How insurance brokers can cultivate loyalty in their customers

If you drive down the average street of the average city in North America, you’re going to pass several insurance broker offices, each offering basically the same service to the same clientele at the same price.

True, a broker might be able to identify a few key areas where their business offered insurance products that were different than their competitors were offering (especially if the broker used competitive analysis to study the competition) but I promise you that most of your customers couldn’t tell you apart from the other brokers on the street.

In many cases, customers simply go back to their broker’s office out of habit or because no where else seems to be any better.

But what would happen if a new and innovative insurance broker shows up on the block? One who opens early, stays open late, has a play area in the office for the kids, and offers Starbucks coffee for the grown-ups? Those small differences might only be surface differences but they could be enough to steal the customer away from you. (“Convenience AND coffee? Sure, I’d give that a try. What difference does it make?”)

What insurance brokers should really use to attract and retain their customers has absolutely nothing to do with tiny, meaningless innovations. What insurance brokers really want is:

  • Loyal customers who wouldn’t be tempted away by the hours/play-structure/coffee.
  • Loyal customers who would drive across town to buy from you instead of a broker closer to where they live.
  • Loyal customers would become evangelists and tell their friends and family to buy insurance from you.

How can you achieve this?

Let’s forget about getting new customers in the door. That’s a post for another day. It will happen, too, when your loyal customers tell their friends and family about you.

Instead, let’s focus on the clients you have. Since you can’t compete on price or product, the most important thing you can possibly do is build a relationship with your clients.

I don’t mean a relationship where you send them an annual form-letter reminder every year (like this insurance broker does to me each year). I mean a real relationship — where you know what your clients’ kids’ names are by memory and your clients are interested in knowing what YOUR kids’ names are.

I’m talking about a relationship so meaningful that they invite you for coffee with them… just because it’s nice to hang out with you.

I’m talking about a relationship so meaningful that they don’t think of you as “an insurance broker” but “a friend… oh, he’s also ‘my insurance guy’.”

I’m talking about a relationship so meaningful that if you go to the hospital, your clients come visit you. (That’s what happened to my friend who works at a Starbucks. His customers visited him when he had to go in for surgery).

You don’t have to spend a lot of money on this kind of relationship but you do need to invest some time and energy.

Get to know your clients. Connect with them. Don’t use every connecting opportunity to sell insurance to them. Instead, build a true relationship. Build enough trust that you are one of the first calls when a major life event happens (a wedding, a birth, a death, a car accident, a new house)… whether or not that major life event will require more insurance. Build enough trust that they call just because you’re THAT important to them.

Here are some additional ideas and suggestions:

  • Give your cell phone number out. People like knowing that they can reach you any time even if they probably won’t call.
  • Find out what their kids’ names are. If their kids play a sport, show up to a tournament.
  • Find out where your client works and what their aspirations are.
  • Find out what your client is interested in and take an interest. Send them a link; clip a magazine article; ask a local event related to their interest (or tell them that you’re going to attend the event and would they like to come along).
  • Connect with them on social networks. (Don’t talk about business there!)
  • Encourage your clients to ask for you by name when they show up to your office. Tell your staff to get you when the show up. Yes, you’ll barely be at your desk but that’s a good thing!
  • Train your staff to recognize clients when they walk in the door.
  • Mail something regularly to your customers that doesn’t involve reminding them that they owe you money.

I’m just scratching the surface here. There is so much you can do to build relationships.

It all starts by considering these clients your friends.

Build a friendship and it won’t matter what kind of broker office opens up closer to their home with more convenient hours… they’ll call you up for coffee and a policy renewal, and they’ll invite along a friend who also needs insurance.