How to Build a Client Base as an Insurance Agent
When you're just starting out as an insurance agent, landing your first clients is a daunting task. Without the experience and accomplishments to demonstrate your abilities, how can you inspire potential clients to trust in them? Without connections and referrals, how do you even find potential clients?
By presenting yourself well, putting yourself out there and using smart marketing strategies.
Building your client base won't happen overnight, though — and there's no silver bullet. It's an endeavor that will last your whole career and require a lot of patience. Those three ideas, though, will get you started on the right path. Let's take a closer look.
Identify Your Niche Markets
You have two options when starting your insurance career:
Be a generalist and offer a little bit of everything or be a specialist and choose one area to become an expert in.
Because generalists offer more services, they have a larger pool of potential clients. If you have little competition from other agents this strategy makes sense. In the face of competition, though, you may lose business to someone who specializes.
With 386,320 insurance agents in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the internet breaking down geographical barriers, you're bound to have some competition.Think about it. When someone is looking for auto insurance, for example, will they choose the auto insurance expert or an agent with less auto experience but more general knowledge? Because they're looking for car insurance, they don't care about the other knowledge. They just want the best auto insurance they can get.
That's one of the arguments for being a specialist. Another is that, typically, agents tend to specialize over time naturally. Even those who consider themselves generalists will likely find that their clients are focused on just a few areas if they crunch the data. That's because a lot of business comes from referrals. Getting a client in a particular industry may lead to another in that same industry.
So how should you go about choosing a niche to focus on? Explore these things:
- The available opportunities: Take a look at your competition and see if you can find any areas of the market that are underserved. This might be a market that's especially large in your area or a smaller one that hasn't gotten enough attention yet.
- Your knowledge, experience, and connections: Explore whether there are any markets you could get a headstart in. If you know a lot about cars or have friends who work in the automotive industry, for instance, you might consider specializing in auto insurance.
- Your interests: Don't neglect your interests, either. If there's an area of insurance that's appealing to you, make it a goal to get involved in it. If you work in an area you're passionate about, you'll work harder and likely have more success.
It's important to remember that your niches might change over time. You aren't committing yourself to one specialty for your whole career. Your clientele will evolve naturally over time and you can always target new markets later on. When choosing a niche, you're setting a goal rather than committing to one. You can also select more than just one niche to target.
Understand Your Ideal Customer
Once you've established the markets you want to get involved in, you can start learning about your target audience — that is, the people within that market who want your services.
Get to know them by interacting with them on social media, reading blogs about their industry or interests, and maybe even going to events and talking to them in-person. If your target audience is dentists, for example, start reading dental industry magazines, keep up with dental industry news, and follow dentists' offices on social media.
To figure out how to market to your target audience, you need to learn what needs of theirs you can fulfill. Create detailed descriptions of them. Create a persona of quintessential dentists, including information about how they run their businesses and what they do on the job each day. Identify risk characteristics specific to your market of choice and determine what would make some more likely to become a client of yours than others and define your ideal customer. Then you can tailor your marketing to those customers.
Build Your Brand
Next, you can start building your professional brand based on your niche markets and target audiences. Create a consistent image for yourself that appeals to those potential clients.
Hire a graphic designer to create a logo and choose a font to use across all of your communications materials. Make sure it looks professional and is easy to read. Looking professional also extends to you personally. Ensure that you look presentable at all business functions and get a professional photo of yourself taken.
Use this logo, font, and photo across your marketing materials, your website, and your social media presence. It's vital that you create a consistent and professional image across all of your physical and online materials.
Also, define a unique value proposition, which explains what you offer to your clients and what differentiates you from the competition. This idea is similar to the elevator speech: a 30-second introduction to you, what you do, and the benefits you provide. You should be able to give this speech to someone in the time you'd spend in the elevator with them and have them walk away understanding the basics of your brand.
Use Marketing and Lead Generation Strategies
Today, there are more marketing and lead generation channels available than ever before. The best communication methods to use are the ones that your clients already use as well. Don't be afraid to try out multiple channels and see what works best for you. Here are a few examples of methods you could benefit from:
Online marketing is a relatively newer method, but it's already a necessity. Every insurance agent or agency should have a website and utilize social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Make sure you optimize your website for smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers. Mobile devices are becoming increasingly important. Recent research shows that Americans spend 87 hours per month browsing on their smartphones compared to 34 hours per month on desktop computers.
You could also consider blogging or creating online videos, which can help potential clients find you online. Create blog posts or videos that are useful to your audience and they'll come to you. Email is also still a valuable tool. Create an email subscription list and let people sign up on your website.
More traditional marketing methods can also still be beneficial, especially if you target them to the right audience. These channels include billboards, TV ads, telemarketing, radio ads, direct mail, and ads in magazines, newspapers, and newsletters.
Modern technologies can make your marketing, lead generation and communications efforts much more efficient and lead to better results.
Consider investing in customer relationship management (CRM) software, which helps you to keep track of all of the interactions you have with leads and clients. It stores information about your marketing initiatives, sales efforts, and client communications. It helps you get a clear picture of each client and your overall communications. CRM software can also power automatic email marketing and follow-up.
You can also use software to manage and send contracts and other documents online, which speeds up processes related to contracts and creates more transparency. You might also consider using an outside service for storing and managing all of this information.
Networking has many benefits for new insurance agents, as it does for professionals in almost any industry. It can connect you to new clients and business partners as well as help you improve your knowledge and skills.
As a new insurance agent, you should consider joining an agency cluster group, also known as a network, alliance, or aggregator. Joining these groups improves your access to carriers and provides you with marketing and sales support, information sharing, and networking opportunities while allowing you to stay an independent agent. There are sometimes fees and financial concerns associated with joining a cluster.
If you decide not to join a cluster group, you can likely still find networking groups or events in your area. If there's not, consider hosting one of your own. Doing so will give you lots of professional connections and establish you as an industry leader for your area.
Events that aren't specific to insurance can provide you with networking opportunities as well. Get involved in your local community and you may meet people who need your services, know someone who does, or have professional connections from which you could benefit. Be careful not to get too salesy at social events but do always keep a few business cards close at hand.
Take this strategy a step further by partnering with other local businesses. Find someone that you can form a mutually beneficial partnership with. If you're in the homeowners' insurance market, for example, consider partnering with nearby real estate agents or offices. When they get a client who's in need of insurance, they'll recommend you to them. The real estate agent can provide their clients with the added value of instant insurance quotes and easy access to insurance policies.
Once you become more established, you could also consider sponsoring community events. You'll develop relationships with the event organizers, increase your presence in the community and gain valuable marketing and networking opportunities.
Get Customer Referrals
Your current and past clients can also act as partners and help you get new clients. After you win someone's business and prove your abilities to them, ask them to provide a testimonial or to refer a friend.
If they provide a testimonial, ask for permission to share it on your website. Also, encourage clients to write online reviews on sites like Yelp and Google. Take the time to keep tabs on your online reviews and claim your business listing on these sites. Then, respond to people who leave reviews. For positive reviews, thank them. For any negative ones, ask them to private message you and offer to fix the problem.
You should also encourage clients to refer people they know who might also need your services.To motivate people to refer friends, write testimonials and post reviews, consider creating a rewards program. Provide incentives such as gift cards, lottery tickets or drawings for larger prizes. A well-executed referral program can become one of your most powerful tools for building up your client base.
The way you communicate with your clients is crucial to your success. Customer service is still essential to attracting and keeping clients.
When you get a new client, welcome them by sending them a package with information about their insurance plan. Also include information about you, your referral program, several business cards, and a small giveaway like a pen, magnet, or keychain. In the letter you send them, welcome them to your practice and encourage them to contact you with any questions or concerns.
Then, follow up with your clients periodically and after a claim to make sure they're happy with your work. Ask if you can do anything more to help them.
Do your best to be available to your clients when they need you and always respond to their phone calls or emails as quickly as possible. This responsiveness will show them that you care and improve your reputation.
Also, ask for feedback from your clients as well as the leads you didn't win. Ask them what they like about you and what you could do better. You can use this information to continuously improve your business. You may even win some of those leads that you missed the first time around.
Maintain Your Competitive Edge
It's important that as your progress through your career, even once you have an established client base, that you keep your skills and knowledge sharp. Seek continuous improvement, stay up to date on industry trends and learn new skills periodically. Always look for ways you can streamline your sales funnel and improve your customer service.Continually improving your knowledge will help you stand out from the competition.
One reliable strategy for keeping your skills sharp is regularly participating in continuing education courses. Completing these programs is often a requirement for maintaining your license, but they can also help you to learn new skills, refresh old ones, and stay updated on the latest industry knowledge. Courses specifically for insurance professionals, general business courses, and others can all prove useful.
If you're interested in signing up for an insurance industry continuing education course, you can learn more about the programs offered by StateCE and view our course catalog here. You can also explore our blog and the rest of our website for more helpful information about the insurance industry and continuing education.
Establishing a client base takes substantial time and effort. For new insurance agents, this task is especially overwhelming. Following the steps listed above, though, can help you to create and implement a strategy for finding your ideal client base. Although the process will require substantial time and effort, building a successful career as an insurance agent will be well worth it.