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Episode #13 - Start With What Works w/ Matt O'Neill




In this episode, Carey and Lindsay sit down with Matt O'Neill from GMG Insurance to talk about how marketing can impact your agency's value, why many agencies are doing their community a disservice by not sharing their story, and where you can start. 



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Episode Transcription: 

Lindsay Wallace (00:01.960)

hey mom how you doing


Carey Wallace (00:04.179)

I am doing fantastic how are you doing today


Lindsay Wallace (00:08.000)

I’m doing great I am so excited to introduce our guests today it is Matt O’Neill the Director of Customer Experience at GMG Insurance. How you doing to day Matt?


Matt Oneill (01:12.400)

I am so excited to spend time with you ladies


Lindsay Wallace (01:16.480)

i'm so excited you agreed to come on yes


Carey Wallace (01:16.779)

well we could not be yeah we could not be more happy to have you here with us matt super excited it's been a while since i've seen you right?


Matt Oneill (01:25.540)

Yeah i know it's been probably a couple of years i know a lot of things have changed for you a lot of things have changed for me so no better way than to re connect in front of the public eye and comparing notes on what's been going on in our lives


Carey Wallace (01:39.019)

i love it you know what why not i think that's a perfect way for us to re connect so why don't you give us a little i would love for the people who may or may not know you for you to tell us how did you even come into insurance to begin with like what brought you to this amazing industry


Matt Oneill (01:41.200)

Oh yeah and we were talking before this i am so lucky with i think how my career has evolved since i've been here so to take you back i i grew up always wanted to actually be in theater i loved being a theater kid i split my time growing up i was actually super introverted i really spent a lot of time to myself and i was a as a varsity swimmer as well as a theater kid right so i kind of played both sides of like what you imagined in high school took that through college i also realized that you don't make money as as a thespian so i got very lucky as i graduated i ended up with i ended up with more of a communications background in some advertising i really want to do like the whole madman advertising thing but student loans were coming in and an amazing now mentor of my offered me a job probably as like an administrator for his coaching and consulting firm right out of college i knew nothing about insurance i barely read my renters policy my you know car my auto policy that was written through my the agent that my parents used for years so i just thought hey my student lands are coming in this is just a steady job my parents don't need to worry about paying these bills now so let's take it well face forward a couple of years what i learned was the skills that i really needed to be in front of agents brokers and underwriters educating them on how to differentiate the way that they add value in the insurance space so i really became fascinated with he organization beyond insurance how they applied enterprise risk management to small and middle market businesses it's really what scott's claim to fame was when he ran the attis group so i i kind of became a a young patalon studied all that and where i really spent a lot of my time because i got the most energy out of it was really treating these types of speaking engagements and opportunities almost like a theater right so to me it didn't really matter the type of content that i was presenting in front of people i had no insurance experience i wasn't license the most important thing for me was driving emotion when you're doing these either key notes or full day workshops because i think we've all sat in the types of workshops that are full day with sometimes they're extremely credible in season professionals but they lack the ability to learn how to engage with the audience and i think that's where my my differentiator was so um i really learned what it took to drive change within agencies within carrier teams um and then about two years ago the organization was then sold to a large broker and um i used that as an opportunity to really fill in one of those blind spots that i knew i had for a long time and that's why i joined the agency so i left beyond insurance i joined an amazing organization here called g m g insurance i had as i said zero in the field you know boots on the ground insurance experience i wasn't even licensed so i had to actually create a role that added enough value that did not have me split my time between account management and and where my skills actually wear or sales and where my skills actually were so i created this director of customer experience role sort of from scratch the g m g leadership team they they bought into my visions of grandeur i don't know i don't know if i succeed them into it or what but but now i spend my time in all aspects of the organization and really m bench marked on customer lifetime value so it's my job to support all aspects of the organization so that everyone within the company can do it they do best and i can use the skills that i learned to help them succeed in their role


Carey Wallace (05:43.139)

well you know what i do is um value independent insurance agencies and i get to see agencies from a lot of different um vantage points but i've been doing this for many years obviously i think when we met that's what i was doing and you know i too had never sold a policy i'm not a licensed agent i've never sold a policy and i actually lead with that information when i speak because i don't want to ever give anyone the impression that i've done they do you know what i'm saying and so i get it and actually i never intend to sell insurance i i i'm okay with being a business expert helping them become better business owners right but from my vantage point as i get to work with agents across the country you know when i first started this it was almost unheard of to have someone on staff that was focused solely on marketing or solely on data or solely on anything other than selling or servicing inside an agency i love that you recently wrote this article that talks about why you should have that role not only that but then how do you compensate that role and what are the metrics to measure that role so many agents struggle with how do i put this non revenue i'm going to use these on er quotes non revenue because we all marketing drives revenue but let's just go for a moment and say non producer and non c s r role into my agency how do i justify that i would love for you to expand on that because if someone hasn't read your article they're missing out my friend they are just missing out


Matt Oneill (07:27.980)

thank you so much yeah and as i said i really want to create a position where i was not tied to any particular book of business so i personally do not manage a book of business i am not required to go out and produce business so i had to really think strategically about how i can add the most value and value can come in a lot of forms it can come an employe retention talent acquisition it could be brand awareness it could be working through sales so i looked at what i felt based on my based on my experience historically within the industry as some of the biggest challenges for an agency and their ability to grow and i said if i can address just their top three to five concerns and have that keen focus i believe that that will add enough value because oftentimes within these agencies what i observed is it's the agency leader who is often still the producer that is in charge of trying to drive these change wel they're going to be more successful being the main bread winner of the organization were it's the top performing sales person that becomes the sales leader well they might be good at sales but doesn't mean that they're good at leadership or it could be the marketing person who has to split their time between creating marketing content but is still responsible for some sort of small book of business because the agency owner unfortunately isn't seeing that r i from that role so if i can just bring all of that together and say let's take all of those paying points and give it to one person to tackle all of them issues now everyone is working and their peak performance and that's really where my my experience lays so i think that it's a it's an interesting position for me to be in i'm bench marked on new business retention as well as cross selling and everyone within the agency knows that they can come to me or i can come to them with new ideas out of the box considerations and i'm not there to split commissions with anyone like that's not what i'm trying to do i'm just here to support so it's been a very fun role i think as i said i think it really takes a lot of these nuance ideas that agencies want to incorporate and just gives it to one point person who just manages it behind the scenes for the entire organization to run as they normally have historically


Lindsay Wallace (09:45.393)

yeah i absolutely love that the two of the top five challenges that you had outlined in that article were marketing in branding because i agree with you i think historically those two things have been things that agency owners don't think are that important because right they don't exactly lead to the sale they kind of help with it but they aren't the thing that makes the sale and i think we are at a time when people are starting to realize how important that is and especially i've been to a couple of conferences specifically in c's young agent conference the twenty twenty two the twenty two i don't know the last one that they had they it was all about i mean we had danny kimball who i believe you know very well yes yes she is amazing we had aaron gordon as a speaker who i mean talk about branding hello and then we had bradley and a couple of other people as well and it was just such a great hub for here's how marketing can directly impact your agency but the other thing that i kept hearing over and over was your agency owner is probably not going to buy into this and you're going to have to convince them here's how i did it so you can do it too and i think that that is so hard to have this kind of up and coming hot topic that a lot of people in the industry are realizing is so important and so huge for your agency but having to convince someone to do it and i thought it was completely refreshing to see that directly in your job description can you talk a little bit about why you included it in their and the reasons that you think those two things are so important


Matt Oneill (11:40.320)

yeah so from my experience i believe that many agency owners understand that there is value in marketing and brand awareness they understand that that's a box they have to check to be relevant in today's you know business world where i think a lot of organizations in our industry really miss the mark however is they don't know how to engage the customer and prospect with sharable emotionally engaging content there's a lot of i've seen a lot of really wonderful well intentioned people in our industry that create very informative pieces of content around claims policies you know everything and everything can be tied back to i can sell you a policy because of this piece of marketing but if we look at any other service based industry and this is where i spend a lot of my time trying to study how to differentiate the marketing tactics within our industry because i really i don't if i've seen many people that are hitting like out of the park home runs in terms of marketing even though we all talk about it his cox insurance is probably the one that i've seen that is most powerful they have like forty some thousand followers on facebook and what they did was they actually went out to small businesses and they just filmed the business owner talking about their business and to me that's so exciting and that translates so nicely into let's call it let's compared to the real estate industry right a couple of years ago for bravo put a million dollar listing it's just real estate agents just walking into an empty house and showing people what that could be but because of million dollar listing it put real estate agents on the map as something that can be sex and fun and to me in the insurance industry think about all of the businesses that these agency owners are working with they have a roll edicts of really cool companies that make really cool things or provide really interesting services and so i believe that the future of marketing within the industry to hit home runs you really have to go out and story tell with these business owners and these leaders and these high net worth families and so that's one of he things i start doing at g m g is i go out to our clients i think sometimes people might be scared of show case in their clients i literally go out to our clients companies have them do a tour and i talk about lost control and risk management and what we would think of from a risk adviser perspective not about the policies not about insuring it which i think is much more engaging because people see these companies that are in their community and they get it behind the scenes tour


Matt Oneill (14:11.260)

i also think that's really important because as a i continues to integrate into our everyday life information is going to become a commodity so if your if you're creating content and marketing around stuff that i can type into chat GPT to get the answer your marketing content is not going to umresonate because it's going to just be easier for business owners to find that information so how do you change your marketing we have to be emotionally engaging and you need to produce content that you say if i saw this on another industries facebook page would i share this with my followers


Carey Wallace (14:46.059)

this is a perfect perfect perfect example of how technology is not going to replace people like listen independent insurance agencies when i came into this industry i'll never forget i was at a christmas party where you know they all come up we do awards and someone one of the good old boys that i lovingly called he said you know all i can say is twenty years ago they said the independent insurance agency is going to be extinct and i am happy to tell you that that's not the case and i think there's are still people who think like our channels getting threatened because technology is happening or robotics are coming in or whatever and at what people miss is human connection in a industry where things are very complex i mean what you just talked about going to a business and talking about the risk that you see there and the advice that they need will never ever be automated but the random stuff that you put out there on on you know content about things that are not human connection or not your your expertise can absolutely be commoditized so i love that you use that as an example because i think that's the key is finding how to enhance what we do not replace what we do right


Matt Oneill (16:14.660)

absolutely i agree one hundred percent with what you're saying


Carey Wallace (16:18.179)

yeah and also and make it become predictable so you also talked about not just reacting but also making these things be that you can be predictive or be anticipate needs can you can you expand on that a bit more


Matt Oneill (16:35.100)

yeah so for a long time when i would go out and i would speak with agents and underwriters just about anyone in the industry i would always ask them one simple question when does someone need what you're selling and what do you think i would get nine times out of ten what do what do you think most people in this industry believe when do they need when does the insured need what we're selling they'd often say when at renew or at the time of a claim right yeah right so if i ask an agent underwriter when do we when does the insured actually new we're selling


Matt Oneill (17:04.940)

at the time of a claim well if we think about the claims experience and being a customer experience professional i'm trying to think about how do i elicit emotion and what are those customer touch points within that customer experience journey well claims claim is usually costly for the insured it's going to change their rates it elicits negative emotion and i don't know if you've heard stories about severe claim scenarios but it can be life altering it could be a death it could be an amputation it could be you know loss of home loss of property loss of assets could be shutting down the business and that becomes a large rip effect within the community as employes now need to find a new job the owner needs to find new things so i i think that we're just telling the wrong story which is why it's challenging to tell a story in general a lot of people in our industry believe that our job begins at the time of a claim the claims process is extremely important and i'm not undervaluing that whatsoever but it is more important for so many of the people that we're protecting every single day whether it's the family or the organization to have someone that can reduce the likelihood that a claim will even happen in the first place if you start thinking about your role as an advisor to the insured as being pro active in terms of risk management and educating the consumer on things that they need to um become safer and have less claim frequency and severity it's going to help the insured it's going to help the agency because you're going to increase your customer lifetime value but it's also going to help the cars as well the reason they're in hard market is because of claim frequency and severity going up in so many different market segments if we can use their lost control teams to minimize claim frequency and severity now underwriters will have more nderwiterflexibility they'll have more appreciation for the agency and again like it just helps out everyone in general and that security of what insurance really is supposed to be but unfortunately for a long time i think we're just getting we're just telling the wrong story as an industry and um you know it's such a simple mind mind shift but i think it's a really important one we really need to reckon with ourselves


Carey Wallace (19:08.819)

so you know we keep referencing this article and the article let me let me go up here the article is a journey to the CX Energy right the customer experience energy um if you listen to a lot of people in our industry they actually believe if you do not have a renewal strategy if you do not have a customer experience strategy you're going to miss out i mean we have the fact is agencies have a ninety percent renewal rate or they stray i have to have a ninety percent renewal right right but they do it without a strategy a lot of the time those that are actually becoming very intentional about that strategy and are measuring what that is will find that sometimes they're not at the ninety percent they're actually far below that and they need to be intentional about it right so i think what you're talking about will become more and more important and certainly as we're sitting in a hard market is more important than it ever has been at least in in my experience and insurance thus far correct so yeah so you know talk to me about a particular example of this team that didn't have a director of customer experience prior they came to you with something in and they basically said give it to matt and see what he'll do with it can you give me like an example of one of those things that every agency owner can relate to really wrap their head around what would this role look like in my agency if i if i wanted to tread down this path


Matt Oneill (20:45.760)

yeah so as i said i'm not responsible for any particular book of business so there needs to be a way to bench mark my personal success so we used when i joined we used a methodology called traction if you've heard of the book i know many agencies out there beginning to implement a process like that or their own version of traction and what i adopted for g m g was kind of their rock analogy so every quarter i would come up with three to five rocks that i would i would execute on and you know usually always expanded beyond that but we said what are the three to five cour things that this quarter if we could hit a home run in terms of our customer experience that would help move the needle for all departments and that can be anywhere from marketing to sales to service to cross selling um now one thing that many agencies i believe as you said they believe that customer experience is incredibly important but how many agencies actually have structured customer experience meetings in their agency probably almost of them right so what we do now is once a quarter we have a customer experience meeting that i lead there's someone from at least one represented from all departments so one service team member one new business person the agency leaders in there and that's really where i begin to present these these rocks these opportunities and that's an opportunity as i said i support the company it's not the other way around they're not supporting my initiatives it's my job to support their goals and vision so i listen to them and then i come up with the ideas that i think are important than they can solicit feedback so a simple example for g m g when i first joined i did employ interviews with every single person within the agency because i knew that it was not my job to come in and start using my experience as a consultant to change all the processes within the company the company has been around since now i think it's like nineteen thirties or something like that so they're doing stuff that works so it's my job to understand what works and then where the opportunities for improvement a simple simple thing that we integrated into into the company their benefits department was actually through an acquisition um and they kind of felt like they were still kind of managing their own processes and it just felt like it was a bit disjointed from the personal commercial side of the business so i sat down the benefit team i understand the processes the sales process the service process that they used and then i tried to marry it with the service processes that the commercial department uses and then incorporated some of my suggestions as well so now a lot of the communication that goes out in terms of renewal in terms of you know service in the accounts are creating structured service plans all of that all has a similar look and feel so if we were to cross sell commercial to employ benefit client or vice versa the experience does not feel disjointed just because you know the two different departments operating in two different you know ways are with two different parts of the insured organization


Carey Wallace (23:42.679)

yeah it's super incredible


Lindsay Wallace (23:45.273)

yeah i really like how you put a highlight and i wrote this down in my notes but like the first step to the change and the changing processes that you recognize when you go into an agency is you at first have to understand what's working and then you can go and change the process and i think that that is a really important step for someone like you mean my mom who we don't actually work in the industry like we don't you know have an agency um i know you said you were licensed but like i'm not licensed and i actually went on jason casts podcast a while ago and i i said i don't work in the industry i work for the industry right because i've never been that person in an agency who's doing the work and so i'm never going to fully understand everything that goes into that i can do my best right i'm doing this podcast so i can learn read people's news letters i read articles i talk to agents i go to conferences but i'm not the one actually doing the work so i really like how you said that you know that's something that you have to do before you can elicit that change


Matt Oneill (25:01.580)

yeah and Lindsay your role is similar to what i try to do here at GMG right so like i said the agency leaders could do a lot of what i am doing right now but they're busy working on you know employ you know employ engagement or new business production or you know any of the other leadership aspects h r right there's a million hats that the that these owners are trying to run and agency owners you know they're getting a million emails from clients and prospects on top of so like you it's my job to really listen to the team here at the agency and then understand you know based on my personal experience or as you did i go out and start listening to what what's happening and i oftentimes find it more valuable to look at other industries and bring tactics and strategies from other service based industries into our industry because i believe that a lot of people in our industry are using very similar strategies or tactics or we're just viewed as a commodity going you know working ninety days before the renewal and that's not what i want to do i really want to try and enhance the experience so let's find out what's working in these other industries and replicated in our industry so it feels new and different and we're changing up the way that we're delivering experiences in our industry


Lindsay Wallace (26:13.413)

i love that


Carey Wallace (26:14.839)

so matt for the people who are listening to you i love that is i'm not going a look inside the industry to see how to how to innovate i'm going to look outside the industry talk to me about which industries you focused on that you see the biggest similarities ones that may be other people should check out


Matt Oneill (26:33.060)

yeah so the number one industry that i tried to mimic a lot of what we're doing is off of real estate there's so many big brokers i was lucky enough a couple years ago to go to like when garry vanerchuckdid a program in down in miami sows there and bryan sarhan actually spoke about something very similar where you know he never he wasn't he didn't grow up wanting to be a real estate agent but what he wanted to do is he loved being on tv and so he real estate is kind of his background and used it as story telling and that's how he built his personal brand so to me that really hit home and as you start looking at a lot of these other real estate brokers that have very large followings online all they're doing is showcasing their personal brand on something that is otherwise a commodity right selling at home is just selling trying to sell four walls in a pool right and so again like why why can't we do something very similar or even on tik tok there's a ton lawyers that have made legal seem interesting right they give they give advice that is not you know it's not intended for a legal use but it is just there for educational purposes again why can't we do that we work with so many cool companies and individuals and families and all they're doing is just communicating across these these platforms and what they have learned that our industry i think is still trying to understand is how to leverage the platform in its native use to connect with the people that are s h frequently using that particular platform


Carey Wallace (28:06.399)

yeah so i'm gonna share a quick story with you because i think part of it is independent agents don't give themselves enough credit they don't understand how unique their role is so i was i got in an ober this is i'm just going to go down a rabbit hole for just a minute because it's so it just fits so clearly with what you said so i got into uber with a really good friend of mine and he's an independent agent is a scratch agency once someone i admire a you probably know him his name Seth Saremba do you know seth yeah so we get in this uber together and he strikes up a conversation with the uber driver of course and the know he asked like is this what you do for a living do you do anything else and he said i actually am an elevator mechanic i work in a machine shop for elevator so immediately seth jumps into well do you do use this organ this type of machinery or this type of machinery nd i'm like what he knew how to relate to this guy on a very deep level about a topic i know zero about but because he's insured some kind of machine shop that this guy obviously was familiar with i mean the guy lit up he was like someone knows my language this is amazing and he's you know talking about it and i'm literally sitting here in awe like are you kidding me right now that's that's what's crazy like they know so much about so many businesses because you have to understand a business in order to write their risk you know what i mean and i don't think you give yourself enough credit how impressive that is to be that diverse in your knowledge to be able to relate to anyone you meet you've probably written some kind of insurance that connects the two of you and so you know your idea about going out and talking to business owners and talking about what that means and demonstrating the value you bring to that business not in a direct way but kind of like hey this is what i see in your experience is so critically important but you know he didn't even think that was that was unique that he could relate you know


Matt Oneill (30:14.580)

you know yeah and i think i think you're also hitting on something that is also commonly overlooked the most successful agents that i am aware of have a natural curiosity for the people that they serve if you talk to any million dollar producer yes of course they are incredibly knowledgeable right they spent the spent the time learning about industries learning about insurance risk imagine maybe a specific nitch but they have a natural curiosity for learning about other people because that's way that they're going t be able to write the right policies or offer the right recommendations and that's why they're able to produce so much business but the moment you put a camera on them they like get so scared yeah right but it's like just do what you're doing anyway just you know show cases because what you do and the hard work you go like behind the scenes the team going out negotiate with underwriters doing policy reviews maybe even you know touring properties like all of that stuff can be really interesting and engaging but people are i feel like for some reason don't offer that level of transparency around all of the nitygrity so people just think it's policy pushing it's quoting but it's so much more so the people are out there that can deliver on this type of emotional engaging content but they need to they need to just be aware of the native platforms that they're building this content for and go out and just try it


Carey Wallace (31:36.699)

yeah i know i think it's the humble nature of some of the people as well like they really it's their second nature to care and to be interested and be inquisitive i wished i had a camera in the back of that over because i was you're like florid i'm thinking i he's a person that connect can can connect with someone in moments time but it's a gift it's a true gift and i think that's the differentiator right


Matt Oneill (32:02.860)

yeah so one thing when it's funny you said that like agents being humble so when i used to speak with agents i used to ask them when they felt hesitate about doing these types of marketing practices i used to ask the agent do you feel like your clients re better off with you than they are without you right obviously every agent is hopefully going to say yes i believe my clients are better off with me than here without me then i would i would follow that up with then you're actually doing your community a disservice by not going out and telling the community about what you can do for them because every day that you don't go out and tell your story about how the community is better off with you and your agency than they are without you you are running the risk of that business owner not being properly protected that employ not being reminded about the safety the safety protocols within the company or that family reminding them on safety practices to keep their family safe so it almost should be your mission to go out tell as many people as you can about your processes and how you're able to deliver value that protects the community so that they can don't have claims in the future you know and you can't guarantee that they won't have any claims but if you can reduce the likelihood that that will happen you are protecting the community and that's really what this industry is really all about


Lindsay Wallace (33:22.873)

hundred percent hundred per cent so my favorite question to close with of all time is what advice would you give yourself if you were just starting in this industry in the role that you are now


Matt Oneill (33:41.740)

you know starting in the industry i would probably say you know be a sponge i think that's incredibly important i i learned from someone a long time ago about your professional career in general and it sat with me throughout my entire career so i'm in my i'm thirty four now so the way someone described your professional life is in your twenties it's almost like your freshmen in high school right you're really just bouncing around you you think you're big and brass your hot stuff right but there's there's a scene that know what they're doing right but you know you bring a different perspective and then you're gettin your thirties and you're in your sophomore year so now you have a better understanding of maybe what classes you're going to be taking what specialization you have a little bit more understanding of the ropes of the the high school that you're in the professional high school and then in your forties is your junior year and you know now you're really into the full swing of things you have your full momentum and then you're gttinyour fifties and now you're senior and you just don't care it because you're getting ready you're getting ready to move on to the next great thing and so to me that's always sat with me so you know if i went back to my my freshman year of professional growth i would say just be a sponge and don't be afraid take advice from the people that are older than you and wiser than you because while you may not agree with it there is a reason that they are giving you those recommendations and it's your job to take those recommendations study them do your own research and then make your own valid um u know conclusion based off of everything that you've come up with don't think that you're going into this industry


knowing everything or that you're coming up with the next great idea because it probably has been tried before and maybe you just need to figure out your own spin on it to make it actually successful


Carey Wallace (35:22.419)

yeah get in there and figure out what's working don't try and just be radical about it learn from other people and actually get that foundation in place right


Matt Oneill (35:32.000)

absolutely absolutely


Carey Wallace (35:34.219)

i love it i love it well matt i am super excited that we got reconnected publicly how about that like no no no better way right and i am super excited to see the content that you're putting out there i think it's incredibly timely agents everywhere need to be thinking about how do i have a customer experience strategy a retention strategy how do i get my story out there in a meaningful and connected way not just pushing content to push content and i think you know you're definitely driving that that conversation and showing it by example inside the agency you you're in today so thank you so much for joining us i really appreciate it


Matt Oneill (36:14.980)

thank you Carey, thank you i mean like you i think we're just trying to help the industry write there's so much upside here so like like i said if anyone wants to digest that information you were mentioning like i have a monthly article that comes out on linked in so feel free to hop on there i really am an open book that was part of my agreement with the g m g team that i can share kind of the experiments that i'm doing here that they allowed me to play around with so you know i just want to help people change the perception of this industry at something i learned very earlier on that there's a lot of opportunity right sometimes it just comes down to the right story telling


Carey Wallace (36:47.699)



Lindsay Wallace (36:47.973)

for sure thanks so much matt


Matt Oneill (36:50.800)

yeah thank you Lindsay great to meet you too


Lindsay Wallace (36:52.953)

you too