Updated October 2021
If you are an insurance agent, chances are good you’re already aware that having a strong referral network will help you build your business. It’s even possible that client referrals are your primary lead generation tactic, and there are many good reasons for keeping that particular funnel full.
Why referrals are superior leads
The first reason for the superiority of referrals is their cost—referrals are likely the least expensive of all lead generation tactics. Even a referral rewards program isn’t likely to outpace the cost of finding and closing a new client.
Another reason referrals make great leads is their lifetime value. While the numbers vary from study to study, at least one source reports referrals have a lifetime value 16% greater than nonreferred clients.
A third reason why you want to garner referrals is their inherent social proof. Nielsen reported that an astonishing 92% of people around the world trust recommendations from friends and family more than any form of advertising.
I could impress you with more numbers, but I think you see my point—referrals are tough to beat when it comes to lead generation.
If you want to increase your number of quality referrals, it stands to reason that you want to provide value and a stellar client experience. But you also want to be savvy about your marketing. The 8 tips below are commonsense, easy-to-implement ways that insurance agents can get more referred leads.
1. Connect consistently and repeatedly
There is immense power in consistency and frequency. The more often you interact with your clients, the more familiar you become to them. That familiarity breeds comfort, and, when clients feel comfortable, they are more likely to trust you.
Repeated and consistent exposure keeps you top of mind—in your clients’ minds, you want to become synonymous with a solution to their insurance needs. That immediate recall, combined with trust, means when friends, family, or colleagues speak of needing insurance, your name is the first they think of.
2. Educate your clients
Here’s the thing: You have clients you love, and you have clients who, if they weren’t a source of premium dollars, you’d rather they forget your name. Referrals from the former are like diamonds. Referrals from the latter are akin to lumps of coal. Additionally, you may not be well-suited to serve the needs of all potential referrals. For these reasons you want to select carefully those clients you ask for referrals, and you want to educate them about the type of referrals you need.
We have an amazing podcast episode that you must listen to for the best expert advice about educating your clients. Luke Acree and Josh Stike interview Dan Allison who was trained as a clinical and behavioral psychologist, but for nearly 19 years, his company, Feedback Marketing Group, has been helping businesses generate more referral activity from their existing clients.
When you listen to his interview, you’ll hear the whats, whys, and hows, but Dan suggests the best referrals come from clients who:
- see so much value in their own experience with a business that they would confidently take the risk to refer someone very important;
- understand the comprehensive nature of all that business does and can convey its value proposition in a way that makes an impact;
- have a clear idea of the type of person who would be an ideal client for that business;
- understand that a personal introduction is needed to make the referral occur;
- are comfortable in providing referrals.
3. Follow Up
There is no substitute for following up with clients and prospective clients. I guarantee you have old leads in your contact database that haven’t heard from you in far too long. Pick up the phone and call these people!
With the holidays quickly approaching, now is the perfect time to reconnect because reconnecting is what people do during this time of year—friends who haven’t seen each other make plans to get together, family members who’ve been apart are calling or visiting, and service professionals are touching base with with the people in their sphere to ensure the year is ending well and that they are prepared for the coming year.
In just a minute, I’ll provide you with an easy way to have these follow up conversations that’s effective and avoids all awkwardness.
4. Give and you shall receive
The law of reciprocity is a worldwide social norm that dictates when someone receives something from someone else, they feel compelled to return the favor. And it’s a pretty overwhelming feeling. Not reciprocating creates guilt and fear of being perceived as a mooch.
Marketers routinely use the law of reciprocity in an effort to persuade prospects to make a purchase. Free samples, offers to “throw in” a little something extra, even offers of cups of coffee are all ways to make prospects feel indebted. It’s a feeling quickly alleviated when you make a purchase.
Of course, not all good deeds are calculated marketing schemes, but if you want referrals, then why not start by giving referrals? Reach out to business that have an organic connection to the insurance products you sell. Agree to refer each other when the opportunities present themselves. Real estate agents have clients who need home and renters insurance. Car dealers have customers who need auto insurance. Travel agents have clients who want travel insurance.
You get the idea.
5. Ask for what you need
Don’t be shy about asking for referrals. One of the biggest mistakes that too many professionals make is doing, well . . . nothing. They simply hope that first, clients will remember them; second, those clients will tell others about them; and third, that business will simply come through the door.
It doesn’t work that way.
If you are confident in the value you provide, then you should have no qualms about asking for referrals. Tell your friends, family, and existing and former clients that your business depends on referrals. Remind them to let you know any time they think of someone they think you could help. If they don’t know you’re looking for new business, how can you expect them to refer business to you?
6. Double your effort to network
Networking is vital to building your business, but too many people get it wrong.
One of the reasons why people dread the conference cocktail or office party is precisely because they know someone is going to try to pitch them or otherwise ask them for something. Forget that! Be the one who offers value to others before asking for something in return! Commit to building a relationship with someone before you even think about business. It will make the party less stressful, more enjoyable, and you’ll feel free to be more authentic.
After you meet someone, make sure you follow up with them and suggest a next step. Don’t leave it at “let’s get a drink sometime” because “sometime” is not on any calendar I’ve ever seen. Plan a specific date and time to talk again, and always be looking for an opportunity to provide value.
Finally, if you have a tough time starting or joining conversations, check out our FREE guide to small talk and networking. It’s got helpful tips you an use to feel more at ease and get the ball rolling.
7. Give thanks
Once you’ve received a referral, it’s important that you circle back and that the person who provided it. The key here is to show them how much you appreciate their referral and that they are indeed helping you to build your business. People like to help others; it generally makes most of us feel good to do so. If people don’t know that they’re helping you, then they’ll be less motivated to continue making referrals.
8. Send a gift
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like to receive a gift, but when it comes to generating more referrals, it can’t just be any ol’ gift. Bottles of wine are consumed and forgotten. Food baskets suffer the same fate. Event tickets can be fun, but unless you know your clients’ preferences, the gesture could turn out to be a dud.
Instead, send a free subscription to your own personally branded magazine. Why? Because it meets all the criteria necessary to generate a continuous stream of referrals:
- Our personally branded magazines are regularly sent to your exclusive list of clients every 2 months, ensuring your touchpoints are consistent.
- They are branded in 6 key locations with your image, your business, and your contact information, which means every time someone sees your magazine they see you, and you become increasingly familiar, trusted, and most importantly, remembered.
- They provide value in the form of educational, entertaining, endearing, and engaging content. The articles vary depending on the magazine you select. Our clients tell us the recipes are wildly popular and their clients look forward to receiving their next issue. The images are beautiful, and the quality is second to none.
Here’s how these magazines work. The week they arrive at your recipients homes, you call them. (If you can’t call them all, call your best clients.) Ask if they received your magazine and what they thought of it. This next part is key—before you make your calls, check your database for information about each client, then find something in the magazine that matches up with each client’s interests. (Don’t worry, these magazines are designed to include something for everyone.) Tell your client that when you saw the article about X, it made you think of them because you know they X.
Let me offer you a few quick examples of how your conversations can go:
- Let’s say your most recent issue includes an article about skiing. You know that Jim and his family went on a ski trip last year. Do they plan on going again this year?
- There’s a tear-out card with a recipe for vegetarian Reuben sandwiches. You know at least half a dozen clients who eat a meatless diet. Call them up, ask them if they tried the recipe and what they thought of it. Even better, tell them you tried it and it was delicious.
- Tom and Sandy purchased a house insurance policy from you and you know Sandy loves to garden. Your magazine includes a DIY project for garden stepping stones that you wanted to make sure she saw.
With every call, if a conversation develops, that’s great. If not, don’t force it. Just let them know you appreciate them for being a client; if there’s anything they or someone they know needs, they should call you; and that you’ll be in touch again in a few months just to check in. THAT’S IT. This is not the time to sell them anything. Your only goal is to make contact.
These magazines get you past the trash can and into the house, and their primary job is to make following up with recipients easy and worry free. And it works!
In a recent reader survey, 58% of recipients reported that in the previous 12 months, they had referred the professional who sent them the magazine.* That’s incredible!
Request a FREE PDF sample of any of our 3 magazines and we’ll immediately send it to your inbox. If you’re not impressed, just delete it. (Trust me, you’ll be impressed.)
These 8 helpful tips are all simple ideas, but they’re often neglected because we get busy, and we just don’t think about them. Referrals can make a significant difference to the success of your business and should be prioritized accordingly. Follow these tips, and you’ll build a valuable network of referral sources who will be more than happy to pass along your name.