member discounts at Healthways Fitness Your Way

Here’s a valuable benefit to show added value to Florida Blue plans: Members can access gyms in the Healthways Fitness Your Way network—more then 9,200 of them—for just $25 per month. The network includes familiar brands, including LA Fitness, Anytime Fitness, Curves and others.

While the offer requires an initial commitment of three months, satisfaction surveys show that 93 percent of members said they were likely to renew. Members also receive discounts up to 30 percent from a list of 40,000 vendors and practitioners.

The program offers a variety of resources that can help you market the package to existing employee groups and as a value-add for prospects. These include:

  • A user website that’s packed with useful and motivational information
  • A customizable coupon program to offset all or part of the $25 initiation fee
  • An online list of participating vendors that offer discounts to members: https://fitnessyourway.healthways.com/cam.
  • Customizable toolkit of collateral materials (password: healthways)

This information and further details, including detailed best practices for the coupon program, are available in Agent Sales Bulletin #A15-008.

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Health care trends for 2015

As the health care industry continues to adapt and evolve, the Health Research Institute (HRI, a unit of the accounting firm of PriceWaterhouse Coopers) has identified a series of issues that will warrant attention in the coming year. These are discussed in new report based on responses of more than 1,000 industry leaders and consumers. Among the details:

  • Self-tracking with technology: Devices like wearable monitors and smartphone apps are becoming popular, reflecting a trend in which consumers are taking more responsibility for their health.
  • Portable devices: More consumers are using in-home and smartphone-based devices to support diagnostic tracking and treatments. They’re more convenient and less expensive than repeated doctor visits.
  • Convenience vs. Privacy: As in-home devices become more universal, they make it easier to track progress. But they also make it easier for personal data to get stolen or misused, resulting in a loss of privacy. Expect convenience to gain some ground over privacy concerns in 2015.
  • Creative cost-saving: As the cost of care rises for heavy users of health care services (Medicare and Medicare enrollees, the elderly and those with multiple health issues), care and management strategies will become more creative—with focus on cost saving without sacrificing quality.
  • Evidence-based emphasis: Employers, providers and insurers will continue to demand outcome-based results before embracing new products, medications and care models.
  • Transparency: As consumers take more responsibility for their care, they continue to demand transparency from providers on matters like cost and quality of care. And they’re getting it. Expect this trend to continue.
  • Factoring in the newbies: All industry sectors—providers, insurers and employers—will learn from the experiences of those who are newly insured. And the industry will be listening and watching closely for opportunities to adapt—especially in areas like marketing and care management.
  • Physician, extend thyself: Expect increased acceptance and use of nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and remote monitoring and diagnosis. These strategies extend physician capabilities cost-effectively and will likely result in payment models that leverage the cost reductions.
  • Millennial well-being: More employers are responding to the younger generation’s focus on overall well-being. Much of that takes the form of wellness programs, proactive engagement with health care and other life-enriching experiences.
  • Partnering for improvement: The trend toward non-traditional collaborations like Accountable Care Organizations will continue. Providers, employers, technology developers and other stakeholders will fine new ways of working together to improve outcomes and bottom lines.

The report is one of several research efforts put out by HRI.

Source: PWC.com

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Florida Blue hosts ICD-10 tweet chats for providers

When it comes to implementing the ICD-10 mandate (new set of diagnosis and inpatient procedure codes), Florida Blue has stayed ahead of the curve. That’s why we have been progressive in communicating and collaborating with providers and other stakeholders about this important new coding system.

Many providers regularly join our Open Line Friday monthly ICD-10 teleconference, which is one of our primary outreach vehicles. Now we have added a series of four Twitter tweet chats to augment the Open Line Friday ICD-10 conversation. Our initial tweet chat was held on February 11. The remaining one-hour social conversations begin at noon ET on the following dates:

  • February. 25
  • March 11
  • March 25

Followers can locate us on Twitter @FLBlue and participate by tagging their posts “#FLBlueChat.”

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Client Retention Strategies

In today’s economy competition for clients is fierce, especially in the insurance industry. Agencies can and will try to outdo you on service, quality, pricing and other key elements of your value proposition—driving up the cost of acquiring new clients for everyone.

These dynamics add to the importance of focusing on retaining your existing client base and prospect list. It is far less expensive to keep your clients satisfied than to acquire new ones, and satisfied clients are a key element in gaining referrals.

So you might want to consider shifting some of the time, energy and resources currently allocated to acquisition into retention. Consider these strategies for making sure your clients and prospects stay with you:

  • Master the client experience: Doing business with your agency needs to be a consistently impressive experience. To make that happen, identify the elements of that experience in detail.
    • How exactly do you want clients and prospects to feel when they walk into your office or call you on the phone or agree to a proposal?
    • How do you feel when you’re on the receiving end of an amazing client experience—or conversely, when you’re the victim of lousy customer service?
    • What steps can you take to ensure the most amazing experience possible—every time?

Once you break it down into discrete chunks, get your staff into alignment by setting measurable goals to achieve consistent excellence. Unlike perfection, consistent excellence is achievable.

  • Make the most of small details: Remember how you felt when you received an unexpected personalized welcome note, birthday card or gift that says “thank you for being our client.” That’s how you want your clients and prospects to feel. So at any milestone in the customer experience—a new contract, an anniversary, a special event in a client’s personal life—leverage the opportunity to make them feel special. Do the same when you get a call from someone a client referred. Always be prompt—many insist on a 24-hour rule, and use handwritten notes when they make sense.
  • Focus on human relationships: Your clients and prospects want to know you view them as living, breathing people—not just a commission. So it’s up to you to connect with them at that level. In a business context, find out what pleases them and what doesn’t. Solicit their feedback on your agency’s performance. Learn about their challenges and preferences. On a personal level, take the time to get to know them in a way that shows genuine interest without coming off as intrusive. What are their hobbies? How old are their kids?
  • Leverage your missteps: It’s unrealistic to expect you’ll never make a mistake or displease a client. But you can turn those situations around if you handle them correctly. Multiple studies show that dissatisfied customers who experience a satisfactory resolution turn out to be more loyal than those who were satisfied all along. If you mess up, admit it, take responsibility for fixing it, provide a clear solution, and then offer an immediate post-fix thank-you.

Stick with these strategies and you’ll have less need to replace lost clients, enjoy longer, more rewarding client relationships, and a better bottom line.

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View prospecting as a campaign

Prospecting is one of the least popular activities among sales professionals. As a result, many simply give up after an arbitrary number of failed attempts and move on to the next prospect. They view each effort as a discrete event, a one-off. This approach can be tedious, disorganized and likely to yield sub-optimal results. More importantly, it leaves untapped potential in the trash.

A more effective approach is to view prospecting as part of a well planned and executed customer relationship management (CRM) process—a campaign to engage prospects. Steps in an ideal process include:

  • Identification: Pinpoint a prospect and enter as much relevant info as possible to your CRM or tracking system.
  • Touch 1: Reach out by phone, leaving a voicemail asking the prospect to watch for your next communication, which will include best-practice case studies that demonstrate your ability to add value. Reiterate this message in an email.
  • Touch 2: Letter (via snailmail) containing the promised case studies and explaining how they demonstrate your value-add applied to the prospect’s company.
  • Touch 3: Follow-up phone calls at various times of day. Do this every couple of days for a week or two. Do not leave a voicemail.
  • Touch 4: Voicemail or email with a heads-up that the prospect will soon receive a package that has ideas for a program of interest.
  • Touch 5: Send the package, which should include details on how’ve added value to your existing clients and can achieve similar results for the prospect.
  • Touch 6: Follow up to discuss the package contents; leave messages and send follow-up emails and letters (same as Touch 1). Continue this pattern until the prospect takes your call.

This process takes longer than a scattershot approach, but it gets you inside more doors. Some techniques for implementing the campaign approach include:

  • Plan your communication stream in advance.
  • Be sure each touch has specific value for each prospect and isn’t generic.
  • Think of your process as a campaign. Each step puts your name in front of the prospect and raises the likelihood of connecting.
  • Personalize your touches. Avoid boilerplate copy in letters, add handwritten notes when appropriate, and include relevant articles explaining why you think they’re relevant.
  • Demonstrate that you’ve done your homework by relating back to the prospect’s business as specifically as possible.
  • Once you do connect with the prospect, begin your selling process immediately.

If you make the effort to follow this systematic approach consistently, you’ll connect with more prospects and convert more of them into clients. It just requires persistence and organization.

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Preventive care guidelines for 2015

Florida Blue has updated the Preventive Care Guidelines for 2015. The guidelines, for adults and children, provide routine health and immunization checklists, recommended checkup and screenings, and websites for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Members can use these guidelines as a framework for discussing CDC recommended immunizations and preventive screenings with their doctors. Members should check their medical benefits plan for services covered. Catch-up vaccinations for members with high-risk conditions are at the doctor's discretion based upon family history and personal risk factors.

You can download the guidelines here.

Under 65:

Preventive Care Guidelines - Child and Adult Under 65 (ENG)

Preventive Care Guidelines - Child and Adult Under 65 (SPA)

Over 65:

Preventive Care Guidelines for Seniors (ENG)

Preventive Care Guidelines for Seniors (SPA)

They can also be found on floridablue.com. The Under 65 versions are entitled “What to discuss with your doctor” and can be found on floridablue.com/health & wellness/health resources/health guides. The Senior versions are available on bluemedicare.com/Resource &Events/Forms.

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Marketplace enrollment progress for the US and Florida

With the Marketplace current open enrollment period drawing to a close, some interesting statistics are beginning to emerge for the country as a whole and Florida in particular for On Marketplace enrollment for individuals under 65.

According to the Associated Press (AP), “the Obama administration says sign-ups under the president’s health care law are edging higher.” Among the 37 states using the federal exchange, total sign-ups reached nearly 7.1 million. This figure “covers enrollment from November 15 through mid-January and includes people who actively selected plans or were automatically re-enrolled through the Federal exchange,” according to a report from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Florida represents the largest share––1,270,995 enrollees––of the 7.1 million sign-ups.

Ultimately, the AP report continues, when the open enrollment period for individuals ends on February 15, national figures “should be significantly higher, since the federal count doesn’t include major states like California and New York, among those running their own exchanges.” The administration had set a target of 9.1 million enrollees for 2015.

One possible reason for the statewide increase: Health News Florida reports that the proportion of Florida enrollees receiving federal subsidies has risen, too. In 2014, about 80 percent of Florida enrollees qualified for federal assistance. For the period from Nov. 15, 2014 through Jan. 16, 2015, that number has climbed to 93 percent, according to the HHS report.

The current Florida Marketplace enrollee population breaks out as follows:

Under 18:  6%
18 – 34:  26%
34 – 44:  17%
45 – 54:  25%
55 – 64:  25%
65+:  1%

Of those Floridians who enrolled in the Marketplace in the current period, 43 percent are new enrollees, and 57 percent are renewing their 2014 Marketplace coverage.

Sources: HHS Marketplace enrollment report

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How to engage Millennials in health and wellness

They’re two of the most potent forces in today’s employment arena: the generation known as Millennials (those who came of age after the year 2000) and the rising importance of workplace-based health and wellness programs.

Creating synergy between the two is not the slam-dunk you might expect. Compared to Generation Xers and baby boomers (the two preceding generations), Millennials are significantly less likely to believe that preventive care plays an important role in staying healthy. Yet they’re more receptive than older groups when the boss promotes health goals in the workplace.

Using these and other observations about Millennials, here are some ways to promote health and wellness programs effectively to this age bracket:

  • Use the right channels: Communicate with Millennials via media they trust and use: social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, chat programs like Chatter and Yammer, video-sharing sites like Vine and YouTube, geo-location systems like Foursquare, and media-sharing sites like Pinterest.
  • Leverage competitiveness: Millennials welcome a little friendly competition, as long as they find it relevant. And wellness programs lend themselves to it. Take advantage of contests and challenges to stimulate engagement and motivation.
  • Keep it simple: Millennials like convenience and dislike roadblocks. So do a little planning. Anticipate barriers and design activity programs they’ll find easy to do. On-site group activities like yoga classes work well.
  • Get in the mindset: To understand what motivates this segment to act, get inside their heads a little. To the young and healthy, looking good is more important than avoiding medical problems. Those were probably your priorities too at that age. So tweak your messaging to account for this. Promote exercise as a way for people to look and feel their best.

Share these strategies with groups and their employees. The more their workforce skews younger, the better it will resonate.

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New look for two Florida Blue websites

Two Florida Blue websites have been updated to reflect a consistent brand look and feel similar to the company’s member website. Look for the new designs on the Florida Blue Centers website and the Spanish version of the main site.

Here’s what’s new:

  • The revisions enhance the visual and functional experience, making it easier for users to move between different sections of the Florida Blue website.
  • The sites employ technology that detects whether the user is connecting on a desktop, tablet or mobile device and adapts accordingly.
  • Both sites accommodate users with visual and hearing impairments.
  • Updated information on Health Care Reform is now downloadable, including a useful checklist.
  • The English and Spanish versions of the Florida Blue Centers site are now located on their respective main corporate sites.
  • The Spanish version of the main website more closely follows the layout of the English version and is targeted more toward members and less toward providers, agents and employers.

This information, along with other details, are contained in Agent Bulletin #A14-371.

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Common sales techniques and what not to overdo

It’s clear among sales people in all industries, including insurance: Use the prospect’s name. And when you’re prospecting or following up—on the phone or in person—the technique makes sense, and it has been proven to work.

But at some point, too much of a good thing becomes counterproductive. Inserting the prospect’s name six times in the space of a 60-second call creates problems. It’s sure to annoy the prospect and take the focus off your message. Instead of building rapport, it builds a wall between you.

Solution: Use your own best judgment. Insert the person’s name when doing so feels natural and comfortable. That’s the way to engage, rather than annoy, the prospect.

Other proven techniques for improving sales include:

  • Spend more time prospecting for leads. The best sales professionals make a habit of prospecting every day.
  • Develop impactful, non-formulaic openings targeted to your prospect. Canned, one-size-fits-all openings sound insincere and irrelevant.
  • Ask follow-up questions that penetrate and provoke consideration. Use the opportunity to capture information you can use later.
  • Craft thoughtful, focused sales presentations, not pitches. Spend some time customizing the benefits for the prospect’s hot-button issues.
  • Gain agreement at key points in your conversation to keep it moving ahead. At each green-light, seize the chance to move on to your next step, in a natural progression to closing.
  • Learn to overcome objections skillfully and effectively. Anticipate based on your knowledge of the prospect and be ready move beyond it.
  • Never forget to ask for the sale. You cannot ask too often, only too early. Close when the time is right, but make sure you close.

Implement these techniques in your routine, and your numbers will improve.

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Most marketplace enrollees plan to change plans

A study by Radius Global Market Research provides insight into the level of satisfaction and other data among people who purchased health insurance through federal and state online marketplaces. Among the findings:

  • Of the 7 million households that purchased insurance through an ACA marketplace, most are satisfied with their plans; 20 percent said they were dissatisfied.
  • Compared to care they received before 2014, most were satisfied with both the quality and cost of health care they’re receiving now.
  • Despite this, about two thirds plan to shop for new coverage during the open enrollment period that began on November 15, 2014. This is likely to drive competition among insurance carriers.
  • The most widely named priorities for new plans are reduced cost and greater access to medical care.
  • More the 50 percent said they expect their insurance premiums to rise over the next six months.
  • Many switched to a new primary care physician because their policies didn’t include their old PCP in its network.
  • About 25 percent of households said they visit their physicians less often and/or experience longer wait times to see their physicians.
  • Overall satisfaction correlated positively with enrollees who reported receiving an adequate explanation of their ACA coverage, but less than half—44 percent—reported feeling well-informed.

One of the report’s main takeaways was that insurance companies need to develop specific strategies to avoid high levels of churn during the next open enrollment period.

Source: Radius Global Market Research

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Millennials prefer word of mouth

A new study from Keller Fay Group, a market research firm, provides insights into communicating with consumers in the age group between 18 and 33 (often dubbed Millennials).

Unlike their elders, Millennials were born pre-wired to use the Internet and are predisposed to share content on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Any insurance agency or other marketer hoping to engage with them will need to adjust its marketing to leverage this and other attributes. While Millennials are known to be highly social, the report clarifies a variety of specifics about this important consumer segment. Among the findings:

  • Millennials take in more than two thirds of a billion brand-related word-of-mouth (WOM) impressions every day.
  • 84 percent of brand impressions are offline; of these, the bulk are face-to-face (71 percent), followed by phone (13 percent).
  • Compared to the rest of the population (35 and older), Millennials are 50 percent more likely to discuss technology in general, 25 percent more likely to talk about specific tech brands, and about 33 percent more likely to talk about topics like shopping, retail, media and entertainment.
  • When Millennials interact with others about brands, about two thirds of those conversations specifically reference marketing content they saw online, in media, at a store or elsewhere.
  • Of all the media Millennials talk about, digital is king (referenced in a quarter of conversations, compared to 19 percent for those over age 35).

The takeaway for agencies: If you want to engage with Millennials, leverage their proclivity for online sharing—which you can accomplish by focusing more on targeted social media. Meet or exceed their expectations and they can become powerful allies by sharing positive impressions about your business. But don’t disappoint: that same comfort with sharing can work against you if they share negative impressions.

Source: Keller Fay Group

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New systems help you manage your social media

If your agency’s marketing mix has a significant social media component—or if you know it should—you know it can be time-consuming to manage. Until recently, third-party systems to help you analyze and manage social media were priced for larger enterprises.

But several feature-rich new platforms have moved into the social media management space, and they’re priced to appeal to smaller businesses. Here are several choices, listed alphabetically, that are worth considering:

  • Crowdbooster: This platform is limited to Facebook and Twitter, and it places emphasis on its analytics feature, which allows you to see results in addition to basic metrics such as likes, reposts and retweets. Crowdbooster shows every post and tweet in a sortable table, and it lets you schedule—and optimize timing of—your posts in advance.
  • Everypost: The unique feature of this platform is that it’s mobile-based, so you can manage your social media from your smartphone or tablet. It comes in iOS and Android versions and supports Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Tumblr. Everypost also plays nice with Dropbox and email programs. Free trail available.
  • Oktopost: Developed specifically for business-to-business use, this platform supports campaign management, thought leadership, post scheduling, lead generation, social media monitoring and brand awareness development. It also has a performance-based content recommendation tool. Works with Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • Post Planner: This Facebook-only platform promotes engagement. It provides content trending, analytics in real time, post scheduling and fan targeting based on demographic and location data. Free trial available.
  • Rignite: This platform lets you manage social media, perform analytics, schedule posts and create campaigns. To drive traffic, you can offer discount coupons and promotional codes, and it helps you monitor all your social media for mentions of your company name, products or user-defined keywords.

Whether you’re just getting your feet wet with social media, or you’ve been at it for years, give these new alternatives a try. Most subscriptions cost $9 to $29 a month. You could save some money, gain some time, and most importantly, boost your social media presence.

 

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Creating customer advocates

Most insurance agencies—in fact, most small businesses—rely on customer referrals to generate new business. And that’s fine, but there is room for improvement.

Referrals are like endorsements—and as a marketing medium they’re pretty passive. They assume that (a) the prospect is interested in your product and (b) has taken the time to ask someone; and (c) the person who fields the inquiry happens to be one of your customers—a customer who is (d) satisfied enough to refer business to you. And the customer giving the referral could be telling the prospect about one agency or a dozen of them.

What if you could turn the occasional referral-giving customer into an advocate? Using today’s social media, you can enlist a whole group of satisfied customers to serve as your advocates. In the process, they become an extension of your marketing team. Consider these strategies for developing your team on social media:

  • Engage: Go beyond a stream of regular outbound posts and tweets. Monitor your social media for questions, comments and other opportunities. Engage with people, show you care, and be prepared to respond quickly and helpfully.
  • Voice: Take a hard look at all the communication you put out. Make sure it resonates emotionally with customers and prospects. The last thing you want is a brand voice that sounds canned, insincere or unintentionally disrespectful. Connect with people by being human—always.
  • Thanks: Be conspicuous, consistent and swift with your appreciation when someone posts something nice about you. Post something publicly in the same channel to thank the person for taking the time to praise you. Pair this with a more private thank-you to cement it: send a note or even a small gift to say how much you appreciate a public compliment. With this kind of reinforcement, your advocates will be more likely to repeat the behavior.
  • Face time: As efficient and convenient as social media can be, you don’t live in a vacuum, and neither do your customer advocates. Leverage the value of the occasional person-to-person meet-up. Stop by their office or take them out for coffee. Your effort to build a strong rapport will not go unrewarded.
  • Fix it: Being human, you’ll mess up occasionally. If you’re slow with a response or forget to provide a heads-up about a policy change, remember that mistakes are opportunities. Resolve them proactively and completely, and your customer advocate will actually be more satisfied than if you never messed up in the first place.

Pursue these strategies consistently and soon you’ll have a whole army of customer advocates out there, supporting you and helping you build your base.

Source: Duct Tape Marketing

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Ring in the New Year with Florida Blue e-News

Make the most of your health plan, find out how to increase your 2015 tax credit
and re-assess your health with informative and interesting articles in the Florida Blue member e-Newsletter winter edition.

While the holidays may be over, you can still pick up tips on how to de-stress and recharge, and eat healthy in 2015.

Individual and group members receive the newsletter via email (excluding ASO groups) and it’s accessible from the member page of the Florida Blue website.

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Key insights on dissatisfied clients

Not every client will always be satisfied with your agency or your service. That’s a given, no matter how well, how consistently, you follow the rules of client service.

Once you accept this Great Truth, your focus can shift to strategies for winning back those clients who are dissatisfied—for whatever reason. There’s a lot of business—and profitability—that can be salvaged with this attitude.

A recent study by a leading customer engagement solutions company reveals insights that can be helpful when dealing with dissatisfied clients and turning things around:

  • Good first impression: Seems obvious, but avoiding common mistakes that displease clients is a good strategy to start with. So review your processes proactively. About 20 percent of clients start to lose trust after just one negative experience; a quarter of clients say they’d switch to a competitor. The takeaway: Do your best to get it right the first time.
  • Act fast: Dissatisfied clients require a response now. In fact 93 percent of respondents said they wouldn’t change their opinions if the company didn’t act swiftly to fix a problem.
  • Add value: Communication with a dissatisfied client should be relevant and finely targeted to the person who made the complaint. These elements reinforce the value of your relationship.
  • Don’t compound the problem: Monitor social media for repercussions from the dissatisfied client. According to research, about one third of ticked-off customers say they take to social media to express their displeasure. If you’re the target, respond quickly, constructively and respectfully—and follow through on your promises meticulously. So the same universe that saw the complaint will see that you handled it professionally.

Use these strategies to keep dissatisfaction to an absolute minimum. They’ll help give your agency the best chance of turning the few negative experiences that do occur into positive ones.

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HealthSpot station opens in Miami Falls’ Florida Blue Center

Blue Cross and Blue Shield members can now get care on the spot at the Florida Blue Center in Miami Falls. This Florida Blue Center was selected as the first location for HealthSpot®, an interactive, high-tech medical care station.

The HealthSpot station offers services to treat a variety of primary and acute care conditions commonly treated in a doctor’s office or urgent care clinic. Services are available for adults and children, using a specially trained onsite attendant, diagnostic equipment and a live videoconference connection to clinicians from Miami Children’s Hospital.

The introductory program, developed in conjunction with HealthSpot and Miami Children's Hospital, is available to all Blue Cross and Blue Shield (any Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan, not just Florida Blue) adult and children members over the age of 2.

The program was announced through mail and email to more than 20,000 members who live near the Falls Florida Blue location. The station is being positioned as more convenient and less expensive than urgent care clinics.

For more details about the HealthSpot station, please refer to Agent Bulletin #A14-340, which has links to FAQs and sample member communications.

The HealthSpot name and logo are registered marks of HealthSpot, Inc.

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Florida Blue 2015 holiday schedule

This year, Florida Blue will be closed on the following holidays. Agents will be notified in advance of any special agent service center hours.

  • New Year’s Day, Thursday, Jan. 1
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 19 (observed)
  • Memorial Day, Monday, May 25
  • Independence Day, Friday, July 3
  • Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 7
  • Thanksgiving holidays, Thursday-Friday, Nov. 26-27
  • Christmas holidays, Thursday-Friday, Dec. 24-25

Please be sure to mark your calendars!

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Getting past gatekeepers

Selling insurance—or any other product or service—comes with its own challenges when the prospect is a small or medium-sized business. Unlike the comfy waiting rooms and receptionists found in large corporations, most small businesses are not set up to accommodate a stream of eager sales professionals, in person or on the phone, and they usually lack a professional receptionist.

At a small business, the person you want to connect with is focused on running the business. And the other employees, who often double as gatekeepers, are focused on their own work.

Result: small and medium-sized business owners are really hard to connect with at first. In this situation, one key to sales success involves reassessing your relationship with the gatekeeper.

A gatekeeper can become your unintentional ally, providing information you can use to serve the prospect better. Consider these tips for establishing and nurturing relationships with small-business gatekeepers:

  • Ask if they can help you. Don’t assume. If they’re not the person you should be talking to, they’ll be more likely to point you in the right direction, which saves you both some time.
  • Say why you’re reaching out to the business. Follow up with a question the decision maker can answer. How’s that promotion performing?
  • Build a relationship, making sure you get the gatekeeper’s name right. As you demonstrate a genuine interest, you’ll slowly convert the gatekeeper into an ally.
  • Ask about their busiest time of the day. Follow up by asking what’s the best time to reach the decision maker. Use the opportunity to convey why it’s so important for you to connect with your target.
  • Ask about their busy season. Leverage this information to ask about the company’s sales cycle or its seasonal marketing efforts. You’ll get useful data that will come in handy when you do connect with the decision maker.
  • Ask about their marketing and/or their social media. This can yield useful data, too.

Stick with these techniques, consistently and with sincerity, and you’ll have an easier time meeting with the decision maker—and when you do, you’ll be armed with a wealth of information you can use to close your sale.

Source: StreetFight

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