marketing word cloud“I am not a marketing guy”. That statement typically gets a confused reaction however, it’s true. Yes, I have a B.A. in Marketing but let’s be honest, most of what we use today was not even invented when I graduated. I believe that not being a typical marketing person, but an executive consultant, gives me a distinct advantage. I’ve been on ‘your side’ of the table, built and managed marketing departments, hired and fired marketing people and companies, and seen the good and bad in all of this.

There is an unfortunate sentiment growing in the market, especially in the insurance and financial services industries. Almost every company knows that they should be doing more online. It is expected, not just for leading edge companies, but of any viable organization. The problem is, most companies are doing more with no clear path; and very unfortunately not receiving any visible ROI for doing more.

I have spent almost eight years working directly with insurance agencies and brokerages in different capacities. Most of this work has been with executive teams working on sales, marketing and leadership. Around this time of year, most insurance organizations begin annual planning. The goal is always growth, and the seemingly easy answer to growth is typically ‘marketing’. While marketing can absolutely enhance the sales team’s activity and results, marketing in itself is not a silver bullet.

Internal v. External

During past planning sessions, ‘more marketing’ was typically put on the table as a viable solution to any agency shortcomings. The next discussion was typically ‘how?’. Do we hire someone? Do we already have someone on staff who can do it? Should we outsource? I believe the answer to all of these questions is yes! The mix of who and how will always vary between organizations, but the most successful firms employ a mixture of all of these resources.

Below is what I would do if I were an insurance agency CEO. This foundation is one that I have personally deployed, and one I have helped some of the best insurance agencies in the country develop as well.

The New Marketing Department

In order to develop a department that can handle the ever-changing market landscape and one that can continually adjust to client demands, the new marketing department must take on a new form and certainly a new role in an agency. Simply having a good web or social media person is not going to produce the results that your agency needs to survive and thrive.


Your internal leadership team needs to be conscious of the agency plan and ensure that all marketing activity is pushing the agency in the same direction. The agency plan and marketing plan have to be in alignment. Just because it seems like a cool idea doesn’t mean that it will help you hit your goals.

The other reason for having an internal leadership team is because nobody knows your business as well as you do. Outside experts can help you look at your business in a different way, but you must be involved in the marketing process to ensure success. Some of the greatest insurance CEO’s that I know (like Tim Leman and Greg Van Ness) are very involved. They are great examples of leading by example. They ‘walk the walk’ and have built a tremendous team around them. This allows for everyone to work inside of their unique abilities.


Once the agency plan and leadership team are set, it’s now time to do a gap analysis. You will most likely have some desired skills and expertise for which you need to hire. Some skills your new marketing department should have include:

  • Marketing strategy
  • Brand manager
  • Web design & development
  • Content creation
  • Graphic design
  • Social media
  • Search engine optimization
  • Tracking & analytics

This should not be outsourcing = send a check and hope for the best. There have to be clear guidelines and expectations for both the internal team and the outsourced relationship. Our preference, and the best relationships, are those agencies with an extremely talented marketing manager or BDC.

The graphic below demonstrates our outlook on why partnering with an outsourced department is in an agency’s best interest.


Ah technology…In 2002, Dan Tayor stated, “80% of how we will be doing business in the future hasn’t even been invented yet”. What an insightful and accurate statement! At the time of this quote, social media was in its infancy, Google was only four years old, and HubSpot was just a dream for 2 MIT students.

One of the most important foundational lessons in marketing is, if you aren’t measuring it then don’t do it. John & Kathleen tell a great story of why they became HubSpot VAR’s and eventually Silver-Level Partners. [Paraphrasing] “Social media and blogging were taking off and we had a lot of clients coming to us for help. We knew that we were doing a great job for them, but it was difficult at that time to prove that we were. The we found HubSpot. From there we could prove everything and track every step in the process.”

Whether it’s a full-blown marketing automation platform, or something simple like a CRM, do something! There have been so many exciting advancements in marketing automation in the last few years, and many of them are affordable (sometimes free) and they will make your life so much easier.

The Future

2014 and beyond are going to require small businesses to market in new and innovative ways. We are just scratching the surface on the techniques and tools to come. While this can seem like a daunting task, it is doable with the right strategy and a commitment to the new marketing department platform.

If you are one of those agencies that knows you should be doing more online, but don’t know what to do or where to start, then click here for our free Inbound Marketing Assessment. It will help identify your gaps and prioritize areas for action in the coming year.

Image credit: bloomua / 123RF Stock Photo