Every month, nearly 2,500 people shop for personal, auto, and/or home insurance online, and they take the time to fill out a form with hopes of hearing back from a knowledgeable and personable industry rep or licensed agent who will help them through the often overwhelming and dreaded insurance decision-making process. All insurance shoppers who fill out a form online are considered viable leads that are generated. For insurance agents and insurance carriers who participate in a formal and well-established lead generation (lead gen) program, a monthly treasure trove of 2.5M potential new customers is an effective, expedient, and exceptional way to grow their business.
Securing Thousands of Dollars in New Business Each Month
(a.k.a. Why generate leads online?)
Whether it’s a multi-generational, established agency that has been a mainstay in a community for decades, or it’s a brand new independent agency in the market, every insurance agent, owner, and carrier has either considered or tried online leads and call transfers at some point in their career in the insurance industry. While some have had great success with generating leads via this non-traditional marketing channel, many have not. If an agency hasn’t achieved success with online leads yet, it doesn’t mean that it can’t build up business with online shoppers. Quite the opposite is true, in fact. Armed with a strategic marketing plan, a tried-and-true blueprint, and extensive knowledge of online marketing channels (or connecting with a company like Apliant that is equipped with these), any agency or carrier can grow their business through lead gen. That’s exactly what I did and how I did it. I built a hugely successful agency by writing nearly 10k new personal, auto, and home policies each month – all done with online leads.
So, though I am truly humbled and grateful for it, it's no surprise to me that on a daily basis, I get a blitzkrieg of incoming calls and emails from other industry professionals wanting ideas, opinions, and insights about catapulting their business to the next level. I regularly talk with owners of agencies and carriers who are looking to increase the amount of new business they generate. While some share that they’re considering upgrading their internal management software to streamline processes, and others seek help recruiting, training, and developing a customer-centric and product-savvy staff, all are interested in exploring different ways to attract, secure, and sustain new customers. These calls, questions, and conversations happen so frequently at my agency because:
- There is a genuine and urgent desire among agency owners and operators to grow their business. While many agencies experience an annual growth of 2-3%, owners and operators know they are capable and equipped to do more.
- Growing is complicated. There are a lot of components to branding and marketing your business that have to work in sync with each other to experience effective, measurable growth on a consistent basis.
- My team and I have built big agency operations, we currently have one of the most efficient agencies around, and we help other agencies achieve similar success.
Three Types of Online Sites Where an Insurance Shopper Can Find and Fill Out a Form (and Thus Generate a Lead)
- An Unbranded Website
This is a type of website that comes up in Google AdWords or shows up in search results when the online shopper searches for insurance in their local area. The consumer sees some logos of insurance carriers on these unbranded sites and decides to fill out a form with their information. Since the owner of an unbranded site is almost never an insurance agent, the owner sells this information to a lead provider. Lead providers are companies that purchase leads from all of these unbranded websites, then sell the lead directly to insurance carriers and agencies. Sometimes, these lead providers also operate their own unbranded websites.
- A Carrier Website
Carrier websites are the corporate or customer sites owned by an insurance carrier. When a consumer fills out information on one of these sites, the carrier is usually the one who will contact the consumer directly.
- An Agency Website
If the consumer does a search for a specific agency, or if an agency has done a great job in creating Search Engine Optimization (SEO) content, then the agency website will show up in the web search results.
Once the form is completed and submitted by the online shopper, what happens to it?
Once an online form is completed and submitted by the online insurance shopper, that generated lead will go to one of three places.
- The Website Owner
When the owner of a website generates leads directly via his website, he then sells those completed forms to lead providers who then, in turn, sell them to insurance carriers or brokers. These leads, referred to as unbranded, can be sold to a single buyer or to multiple buyers. In some scenarios, the lead providers will directly call these leads to verify the information that was filled out on the form and to confirm their interest in shopping for insurance. Once the leads have been upgraded into these warm transfer candidate leads, the website owner will then transfer them to insurance carriers or agencies via phone. The form-generated information about the customer is also sent -- via email or other data transfer method – to the carrier or agency. In addition, an unbranded website will often have a phone number displayed. Since this type of lead gen website does not have an insurance agent behind it, the number usually connects directly to a lead provider, who then will send it to an insurance carrier or agent. Sometimes, these Click-to-Call leads are very interested in insurance, but they have not provided much background information about themselves because they opted to call the number on the website vs. filling out the form.
- The Carrier Website
Whether it’s through a landing page or a call-to-action at the end of a blog, an insurance carrier’s website can present their products directly to the website visitor (a.k.a. the insurance shopper). Since the potential customer filled out the form directly through the carrier’s website, that carrier will contact the lead himself. Usually, the carrier will only be able to present the single insurance product they offer. In some cases, however, the insurance carrier might have a relationship with an independent agency and will then be able to transfer the customer to that agency in the event that the initial product offering was not a great fit.
- The Agency Website
In most cases, the insurance agency that owns the website will reach out to the lead. In rare cases, however, some agencies will pass the leads on to a lead provider or another agency if the lead was not someone they could serve, such as an insurance shopper who lives out of state.
**Call transfer programs
Another type of lead gen program is referred to as the Call Transfer Program. Leads are generated when a customer calls into your agency looking for a licensed producer to give them a quote.
Online insurance shoppers are not bad customers
(they just may have had a bad experience).
Depending on which form a lead filled out, the online insurance shopper could be contacted by over half a dozen insurance agencies, carriers, or lead gen companies. This frustrates not only the customer, but also the agent who ends up speaking to him. It’s still the same good lead; they just might be irritated by the experience they’ve had prior to speaking with an agent. At this point, the most effective way for the agent to make that initial phone call successful is to:
- Empathize – while you didn’t cause the events that led to a frustrating experience, you can exude patience and be understanding regarding their frustrations. You can share with them that you have been helping clients navigate the complexities of insurance for years, you have many product offerings, and one of them will surely fit their needs.
- Get to the point – the online insurance shoppers are actively looking for a new product. Find out why they are shopping for a new product and what it will take to get them the product they are looking for.
- Be efficient – no one likes shopping for insurance (in fact, the experience is undoubtedly right up there with visiting the dentist!), so don’t draw the process out. Remember, insurance companies have drilled commercials into everyone’s brains that they can get insurance in 20 minutes, then 15, now even less. If you can’t get to an initial rate in 8 minutes and a final rate in 12, then your chances of winning a new client drop considerably.
- Rate quick, sell slow – if you have a good product at a price that works for the customer, then you have a new client coming your way. Don’t rush through the part of the conversation where you inform the customer what they are buying, why they are buying it, and why they now have everything they need in an insurance policy and an agent. Remember, other carriers and agencies might be calling this person after you hang up the phone, so you want to make sure the customer feels as though they have everything they need and, therefore, there is no reason to talk to another person about their insurance.
- Be balanced – don’t be too aggressive in order to secure a new client, but don’t be a pushover either. Lead the process in a calm and structured manner. Don’t fall for false objections that the customer comes up with, but respect and accept that they may not be ready to buy immediately.
- Follow up – The number one reason why agents don’t find success with leads is that they fail to follow up on their pipeline of leads! Remember, your call to the customer is not a cold call; they initiated the communication by filling out the form on the internet. If you don’t get in touch with them on the first call, keep calling. If you set a time to call them back, make sure you are on time. If you fail to connect, keep trying. This is where a smart customer engagement strategy and system can be really helpful. Lead gen success requires strategy, consistency, and adjustments.
Now that you understand how these leads originated and where they came from, how you choose to deal with them will make all the difference in whether they become customers. Handling lead gen opportunities like a traditional walk-in or referral may not be the best approach. Here are some of our top tips to win a new customer from this non-traditional marketing channel.
- Warm transfers and click-to-call – you will already be on the phone with the customer, so this one is easy. Remember, warm transfer candidate leads have already been contacted and confirmed by the website owner, and Click-to-Call leads are very interested in insurance but opted to call the number on the website vs. filling out the form.
Consistent phone call structure
- Explain who you are, who you represent, and why you are the best person to handle their insurance needs.
- Be an exceptional listener; the customer will appreciate you treating them like the individual they are.
- Identify and understand what compelled them to shop for insurance.
- Identify what it will take for them to purchase today with you.
- Identify what influences their buying decision and if they are in a position to sign up with you now.
- Outline the process that you will take them through.
- Assess, advise, and rate quickly – this should take just a few minutes.
- Present initial rates before running reports, so that you and the customer can have a good idea of the market pricing.
- Work with the customer to choose a carrier to get a final rate from. This conversation allows you to sell the benefits of the carrier, not just the price of the policy.
Adjust and optimize
- Regularly review your reporting to see the effectiveness of your contact strategy and call structure.
- Test new content in your emails and your text.
- Mix up your conversation by trying different scripts for your phone calls.
- Try calling different customers at different times of the day to see when people most often pick up the phone to increase your contact rate.
Your tools for the 21st century ought to be from the 21st century
If you’re trying to provide a great experience to today’s 21st century, tech-savvy, easily distracted, and busy customer, then you need to have modern tools. If you want to have success with digital or virtual customers, then the process your agents go through needs to be streamlined, efficient, and well-equipped. If you’re going to improve continually and grow your agency consistently, you need to be able to track and report your progress.
Most agencies use a suite of systems and tools that were embraced and implemented at different times; as a result, those systems may not integrate efficiently with each other. This often leads to a lot of duplicitous clerical work, which means less time to speak with customers. There are some great systems available, so make sure you integrate them together to create a seamless flow for your sales process and your customer experience. Best-case scenario -- you find a single system that does everything you need or at least manages the customer experience. All digital customers who shop for insurance by filling out forms online are great leads and are what agents and carriers purchase when participating in lead gen programs.
Casey Gustus is the CEO of Apliant, a software company helping agents acquire and retain new clients across the P&C industry. He can be reached at email@example.com. Check out more Apliant articles at the Apliant Blog