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Insurance Journal has listened to readers, spoken with experts, combed through columns and articles and even searched outside insurance circles to find the best sales and marketing tips for independent agencies today. Here are 101 ideas, in no particular order.

1 – Know Your Client
Be alert to details that matter to the client and recognize what makes every encounter with each client unique. Our brand promise, “Because You’re Different,” hinges on employees knowing their distinctive clients and sustaining a positive relationship. Tell your client things you are doing for them that they might not know about and make a point to ask them questions about their business. – Jackie Donnelly, Heffernan Insurance Brokers

2 – Link Up
Ask key commercial clients for their permission to include a link to their websites on your agency’s website. You can bet they will give you their OK and will probably appreciate your loyalty to them, which should help you bond with a long-term client. – Phil Tuccy, Insurance Group Consulting LLC

3 – Share Problems
Make the customer’s problem your problem. – Scott Mikkelsen, Mikkelsen, Kelly, & Kipp Insurance

4 – Mobile Friendly
Make your insurance website mobile-friendly so your customers on-the-go can easily access your information if they need it. – Laird Rixford, Insurance Technologies Corp.

5 – Customer’s Shoes
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Think: “If I were them, what questions would I ask?” – Scott Mikkelsen, Mikkelsen, Kelly, & Kipp Insurance

6 – Referral Partnerships
Enter into a mutually beneficial agreement with a referral partner (i.e., accountant, car dealership) with the objective of sending each other hot leads. I gain a lot of new business using this approach. – Eric Lanzillotta, CBIA Insurance Agency Inc.

7 – Foot in the Door
For commercial insurance: Drop off a cookie in the shape of a foot to a prospective insured. The cookie should have a note attached that says, “Trying to get my foot in the door.” – Trisha Wright, The Hartford.

8 – Checklists
Use coverage and exposure checklists to increase sales. By doing the job of a professional insurance agent, you will also create a great reputation for yourself. – Chris Burand, Burand & Associates LLC

9 – Make Friends
Stop pushing product and price. Make friends and they will become your best clients. – Al Diamond, Agency Consulting Group Inc.

10 – Thank You
Send a handwritten thank you card to clients when they send you referrals and say the following, “The sincerest form of flattery to my agency is in a referral from you, our client. Thank you so much for your vote of confidence and we will take special care of your referral.” Then enclose two more of your business cards. – Catherine Oak, Oak & Associates

11 – Measurements
Measure customer sentiment with social media – not just negative, but positive, too. If your customers are singing you praises, use that to tell more people about your great customer service and get some real marketing mileage out of it. – Don Wolff, Astute Solutions

12 – Umbrellas
Sell increased limits on umbrella policies. Invite personal and small commercial lines umbrella insureds to increase their policy limits beyond $1 million. Many CSRs and producers write a small umbrella once – and then forget to suggest adding another million, or more, at renewal time. – Alan Shulman, www.AgencyIdeas.com

13 – Promote Your Website
Promote your website on all of your marketing. This could include business cards, brochures, emails and social media. Basically, anywhere you have your agency logo, your URL should be there, too. – Laird Rixford, Insurance Technologies Corp.

14 – Turn to Your State Association
If you have an agency challenge, chances are that someone else has already faced it – and solved it. Turn to your state agents’ association for a broad range of solutions to problems you face as an agent or agency principal. – Sharon Emek, Work At Home Vintage Employees (WAHVE)

15 – Screen Share
It’s not always possible to get an in-person appointment. Using easy-to-use screenshare technology such as Join.me is a good way to share a presentation, or go through your website while you’ve got the prospect or client on the phone. – Julie Tinney, Insurance Journal

16 – Virtual Checks
Use remote deposit to electronically deposit checks without leaving the office. Remote deposit captures images of both sides of checks, analyzes them for image quality and authenticity, and automatically balances deposits before submission. That makes the bank available 24/7, saves time and money, and boosts security. Remote deposit does not require application software, and uses a scanner (typically provided by the bank) as well as a PC with an Internet connection. – Mary Grazen, InsurBanc, a division of Connecticut Community Bank N.A.

17 – Great Customer Service
It’s not a secret tactic, but it is the most effective one. When our agents provide customers with outstanding service, they show their appreciation by giving us referrals. – Trident Insurance Agency

18 – Give Them Something
Never leave your client or prospect empty-handed. Give them something useful and informative that will make them think of you every time they see it and use it. – Christopher J. Boggs, Academy of Insurance, www.IJAcademy.com

19 – Track New Business Appointments
New business production is the ultimate indicator of sales performance, but understanding meaningful activity may be the missing piece of your sales management platform. – Tommy McDonald, MarshBerry

20 – Website Design
A well-designed website will serve as the hub of all digital agency marketing. When done well, it can serve multiple purposes: customer service, education, sales, retention. – Laird Rixford, Insurance Technologies Corp.

21 – Tracking Metrics
Growing agencies have one thing in common: They track where every new piece of business is coming from, so they know which marketing efforts are paying off. They also track the number of policies per client, so they know whether they are building deeper relationships. – Jeff Yates, Agents Council for Technology

22 – X the Lingo
Get rid of lingo and find a way to talk to clients in words and phrases they can easily understand. – Anonymous

23 – Strategize
All marketing needs a strategy and a goal. You want to post a banner? Send an email to a list? Start a newsletter? Great. Why? – Anonymous

24 – Double Referrals
Create a referral program that rewards existing and new customers. This creates a win-win which is naturally what a referral should be. Dropbox and Uber have successful referral programs that award the existing customer and new customer with bonus storage and service credit when the new customer signs up. – Josh Carlson, Wells Media Group

25 – Believe in Your Brand
Passion is contagious. If you love where you work, shout it to the rooftops. Let others know why your agency is the best. You’ll be much more likely to generate genuine enthusiasm, which could drive more customers to use your services. – Aimee Woodall, The Black Sheep Agency

26 – Data Goldmine
For more than 20 years, agencies have had the most lucrative gold mine locked up in customer data. You may have 20 valuable nuggets of information about every client in your system: birthdays, claims, policies held, policies not held, ex-dates and so forth. So, if you’ve got 5,000 customers, you’ve got 100,000 pieces of information …that changes every single day. Technology exists to turn that “dead data” into a marketing goldmine. – Michael Jans, Agency Revolution

27 – Be in Position to See Opportunity
Work hard and try to put yourself in a position where, if luck strikes, you can see the opportunity and take advantage of it. – Mark Cuban, chairman of HDNet

28 – Drip Marketing
Use a consistent drip marketing campaign: Bring value by providing useful info or ideas. You will be (hopefully) top-of-mind when the need for services will arise. – Brad Tamulski, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners

29 – Unique Landing Pages
Use landing pages that are designed to match specific marketing campaigns (e.g., an email sent to auto insurance prospects should link to a landing page that discusses auto insurance and matches the design of the email). This will improve your conversion rate. – Laird Rixford, Insurance Technologies Corp.

30 – Social Media Content
Provide useful, engaging content on social media to attract new customers and retain relationships with existing ones. Always remember that social media is conversational. Never ignore anyone. Respond to all inquiries, comments, etc. – Valerie Foster, Monitor Liability Managers

31 – Community Like Its
Partner with a community charity on Facebook. Preferred Insurance Services is partnering with Pet Project Rescue in Minneapolis until the beginning of September in the hopes of garnering $500 for the non-profit. Preferred has committed to donating $1 to PPR for every new “like” it gets on its Facebook page between now and then. In just three weeks, Preferred doubled its fan base – and raised nearly $200 for PPR in the process. – Preferred Insurance Services

32 – Don’t Forget to Ask
Ask for the business. After showing value and laying out distinct advantages of a partnership, be clear about asking for business. You will either get it or find out remaining obstacles. – Brad Tamulski, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partner

33 – Community Involvement
Savvy agencies and their employees are becoming increasingly involved in local causes to support their communities, and these efforts are generating new clients for them – clients who want to support businesses striving to make the community better. – Jeff Yates, Agents Council for Technology

34 – Target Marketing
Smart call – target certain industries/client sizes/etc. and tell them exactly why you’ve identified them as benefiting from what you have to offer. Prospects can be more receptive. – Brad Tamulski, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners

35 – Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is more than tweeting/posting and running; it is roll-up-your-sleeves interactive work that builds solid relationships and reputations. – Tammy Elizabeth Southin, social media marketing consultant

36 – Show You Care
Show your customers you care by helping them when they’re in trouble, responding quickly and effectively to complaints, or providing sympathetic feedback. It’s up to you to build a symmetrical feedback loop of appreciation and understanding. – Aimee Woodall, The Black Sheep Agency

37 – Clients in Common
Find out from each of your key clients who their attorney and CPA is, and then contact those professionals and let them know you have the same good clients in common. It gets the attorney and CPA to send you more referrals because their clients use you. – Catherine Oak, Oak & Associates

38 – Video Testimonials
Collect mini-video testimonials. Identify your happiest and most influential insureds. Ask them for a brief video testimonial you can tactfully use. A 6-second Vine or 15-second Instagram video recorded on your smartphone can be fun for your insured and for you. Use them online for marketing purposes and display them in-person when actively selling. – Alan Shulman, www.AgencyIdeas.com

39 – Bigger Footprint
You have a license to sell insurance throughout your state, or more. Then do it. One of my clients shot from 95 contractors to 2,000 in four years. Her small town location did not dictate a small town marketing plan. – Michael Jans, Agency Revolution

40 – Email
Use email marketing to cross sell. – Laird Rixford, Insurance Technologies Corp.

41 – Decide Once and For All
Average marketing will flow from the unconscious decision to be “OK” with an average agency. Great marketing will flow from the decision to be great. Insanely great marketing will flow from the decision to be insanely great. It’s up to you, cowboy. – Michael Jans, Agency Revolution

42 – Go Out of Your Way
Going out of your way to help a customer will likely benefit you in terms of customer retention and word-of-mouth. But it’s also just a genuinely good thing to do – and that’s worth something, too. – Aimee Woodall, The Black Sheep Agency

43 – Buyer’s Remorse Review
What do you do when you discover that your personal or commercial prospect’s policies just renewed? One response is to target their post-sale period of uncertainty and offer to provide a “buyer’s remorse review.” Your prompt second opinion can open an unsure prospect’s mind to many valid criticisms. – Alan Shulman, www.AgencyIdeas.com

44 – Free Coffee
We have a promotion on our website that offers a $5 Starbucks giftcard for referring a friend to our agency. – Trident Insurance Agency

45 – Build a Community
There is strength in numbers. Look for people who are excited about the work you do and highlight them. Create an ambassador program to get even more people involved. You’ll suddenly find your brand popping up in more places: in conversations, blog posts and “Best Company” lists. – Aimee Woodall, The Black Sheep Agency

46 – Dissatisfaction Surveys
What’s wrong with your insurance? Don’t use the same old “let me quote” approach when soliciting commercial lines. Instead, employ a business “dissatisfaction survey” to differentiate yourself and to let the buyer vent about what’s wrong with his current insurance program. When you know exactly what bugs him, you can provide a custom solution. – Alan Shulman, www.AgencyIdeas.com

47 – Turn to Training
The industry’s nonprofit organizations are a rich source of training and education. The CPCU Society, ceu.com, AIMS Society, and NAPSLO are a few of the national organizations that offer specialized classes in property/casualty insurance. Local associations and affiliates also are helpful and even more accessible. – Sharon Emek, Work At Home Vintage Employees (WAHVE)

48 – Featured Partners
We feature prospective clients and existing clients’ companies on our “partners” page for cross referrals. – Trident Insurance Agency

49 – Email Drips
Set up email drips in an automated agency marketing system to automatically follow up on every prospect over a period of time. This will help keep your agency in front of the consumer without you having to remember to do the follow up. – Laird Rixford, Insurance Technologies Corp.

50 – Shopping Carts
We have our president’s picture on shopping carts! We advertise our agency at the local grocery stores. – Trident Insurance Agency

51 – Reduce Redundancy
Maintain your records and solidify your data with data download. – Real Time/Download Campaign co-chair Joyce Sigler, Jones & Wenner Insurance Agency

52 – Consider Your Audience
It’s all about the customer experience. Think about their experience and what they’re going through. Gather feedback. Consider what they like and what they don’t like. Try and fix the things they don’t like. Use their recommendations and concerns to change your company’s tactics or direction. Your customers will appreciate it. – Aimee Woodall, The Black Sheep Agency

53 – Real Time Saves Real $$$$
Implementing real-time functions in your agency saves time and money. A typical agency with four CSRs each doing 15 transactions per day via real time (versus a company website) will save 90 days of CSR time and $14,400 annually, according to surveys. – Real Time/Download Campaign co-chair Stuart Durland, Seely & Durland Insurance

54 – Be Quick
Be quick and responsive to a client’s need. When I get a referral or an Internet lead, I try to make contact right away. – Anonymous

55 – Soft Stalking
If a prospect is not responding, begin following their company on Twitter and Facebook and participate. It’s surprising how many business-owners and CEOs actually check to see their new likes and followers. This is particularly true of smaller companies. It’s just another way to get your name in front of them without asking to personally connect on social media with someone you’ve never met, which can be creepy. – Julie Tinney, Insurance Journal

56 – Virtual Connections
Use your existing technology to give producers immediate system access while they’re working remotely. Two technologies built into Windows make it as secure to connect to the office server from across the country as from across the hallway: virtual private networks (VPNs) and remote desktop protocol (RDP). – Frank Sentner, Work At Home Vintage Employees (WAHVE)

57 – Online Banking
Use online banking to streamline processes. Sending and receiving funds electronically, transferring funds between accounts, scheduling direct deposit of payroll, and creating wire transfers are all ways to be more efficient as an agency. Bankers familiar with insurance agencies can help develop programs to create an efficient process in managing agency funds and accounts. – Mary Grazen, InsurBanc, a division of Connecticut Community Bank N.A.

58 – Varied Methods
If you put all your time and energy into social media, you may end up ignoring the potential customers who aren’t on social media. Embrace a variety of marketing methods to succeed, including everything from face-to-face interaction to grassroots tactics. – Aimee Woodall, The Black Sheep Agency

59 – Set Up Knowledge Transfer
Experienced workers are valuable sources of insurance expertise. Before they retire (and 10,000 Americans hit retirement age every day) and take their institutional knowledge with them, set them up as mentors for newer and younger producers and employees in your agency. – Sharon Emek, Ph.D., Work At Home Vintage Employees (WAHVE)

60 – Real People
Delete your Facebook, delete your Twitter, meet real people, sell insurance. – Josh Carlson, Wells Media Group

61 – Listen Carefully
Listening to clients’ concerns and answering their insurance questions thoroughly is extremely important in maintaining mutual trust. The client trusts that you are looking out for their best interests and that you are providing them with expert industry advice. – Trident Insurance Agency

62 – Be the First to Know
If you are tired that your agency’s not getting data before your customers do, encourage your carriers to initiate activity/notifications for real-time notifications and policy data. – Real Time/Download Campaign co-chair Joyce Sigler, Jones & Wenner Insurance Agency

63 – Become an Expert
Encourage your producers to develop an expertise on an industry group or technical niche, and become the go-to person in the marketplace. Enhance the reputation by participating in national events, publishing articles and hosting seminars on the subject. – Laura Sherman, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners

64 – Carrier Help
Ask your carriers for content to use on your marketing materials, website, blogs or social media. They have a wealth of information to share about risk trends and industry changes, as well as claim examples/scenarios. Also, follow them on LinkedIn or Twitter, and you can share or re-Tweet any relevant information. – Valerie Foster, Monitor Liability Managers

65 – In-House Social Media
We have an in-house social marketing consultant that stays up-to-date with our blog and social media sites. They reach out to local businesses and post useful insurance tips that elicit calls to our agency for quotes. – Trident Insurance Agency

66 – Amplify Success
Rather than trying to accomplish all of your promotion goals at once, focus on growing over time. Once you gain recognition, whether it’s a mention from an important influencer on social media or a front-page story, you can use that to show more potential audiences why your brand matters. – Aimee Woodall, The Black Sheep Agency

67 – ‘I Don’t Know’
Don’t be afraid to say: “I don’t know.” No one expects you to know everything; plus you now have the opportunity, and a reason, to connect with the client or prospect again. Not only will you know you have provided the correct information, you will have built trust.” – Christopher J. Boggs, Academy of Insurance, www.IJAcademy.com

68 – Keep Score
Become obsessed with being the best through performance benchmarking within your agency and within the industry. Top performers are motivated by winning. Encouraging competition internally creates a growth culture that helps you compete externally. – Tommy McDonald, MarshBerry

69 – Get Out What You Put In
Start small and strengthen over time. Put in the hours to build relationships with the media and your customers. Brand recognition does not just happen overnight. – Aimee Woodall, The Black Sheep Agency

70 – Hire, Hire, Hire
Predictable, sustainable growth is directly dependent on systematic reinvestment within your production staff year-over-year. – Tommy McDonald, MarshBerry

71 – Why Measure?
You don’t have time to spend on efforts that don’t yield results. You have to illustrate how your efforts increase brand awareness, create buzz and generate new business; otherwise you’ll never know what gets you noticed and what ends up being overlooked. Demonstrate growth and illustrate investment. – Aimee Woodall, The Black Sheep Agency

72 – New Client Thank Yous
Every new client gets a personally written thank you card with their agent’s information and a note that says: “We love referrals. Thank you for referring us.” – Trident Insurance Agency

73 – Total Agency Sales Culture
Producers are the quarterbacks of a growth team, but key technicians and high-level servicers are your linebackers. Employ quality people throughout the entire organization, not just within your sales staff. – Tommy McDonald, MarshBerry

74 – Make Your Value Proposition Valuable
Track utilization on all value added services, charge fees on top of commission, and have a communication process through stewardship reporting to ensure the client knows your value. – Tommy McDonald, MarshBerry

75 – Match Interests
Employees and producers have favorite charities to which they personally give time and donations. Choose one of those for your entire agency to contribute to by volunteering and/or a fundraising. It’ll build camaraderie, help the charity, and make your brand a little better known in the community. – Jill Bookman, American Collectors Insurance

76 – Institutionalize Your Relationships
Develop a long-term retention plan on large-scale accounts by introducing key agency executives to decision-makers. Involve quality service, loss control, claims advocates, and other value-added service personnel during the prospecting process to help diversify the relationship long term. This practice allows for better delegation of servicing responsibilities, sells the team, and helps transition relationships as employees move on or retire. – Tommy McDonald, MarshBerry

77 – All Aspects of Life
The bottleneck for selling comes from lack of activity. Turn your life gray and open the opportunity of prospecting with every part of your life. – Justin Berry, MarshBerry

78 – Take Chances
Someone will always say: “You can’t do that!” Just because something hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it won’t work or that it won’t make a huge impact. You have to take chances to stand out. – Aimee Woodall, The Black Sheep Agency

79- Understand Customers’ Business
Do your homework. When the customer sees you’ve invested time into understanding his business, there is a certain level of trust established right away. – Sales and marketing consultant Barry Farber, as quoted in Entrepreneur magazine

80 – Be a Solution
Don’t sell product and features rather be a solution and new business will come to you – Justin Berry, MarshBerry

81 – You Can’t Do It All!
Social media and blogging are becoming integral to a growing agency’s daily operations. Consistency is critical. It may be time to hire a part-time or full-time employee to do this. – Real Time/Download Campaign co-chair Stuart Durland, Seely & Durland Insurance

82 – Expand Your Virtual Reach
Try your vendor’s web-based consumer self-serve quoting functionality, so your clients can serve themselves for quotes. – Real Time/Download Campaign co-chair Joyce Sigler, Jones & Wenner Insurance Agency

83 – Google+
Use Google+ for research and lead generation. With more than 100 million active users on Google+, it is a great way to search information. It’s a good tool for finding people in a specific demographic, occupation, employer, etc. – Valerie Foster, Monitor Liability Managers

84 – Once is Enough
With the use of a comparative rater, you can key once and realize multiple sales opportunities. – Real Time/Download Campaign co-chair Joyce Sigler, Jones & Wenner Insurance Agency

85 – Ask for the Sale
No matter what else is recommended, a salesperson ultimately must always ask for the sale. – Chris Burand, Burand & Associates LLC

86 – Free Content
Tap into the insurance content – newsletters, emails, infographics and social networking shares – that carriers and wholesalers provide. Share it with clients and prospects on social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook, and in your email newsletter and on your agency website. This showcases you and gives consumers relevant information. – Laura Packard, American Collectors Insurance

87 – Differentiate
Make building your book easier and use your agency’s institutional and personal differentiation to build partnerships of new business. – Justin Berry, MarshBerry

88 – Set Aside an Employee Day
Pick a day once a year to honor and recognize your agency team with a surprise lunch or other special event that focuses just on them and the work they do all year long. Recognition works. – Jill Bookman, American Collectors Insurance

89 – Pop the Question
It’s amazing what people collect. Ask your next 10 clients or prospects: “Do you keep anything of special value or significance in your home or garage?” That opens up a new line of conversation, expands the relationship, opens up a channel for cross-selling coverage for collectibles or collector vehicles, and reduces E&O risk. – Laura Packard, American Collectors Insurance

90 – In Their Words
Often, an individual can tell you what their primary concerns are in simple conversation. Have broad, open conversations with clients and prospect clients to learn about where they are in life. As you review their insurance needs, use that conversation as the guide for what your clients value most. – Laura Packard, American Collectors Insurance

91 – Get the Experience of Partners
Ask for input from your business partners. Most will gladly pass along solutions that have worked for them in similar situations. It will expand your knowledge, strengthen your relationship and may even lead to additional opportunities. – Jill Bookman, American Collectors Insurance

92 – Find a New Way to Keep in Touch
Client messages related to annual reviews, policy anniversaries and birthday are common. Also consider special communications related to risks. For example, send an email to clients with classic cars or recreational vehicle coverage in the spring when the “toys” are coming out of the garage! – Laura Packard, American Collectors Insurance

93 – ‘Sales’ Is Not a Bad Word
Sales is often seen in conflict with service, but when this function is executed properly, it’s really the essence of good service. Proactive, attentive, needs-based sales in an insurance environment means that you are serving clients by looking out for their best interests, educating them about the need for coverage, and covering potential risk exposures. – Jill Bookman, American Collectors Insurance

94 – Set Your Goals
Goals should be set at both an individual and company-wide level. Be realistic but ambitious. Be measured but strive for the best. Your goals should be based on where you’ve been, as well as where you want to go. – Jill Bookman, American Collectors Insurance

95 – Mine for Specialties
Mine your agency management system to find out where you have a niche. If you have three or four restaurant accounts, then you have knowledge within your agency about restaurants. Ask your current clients about other restaurateurs who could use your expertise. – Insurance Journal

96 – Document, Document, Document
Keep track of what you do and what you tell clients. It provides seamless service when a colleague follows up later with a client at a moment when you are not available to answer questions. – Maureen Boeing, Landmark Insurance Agency and past chair, ASCnet

97 – Multitasking Break
It is so easy to work on the computer while simultaneously talking on the phone. Stop. Commit yourself to focusing on the needs of the client with whom you are speaking. Dedicating that time to the conversation and lending full expertise to his or her situation will build stronger relationships and open the door to opportunities you may not have caught otherwise. – Jill Bookman, American Collectors Insurance

98 – Branch Out
Pick your best niche and expand it like crazy. Keep nurturing your existing book while you grow your new “branch.” A well-picked and “niche-branch” can outperform the entire agency. – Michael Jans, Agency Revolution

99 – Budget, Schmudget
I wish more agencies would “act like grownup” businesses and budget their money. And then, I wish they’d know when to throw that budget away. If you’re getting a positive ROI on a marketing campaign that is what every entrepreneur dreams of: free money. Don’t let accountants run your business. Good marketing means that the marketplace pays for your marketing. (Don’t let lawyers run your business, either!) – Michael Jans, Agency Revolution

100 – Agency Newsletters
A newsletter is an excellent tool to help educate customers on insurance issues, to make customers believe that they’re getting something extra for their insurance dollars, and to keep an agency’s name before its customers. – Mary Christiano, Professional Insurance Agents associations of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Hampshire

101 – Don’t Use Complicated Diction
When pitching, do not use complicated diction. Pride yourself on being able to explain the concept as quickly, clearly and simply as possible. The biggest problem in sales is client confusion. Confusion does not lead to a Yes. – Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle, a N.J.-based “upcycling” and manufacturing firm, in a commentary in The New York Times


Csma frizzell car insuranceI know a few agents who hate asking for referrals because they’re afraid of bothering clients or asking for “too much”.

I understand the mentality, but it’s wrong.

When you make it easy and risk-free for clients to refer your agency, you are doing them a favor!

Why is that?

Because referrals are social currency. We all like to recommend quality companies and products to each other because it’s a way of helping one another.

Unfortunately, many insurance agents are never properly taught how to ask for referrals in an effective and comfortable way. This results in conversations like this:

Agent: “If you value the service I’ve provided you, please tell me 3 people that could also benefit from my excellent service…”

Client: [awkward pause] “Oh… Um… Well…  I guess you could call my… I don’t really have any phone numbers with me right now…”

Agent: “Sorry… can’t let you go until I get my names…”

I’d hate for you to deprive clients of the ability to help their friends and I really don’t want you to have an awkward conversation so…

Here’s 27 referral marketing ideas to get you started on the right path:

1) Change Your Attitude About Referrals

Stop telling yourself you’re “asking for referrals” and imagine this instead:

“I’m helping my clients increase their social status by making it easy for them to recommend a local business that’s easy to work with, cares about it’s customers, and can save their friends thousands of dollars”

If you have trouble convincing yourself of this, your challenge may be deeper than just needing more referrals.

2) Make a Referral Reward Program

A referral reward program is an established system you use to thank clients who refer your agency. It can include a variety of ideas within this article, but the important element is that its an established, repeatable, and easy-to-follow procedure.

Establishing an official referral reward program offers many advantages:

  1. It’s easy for your producers to explain to customers.
  2. It makes an “un-thanked” referral less likely to happen.
  3. You can generate promotional materials about it. (flyers, etc.)
  4. Your customers will know what to expect if they refer someone and will be more likely to do it.

3) Get in Your Clients’ Cell Phones

Swinton car insurance cashback soundtrack

If your clients don’t have your contact information on them somewhere they’ll be less able to fully recommend you to their friends.

Make sure every client has your contact information in their address book. Program it in there for them and don’t stop at getting just one member of the family. Insist on getting your contact information into every single phone in the house.

It’s easy if you frame it right: explain the benefits of having your phone number on hand in case there is ever an emergency.

I know agents that go so far as to insist the client input it while in the office and they’ll follow up with new customers to make sure the agency gets programmed in the rest of the family phones.

It just looks to the client like you really want to be available to them, which is a good thing!

4) Referral Cards to Hand Out

Make up some cards with your logo, agency contact information, and a spot that says: “Referred by _________”.

Handwrite your client’s name in the blank space and give it to them to pass along.

You could mail these out or put them in your new business packet, but I’d recommend actually handing them to your clients at a time when they’ll be forced to put them in their wallet or purse.

5) Check Out Rocket Referrals

I looked into this company out after the fifth different agent told me about them and I’m convinced they have an awesome system.

It’s called Rocket Referrals and it’s a turnkey system that identifies the clients who are most likely to refer your agency and reaches out to them by mail and email to ask for referrals.

It’s pretty cool system and I saw the demo but I don’t really know how it all works so if you’d be interested in making the referral process automated check out their website here.

6) Practice Your Referral Talkpaths

Insurance group cars explained

Think you’re too cool or too good to practice your sales conversations with a friend or in front of the mirror?

You’re not.

The average NFL football game has about 11 minutes of actual playing time.  If Payton Manning can spend a hundred hours each week preparing for 11 minutes of execution (half of which he’s on the bench) I think you can practice your referral scripts a few times a week, right?

7) Describe Your Target Customer

One reason clients hesitate to refer your agency is because they don’t want to look bad if they recommend your services and your prices are sky high.

Remove the risk in your clients’ eyes by explaining they types of customers you have the most competitive rates for.

For example, “We have the cheapest rate in town 95% of the time for homeowners with good credit and a clean driving record”. Or, “If you know someone with a DWI in the past 2 years, we’re the best agency to help them out.”

Just be careful not to tell customers your target client is the opposite of them. They’ll question whether they’ve got the right agency!

8) Help Clients Identify Referral Targets

Here’s an exercise to illustrate this point:

Exercise #1 -  Excluding your coworkers and family, think of someone you know that would be happy to win $200 today….

Don’t move on until you’ve thought of someone…

Exercise #2 - Now think of a neighbor that would be happy to win $200 today.

The first question is harder for most people to answer because it’s hard to think of just one person out of thousands of qualifiers.

The second question has fewer options to choose from, but I bet you probably just had a mental image of your neighbor holding a hundred dollar bill with a big smile on his face. Am I right?

The point is, when you ask clients to refer your agency, give them a specific group to choose from.

Instead of making a general request, say something like, “Is there anyone in your church group that could really benefit from saving a few hundred dollars on insurance?”.

9) Recommend-a-Friend Functionality on Your Website

Honestly, I don’t know how effective something like this will be for you, but having a page or a box somewhere on your agency website that allows people to send an email to a friend recommending your agency might work.

I think an entire page could work better than a little box somewhere because I expect it would take a bit of convincing to get people to actually give up their friend’s email address and you’d have to remove the perceived risk of getting your friend spammed.

10) Email Signature

Your email signature is a block of text that shows up automatically at the bottom of your emails. Most agents have their contact information and maybe a link to their website.

These are a great places to request a referral because it’s so easy for the recipient who is already reading your email to forward it to someone.

Use “Forward My Contact Information”  as your actual call to action to remind the reader specifically how to recommend you and encourage them to do so.

11) Remove the Risk

One reason people hesitate to refer your agency is because they’re afraid of looking bad if you don’t do a good job.

By recommending your agency to a friend they’re putting their reputation on the line.  If your agency is rude, doesn’t return phone calls, or has horrible rates they’ll look bad for recommending you!

Explain to your clients how you handle referred business. Emphasize that you give referred leads very special treatment and that you’re not going to hound referrals with 20 phone calls during dinner time and put them on an email spam list. (Save that for your internet leads)

12) Thank Referrers on Your Facebook Page

When you receive a customer referral, go out to your Facebook page and thank the person who provided that referral out in the open for everyone to see.

This accomplishes many things. It shows the referrer how much you appreciate their gesture which should get you more referrals from them. It shows everyone else how much you appreciate referrals which should get you more referrals from other Facebook fans.

It also reinforces to your existing clients that other people are so happy with your agency that they’re sending their friends. This social-proof should improve your client perception and retention.

13) Give Two Business Cards

This one is kind of simple, when you hand out your cards give everyone two and ask them to hand out the second one.

Come up with something cool to say like, “Here’s one for you and one for your friend who drives the most expensive car and has the most speeding tickets.

14) Identify Clients With the Most Friends

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Okay, I know it’s a bit devious, but in many cases you can look at someone’s public Facebook profile and see how many friends they have. You can do the same for connections on LinkedIn too. The more friends they have the more important it is to treat them right and ask for referrals.

You could make it part of your new business process or check out all the people who already like your agency Facebook page.

Establish a special category of clients that are uber-connected and go out of your way for this group of clients to wow and amaze them.  They can probably generate a lot more leads than your agency’s FB page can.

Be aware – younger people have a lot more Facebook friends but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re better targets for generating referrals.

15) Use LinkedIn for Targeted Referrals

LinkedIn has an interesting feature that may help you get referrals for specific prospects that you’re trying to sell to. When you look at the LinkedIn profile of someone you’re not connected with and you are both connected with a third person, LinkedIn will show you who that third person is.

This means you can send a casual message to the person you’re both connected with requesting that they introduce you.

Obviously a lot depends on your relationship with that third person but you never know.

16) Get Clients to Like Your Facebook Page

The average person on Facebook has 130 friends. Imagine if you could get just a few people a week to post about your agency.

One way to drastically increase the odds of this happening is by getting them to like your Facebook page. Once they like your page they’ll see your content more often and if you post something really cool it’s more likely they’ll pass it along.

Just make sure your content is share-worthy. I’d stay away from the “Call us today for a cheap insurance quote!!!” post

While I’m on the topic… CLICK THIS LINK to like my Facebook page.

17) Get Referrals Immediately After Doing a Favor

According to Stanford University psychology research, when someone receives a favor, their perceived value of that favor diminishes over time. Interestingly, the perceived value of the same favor in the eyes of the person who gave the favor does the opposite, it increases as time passes.

Here’s an example to illustrate the point. Six months ago your customer hugged you for saving him $500 and he’s now screaming because renewal went up by $50. Sound familiar?

Anyway, the point is that the absolute best time to ask for a referral is immediately after you have helped a client with something – found a new discount they qualified for, helped them through a positive claim experience, whatever.

One week from now it’ll be water under the bridge, strike while the iron is hot!

18) Referral Commission Bonus for Producers

Pay your producers an extra bonus for policies that are sold from an existing customer’s referral. This will help you in several ways:

  1. Your producers will never forget to ask the lead how they heard about you.
  2. Your producers will treat referred leads as more valuable (they are).
  3. Your producers will work harder to get existing clients to refer you.
  4. Referred business will retain better, refer more, and is more valuable to you.

19) Facebook Ads – Sponsored Stories

Sponsored Stories are a specific type of ads in Facebook that are shown to friends of people who already like your Agency Facebook page.

Driving a friends car insurance uk companiesThey show your businesses image with a message that says something like, “Suzie Q. Likes This”.

They tend to work well because people are more likely to be interested in something (like your agency)  knowing their friend already likes it.

You don’t need to show your ad to every friend of your fans, you can display your ad to specific groups like baby boomers with teenagers at home for example.

20) Call Your Clients’ Emergency Contacts

Okay, that heading sounds bad, but it’s not as bad as it sounds.

I wrote another article that explains a pretty creative way to get referrals from the neighbors of your new homeowner’s policy clients.

21) Get Referrals From the Right Clients

People usually hang out with other people like them. If you only ask your most troublesome clients for referrals you’re going to wind up with more troublesome clients.

However, if you get referrals from the people who never bother you, always pay their bill on time, never file claims and renew year after year you’ll be able to grow your agency in a healthy way.

You’ll have to find a way to reach out to these people, because they don’t swing by your office every other week like the other group!

22) Give Referrals

I know I’m not the first person to tell you that the more referrals you give the more you’re going to get, but here’s a few tips to help:

  1. Make sure the person you refer mentions your name – if they don’t, it never happened.
  2. Follow up with the person you referred a week later to see how it worked out.
  3. Send an email to both parties so there’s no doubt you provided the connection.
  4. Create a rolodex of self-employed clients and use it just for giving referrals.
  5. Hang a huge bulletin board on the wall and encourage clients to pin their business cards to it.

23) Postcards The Clients Writes, You Mail

Print up a stack of postcards with your agency logo and contact information on them and put the stack on your front desk. Let your clients fill it out themselves and you stamp it and mail it.

You could do this as a strictly “refer a friend” postcard or you could be a little more benevolent and just let your clients write whatever they want and send it to their friend on your dime.

It might be kind of cool actually… “Sorry for the delay, would you like to mail someone a postcard while you wait for your appointment?”

24) Join a Referral Networking Group

Join one of those business networking groups where everybody gets together once a week to practice their elevator pitch, eat eggs and give each other referrals.

Sure it’s a lot of work generating new referrals every week, but what else do you have to do at 6:00 a.m. on a Thursday morning?

25) Educate Clients About All Your Products

Mutual of omaha insurance car phone numberJust because someone who buys homeowner’s insurance from you probably doesn’t also need a renters policy, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make sure they know you sell it.

They might know people who do need renters insurance but unless they know you sell it they won’t refer you.

An insurance agency isn’t a grocery store. Everything for sale isn’t in plain sight on the shelves (Unless you’re Flo).

Make a one page sheet that shows all the different types of insurance you sell and take one minute with every new customer to explain it to them.

26) Teach Clients About Good Referral Opportunities

You know someone just bought a house or has a baby is a prime target for life insurance.

Do your clients?

Help your clients identify referral opportunities by painting a picture. Say something like this, “Next time someone at your work complains about insurance being expensive, tell them to give us a call. We’ve helped a lot of people struggling right now and we’re always looking for more.”

27) Ask

Need I say more?

Okay, I guess it’s my turn now…

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If you think you’ll use EVEN JUST ONE of the ideas presented in this article and you know another insurance agent like you who is:

  • dedicated to growing their agency
  • open to new ideas
  • not afraid to ask for referrals, sell more insurance and make more money.

Would you do me a favor and email them a link to this article right now? You’ll be helping two people with one small but appreciated gesture.

And if you don’t have anyone to email but you liked the article, click the “Like” button so I know.

Thank you so much,
- John

Like What You Read? If so, join thousands of agents who get exclusive Insurance Marketing Ideas and a FREE COPY of our eBook: 10 Actions to Boost Your Agency's Google Rankings Today. Sign Up Today! Best rated car insurance companies ukiah
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With 2015 rapidly approaching, insurance agents need to start planning a marketing strategy to grow their business next year. Referrals are an important component in helping a business grow, which makes it crucial that insurance agents focus on strengthening their relationships with existing policyholders this year.

As the worlds online and off continue to evolve, so do the needs of your policyholders. This also means that you need to evolve your approach in order to stay relevant. The biggest change that will be seen across the board in 2015 is that marketing from businesses will be about the consumer, not the business. Consumers are tired of having businesses talk at them without providing any additional benefit. They want to be helped, not sold to, and your marketing strategy needs to reflect this.

In 2015, insurance agents need to focus on one thing in particular: work to build stronger, more personal relationships with policyholders. This approach increases both referral business and policyholder retention.

This coming year is less about the medium (email, social, web) and more about having a branded voice that’s consistent across all channels. Focus in particular on humanizing your communications by emphasizing what your policyholders want, rather than serving your own interests.

Here are the five referral-driving marketing secrets for insurance agents in 2015:

1. Embrace Content Marketing

Car transporting insuranceContent marketing is a hot topic in 2014 and will continue to be in 2015 and beyond. What is content marketing for insurance agents? Simply put, content marketing is a way of communicating with your policyholders through interesting, entertaining and informative materials that are intended to help, not sell.

Last year, I encouraged you to start a blog, build (or revisit) your email newsletter and promote everything you do through social media. Content marketing plugs into each of these activities, making them better at grabbing (and keeping) the attention of your policyholders.

Everything you write about on your blog and in your email newsletter should focus on what your audience cares about, not what interests you. So while getting referrals might be your end goal, you shouldn’t ask for it up front. Find topics that resonate well with your audience and help build your brand image as a trusted friend and resource.

For example, rather than writing a blog post talking about the financial benefits of adding multiple vehicles to the same policy, write a post that talks about the best ways to keep your vehicles in peak condition. Send this in an email to your policyholders and share to social channels. This industry-adjacent content gives you credibility points without coming across as constantly hawking a product.

How This Drives Referrals:

Seventy-eight percent of consumers believe that organizations providing custom content want to build good relationships. That’s a HUGE number! When you have the attention of your audience through good content marketing, you have more buy-in with them. This builds their trust in you and makes them more willing to send their friends and family your way.

BONUS: 9 Simple Hacks to Boost Your Email Open Rates

Getting your emails into the inbox is only half the battle. These nine pro tricks will definitely boost your email open rates in 2015.

2. Stop Ignoring Mobile

Ceramic mixing bowl sainsbury's car insuranceSixty-six percent of emails are opened on a phone or tablet. Facebook has more than 650 million daily active users on mobile devices. And mobile traffic to websites now accounts for almost 30 percent of visits. In short, there are plenty of reasons why you need to be sure that your business is mobile ready.

On the social media front, you’ll be good to go with the big three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. They all have mobile-ready websites and gorgeous mobile apps. However, with your website and blog, you need to make sure that everything you do is built with mobile optimization and responsive design in mind. Why does this matter? Because 60 percent of mobile website visitors in the last 12 months who have encountered problems with a website have left the site completely. That’s a lot of lost traffic!

With your emails, you need to make sure that you’re using an email service that designs and tests for multiple screen sizes, operating systems and devices. If you’re designing your own email marketing templates and sending things in-house, make sure that you’re following the 10 steps to email newsletter design to make your emails look good on every screen.

How This Drives Referrals:

When someone tells their friends about you, most likely, their first instinct isn’t to call you and get a quote. They’ll most likely head to Google and check you out. Whatever device they’re using, they need to be able to get the best look at you and your business as possible. Seventy-two percent of tablet owners make purchasing decisions from their devices on a weekly basis. That’s a lot of decision makers!

3. Experiment with Paid Facebook Ads and Boosting Posts

A lot of marketing experts are predicting that 2015 will be the year of content distribution through paid promotion channels. Social networks are a great place to apply this practice to your business. Focusing on Facebook in particular, spending just a few dollars every once in a while can be a huge traffic driver for your website.

Facebook has two ways you can go about doing this.

Facebook Ads

The first method is a bit labor intensive and, while it gives you more options, it might be more time than you’d be interested in committing. First, go to the Facebook Ad Page and click “Create an Ad.”

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Facebook has a very intelligent ad platform that will walk you through the process of creating ads with your end goals in mind. When you do create an ad, you’ll be presented with a handful of options based on goals you want to achieve. Usually traffic to your website or Facebook page are good places to start.

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Boosting Posts

The other way to take advantage of Facebook ads is by boosting your posts on your actual page. For this example, I’ve picked a post from our insurance demo account.

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At the bottom of the post, click “Boost Post,” and you’ll be presented with a variety of options.

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My recommendation is to boost a few select posts each month and not spend more than $10-$20 per boost. For audience to target, you should stick with fans of your page. The more you can get them to click on your posts and like what you share, the more your posts will show up in their News Feeds.

How This Drives Referrals:

With referral leads, the person referring their friend or family member typically has a strong connection to you. By continually having visibility for your business in their Facebook News Feed, you’ll have their attention and be top of mind when referral situations present themselves.

BONUS: 10 Secrets to Building a Killer Email List

You could have the best emails in the world, but without a solid list of recipients, it won’t perform. Here’s how you grow your list the right way!

4. Invest in Marketing Automation

Lexcen car insuranceFor full-time marketers, the use of marketing automation is fairly common. However, if you’re doing your own marketing for your business, marketing automation tools can save you a bunch of time. On a smaller scale, marketing automation takes care of some of the labor-intensive aspects of your marketing and helps you achieve your goals faster. On a larger scale, marketing automation is a way to scale your marketing activities and improve your targeting.

Now there’s a difference between outsourcing work and automating your marketing. Let’s say that you write a monthly email newsletter but sometimes you pay someone else to write it for you. That’s outsourcing. Marketing automation in this scenario would be if you had an established calendar for your email newsletters complete with topics that a service wrote and sent on your behalf. (Just make sure you’re not confusing email marketing with email “blasts.”).

In 2015, smart marketing begins with email automation. Email is still your most effective channel to keep your name in front of policyholders. Sending them quality content that’s enjoyable to read is the best way to be a part of their lives without coming across as intrusive.

How This Drives Referrals:

When you have marketing automation in place, the amount of time you save in your day-to-day routine makes it well worth the investment. And when your policyholders are engaging with content unrelated to your business via email and social media, you can begin to ask them for referral business. Think of this as your earned media. Give them enough quality content for free, and you earn the right to ask them for referral business.

5. Start Using Lead Nurturing

Cheapest car insurance in tulsa okLead nurturing is an advanced application of marketing automation. It’s a way to bucket groups of contacts and send them targeted marketing content based on where they are in the buyer journey.

For example, you could set up emails that work around your auto policyholder premium renewal dates. For the four months following a premium renewal, you would send email newsletters that are low commitment and entertaining. As the time approaches for their policy renewal, the emails you send would talk more about policy discounts and lead them to start a conversation about questions they might have. After they renew their policy, you would use an email campaign to ask them for names of any friends they have who might need insurance.

How This Drives Referrals:

The whole point of automating your marketing is to build long-lasting relationships with your policyholders. Lead nurturing can work to help build these relationships no matter whether they’re a new client or have been with you for years. When you have marketing in place that gently nudges people in the direction that gets you more referrals, you control your business’s success.

BONUS: 5-Step Template for Writing Amazing Content Every Time

Writing good content on a consistent schedule is hard. This checklist will help you create high-value content your audience looks forward to reading, every time.


As you make your 2015 plans, remember these three important points.

  • Humanize your brand and make it more relatable.
  • Adjust your marketing strategy to be less about you and more about your policyholders.
  • And whenever possible, look to marketing automation as a way to help save you time while increasing the effectiveness of your efforts.

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