5 Harsh Marketing Warnings for Today’s Tough Times

By | October 2, 2009

The economic crisis is over! Well, not really. It’s just that the present plight has lasted so long, it’s no longer a crisis, it’s the status quo. And as such, it’s time to revisit your agency’s marketing budget and invest in some reasonable promotional activities. Just don’t delay too long. Here’s why …

1. Self-fulfilling prophesy. If you elect to defer disbursing near-normal amounts on direct mail, print ads, inserts, and Internet marketing until your local economy improves, then you could be making a serious mistake. People and businesses still need insurance, and if your office is not actively promoting itself today, you’ll lose market share that will be even harder to recoup once the recovery is in full bloom. Furthermore, by overly restricting marketing expenditures, your active prospect pipeline dries up and sales stagnate. It’s easy to blame these events on the economy. But is it entirely responsible or have you created a self-fulfilling prophesy?

2. Marketing exploits. In the recent past, when a gallon of gas cost upwards of $4, the media was packed with ads that cashed in on it. Free gas card offers were a favorite of car dealers, vacation spots, and others. Today, it’s more about recession specials, stimulus discounts, etc. Bad times spawn blatantly exploitative ads. Just check your Sunday newspaper. The last thing that insurance agencies need to be accused of is exploiting the economy. In good times, the industry generates enough bad feelings simply from collecting premiums and declining uncovered claims. So, it makes zero sense to literally pay for more problems through such marketing. In other words, stick to the core message of a competitive price and attentive service from a knowledgeable local professional. There are plenty of ways to deliver it ranging from the serious, to the creative, to the humorous. And if you order before midnight tonight, you’ll enjoy preferred pricing on your promos.

3. Discount-mania. A stagnant economy is party time if you have money to spend. Big ticket items like cars and homes are heavily discounted. And in terms of marketing, you can buy ad or insert space in area publications at extremely favorable pricing. Radio, TV time, billboards, banner ads, etc. are, in general, more affordable today. Plus, first-class postal mailings declined by nearly 10 billion pieces in FY 2008, opening up plenty of room in prospective mailboxes for your agency’s targeted solicitations. Again, if you defer your promotional activities until the times improve, you’ll miss out on these opportunities.

4. Land of the giants. When local agencies fail to market, area drivers, homeowners, and business people see and hear insurance solicitations mainly from the nation’s biggest insurance sellers. This relegates your under-promoted brand to second-class status in the eyes of many buyers. Over time, the unopposed ads of the giants predispose shoppers to contact these titans first whenever they seek an insurance quote. As a result, you either have to over-advertise to play catch-up or resign to living off of referrals and renewals, a decidedly poor formula for growth.

5. Don’t be e-passive. Business experts, in every industry, are touting the commercial virtues of popular Web 2.0 social sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. These online tools, like agency Web sites, are nearly valueless unless they are actively promoted. Simply opening up a free account or posting a dormant site and waiting for prospects to find you is an “e-passive” approach that yields virtually nothing beneficial to your bottom line. It’s a feel good act in bad times, a meaningless bow in the direction of true marketing.


The laggard state of economy is destined to be with us for the foreseeable future. Unemployment rates will remain high. Consumers and businesses will continue to watch their expenditures. It’s the nature of the beast. But, this creature can be tamed, if not slain, by reactivating your agency’s marketing efforts. Now is the time to be your agency’s hero, with a swinging sword in hand, instead of passively waiting for someone to call or click.

Shulman, CPCU, is the publisher of Agency Ideas, a subscription-only sales and marketing newsletter. He is also the author of the many tools posted on the Agency Ideas Instant Download Store. Phone: 800-724-1435. E-mail: alan@agencyideas.com. Web site: www.agencyideas.com.

About Alan L. Shulman

Alan Shulman, CPCU, is the publisher of Agency Ideas® sales and marketing newsletter (free basic subscription at www.agencyideas.com/join). He is also the author of “500 Sales Ideas for Commercial Lines Producers” among many other P&C sales resources. Email: alan@agencyideas.com. Website: www.agencyideas.com. More from Alan L. Shulman

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