In Italian, il bacio della morte means “the kiss of death”—a sign given by a mafia boss to signify that a member of the crime family has been marked for death.
In insurance, the mark of death is a little different.
Like a kiss, an insurance referral seems benevolent. The problem isn’t the referral itself—it’s when an agent says, “We don’t do much online marketing. We get all our business from word of mouth and referrals.”
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard an agency owner say that, I’d be writing this while nestled inside a hammock on my remote private island. I get it—referrals are the lifeblood of the insurance industry. The fact that you get so many insurance referrals means you’re good at what you do. It means people know and trust you.
So how could I sit here in good faith and say it’s bad for a business to rely on referrals? One word: control.
Taking your foot off the gas and relying on referrals means giving up your control. Depending on your clients to spread the word about your business puts control of your lead generation in someone else’s hands.
What glitters isn’t always gold, and what’s free is not always what’s optimal. If you rely solely on referrals, here are three things you’re missing out on:
1) Precision. Referrals are powerful. But precision beats power, and referrals are not precise.
Referrals aren’t necessarily referring the business you want. Sure, referrals grow your book, but do they grow it in the way you want to grow? If you purchased 50 targeted home insurance leads and later found 27 auto insurance leads in your inbox, you would be upset. When you rely on the luck of the draw, this is the reality you face.
2) Consistency. With referrals, you’re not only dependent upon what comes through the door, but also at the mercy of frequency—or lack thereof.
Every time you get a referral, you’re drawing from the well of your agency’s longstanding goodwill with your customers. But eventually, this well of goodwill will run dry. Some days you’ll get a referral, but some days you won’t. For your business to thrive, you need new inquiries every day.
3) Scalability. Out of all the reasons against relying on referrals, this is the most damaging to your potential.
You can hire more sales reps, double your advertising budget or buy more leads, and within a month, your pipeline will start to feel the effects. But you can’t turn up the dial on referrals. When it’s time to grow aggressively and you’re relying on referrals, you’re stuck in first gear while the agency down the street kicks it up a notch.
Insurance is in an interesting place right now. It seems like there’s a new breakthrough at an InsurTech startup or the incumbent corporate titans every day. It’s almost like the space race.
Take back control over your sales funnel. In this mad dash to digitalize the industry, I know with 100% certainty that relying on referrals is the kiss of death for your business.
Cam Bob III is founder of Infinity Leads, a customer acquisition agency for independent insurance agencies. In 2018, Bob III was named Young Innovator of the Year by British private equity firm CVC Capital in the development of a cutting-edge digital lead generation system for insurance agencies. Bob III is also the author of “The Digital Insurance Agent,” a step-by-step guide to generating exclusive leads online.