Recently, Peter van Aartrijk wrote a thought provoking blog suggesting many agencies would benefit from an “extreme agency makeover.” For the most part, his focus centered on the physical environment. As important as that is, I also would like to challenge agents to consider a makeover of their operations and culture as well.
Peter talked about getting rid of crusty old drapes and shag carpeting. I am taking about disrupting old business models, getting rid of internal operational “silos” and dispensing with ineffective practices such as interruption-based marketing. Driving the need for the makeover is the fact that our society and the business environment have been transformed and future success will depend your firm’s ability to adapt and connect with the new connected consumer.
Actually, it is not so much what you get rid of—rather, it is implementing new processes as well as creating a new social business model and/or culture that I see as the real challenge. And it is also where the real opportunity resides.
A social business model is built around the tenet that connections are formed to the benefit of owners, customers and employees resulting in a more responsive, adaptable and ultimately more successful company. This has lots of implications but here are some examples of the transformative measures an agency (or carrier) can take to begin the journey:
- Start with a culture of trust. Empower your employees to participate on social sites on the agency’s behalf and trust that they will do the right thing. Start a blog and use it to educate your customers and prospects and demonstrate subject matter expertise. But also use it to build and strengthen your brand personality.
- Shift marketing dollars from traditional marketing channels to digital ones.
- Become more transparent in your communication. Customers and employees expect to communicate more seamlessly and have more personal relationships with businesses.
- Develop a collaborative (vs. hierarchal) organizational structure. Also, when and where possible, invite customers to participate in agency decisions.
- Recognize that social involvement is not just a marketing tactic. It will have an impact across most of your agency and should involve widespread engagement from both employees and customers.
- If you are not already, become personally involved in your real-life community—including active involvement and support of charitable initiatives of your choosing. The profiles of successful companies reflect social values that are embedded in the core of the organization.
- Consider building a virtual workforce. The incoming workforce will demand a more open and flexible work environment.
- Break down the silo thinking between IT and marketing.
Firms that are able to make the transition and become social businesses will be well positioned to meet the challenges of the new business landscape and the demands of the new connected consumer.
How are you working to move from where you are today to the social business model of the future?