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Grow Your Creative Muscle

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Friday, July 26, 2019

Grow Your Creative Muscle

When we hear about creativity, it's almost always related to the liberal arts. Artists, musicians, writers, and dancers are bestowed with a creative gift, while the rest of us watch from the bleachers.

We often fail to consider how much true creativity is necessary for daily life, including the workplace. Innovation, imagination, inventiveness, and resourcefulness are all parts of a creative mind. No matter what your job, creativity can give you the spark you need to solve a tough problem, work with difficult people and impress your boss.

Creativity is like a muscle in your brain. The more you work on it, the stronger it gets. Even if you don't consider yourself a creative person, don't give up! Check out these 4 steps to help you become more creative.

  1. Try something new. Whether it's visiting new museums, trying out yoga, or just watching a genre on Netflix that you usually wouldn't, expanding your horizons can help you break through your creativity barriers.

  2. Play. Make time for your inner child. Children have incredible imaginations, and reminding yourself of what that was like can be a good step toward opening up your creativity. Try putting together a challenging Lego set or hosting a fun game night.

  3. Ask questions. Even if you feel like you already know the answers, take the time to ask more questions. Curiosity can help discover new things that allow our brains to make new creative connections.

  4. Be wrong. Don't let the fear of making a mistake hinder your creativity. The world needs new ideas to solve complex problems. Don't hold back your creative instincts just because you aren't sure what others will think. In fact, mistakes can serve as a launching point for the right solution.


What are your tips for becoming more creative? Let us know what you think on Facebook.

Tags:  AIMS Society  CPIA designation  efficiency  email marketing  insurance marketing and sales  Leadership  Networking  productivity  Professional Development  Social Media  teamwork  thank your clients 

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Insights on Marketing an 'Unsexy' Business

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Friday, May 24, 2019

Insights on Marketing an 'Unsexy' Business

It was 1947 when entrepreneur Abraham Levitt and his sons, William and Alfred, founded a planned community in Long Island, New York. The Levitts converted rural farmland into a suburban community, named Levittown, and attracted droves of World War II veterans and their families.

For the next few years, the Levitts built more than 17,000 homes — each with its own yard. In fact, the community had specific rules requiring that all lawns be trimmed weekly and shrubs be kept shorter than four feet.

A shrewd businessman, the elder Levitt viewed a good lawn as a form of “neighborhood stabilization.” On adding lawns to each and every home, Levitt said: “No single feature of a suburban residential community contributes as much to the charm and beauty of the individual home and the locality as well-kept lawns.”

The modern history of lawns and lawn care began in 1947 with the building of Levittown — and still continues today. Homeowners across America endlessly obsess over lawn maintenance, including tackling weeds, fertilizer, grubs, mowing, watering, drought and aeration.

And nobody knows that more than Ryan Farley, cofounder of LawnStarter. Since the company’s launch in 2013, Farley and his team have raised more than $7 million in funding and have grown the online lawn care business into a trusted brand across the country.

Lawn care is definitely not an innovative, sexy business, Farley admits. But “being scrappy” is the way to propel an unexciting business into success, he says.

“Find ways to gain more reach by spending more time than money, and focus on achieving growth with what you have. Success doesn’t come from frills, perks, and expensive office spaces. It comes from attitude, being passionate, and growth hacking with a limited tool set until you can start scaling.”

Like lawn care, insurance service and products don’t carry an innate market appeal. And selling an “ordinary” product can be challenging.

The Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only organization for owners and executives of public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Council members offer their suggestions on marketing and selling products that lack sex appeal:

Share a compelling story. “The best marketing — for sexy products or not — happens when there is a genuine, compelling story told … Any product can have an interesting story and that is what drives people to action and keeps them coming back.” — Vinny La Barbera, CEO of imFORZA, an Internet marketing agency

Pull the emotional trigger. “No matter how ‘unsexy’ the product, there is still an emotional reason behind its purchase … Find that emotional reason and play it back to your consumers at every touchpoint possible.” — Jess Cook, executive creative director of branding agency TMV Group

Remember the fundamentals of marketing. “We're selling to a human with an emotion and a desire to fulfill a need … The fundamentals of marketing are the most important things to keep in mind. The product is secondary.” — Jordon Meyer, president of Granular, a digital marketing agency

Differentiation is the key. “Selling benefits will certainly speak to the customer, but how does your product stand out in the pack? … If you can identify and capitalize on your brand or product's strengths over the competition, you'll entice your customers with an important and strong advantage.”  — Carm Lyman, president of the Lyman Agency, a PR and communications firm

Educate users and help them engage. “There are always users that need to know more to help them engage with a product, so market it like you're educating someone and provide insight. — Lee Salisbury, founder and CEO of design agency UnitOneNine.

While your insurance agency may not sell an exciting or unique product, it’s still extremely important and valuable. Challenge yourself to be creative when designing your sales and marketing strategy. And always remember the wise words of the lawn king, Ryan Farley: “Success comes from attitude, being passionate and growth hacking.”

Tags:  AIMS Society  Branding  email marketing  insurance marketing and sales  Networking  Personal Brand  productivity  Professional Development  Social Media  Technology 

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Why & How You Should Define Your Brand Voice

Posted By AIMS Society, Friday, April 19, 2019

Why & How You Should Define Your Brand Voice

Every blog, social media post, advertisement and mailer is a vehicle for your brand voice.

Your overall voice and messaging are key to how consumers (both old and new) see you, how your company is perceived and how recognizable you are among your competitors.

But when your marketing department is small or dispersed, this is often one of the first things that’s overlooked. It shouldn’t be.

Why does a brand voice matter? A strategic and consistent voice gives you credibility and recognition. It’s also an opportunity to reinforce your brand’s beliefs. When you dial in on the right tone of voice, your content will become more effective as it creates a parallel experience between company values and brand messaging.

If you don’t know what your brand voice is, we recommend going through this process:

Since you’ve already shared, created and used content, consider gathering a solid sample of what you have from a variety of platforms. Sort through them and find what worked well, what your audience reacted to, and what you enjoyed writing. It will eventually become a collection of pieces that embodies the brand voice you want.

The next step? Define your brand voice in a few words. Talk about common themes within your best pieces. The Content Marketing Institute asks, if your brand were a person, how would you describe its personality to someone? How do your brand’s personality traits make you different? Take your audience into consideration here, too: What will resonate with them?

Some examples include:

  • Authoritative
  • Caring
  • Casual
  • Professional
  • Quirky
  • Warm
  • Witty
  • Trustworthy

Next, write some do’s and don’ts based on these adjectives. For example, if you’re going to be casual, do be playful but don’t use jargon. This list will help your team maintain uniformity when writing copy for everything from social media posts to email blasts. When you start to document your brand voice guidelines, you will identify opportunities and gaps, ensure consistency and maintain a uniform tone in your content.

Tags:  AIMS Society  Branding  insurance marketing and sales  Networking  productivity  Social Media 

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Should You Advertise on Facebook?

Posted By AIMS Society, Friday, January 4, 2019

 

Should You Advertise on Facebook?

During the third quarter of 2018, Facebook had 2.27 billion users who visited the site at least monthly, including 1.5 billion users who visited the site at least daily. If contacting a huge number of people is in your marketing plan, then Facebook is a good bet.

 

The social behemoth makes very clear that advertising is its lifeblood. But figuring out how to target, place, budget or measure the effectiveness of Facebook ad campaigns can be confusing.

 

Making an impression. Facebook advertising is more about setting a budget for how much you’re willing to spend per impression instead of paying a set amount to showcase your product. Should you advertise on Facebook? Start by asking if you have the type of advertisement that will draw the attention Facebook seeks. Your ad will compete in an ad auction with every other advertiser on the site, and the amount you pay to advertise will be based on the number of impressions or actions users take when they view your ad. This includes when your ad shows up on users’ news feed or when a user clicks the ad to go to the advertiser’s website.

 

The most successful ads are:

  • Videos
  • "Carousels" with multiple images
  • Those with very little text
  • Flashy

An ad based on a stock photo isn't a good choice for Facebook advertising. Neither is an ad with 100 words describing what you're trying to sell. It matters what the ad looks like, so it's important to spend time with a creative or design team to make something worth spending money on.

 

Invest in the metrics. One of the most essential aspects of this process is figuring out the metrics to understand if your ad is reaching the users you want. If not, then you need to replace the ad, tweak it, or start from scratch. If you don’t have the time and inclination for the process then you may need to hire a firm that does. For a small or medium-sized business, you’re probably getting into expenses you don’t want.

 

Who’s your prospect? Before setting off on this advertising journey, you need to decide who you’re selling to. A small business needs to put its advertising with its current customers, says  Dave Lavinsky, writing for Forbes in the article, “The Hands-Down Best Place to Advertise Your Business.” He says your own customers will buy from you more often, buy higher priced products and will spread the word to their friends about the quality of your service you deliver.

 

Engagement is everything on Facebook. A series of positive comments on an ad or post can go a long way toward helping someone who is researching an insurance product or agency. It is the new word of mouth — just the electronic version.

 

So if you’re just starting to consider and navigate the Facebook advertising world, start with some research. Identify and develop your target audience and curate creative ads that will catch people in their news feeds.

Tags:  AIMS Society  Facebook Ads  insurance marketing and sales  Networking  sellability  Social Media  Technology 

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Top 10 Productivity Tools for Sales & Marketing Professionals

Posted By AIMS Society, Friday, November 16, 2018

Top 10 Productivity Tools for Sales & Marketing Professionals

Orchestrating a team can be challenging. Whether you have a team of five or 20, every member has a unique personality and preferences. You also may have a host of processes and systems that you're using in the office.

When was the last time you looked at how you're getting work done? Are you being as productive as possible?

When you use the right productivity tools, your team's efficiency and collaboration will increase — resulting in more sales and better organization. there are a host of technologies, apps and systems out there that are designed to improve workflow.

Here are the top resources for insurance professionals:

  1. DocuSign: Incredibly popular in the insurance industry, DocuSign is an e-signature service that helps reduce inefficient paper processes and email contracts in record time.

  2. Slack: If your team is wasting time with inefficient communication processes, consider using Slack. It’s one of the most effective ways to instantly communicate and message your team members — and it works on both desktop and mobile. You can create “Channels” for specific purposes like marketing and only invite those on the marketing team.

  3. Google Docs: This is one of the most user-friendly tools out there for document collaboration. Think of it as a free online version of Microsoft Office. You can create and share word, spreadsheet, forms and presentation files (like proposals, pitches and sales letters) with other team members in real time.

  4. CamScanner: Download this app to easily scan any document and save it as a PDF. It will even enhance the scanned images and lift out important pieces of information like dates, titles and prices. You can also add notes and drawings to your scanned images.

    Note: If you have the Google Drive app on your phone, you can not only access your Google Docs but scan receipts and documents. You can share files immediately and access them later.

  5.  Trello: This collaboration tool helps you organize and prioritize projects and tasks. You can see who’s working on what, where something is in a process and what the next steps are for each prospect. Trello is great for delegating tasks, creating automatic to-do lists and keeping things transparent.

  6. CRM: You’re in a customer-centric business, so it makes sense to have an effective customer relationship management (CRM) system. It’s essential for growing your agency and managing leads and customers every step of the way. HubSpot has a free CRM, but if you’re looking for something personalized, consider Salesforce, Insightly, Zoho and Infusionsoft.

  7. SignOn Once by ID Federation: If you struggle with maintaining passwords and IDs, you’re not alone. It’s one of the biggest pain points among carriers and agencies. SignOn Once enables one identity to replace multiple logins for insurance system users. That way, you can spend less time resetting passwords and more time focused on serving prospects and clients.

  8. Evernote: This is the system for someone who loves sticky notes and keeps infinite tabs open in their browser. With Evernote you can take pictures, save websites and write to-do lists. It’s like your very own digital notebook. You can create different sections for different areas of focus and tag each document or idea — keeping everything you may need in one spot.

  9. Voice-to-Text: You may not think this would be helpful, but have you ever thought about how much time you spend typing something instead of saying it? Or have you ever had a great idea while waiting and didn’t have time to type a note? Voice recognition software has been around for a while, but the technology is finally advanced enough for the translation to be correct instead of jumbled. Consider a robust software like Dragon or start with a free app like Cortana.

  10. Zapier: If you have plenty of leads coming in but are getting bogged down with the follow-up process, consider an automation process. For example, if you get an email with an attachment, you can set up a “trigger” that copies the attachment into your Google Drive and then alerts you in Slack. You can integrate all of your systems like email, social media, email marketing and so much more.

Tags:  AIMS Society  Branding  business value  efficiency  email marketing  insurance marketing and sales  Leadership  Networking  productivity  Professional Development  self-improvement  sellability  Social Media  teamwork 

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