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How do you Build a Brand for an Insurance Agency?

July 23, 2012

Like any other business, an insurance agency can benefit from branding. Brand awareness creates easier prospecting, enhanced loyalty and, less price resistance. But agents face some unique problems.

kid in a candy storeFirst, insurance agents sell an intangible. An insurance contract is a promise to make someone whole in the event something bad happens.  It’s a lot more pleasant to think about something good you can enjoy right now than to contemplate something bad that might happen to you in future.

No one ever compared the experience of visiting an insurance agency to feeling like a kid in a candy store.


The harsh reality is that insurance agents sell things people only want out of necessity. It’s not like selling cars, food or vacations.

Progressive FloLet’s look at how insurance companies solve this problem. They, too, are struggling with selling an intangible that people enjoy spending money on about as much you’d enjoy getting a tooth pulled without sedation. So they use a retro spokeswoman like Flo and make-believe animals like Snoopy and a gecko that speaks with a cockney accent—anything to transfer positive connotations and personality to a  faceless, glamourless  product.  Fear works, too. Allstate offers deliverance from “Mayhem man,” who is kind of interesting in a Freddy Krueger way, but we don’t want to be the victim.

So there’s your challenge. How do you get people to think of you when you sell a product they don’t really want and you’re competing for mind space with companies that have million-dollar ad budgets?

Different kinds of products elicit different emotional responses. The pleasure response is easy to work with and covers a lot of ground: food, cars, vacations. People selling these products just have to deliver more pleasure than the pain of foregone cash.

The pleasure response doesn’t work for insurance of course. To sell insurance, you need to elicit the fear response — specifically, fear of the unknown. People don’t want bad things to happen to them. Insurance doesn’t stop bad things from happening, bGeico Geckout to a certain extent it can help put things back the way the way they were.

Probably the most important quality you need if you’re selling relief from fear is trust.  People need to trust the people who sell them insurance. This is the key to insurance branding. People trust Flo; they trust Snoopy; they trust the gecko (why, I’m not exactly sure). So they’re looking for someone to trust.

If you’re an insurance agent, how do you get your prospects and clients to trust you?

A lot of agents seem to think you do it by just sending out invoices all the time.  With no interpersonal contact, their clients just see bills. So clients associate this agent with, well, premiums.

Is that what you want?   Is that your idea of a brand?

Let’s take a step back. To recap, customers want the opposite of the emotional effect they get from thinking about the things they associate with needing your products, which is fear. They want to trust you.

As I said, this is the key to your branding strategy. Build your brand around trust (not invoices).

So, what’s the best way to inspire trust?

By doing trustworthy things. These include giving advice about avoiding the things that make bad things happen…mitigating risk…protecting assets…avoiding liability…transferring risk.

How do you that?

It’s called communication. The essence of a strong insurance agency brand is communication which inspires trust, demonstrates reliability and showcases your expertise.

If there is a better way to do that than with newsletters, I’d like to know about it.  Meeting with your clients every month or so to discuss different risk and insurance topics might be a better way to communicate, but that wouldn’t be very practical in most cases.

Smart Pro NewsletterWhen you can’t be there in person, newsletters can be your proxy.  They provide the kind of engaging, practical, actionable information about risk and insurance that builds trust.  They are published regularly and can be distributed through a variety of media: print, PDFs, email, social media, websites and blogs.

Vendors who sell other kinds of products — products that elicit the pleasure response — develop their brand loyalty by focusing on showing their customers more ways to get pleasure with new products. They send out catalogs, present their products with emails and on their websites.

Insurance agents who want to build their brand and brand loyalty need to do the same kind of thing…help clients reduce the fear of what might happen by creating a regular stream of pertinent, brand-building information that inspires trust and loyalty.

Newsletters won’t build a strong brand all by themselves.  You’ve got to back up your communications with great customer service, excellent products and knowledgeable staff.  But if you’ve created a great organization, developing your brand with effective communications can deliver big benefits:  easier prospecting, more loyalty and less price resistance.

You can check out my latest video Three Steps to Eliminating the Competition for a more unique way of differentiating your brand from competitors.

__________________

Jim WhitakerJim has worked in marketing communications for over 24 years. He started out in the insurance industry as an underwriter; he has been a broker, an insurance agency consultant and a marketing executive. In 1988 he opened his own public relations and advertising firm, focusing on the insurance industry.  That firm eventually became SmartsPro Marketing.  The author’s opinions and posts in no way reflect the Beyond Insurance brand or any other affiliate within Addis Intellectual Capital.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 25, 2012 10:33 pm

    Great read with some excellent points. But I have to disagree with not being able to compare an insurance agency with a candy store. We constantly are complimented by clients, company people, and vendors about how much fun it is to walk into our agency. We incorporate vibrant colors, expressive wall decor, and a massive Pez collection into our space. It is a key component in our branding efforts.

  2. July 26, 2012 1:43 pm

    Jim, Thanks for your comment. You got me there. With your massive Pez collection you would literally feel like a kid in a candy store in your agency. If only more agencies would follow your example and surprise people with a fresh, bold approach like yours . What a great way to build an insurance brand.

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