Inbound vs. Outbound: Why Not Both?

Typical advertising mail

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When I started as an insurance representative, debit agents had just disappeared.  For years they had made personal contact with each of their clients every month.  As a result, they did not have to market much.  They were able to add new clients to their book of business using exclusively referrals from the clients with whom they had built a close personal relationship.  If they did any marketing, in many cases, it was limited to door-to-door visits between houses on their debit routes.

I started selling insurance before the popularity of the internet. While door-to-door sales people still existed, my segment of the industry frowned on the practice. My introduction to insurance sales was during the golden age of telemarketing.  I was trained to make “cold telephone” calls.  If I had nothing else to do, a telephone book was open on my desk and I was “dialing for dollars.”

Between insurance agents and long distance companies, people could not expect to have a hot meal without the telephone interrupting them during the 80s and 90s.  Sometimes I wonder how many cold meals I was responsible for during the 1980s.

After a few years, the effectiveness of cold telephone calling diminished.  Calls had to be warmed up.  A letter or marketing piece was mailed out and was followed up with a telephone call, to “verify the suspect had received the very important information that was sent,” a few days later. 

That technique was a little more efficient and produced a little better appointment to call ratio.  I am not certain, however, that it was because the prospect was more receptive after the letter or the agent was more willing to actually make the call.  Whichever it was is meaningless. Sales per agent improved each year.

In the past couple of years a new fad for marketing has become popular.  One can hardly read anything about marketing without seeing the terms “inbound marketing” or “social media marketing.”  Apologists for both outbound and inbound marketing techniques argue passionately that their marketing method is superior.

Our nation is nothing if it is not diverse.  People of every race, sex and religion have found a way to coexist in our society.  Americans are more tolerant of differences in people than almost any other society on earth.  In the spirit tolerance, I propose there is room for both inbound and outbound marketing techniques.

Many managers and gurus, while promoting the advantages of their own marketing preference tend to run down the other technique.  I encourage young, struggling agents to remember what their objective is.

Your commissions are not based on how attractive your web site is or how persuasive your telephone pitch is.   Your commissions are based on sold insurance policies.  Whether you make the sale based on your blog or cold canvas is immaterial.

There is a single speed bicycle in the shed at home in Indiana that I put away until the 10-speed fad ran its course.  Once people start using single speed bicycles again, I am in good shape.  Until then, I guess I will have to break down and use a 10-speed bicycle.

Social Media marketing may just be a fad.  Then again, it may be here for good.  Only time will tell how long it will last.  One thing is for certain, though.  It is popular right now.

Is it popular enough to replace older marketing techniques?  I am not convinced it is, yet.  In my opinion, in order to be successful an insurance agent needs to learn how to fuse outbound and inbound marketing techniques together.

Ironically, as on line marketing increased in 2010 the number of homes with personal life insurance has dropped significantly.  Of course there are other contributing variables in the political and economic sectors of our nation that can be used to account for the decrease in personal life insurance but if agents have replaced older prospecting techniques with newer, faster and cheaper internet techniques and our society is not ready to accept them fully, that variable must be considered while attempting to explain the unprecedented drop in the number of homes with personal life insurance.

In the future agents may be able to replace one with the other but I don’t think we have arrived at that point in time.  I think we are in a transition period.  In my opinion, the successful insurance agent will implement many different marketing techniques.

You need to embrace social media marketing as much as possible but not rely on it exclusively.  Until your email box is consistently full of inquiries, continue with your direct mail campaigns if you are getting some results.


About The Insurance Barn

Husband of 1, father of 2, health insurance agent and insurance trainer.
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