5 Questions with a Renaissance Alliance Member: Ted Hughes, Cushman Insurance Group

5 Questions with blog post image

Cushman Insurance wrote 300 new policies during a year-long cross-sell project that you set into motion in 2020. How did that initiative come about, and how did you motivate your staff to write that much new business?

Like other agencies, we spent a lot of 2020 closed to the public as a result of the pandemic – so we decided to increase our focus on making more money from existing clients. Plus, we knew that when you round accounts, your average retention improves greatly. We launched an incentive program in which our 15 account executives could earn $25 to $50 new clients, and $20 to those who rounded an existing account. Some managed to round five or six a month, while others upsold eight to 10 a month. We awarded the CSRs who rounded the most accounts tickets to a Patriots game.

One of my CSRs who traditionally sold well but didn’t do a lot of rounding came around to the idea that you can just call up an existing client and pitch them by saying, “We can give you a discount on your existing policy if you carry this other coverage with us, too.” On an Auto policy, for instance, some customers would save $100 and basically get a renter’s policy for free by rounding up. She ended up saying to me, “This is so easy; I don’t know why I didn’t do this before.” A year later, we’d sold 300 new policies. Over the last three years, we added about 2.5 points to our retention.

We use the Arno app regularly. I’d been trying to get meaningful data out of our CMS for years. But now I’m getting reports that I never knew existed, that are yielded from our data set. It’s very easy to track. It’s definitely one of the big benefits of the Renaissance relationship. Michael [Freilich] and his team are doing great things.

What’s your agency’s overall percentage balance between Personal and Commercial lines?

We’re about 80% personal, 20% commercial. I’d like to get that closer to 66%/33% or 70%/30%. It’s a challenging environment for commercial lines. Our clients on that side include large contractors, manufacturers, and tech companies, among others.

Most of Cushman’s premium volume is placed with Renaissance Alliance’s Core Plus carriers. What benefits does that approach provide the agency, and how is that placement accomplished?

We were a pretty large agency before we joined Renaissance – we had partnerships in place with almost all of its core carriers then. We rolled all of our business into the core carriers.

Our philosophy is, if we want to move a client to a different carrier, the customer has to be paying the same or less, and the coverages have to be equal. At the end of the day, we have to do what’s best for serving the client. That said, we don’t get too much customer pushback. I work with [Business Transfer Advocate] Dan Bernblum, who helps us go through our client list proactively about 60 days before renewal. It’s great to have a second pair of eyes, and it gives you a chance to review all your customers’ risk profiles to make sure they’re with the right carrier.

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How do you use social media to promote the agency, and which platforms do you find are the most effective in getting the word out?

About five years ago, I caught the Gary Vee bug and went down the rabbit hole of social promotion. I learned a ton of stuff, but within a week I discovered it was way too much work to do by myself. We hired a team that handles our social media – Metter Media, in Cambridge, Mass. They do everything, from our blog posts to social, to e-mails, with calls to action back to our web site.

I’m still trying to get better at advertising through Facebook. You can get super granular in audience targeting, and it’s cheaper than doing mailings. For $500 I can get in front of thousands of people, where if I’m doing mailings you’re only reaching about 250 people for the same amount. We’re trying all different methods, but I’ve found that Facebook is the most effective platform to reach people over 45. When we want to skew younger (25 to 40 or so), I do Instagram posts or stories. On LinkedIn, you can repurpose your Facebook and Instagram posts to get in front of business owners.

One thing I can tell you: When it comes to social media, keep the tone light. Let’s face it, no one’s going on Facebook to learn about their deductibles. Give them a laugh along the way.

How does Cushman work to retain clients? What strategies work best for that?

We run AMS alerts on renewals; if there’s a double-digit price increase, we proactively reach out to the client and provide them options before they start calling around. That’s worked well. Even if it turns out to be a coverage challenge we can’t solve that day, let’s get ahead of it. Customers want us to know that they’re not just a number. If you show that you’re aware of that and that you care about them, that makes all the difference.

This is a great industry. I’ve done well with it, it’s given me joy. I try to give back to the industry as much as I can, to provide the same access and opportunities to others that were granted to me when I was starting out. I’ve served as co-chair of the Young Agents Committee for the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents (MAIA) and on its executive board.

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