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Turbocharge Your Agency With This Stellar Auto Insurance Referral Program Prototype

People shaking hands to turbocharge your agency with this stellar auto insurance referral program prototype

Scott Grates, insurance agent and co-founder of Insurance Agency Optimization, is renowned for his ability to fuel his business off of referrals.

So many of his customers happily come through his doors, not because of cold-calling or giant billboard ads, but because they’ve heard his name recommended to them by someone they know and trust. He doesn’t need to rely on hard sales or convincing; these folks are already his customers before they even make the first phone call.

There’s no magic behind his success, however. Scott uses a proven formula to build high-quality relationships that pay dividends months and even years down the line.

We asked Scott to share some details about how he built his network—and how agents like you can build your own auto insurance referral programs. His tips are below.

(If you’d like to hear him speak even more about the subject, you can also tune in to Scott's podcast or check out his new book, Referrals Done Right.)

Pair your new referral strategy with warm lead outreach to generate long-term business and immediate income for your agency. Contact EverQuote and ask about getting leads delivered right to your phone or inbox.


How To Deploy An Auto Insurance Referral Program The Right Way

There’s no reason you shouldn’t go after referrals. As Scott put it, “Referrals are the greatest lead source ever. They cost almost nothing. Sometimes nothing at all. They are the stickiest business. They convert at the highest rate. So referrals are absolute gold.”

A good referral program even allows you to compete with the big agencies that have deep pockets and seemingly infinite resources. They may be able to pay for huge ad campaigns, but to someone who has been referred directly to your agency, those slick ads are just white noise in the background. Your referred customer already knows they’ll be working with you; they’re not even in the market anymore.

As Scott puts it, “When we look at traditional advertising and marketing campaigns, they’re really just fighting for the scraps.”

However, in Scott’s opinion, the usual ways of getting auto insurance referrals are cringy and ineffective. It makes everyone uncomfortable when an agent wraps up a successful transaction by saying, “Well, it’s been great working with you. You probably know other people just like yourself; can I have their names and phone numbers?” Suddenly, the air goes out of the room, the customer feels they’ve been put on the spot, and you have to endure the cringe of waiting to see if they will scratch your back now that you’ve scratched theirs.

Scott advises skipping these awkward moments entirely and instead cultivating a referral network of professionals in parallel positions with yours.

Someone selling home insurance would want to build relationships with mortgage brokers and realtors, for example. If you’re going purely after auto insurance referrals, you’ll want to make friends with your local car dealers and any mechanics who specialize in repairing collision damage. That way, anytime someone purchases or repairs a car, the person they trust to help them with that transaction can say, “Now, go see X down at Y insurance agency. He/She will get you fixed right up.”

These relationships should be meaningful, authentic, and lasting.

Handing someone a business card and asking them to refer customers to your agency won’t do the trick. Scott’s approach requires some effort, but if you do it properly, that effort will be repaid many times over.

This is Scott’s strategy for building referral relationships with people in key positions

How to build auto insurance referral program relationships

The approach: Cultivate your referral partners just like you would nurture leads.

Actions to take:

Consistently put your absolute best effort into every interaction.

If you provide excellent value and expect nothing in return, you’ll start getting favors from people just because you’ve made yourself so valuable to them.

Give praise and recognition whenever you can.

For example, have a stack of greeting cards you can send out whenever one of your contacts receives a promotion or has a major life event. A simple “Congrats!” can go a long way. It aso pays to stay active on social media. Give “likes” like high fives, or be a good friend for someone going through a rough time.

Keep an outreach schedule for each of your contacts.

Scott’s recommends following a schedule similar to this:

Leave five star reviews for a contact’s business. After a few weeks, you can message them and say, “Hey, I hope all is well! Just wanted to check how you’re doing and let you know I left you a review.”

A few weeks later, drop by with a gift basket, some cookies, or something similar. Make small talk and ask how their business is going.

Several weeks after that, give them a call with some fresh ideas for their business based on what you discussed. Show them you really listened, and provide actual value and help where you can.

Try to keep the cadence of these contacts to roughly once every four weeks. This means you’ll be aiming for a minimum of thirteen interactions every year for each contact. Consistency is key here. You want to always keep yourself in view.

Start with twenty contacts and grow from there. This means you should make one meaningful contact per day, five days a week, for four weeks. Then simply rinse and repeat. As you go on, you’ll add and remove people from your list as necessary.

Look for opportunities to meet people in your community.

Don’t overlook high school and college students who are interested in careers you’ll interface with! Attend driver safety days, allow students to shadow you, provide internships, and introduce these up-and-coming professionals to the folks you work with every day. You never know when they could be a potential future customer, referral partner, employee, or friend.

Make it clear that you welcome referrals.

Scott explains, “When somebody calls for a quote, we ask: ‘Who referred you to our agency?’ When we end conversations, we tell people: ’Don't keep us a secret!’ When we write new policies, we have a customer satisfaction survey and the final question is: ‘Do you feel we've earned the opportunity to be introduced to your friends and family?’ If they check yes, then we ask for their contact information. Additionally, every email we send has the tagline ‘The greatest compliment you can give is a referral.’

“It’s not a quick and easy approach,” Scott admits. “But [truly getting to know people] is something we can do that the big players can’t.”

What about premium discounts, cash rewards, gift cards, and other referral incentives?

Though it may be tempting to offer discounts on insurance premiums for customers who bring you referrals, this is rarely a good idea. It’s even illegal in places like New York that have laws against “rebating” your insurance customers. Cash rewards are also capped in many places for legal reasons. Scott says he would be limited to $15 cash rewards, but he doesn’t use them at all.

Gift cards are another story. Used creatively, gift cards can be a valuable part of an auto insurance referral program.

Scott says he sticks to the mantra, “We are people helping people.” He focuses on supporting small businesses in the community. So, every time he gets a referral, he asks the referring party what their favorite small business is. Then Scott’s agency purchases a gift certificate for them from that business. Similarly, he also makes charitable donations to his referral partner’s favorite organizations.

Scott says, “If somebody refers to us, we explain our ‘people helping people’ mission and ask them if they'd like a gift certificate from a locally-owned small business or if they'd like us to double that amount and make a donation in their name to their favorite local charity, nonprofit, civic organization, school, club, etc.”

At the end of the day, even your referral program should help others.

Scott tells his referral partners, “My number one goal when you refer someone to my agency is that that person has such a good experience with us that their next call is going back to you to thank you for introducing them to us. I want to make you look good.”

If you put your customers first, your referral partners second, and your own needs last, you’ll deliver quality work, make genuine connections, and start getting people referred to your business in no time.

You can also generate new business with EverQuote leads while you wait for your referrals to roll in.

Going after high-quality referrals is a great long-term strategy. But if you need new business now, consider purchasing warm leads from EverQuote. Our leads come from people shopping for insurance at this very moment; you’ll receive their contact details just seconds after they request more information.

Contact EverQuote here to start getting leads right away.

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Topics: Featured, Insurance Referrals, Insurance Agency Growth

About the Author Scott Grates, Insurance Agent and Owner of Insurance Agency Optimization

Picture of Scott Grates, Insurance Agent and Owner of Insurance Agency Optimization

Scott Grates is a national best-selling author, podcast host, entrepreneur, TEDx speaker and sought-after coach for small business owners. As the leader of multiple thriving businesses which started from zero—and now generate millions of dollars annually, Scott understands the challenges faced by small business owners in their relentless pursuit of success against corporate behemoths.

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