What if you placed an ad and it attracted plentiful qualified prospects? Do you like that idea? Duh? What agent wouldn’t? 

I’ve been in the insurance industry for 23 years and I have discovered what I believe is the single biggest reason for failure in this industry: Lack of marketing skills. New agents usually start with their warm market: Family, friends and co-workers.  Then they branch out to referrals from their warm market. Once those two prospect sources dry up, so does their budding career.

The obvious next choice is to buy leads. I can tell you from talking to many, many agents, that’s a hit-or-miss proposition.  The vast majority of providers sell the lead to multiple agents.  Just imagine the prospects delight (sarcasm) when you are the 5th or 15th agent to call him! And frankly, many of the “leads” responded to deceptive advertising so are not truly interested in what you are selling. So much for “qualified.”

I get offers every week; “Sign on with us and we’ll give you free leads!” (Don’t forget, I’m an agent too.) I’m quite unusual because I CAN create my own leads so I don’t need this sort of arrangement. But I have checked them out and found one or both of these conditions: (1) The leads are of very poor quality and/or given to multiple agents and (2) The company wants something from me that I’m not willing to give – like a quota or exclusivity. (I never agree to those – messes with my status as an “independent” agent.).

So what is an agent to do? Learn how to market effectively. Seriously, most advertising is so awful that you can be a mediocre marketer and still thrash your competition. But you’ve got to learn some basics, then apply them. Start with the four below.

  1. Your ad must have a headline that provokes curiosity
  2. Your ad must have a compelling offer that requests a direct response that can be measured.
  3. Your ad must have a deadline, either by expiration date or limiting quantity.
  4. Your ad must have a clear call to action because confused people do not respond.

Direct response advertising

The whole purpose of advertising is to drive business into our agency, right?  That usually takes the form of leads (although there is a small minority of agencies who sell direct online, without an agent.)  So, let’s start with a correct definition for “a lead.”

“A lead is not just a statistic or a name or even an email address grudgingly provided. A lead is someone who has expressed real interest in information about your expertise, products, services, etc. and invited you to sell to them, and cooperated with some process by which you can sell to them.” (Dan Kennedy in the November 2012 GKIC Diamond Letter)

That definition is my measuring stick for determining if an advertisement is good or bad. Does it generate leads? But how do you accomplish that goal? Let’s look at two real-life examples.

Last week I was talking with one of my clients, a P&C agent (not an insurance client). He told me his doubts about direct response marketing. He had done what he thought was a great mailing. It bombed, and he didn’t know why. At first glance, it seemed he had done everything right. 

  • He used a proven successful lumpy-mail template acquired from a bona fide expert.
  • He chose a list that fit his ideal client profile, someone who needed his services and could afford to buy (namely, doctors with certain wealth/property characteristics).
  • He used stellar client testimonials whose names those prospects would recognize and respect.
  • He had a headline, deadline, offer and call to action.

Why were his results dismal?  I’ll tell you!

Message / media / market

Most every failure of an advertising campaign can be traced to a mismatch between the message (what is said and offered), the media (how the message is delivered) and the market (to whom it is delivered.)  The more closely those three are aligned, the higher your ROI will be.

Knowing this, I asked a few questions and discovered the misalignment. His offer (message) did not match the targeted audience.  A $10 gift card for calling his office for a policy review did not have sufficient appeal to wealthy doctors.

But he could not offer more because of gifting laws. His hands were tied … or were they?  What could he have used as good “bait” to attract that prospect without violating his state’s $10 gifting limit? 

Years ago (okay, decades) I used to be a P&C agent, so I’ve done quite a few policy reviews. This agent confirmed my own experience; many wealthy people are grossly, dangerously underinsured. Their liability limits don’t begin to cover their assets; a large claim or lawsuit would wipe them out. Their coverage has not been updated to reflect the value of their possessions. They are ripe to lose so much if disaster strikes.

Fear of loss motivates. Plain and simple. c

I told this agent to write a report that tells the honest-to-God truth of the prospect’s precarious position. Then advertise that. 

  1. The ad sells the report. 
  2. The report sells the review. 
  3. The review sells the policy. 

Direct response advertising does work … if done right. Oh, and the cost of printing the report? Less than one dollar. No problem with gifting laws. Lead generation problem solved!

To the right is a page torn from my local yellow pages, modified by me here. There are five typical agent ads; one is a lead generation ad I created for a report I wrote. Assume the viewpoint of a prospect for homeowner’s insurance. Which number would you call? Here is the truth about advertising: Prospects don’t give a hoot about you. They want a solution to THEIR problems. Give them that and you are golden. 

So, yes, there are good ads and bad ads. And the good ones don’t necessarily cost more. But they look different and work better. 

Now use this knowledge to earn more. It’s not so hard, once you know your marketing basics.

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