Promoting your insurance agency with promotional products

Did you have a radio ad in your pocket? How about a billboard? Do you have a billboard in your kitchen drawer? Research has shown that the chances are good that some of you have a promotional product in your possession right now. Do you have a logo’d pen nearby? Do you ever wear a shirt, sweater or jacket embroidered with a logo?

A promotional product is physical advertising. Unlike newspaper, radio, TV, internet advertising and other advertising mediums, promotional products are tangible goods that you can touch and see. Sometimes you can hear them and, yes, sometimes you can taste and smell them. They have a surface on them that can be imprinted with your marketing message and given directly to another human being.

What are promotional products? They’re ad specialties, giveaways, incentives and recognition, business gifts and thank you’s…any product that carries a marketing message that is distributed to a customer, prospect and even an employee. Typical promotional products used for marketing an insurance agency are magnets, pens, calendars and insurance card holders.

Promotional products are no longer the best kept secret in marketing. The industry is a $20 billion industry – that’s billion with a “B” –  and it’s one of the fastest growing of the current marketing mediums even though it’s one of the oldest mediums.

Why is the industry growing? The answer lies in the fact that promotional products are targeted and versatile and offer a low cost per impression. Promotional products are cross between a “laser beam” and a “Swiss Army knife” when compared to other marketing mediums.

Promotional products can efficiently target every demographic and budget no matter how small or obscure the market. If you sell insurance to people in rural areas, promotional products can reach them efficiently. Could you imagine how cost inefficient it would be to run ads in traditional media to get business from this small market? For a few bucks, you could send them each a printed jar opener that would communicate your marketing message for years and years.

In addition, just about everyone hates TV and radio ads so they click mute or flip the channel. In fact, people are using On Demand and DVR’s to avoid commercials altogether. Youtube puts a clock in the corner of the ads that counts down how much time you have to spend watching an ad before you can view the content you wanted to see in the first place. Pop-up ads on the internet are just flat-out annoying. As far as billboards, how many of them do you really recall? Newspaper and magazines; they’re in the decline for their usefulness for marketing.

Promotional products offer an extremely low cost per impression because they are used in our day to day lives. Recipients welcome promotional products and they tend to hang on to them or pass them along to others. The items are used over and over again by the recipients which exposes them to your marketing message a countless number of times. When was the last time you used a radio ad? When was the last time you “lost your billboard” and someone else picked it up? Does anyone welcome more TV ads? When was the last time you sat in front of the TV and said “I wish there were more ads”? On the flip-side, you could invest about $200 on a box of pens and distribute them to your customers and they will see your marketing message over and over and over.

So, how do you market your insurance agency with promotional products?

The most important consideration is the distribution plan. You can have the coolest item ever created but if it never leaves your supply closet, you wasted your money. The plan can be very simple – you can mail the items to your customers, you can hand them out at your office when they visit, you can put them in bags and hang them on door knobs. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it gets done otherwise you will not see a return on your marketing investment.

The next decision is the choosing the product and the message. Think about your end goal. Are you looking for new business from new customers or are you looking for more business or referrals from existing customers? By the way, you’ll spend more time, money and effort prospecting for new business from new customers. Also consider the target market itself and the types of items they would find useful. Studies have found that 91% of people have a promotional product in the kitchen, 74% have at least one promotional product in the office and 55% have at least one promotional product in the bedroom. If you’re like most insurance agents, you work with the general public. Since most people have kitchens, most people work and most people go to bed at night, these types of items could be a choice to market your insurance agency.

As far as the marketing message, most promotional products have enough room for your agency name and phone number. Other items have bigger imprint areas which allows for more ad copy. If that’s the case, use that area creatively. Letting people know about other lines of business you write could help you round out the account or get more referrals.

Lastly, choose a quality product. If the imprint wears off easily or the pen stops writing after a few weeks, you wasted your money. The longer the item survives, the longer it will market your agency.

Does your insurance agency have a great logo?

I’d be willing to bet that a lot of insurance agents would say that a great logo needs to be “memorable” and “creative”. While this might be true, having a creative and memorable logo is not an indicator that it will look great when it’s reproduced when printed on an item. A logo that prints well will enhance your agency while a logo that does not print well may hurt your brand.

I started working in printing and promotional products industry in February 1990 and I’ve printed everything from business cards to whoopi cushions to insurance card holders. Most of these items were imprinted with an insurance agency logo. I’ve printed millions of items and I’ve worked with 100’s of logos – some of the logos printed well while others looked terrible.

The characteristics shown below can help you determine if you have a great insurance agency logo. If you don’t have a logo and you’re hiring a designer to create one for you, insist on the following:

  1. The logo needs to be legible at just about any size. This may seem like a simple idea but I’ve seen logos that look great at one size then almost indistinguishable when reduced by as little as 25%.
  2. The logo must first be designed in black and white. When you have something that looks good to you, then you can add the color (or colors) later. There are times when you’ll need to have the logo printed in black or a single color due to cost restrictions. If the logo works in black and white, you’ll have more options on how it’s reproduced later.
  3. If you have a multiple color design, make sure none of the colors touch one another. If the registration is off (i.e.: the alignment of the colors) when the item is printed, it will be very noticeable. Also, touching colors sometimes add to the cost of imprint. Lastly, touching colors makes it difficult to reproduce the logo in one color when necessary.
  4. The logo should be solid colors and not contain any shading or gradients (for example: black that fades into gray). This effect cannot be printed on some items while on others it can make printing cost skyrocket.
  5. The best logos have no fine details or thin lines. They are difficult to reproduce and often get blurry or washed out when the logo is printed small.
  6. Lastly, make sure you acquire the “native vector files”, the PMS colors (ie: Pantone Matching System) of the logo and the names of the fonts used in your logo and the fonts in your logo are “outlined”. Perhaps what I just said is jargon to you, but it’s a language your designer will understand. A good designer should be able to provide these files and information to you. If your designer doesn’t know these terms and cannot provide these files to you, find a new designer. By the way, when you get these files, you most likely will not be able to open them. These files require design software to open them and use them. DON’T DELETE THEM! Simply save them to a drive and email them when requested.

In conclusion, your logo is probably the first thing a prospect sees before they contact you and it’s imperative to make a great first impression. They’ll see your logo on your on all your marketing communications including your website, billboards, printed communications like newspapers, printed collateral like brochures and on promotional items. My advice is to invest some time and money into having a logo designed for your agency that is not only attractive and represents your insurance agency well but also is easily reproduced. It will pay dividends for you over the long haul.

The Elevator Pitch: Sell yourself in less than a minute

Let’s be honest: to the average person, insurance is not very interesting or exciting. Adding insult to injury, I’d be willing to bet that most folks think insurance is a necessary evil and hate paying their premiums. Writing new business in an hypercompetitve marketplace is tough enough but, when folks perceive insurance salespeople as Ned Ryerson from “Groundhog Day”, the task of growing your book is even more challenging.

So, here’s the billion dollar question: how do you go from “I sell insurance” to something that will keep the listener from running away?

I suggest a short, well-designed commercial known as an “elevator pitch.” Imagine getting on an elevator and the person standing next to you asks what you do for a living. You now have less than a minute to spark their interest and hopefully get an opportunity for a future conversation. Wouldn’t it be great to have something planned for such an occasion?

In order to craft the perfect elevator pitch, you first need an intriguing yet vague headline. I suggest something unusual and short. For example, “I have an unusual business in a not so unusual industry” or “If I told you what I did, you won’t believe me” or “I have a niche’ business.” Hitting them with something different like that will create curiosity. If you lead off with “I sell insurance” you run the risk of losing the listener before the conversation even starts.

The next step is to let them know the type of people you want to work with. In one sentence or two, convey to the listener a little bit about your ideal client. Typically, the statement begins with the words “I work with…” Here are some examples: “I work with people who own more than one home” or “I work with people who own homes and businesses in the Wilmington area”. This is your chance to let the listener know what kind of business you’re looking for.

The third step is to give the listener a short example of how you solved a client’s problem. Typically, these statements start off with “A business owner was referred to me looking for ways…” or “I recently helped a client…”. Here’s an example of what a finished statement may sound like: “I recently helped a client who’s financially successful. She purchased a multi-unit dwelling and she needed some options to reduce her liability and protect her other assets.” Be careful, the statement should be no more than 3 sentences otherwise you may sound like you’re selling.

Lastly, you’re going to let them know who you are and that you’re in the insurance business and you need to do it in a way that maintains curiosity. Perhaps it could sound like this: “I’m Bob Smith. I’m in the insurance business. My clients come to me because I have a unique skill in handling complex insurance needs.” The purpose of the statement is to create a distance between you and your competitors by letting the listener know that you specialize.

So here’s what it sounds like when you put the whole thing together:

“I have an unusual business in a not so unusual industry. I work with people who own homes and businesses in the Wilmington area. I recently helped a client who’s financially very successful. She purchased a multi-unit dwelling and she needed some options to reduce her liability and to protect her other assets. I’m Bob Smith. I’m in the insurance business. My clients come to me because I have a unique skill in handling complex insurance needs.”

Finally, here are some ideas to help you create your perfect elevator pitch:

  1. Write several statements for each of the 4 steps. Use them interchangeably depending on the situation. The more ideas you jot down, the more options you’ll have.
  2. When creating the statements, brainstorm about what makes up your perfect client and the problems you’ve solved for them. Saying that you save people money on their insurance will attract price shoppers; saying you work with responsible people may help you insure more responsible people.
  3. Once you have created several statements for each step, practice, practice, practice until you can recite your elevator pitch in your sleep!