Asking your insurance clients for referrals is a delicate dance requiring a subtle approach, patience, and a willingness to reward your most loyal shining stars
Of all the marketing tools for insurance agents that deliver value, few are more prized than the holy of the holies: Customer referrals.
As an insurance agent or broker you likely already know the value of insurance referrals, but just in case, here are a few illuminating facts to consider:
- Experts contend that consumers are up to 50x more likely to purchase a product or service that’s recommended by loved ones
- According to McKinsey & Company, 41% of prospective buyers engage with brands in the evaluation stage to receive feedback and information that will help them make a purchase decision
- Customers acquired via referrals have a retention rate that is 37% higher than those who don’t
These are but a few reasons why pundits like the Harvard Business Review maintain that developing a customer referral program is a crucial go-to-market strategy for increasing pipeline growth and driving new business.
The effectiveness of referrals has been vaunted and quantified by marketing and business experts many times — it’s not a new tactic. In fact, the reason insurance referral marketing programs are so popular is that they’ve been tested over time across multiple industries and they invariably get results.
So for insurance business owners, the need for customer referrals is obvious—they’re the most qualified insurance leads you can queue up in your pipeline. But needing isn’t getting, is it? The bottom line is, if you want to get referrals, you’re going to have to ask for them. Here’s how:
Focus on Low-hanging Fruit
The customers with whom you have the longest, strongest relationships are your top tier. These are the folks who already know you, who trust you, and who are invested in your business (and vice-versa!). The long-timers in your book of business can vouch for your integrity and their own top-shelf customer experience working with you. They are the long-hanging fruit on the tree, and it is their word-of-mouth referrals and written testimonials you should focus on securing before pursuing newer clients.
Delight Them First
Asking for a referral the minute you make a sale is one approach, certainly, but perhaps not the one most likely to garner the kind of results you’re after. Instead, take the time to earn your clients’ trust by providing value and fantastic customer service, and don’t be shy about showing it.
Schedule a series of emails several months out — easy work using your insurance CRM — and keep up a steady drip of communication with your clients. Share important information about their policies, or benefits packages that would benefit them during the next open enrollment period or qualifying life event. Remember their birthday with an e-card, or send holiday greetings. Keep communicating, and three to six months after their initial enrollment ask directly for a referral. Just make sure you delight them first.
Take Their Temperature
Not sure if a potential customer reference is hot, warm, or cold? Take their temperature and find out. Engage with customers on social media, send them customer satisfaction surveys, and catch up with them at local community events. The point is, to stay on your clients’ radar in ways that subtly underscore that you are there to serve their needs.
Sweeten the Pot
If you’ve ever signed up for a service and then been pestered for good reviews like a needy child every time you use it, take these words to heart: Reciprocity is the key to every good relationship.
Loyal customers may not mind shouting from the rooftops that your business is the best insurance agency in town, but everyone likes to feel appreciated, and that both their time and patronage are valued.
A formalized insurance referral program with requests, rewards, and desired results sketched out in black and white is not only more transparent all the way around, it will also help you lay the groundwork for an entire community of happy customer references.
As for rewards, consider not just the monetary value of the item, but also whether it will help deepen the relationship. Gift cards to local shops or dinner out at the most popular restaurant in town are warm and unexpected. Be creative (and compliant) in your referral rewards because after all, it really is the thought that counts, and you want yours to resonate.
At the end of the day, referrals can help sustain your insurance business in a way that no other type of marketing can. While you want to incentivize the effort you’re asking customers to go to on your behalf with a thoughtful gift or “reward,” remember this: A simple “thank you” goes a long, long way.
People don’t just want a gift card — they want to be recognized. And in doing so, you're likely to not only get the valuable referrals you’re seeking but also help deepen your customer relationships. And that’s a no-lose proposition.