The Evolution Of Insurance Marketing

The Evolution Of Insurance Marketing

I have been in the health and life insurance business for over 20 years. I was working on some marketing plans and started to think about how marketing insurance products to prospects has evolved over the last twenty years. The thoughts spurred me to write an evolution of insurance marketing.

Going back to the early 1990’s, we insurance agents marketed ourselves and insurance products by cold calling or “walk and talk” we all loved so much and purchasing telemarketing leads.  I still remember the mantra of “smilin’ and dialin’” all day on Monday because “so goes Monday, so goes the week”. Then, for the agents that were making some sales, we sent out mailers. Typically, “snail mail” as it is known today got about a 1% to 2% response rate. Because money was tight, we would call the other 98% and pick up about 10% more appointments. The key to all of these wonderful techniques was the fact that the internet did not yet exist and prospects needed an agent to explain insurance coverage’s because information was hard to come by other than through insurance brochures.

As technology began to become more predominate and affordable, marketing insurance products evolved to fax machines and autodialers. An insurance agent could pay a company and some even purchased them for themselves to blast fax machines with “catchy” flyers to spike interest. The autodialers could call multiple numbers at a time and when a live person picked up, the agent went into their best spill to set an appointment. It was all about “fishing” for people to sell an insurance product to and the really good agents actually ask for referrals. Most of the appointments were run at the place of business or the prospects home. The old mantra of “6 legs under the kitchen table equal a sale” meaning if both decision makers were there you would usually make a sale. Because these methods were not only used but abused, “fax blasting” and autodialers became outlawed by the regulators and new ways had to be found.

Today with the evolution of technology, the internet has become the marketing tool of choice. Yes, it evolves constantly as well. Every technique from emailing which is regulated by “anti-spamming laws” to websites, landing pages, blogging, search engine optimization or SEO is constantly used and abused. For the independent agent, the tool of choice is social media. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn are lit up daily with insurance agents trying to sell their products and services 24/7. Sadly, most agents really are clueless when it comes to using social media and by reading their posts it shows. But that is not going to deter them from blasting away. Why not, it is free? That is another blog entirely. Almost all agents today sell right over the phone via websites and e-applications where the client signs via email and they are placed in underwriting. No more “6 legs under the kitchen table” to make a sale.

Throughout all of this evolution I have found the one tool that has not changed in my twenty years. That tool is face to face networking. People still prefer to do business with insurance agents they know and trust. Building a good personal network of referral sources is the most valuable asset an insurance agent or agency can have. Too many insurance agents spend all of their time looking for “golden eggs” instead of finding a goose that can lay “golden eggs”.

We are the facilitators of our own creative evolution”.Bill Hicks

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Tim Wilhoit is owner/principal of Your Friend 4 Life Insurance Agency in Nashville, TN. He is a family man, father of 3, entrepreneur, insurance agent, life insurance broker, salesman, sales trainer, recruiter, public speaker, blogger and team leader with over 25 years of experience in sales and marketing in the insurance and beverage industries.

51 Responses to The Evolution Of Insurance Marketing

  • Great post ! Very insightful !!

  • Hasan, thank you for your kind words. I am glad you enjoyed it.

  • thanks for sharing your experience with us as i’m new in this business but i have been in retail almost 24 years in the pizza business and i have start selling to the same clients from the same shop, thanks again, monte

  • Monte, thank you for your kind words. I wish much success in an awesome industry!

  • So on the money. Time to enter the 21st century!

  • Terry, thank you for your approval and kind words. May we keep evolving!

  • Indeed. I can only speak for my team. We are definitely on the cutting edge far beyond what people would imagine. So your post rings true. In fact, we consider ourselves “The Evolution of The Revolution”. What a coincidence.

  • That is an awesome name! The tools change but the business is still the same even after 20 years. Thank you for sharing.

  • My pleasure. And thanks for sharing your input as a visionary!

  • Good word Tim. After all is said and done, it always seems to boil down to common sense. Get out of your chair, go outside and make some friends. Friends do business with friends (and they recommend their friends to their friends). Not exactly rocket science!

  • Wayne, you and I are in sync! Thanks for sharing!

  • Your’e on the money, there is no substitution for face to face interaction and gaining the credibility and trust to uncover needs and recommend the best solutions that will forever change the lives of those we care for. Keep up the network!

  • Thank you for your kind words Ron. It is funny the more things change the more they stay the same.Happy Networking to you too my friend!

  • Great to see some one who still believes the value of face to face interaction. Insurance is one that cannot be sold as it does have certain values and ethics attached to it. It is not just like any other item sold on web or a consumable to simply launch on a website and sell as a one time affair.. regular touch with clients will yeild better results and one can develop a family of golden geese if they follow your last golden words ‘Building a good personal network of referral sources is the most valuable asset an insurance agent or agency can have”…

  • Evvp, I appreciate your feedback. You have it right. The insurance business is not about polices it’s about relationships and expertice. Thank you for sharing.

  • It may be that it is early Sunday morning but I think the post is about the evolution of insurance selling. The essence of marketing is determining what the customer needs and then finding a way, or ways, to meet those needs.

  • Barry, I respectively disagree. Marketing is finding an interested client which is what I am pointing out in the blog. Selling is when the prospect is found and the needs analysis and presentation and closing occur which would be selling. So I do believe the title is correct. I appreciate you sharing.

  • The basics will always be the key driver behind what we do and legislation should be come our friend, networking is what helps us keep up to new trends and clients expectations, really enjoyed your article.

  • Jacqui, thank you so much for your kind words. I agree the newer agents are always trying to find a way to automate a system to bypass the most crucial part of what we do, build relationships. Sincerely caring about clients will never go out of style. Thank you for sharing.

  • I enjoyed your article and I have to say the key for me is networking getting out there and building relationships. I personally find face to face the best.

  • The good news about the internet is that people can market more efficiently. I like drip marketing techniques that keep me in touch with clients and keep them posted on what I am doing. It seems to work best once or twice a month. More than that and you are spamming. Less than that it has diminished impact. http://www.danskognes.com

  • Thank you Kim for your kind words. I agree the more things change the more they stay the same. Dan, internet has definitely allowed agents to target market more efficiently and economically than ever before. Thank you both for sharing.

  • Good article. The funny thing is the “evolution” of this business has changed rather little. Sure the internet has added to it, but as other business’ have changed the insurance and investment fields have changed very little. I hope they will one day catch up.

  • Amen to that Jayson! The tools change but the business is still the same. technology seems to be a struggle for the insurance industry compared to a lot of other industries. Thank you for sharing.

  • Great tips man. I am looking for these kinds of suggestions. I am just beginning my career in insurance after 22 years as an executive recruiter

  • Thank you for the insight. I have been in marketing and sales for over 25 years and what is intriguing to me about your article is you can substitute in almost any “product”. Most sales started the same way (we called them Blitz Days) and they all succeed with personal, trusted relationships. Integrity is at the core of each person’s long term sales success!

  • Todd and Rose, I appreciate your kind words. It is a great industry and I wish you both much continued success.

  • Time to find the goose that lays the golden egg, AGAIN. Thansk for reminding me.

  • Thank you for your article. It is inspiring. Fully agree with the face to face contact. But I expect the face tot face contact to be supported by social media applications in the execution of deals and their retention.

  • I agree…on face to face. While I’ve not been in business as long, my current history only dates back 6 years… but in those six years, I’ve seen most all of it and have worked in the under 65 market to the senior market, and working up to 8 states (licensed and appointed) with shared leads and some exclusives. In this last year and after listening to marketing and studying books like Canfield’s “The Power of Focus”, I’ve made some hard choices… to focus. I say “hard” because there’s opportunities in so many markets and right now Obamacare is opening opportunities unlike times we’ve seldom seen before People need good agents now more than ever to guide them. But I have made the choice and that is to focus, and the focus is on the senior market. Possibly more than any other I find seniors to be much more receptive and open to to face to face and personal relationships Certainly it’s true that there are a number or percent that don’t want any type of a sales person coming to their homes; there are seniors quite handy on the internet… but we all know… at the core, sales is a numbers game. The numbers favor the person to person, and this is the very best way to establish rapport, build relationsohips. While the senior market is smaller than the under 65 market, opportunities abound for Final Expence, niche specific dental, “safe investments” such as certain annuity products. The senior is likely to be stable in geography and have a referral base larger than the under 65s who move, are 1000% tied up with careers. Face to face and the senior market is where its at.

  • Good one from Tim. Admittedly face to face remains the best approach, but it’s limited in scope; therefore there is a need to leverage on the availability of social media in order increase the number on your target/prospects’ list.

  • I absolutely agree! Due diligence with marketing to centers of influence are key for long term success. Building relationships keeps you top of mind when need arises. While there are various avenues of marketing options, it all boils down to “doing it”. While manager in the past, it was so frustrating to train, explain, and work with agents who say they get it and will do it, only to find they don’t at all. Most agents will not do the work, but those who do will be successful! My motto…..while not a new one…..service before reward! It works!

  • Hi Tim …first of all congrats to you for seeing the other way and separating from the herd of the net affair .. but I actually have a hunch the world is changing and changing rapidly and the new form of business emerging cannot sun away from the Network mania … Yes there is no perhaps a duplicate for trust and business relations which happens over a period of time and on face to face discussion /negotiation .. however patterns are changing so fast and opportunities(knowledge of it) getting more competitive by the hour …the networking model perhaps is bound to work out based on BRANDING … yes it will take some time and convincing — but once a BRAND like Apple(in mobile) comes to the fore and the HERD mentality sets in — more and more people from generation next particularly will be pulled into it.. Perhaps the Insurance world is awaiting an APPLE form of Innovation to happen …


  • Sandeepan,
    I appreciate your comments and do understand your points. I just don’t believe their will ever be an insurance company to have the “cult” following of the “Apple” brand. I agree consumers “love” their technology but I don’t see a time when consumers will “love” their insurance. Most believe it is a necessary “evil”. I believe caring about clients and face to face will never go out of style. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, I enjoyed them.

  • Internet, social media and other methods help to shorten the sales cycle, but it still is a relationship-driven business and the best way to solidify that relationship is still face to face.

  • Really enjoyed your article – I have been in the Commercial Insurance Business for 41 Years and was able to re-live the article. Not doing so well with the Social Media Aspects and still rely on the old way of doing it!

  • Thank you for your kind words Julie. As I stated the more things change the more they stay the same. Sincerely caring for people will never go out of style. I wish you much continued success!

  • Tim…man after my own heart – your article is very interesting. I think before social networking, face to face networking was called hospitality. A very 80’s concept but certainly has the same effect for 20 or for 1000. Shame we are on different sides of the pond but take advantage of Christmas to do this. http://www.eleanorbelfrageevents.co.uk

  • Eleanor, thank you for your kind words. You are correct about networking. I have a hard time believing social media networking will ever fully replace face to face networking, until we are all face to face online which I believe is the next piece of evolution. Then we are back to full circle. I am honored that you shared. Much continued success on the other side of the pond. 🙂

  • Insurance is needed for hard time.

  • Ordinarily I don’t read through document blog sites, having said that i desire to point out that the following write-up extremely compelled myself to see and accomplish that! Your current way with words amazed me. Thank you so much, really great content.

  • Dear Mr. Wilhoit:
    The reason for this letter is to congratulate you on your article ”An American experience: the evolution of the insurance broker.” I run a company dedicated to insurance broker in Spain called ”Herrero Brigantina de Economia” http://www.herrero-brigantina.es and we have been very useful to me and the entire team of the company.
    Thanks for helping us to love even more this beautiful profession. If you ever travel to Spain, we are happy to visit us.
    A greeting
    Juan González Herrero

  • Juan,
    I am glad to be a valuable contributor to your article. I am honored to be international blogger now.
    I wish you much continued success my friend!

  • In my 43 year career in the industry, I have seen and tried about all of it.
    Today we are entering a new and exciting phase.

  • Ralph, thank you for sharing your comment. It has been a crazy ride of marketing our insurance products after all of these years.

  • @ Ralph: you have been in the business longer that I have been on earth 🙂
    @ Tim: The last paragraph of your article is so profound because I have been in the industry for 10 years but it is ALWAYS the clients that make the decisions @ the “kitchen table” that you get the call backs or emails from long after that initial sale is done. Social media, being able to sell & advise online are very powerful tools and they make our reach as agents much broader; but at the end of the day there is nothing like sitting down with a client and “seeing” what they are saying versus hearing what they are saying.

  • Tenitra, thank you for sharing this comment. You are in the minority of agents that “get it”. This is a relationship business that no machine will replace. The “gunslinger” agents are the ones you meet that say “I use to sell insurance” not the seasoned veterans like Ralph this industry desperately needs. You keep up the good work, the insurance industry needs more of you.

  • Tim,
    I just want to let you know that I sent a “Reply privately\” to Tenitra Hope it went through as we had a brief power outage. I explained to her that my online efforts are only to get LOCAL leads and call them for appointments. You can not have a long term relationship with people all over the country. When it comes to closing, who has the better chance ? face to face or someone from another country on a computer If you learn social media it teaches you the skills needed to reach your target audience. By all means you can continue with the “Project 100” audience, but realize people search the internet daily Your comments are always welcome.

  • Ralph, you are spot on my friend. I’ll take every face to face appointments that bought their plans online or over the phone everyday. There is ALWAYS another opportunity missed by the “roboagents”. Thanks again for sharing.

  • Thanks for sharing this Tim.

  • Glad you enjoyed it Ken.

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