I understand the mentality, but it’s wrong.
When you make it easy and risk-free for clients to refer your agency, you are doing them a favor!
Why is that?
Because referrals are social currency. We all like to recommend quality companies and products to each other because it’s a way of helping one another.
Unfortunately, many insurance agents are never properly taught how to ask for referrals in an effective and comfortable way. This results in conversations like this:
Agent: “If you value the service I’ve provided you, please tell me 3 people that could also benefit from my excellent service…”
Client: [awkward pause] “Oh… Um… Well… I guess you could call my… I don’t really have any phone numbers with me right now…”
Agent: ”Sorry… can’t let you go until I get my names…”
I’d hate for you to deprive clients of the ability to help their friends and I really don’t want you to have an awkward conversation so…
Here’s 27 referral marketing ideas to get you started on the right path:
1) Change Your Attitude About Referrals
Stop telling yourself you’re “asking for referrals” and imagine this instead:
“I’m helping my clients increase their social status by making it easy for them to recommend a local business that’s easy to work with, cares about it’s customers, and can save their friends thousands of dollars”
If you have trouble convincing yourself of this, your challenge may be deeper than just needing more referrals.
2) Make a Referral Reward Program
A referral reward program is an established system you use to thank clients who refer your agency. It can include a variety of ideas within this article, but the important element is that its an established, repeatable, and easy-to-follow procedure.
Establishing an official referral reward program offers many advantages:
- It’s easy for your producers to explain to customers.
- It makes an “un-thanked” referral less likely to happen.
- You can generate promotional materials about it. (flyers, etc.)
- Your customers will know what to expect if they refer someone and will be more likely to do it.
3) Get in Your Clients’ Cell Phones
If your clients don’t have your contact information on them somewhere they’ll be less able to fully recommend you to their friends.
Make sure every client has your contact information in their address book. Program it in there for them and don’t stop at getting just one member of the family. Insist on getting your contact information into every single phone in the house.
It’s easy if you frame it right: explain the benefits of having your phone number on hand in case there is ever an emergency.
I know agents that go so far as to insist the client input it while in the office and they’ll follow up with new customers to make sure the agency gets programmed in the rest of the family phones.
It just looks to the client like you really want to be available to them, which is a good thing!
4) Referral Cards to Hand Out
Make up some cards with your logo, agency contact information, and a spot that says: “Referred by _________”.
Handwrite your client’s name in the blank space and give it to them to pass along.
You could mail these out or put them in your new business packet, but I’d recommend actually handing them to your clients at a time when they’ll be forced to put them in their wallet or purse.
5) Write Down Talkpaths For Getting Referrals
Take some time to write up an actual script that you can use to ask for referrals.
Keep it very short and come up with different talkpaths based on the situation: new business, customer service call, random meeting in the street,etc. You may never recite the script verbatim to a client but having it written down word-for-word will help you deliver the message.
I’m not going to write it for you because it’ll fit your style better if you write it yourself and you’ll be more committed if it comes from your own head.
6) Practice Your Referral Talkpaths
Think you’re too cool or too good to practice your sales conversations with a friend or in front of the mirror?
The average NFL football game has about 11 minutes of actual playing time. If Payton Manning can spend a hundred hours each week preparing for 11 minutes of execution (half of which he’s on the bench) I think you can practice your referral scripts a few times a week, right?
7) Describe Your Target Customer
One reason clients hesitate to refer your agency is because they don’t want to look bad if they recommend your services and your prices are sky high.
Remove the risk in your clients’ eyes by explaining they types of customers you have the most competitive rates for.
For example, “We have the cheapest rate in town 95% of the time for homeowners with good credit and a clean driving record”. Or, “If you know someone with a DWI in the past 2 years, we’re the best agency to help them out.”
Just be careful not to tell customers your target client is the opposite of them. They’ll question whether they’ve got the right agency!
8) Help Clients Identify Referral Targets
Here’s an exercise to illustrate this point:
Exercise #1 - Excluding your coworkers and family, think of someone you know that would be happy to win $200 today….
Don’t move on until you’ve thought of someone…
Exercise #2 - Now think of a neighbor that would be happy to win $200 today.
The first question is harder for most people to answer because it’s hard to think of just one person out of thousands of qualifiers.
The second question has fewer options to choose from, but I bet you probably just had a mental image of your neighbor holding a hundred dollar bill with a big smile on his face. Am I right?
The point is, when you ask clients to refer your agency, give them a specific group to choose from.
Instead of making a general request, say something like, “Is there anyone in your church group that could really benefit from saving a few hundred dollars on insurance?”.
9) Get Referrals Immediately After Doing a Favor
According to Stanford University psychology research, when someone receives a favor, their perceived value of that favor diminishes over time. Interestingly, the perceived value of the same favor in the eyes of the person who gave the favor does the opposite, it increases as time passes.
Here’s an example to illustrate the point. Six months ago your customer hugged you for saving him $500 and he’s now screaming because renewal went up by $50. Sound familiar?
Anyway, the point is that the absolute best time to ask for a referral is immediately after you have helped a client with something – found a new discount they qualified for, helped them through a positive claim experience, whatever.
One week from now it’ll be water under the bridge, strike while the iron is hot!
Your email signature is a block of text that shows up automatically at the bottom of your emails. Most agents have their contact information and maybe a link to their website.
These are a great places to request a referral because it’s so easy for the recipient who is already reading your email to forward it to someone.
Use “Forward My Contact Information” as your actual call to action to remind the reader specifically how to recommend you and encourage them to do so.
11) Remove the Risk
One reason people hesitate to refer your agency is because they’re afraid of looking bad if you don’t do a good job.
By recommending your agency to a friend they’re putting their reputation on the line. If your agency is rude, doesn’t return phone calls, or has horrible rates they’ll look bad for recommending you!
Explain to your clients how you handle referred business. Emphasize that you give referred leads very special treatment and that you’re not going to hound referrals with 20 phone calls during dinner time and put them on an email spam list. (Save that for your internet leads)
12) Thank Referrers on Your Facebook Page
When you receive a customer referral, go out to your Facebook page and thank the person who provided that referral out in the open for everyone to see.
This accomplishes many things. It shows the referrer how much you appreciate their gesture which should get you more referrals from them. It shows everyone else how much you appreciate referrals which should get you more referrals from other Facebook fans.
It also reinforces to your existing clients that other people are so happy with your agency that they’re sending their friends. This social-proof should improve your client perception and retention.
13) Give Two Business Cards
This one is kind of simple, when you hand out your cards give everyone two and ask them to hand out the second one.
Come up with something cool to say like, “Here’s one for you and one for your friend who drives the most expensive car and has the most speeding tickets.
14) Identify Clients With the Most Friends
Okay, I know it’s a bit devious, but in many cases you can look at someone’s public Facebook profile and see how many friends they have. You can do the same for connections on LinkedIn too. The more friends they have the more important it is to treat them right and ask for referrals.
You could make it part of your new business process or check out all the people who already like your agency Facebook page.
Establish a special category of clients that are uber-connected and go out of your way for this group of clients to wow and amaze them. They can probably generate a lot more leads than your agency’s FB page can.
Be aware – younger people have a lot more Facebook friends but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re better targets for generating referrals.
15) Use LinkedIn for Targeted Referrals
LinkedIn has an interesting feature that may help you get referrals for specific prospects that you’re trying to sell to. When you look at the LinkedIn profile of someone you’re not connected with and you are both connected with a third person, LinkedIn will show you who that third person is.
This means you can send a casual message to the person you’re both connected with requesting that they introduce you.
Obviously a lot depends on your relationship with that third person but you never know.
16) Get Clients to Like Your Facebook Page
The average person on Facebook has 130 friends. Imagine if you could get just a few people a week to post about your agency.
One way to drastically increase the odds of this happening is by getting them to like your Facebook page. Once they like your page they’ll see your content more often and if you post something really cool it’s more likely they’ll pass it along.
Just make sure your content is share-worthy. I’d stay away from the “Call us today for a cheap insurance quote!!!” post
While I’m on the topic… CLICK THIS LINK to like my Facebook page.
17) Recommend-a-Friend Functionality on Your Website
Honestly, I don’t know how effective something like this will be for you, but having a page or a box somewhere on your agency website that allows people to send an email to a friend recommending your agency might work.
I think an entire page could work better than a little box somewhere because I expect it would take a bit of convincing to get people to actually give up their friend’s email address and you’d have to remove the perceived risk of getting your friend spammed.
18) Referral Commission Bonus for Producers
Pay your producers an extra bonus for policies that are sold from an existing customer’s referral. This will help you in several ways:
- Your producers will never forget to ask the lead how they heard about you.
- Your producers will treat referred leads as more valuable (they are).
- Your producers will work harder to get existing clients to refer you.
- Referred business will retain better, refer more, and is more valuable to you.
19) Facebook Ads – Sponsored Stories
Sponsored Stories are a specific type of ads in Facebook that are shown to friends of people who already like your Agency Facebook page.
They tend to work well because people are more likely to be interested in something (like your agency) knowing their friend already likes it.
You don’t need to show your ad to every friend of your fans, you can display your ad to specific groups like baby boomers with teenagers at home for example.
20) Call Your Clients’ Emergency Contacts
Okay, that heading sounds bad, but it’s not as bad as it sounds.
I wrote another article that explains a pretty creative way to get referrals from the neighbors of your new homeowner’s policy clients.
21) Get Referrals From the Right Clients
People usually hang out with other people like them. If you only ask your most troublesome clients for referrals you’re going to wind up with more troublesome clients.
However, if you get referrals from the people who never bother you, always pay their bill on time, never file claims and renew year after year you’ll be able to grow your agency in a healthy way.
You’ll have to find a way to reach out to these people, because they don’t swing by your office every other week like the other group!
22) Give Referrals
I know I’m not the first person to tell you that the more referrals you give the more you’re going to get, but here’s a few tips to help:
- Make sure the person you refer mentions your name – if they don’t, it never happened.
- Follow up with the person you referred a week later to see how it worked out.
- Send an email to both parties so there’s no doubt you provided the connection.
- Create a rolodex of self-employed clients and use it just for giving referrals.
- Hang a huge bulletin board on the wall and encourage clients to pin their business cards to it.
23) Postcards The Clients Writes, You Mail
Print up a stack of postcards with your agency logo and contact information on them and put the stack on your front desk. Let your clients fill it out themselves and you stamp it and mail it.
You could do this as a strictly “refer a friend” postcard or you could be a little more benevolent and just let your clients write whatever they want and send it to their friend on your dime.
It might be kind of cool actually… “Sorry for the delay, would you like to mail someone a postcard while you wait for your appointment?”
24) Join a Referral Networking Group
Join one of those business networking groups where everybody gets together once a week to practice their elevator pitch, eat eggs and give each other referrals.
Sure it’s a lot of work generating new referrals every week, but what else do you have to do at 6:00 a.m. on a Thursday morning?
25) Educate Clients About All Your Products
They might know people who do need renters insurance but unless they know you sell it they won’t refer you.
An insurance agency isn’t a grocery store. Everything for sale isn’t in plain sight on the shelves (Unless you’re Flo).
Make a one page sheet that shows all the different types of insurance you sell and take one minute with every new customer to explain it to them.
26) Teach Clients About Good Referral Opportunities
You know someone just bought a house or has a baby is a prime target for life insurance.
Do your clients?
Help your clients identify referral opportunities by painting a picture. Say something like this, “Next time someone at your work complains about insurance being expensive, tell them to give us a call. We’ve helped a lot of people struggling right now and we’re always looking for more.”
Need I say more?
Okay, I guess it’s my turn now…
If you think you’ll use EVEN JUST ONE of the ideas presented in this article and you know another insurance agent like you who is:
- dedicated to growing their agency
- open to new ideas
- not afraid to ask for referrals, sell more insurance and make more money.
Would you do me a favor and email them a link to this article right now? You’ll be helping two people with one small but appreciated gesture.
And if you don’t have anyone to email but you liked the article, click the “Like” button so I know.
Thank you so much,