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It’s Who You Know Featuring Bob Preston, Preston Agency

Posted on 13 Mar 09

Facebook. My Space. LinkedIn. Dozens of on-line social networking and business networking sites where people connect…Yet the most basic platform for any social or business networking can be found right in your office, amongst your staff. That’s what Bob Preston of the Preston Agency found out when he decided to implement a program to supplement the firm’s commercial lines database. And his idea paid off.

“We discovered a way to find “sleeper” accounts using our own staff,” says Bob. “We divided our staff of 44 into four teams of eleven. Each team consisted equally of commercial lines, personal lines, admin and production personnel. Each was charged with coming up with leads — people who they know or do business with, perhaps the person who built their home or from whom they bought a car. They had to compile a list of leads that met the general parameters we provided,” says Bob. They could also include names of buildings they drove by, names they saw on business vehicles, trucks, etc. The parameters included business size, type, etc., and were given as general guidelines, although all leads were counted.

“We had never done this before,” said Bob, “we’ve never asked our staff who they knew and were pleasantly surprised with the list.” The information they garnered included: contact name, business name, location, phone number, personal connection if any, and a brief bio if possible. Each lead was then input into the agency’s database, ACT, and uploaded into (an on-line service for free profiles of large to small companies worldwide) so that the marketing department could determine which businesses would be pursued.

The contest ran for nine months, and generated 2,900 qualified leads in total, with the fourth quarter of ‘08 generating 1,200 leads alone. “It was a complete surprise,” says Bob. “And the first- and second-place winners were even more of a surprise as they are not salespeople, producers with Type-A personalities. One is our bookkeeper, the other an account manager outside of commercial lines.”

“The program began as a way of team-building, and a way to bond,” continues Bob, “and ended up an effective complementary marketing addition to our overall agency strategy. People really got into it, there was real camaraderie and team spirit generated,” says Bob. “It encouraged the staff to think outside the box.”

The “who-you-know” marketing plan cost the agency just $500.00 in prizes and an immeasurable amount in good will and team spirit among the staff. Bob plans to begin the program again this April.

The Preston Agency is based in Rhode Island and was founded in 1949. Today the agency is the fourth-largest in the state and writes approximately $45 million in premium, 85% of which is in commercial lines. It serves over 6,000 clients throughout the U.S.