10 blog posts an insurance broker should write

Blogging is a great way for insurance brokers to build search engine optimized traffic and connect with their target market. If you are an insurance broker, here are 10 blog posts that you should write:

  1. Write about the different kinds of insurance you offer, but do so in an educational way. Don’t just try to promote life insurance, for example; talk about the reasons that someone can benefit from insurance as well as which insurance products are right for which situations.
  2. For each type of insurance you sell, write a series of blog posts about prevention. For example, if you sell house insurance, write a series of blog posts about protecting your house from burglary. If you sell life insurance, write a series of blog posts about staying in shape and eating right.
  3. Write profiles of typical customers and what kind of insurance they might need. These aren’t profiles of real people but rather profiles of the kinds of customers you work with.
  4. Describe a day in the life of your brokerage office. Talk about the different activities that you do.
  5. Entice people to your blog for more information than strictly insurance. Since insurance is only part of achieving peace of mind and enjoying life, write blog posts about enjoying life, such as activities that a family might do around town or a great recipe that you’d like to share.
  6. Many people base their insurance purchase on price. Devote a series of blog posts to talk about the concepts behind the numbers – why some insurance costs more and what you get at different “tiers” of payment.
  7. If you have employees, create profiles about each one so that your clients get to know them.
  8. There are some very common insurance products that everyone knows about but there are also some uncommon ones, too (like pet insurance or longevity insurance). Highlight some of those uncommon ones in blog posts and talk about when someone would want to have that insurance.
  9. Write a series of blog posts that define confusing insurance terms that your average client doesn’t understand.
  10. Write blog posts about local businesses who serve the same community in which you work. Review their businesses and talk about what they do. (This is a great way to bring in some local search engine optimization).

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.

How an insurance broker can piss off its customers in 4 short paragraphs

It’s that time of year again… when the broker that handles my house insurance pisses me off by sending me a letter reminding me of what bad customer service is.

The letter reads:

Dear Aaron:

Re: Policy xxxxxxxxxxxx

I am pleased to offer renewal of your policy which presently expires on April 15, 2011. The information I have on file would suggest coverage of at least $xxxxxxxx on your dwelling this year. Based on this amount, the premium for renewal is $xxxx.

You currently have $xxxx sewer back up coverage. If you have installed a sump pump and back flow value you are eligible to increase this limit. Please call me at your convenience to discuss this.

I recommend that you review your current policy, taking note that there are limits of insurance for unscheduled items such as jewellery, furs, bikes, stamp and coin collections, etc.

xxxxx is a full service insurance office insuring homes, cottages, apartments, condominiums, boats and motors, aircraft and all classes of business as well as AUTOPAC and TRAVEL insurance.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely

xxxxxxxx

We are now on the web. Visit us online at xxx.xxxxxxxxxxx.xxx

Let’s ignore the grammatical errors in the letter and the redundancies in the PS.

Here are some of the problems I have with this letter:

  1. In paragraph 1, they start out with the amount that I owe. Boom. Like a slap in the face. The way it’s positioned reminds me that our relationship is based on money. I am just a policy payment to them. (That may be true for many businesses, but customers don’t want to feel that way).
  2. In paragraph 2 and paragraph 3, they remind me of how they are limiting coverage. After they’ve asked for my money. :(
  3. In paragraph 4, they tell me they are a “full service” company and then they list their products. After reminding me how much I am paying them and telling me how much they are limiting my coverage, this 4th paragraph is a too-little, too-late attempt to get me to buy more coverage from them.

It’s really not the letter itself that pisses me off, I guess. Rather, it’s what this letter stands for: I don’t actually feel like a customer. I am a policy and an annual policy payment.

They shouldn’t be surprised that I have absolutely no loyalty to them. They have done nothing to win my loyalty. And I’m sure I’m not alone. This isn’t a problem with this specific broker alone; it’s a problem that is common in the insurance industry.

Here’s what I would recommend if they wanted to know how to keep me as a customer:

  • Start the letter by telling me that I’m a valued customer.
  • Rather than just sending me an invoice disguised as a letter, why not send me a real letter (a friendly one) with an invoice. Separate the pain and use the letter to make me feel special.
  • Remind me about what I am getting. Insurance is one of those tricky sales because you pay but don’t actually see the benefit until something bad happens. However, that coverage is still a tangible, quantifiable thing and it should be highlighted in the letter so it feels like I actually “got something” for my money. (Got something other than “screwed”, which is how a lot of people feel when they pay for insurance).
  • I understand that you are probably required by law to mention coverage limits. However, this can be done in a nicer way, and it doesn’t have to take up 2 of your 4-paragraphs. (If you take my earlier advice and send an invoice with the letter, include it on the invoice).
  • Send some free information. There’s a lot of info out there and, as a homeowner, I would love to know more. Maybe send me something that not only benefits me but could also benefit you down the road. For example, why not send a few helpful how-to brochures produced in conjunction with a local home improvement store about how to improve the value of my home. (Heck, why not throw in a coupon for 25% off a can of paint?) I end up with some ideas to make my home better, and next year you can talk to me about how my higher-valued home needs more insurance.
  • If you are going to limit my coverage, at least tell me what I can do about it. I’m sure there are extension policies that can be purchased for all of the fur coats I own (or whatever). Or, if I’m worried that my fur coats might not be covered, why not suggest a fur storage place in town (and set up a reciprocal customer agreement with kickbacks) where my fur coats will be safe and insured. (BTW, I don’t actually own any fur coats. That’s not how I roll).

That’s what I would suggest for the letter. Now here’s what I would suggest in general if they ever asked about how to make me a loyal customer:

  • If you want to win my loyalty, you need to remind me over and over why I’m a customer. It’s NOT because you’re “a full service insurance company”. Rather, it’s because I think my house is awesome and I want to protect it.
  • Pick up the phone and give me a call a couple of times through the year. Touch base. Keep it friendly. Ask about the wife and the business. When I mention that I’m traveling to the UK, it’s okay to casually mention that you have travel insurance. But keep those offers casual and relevant. There’s a reason that, in the past 7 years I’ve had my house insurance with you, I have never EVER thought of asking you to provide my life insurance or business insurance. It never crossed my mind
  • Send something a couple of times a year. Nothing extravagant. Flowers. A card. A calendar. A fridge magnet. Even information is nice (and probably costs you less but would be more highly valued by me if it were carefully chosen). I don’t mean that this should be all about free gifts; rather, I’m trying to suggest that you add value and remind me that I’m more than a policy. (You could have sent a bottle of sparkling non-alcoholic wine when I first bought my house insurance from them, by the way).

Every day on TV we see commercials for insurance companies who are battling with each other over price. Each one claims to offer lower prices than the last. There’s a reason that they are fighting about price. It’s because everything else about their companies are so similar and they haven’t been able to differentiate themselves in any other way. This is true not only for insurance companies but for the brokers who sell their policies.

And to my insurance company: The check is in the mail. But it could be the last.

Linking value to usage: Innovation in the auto insurance industry

One of my clients is an automotive insurance company. The other day, while a few of us were working on a positioning document, one of my contacts at the company observed that their company seemed to be held up to higher scrutiny than other organizations (like the power company or water utility).

They were right — that IS the case. They ARE held up to higher scrutiny and the resulting (and often caustic) criticism that comes with it. It’s not that they are doing something bad. The reason is: When people plug something into an electrical outlet, they get a tangible result and they know that the power output will be reflected on their next bill from the power company. And, when people turn on the tap and fill a glass with water, they know that their drink will be reflected on their bill from the water utility. In both cases there was a tangible result for a specific cost… And the more of a result that is needed, the higher the cost. It makes sense.

But that’s not the way it works with automotive insurance. You pay a pre-determined amount, which you might or might get a benefit from. Some people pay and pay and never need it; others need it frequently and get a better benefit. In other words, it doesn’t feel (at least to the consumer) like there is a direct result associated with a specific cost.

Insurance companies have tried to do something about this, including offering rebates to good drivers, but I don’t think any of their efforts are as successful because the end result is still the same: People pay for a service that they may or may not need. As a result, insurance is commoditized and people look for the cheapest insurance, they barely understand what their coverage offers, and they are quick to complain and switch companies.

There is, however, a type of insurance that is growing in popularity in the UK that could be the answer North American insurance companies are looking for: Pay-As-You-Go insurance.

With Pay-As-You-Go insurance, you basically pay for the miles (or kilometers) you drive. Your car is always covered with some basic coverage (in case someone steals it or in case it spontaneously combusts) but when you drive your car, you pay by the mile for additional coverage in case of collision.

By using GPS, insurance companies can see how far you travel and bill you accordingly. If you’re the kind of car owner who only uses your car to go to church on Sundays, you’ll pay less insurance than someone who goes on cross-country drives. That makes sense. And although it doesn’t completely eliminated the commoditization of insurance, it does create a clearer sense of pay-for-use, similar to what people understand when they plug things into their electrical outlets or pour water from the faucet.

I realize that there are other issues that need to be worked out. Privacy issues will need to be addressed. Customers will need to be assured that their car’s GPS information will only be used to determine distance. Speed and destinations cannot become part of the equation. If that issue can be resolved, I think we’ll see this as the Next Big Thing in the automotive insurance industry. Customers will enjoy rates that are more clearly linked to usage and good drivers won’t end up paying higher premiums because there are a lot of bad drivers on the road.

Content solutions for selling insurance

Insurance is a tough sell. (I know, I used to sell it). Insurance salespeople have two major issues working against them:

  • People usually underestimate their need for it until it’s too late
  • There is little perceived differentiation between insurance offerings

Since people don’t feel they need the product, and since the common person can’t tell you the difference between one insurance product and another, insurance companies need to rely on their marketing more than ever. An innovative product won’t get the attention or consideration it may deserve.

Geico uses a number of really fresh, memorable commercials. Progressive uses their famous online (ans seemingly “unbiased”) quote system. Allstate relies on the trustworthy confidence of Dennis Haysbert. All this is marketing because the product itself is not noticeably different (to the common consumer).

There are some broader business ideas that might help:

  • Do something to set apart your insurance company or brokerage: Stay open late, make house calls, dress up in clown costumes, give out free massages to the massage parlor next door, specialize in motorcycle insurance and make sure everyone in the office looks like a biker.
  • Forget the standard lines like “we offer great customer service” or “we give the personal touch” because chances are, you don’t really do anything different from anyone else. Set yourself apart.

There are some content-related ideas to help you sell:

  1. People only know how important insurance is when they realize how valuable it is when tied specifically to something in their lives. No one wants to go to a seminar about insurance, but you probably will get people to go do a seminar related to helping people with something in their lives: If you sell life insurance, put on a seminar about getting along with your teenage kids or managing the stresses of a busy life. These are the things people care about. (If you sell home insurance, put on a seminar related to home ownership, home buying and selling, and real estate investing. If you sell car insurance, put on a seminar about extending your vehicle investment or getting better mileage).
  2. Offer a “sponsored message” about insurance in the middle of the seminar. Collect names of people who are interested in signing up for insurance there. Invite people to refer others.
  3. Follow-up a week later with a report mailed to your seminar attendee’s home.
  4. Put them on your direct mail list but make sure you send short, valuable content regularly.

Insurance is a huge business online so you’ll also need to make sure that your insurance business is pursuing online marketing options:

  • Articles
  • Blogs
  • Whitepaper reports
  • Case studies

These content strategies, combined with a unique and memorable approach, can help to increase your offline and online insurance sales.