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“Communication Courtesy: 8 Ways to Ensure Your Digital Communications are Clear, Concise and Effective” by Patrick Galvin appeared in the February 2020 issue of Independent Agent Magazine, the official publication of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America.

As a successful independent insurance agent, you manage a busy calendar. Add digital media and its expectations of 24/7 availability to that and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Not long ago, the only way to connect with other people, other than a letter or in-person meeting, was via telephone. Modern communication now includes email, social media, text, video messaging and more. We have more choices than ever, which is both a relief and a source of stress.

The good news is that the essential rules of being a good communicator don’t change significantly from platform to platform. Follow these tips to make your digital communications stand out as an insurance professional and a business relationship builder:

Keep it short. Clarity and brevity are key to digital communication. Most people don’t have the time or patience to read through multi-paragraph messages. Or, they’ll read only the first few lines and will not fully understand the message, which leads to unnecessary back and forth.

Personalize your message. Short doesn’t mean curt. Always personalize your communications using a person’s name followed by a friendly inquiry, a reference to something you have in common or some other point of connection.

Be professional. Know what’s acceptable for different professions and industries. Texting may be preferred in some circles but entirely inappropriate in others. Regardless of the medium, pay careful attention to spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Stay top of mind. Take advantage of digital media’s immediacy to send brief connection requests to people you meet in the real world. A simple, “It was nice meeting you, let’s stay connected” will help pave the way for future communications.

Be the most interested, not the most interesting. It’s better to engage with a handful of people in meaningful ways than broadcast to an audience of hundreds. Follow the 1 in 10 rule: For every social media post or update about yourself or your business, commit to ten actions, such as likes, shares or comments that recognize the accomplishments of your connections.

Find reasons to connect. Use social media to monitor your connections for updates and reasons to reach out to them. For example, call or text to schedule a lunch date, write a personal card, or send a small gift of acknowledgment.

Sign off with appreciation. People have strong opinions about the best way to sign off on emails. One person’s “Warm Regards” may be another’s “Best,” “Sincerely” or “Cheers.” Yet, research shows that communications that end with a variation of “Thank You” get significantly more responses.

Pick up the phone. As sophisticated as digital communications have become, messages still get lost. More important, nothing compares to hearing someone’s voice and engaging with them in real time.

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Patrick Galvin is a keynote presenter, TEDx speaker, coach and business relationship building expert who works with insurance carriers and agents across the country. He is the author of “The Connector’s Way: A Story About Building Business One Relationship at a Time,” the bestselling business parable that features an independent insurance agency owner as its central character. Visit theconnectorsway.com for more information.