Technology has revolutionized even the most mundane activities. We have products delivered right to our door with Amazon.com, adjust the thermostat using a mobile app, and track the number of steps we take on our Fitbit. But when it comes to leveraging new technologies in business, many insurance agency owners are still in the Industrial Age. To wit: Fewer than half of all independent insurance agents use e-newsletters, text messages, social networks or instant messaging, according to last year’s Insurance Digital Transformation Survey, which polled more than 4,300 independent insurance agents nationwide. The majority also admitted that their business lacked key technology tools, like client portals and claims download.

Given that digital tools are practically ingrained in the DNA of Millennial clients and commonly used by Gen Xers, agency owners and brokers who omit these options could not only fall behind the competition, but flat out miss reaching a significant segment of the marketplace.

Antiquated Operations

So, where’s the sticking point? Agents are aware of how technology can benefit their business, noted Ron Berg, executive director of the Agents Council for Technology, in an interview with PropertyCasualty360.com. “But even with that awareness, adoption of new technology has been slow. The number of options available is overwhelming and many agents don’t know where to start, or need help in evaluating the return on investment of new technologies,” he said.

Similarly, many agencies continue to use outdated processes and systems for their business operations. Only 23 percent of agents have a web-based client portal, and only 21 percent offer clients the convenience of connecting through a mobile app, the survey reports. By implementing new technology tools in their operations and marketing communications, independent agency owners can streamline administrative tasks, improve efficiencies, and drive revenues for their business.

New Tools for Success

Of course, change can be uncomfortable. But procrastinating can cause business growth to stagnate, and also have a negative impact on the valuation of your agency. (After all, would you want to buy a CPA firm that uses Excel spreadsheets or the latest tax accounting software?) If you’re ready to make a change in your insurance agency, here are a few strategies to leverage technology and maximize profitability in the New Year:

Embrace automation to fix disjointed workflows, minimize redundancies, and reduce the risk of manual errors. Only 16 percent of respondents in the Insurance Digital Transformation Survey were using bridging to quote new personal lines, which means the vast majority were wasting man hours on reentering data when switching between carrier portals and their own agency management systems.

Update your website if it hasn’t been touched in the last three years. Can clients access instant quotes online? Are you using lead capture tools to gather contact information from visitors to your site? Design styles change, too, and a poor user experience can cause new prospects to look elsewhere for service. As they say, you only have one chance to make a first impression.

Empower clients with a portal, where they can upload and download important documents and send emails directly to your administrative team through a secure (encrypted) form. SaaS solutions, like BlueLeaf and Huddle, make it easy to add this online tool, streamlining operations and offering added convenience for your customers.

Create a LinkedIn profile for yourself that highlights how you solve problems for your clients, and help them minimize risk and maximize savings. Take the time to write a longer, more thoughtful bio rather than using boilerplate language, to demonstrate your authenticity and expertise.

Promote your agency on Facebook by creating a page for your business. Include your logo and choose a meaningful “cover photo,” like a picture of your staff, your office building, or the skyline of the city where you do business. Post from your business page at least twice a month with helpful information relevant to your client base (e.g., tips to extend the life of your car, save on prescription costs, or reduce the risk of fire in your home).

Leveraging technology tools not only can help you better connect with clients and prospects and streamline operations in your office, but it can boost the value of your business. Profitability will increase, you’ll get a leg up on the competition, and prospective buyers will see that you are maximizing opportunities for business growth. Springtree Group offers a full spectrum of M&A and financing services for independent insurance agencies with annual revenues under $5 million, and we can help you obtain working capital to invest in new technology tools for your business, or find the right buyer when it’s time to exit.

Call us at (972) 395-8811 or contact us online, and let us help you grow, buy or sell an insurance agency to achieve your financial goals.