Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Marketing Personal Lines

Author: VU Faculty

Personal lines, like life insurance, can be a more difficult sale than commercial lines. Generally speaking, most consumers look at home and auto insurance as a commodity. So, if you want to grow your personal lines book, what can you do? Recently, we were asked just that question, so we solicited some suggestions from our faculty, plus an agent who spent 23 years successfully marketing personal lines.


Recently, our "Ask an Expert" service received the following question:

Question..."Our agency is over $5M commercial lines and a little over $1M personal lines. We want to develop more personal lines and are looking into many different ways to approach it. One of the ways is to send out post card mailings as a direct mail approach. This is to be tied in with radio advertising which has started using the old music and jingle from twenty years ago. The first day we had several calls from people who say they grew up hearing it on the radio and are pleased to have it on again. As to my specific question concerning the possible periodic mailing of a post card type marketing card, has this worked for other agents?"

Answers...Never underestimate the power of a simple message put to music. Phrases like "You're in good hands with...," phrases put to music such as "Like a good neighbor...," and catch phrases with a visual message like "AFLAC!" can go a long way towards ingraining or branding your organization in the minds of consumers.

I recall when I told my father that I was going to work for the IIABA Tennessee association. His response was, "That's those people that advertise on the University of Tennessee football games." It had been a decade since that advertising campaign, but he still remembered their legendary, and now retired announcer, John Ward, saying, "Brought to you by the INSURORS OF TENNESSEE!" To this day, there is a local radio sports talk show that will do a parody that includes that phrase...even though it hasn't been used for TWO decades.

So, congratulations on resurrecting a successful ad campaign. You may find that most anything you can tie into it will prove successful as well. However, let's get back to the specific question at hand and take a look, in a general sense, at whether or not that might be a successful strategy. I ran the question by several of our faculty members, along with one of our subscribers, an agent, who I knew to have expertise in this area.

Faculty Response...
Personal lines is are like the "vegetables" commodity in our grocery stores. Everybody needs them and everybody feels that the cans of peas are virtually the same. Why do they pick one brand over another? FAMILIARITY and TRUST.

So any personal lines marketing campaign must build familiarity and trust AND MUST MAKE IT EASIER TO BUSINESS WITH YOU THAN WITH ANYONE ELSE!!!

Your old-time jingles certainly fits the familiarity issue. Keep it up. A whole new generation will learn them. Trust is tied to familiarity. People think that they trust you if they recognize your name among all of your competitors. Postcards with short messages and your name and phone number is another way of staying on the customers' minds.

Finally, what you need to address is establishing your quote and issue systems so easy that it is easier to do business with you than it is with your competitors and direct writers. That's the key to effective marketing. Work on that issue and you'll have a steady, growing personal lines book of business.

Faculty Response...
The Master Agency Manager has an entire section devoted to marketing personal lines.

Faculty Response...
For another article on this subject, check out: "17 Ways to Build Your Personal Lines Book."

Subscriber Response...
I can share a few lessons we learned in the past 23 years that may keep some of your more energetic agents in this arena of marketing to personal lines customers:

1. Unless there is a real connection PERSONALLY with consumers, there is no such thing as customer loyalty. It is a PRICE driven product. Don't ballyhoo overmuch about great service and good products and what fine companies you represent. If you ain't in the ballpark on price, forget it...the customer goes bye bye.

2. If you obtain a customer based solely on price, you will lose them the same way...unless you create, in the customer's mind, a real reason for them to pay more for you and your product!

3. Direct mailings are largely ignored! If you do get a response, it'll be less than 2%...unless followed up with a phone call or a personal visit to create a personable contact and a reason to listen to you. Remember, most people HATE telemarketers and junk mail and SPAM!

4. The best way to get a customer is from another customer. ASK for REFERRALS. They are the best customers you will ever get and probably keep.

5. Trade shows can be TOO helpful. We once went to the Southern Women's show. We had a company donate a color TV to raffle off for a name and address and the month they bought their house or condo. Then we scheduled our entire sales staff of seven producers and six CSR's to "work the booth" and get people to fill out a slip of paper and drop it in the box(es).

We got over TEN THOUSAND replies in three days! We had no time to even database the addresses much less telemarket them and follow up. We wasted three days of our sales staff on this project.

So, based on this one attempt, this can be a GREAT way to market, but you'd better be geared up to respond...though I can't predict how good your closing ratio will be.

6. We spent two whole years hiring and training telemarketers (six part-time college kids at one time) to call homes in targeted zip codes and attempt to X-date them). We wrote some business but found that we were re-training and supervising these telemarketers so much that we had little time to do much else. In addition, one of us had to stay three nights a week with them to be sure they did their job. Kids supervising kids just didn't produce the results we wanted. Even with a major insurance company covering half the costs we figured this "sales center" probably cost us more in time and effort than it ever brought in. We ended up with more expiration dates than we could ever work with our regular sales staff, and spouses that missed us in the evenings. It just wasn't worth it.

7. The Internet seemed the answer for a while until we figured out that most folks got quotes that were real low on the internet and took them to a local agent for copying. Besides, re-inventing the rating systems to compete on the Internet was far more than we could handle without a full-time programmer. We got a few hits on our site, but never more than passing interest in big ticket items. We spent a lot of time updating meta tags and re-registering with search engines. Most of what we sold was dental policies at about $5 annual commission, and that wasn't worth it either!


Related Article:  "17 Ways to Build Your Personal Lines Book"

Related Article:  "Selling Personal Lines Insurance"

​127 South Peyton Street
Alexandria VA 22314
​phone: 800.221.7917
fax: 703.683.7556

Follow Us!

​Empowering Trusted Choice®
Independent Insurance Agents.