PHIL OLIVER'S EXPERIENCE
Phil Oliver has an insurance agency in the central valley of California.
Listen below to what he has to say.
SHARON: Hi Phil, this is Sharon Livingston. How are you today?
PHIL: Hey, I’m doing good, yourself?
SHARON: I’m calling for Simon as you know. Tell me a little bit about your business.
PHIL: Well we are an independent insurance agency. A regional independent insurance agency. We work the central valley of California. We’ve been in business now about six years in this agency, I’ve been in business about 38 total. But this is my most recent venture. We’re mostly personal lines although we do some commercial. We’re focused on preferred personal lines insurance. And we don’t do health insurance, we have a lady in our office who’s not part of our business that we refer our health insurance to, we choose not to get into that business. And we do quite a bit of financial services as well. Investments and life insurance.
SHARON: So tell me a little bit about your business before you started using the newsletters.
PHIL: Well I think we’ve been using the newsletter now for a little over three years.. I don’t know the exact date. Before that it was the same kind of business, we just weren’t making contact with our clients as much as we should. I had some friends who had been doing monthly newsletters for years, and they keep swearing to me that that’s one of the best marketing programs they ever did. And then if they don’t send newsletters in a given month, they notice their referrals go down. So I started doing it and now probably 60 % of our new business comes from a referral.
PHIL: In the three years I think I’ve missed one month and so we’ve been pretty consistent in getting the newsletter out.
SHARON: Your friend who was doing newsletters, were they writing their own, or were they using ones like you‘re using, like Simon‘s?
PHIL: I’m not sure about that. I think they were writing their own. Or they may have gotten something like Simon’s, I don’t know who they were using, and then adapted it. So I’m not exactly sure.
SHARON: And how did you come to Simon‘s service?
PHIL: I just came across it in a Google search one time and I went to his website and I looked at it, and I thought it was pretty well developed. And I liked what I saw so I chose it.
SHARON: What do you mean by “well-developed?”
PHIL: I liked his website. His website spoke to me and said, “this guy knows what he‘s doing.” He’s not just a newsletter vendor, he’s a pretty good marketer along with that. And I like that part of it.
SHARON: What was going through your mind about doing it yourself, versus using Simon‘s newsletter, versus using somebody else’s ready-made newsletter. I know it’s a long time ago, but see if you can go back think about what was going through your mind at the time.
PHIL: Well I knew I wouldn’t have time to do it on my own if it was going to be a decent newsletter. It’s too much. So I knew I would have to use some type of newsletter vendor. And there were a few choices in the insurance industry that I could’ve used. But I felt that Simon’s was the best one. And again when I went to his website and saw how focused he was on newsletters, and I looked at some of the special reports that he had written and some of the articles, I just felt that his would be the best choice for me.
SHARON: Is that the only newsletter you‘ve ever used; the one that you use from him?
PHIL: No. Years ago I was using another one and I never got really disciplined about doing it on a monthly basis. It was always on a quarterly basis and one time it would be a newsletter and another time it might be an over-sized post card. But with Simon’s newsletter, I’ve been really disciplined and consistent about getting it out every month. We missed one month when I had been sick for a couple weeks with the flu. I missed one month.
SHARON: So what happened at this time that you got so religious about getting it out monthly, which I think is fabulous, but what made you do that, what changed?
PHIL: the feedback from the clients about the newsletter. And the increase in referral made me believe that the increase in new business commission was more than paying for itself. And in our business, the P&C, property and casualty business, the most important part of revenue and growth, is persistency. How much of the business stays on the books year after year, because our commissions are level. So if we put a piece of business on the books and it stays with us for ten years, that’s very good. At this point the newsletter is more than paying for itself. AND, with new business and the improved persistency, it’s helping the business stay on the books, so it’s a win-win. And I think that the newsletter in the mailbox… everybody’s doing e-newsletters, ok? But I think a newsletter in the mailbox that you get that you can touch and feel I think it’s important. I think it’s a good retention tool in my belief.
SHARON: What it is about getting it in hand do you think? Why is that better? I think it’s interesting what you’re saying.
PHIL: In our electronic world, I think people get too many emails, they get too many texts, they get too much stuff like that, but I think when it’s in the mailbox and they can take it out and touch it and lay it on the table and pick it up and read it again. I just think it’s more effective. That’s not a scientific answer it’s just how I feel. And I think sometimes it even gets passed around, they’ll give it to a neighbor or something like that.
SHARON: That makes sense.
PHIL: I just think a newsletter in the mailbox is uncommon nowadays and so I think it stands out in the crowd.
SHARON: So cool. Very, very cool. Cost-wise you were mentioning that it was worth it. That you thought it was a good value. How does Simon’s newsletter compare to other ready-made newsletters, as far as you know, cost-wise?
PHIL: I think the cost is fair. We’ve been using a local printer to get it out and I’m considering Simon‘s printer at this time. But the cost of his program is very fair. And the total cost… again we are a start-up agency about six years ago so right now we’ve got about 1500 on our list that we send it to. If we write two pieces of business from that newsletter, it pays for that mailing this year, and if it stays on the books it will pay for it every year in that given month.
PHIL: So we just think it’s cost effective for us to send a print newsletter.
SHARON: So why are you considering his printer versus your local printer? That’s interesting.
PHIL: And it’s going to be a hard decision. I haven’t gone that way because my local printer is client of ours, a very good client.
SHARON: uh huh (Laughs)
PHIL: That makes it tough. But right now we send it out black and white we don’t do color. And I was looking at the cost for Simon’s full color and it’s about the same as what I’m paying for black and white right now.W
SHARON: Oh my goodness.
PHIL: And it’s going to be a difficult decision. The change would mean we could send it in color. But I think color stands out a little better, probably more readable.
SHARON: How would you describe the newsletter, maybe to a friend who knows nothing about your industry? What would you tell them about this newsletter that you send out?
PHIL: I would say it’s got some very interesting articles. What we do is that we take the base newsletter and then we replace two or three of the articles with local things.We may have a picture of a person who referred to us in a given month. We may have a picture of the person that won our client referral rewards drawing once a quarter where they win a $250 gift card and $100 to their favorite charity. One time one of our clients, their daughter was one of the top volleyball players in the United States who was named first team All-America. We had a little picture of her in there and an article about her. We try to localize a little bit. We’ll have pictures of events that we do. Our target industry is realtors. And about once or twice a year we’ll have a big event, we’ll get like a hundred realtors come to our office for dinner and we serve it out in our parking lot and we’ll have pictures of that in there. It’s very interesting articles in there I think. He does a good jab with his articles. Then we add to it by localizing it to make it interesting to people.
SHARON: Since I’m not in your industries, my industry is more like research, could you give me an example of an article that you found particularly interesting? Could be anytime, it doesn’t have to be a current one.
PHIL: One thing I do like, is some of the quotes he has in there from famous people, he does a really good job with that. And we will also mix and match, like he does a newsletter for personal lines in insurance, he does one for commercial lines and he does one for life and health insurance. And we’ll take an article from commercial and put it over in their personal lines, cause we know we have business people insured, and we’ll take a life insurance article and put it in there, because we sell life insurance. We kind of mix it up like that too, so it hits all the bases. But just very interesting articles, very good quotes in there by famous people, good book reviews with URL’s to where they can find the information. I just think it’s of interest to people.
SHARON: very, very cool. If there was one thing that you thought was the absolute best thing about using this service, what might it be?
PHIL: They’re very service oriented. If you’ve got a problem, if you’ve got a question, if you call Mayna or one of the people there, they’re right on the ball. They answer the phone, they solve your problem, they’ll take you to the website and show you where it is. Just great service. It’s easy to download. It’s easy to change and alter. We do it and then we move it to PDF and we just email it to our printer along with a list, and it’s all said and done.
PHIL: It’s easy and the service is fantastic. The people, Mayna is fabulous, they’re great to work with.
SHARON: That’s fantastic. So what did I leave out that I should’ve asked that I didn’t, not knowing your business?
PHIL: I think you hit most of it. (Laughs)
SHARON: (Laughs) very good, and do you interact with Simon directly ever?
PHIL: Only by email at this point. Seems like a very interesting man. He has a good take on marketing I think. I’m kind of a marketing junkie because I think that the most important thing in business is marketing. And I think Simon has a real good handle on marketing. That’s one of the things that drew me to him and his service was I thought he was strong in marketing.
SHARON: How did you know? What told you that?
PHIL: Just by reading his website and looking around. And he thinks and talks like a marketer that’s providing a service.
SHARON: Please forgive my ignorance about this, when you say, “He thinks and talks like a marketer,” what does that mean?
PHIL: It means that he understands the marketing processes. How to attract, how to convert, how to optimize and how to retain clients at the highest possible number. I think he understands the concepts of doing that. That‘s what I mean by a marketer. Marketing in its highest form is just developing deep relationships with your marketplace. And a good newsletter does that as well as anything.
SHARON: Phil, that’s fabulous. That really helped me understand what you had in mind, that’s perfect. You did great. You want to come and teach me marketing? (laughs)
PHIL: (Laughs) No, I’m still learning. I’m still learning. I’m not an expert, I’m just learning.
SHARON: No sounds like you’re doing great. That all made a lot sense. Well listen, I wish you all good things and lots of continued success. And wow, 60% of your referrals, that’s great.
PHIL: I appreciate that.
SHARON: Thank you so much. Oh, and Phil may we use your words?
PHIL: Absolutely. Absolutely.
SHARON: Ok, thanks so much.
PHIL: Alright. Bye-bye.
SHARON: bye now.