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Ladder Safety: Positioning and Using the Ladder

Ladders are a commonly used tool at self-storage facilities. Beyond choosing the right ladder initially, facility owners and managers should know and implement sound ladder usage, including proper ladder positioning.

Ladder Positioning

Take a look at the area where you want to set up the ladder. Make sure that there is clear space around the bottom of the ladder, keeping in mind the Four-to-One Rule for straight and extension ladders. Also make sure that the area around the top of the ladder is clear, paying special attention to avoid power lines or other potentially hazardous obstacles.

Get help carrying ladders that are particularly heavy or long.

Place the ladder on even, solid ground. Avoid using a ladder on slippery surfaces and steer clear of areas with surface ice or water. Avoid placing a ladder on uneven ground, and never place a ladder on boxes, pallets, truck beds or other unstable surfaces.

It is generally not advisable to place a ladder in a hallway or doorway, although it may not be avoidable because of the building design. If you must place a ladder in a hallway or doorway, set out caution signage a few feet away from each side of the ladder to ensure that no one inadvertently walks into or knocks over the ladder.

Using the Ladder

If using a step ladder, open it until it locks firmly. When using an extension ladder, make sure that it is locked or tied off securely.

Make sure you are wearing proper footwear before climbing a ladder. You should be wearing sturdy, closed-toe shoes with non-skid soles.

Climb the ladder one rung at a time, placing both hands on the side rails. Keep your hands free by carrying tools in a tool belt or by hoisting them in a bucket.

When descending the ladder, place both hands on the side rails and step down carefully one rung at a time.

MiniCo Ladder Safety Video

See our ladder safety video to learn and share basic ladder safety rules.

You can also test your knowledge of ladder safety: take the quiz!

See all of our self-storage safety videos here.

Ladder Safety

Ladder Safety: Choosing the Right Ladder

Ladders are a commonly used tool at self-storage facilities. Owners and managers can minimize potentially unsafe ladder usage by initially choosing the right ladder.

Choosing the Right Ladder

Portable step ladders, straight ladders and extension ladders are probably the most commonly used ladders at self-storage facilities. Here are a few safety rules to keep in mind when choosing a ladder for a particular task.

  • The Third-Step Rule – If you can’t stand on the third step from the top of the ladder and easily reach your task, the ladder is too short.
  • The Three-Foot Rule – If you are stepping from the ladder onto a roof or other structure, the ladder must extend at least three feet higher than the structure.
  • The Four-to-One Rule – This applies to straight and extension ladders. For every four feet of height, set the base of the ladder out one foot.
  • Three Points of Contact – The ladder must be tall enough for you to maintain three points of contact – both feet and one hand – at all times.
  • Weight Limit – Identify the weight limit of your ladder and make sure that your weight, combined with the weight of any tools, does not exceed the limit.
  • Scaffold – If your task requires you to lean out or move around, a scaffold may be a better choice than a ladder.

Inspecting the Ladder

Once you’ve selected the appropriate ladder for the task, examine it carefully to identify any defects or other issues.

  • First, check to ensure that the base is not worn or uneven and that non-skid pads are clean and intact. Look for cracks, rot, splinters, broken rungs, loose joints or bolts, and bent rails or braces.
  • For extension ladders, make sure that the ropes are in good condition and that hooks and locks function properly.
  • Finally, clean the ladder if necessary to remove dirt and grime that could be masking potential defects or oil that could make the surface slippery.

MiniCo Ladder Safety Video

See our ladder safety video to learn and share basic ladder safety rules.

You can also test your knowledge of ladder safety: take the quiz!

See all of our self-storage safety videos here.

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3 Free and Effective Ways to Market Your Insurance Agency Online

Online marketing doesn’t have to involve large advertising costs. It’s very possible to grow your insurance agency with “earned media,” including local search optimization, blogging, and social media.

Local Search

Claim and Optimize your Google Local Page

As we discussed in a previous blog post, claiming and optimizing your Google places page is one of the best things you can do for building your insurance agency’s online presence. When a potential customer is looking for your service, there is more than an 80% chance that they are searching on Google first.

Claim the Top Directories

While thinking of your Google profile as your home base on the Web, there are secondary local business pages that will help to bolster your online “findability.” These include your profiles at Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, Dex, Manta, BBB, and others. Be sure to claim these as well, also making sure that you are using the exact same address and contact information.

Seek Reviews

Many local online business listings give users an opportunity to leave reviews. These reviews are becoming increasingly important, as they affect the search rankings of local businesses. They also shape the reputations of service providers online. Encourage your satisfied customers to find your business online and leave favorable reviews.

Blogging

In addition to claimed local listings, adding relevant articles to your insurance website’s blog will grow your digital footprint. Write about things your customers care about, speaking to the questions that your ideal customers ask most frequently. Write regularly to establish a pattern. Be sure to write for people and not for search engines; content that is actually helpful tends to rise to the top.

Social Media

Finally, social media is useful for amplifying your existing content, as well as curating and sharing relevant content from other sources. Like blogging, it’s important to create and maintain a social media posting calendar. There are several popular social media networks, including Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. The latter is thought to be the most effective as a business-to-business platform.

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The 4 Elements of Cyber-Liability Risk Management

The majority of businesses do not have adequate cyber-liability risk management procedures in place. Moreover, many do not understand the four fundamental elements of risk management as they apply to cyber-liability exposures.

Risk Avoidance

Avoiding the activities that could cause risk will, of course, help businesses avoid risk overall. There are extreme measures like not accepting credit card payments and not using the Internet within the facility. More reasonable measures can include the following:

  • Do not write down or copy confidential information.
  • Use the Internet only for business transactions.
  • Prohibit employees from using the Internet for personal reasons.
  • Store sensitive documents in a locked, fire-resistant file cabinet.
  • Dispose of sensitive documents by shredding.
  • Use security cameras and lighting.
  • Connect the facility to a central security company.

Risk Reduction

Businesses can reduce the likelihood or severity of loss through the proper policies and procedures. The following are risk-reduction strategies:

  • Implement written policies and procedures regarding the handling of sensitive personal information.
  • Train employees on policies and procedures. Review and update these regularly.
  • Screen employees using criminal background checks.
  • Utilize third-party, PCI-DSS-certified vendors who comply with the major objectives of the certification standards.

Risk Transfer

Sharing the burden of risk with another party is a form of risk management. This can include both insurance and contracts.

Insurance

A variety of coverages and policies are available to address cyber-liability exposures at various price ranges. Companies should work with their independent insurance agents to analyze risk and identify appropriate coverage and limits.

Basic liability coverage can include privacy notification and identity protection expense, public relations expense, electronic-data restoration expense, and more.

Contracts

It’s crucial to understand any contracts with customers and vendors. Businesses need to know what risks they are assuming, and they should always seek legal counsel to review contracts. Insurance requirements should always be discussed with an independent insurance agent.

Risk Retention

Finally, risk retention is the acceptance of risk, which includes both a lack of coverage, and the purchasing of a policy with specific coverage as it relates to a particular exposure inclusive of the policy’s limits, sublimits, and deductibles.

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Attract Young Agency Talent

As more insurance agents retire, many are considering agency successor plans and looking to recruit young agents. However, successfully recruiting from the upcoming generation of Millennials may require a change in strategy.

The Current Generational Shift

The latest report from global management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. estimates that the average age of an insurance agent in the United States is 59, and one quarter of the industry’s employees will retire by 2018.

At the same time, Millennials will replace Baby Boomers as the largest living generation. The Census Bureau projects that the Millennial population was 74.8 million in 2014. By 2015 Millennials will increase in size to 75.3 million and become the biggest group.

A Change in Values and Motivators

Millennials are often perceived as workers who are no longer fully motivated by employee benefits, salary, and loyalty alone. Many Millennials will also want a defined career path, an opportunity for growth, and to feel like they are making a difference. Successful agencies will integrate these factors into their operations and recruiting.

What can agencies can do to attract and retain young agents?

Create an Enjoyable Workplace. Millennials place a high value on a pleasing workplace. When possible, promote a flexible work environment, and anticipate the changes in your company culture that the Millennials will bring.

Prepare Millennials. The new generation needs to be educated on the insurance industry in general. Develop a mentorship program to train young potential agents.

Leverage Experienced Workers. Creating a mentorship program with experienced agents is an effective way to transfer and capitalize on the value of seasoned employees.

Offer Niche Programs. Niche programs create a real opportunity for young agents to build their book of business, also helping to differentiate them with specialized knowledge in unique industry segments. MiniCo offers niche-related resources and marketing materials for new agents. Contact MiniCo’s Customer Care Department at customercare@minico.com or 800-447-8383.

Provide a Career Path. Provide the meaning and gratification that many Millennials seek by defining internal opportunities for advancement within the organization.

Utilize Their Digital Fluency. As the first generation to grow up immersed in technology, make sure that your agencies systems are up to date. Not only is this attractive to young talent, it also helps agencies to maximize the return on their native digital skills.

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Protecting Your Clients Wine Collections

Like an increasing number of individuals, some of your clients may be wine collectors. Many wine collections are increasing in value, and collectors may be inadequately insured.

The U.S. Wine Market Is Growing

The U.S. is now the largest wine market in the world in terms of revenue. According to Impact Databank, the estimated retail value of wine shipments is increasing at 5% each year. In 2013, it was a $36 billion market.

Home wine cellars are more popular than ever. Homeowners are increasingly in favor of renovation over moving, and many are increasing their homes’ value with the addition of a wine cellar. Not only does this add a “wow factor,” it has the practical purpose of preserving and collecting quality wine.

Wine Valuations Are Increasing

A wine collection can represent a significant asset, especially as the value of some wines is increasing. Auction prices are hitting new highs in recent years. In fact, three bottles of Château Lafite-Rothschild 1869 vintage sold for $230,000 a bottle in 2010! While the average collector may not own such a coveted piece, it’s likely that their collection is undervalued – and at risk.

The Limits of Homeowner’s Policies

Collectors may be well-versed in the proper care of their wine, but they may not suspect that they have inadequate insurance coverage. Collectors may believe that a standard homeowner’s policy will provide the appropriate coverage in the event of loss, damage or theft. Additionally, they are often unaware that it may be more difficult to have a collection accurately appraised though non-specialized insurance providers.

Insurance Tips for Wine Collectors

There are several simple steps collectors can take to insure that their wines are valued and insured properly:

  • Wines should be reappraised on a regular basis. Doing so helps to ensure that coverage is adequate as market values increase.
  • Good documentation should be maintained. Collection owners should document their wines’ details, beginning at purchase, with a full description and invoice.
  • Finally, it’s vital that collectors consult with a specialized insurance professional. This is an opportunity to make sure that your clients are adequately covered with the proper policy.
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Understanding Cyber-Liability Risks and Costs

As businesses become increasingly Internet and network reliant, cyber-liability risk is a very real concern. With the proper awareness, businesses can reduce their exposure to the costs of cyber-liability risks.

What is Cyber Liability?

Cyber liability is the risk posed by conducting business over the Internet, as well as other networks and even electronic storage technology.

First-party cyber liability occurs when a business’s own information is breached. An example of this is a hack that exposes internal company emails containing trade secrets and financial documents. The potential effects of this include threatened competitiveness and reputational damage.

Cyber liability is considered third-party when customer or partner information is breached. Incidences of this can include a hack that results in the theft of customers’ social security numbers. The potential effects of third-party liability can include lawsuits, statutory fines, loss of consumer trust, and reputational damage.

Cyber-Liability Exposure is a Growing Risk

For several reasons, cyber liability has a growing risk of exposure. Risk is accelerating because of our Internet-based and networked systems. The lack of awareness of the risk is leaving many unknowingly vulnerable to liability. To make matters worse, current laws are inadequate to protect businesses from cyber-liability exposure.

The Types and Cost of Cyber Crimes

The most costly cyber crimes are caused by malicious insiders, denial of services attacks, and web-based attacks:

  • Malicious Insiders: Threats to an organization that come from current or former employees or others with inside information concerning the organization’s security practices, data and computer systems.
  • Denial-of-Service: An attempt to make a computer or network resource unavailable to its intended users, commonly achieved by saturating a resource with external communications requests.
  • Web-Based Attacks: Malicious manipulation of a website’s code or application via viruses, malware and other methods.

Other cyber crimes include “phishing,” stolen devices, malware and viruses. The rising costs of cyber crime include physical and financial losses, as well as a loss of productivity.

The factors affecting the cost of a breach are many. Factors that increase costs will include lost or stolen devices and any third-party involvement. Factors that actually help to reduce costs include having an incident response plan in place and maintaining a strong security posture.

Cyber crimes and liability are ever-evolving and complex subjects. It’s crucial to consult a professional who is well versed in the area. Talk to your independent agent about potential exposures and available insurance coverage.

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Get More Leads: Inbound Marketing for Insurance Agents

Inbound marketing has become a buzzword. But what does it mean, and how does it apply to insurance marketing?

The Opportunity

A business without a website and strong “digital footprint” is missing out on huge growth potential. Smart independent agents are turning their web presence into lead generation tools.

What is inbound marketing?

The key to inbound marketing is to capture interest that already exists, rather than trying to generate new interest. Inbound marketing for insurance agencies works by creating helpful content and becoming a resource for potential clients. Since the insurance industry is always evolving, savvy independent agents can truly become a source of clarity for consumers, positioning themselves as trusted experts and authorities.

How inbound marketing works

In the online space, there are two sources of visitor traffic: paid and organic. Although inbound marketing can be initiated from a paid source, such as the Google Adwords advertising platform, many inbound marketers use organic or “earned media” to be discovered. This can include content creation like blog posts, videos, whitepapers, and infographics.

Once you’ve attracted visitors to your website or social media profiles, it’s important to keep them coming back. For inbound marketing to work, a kind of online relationship must be formed; this could be maintained with an email newsletter subscription, a social media following, a bookmarked website, and more. In one form or another, the relationship needs to be nurtured, and these ongoing digital touch points are at the core of inbound marketing’s success.

Points To Make Your Inbound Marketing a Success

  • Target a specific audience. Focus your message on that group.
  • Use social media effectively. Post regularly and remember who your audience is.
  • Blog with consistency, placing an importance on quality and relevancy.
  • Use marketing materials like eBooks and blog posts to address the most common questions and concerns of your ideal customer.
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See You In Las Vegas! Meet The MiniCo Executives and Learn About Cyber-Liability Exposures

MiniCo will be on the road this week attending the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas. The expo is one of the largest events in the self-storage industry, and we look forward to meeting and speaking with a wide range of self-storage industry professionals.

If you are planning to attend the expo, I hope you will stop by the MiniCo booth and learn more about our exciting new tenant insurance solution that could be the perfect fit for your self-storage operation. Insurance executives will be on hand to speak with you one-on-one about how this new tenant insurance solution can have a positive impact on your company’s bottom line.

Cyber-Liability Presentation
I would also like to extend my personal invitation for you to join me for the presentation Cyber-Liability Exposures for Self-Storage Operators: Understanding Your Online Risks. We have all heard the news stories about companies such as Target, Home Depot, eBay, and Sony that have been the victims of cyber attacks. The risk of such a breach is not limited to large companies. If your self-storage operation does business online, accepts credit cards, or stores tenant information on site, you may have exposures that could result in costly lawsuits and claims.

The presentation will address the growing risk of cyber-liability exposure and provide details into the actual costs involved in resolving a confidential data breach. We will examine cyber-liability from a risk management perspective and discuss specific coverages that are now available in the insurance marketplace to address cyber-liability exposures.

Awareness of Risk
My primary goal for the presentation is to make self-storage owners and operators aware of the risks. As I have said in this space many times over the years, awareness is the key. It will be an information-packed session, and participants will walk away with talking points for a detailed discussion with their independent insurance agent.

I look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas!

Mike Schofield
President and CEO

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Essential Steps in Art Collection Management

If you’re an agent who insures clients with art collections, it’s crucial to make sure your customers have well-researched, written records of their pieces. While a professional appraiser will likely have a role, you can advise your accounts to also maintain an ongoing process of research and documentation. The following is an overview:

Document: Maintain a unique file for each work. Be sure to include the purchase invoice with seller information and purchase date. Include any photos that were provided at the time of purchase. Make several digital copies of all documents, stored online in separate locations.

Checklist: It’s important to create a checklist with essential items, including artist, title, description of work, date of work, materials, dimensions, and condition.

Research: Gather and save any available outside information on your piece, from relevant websites, newspapers, magazines, and blogs. Try to learn more about the artist’s body of work, as well as any specifics that relate to the artwork you own.

Tracking: It’s a good idea to understand the overall market conditions; are values increasing, falling, or at a plateau? This can be important not only for valuation, but also for security and estate planning. For a more precise appraisal, always make sure to visit with a professional.

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Claim Your Business Listings To Get More Leads Online

Claiming your own online local business listings is at the core of any successful digital insurance marketing presence. If you follow the best practices, you’ll see increased referral traffic to your website – and even phone calls – from your listings at these sites.

What Are Local Business Listing Pages?

Local business directories contain your business name, address, phone number, and other details. Many of the most popular will also have a place for customer reviews. The most popular listings include Google+ Local, Bing Places, Internet Yellow Pages, and Yahoo! Local. All of these are free.

Why Claim Yours?

Your insurance business’s presence is increasingly dependent on local listings. Your “findability” goes up with the amount and quality of your listings. You will receive more traffic and potential customers.

Business listing directories share data with each other, so the more listings you’ve claimed, the more Google and other search engines trust you. This can increase your online rankings and traffic as well.

Do You Qualify?

To qualify for a local listing, you must have all of the following:

  • A business name.
  • A local phone number that matches your city of location.
  • A dedicated physical street address. PO boxes do not qualify.

Best Practices For Optimizing Your Business Listings

  • Be Consistent: It is very important to be consistent with your essential information, including business name, address, and phone number. These should be exactly the same across all of your listings.
  • Choose The Right Categories: You are usually allowed between two and ten business categories. It’s essential to select as many as you can that are truly relevant to your insurance agency or business.
  • Claim The Most Important Listings: Beyond your essential listings at Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Facebook, you should claim listings from a handful of other sources. The following are named by local ranking authority Moz.com as the top listings for the insurance vertical: yellowpages.com, superpages.com, dexknows.com, calculateme.com, manta.com, indeed.com, and local.yahoo.com.
  • Beware Of Duplicate Listings: Make sure you haven’t mistakenly listed yourself twice in the same directory. It can cause confusion in the local listing “ecosystem”, actually hurting your rankings overall.
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MiniCo Offers Customized Co-Branded Flyers for Agents

The self-storage industry continues its positive growth trend, offering a large marketplace for agents seeking to grow a new book of business or expand their current client list.

Resources for Agents Writing Self-Storage Risks

If you are a P&C or personal lines agent interested in exploring the self-storage market, MiniCo Insurance Agency can help you get started. Contact our Customer Care Department at customercare@minico.com or 800 447-8383 for more information about the self-storage industry in your state.

Customized Marketing Materials

MiniCo can provide a prospect list of self-storage businesses in your area as well as a customized co-branded flyer to assist you in your prospecting efforts. The flyer includes information about MiniCo’s self-storage insurance coverages and can be customized to include your agency’s logo, contact information, and a brief company description.

Click on the link to view a sample.

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Protect Your Clients from Business Income Loss Due To Weather

Severe weather events can happen at any time of year. Businesses need to be ready for this very real threat, and business income coverage can provide a layer of essential protection.

Tornado season begins early in the spring and continues to affect many parts of the country through the summer months. Hurricane season begins in the summer and continues into the fall. Businesses need to be ready for the very real threat that severe weather and natural disasters pose. In fact, the U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that 90 percent of businesses fail within two years following a disaster.

Business Income Coverage Is Essential

Would your clients’ businesses survive an interruption? In the case of natural disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that 40 percent do not reopen. Of those that do reopen, as many as a quarter will fail within one year.

Many business owners naturally have the idea that large-scale disasters, like earthquakes and hurricanes, are responsible for catastrophic business failures. In reality, even-small scale events can pose a serious threat to continued operations.

Business income insurance (also known as business interruption insurance) covers the policyholder for the expenses and loss of income following a suspension of operations.

MiniCo Provides Extended Business Income Coverage

MiniCo has over 40 years of experience writing self-storage risks. We’re uniquely able to understand the challenges of this coverage. Business income insurance is complex. It is frequently misunderstood and often undersold. Yet many times it is the difference between business continuation and failure.

Our self-storage specialty insurance offers extended business income coverage with the option to extend coverage for actual loss incurred from 15 months (included) to 18 or 24 months. We at MiniCo invite you to learn more about how you can offer this vital coverage to your clients. Contact a MiniCo representative at 800-447-8383 or customercare@minico.com.

Insurance Business – Form an Alliance

MiniCo - AllianceLet’s talk about the marketing avenues you have taken in your insurance business so far. We have covered social media marketing, other ideas to create and promote your insurance brand and ways to treat current and future clients. Have you thought about building an alliance? If you are a new insurance agent or an agent who wants to improve your agency’s marketing reach this is a must read!

Business to Business

What is a business alliance? A business alliance is an agreement between businesses, usually to motivate and improve service for the customer. For example, if you are an insurance agent who sells self-storage insurance, you may want to connect with all your local self-storage facilities and speak with the owners. Below are a few ideas to help you get started on your own business alliance.

Ways to Form an Alliance

~    Select a proper partnership for your intended goals. If you are going to build a business relationship with someone, make sure you are both on the same page. An alliance will not work if they are not working with you or do not understand the main goal.

~    Share the right information. One major issue businesses face is follow-through; if your partner does not have all the information they need to accomplish the common goal, how can they be expected to follow-through. Did the partner do what they said they would?

Who will you connect with first?

 

Lhea Inzalaco

MiniCo Insurance Agency

MiniCo President and CEO Will Speak on Cyber-Liability Exposures

MiniCo - Cyber LiabilityMiniCo President and CEO Mike Schofield will be a featured speaker at the upcoming Inside Self-Storage World Expo to be held April 7-8, 2015, in Las Vegas. The expo is the largest annual trade show for the self-storage industry.

Cyber-Liability Exposures for Self-Storage Operators

Mike’s presentation is entitled Cyber-Liability Exposures for Self-Storage Operators: Understanding Your Online Risks. While websites, social media, property-management software and electronic databases help streamline self-storage business efficiencies, these technologies are also subject to privacy and data breaches that could result in reputational damage, loss of sales, costly claims or other legal issues.

The session will include information about the basics of cyber-liability exposures, why there’s a growing need for cyber-liability insurance coverage, the differences between third- and first-party liability coverages, how to obtain cyber-liability insurance, and coverage sublimits and the requirements for filing a claim.

5 Great Topics to Blog about for Insurance Agents

MiniCo - BloggingAs an insurance agent, marketing is a top priority for your agency. Blogging can be a great tool to market your business. Now you need to come up with ways to make yourself stand out from the rest! Have you thought about blogging? Would you know what to write about? We want to help you come up with some creative ideas to help you create content you can use for your site.

Let’s Get Creative

First, let’s think about what your readers would like to see, what would they want to know and how you can teach them while keep them interested. Below are a few great topics to start off with.

Insurance Blogging Topics

  1. Why I love being an insurance agent – Write a blog about why you decided to become an agent and what are the best parts about what you do.
  2. My agency’s values – Your clients want to know about your agency’s values and see that you stand by them. If you don’t have a values statement, this is your opportunity to create one.
  3. What I am doing to make a difference in my community? – Create a blog about the steps you are taking to get involved in local charities or organizations to make a difference in your community.
  4. I am motivated by… – Write a blog that describes how you motivate yourself to create new business and keep your existing clients happy.
  5. The importance of self-storage renter’s insurance – Some of your clients may rent storage units that you don’t know about. This is a great opportunity to let them know the importance of purchasing coverage to insure their stored items.

Post a link below of your next insurance blog to share with us!

 

Lhea Inzalaco

MiniCo Insurance Agency

Insurance Business Marketing – Advertising vs. Marketing

MiniCo - Marketing vs. AdvertisingIt can be confusing understanding the difference between advertising and marketing. With new technology being used and marketing becoming more sophisticated, people buy much differently now than they did 10 years ago. Advertising is when you communicate to your consumers by print or electronic media. Marketing is a broad area that includes advertising and many other elements. Continue reading