When the De Beers Diamond Company released the slogan “a diamond is forever” back in 1947, it threw a wrench into traditional marketing strategy.
According to Emily Huling, founder and president of Selling Strategies in Terrell, N.C., the move was “brilliant” for one simple reason: it created an emotional trigger. And that’s an area where Huling believes independent agents are failing, whether in the form of automated telephone reception, unavailability during critical times or a tendency to overpromise.
“Retaining policyholders is about demonstrating in every action that the person is most important to you—not their business,” Huling said in a recent webinar. “When an individual is asked who their insurance company is, the name that individual gives is Nicole or George or Sarah. You, the agent, are the company.”
Here’s what you can do to bridge the emotional gap—and boost client loyalty along the way.
1) Make your existing clients your No. 1 priority. At most insurance agencies, producers get paid more to write new business than they do for retaining it. And hungry, impatient salespeople are prone to interrupting important service work that centers on existing customers.
“Producers are the squeaky wheel in the day-to-day work of very busy account managers who have their own jobs to do,” Huling said. “Your existing clients deserve the same treatment, care and nurturing you gave them when they were prospects.”
What’s the solution? Huling suggests assigning one specific employee to assist producers with new business—completing applications, marketing to carriers and more—so that customer service representatives can focus on doing what they do best.
2) Sign the right clients. When prospecting, producers should ask probing questions that help identify whether prospects are the right fit for the agency: How did you hear about us? Has anything changed in your situation that affects your insurance? What would your ideal agent do for you?
“New producers start in the survival stage,” Huling said. “That’s when you’re willing to work with any buyer who simply fogs a mirror. The more quickly new salespeople learn how to qualify business, the faster they can move to higher hit ratios and building an emotionally attached, loyal client base.”
3) Be a mind reader, or at least act like one. Forging an emotional attachment with clients requires making them feel valued, appreciated and remembered. The process will vary depending on your business focus.
Personal lines agencies, for example, might send handwritten or digital notes on birthdays or anniversaries, or offer to host a family meeting when a client’s child reaches driving age. Commercial lines agencies might implement mid-term stewardship meetings to review upcoming business moves and discuss loss prevention or risk management services.
“Failure to make a personal connection on an emotional point can influence whether someone sticks with you or not,” Huling said. “If you don’t, will a competing agent recognize it and gain the business?”
4) Give up the reins. People don’t like to be sold—but they love to buy. “That’s why the Progressive ad with Flo showing all the competitors’ prices is so effective,” Huling said.
Let your buyer be in charge—and make sure you provide a solid foundation on which they can base a decision, especially as it pertains to your agency’s competitive advantage. In addition to coverage options, don’t be afraid to discuss testimonials from other clients, community involvement and relevant experience.
5) Communicate personally—from every angle. Just because marketing has gone digital doesn’t mean it has to be generic. Whether it’s through email newsletters, social media, website updates or cold calls, your customers need to hear from you on a regular basis.
“We have so many ways to reach people,” Huling said. “If consumers don’t hear from you through the channel they prefer, they’re going to be enticed by wonderful big-budget ads—or other agents who are out there communicating the way they prefer to be communicated with.”
Jacquelyn Connelly is IA assistant editor.