If You Had to Do it Again Part 2

by Bill Gough, Allstate Hall of Fame Member

A week ago, I talked about what would I do today if I had the chance to start my insurance agency over.

We got a lot of response, so let’s discuss Part 2 and how to market your agency the most profitable way.

What I am talking about today, I didn’t learn this until I was in the insurance business for 19 years. I kind of knew it in the back of my mind, we all kind of know it, but how do you learn to market your agency market like that? Well, you have to be in a growth frame of mind and constantly be willing to learn and try new things. If not, you’ll hit plateaus along the way or worse, be in the status quo, the mediocre majority, and that’s not me. And that’s not you, or you would not be reading this right now.

A week ago, I talked about hiring specialists like, sales superstars, instead of generalists. It’s critical but marketing the way a small business owner should is too. This is especially true over the long haul, and that is why we are in this, right?

Almost all small business owners, especially insurance agency owners, have made many marketing mistakes because we did not know the importance of it nor how to do market profitably like a small business owner should.

We cannot learn from the corporations we represent. The marketing they do is brand or image marketing. Their company trademarks, tag line, logo, etc. is what they push with their pretty image ads because it is one of their biggest advantages and to win industry awards. Very little has to do with measurable results.

Agency owners have limited marketing budgets, and image marketing will quickly eat up the budget with little return.

We have tried, a lot. Buying advertising in every media including radio, TV, newspaper, print, social media, etc. from professional sales people with their statistics claiming this and that. But when the approved image ads run, there is not the rush to our door like those media sales pros claimed, but boy did their pitch, with great stats, sure sound good.

The best marketing agency owners can do for big profits is … DIRECT RESPONSE MARKETING. And the only way to do this and be compliant is by creating your own agency ads and marketing pieces because you cannot use your corporate logo and trademarks.

Direct Response Marketing Ads and Techniques allow you to accurately measure things like:

  • response rate
  • cost per lead
  • cost per sale
  • return of investment
  • lifetime value of a customer

The 3 things I would today if starting over to drive new business sales with long term retention are pretty simple to me now because of my many years of experience using and studying/understanding direct response marketing for small business owners.

First, I would establish a Referral Rewards Program for my customers, prospects, and centers of influence. It would be a marketing centerpiece and be included in everything we send to clients.
The multiple rewards would be:

  • gift card ($10-$25) with every referral
  • charity donation ($10-$25) for every referral
  • monthly drawing prize gift card ($25-$50) from all referrals year to date
  • annual grand prize drawing December (HDTV, IPAD, or another nice prize)

The beauty of this program is that you own it and you can do pretty much what you like prize wise. If you follow my lead and use what is in our BGI marketing manual, you’ll be safe. If you do something else, be careful as you are regulated not to exceed state allowed gift limit on each referral. Also, remember you have to give gift cards to all referrals, not just those resulting in a sale. That would be illegal in all 50 states.

Second, I would set up a communication plan for my customers, prospects, and centers of influence. I would use multimedia, especially the media you can control.

The media that I like to use are:

  • Agency newsletters which should be mailed and emailed.
  • Monthly email drips
  • Text messages
  • Social media
  • Voice broadcast
  • Direct mail to existing customers growing the relationship
  • Direct mail to laser targeted prospects with great offers (benefiting them not, image ads) to attract the most profitable client

The biggest mistake that most agents make when communicating with their customers, prospects, and centers of influence is only talking about insurance! That’s boring. You become boring very quickly because people don’t care about insurance. They care about relationships, and you can easily enhance that relationship by becoming a valuable resource to them by making their lives healthier, wealthier, and wiser. Remember… that’s the real business we are in, the relationship business. The insurance products we offer are just our deliverables.

Finally, I would use direct mail with direct response techniques to my customers, laser targeted prospects, and centers of influence. In the last 14 years, I have studied the best direct response marketers on the planet both alive and dead. Some of them include Dan Kennedy, Bill Glazer, Joe Polish, John Caples, Eugene Schwartz, John Carlton, Perry Marshall, and so many more.

We all know that direct mail can be very expensive to acquire new customers. Quite frankly, it does not make sense economically in most cases … especially if you follow cookie cutter plans like what is often pushed by insurance companies promoting brand and just mailing quotes to lists that are not very accurate for an agency to profit.

A list that is 75% correct is profitable for a major corporation because of their huge budgets and with agents footing part of the tab. But for an agency, that prospect list needs to be 95% correct to make it work profitably in the long term. Mailing lists need to be properly mined for the correct data or what you are mailing is basically junk mail. Big list companies do not do that for you. They may claim they do, but that has not been my experience. The real money is in the quality of the list.

The next step is your team of specialists answering the response from your marketing efforts has to be properly trained to turn that prospect into a customer. Many times, you only get one shot, if you blow it; it’s like flushing cash down the toilet. You see how this works together.