Easy Direct Marketing Methods for Insurance Agencies
This Month: Strategies for Letters, Post Cards, Newsletters, Testimonials, Referrals.
Selling insurance is tough: too many agents selling too few clients, and ouch - trying to show value when all you are selling is a piece of paper that no one really thinks he needs… until it’s too late. But you knew all that. Here’s how to get more business and keep the customers you have.
Send a “Thank you for your business” letter.
I’ll bet you ten bucks that I know the last piece of correspondence your customer received from you or your providers: it was a bill. Right? OK - 99 out of 100 of you pay up. Break this cycle of insurance bills with something refreshing. Send a bottle of champagne. Just kidding. Send that bottle to me, Schramsberg/NAPA is just fine. To your clients and prospects, send a couple of refreshing “Thank you” letters.
Spend the 74¢
To keep customers happier and longer, twice a year send them a letter simply thanking them for being a customer. Let them know their business is appreciated. Paint a picture of your firm on high alert 24 hours a day: if they need you - you’ll be there. Let them know you appreciate their business and that you are eagerly waiting to serve them. Your customer retention rate will soar. Your customers will be happier; therefore, your customers will be your customers, longer. As for me, I’m still waiting for that bottle of Schramsberg.
Now I’m not talking about the pre-printed “Thank You” card you get from your accountant each Christmas. Ugh. That’s close to worthless (don’t tell your accountant, I’ll start getting nasty letters). I’m talking about a real, bonafide letter. Signed personally by you, or at least someone who works with you who is willing to sign all those letters with your name in a blue pen. Yes - twice a year. Cough it up: postage 74¢. That’s not much of a cost to retain a customer. Do you know what other agencies call your best customers? Prospects. I personally think a letter is the cheapest customer retention strategy you can use, and the most effective. Hummmm. . . cheapest; most effective.
See, nice guy that I am, I started off this article with my best tip first. It’s all downhill from here. Or is it?
Don’t start a Newsletter.
That’s right, don’t. You’ve got to be crazy to start a newsletter. 90% of the ones I get are terrible: no direction, poor copy, lousy photos… everyone’s dressed. Nothing like that Hooter’s newsletter I, er, a friend of mine signed up for 2 years ago. What? What do you mean you don’t think there’s continually fresh and interesting news from a restaurant chain?
Most newsletters are written with no clear objectives, and some just ramble on in a dialog “about” and “by” the president… like someone cared about his babble on the new boat he just bought. In reality - where I virtually think we are - newsletters are just a lot of work. They may start out with some enthusiasm, but soon become the drudgery of month after month of hard work, eventually assigned to someone as a thankless job no one really wants to do. Without lively copy, great design, consistent frequency and timely delivery, newsletters lose all effect of branding and building customer loyalty.
Case in point: Q. The number one priority of a newsletter? A. It must be read. To be read it must be fascinating and interesting beyond belief. Remember, if it ain’t read, it ain’t working. See my article on newsletters elsewhere on this site. Or visit www.dobkin.com for this and other articles of marketing tips I’ve written.
Instead, create a series of post cards.
That’s right, slightly oversized 5-1/2” x 8-1/2” post cards print nicely 2-out of an 8-1/2” x 11” sheet. Spend some time on graphics and copy to make them really interesting and clever. Since I just mentioned “newsletter, ” I know some readers are now hell-bent on creating a newsletter, so you guys can title your post card “The World’s Tiniest Newsletter. ” Then design it like a tiny newsletter. Well, I hope that made your day. Still stuck on newsletters? Call this number and complain: 610-642-683. If I really cared, I’d have given you the last number, which is 2. It’s our fax machine. Or at least the fax machine of our competitor.
Post cards can look good printed simply in one or two colors… so they can be inexpensive to print. While I don’t mind one color printing, I do always prefer an upscale sheet of paper (like bright-white Cambric Linen). Don’t use glossy stock unless your post card is printed in 4 colors, as the post office mail sorting rollers will leave black marks on it. Mail post cards once a month to every 6 weeks for consistency, or to maintain Top-of-Mind awareness.
Write about anything… as long as it’s interesting. The limitations of space ensure the brevity of copy; this generally will make sure the card remains interesting to a good degree.
Somewhere, somehow on the card, say “Call for a quick quote!” to encourage people to call. If the objective of the card is to generate a call and it doesn’t, it didn’t work, did it?. Supersize the phone number and follow it by a longish laundry list of all the types of insurance your firm offers (or that you can get for your customers). If it’s a long list - and it should be - set the list in small type - and print it on the lower portion of the bottom of the card.
Here’s an example: Since you live in Nebraska, boat insurance probably isn’t your main livelihood, or flood insurance either, so most of your customers probably don’t know you can get these kinds of coverage for them along with their tractor insurance. By listing all the kinds of insurance policies you sell on this card, all your customers who own boats (both of them) will get the message that they can call you for a quote. Other customers and prospects will see what they need also - and call for quotes, too.
The list of services is not the main message in the card, but it lets clients know that you offer a full depth of different products, and they can get all their insurance quoted and placed by a quick phone call to your office. Remember, if you don’t get calls from your post cards, and thus additional business - they didn’t work. Then let me guess: Your mailings went into your “we tried direct mail and it didn’t work” file. How unfortunate. Know who’s getting those phone calls if you’re not? Your competitors. Their post cards went into their “Holy Cow! Look how much money we made from this little post card mailing!” file.
Why are phone calls so important?All your business starts with a phone call.
Any time you can make the phone ring - especially for a quote, you have the opportunity to generate a sale, or perform a service for your customer. Either way, if you look at this more closely as an opportunity, you’ll find a phone conversation is a great way to increase a client’s loyalty and endear them even more deeply to you and your company.
If you can get the phone to ring from a mailed piece, the piece is a total success, even if you didn’t get any business at that exact moment. Here’s why I say this: I’ve been in direct marketing for… OH MY GOD AM I THAT OLD ALREADY!. Anyhow, it’s tough to sell something from a sheet of paper, especially insurance, which is sometimes tough to sell anywhere, even in a stuck elevator for 12 hours with 6 doctors whose medical malpractice policies have an ex-date of tomorrow. Come to think of it, if you want a business decision from a doctor you’ll have to ask his office manager or his wife. Either way, a “yes” answer will take a month.
By trying to sell something directly from a sheet of paper, you get no feedback, no buying signals. You can’t tell where the hot buttons of your clients are. When do you back off? When do you press for a close? All this may come subconsciously when you’re selling in person, but I assure you a lot of thought has to go into a printed piece to get to these specific areas with just the right timing, correct pace and selling proposition to close a sale from a flyer that you sent in the mail.
Armed with the knowledge that it’s very difficult to sell anything off the page, don’t even think about trying to sell anything from your mail piece. The objective of 99% of the letters, mailers, post cards and brochures I create for clients don’t sell anything - the objective is simply to generate a phone call. My client is the one that does all of the selling. With your brochure, you do the selling when they call.
Face the further fact: create letters and mailers with the sole objective of making the phone ring. When the phone rings - the piece worked. Voila. Now we know it was successful. Then you sell the client.
For an article I’ve written on post cards, just drop me a letter requesting it: Jeff Dobkin, P. O. Box 100, Merion Station, PA 19066. No, an email won’t work. I’d like to make sure you really want it and an email won’t show me this - I don’t want to get 5,000 emails requesting stuff like the last time I offered something free on the Internet. Ugh.
OK, let’s get back to more tips about your post card mailings. Sending post cards every four to six weeks keeps your agency in “Top of Mind” awareness of your clients.
When they need new policies, or a quote… when they have friends that need insurance services - they’ll think of you. Whoa. When they have friends??? Can you say “referrals?”
Referrals and Testimonials
I don’t know about you, but I hate asking people for referrals. So here’s a way to get them, and how to use testimonials in your marketing. It’s even tough for me to write a personal letter asking for a referral without sounding like a bleeding heart solicitation piece I once wrote for the “Friends of Kaballah” association who needed money for guns, but… a post card can serve this function just right.
Let’s say someone refers a client to you, from the post card you just sent them with the copy on it saying, “Thanks for all your referrals! We appreciate our customers and friends who refer clients to us for our fast and friendly quotes. Don’t forget: we’re always ready to help anyone - whether they are our client or not - with any of their insurance questions or problems. Please let your friends and colleagues know to just give us a call at 800-987-6543 - we are always happy to help. ” You remember that post card, don't you? So now what do you do?
Besides opening that nice bottle of champagne celebrating the new client you just got, and then sending me a nice bottle of champagne for that new client you just got - you know, the one you already forgot to send me from the… oh never mind, you send the referring person a thank you letter. No, a call is not the same. With a call, after you hang up the phone you cease to exist. And don’t even think about sending them that pre-printed accountant’s thank-you card we discussed earlier - it still won’t work. You send them a hand typed letter thanking them. Right from your own computer. Signed by you in blue ink. Same as before.
Here’s what we do around here when we get a referral. We send the referring party a nice letter, a really nice letter, and a Cross Pen, engraved with their name on it. Sure, we could have my company name engraved on it, but the only person that would think that’s great is… me. That pen goes inside their desk drawer. Big deal. But when we havetheir name engraved on a pen - well, that pen goes in their shirt pocket (man), in their pocketbook (woman), or on top of their desk (neutered). And you just can’t buy that kind of “top-of-desk” real estate. Or “top-of-mind” awareness.
Don’t worry, they’ll remember from whom they’ve received it - from the nice letter you sent them with the pen. You, umm, did send them a really nice letter with the pen, didn’t you?
Thank you very much for your kind referral of me. I appreciate it.
I don’t take referrals lightly, or for granted. A referral means that you thought enough of my services to recommend me as a professional, and thought enough of me as a person to recommend me to a colleague.
I appreciate your trust - and assure you I will always act well within the framework of fairness and good taste, and will strive at all times to provide exceptional value.
Thank you again for the privilege of your referral, the opportunity to be of service to your associate, and your trust.
A call - or an email - is not the same. You see a “Thank you for your referral” letter is a touchy, feely thing - kind of like that cute little red haired secretary you had until your wife found out. Don’t feel too bad, my wife won’t let me go out on dates, either. What the letter really says is that you cared enough to sit down and type a personal letter, print it out, sign it, find an envelope and a stamp, and mail it. It was an effort.
Now they have a permanent record of your sincere thanks that can sit on their desk for days, and if it’s anything like my desk it probably will. I have letters from 1995 on my desk. But that’s in another article I was going to write - about procrastination - but I keep putting it off.
So you’ve just sent a Cross Pen to a person who just referred a new client to you. What do they think? They think: how nice it was, and start looking around to see who else they can refer. Is a new client worth the $25 of an engraved Cross Pen. I think so.
Has anyone ever said anything nice about you or your firm? Oh. Don’t worry, it hasn’t happened to my firm yet either. But when anyone does say anything good about you, your firm, or your services, tell them that it’s very flattering to hear, and ask them if they would mind if you use that as a testimonial. Wait for their answer. After that awkward pause, they’ll say sure. Then they’re committed. Then you make it more formal.
Youthen say, “Can I write down what you said and send it to you in a letter, have you look it over, and if it’s OK would you approve it. If not, just let me know - that’s OK, too. ” Most people, seeing that it won’t be a lot of work for themselves, will say sure.
So you can now write down pretty much what they said - and you can take some liberties here, they won’t remember exactly what they said - send it to them in a well constructed letter and have them sign it. You’ll get a letter with a great testimonial (because you wrote it) that someone has signed-off on without causing them to do any work. They’ll be happy. You’ll be happy.
Also, here’s a big plus: your testimonial letter will be free of any spelling errors or typos that my own client’s letters always seem to have. You know, that’s why letters and articles I’ve written always have a few typos and spelling errors in them - so clients (and editors) won’t feel embarrassed that they’re the only ones who make those errors. And I’m a-stickin’ to that story. Anyhow, never trust a man who only has one spelling for any given word.
When pitching to a new client, tell them the difference between your agency and others is service, and bring out a really big book of recent testimonials. It’s probably the most convincing sales tactic you can use.
©2003 Jeffrey Dobkin
Jeffrey Dobkin, author of the books, How To Market A Product For Under $500!, and Uncommon Marketing Techniques, is a specialist in direct response writing. He writes powerful, response-driven sales letters, TV commercials and scripts; persuasive catalog copy; and exceptionally hard-hitting direct mail packages and blah, blah, blah. . . if it needs to be written, give him a call. He also analyzes direct marketing packages, ads, catalogs, and campaigns. Mr. Dobkin is an exciting and humorous speaker and a more serious direct marketing consultant. Call him directly at 610-642-1000 for free samples of his work. Visit him at http://www.dobkin.com.