Scott Marxer: State Farm Insurance Agent, Poughkeepsie

Scott Marxer-State Farm Insurance AgentThe New In Guy

There’s a name buzzing around the tables at Vassar, Barnes and Noble, Panera Bread, Juliet’s Café and any other Dutchess county hot spots at which the smart crowd is currently congregating.

Scott Marxer.

He’s not one of Quest 500’s most eligible bachelors (he’s married), he’s not the new “it” trainer, he hasn’t won the lottery, he’s…

Insurance guy.

And locals really appreciate him.

“He makes it all so easy and understandable,” says one resident who dropped in for one-on-one advice assistance.

Marxer, whose freestanding State Farm franchise on Violet Avenue now employs two others, “was one of the top producers in the county in 2012 and he’s a first year agent,” says Heather Martyn, one of his team members proudly, pointing to a vintage-style pedal car that State Farm sent to award him for his auto insurance policy sales.

Marxer dispenses insurance wisdom to the county’s boldface-name types (think large university donors, owners of large retailers) as well as clients wary of the fiscal cliff. As Marxer, who began his career selling Mets tickets, phrases it, “It’s all about walking them through it slowly and gently.” Indeed, on the day we caught up with him to talk about his success, he spent more than 90 minutes talking a walk-in through a homeowner’s policy.  Actually an avid Jets fan, he’s happier on the sports sidelines and insuring other people’s success.

How did you become the “IN” guy?

I was working a hybrid role, support services, account management and sales, for businesses, running teams of 10 to 150 outsourced employees. I then launched a recruiting program for HudsonValleyHelpWanted.com and ran a 10-person sales team, but it wasn’t a cultural fit. Then I headed up TalentHire.com, based out of Atlanta, GA. In 2009 the economy forced the company to consolidate, and I couldn’t move south. I’m a Jets fan. Until the Jets win the Super Bowl, I can’t leave New York. I launched a consulting company and drew the attention of a State Farm recruiter through LinkedIn in August 2010. First you need to pass a personality test. Then create a business plan. Then you have a panel interview and are one of a pool of candidates considered for a retired agent’s area. Then you face another panel. If you’re lucky, and I was, you are accepted into the State Farm internship program. I started in May 2011 and that led up to my opening in January 2012. I had to do all the licensing, hire a team, get them qualified and licensed and make sure they had a firm grasp of State Farm products and underwriting rules.

How did Community Capital New York help?

Without a $20,000 loan from Community Capital it wouldn’t have been possible for me to market my agency as aggressively as I did in 2012 and currently.  I used the capital form CCR to aggressively purchase direct mail, approximately 5,000 bundles of 6 touches per household per month, and internet leads. Access to capital was crucial.

How did your business evolve?

One of the biggest things State Farm does for you is their direct mail program, which works in tandem with their national advertising. In my first year, we mailed 100,000 pieces in Dutchess County and the surrounding radius. I focused on the parents of teens, because State Farm gives exclusive discounts on youth drivers.

Serendipities that worked against you?

My announcement letter to clients I was inheriting used the wrong address and office phone number.  Client’s thought I was in Allentown, NY, wherever that might be, and I had a Pennsylvania area code.  It also took a year and a half  from the time the original State Farm agent located here passed away until I was able to take over. During that time lag, there were two other State Farm agents who babysat “the book,” giving clients someone local to talk to. With the mailing going to the wrong address, it created a lot of confusion and became a challenge to retain some policy holders. Unfortunately, I lost policy holders because of the incorrect mailing and other factors to both those agents.  However, I stayed positive. I could’ve brought my team down if I’d wallowed in the fact that I lost close to 300 auto insurance policies just after I opened my doors.

You knew you’d made it when?

In the first 12 months I came in second in Dutchess County for auto insurance sales-the person in first place is a 20-year plus agent. I wrote 437 auto policies—351 were brand new to my agency. Now, along with my family (wife and daughter, age 7) I am one of 8 agents from my intern class to qualify for an Ambassador Travel award and will go on a Mediterranean cruise this spring courtesy of State Farm. But I knew I’d really made it when on December 20, 2012 I signed my contract as a State Farm agent  (after a year’s trial period). And my commute is only 2 miles to home after commuting to NYC for 15 years.

Worst moments?

Trying to insure a family and having to tell a parent that their son has a DUI (driving while intoxicated) or that their daughter’s license has been revoked. And the hours are tough–6 days a week, open till 8 pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and in the evenings especially for life insurance. But helping people protect and secure their future makes it all worth it.

Best advice you received?

Stay the course and be flexible. I’m not a very patient person. People don’t respond to the first piece of direct mail. It takes 6 pieces of direct mail, we call it a bundle, to work. You get a call—the sweet spot—on the 3rd and 4th mailer.

What’s next?

My strategy this year is to be more proactive and follow up after the 2nd mailer by giving them a call. I want to get the opportunity to give them a quote and build ROI (return on investment) on the direct mail, which is still my most cost effective marketing tool.

In hindsight, you wish you knew?

I hired someone before I hired Heather and I wish I knew she wasn’t going to work out so I could have had someone who was going to be productive and positive in my first five months.

Scott Marxer State Farm Insurance, 382 Violet Avenue, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601. scott@scottmarxer.com