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5 marketing mistakes to avoid in 2010

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As the New Year approaches, you may be considering what you need to do to grow your business in 2010. Here are five marketing mistakes to avoid as you look for more clients.

Mistake #5: Spend too much time on your creative.

You want to get in front of more people, so you begin working on a marketing campaign. Where do you start? You may be tempted to begin with the creative elements. Postcard or letter? Newspaper ad or flyer? Full color or black and white? Photos? Charts? Illustrations?

Hold on! Before you start whipping something up, consider this Recipe for Marketing Success. Three ingredients are important to your marketing recipe for success: List, offer, and creative. The first ingredient, your list, makes up about 40% of your recipe. The second ingredient, your “offer,” constitutes another 40%. Your creative, or the imaginative devices you use to form your marketing campaign, are like adding a pinch of salt. (That’s a 20% pinch of creative!) Just like too much salt can ruin a recipe, the best creative in the world will leave a bad taste in your mouth if you don’t start with a well-researched list and an offer that will appeal to your customers’ wants and needs.

Mistake #4: Use “insurance speak.”

According to, the word “jargon” means: 1.the language, esp. the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group; 2. unintelligible or meaningless talk or writing; gibberish; 3. any talk or writing that one does not understand.

Using “insurance speak,” or jargon, can create confusion and frustration for your clients. To improve your written and spoken communications, try these simple ideas for removing jargon from your vocabulary:

  • Know your audience and communicate on their level by using the language they use. Would your client be more likely to ask, “What is the premium?” or “How much does this insurance cost?”
  • If you’re talking about an insurance term or concept, use a dictionary or thesaurus to brainstorm a way to explain it in lay terms. Then read it out loud to your best friend, your mother, or your Grandpa Bob. If they can understand it, it’s likely your clients will, too.
  • Make any necessary insurance jargon short, clear, and understandable. Then, explain it with examples or analogies.
  • Avoid acronyms. They mean nothing to people outside of the insurance industry. For instance, instead of saying, “SPIA,” say “Single Premium Immediate Annuity” and then explain what it is.

Mistake #3: Do what everyone else is doing.

You receive a workshop invitation from a fellow insurance agent. A day later, you see a copy of the same workshop invitation in the local newspaper. “Should I be doing that, too?” you wonder. And before you know it, you’re working on a similar workshop promotion. If Acme Insurance Agency is doing it, it must be a successful idea. Right?

Maybe. Maybe not. Just because a fellow agent is marketing a product or concept, it does not necessarily mean that it is working. For example, if an agent is advertising the same workshop that you’ve seen offered by other agents many times before, it’s likely that your potential clients have seen it, too. Instead of doing what everyone else is doing, concentrate on what YOU do best and seize the opportunity to stand out. If all of your competitors have traditional brands, try something nontraditional. Offer something that piques your clients’ interests and speaks to their needs. Use brand techniques, messages and colors that help make you and your business memorable. Doing so can help you be easily recognized in a sea of blue logos, photos of couples walking on beaches, and boring “insurance speak.”

Mistake #2: Market without a plan.

You’re too busy to write a marketing plan. In the past, you’ve played it by ear and you’re still in business today. Can a marketing plan really make a difference? Is it worth the time and effort?

Yes and yes. According to a survey conducted by CEG Worldwide, there is a positive correlation between having a written marketing plan and a yearly income of more than $150,000.1 Having a written marketing plan can also help you:

  • Think long term.
  • Focus your efforts on achieving your goals.
  • Monitor your competition without overreacting to it.
  • Target your primary customers instead of marketing to everyone.
  • Spend your budget and time more effectively.
  • Grasp what marketing works and what doesn’t work for your business.
  • Market smarter, not harder.

Mistake #1: Skip compliance.

You’ve just finished writing a letter to a client, and you can’t wait to put it in the mail. Everything is ready to go. The last item on your to-do list is to send your letter through a carrier’s compliance review process. You re-read your masterpiece and think, “This is such a simple letter. There’s nothing here that isn’t compliant. Surely I can skip compliance this one time.”

To save time, you may feel tempted to skip an insurance carrier’s compliance review of your mailer, newspaper insert, flier, postcard, workshop presentation or other marketing materials. While skipping a compliance review may get your message out to the marketplace sooner, it can lead to problems down the road. When you contract with an insurance carrier, the company usually requires you to submit all of your marketing materials before using them. This review can help you adhere to state and federal insurance rules and regulations and avoid compliance risks.Also, if your marketing materials go through the carrier’s compliance review process and there is a complaint, the carrier can support you as you try to resolve it.

Amy Kennel is communications director for Brokers International, Ltd.

1. Survey conducted by CEG Worldwide, 2001, cited in Evelyn Ehrlich, Ph.D. and Duke Fanelli, The Financial Services Marketing Handbook (Princeton, New Jersey: Bloomberg Press, 2004), 57.

For agent use only. Not for use with the general public.