Becoming a successful independent agent takes time and is a gradual process. It’s not something that happens overnight. That said, there are steps you can take to accelerate growth and build up a book of business and expand your customer base more quickly.
In this third of our six piece series on becoming an independent insurance agent, we outline techniques you can use to connect with new customers and scale your agency.
Place an Emphasis on Obtaining Referrals
Referrals are integral to the growth and success of nearly all businesses. This is especially true in the insurance industry, which still relies heavily on word-of-mouth. In fact, four out of five insurance customers are influenced by personal recommendations, according to the Insurance Journal magazine.
Consumers trust personal recommendations seven times more than traditional ads, says tech writer Deyan Georgiev. Plus, when considering buying a product, 84 percent of people trust suggestions from family, friends and co-workers.
These numbers show how important it is for agents to gain referrals, especially during the earlier stages of business development. Once you have your first group of customers, you want to encourage them to tell others about you and send qualified leads your way. Therefore, this should be a focal point when striving to expand your customer base.
But how exactly should you go about this?
Provide an Amazing Customer Experience
One of the biggest reasons why consumers continue to turn to independent agents is because of the level of personal attention and expert advice they get. Independent agent Ashley Rosborough, is an account manager at Maine-based insurance agency J.T. Rosborough, who says her agency offers all lines of insurance. When she works with a customer, she acts as a trusted advisor who takes the time to learn about them, answer their questions and help them find the best policies.
It’s this type of one-on-one service that compels many people to not only stick with an agent but refer them to others. If you exceed the expectations of your first customers, going above and beyond, many will feel comfortable recommending your agency.
Providing excellent customer service means ensuring customers’ needs are promptly addressed, problems are quickly resolved and all advice is totally accurate, Tina Hammeke and Thiru Sivasubramanian at Insurance Thought Leadership. In addition to that, strive for a personal touch when dealing with customers, recommends the team at Affordable American Insurance, a network of insurance professionals.
Leverage Email Marketing
Another way to build upon your existing relationships and generate more referrals is through email marketing.
“Not only can your client base grow by providing subscribers with trustworthy information, it can also expand from recommendations from trusted friends and family members who already receive your newsletters,” says Jonathan Gessert, CEO and owner of digital marketing agency 321 Web Marketing. “Sharing an email takes a single click, and people who already like your content have nothing to lose by passing it along.”
Email marketing shows an average ROI of $44 for every $1 spent, according to Helen Holovach at sales automation platform Snovio, so it’s one of the best investments new insurance agents can make.
It’s just a matter of delivering valuable content through your campaign, where subscribers not only want to digest it but share it with others. For insights on how to go about this, marketing consulting Zach Emly created a helpful guide featuring several email marketing ideas for independent agents.
Network with Local Businesses
Besides looking to current customers for referrals, you can also gain them from local businesses.
“If you’re in the homeowners’ insurance marketing, for example, consider partnering with nearby real estate agents or offices,” explains the team at StateCE, a company that offers online continuing education courses and programs. “When they get a client who’s in need of insurance, they’ll recommend you to them.”
Of course you’ll need to reciprocate by referring relevant customers to those businesses whenever it makes sense. So if you’ve got a homeowner thinking of selling their home, you can recommend that real estate agency. This approach will allow you to both generate high quality referrals and build relationships with networking partners within your community.
Effective networking includes being active in community events, attending relevant conferences in your area and making contact information easy to find on your website, according to Iowa-based insurance provider Farm Bureau Financial Services. Even shopping locally can provide opportunities for you to meet business owners who may wish to do business with you. Also, by supporting people who live in your community, you can build your local reputation.
Tap Into Key Social Networks
The majority of Americans (at 79 percent) had at least one social media account in 2019, according to Jessica Clement, internet and ecommerce researcher at Statista. That means agents have the potential to reach four out of every five people through social media.
While it may seem a little intimidating to independent agents who have yet to embrace social media as a business growth tool, it’s actually quite simple if you start out with basic networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. These have become increasingly accessible to beginners, and you don’t need a wealth of experience to utilize them.
Success largely boils down to developing a sound social media strategy, creating quality content that resonates with your audience and actively communicating with your followers. By doing that, you should be able to generate ongoing leads and continually expand your customer base.
There are many helpful resources that can get you up to speed. For instance, Leadsurance founder Keller Tiemann created an in-depth guide about social media that can be of great value to insurance agencies.
Collect Contact Information
Another thing new agents should be aware of is that only a very small percentage — between 2 percent and 5 percent — of insurance leads is ready to buy right away, according to Bill Rice, founder and CEO of digital marketing agency Kaleidico. The rest need nurturing before they’re ready to commit.
That’s why it’s so important to collect contact information by, for example, creating an opt-in box on your website for visitors who want to receive information from you. As part of your email marketing campaign, you can maintain contact and gradually build rapport and trust with these leads, ultimately making them feel more comfortable about buying insurance from you.
Mary Fernandez at OptInMonster offers a step-by-step instructional on how to do this and includes examples for easy reference.
Another successful lead capture tactic is placing a “Get a Free Quote” button on your website where visitors can enter their contact information.
You can always bring social media users into your sales funnel by creating calls-to-action on the networks you use, says digital content strategist Raubi Perilli. For example, you could place a button at the top of your Facebook business page that directs users to your email opt-in.
Consider Using Paid Ads
To expedite your progress and build up your book of business in a hurry, you might consider paid ads. Insurance marketers make an average of $2 for every $1 spent on one of the largest pay-per-click platforms, Google Ads, according to digital marketing company Blue Corona.
The process is fairly straightforward. First, you choose a network where you want your ads to be featured. Google, Facebook, Bing and Twitter are some of the most popular at the moment, notes Vanessa Simms at SearchSouth, a UK-based digital marketing agency. Determine your budget and create ads built around targeted keywords, including ones based on your geographical location.
When done correctly, paid ads can send a steady stream of qualified leads your way, where they either contact you directly or engage with optimized content. There’s a lot that goes into building a successful paid ads campaign, but Agent Methods, a website design platform for insurance agents, has a detailed guide that can help you get started and learn the fundamentals.
Build Your Customer Base Quickly and Efficiently
After you’ve launched your insurance agency and established a basic book of business, the logical next step is to expand. You’ll want to take the initial momentum you’ve gained and use it to propel yourself forward.
While there’s no official formula that works across the board, the strategies listed here should provide you with a workable template to get the ball rolling. Putting the effort in to get referrals can allow you to capitalize on existing customers, and the other tactics should streamline your overall marketing efforts to expand your independent insurance agency more quickly.
Images by: Petar Dojkic/©123RF.com, stockbroker/©123RF.com, fizkes/©123RF.com