Everyone knows that it's much more profitable to sell new products to existing customers than it is to get new customers, right? Watch the video below. These two are the masters of upselling. I hope you get a good laugh out of it.
What are your clients thinking? What would they say about the insurance industry—and about your agency—if they felt they could be really honest with you? I thought I would give it a try, and last weekend I hit the jackpot.
I thought this column by Larry Linne in the October issue of Rough Notes was fascinating. The businessman he spoke with clearly wants more from his insurance agent, though he can't always articulate exactly what. Still, he makes it plain that he's unimpressed by promises of good customer service and claims assistance. He appears to want a proactive risk management partner, somone who will help him prevent losses and manage his "human capital."
How is your agency approaching its clients? Are you offering insurance or are you offering to help solve your insureds' problems? The difference between the two may be the difference between getting and losing a client.
In addition to my duties as the Lord High Insurance Geek at IIABNY, I also am responsible for the association's public relations. I'm responsible for all communications with non-members, which primarily means the media -- print, Internet, radio, TV, insurance trade, and so on. The media often contacts our office, looking for an expert to interview for a story. Bruce Barry very ably handled these requests when he worked here; now I do it, and this week I've had a very illuminating experience.
Late last week, a television reporter from one of the media markets in New York State contacted me about a story she'd read in USA Today. The story was about Progressive Insurance and their recent introduction of coverage for household pets who suffer injuries in auto accidents. As some of you may know, Progressive throws this coverage in at no extra charge on their auto policies. The reporter, who specializes in consumer-oriented stories, wondered how successful this has been. Thinking that this story might appeal to her station's viewers, many of whom are devoted to their pets, she asked me if an insurance agent in her area might like to speak with her about it. I sent an e-mail to our key contacts at the agencies in that area on Friday afternoon. Hearing no response and receiving a follow-up from the reporter on Monday, I sent a second request Monday afternoon. Two members wrote back to say that they know nothing about the coverage. Fair enough. Other members dismissed the story as unimportant, essentially saying that it was a waste of their time.
Let's review the facts, shall we? Here we have 1) a television news reporter for a station that scores quite well in the Neilsen ratings; 2) a feel-good story about the insurance industry (we see those on TV every day, right?); 3) an insurance coverage that connects emotionally with insurance buyers; and 4) an opportunity to have your name and your agency's name splashed on television screens and associated with this feel-good story. At no dollar cost to you. And yet, everyone has more important things to do.
So, what you're telling me is that your agency doesn't need free good publicity? The insurance community in your area doesn't need a positive story about the industry? Having thousands of people see your name and face on TV, speaking as an expert on this topic, is not worth your time?
Folks, believe me, I know how busy you are, because I know how busy I am, and you're a whole lot busier than I. However, the response to this request is...disheartening (that's the moderate and polite adjective I came up with.) In my two decades plus in this industry, one of the biggest complaints I have heard (and made myself) is that insurance buyers focus only on price, and there's always someone out there willing to offer a cheaper price. Price is extremely important, no doubt. So, when an opportunity pops up to differentiate yourself on a basis other than price, why on earth would you not grab it? This makes absolutely no sense to me. Marketing is more than just buying space on billboards or in the Yellow Pages or printing business cards. Some of the best marketing is done when the salesperson is not trying to sell anything, when he's just explaining a complicated concept or offering free advice. It makes him look like a professional. It makes him look like someone people would like to do business with.
The agent community in this particular part of New York had a nice opportunity to do some of that marketing. Some are unfamiliar with the coverage, others don't represent a company that sells it, still others work only on commercial lines. I can understand the lack of response from them. However, out of the dozens of agencies that received my e-mail, I have to believe that several have people in their personal lines departments that could speak about this. They all said, "No thanks, I've got better things to do."
I beg to differ. If you or someone in your agency is qualified to speak about this, you had nothing more important to do.
You're competing against Allstate with Dennis Haysbert, who will be forever known to us 24 fans as Pres. David Palmer; you're competing against State Farm and their football ads; you're competing against The-Company-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named but who runs ads with lizards, cavemen, and stacks of dollar bills surrounding creepy-looking eyeballs. You're competing against every aggregator that sells insurance on the Internet. You don't have millions of dollars for advertising, nor does IIABNY, nor does Trusted Choice. I wish we did, but we don't. So when you get a chance for free good publicity, no -- you don't have better things to do. When you speak with a reporter, you don't just have the opportunity to answer her questions. You have a chance to tell your story as you want it told. Maybe the reporter will use that part of the discussion in her story, maybe she won't. She certainly won't if she never gets to speak with you.
This will not be the last such opportunity. Reporters look for stories that will interest their readers and viewers, and they'll continue to call me for sources. Some day, you might get an e-mail from me asking if you or someone in your office would like to respond. If you do, carve out 15 minutes to speak with the reporter, or forward the e-mail to someone in your office who knows more about the topic than you do. Seize the chance to spread a positive message about this industry. You might not have noticed, but the public kind of hates the insurance industry. We'll soften their attitude one small step at a time, even if it's just a story about an insurance company wanting to pay for a dog's vet bills.
Have a different opinion? Sound off in the comments -- tell me I'm out of touch with reality or that I'm a genius (I'm kind of partial to that second one.) Better yet, tell me if you'd like me to give your name to reporters in the future when they call.