Word of Mouth Marketing

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Word of Mouth Marketing Secrets for Insurance Agents

It's all the rage in the marketing world and is described by some as the world's best-known marketing secret. So is "word of mouth marketing" something that you should be looking at to help grow your business?

To many insurance and financial advisors, word of mouth marketing probably doesn't seem like a radically new concept. In fact, when asked "How do you acquire new customers?" many independent insurance agents and financial advisors will often say that word of mouth marketing already plays a big role in new client acquisition.

But when asked "What do you do to stimulate word of mouth marketing?" the response is usually a shoulder shrug. Like the weather, they say, it just seems to happen.

The new discipline of word of mouth marketing takes a more systematic approach. It starts with deconstruction. In the academic world, deconstruction means discovering the underlying assumptions, ideas, and experiences that form the basis for any given thought or belief.

Towards that end, the marketing deconstructionists have put word of mouth marketing statements under the microscope to see what triggers them and how they can be replicated.

After all, every positive word of mouth statement for your agency is effectively a new salesperson who's out working on your behalf — and the good news is there's no base salary or commission for that salesperson!

When all's said and done, word of mouth marketing boils down to creating enthusiasm within your customer base and getting them to talk about you to others. But how does that happen and how can you make it happen more often?

It's time for a simple thought exercise. Take a look at these statements and try to think about their genesis. How did the spokesperson end up giving these endorsements?

  • "If you are looking for a good financial advisor, I've got a great one. He's really done great work for us."
  • "Congratulations on starting your new business, and we are pleased that you've chosen us for your banking needs. If you need help with payroll, legal, insurance or other matters, I've got a network of helpful contacts I can put you in touch with."
  • "I met a fellow the other day who might be worth your talking to. He's a member of a professional organization I belong to and I think you might get a lot out of having a conversation with him."
  • These word of mouth statements don't happen by accident. Here are ten principles you can apply to build a flood of word of mouth marketing buzz that will help you take your agency to the next level.

These word of mouth statements don't happen by accident. Here are ten principles you can apply to build a flood of word of mouth marketing buzz that will help you take your agency to the next level.
  1. You Can't Be Invisible. It's a good bet that recluses and introverts don't benefit much from word of mouth marketing. In order to be talked about, you need to be seen and heard. If you tend to stay in the office, it's time to get out. Volunteer to speak at a local business organization. Better yet, start your own organization. Whatever you do, be out there, be visible and be interesting.
  2. Create a Referral Network. Reach out to symbiotic and noncompetitive companies in your neighborhood and offer to trade referrals. For example, an insurance agent might ask a financial planner to agree to mention his or her insurance business. In exchange, the insurance agent agrees to tell his clients about the financial planner. It's win-win. Of course, before you recommend a professional — such as an attorney or accountant — be sure you know that they offer good service.
  3. It Doesn't Matter What They Say About You. If one client of yours tells a colleague that you are a great golfer or tennis player, that may be enough to generate some interest that ultimately can lead to new business. Your client doesn't have to say "I know a phenomenal financial advisor" or offer up any such direct endorsement — although that would be nice. So, as you think about word of mouth, think about what makes you worth talking about and then promote those compelling points of interest about you and your business.
  4. Great Customer Service Earns Customer Respect. It goes without saying that people talk about customer service when it's at either extreme — phenomenal or horrible. Clearly, you don't want negative word of mouth, which is what happens when your service to your clients stinks. At the other end of the spectrum, think about how you can "surprise and delight" customers with incredible service. Studies show that good service isn't rewarded — you have to do something truly exceptional and beyond the call to generate word of mouth referrals.
  5. Do Something A Little Bit Edgy or Clever. Nobody remembers things that bore them, and they certainly don't talk about them. To generate word of mouth marketing, you've got to do something unique. A financial advisor I know that used to send out traditional holiday cards recently started sending his customers a turkey instead. You can bet that his word of mouth marketing around town increased significantly after he started being a little more edgy.
  6. It's Not Who You Know. It's Who Knows Who You Know. It's easy to meet people, but sometimes it's hard to meet the right people. When you are trying to market to specific individuals, think about who they know and try to develop relationships with those people. Look for well-known influencers who will spread the good word about your company. Eventually, their word of mouth mentions with your key target customers may be what finally gets you in the door.
  7. People Must Like You. This may be a "blinding glimpse of the obvious" but people will tend to mention you in conversations more if you are a good and decent person. If they dislike you, you certainly won't get a referral even if you are stellar at what you do for a living.
  8. Be Interesting. Beyond being likable, you need to be interesting. Every time you have a conversation with someone, they are a potential source of focused word of mouth marketing only if you can get them to the point where they understand what you do and what value you give clients. If asked what you do for a living, don't say "I sell insurance" but rather say something like "I help individuals like you avoid making costly mistakes that can potentially ruin their lives."
  9. Communicate. Beyond simply being out there and visible, you need to keep track of how often you communicate with your prospects. Do they hear from you once a year or once a month? The more you communicate with people in your community, prospects and others, the more likely they will be to talk about you.
  10. Don't Overreach. One dentist in a nearby community has a reputation for showing up at town meetings and figuring out a way to mention his dental practice no matter what the issue under discussion is. The first time he did it, I thought it was effective word of mouth marketing. But after seeing him do it at every single meeting, it's become quite annoying. By overreaching, he's gone from winning prospective customers to actually alienating them!

Having read these tips, you may still think that word of mouth marketing sounds a lot like traditional marketing.

But, think again. Take a look at these ten principles of word of mouth marketing and see how many you are doing. If you're only doing well on 6 of the 10 or less, you've got a ways to go. It's time to start taking word of mouth marketing seriously.

At SurePayroll, we frequently ask our existing customers whether they would refer a friend. By monitoring the percentage of customers who are willing to make a referral and working to improve that metric, we've been able to acquire many new customers. It all started with a commitment to improve our word of mouth marketing.

Remember, word of mouth leads are better than any other lead you can acquire. Compared to leads that come from advertising or cold calling, they are easier to close, offer fewer objections and tend to have a strong sense of loyalty over time.​​