P repared, keen and organised? Get into cross-selling and make your client base earn you more money. You already have the means to start an effective marketing programme within your company.

You know something about your clients, you occasionally speak to them and you write to them – you have the means. It just needs a little focus and organisation.

Inserts with material you are sending out are an easy way to start. Key tips for success are:

Make the material as relevant as possible to the recipient and as personalised as you can in the text.

If just one or two insurers will benefit from your promotion ask them to help. They may be able to provide material or even an appropriate leaflet, money or technical help.

Look for a suitable gift, promotion or prize to encourage replies. A weekend away, a free accommodation offer, or a case of champagne are all very acceptable and cost very little.

You could link your promotion to another business, at little or no cost; for example private medical insurance with a trial membership of a local health club.

The best incentives are ones that have a higher perceived value than the actual cost to you. They also need to be easy to operate or organise. The winners provide publicity opportunities.

Watch your postage costs. You don't really want to take your existing material up into a higher post bracket. The difference between the 27p standard first class and the next rung up, at 41p, soon adds to your costs.

Easy though inserts are, they do often have a low response rate. They are competing with the more relevant material in the same envelope. Don't despair if you start slowly. You will learn from each experience, so make sure to keep a note of what you do and the results. Review arrangements with colleagues and seek their input for the next trial.

At the very least your business will benefit because your customers will be informed that you operate in other areas. Other sales could materialise later as a result.

It is more direct and specific if you write separately to your customers about the new opportunity rather than use an insert.

The letters can be personalised and, if your database allows, filtered to go to the most likely takers. Here, the key tips are:

  • Keep letters short, friendly, relevant and in plain English. The more personal you can make them, the greater the chances of success
  • Make the action required very clear in a covering letter and make it easy to reply
  • Mail at appropriate times. The week before Christmas is not so hot, but a week after your customer has renewed or taken out a policy works well
  • Finally, it may seem naff but add a PS which reminds the customer what the letter is all about. After the letter heading it is the most closely read part of the communication.

    Cross-selling verbally is another easy way to market other policies and services. This can be on the telephone or face to face. Staff should be well trained and motivated. You need to make sure customers are not badgered or oversold.

    If you think about it there are countless opportunities open to you to collect more information in this way about your customers and to cross-sell. While the computer is preparing a quote an extra question or two can be asked.

    After a claim, a call to check it was appropriately handled provides a good opportunity to talk about other products. Customer service calls to check that company standards were met are another avenue to explore.

    The most successful companies at cross-selling build it into their business plans and day- to-day programmes of work. It really should not be an afterthought, but an integral part of your business. The rewards can be excellent, so make sure you do not miss out.

  • Tony Baker was deputy director general of the Association of British Insurers and now runs his own independent consultancy.

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