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Loyalty Marketing: Creating Incentives Needed To Motivate Agents

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Loyalty Marketing: Creating Incentives Needed To Motivate Agents

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Wanted: A reason for agents and brokers to sell your products. Solution: An innovative incentive program that generates loyalty to your insurance company by appealing to agents basic human needs for recognition and reward.

Unless you have just introduced an earth-shattering product, youll probably need a well-orchestrated incentive program to achieve your production goals and build loyalty. A loyalty marketing program should be part of your overall marketing strategy and embraced by the top executives.

To develop the program, start by identifying the key objectives. Refer to the quantifiable goals stated in the overall marketing plan, such as reaching a certain dollar amount in premiums from one or several products over a specified period of time.

Dont limit your incentive program to new products and neglect popular existing products that would give agents more opportunities to earn rewards. Also, reach out to both existing and prospective agents when launching an incentive program.

For an agent to strive toward a certain production goal, he or she needs to become emotionally vested in the reward. But one reward wont satisfy all types of agents.

For example, a four-day golf trip to a resort 1,000 miles away will not motivate an agent who doesnt golf or who doesnt want to be away from a spouse and young children. Youll get far better results by offering several destinations, including at least one thats reachable by car. In addition, some agents may not be turned on by any trip and would prefer a tangible gift.

Dont just offer super rewards for top producers. If only two agents among thousands will win a two-week trip to Hawaii or a Rolex watch, then most of them wont bother striving toward what they consider an unreachable goal.

Instead, offer additional rewards–such as a weekend getaway or tickets to a sporting event–for agents who achieve more moderate production levels, so they can set their own realistic goals. Plus, provide a reward to agents who write business for the first time with your company.

Each reward should create a connection with your company in the eyes of the agent.

For example, the vacation should be branded as “your companys” trip. To reinforce this association, throw in luggage tags and other add-ons with your logo. Plus, any stand-alone gift should feature your firms logo.

Never offer cash as an incentive unless its combined with another award. Cash has little or no perceived value, and will be quickly spent and forgotten–unlike a watch or a trip that will instill a lasting image and make an agent proud to be associated with your company.

Loyalty can also be extended to the agents family. So if you award a pass for four to a family vacation spot, the spouse and children will also remember your company favorably. Think of the value when an agents child reminds him or her of the great time at “your companys” trip to Disney World or a nearby amusement park.

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In addition to rewarding top-producing agents, you should celebrate and publicize their success so they can be recognized among peers. Use vehicles like newsletters, flyers, direct mail/e-mails and your Web site to acknowledge them and include their photos and bios where possible.

To further honor the winners, your company could establish a “Producers Hall of Fame.” Also, acknowledge them at seminars, company outings and other forums. Such frequent positive reinforcement can go a long way in building loyalty to your company.

Timing is also critical with an incentive program. Establish a deadline that creates urgency, spurring agents to act now, while giving enough time–generally six, nine or 12 months–to realistically write the required amount of business.

Personal contact is critical. If you want to jumpstart an incentive program, plan face-to-face contact with agents within 30 days after a program is launched. Use forums such as CE classes, workshops and on-site presentations to explain product features, strategies for closing sales, and your commitment to servicing their clients. This promotes good will and gets agents excited about selling your products.

Over the course of the incentive program, take every opportunity to talk to agents in person at events such as trade shows and industry meetings. Schedule lunches with key producers and consider holding golf outings, company picnics and other informal get-togethers to further bond with agents.

One of your biggest challenges is getting agents to pay attention to your products–and not the competitions. Be creative in the incentives you select and the means you promote them.

And dont be afraid to have fun and make agents laugh! Unleash your own style of creativity by thinking out of the insurance industry box to give your program some snap, crackle and pop. Below are some examples of innovative incentive programs and promotions:

Create a retro “S&H Green Stamps”-like promotion, where each policy written would earn an agent points or promotional certificates that could be redeemed for a valuable gift.

Upon launching a contest for a resort island, send a beach towel or a message in a bottle with sand and seashells. Both gifts should include your company logo.

Send dynamic four-color e-mails, featuring sound and animation such as winks, blinks, flashes and explosions to announce your incentive. Wherever possible, use colors, which are far more effective than black-and-white in selling products and which can increase comprehension.

Place eye-catching ads in trade publications that connect your company to the reward being offered.

In conclusion, loyalty marketing works. It can provide you with a huge opportunity to stand out from competitors and increase revenues. But it needs to be part of a sophisticated and ongoing incentive program, developed by your internal staff or an outside firm.

One-shot incentives almost always fail, just like a seed you planted, which will dry up and die without watering. Studies have indicated that the biggest reason an agent stops working with a carrier is because he or she feels ignored. So keep the creative incentives flowing and youll keep building loyalty.

is president of The Right Stuff Incentives, a Freehold, N.J.-based firm that specializes in incentive programs for the insurance industry. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]rightstuffincentives.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, October 7, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.