Historically, agents have generated policyholders for insurance carriers but not enjoyed the full value of these customers. There are many programs marketed by insurance companies and agents which aim to develop more business from an agent’s client base, but they usually fail to create meaningful value, particularly for agents but also for the carriers as well as policyholders.
In the past several years a number of insurers and marketing organizations have partnered to create policyholder marketing programs. However, for these to succeed, it is important for both agents and carriers to understand the requirements to make such programs successful so that all three parties (agents, carriers and policyholders) benefit from the programs.
The two biggest reasons that many policyholder marketing programs have limited attractiveness are the cost to finance the programs and that they fail to create real customer value. A third reason is that most policyholder marketing programs aren’t supported by agents because the programs don’t help agents to generate new business. For agents, creating a flow of new business from existing clients should be “as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.” And, finally, policyholder marketing programs requiring significant implementation efforts by agents or insurance companies usually never see the light of day because they cannot obtain the needed internal staff and capital resources.
Agents and insurance companies need to work in tandem to create policyholder marketing programs. To ensure that policyholder marketing programs are as effective as possible, such programs should include all or most of the following characteristics:
- The programs should be financed either by sources outside the carrier or by the insurer. The programs work better when individual agents are not asked to finance the programs.
- There should be several products offered by the program. Not only should these programs meet policyholders’ needs but the products should be valued by the policyholders. Offering a variety of products is important because not everyone has the same needs, and by being able to make multiple offers, it is much more likely to find each customer’s “product sweet spot.”
- Often the products most valued by consumers will be non-insurance offers. Agents and companies should be willing to offer programs from non-insurance providers. For example, such non-insurance products include coverage for homeowner and auto policy deductibles. These products are well-received by the public because who among us hasn’t incurred a claim only to find out that the reimbursement from the insurer fails to cover our loss?
- As much as possible of the marketing and administration of such programs should be handled by special external providers so as not to take up valuable agent and insurance company resources. Sales fulfillment must be as immediate as possible so that policyholders have a positive experience with the program rather than waiting weeks for confirmation of their purchases.
- Policyholder marketing programs should be presented to customers in as “light” a way as possible and by experienced marketers. When policyholder marketing programs become too “heavy,” they turn off policyholders and become counterproductive for all parties.
- Any policyholder marketing program should ask the policyholder if he or she wants to speak with an agent and refer such leads immediately to the agent or company. In turn, agents must immediately follow up these “hot” leads.
For agents there are two sources of revenue from policyholder marketing programs. The most obvious agent revenue opportunity is commissions from the leads generated by a program manager from current clients. The other lead opportunity arises because carriers can create new free lead programs for agents participating in the programs as a way to share the revenues generated by the program.
While lead generation numbers will differ in each situation, it is reasonable to anticipate 10% of the insureds contacted by the program manager asking to be contacted by an agent. These should be “hot” leads with 25% or more of such leads resulting in the sale of additional insurance policies. Let’s look at an example of the income potential from the program . Assuming a program manager is able to contact 500 of an agent’s clients, 10% of the contacts ask to be contacted, and the agent closes 1/3 of all leads with an average annual premium of $800 at a 100% first-year commission, the total first-year commissions from a single policyholder marketing campaign would be $12,000 without any investment on the part of the agent or the carrier and without counting renewal commissions!
As a result of a well-run policyholder marketing program, agents should expect some extra revenue from increased renewal commissions. Policyholder marketing programs should create a stronger affinity among the client, agent and insurer as the direct result of having multiple relationships and additional revenues for both agents and carriers. Policyholder marketing programs that are positioned as a “thank you” rather than a sales program are more successful in raising the level of affinity between policyholders and both agents and companies.
Because of privacy laws and other regulations, policyholder marketing programs should be sponsored by an insurance company. Therefore, agents need to contact their carriers and ask them to become directly involved with such programs.
Agents’ reluctance about policyholder marketing programs is an understandable one based on an aversion to having someone besides the agent contacting his or her clients. It is only human nature for agents to protect their most precious asset–namely, their client base.
But in today’s world with instant connectivity and the bombardment of messages from competing sources, agents need to find a trusted, efficient and cost-effective way to keep in touch with clients. A well-executed policyholder marketing program is such an opportunity. A policyholder marketing program that is based on regular client contact to express appreciation for the policyholder’s business and stresses improving customer satisfaction rather than directly selling a new product will allow agents to concentrate on generating new clients and maximize the value of an agent’s existing clients.
Current clients are already buying the programs offered by other sources. In turn, these other sales organizations are then contacting their new clients and trying to sell them the very same types of products which the original agent offers. The end result for agents who have inefficient and irregular policyholder marketing programs can be the unnecessary total loss of a customer relationship!
No business activity is really as simple as shooting fish in a barrel, but a well-run policyholder marketing program should come darn close.