Insurance Agents Are Like Toasters


We work in an industry that is unique – insurance agents are like toasters in this industry. Let me explain…

Everybody owns or uses at least one small appliance in their home. You might have a toaster oven, a garage door opener, or a microwave oven. It’s an appliance we use daily. Yet, we don’t remember the manufacturer of the appliance. It looks and works, but we don’t know the manufacturer. Until it breaks. We check the manufacturer of the “widget” and whether it can be repaired or replaced. We make the decision whether to buy the same brand as before or try another brand. It takes a problem for us to notice the brand. Until then, because we don’t know the brand we use , one brand is just as good as the other . Insurance agents are like toasters. Policyholders don’t usually think of us until something breaks, that is until there’s an actual claim.

We can shine once there is a claim. We are responsive and concern. We strive to speed up things and protect the interests of our policyholders. Our clients end up feeling more connected to us. We get to shine in the eyes and hearts of policyholders when there is a claim. When everything is going smoothly, the problem occurs!

If all goes well and there are no claims (which most of the times), then we don’t get thought of. Our clients will be persuaded to use another agent or find a better rate if we don’t think of them. Mishandling claims is not the real problem in keeping clients. Facing the unknown is the biggest problem. Being a nameless toaster is dangerous.

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How can you avoid being forgotten? Let me share with you a lesson that I learned years ago while trying to be a successful small business consultant. I have a strong business background so I knew that I could help any small business with any aspect of finance, marketing, systems, personnel, or any other area. I have marketed to many businesses, in different industries and sizes. I was open to accepting any assignment that I could get. Because I couldn’t turn down any opportunity, Although I tried hard to develop my consulting business, I never saw anything more than mediocre results. After many years of struggle, I decided to move on to other things. After accepting an executive role with a company, I was able to gain an important insight into marketing. Here’s the insight that I gained:

You’re not well-known for something.

I was a toaster. I was rarely thought of by people. They rarely recommended me to others. They only gave their business to me for a very small percentage. My practice was mediocre because of my mistake.

A good reputation is essential for any agency or insurance agent to be successful. To achieve this, you need to be remembered and build a relationship with your clients. Agents tend to have a “vanilla” message. They don’t distinguish themselves from others. You can find great examples of messages that don’t differentiate in the Yellow Pages under “Insurance” Almost everyone is the same. You need to have a unique message if you want people to remember you. You don’t have to say anything unique, but it should be something that people will remember. You might include information about your coworkers or about one of the traits you have. It is a way to “brand” yourself, something that you can be associated with and remembered.

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When it comes to building and maintaining client relationships, the best way to do so is to interact directly with them. Active and passive systems are required to keep in touch with clients. Passive systems operate essentially on auto-pilot and don’t take up much of your time. Because they do not require personal involvement, passive systems are able to reach a wider audience. These systems can be used with all your clients. These passive systems are easy to implement:

  • Annual printed or email birthday cards
  • Annual anniversary cards, printed or by email
  • Annual review reminders by email or printed (annual)
  • Thank you notes by email or printed (annual)
  • Print or email newsletters (monthly, quarterly)
  • Email thought for the week (weekly).

Active systems require that you be more selective. These systems are dependent on you direct involvement. It is important to choose who gets your attention. You will want to build strong relationships with your top clients, your “A” list. These clients will typically be those that have many or large policies with you, who are easy to work alongside, and/or who have been doing business for a longer time. These clients will typically make up about 20% of your business book. These are some Active Systems that you can use:

  • For no reason, take your clients on the A-list out for lunch (once per year).
  • Call me to say hello and keep in touch (2-3 times per year).
  • Call them personally to say thank you (annual)
  • Open houses, seminars, and appreciation events for clients from the “A”-list
  • Send clients on the “A” List a thank you gift (annual).
  • Be a resource. Look out for other solutions that clients might need.
  • Ask them for their assistance (Don’t they feel more connected with you when they ask?
  • Refer clients to others whenever possible
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To summarize, clients will remember you if you have a point to differentiate and a relationship that lasts. These concepts will help any financial or insurance professional increase their retention rate, increase client loyalty, and generate more clients referrals.

Your business and your life should not be toast. Be a good Toaster.