Prospecting for Life Insurance Clients in the 21st Century

Internet Leads vs Direct

Insurance Agent StudyingFifty years ago the world was "larger," the pace of daily life slower, and the competition for insurance within any single community much less intense than it is today. Today it is almost impossible to knock on a door, unexpected, and find a receptive audience. The previous generation of insurance agents was able to prepare an audience with the use of mass market mail campaigns followed up by phone calls and then a visit.

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Mass marketing, however, has been intensely overplayed; many people–too busy to read the many brochures, catalogs, and solicitations that arrive in their mail boxes–simply sort the "junk" from the bills and then pile the junk mail off to the side where it accumulates until finally it is tossed in the trash. Only a tiny percentage of mass market mail is read. In fact, one of the managers at a local recycling center reports that tons of "garbage" sorted at the facility is junk mail–much of which has never even been opened!

Many insurance companies try to "incentify" people into responding to a mailer by promising something free if they return the postage paid card. Often the "freebie" is a booklet promising information–such as a buyers guide for life insurance, a booklet explaining Medicare and so forth. Believing that they will just get a free booklet in the mail, individuals write their names on such cards and drop them in the mailbox. In spite of the fact that the "small print" explains that the card is a solicitation for some product, and that an agent will call, individuals are often irritated when an agent calls and asks to "deliver" the requested information. This strategy is old and outdated. Furthermore, those who sent in the card thinking they would get something for free are often not financially qualified to purchase anything.

Is there still a place for mail campaigns? Absolutely. However, mail campaigns are more likely to be effective when the recipients are "targeted," not just by age and generic interest, but when they are targeted specifically by the agent whose name they are likely to recognize on the envelope. For example, if you have been the guest speaker for a group of retirees at a local church or civic club, a follow up mailer might be opened, and if the individual recalls that your service might benefit him, he might be receptive to an appointment when you call. Don't wait by the phone, however–he usually won't call you first.

Another positive use of a mail campaign is to your book of existing clients. These folks have already trusted you with their money. They will recognize your name and, if you send them something in a personal envelope–rather than a pre-addressed company one–they will definitely open it. Furthermore, since insurance agents are often "recycled" faster than fast-food restaurant employees, your people will appreciate knowing that you are still around. You should send a card, a "personal" letter or a newsletter created by you at least once a quarter. If you can do it monthly, that's even better. You may think that since the client already has your information, it's unlikely that you will gain any new business, but you could not be more mistaken. Experienced agents know that the larger policies–such as annuities and large life insurance or long term care policies–are often purchased by clients who already know you. Furthermore, "stuff" happens. A family member dies who didn't have insurance. Health insurance policies held by employers get cancelled. People retire and have to roll their money out of the company. A simple reminder that you are still available along with a convenient list of products you have will bring your name to the forefront when a life changing event takes place.

For obtaining new clients, however, "cold call" mail campaigns are a huge waste of your money. Today's insurance agents must face the fact that the world and the business has been dramatically changed by technology. It's a fact that the world is less friendly, people less patient with lengthy presentations and more likely to switch from one company to another in search of the best deal. You can't succeed with mail campaigns, cold calls, and door knocking. You also can't fight the impact of technology. The only way to cope is to make the technology work for you.

Participation in an internet lead generation program is regarded by many agents and brokers as the most effective way to locate new, and interested prospects. Life changing events–a death in the family, a marriage, or a birth of new baby motivate people to search for a product. They want quotes and comparisons quickly, preferably without having to talk to anyone, even though most will work with an agent once they have made a company or product selection.

Like insurance companies, lead generation companies are not all created equal. A good lead generation company will:

  • deliver real time leads within minutes of receiving them

  • deliver leads that have been generated from their own sites–not recycled or purchased from "dump" sites

  • provide filters so you receive leads only from prospects you would be able to serve

  • provide prompt refunds for leads with invalid names, phone numbers, etc.

  • limit the number of agents or brokers to whom a lead is sent

Purchasing leads via the internet is only the first step in a successful use of technology. Agents and brokers also need their own websites where they can describe their services, provide information on changes in the insurance industry, and perhaps even maintain a blog or guestbook where clients can communicate with each other and with their agents.

When we have done a job a certain way for a long time, it is difficult to change. However, the bottom line in the insurance industry is that agents must meet clients where the clients are, and today, that is "online."

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