California Agents Get Creative to Sell Rideshare Endorsement

By | July 9, 2015

Kathy Lamm, an insurance agent in Costa Mesa, Calif., over the past month has been busy selling a ridesharing endorsement that Farmers Insurance Group introduced in California in late May.

Lamm started spreading the word soon after the product became available that she was selling ridesharing insurance. She made it known in her networking groups – the chamber of commerce, Business Networking International – and she purchased a paid link on a ridesharing website.

“I had a sale the next day,” she said, of the lead that came from the paid link. “They called and I answered the phone and they said ‘I need rideshare insurance. I need a quote.'”

With little effort she closed the sale, and she credits the non-traditional advertising method for other sales.

Selling ridesharing insurance has piqued the interest of many agents, who have taken the task of marketing and selling the Farmers endorsement to social media, websites and other forms of advertising to get the word out that they are part of what they hope is a growing area of business for them.

Patricia Ortiz, a Farmers agent in Elk Grove, commissioned a website, rideshare-insurance.com, to get the word out that she's selling a new ridesharing endorsement.
Patricia Ortiz, a Farmers agent in Elk Grove, commissioned a website, rideshare-insurance.com, to get the word out that she’s selling a new ridesharing endorsement.

As states like California pass laws requiring not only ridesharing companies to have insurance, but also drivers to have coverage, carriers like Metromile, USAA and Farmers have begun to offer ridesharing products.

Some see a big potential since the insurance is now a requirement for rideshare drivers, and there are many drivers who need it. Uber alone reports more than 160,000 drivers nationwide, and that number grows each month.

Farmers became the first large California insurer to start offering a ridesharing insurance product in late May. The Los Angeles-based carrier first began offering the product in Colorado, following up with a similar product in California and in June both Arkansas and Utah.

The endorsement in California will add 8 percent to a customer’s premium, and is available for drivers participating in any ridesharing companies, also referred to as transportation network companies, like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. The new policy enables drivers to select coverages including comprehensive and collision, uninsured and underinsured motorist and medical payments coverage.

According to Mariel Devesa, head of product innovation for Farmers, there has been “loads of interest” from agents inquiring about selling the product since it became available in the four states.

“I would say that with rideshare, we had a very high percentage of agents participate,” Devesa said.

She declined to say how many Farmers rideshare endorsements have been sold so far.

But she did add: “We’re very happy with our results.”

Devesa said the commissions for agents are structured the same as they are for new policies and renewals.

Patricia Ortiz, a Farmers agent who heads an office of two in Elk Grove, commissioned the creation of a unique webpage, rideshare-insurance.com, to get the word out that she’s selling the endorsement.

She actively promotes the new endorsement via social media, and the bilingual agent recently went on a Spanish radio station in Northern California to talk about ridesharing and insurance matters.

She likes to cover all the bases she can to get noticed.

“I’ve just been getting a lot of responses on social media, putting it on Facebook, Instagram, and I had the website built and I’ve had a lot of response from it,” Ortiz said.

She has issued several policies around her area – Berkley, Vallejo, San Jose – and she hopes the website will broaden her reach to the rest of the state.

The inspiration to sell ridesharing insurance came to her shortly after the Farmers announcement, as she sat through a church sermon on having dreams and making things happen for oneself, she said.

“I just started thinking about my business and how I can make it grow,” Ortiz said. “I’ve been praying to get a breakthrough in my agency.”

Insurance agents like Kathy Lamm have been looking for creative ways to bring in ridesharing customers. She recently paid for a link on a popular ridesharing blog.
Insurance agents like Kathy Lamm have been looking for creative ways to bring in ridesharing customers. She recently paid for a link on a popular ridesharing blog.

Neither Ortiz nor Lamm is doing much traditional advertising. One possible line of reasoning is that since ridesharing companies rely on apps and tech-savvy drivers, a less traditional approach is best.

Lamm also said she hasn’t had much luck with traditional ads. The only ad she paid for to get the word out that she’s offering ridesharing insurance is the link, which takes users directly to her own website and is accompanied by her contact information.

“I have tried a lot of (ads) and have had very little return,” Lamm said, adding that the link “paid for itself in less than 10 days.”

She declined to state how much the link cost her. Several Farmers agents have lately popped up on the same site that Lamm appears on, therideshareguy.com.

“I have gotten on average at least three inbound calls a day,” Lamm said. “They’re calling because they need (rideshare insurance), so a high percentage of them are closing.”

Harry Campbell, owner of therideshareguy.com, said he’s fielded several calls from agents looking to advertise.

“We’ve had a lot of interest – queries from maybe 20 individual agents, with more every week,” he said.

The site has five current agent advertisers with two-month deals, and two of them have renewed for another two months, according to Campbell.

He said the costs of the links are in the “few hundred dollars range,” but those rates are currently in flux.

Before it launched the endorsement, Farmers issued agents social media and advertising templates to provide them a framework to reach out to customers with the new product, and the company provided agents training to understand and sell the endorsement, Devesa said.

Some agents may see the endorsement as just another product to sell, but Lamm said it has led to other sales opportunities.

“A lot of people are confused,” she said.

Many rideshare drivers she’s heard from originally believed they were covered under the ridesharing company’s commercial policy and then suddenly realized they were about to be dropped because of the livery clause found in most personal auto policies, Lamm said.

All that confusion has meant lengthier conversations. She estimates she’s kept customers on the phone a half-an-hour or longer explaining how things work and the importance of having ridesharing insurance.

Some of those conversations have turned into other business, like new homeowners policies, Lamm said.

“The quality of the client relationships that are coming out of this are better,” she added.

Ly Short, social media manager at Wells Media Group, contributed to this report.

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