Tweeting to the Top

Want to get business from facebook? Ask Cory Young what works for him. the Rhodes & Williams COO is making a name for himself one profile at a time.

Name and current job title: Cory Young, chief operating officer (COO), Rhodes & Williams Ltd.

What are you responsible for in this position?
My current role includes anything that can help our brokerage succeed, including overseeing all aspects of our personal lines department, helping in the marketing and management of the commercial lines division, and driving the growth and reputation of our organization.

What were your previous position and responsibilities?
I was promoted to chief operating officer (COO) last year from vice-president. The role hasn’t changed that much, although I have more authority and have taken over more responsibilities from our president, as part of our perpetuation plan. Earlier in my career, however, I was responsible for various roles in accounting and IT. Unlike most managers and leaders in our industry, I did not start in insurance sales. I think this gives me a different perspective.

Do you have a client profile? If so, what is it and how do you target these types of clients?
In personal lines, we write various types of clients. We have gained specific expertise in specialty personal lines business, such as boats and trailers. This resulted in a wealth of referrals from dealers who want to make sure that someone with specialized knowledge can properly protect their clients’ latest investments.

Where it becomes a game-changer is that most of my leads from social media come in the form of recommendations from others.

In commercial lines, we service virtually all types of business as a broker. However, our account executives target specific niches or industries. We have been referred to as a “generalist with specialties.” Our professionals do this by taking specialized courses, meeting with clients and prospects in these industries to learn more about the industry and what is concerning the players in that segment, and partnering with specific insurance companies with key knowledge, expertise and competitive pricing in those segments. An example of some of the niche commercial lines we have current account executives servicing are:

  •  Insurance for technology firms (which we have branded as Techcover)
  •  Retirement and senior living
  •  Construction and contractors
  •  Packaged insurance policy solutions

Do you segment your clients? How?
In personal lines, we segment our clients by account size. This allows us to identify clients that will receive our normal quality level of service, and clients that we can afford to do something special for. It also allows us to identify clients that we should be trying to round more effectively, for better retention, better revenue per client figures and most importantly, to better protect our clients.

TipFocus on more popular sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn).
That’s where most of the clients are and you only have so many hours in a day to effectively use on communication and marketing.

How do you market or brand your business? What is your branding vision?
We do very little traditional marketing at this time. However, we do use various online tools and sites for marketing our business. In fact, every interaction with a client is an opportunity to reinforce or hurt your brand, as is every comment, tweet or blog. A few items we focus on are:

  •  Client newsletters
  •  Website
  •  Twitter
  •  Facebook presence and Facebook ads
  •  Blog
  •  Targeted publications and sponsorships
  •  Targeted multi-touch-point-mailings

You use social networking tools to grow your business. What prompted this?
We felt that if our clients are there, we need to be too. This is just a new way of communicating with our clients and prospects. In some senses, it is a game-changer and in others, it really isn’t that different. In our business we have always recognized the importance of listening to our clients, learning about them, networking and interacting. Social media is just a different way of doing that. Where it becomes a game-changer is that most of my leads from social media come in the form of recommendations from others. This means we can’t simply market in the traditional manner anymore. We need to be present in social media and we need to be monitoring our brand. Within hours, a negative perception of your business can be spread across the world. What do you think the impact on your business could be if you are not part of that conversation?

Secondly, I am concerned about attracting the most talented employees to enable future growth in our brokerage. There is a lot of potential for this medium to be used as a successful recruiting tool.

Fill in the Blanks

Cory Young may be a hard-working top broker, but he also enjoys his downtime.

My hobbies are: Baseball, hockey, reading, camping, chasing my 5-year-old son around wherever he goes.

If I weren’t a broker, my dream job would be: Come on, I’m Canadian! Professional hockey player–I think I still have a shot.

My guilty pleasure is: I don’t feel particularly guilty about any of my pleasures.

How have these tools helped you expand your business and stand out from competition?
I believe that there are a few insurance brokers using social media effectively, there are some more just learning or getting their toes wet, and there are a lot who have stuck their head in the sand and hope it will go away. For the future of this distribution channel, I hope more start to learn about it, and find ways to use it to better serve their clients, though of course I don’t mind if my immediate competition wants to keep their head buried in the sand!

Tell us about one success story you’ve had from using these social networking sites.
There was one instance on Twitter when a woman that I didn’t ‘follow’ was tweeting about her displeasure with her agent, and asked if anyone could refer an insurance broker. A few of my ‘followers’ suggested that the woman contact me. What happened next was almost instantaneous. I left her a tweet telling her I could help, she tweeted back with her phone number and in about three minutes I had her on the phone. About 15 minutes after that, we’d processed her insurance and she was able to go pick up her car.

With these sites, you have to also remember that it’s not always about finding business. It’s also about putting in the time to provide information and become a great resource. This builds trusting relationships with clients and the media.

What advice would you give up-and-coming brokers?
I still consider myself an up-and-comer. I have accomplished some positive things in my career, but still have much higher aspirations for my brokerage.

My advice is to work very hard early in your career. This is a great industry to be in even though most of us don’t grow up dreaming about becoming an insurance broker. There is success to be had by ambitious, hard-working individuals. Work hard even when you think nobody is looking—it pays off. Educate yourself as much as you can early in your career–time becomes a lot scarcer once you have kids! Research the brokerage you are considering joining and ask: Are they progressive and growth-oriented? Do they plan to perpetuate internally, or sell to the highest bidder when the time comes? Are they committed to the broker channel?

Professional Accomplishments

  • 1996 Honours Bachelor of Commerce degree (specializing in marketing)
  • 1997 Registered Insurance Brokers of Ontario exam and licence
  • 2003 Canadian Accredited Insurance Broker (CAIB) honours certificate
  • 2007 First Canadian interviewee for Insurance Marketing & Management Services (IMMS)
  • weekly member news, “The Inside Track”
  • 2009 Featured on the cover of “The Ontario Broker”–official publication of the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO)
  • 2010 Serving on numerous insurance company advisory councils
  • 2010 Completed 4 of 6 courses towards the Canadian Professional Insurance Broker Designation (CPIB)

© Copyright 2010 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the June 2010 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine.

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Transcontinental Media G.P.