For those who may not be familiar with either Agency Nation or the Elevate Unconference, Agency Nation is the digital marketing arm of TrustedChoice.com, and is focused on providing insurance marketing, sales, and technology resources and ideas for the independent insurance agents.
In 2017, Agency Nation launched Elevate, an “Unconference” for the independent agent. This year, Scott Collins, a second generation independent agent and co-owner of Mohawk Insurance and Real Estate (along with his brother, Michael Collins), attended the conference and since we are related, we asked him what insights he could share with our readers as a fellow agent attending his first conference outside Massachusetts. Here is what he had to say:
Elevate 2018 was a three day insurance conference held in Cleveland this past month. It is fast becoming one of the premier events in the insurance arena which was certainly made clear by the quality and abundance of top talent panelist from the insurance world including CEOs and Presidents of various Insurance companies. This was the second event of its kind, and it had already doubled the number of attendees from the previous year in addition to having sold out two months early.
Ryan Hanley, who is the Chief Marketing Officer of Agency Nation and TrustedChoice.com was the MC of the event.
Almost immediately, I could tell that this conference was going to be different from the vast majority of other insurance conferences I have attended in the past.
First, of all, there was the fact that this event was referred to as the “Unconference”. Second, there was both a younger demographic of attendees and speakers alike. Third, the normal dress attire of suits and ties were replaced with a more tech-inspired style of blue jeans and collared shirts.
As for the events speakers, these spanned the range from the CEO and Presidents of Progressive, Safeco, and State Auto, to leading marketing and tech gurus, to experts in analytics and metrics and even a sales specialist. Personally, my favorite speakers were the insurance agents I listened to both on and off the stage.
Day one mostly featured the Elevate Insurtech Showcase in a series of discussions and conversation featuring some of the best technology companies in our business. Many of these companies also had booths set up and were available for to discuss their product throughout the three days. What was most notable to me about these companies was the simple fact of how far they have come in a such a short time, as well as the new perspectives they offered agents on the agency experience. For my part, I think it would be worthwhile to do a little more investigating to find out more about some of these cutting edge companies, such as Marble Box, TechCanary and AgencyZoom.
As for the rest of the Unconference, Day 2 and 3 were jammed packed with speakers and networking opportunities.
Some of the most interesting issues discussed included automated self-service options in the agency, technology, competitors, finding and hiring talent, innovation and opportunity, lead generation, digital marketplace, Youtube videos and the overall disruption in the industry.
One of the hot button issues discussed was outsourcing, not overseas, but right here. The agent that was seated next to me during lunch mentioned that he had laid off four employees last year due to outsourcing and his agency has never been more profitable. It may be taboo subject to some, but this is what is happening in our industry.
Overall, the networking aspect at this event was great. I doubt there is another insurance conference that has drawn so many new agents who have started their agencies from scratch.
In one way, it makes sense because many of these agents are digital agents and Elevate leans heavily on the technology side of the industry. What seems to differentiate this new breed of agent from the traditional brick & mortar one is perhaps they lack capital or created their own insurance blueprint with less overhead, and have created more profitability utilizing new tools and marketing ideas. No customer ever steps foot into their “office” and no handshake is ever delivered, it is purely digital and very profitable.
Two of the speakers I was most interested in hearing were Zack Gould & Matt Naimoli from G&N Insurance in Southborough MA. These two Massachusetts agents co-founded G&N Insurance and have created a successful agency with a strong digital presence, mixed with a traditional brick and mortar agency. In addition, they have done this by creating a strong agency culture both focused on sales as well as its core values. The success of their agency was more than apparent during their presentation as they discussed how they generated approximately 6,000 referrals in just 12 months. A common theme throughout the presentations was that independent agents are stronger together than apart. Zach and Matt epitomized this idea in their speech and were more than happy to discuss their agency’s “secret sauce formula” with other agent owners in attendance.
In analyzing my Elevate experience, I think it is important that insurance agents stay relevant and stay on top of the issues facing our industry. What is the use if your agency is experiencing growth and profitability, but the system as a whole is eventually becoming obsolete. We will all be out in the cold together.
In my opinion, this conference is a success because it is about sharing the information that successful agents are utilizing to help fellow agents. It is about helping independent agents discover the wealth of new tools that are available to them. It is also about getting this information out to all independent agents everywhere and not just necessarily the industry leaders. I came back from Elevate with much to be optimistic about, but also with the clarity that we agents must embrace change and take advantage of it. It might just be baby steps at first, but we need to start somewhere and begin this conversation will all independent agents.
A last note from Agency Checklists
Agency Nation did an eight minute video entitled “What Really Happened At Elevate 2018.” We are including a link to it here and shares some of the same thoughts that Scott Collins shared above: