The average marine insurance buyer doesn’t want to buy coverage from just anybody. They want to buy from someone who is as passionate and as knowledgeable as they are. Essentially, if an agent wants to put their personal marine book in the windward direction, they need to know their starboard from their port.
“Customers most often purchase their boats because they want an experience, whether that is quietly bass fishing on a secluded lake, waterskiing down the river or taking their friends out for evening cruise off the coast,” says Eric Fisher, marine sales, business development, American Modern.
“But since the insurance purchase becomes part of the overall experience, agents should seek to make it enjoyable as well,” he says. “The right insurance policy can help put a customer’s mind at ease so all they need to do is enjoy their experience.”
The boating niche is a desirable one because it can open a lot of doors into the personal and commercial coverages of individuals with the disposable income and time to invest in this type of recreation. Being educated on the insurance trends is crucial. However, an agent’s chances of getting into these exclusive accounts will likely quickly sink if they’re not educated on the lifestyle too.
“When focusing on personal marine clientele, it’s important for agents and brokers to invest their time to learn about recreational boating insurance,” says Jeremy Backman, vice president, recreational marine sales, Chubb. “Doing so will enable them to respond to their clients’ boating needs and help them serve as trusted advisors to not only help retain and grow with existing clients, but also to attract new ones.”
“Clients with hobbies and passions, like boating, want to work with people with similar interests that can talk the talk,” Backman says. “For those agents that can, getting involved with local boat dealers, marinas, or yacht clubs can be a great referral source.”
Getting started is never easy, but the answers to the insurance questions lie with the carriers, which “are great resources for independent agents and brokers who are looking to serve boat owners of all sizes, ranging from small to the mega yacht clientele,” Backman says. “If you’re interested in learning more about recreational marine coverages, reach out to them. Many have educational programs for agents and brokers.”
In order to talk the talk, “the most obvious advice for agents would be make sure to not only understand the policy you’re selling, but the boating needs of the customer,” Fisher says. “If you aren’t sure how your customer will use the boat, it will be hard to find coverage that fits. Plus, you might be missing cross-selling opportunities by not asking the right questions.”
A growing segment in personal marine insurance is “classic and antique boat insurance,” says Kennen Choiniere, marine program manager, Hagerty, which could be a great conversation starter for any agent to get an insight into their prospect and the market—as long as they’ve done their homework.
“Classic and antique boat owners are considered hobby enthusiasts and are often members of local or regional boat clubs,” Choiniere says. “These clubs host shows and seminars throughout the year and offer a tremendous opportunity for a local agent to meet and engage with boat owners.”
“We recommend continuing to ask questions and learn about your clients’ boats and what they mean to them,” he adds. “Whether it's fishing, sailing or just cruising around the lake—aim to ensure the boat is covered properly throughout the year, even when it is not in the water.”
Will Jones is IA managing editor.