It just takes a little success from someone looking to try something different.

The truth is we're dealing with the "new normal" now and our "business as usual" is long gone.

That means your agency is probably looking for new ways to permanently change the way you talk to people.

One of the best and relatively easy options you might want people to get excited about is video marketing.

Dshanya Reese, Marketing Manager at Watkins Insurance, talks about the changing tide in her agency and what's she's doing to capitalize on it.

Joey Giangola: Dshanya Reese, how are you doing today?

Dshanya Reese: I am wonderful and warm.

Joey Giangola: Yeah. Sometimes you take those things for granted based on your location, but nice that you are a warm, glad you're wonderful. Being in the role that you are in, I want to know this first. Whether it's professional or aside, but is there a message or just something that is communicated so poorly that it upsets you on like a cellular level that you just like, "Why can't you make this easier for people to understand?"

Dshanya Reese: Yes. This notion of help, we're here to help you, we're here to educate you. And then our messaging bogs everyone down with all this insurance jargon that we don't really educate. We force people to tune us out. So our heart is behind our messaging. We are just not really using our brain a lot when it comes to our messaging.

Joey Giangola: Well I guess I would ask then, if we're going to get right into it, how do you connect those a little bit better? Like what's something that you would suggest to actually align that a little bit more because it is, like you said, it is somewhat of a hollow message at some point. Is there something that you would feel maybe makes that connection easier?

Dshanya Reese: I think the part that we tend to miss as insurance agents is people buy from people they know and we want to bog them down with this insurance messaging and we forget that they don't really know who we are. So why would they trust what we say? Why would they be willing to hear what we have to say? And I am guilty of it. I get so excited about the insurance piece of it that I forget that what I really should spend the bulk of my time talking about who we are as an agency, what lies at the heart of Watkins Insurance Group, what makes up our DNA. And then spend a little bit of time talking about cyber insurance, talking about how we cover construction risks, and things like that. I have tried to be more focused this year on who we are at the heart of Watkins Insurance Group.

Joey Giangola: Now that's interesting. So you're saying maybe dial back a little bit on the actual coverage peak at-

Dshanya Reese: Yeah.

Joey Giangola: I guess, when does it shift into that conversation? Like what does that transition period where you've kind of fully introduced yourself in some way, shape or form. You feel like they have a good understanding of what they're about to enter into. Have you seen like sort of a line, a threshold that gets crossed to where it becomes time to start talking about those other things?

Dshanya Reese: Well I would say, let me correct you. I feel like you constantly have to introduce yourself because you're always going to have a brand new members of your audience. So this messaging and introducing who you are, should be constant. Right now I am trying to work on an 80/20 split. So 80% is about who we are and what we do in the community and what happens in our office or our homes. And then another 20% is, "Okay. We're experiencing this because we are insurance clients as well. So these are the coverages that we are focused on because we know it impacts us and it probably is going to impact you as well."

Joey Giangola: Yeah. I guess that makes sense. And when you do take that split, when you kind of draw that hard line, is there certain areas where you find that, that message, again, about who you are, what you do, what's your involvement in the community, is there a place that you feel like it resonates more versus less? Because again, every platform like where you're communicating with your clients is different.

Dshanya Reese: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joey Giangola: Is there something that you have found for your size agency, the people you're talking to, are there any, again, how squiggly are the lines that you've drawn to segment what you want to say and who you want to say it to?

Dshanya Reese: So it doesn't work so well on a Twitter or even an Instagram. Twitter we can really go heavy on the insurance speak and Instagram we have to really go heavy on who we are. That perfect formula works a little bit better for us on LinkedIn and it also works well on Facebook. We get a lot more engagement on the who is Watkins piece than we do when we are posting about whatever the latest thing is with regards to the hot topic coverage. We just get a lot more engagement.

Joey Giangola: Yeah. And Craig and Ryan, I believe the agency focuses across the board, personal lines, commercial lines stuff, but I mean, is there, again, concerning your audience and this, I guess, kind of really thinking about who you're talking to.

Dshanya Reese: Right.

Joey Giangola: Those messages aren't the same to each client and have you found it easier or harder? Where do you like to play in terms of like the sweet spot of talking to people that impact the bottom line in a significant way? What is that home run sort of person you're trying to talk to?

Dshanya Reese: So our demographic like, as you said, is kind of really across the board because we do have multiple lines that we service in our agency. On Facebook we are really talking more to the personal lines client. So I'm tailoring the message for that. So what I post on Facebook you're not going to probably see on our LinkedIn page because we are targeting businesses on our LinkedIn page. We can take some of the same information and just reformat it for both audiences.

What I put on Twitter is translatable on LinkedIn, believe it or not, because we tend to be a little bit more jargon heavy on those pages. So it really depends on the format. The equalizer here is YouTube because I feel like the more time that we spend with video, it's going to be easier for us as an agency to take one long form piece and chop it up so that we can use that content regardless of the platform. We're just going to take a segment here and it works on Facebook. We'll take another segment there and that will work on LinkedIn.

Joey Giangola: So yeah, you're kind of talking about the Holy grail in some sorts. How's that going for you?

Dshanya Reese: We're working on it. We're working on it. It feels like it has been a multi-year project and it has been. It's been over a year since I put myself through my 30 day video challenge where I forced myself to record a video every day, all insurance related. I'm tempted to do it again because I feel that my skillset is a little stronger. Also I can't lose sight of the fact that YouTube is the second largest search engine out there. So if we're not putting video out on YouTube, we're not putting good content out on YouTube, we're really missing the boat and shutting the door on some prospects.

Joey Giangola: Dshanya, you're never going to hear me argue against YouTube. I definitely perked up a little bit when I heard that. Let me ask this because it's a good size agency, right, in terms of like-

Dshanya Reese: Yeah.

Joey Giangola: People that you got there, number of staff. What's the, I guess, the thing we haven't had a chance to talk about it in a while is what is your sort of, we'll say, department look like, because last time it was sort of a one man show. How are we going in that area? What are we dealing with in terms of resources and overall processes?

Dshanya Reese: It is still a one man show.

Joey Giangola: Okay.

Dshanya Reese: But now that I've been in the role for a while, I feel like I am working smarter than I was in the past. I feel like I am able to embrace a lot more technology that makes my job a little easier. I'm not posting onto native apps or platforms anymore. I can use a tool like a Hootsuite and sit down for half a day and get two weeks plotted out and scheduled out and not have to think about it, unless something major happens in the world that I have to then take a look at what content we've got scheduled. Now members of the agency are really starting to embrace the idea of video and that's exciting to me because really and truthfully, I shouldn't be the face of our agency because while I am a licensed agent, I don't have a book of business and I am not trying to build my personal book of business.

Our producers are, our insurance advisers are. So I'm so excited that because we are not necessarily all working out of the same office, key members of our agency are really trying to embrace video and are excited about planning their own personal series so that they could speak to whoever their prospects are and build their pipeline by video. Love it.

Joey Giangola: So, I mean, is it just maybe sort of, I guess, well let's just ask the simple question.

Dshanya Reese: Yeah.

Joey Giangola: What really got them interested? What was the catalyst? Was there something that you noticed that triggered everybody's interest actually get in front of the camera?

Dshanya Reese: I would say like a lot of agencies COVID forced some changes in mindsets. We are very comfortable with traditional marketing methods. They work for us, but when part of that was taken away, we had to challenge ourselves to pivot. Do we just say, "Well, I can't do these in-person meetings so I'm not going to do any meetings? Or am I going to figure out a way to work within what is our new normal?" And I'm so proud of our staff that they were so ready for that pivot that they are now embracing virtual consultations and all things video. The other part of that is we were lucky enough to hire new staff in 2021. I can't remember the number. It's somewhere between 10 and 15 people that we were able to bring in to the agency in 2021. And with fresh energy and new eye's comes new ideas. And it's these new people who were like saying, "Well, I would like to try video. I mean, I'm starting out brand new. What do I have to lose?"

Joey Giangola: Yeah. Nothing definitely urges them along like when they see somebody else sort of step up, ultimately-

Dshanya Reese: Yeah.

Joey Giangola: See some success. What I'm interested in, what kind of conversations are you having with those different business leaders in the agency? Like what are they wanting to focus their messages on? How do they want to communicate? What are you kind of giving back to them in terms of saying, "Well, listen. Yeah, that's great, but maybe we should take this approach." Because that's little bit of a delicate dance. What are those conversations?

Dshanya Reese: Yeah. Absolutely. Because what I don't want to do is discourage someone from doing something they're comfortable with. We don't really do direct mailers in our office, but we had a new producer come in and he would like to do direct mailers. And that's fine. So what we'll do is we won't do your traditional postcards. We'll do something a little bit nicer than that. What I don't want to do is make someone feel forced into embracing new technologies and new ideas.

So if someone comes to me and asks me, "Hey, I would like to reach out to this group of people." We're going to sit down and, "Here are all our options," and let me rank them for you and let me explain to you what the advantage is and let me explain to you where our engagement lies and let me explain how the content that you create today, if it's on video, that can be evergreen content. A direct mailer goes out once, you do your call-out after that, and that person may have already thrown it in the trash. Whereas any video content that we can create, we can constantly push that out and reinforce your message.

Joey Giangola: Yeah, I would imagine that it has to open up some eyes. I guess, have you seen something really sort of start to take off? I mean, you said it's been a process for about the last year. Have you discovered sort of anything that leads you to start wanting to repeat?

Dshanya Reese: Not yet. However, I am working with two people that I am incredibly excited about. One of our producers has even gone so far as to map out the series of videos he wants to shoot. So we are getting ready to get him moving and we've got probably a year's worth of content for him. We have a claims advocate in our office and he reached out and he wants to shoot a series of videos on how to prepare your home for a storm. We had a lot of questions about, "Well, how do I turn off a water main to keep my pipes from freezing?" And we don't have the content. So we had to start sharing other people's content and I don't want to do that. We should be able to shoot a quick little, three minute video and be able to share that and have it, again, be evergreen content.

Joey Giangola: Yeah. I would have thought that would have been a little self-explanatory until I found out that a lot of water mains in Texas are buried underground apparently.

Dshanya Reese: Yes. They are

Joey Giangola: So I don't know what you guys are doing down there, but maybe not preparing for frigid weather, but it's something to consider. Zoning, building, planning.

Dshanya Reese: Yeah. I didn't even know where ours is.

Joey Giangola: I mean, I guess you probably would never have any reason to, but that's definitely interesting. Let's go this way.

Dshanya Reese: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joey Giangola: What are you seeing across the industry then that maybe as something that you're trying to get to that you feel something of your agency should sort of maybe be looking to adopt? We've talked a lot about what you've implemented, where you're trying to go.

Dshanya Reese: Yeah.

Joey Giangola: Is there something that is sort of next on the horizon that you're seeing out there in the industry that you think your agency, given its size and sort of where you specialize in, that you need to be sort of taking advantage of?

Dshanya Reese: Sure. We really have not done a good job at automated marketing. So drip campaigns and what have you. So that is on my to-do list for this year. Also, we've really shied away from consumer surveys. Another one of my goals for this year is we are actually going to be implementing an NPS program and it's going to be something that's agency-wide.

Joey Giangola: All very solid things. If you had to give, I guess, somebody in an agency, whether it's similar size or not, just your experience of being that one man show serving a lot of different needs, or if it's an agency owner that again is sort of that band leader right now-

Dshanya Reese: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joey Giangola: How do you balance that? Keep everybody happy at the same time, still sort of keeping that consistent message, and really, again, focusing on what works and what drives results.

Dshanya Reese: It may sound like a cliche, but the building of relationships is so important. If I tried to go in like a bulldozer with my ideas, nothing would get implemented. Absolutely nothing. People are just going to dig in and not be willing to change. If you are an agency owner, you're just starting out, I would say, "Don't try to post on every platform that is out there. It's going to drive you crazy." If you have a heavy commercial lines book, then focus on LinkedIn. And with LinkedIn, if you're spending 15 minutes a day, you're solid. Carve out 15 minutes, do a post, carve out 15 minutes to connect and relationship build with the people who are following you and that you follow, place comments on some other people's posts and start building your community there. If your book is heavy for personal lines, I think Facebook is still a viable option.

I personally am not an advocate of paid advertising, especially on Facebook. The algorithm has changed so much that the amount that you spend doesn't give you the kind of reach that we used to get. Also, I would say that video, video, and video. You don't need fancy equipment to do it. You can shoot it on your phone and upload it directly to YouTube from your phone. Have conversations with people. If you have time to carve out an hour in your month, why not host a Facebook live where you're talking about what the hot topic in insurance is for that hour. It doesn't take a lot of time to increase your reach to be able to connect with people and build your pipeline.

Joey Giangola: All right. Dshanya, I got three more questions for you.

Dshanya Reese: Okay.

Joey Giangola: First, very simply, what's one thing that you hope you never forget?

Dshanya Reese: I hope I never forget what my first video looked like. I can tell you what, wow. That's a benchmark. That was real low, I can tell you that right now. I also hope that I never forget that at my core I am a licensed insurance agent with a CIC. So I can get really bogged down in all the fancy gadgets and platforms to get messaging out. But I know and understand the business of insurance and it's my job just to convey that.

Joey Giangola: All right, Dshanya, now on the other side of that, what's one thing you still have yet to learn?

Dshanya Reese: Oh wow. You know what, as a one person department, sometimes it really does get a little challenging to understand other people's workloads. Mine can be so challenging and I am hyper-focused on making sure that I deliver all of my stuff in a timely manner so I'm not holding people back, but then sometimes a little frustration can kick in if I feel like others aren't doing the same for me and I'm having to ping them back a couple of times. So I'm a work in progress, Joe.

I'm a work in progress.

Joey Giangola: I think we all are. Last question for you Dshanya. If I were to hand you a magic wand of sorts to reshape, change, alter, speed up, really anything you want in insurance, what is that thing, where is it going, and what is it doing?

Dshanya Reese: Oh my gosh. What I would like sped up is the inclusion of other voices. I think we tend to always have the same people speaking at events and we have the same people whose content gets shared and there are so many people out there who are creating just amazing content out there and because they aren't part of the cool group on Twitter and because their agency is rural and smaller, that they aren't getting amplified. I am part of that problem.

I have tried to make an effort now on LinkedIn and on Twitter to make sure that I'm following agents and agencies that aren't in Texas, that are smaller than Watkins, and that may be sharing their message in a different way that I find incredibly interesting. So let's amplify some other voices. There's nothing wrong with saying, "You know what? I'm going to step back. I've done enough, but here's someone that you should reach out and talk to who's doing amazing things. I think they should be put on the stage."