By: John N. Mason, CIC
Chenango Brokers, LLC
Have you ever heard the pleas for help at your local food pantry, and wondered how you could help? Maybe you sent a donation in during the holidays, or dropped a dollar in the basket during the second collection? That was nice of you, but I’ve got a secret that will help those in your town who need it, and put mounds of money in your pocket, all at the same time…
I’ve been in this industry since 1988, and I’ve tried it all. Classified ads. Radio ads. Showing up at the Chamber of Commerce dinner dance, those ads at the football games that don’t work, shaking hands at home shows. Heck, I even spent a few years selling non-standard auto insurance off the trunk of my car.
But, there’s a much better way, and you and your team members will all feel great about yourself for doing it.
Your local food pantry probably gets some help from the government, but it sure doesn’t go very far in feeding all the hungry mouths desperately looking for help. And those mouths are right in your town, maybe even people you know. You might not see them in all the places you hang out, but believe me, they’re out there, and they need your help!
For over 27 years I ran a small town independent insurance agency, and back in about 2010 or so, I was talking to an agent friend of mine in Canada and he revealed the secret he’d used successfully in his town to do this.
Most towns have a Harvest Festival or some other type of event at the end of summer to celebrate the changing of the seasons. In my town, it’s always been held on Columbus Day Weekend, so that’s when we kicked the promotion off.
We’d go to the company who does all our printing for marketing and advertising during the course of the year and ask her to print a few thousand fliers, which, when she found out what we were doing, very graciously donated the fliers to our cause. They did their part too, as a thank you for all of our printing business during the year. The fliers would announce something like this:
Local Food Pantry Desperately Needs Your Help to Feed Hancock’s Less Fortunate. The Shelves are Empty, Winter’s Coming and Your Neighbors Need Your Help NOW!
J.N. Mason Agency Partners with Hancock Rotary Club in Annual Food Drive to Help Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry. We NEED Your Help!
For Every FULL Bag of Non-Perishable (Non-Expired) Canned or Dry Food Brought to J. N. Mason Agency Between Columbus Day and (Date of Day Before Thanksgiving), J.N. Mason Agency Will Donate $3.00 to Loaves & Fishes and YOU GET A FREE GIFT JUST FOR BRINGING IN THE FOOD!
So, now you need some “partners in crime” to pull this off! Your printer has already generously donated the printing for the fliers, but hey, you can’t do it all yourself, right?
Here’s where your local Rotary (or other community service organization comes in . . . The service clubs love to do community service work and will gladly partner with you to get the job done. If you’re not a member, ask a local club if you could come in and be a guest speaker at their meeting prior to kicking this off. These groups are always looking for speakers, and more ways to help the community, so more than likely, they’ll say yes. You attend their meeting, explain what you’re trying to do, and ask them if they would partner with you to help the food pantry. Make sure you take the fliers to the meeting with you.
At the meeting, ask the Club President which member is in charge of community service projects. In my town, it happened to be the local Catholic priest. He then spread the word to the other churches in town, and distributed fliers. The bank manager is a member of the club, and she took fliers to her bank. The postmaster did too. Other businesses did the same. The fliers, which promoted the cause, were free publicity for my agency, all over town.
And the free advertising has begun for your agency. I sat quietly in the back of my church on Sunday listening to the priest encouraging his parishioners to bring bags of food to my agency. One week he challenged them: “Let’s see if we can bankrupt the Mason Agency this week!” The whole parish was in hysterics, and I’m sure the same thing was going on in the other churches, because the bags of food started piling into our office, from people who’d never set foot in the place before.
But you don’t stop there. . .
When the generous folks in your town show up with bags of food, of course you’re going to thank them, talk to them, maybe find out when their policies renew, and give them a free gift. The free gift is a re-usable shopping bag smothered with ads for your agency. It’s filled with the usual shiny stuff like pens, Post-it notes, etc., and also information about ways you can help them protect themselves with better insurance.
Why the grocery bag? Because you’ll stop in the store for a quart of milk a week or two later, and see ads for your agency all over the grocery store.
Now, you’re doing a great thing for the town, and more people should know, so you then create press releases and send them to local newspapers, radio stations, TV stations, etc., AND you get it on the internet! Go to the food bank, and take a video of yourself in front of the empty shelves, pleading for help and asking people to bring bags of food to your agency and you’ll give that donation to the food bank! Plus, they get a free gift! PEOPLE LOVE FREE STUFF! You post the video on Facebook and ask all of your friends to share it.
Your team will get in on the action, as they’ll help sort, pack and haul food to the food pantry when they’re ready for it. They’ll get excited and tell their friends and family too. More help for the food pantry, and more free publicity for your agency.
By Thanksgiving, you could collect a few pickup truckloads of food. Meanwhile you keep taking pictures of the food piling in, and sending them to the media and placing on Facebook during the campaign. At the end of the campaign, get pictures of your team loading the trucks in front of your office to go to the food bank. Of course all of these pictures get released to the press and on social media.
Then write the check with a very happy heart. Go to Kinko’s and get it blown up and printed on glossy cardboard. Then you call the president of the Rotary (or whichever service) Club, some volunteers from the food bank, the priest who’s headed to hell for hawking your agency from the pulpit, and the local media. You get them all over to your office for a photo-op with you presenting the big blown up check (and of course the real one, too). That goes to the press and on social media too. Then keep the blown up check to hang in your lobby for your clients, visitors and insurance company reps to see, and hopefully it will hang right next to the one you do next year and the year after that too.
But the giving doesn’t stop at Thanksgiving . . .
You see, in working with the local food pantry I learned that they make gift baskets for the families they help for the Christmas season. I thought to myself, “John, how you can help with that too?”
Presto! It hit me like a ton of bricks. . .
We all travel to conferences, company meetings, continuing education classes and vacations all year. As you travel all year, each hotel room is stocked with extra shampoo, soap, conditioner, shoe horns, sewing kits and the like. Scarf these items up all year, throw them in a box somewhere, and get them to the food pantry in the fall before they build their holiday gift baskets. These items are greatly appreciated by the folks who receive them, and you’re not stealing: they are figured into the cost of your hotel room! The next step is to start asking your business clients who travel to do the same thing and bring you the haul: they’ll be happy to help, the less fortunate benefit, and guess what: MORE FREE PUBLICITY FOR YOUR AGENCY THAT MIGHT HELP YOU LOOK LIKE A GREAT GUY (OR GAL) AND NOT JUST ANOTHER AGENT TRYING TO GRAB A COMMISSION!
Hopefully you’ll try this amazing community service project, which is rewarding to everyone who participates in it and truly appreciated by the members of your community who need a little extra help. Who knows, someday the tables could turn, and they could be helping you. Or maybe it will get you a few extra credits when your number comes up and St. Peter has to make a decision about you at the Pearly Gates!
If you want to put something extra in your own pocket, visit my website www.chenangobrokers.com and check out the products we offer that most other insurance wholesalers have no access too. We are providing products in several states coast-to-coast, and would love to help you help your clients! Not only that, in most cases, we can return your quotes to you in 37 minutes or less, sometimes give you online rating access, and will pay your commissions to you faster than a slot machine on steroids. Are your current wholesalers helping you, or helping you help your community?