It makes sense for smaller brokers to market themselves locally. We look at the lessons that can be learned from community-focused marketing campaigns

Insurance brokers use a host of methods to boost their profile in their local community. These may include sponsoring the local football team, attending the local business networking group or visiting potential clients to tout for business.

However, before embarking on a local marketing campaign, it’s worth considering the effectiveness of different methods. If you place an advertisement in a local directory, you should check it will be seen by the clients you want. If you’re attending a business networking event, you should make sure it’s well structured and that it will actually produce business leads.

Bloomhill Insurance Solutions managing director Matthew Stringer says that smaller broking firms are best served by carrying out marketing on a personal level.

“There are a lot of big-name brands, so there’s no point in me competing with them,” he says. “It’s about personal service, door knocking, walking down the high street. I target decent-sized commercial clients I want.”

Stringer adds that, as the managing director of the company, it is crucial he gets involved in the door-to-door calling.

“It’s important I do it, rather than sending someone else who is just pretending to know the business inside out. That way, if they fire a question at me I can give them an answer straightaway,” he says.

Stringer says “door-knocking” has been the most profitable form of marketing for Bloomhill.

“A lot of feedback we get is that the customers like it because it means I’ve seen their business and I know what they need,” he says. “I get to the quote stage with around 30% to 40% [of the businesses I visit] and I convert perhaps half of those. When you’re emailing, it may be just 1%.”

More conventional forms of local marketing have proved ineffective, according to Stringer. “We sponsored the local football team for a while, but that stopped pretty quickly because we attracted a lot of business we didn’t need,” he says.

Bollington Insurance Brokers managing director Chris Patterson says marketing in the local community is an essential part of building a business.

“I’m a firm believer that having a relationship is absolutely key – people do business with people.

I’m all about face-to-face contact,” he says.

Bollington’s profile-raising methods include sponsoring charities such as the Prince’s Trust and using ex-professional rugby players to promote the firm at events. In addition, Bollington sponsors dinners and holds surgeries where brokers offer advice.

Patterson adds: “Business networking is key – it’s an opportunity to meet business people and win their trust.”

South Essex Insurance Brokers (SEIB) has launched an initiative aimed at getting brokers to promote themselves in their local area. The scheme – which is called Proud and is run in conjunction with insurer LV= – provides brokers with pre-labelled, pre-stuffed envelopes to send out to potential clients that are within driving distance of the broker’s offices.

“Insurance brokers don’t do enough to promote themselves,” says SEIB business development consultant Colin Baker. “The [Proud] message is that ‘we can offer you preferential terms if we can come and see you’.”

Baker argues that the professional service offered by a broker is not sufficiently promoted because of the existence of aggregator sites.

“If we go and see the manager of the business, we can get a better idea of the risk,” he says.

Baker concludes: “People forget the importance of relationships – the insurance industry has lost trust. People can’t trust the banks so why should they trust insurance companies? These people don’t trust financial services but they do want help.”

Case study: Pavey Group sponsors world record attempt

South West-based broking firm Pavey Group recently sponsored a world record attempt to support a local charity in an attempt to raise its profile. A total of 3,000 people took part in the three-legged race world record attempt, in aid of adoption charity Families for Children, at four locations across the region. Pavey Group produced balloons, banners and literature bearing the company’s name.

“We want to get involved with unique events,” says Pavey Group marketing manager Niki Jones.

“It creates a buzz around the brand and it’s an opportunity for the board of directors to show their faces and show that they are approachable.”

Jones says traditional forms of advertising may not be effective. “The core of the business is word of mouth. If we put an advert in the local newspaper, the chances of the clientele we’re looking for actually reading it are slim. We’re looking to replace advertising in local directories with community marketing, as there is a better return on investment,” he says.

Other approaches, such as sponsoring sports teams, have similar limitations, Jones says. “When you think about the type of people who watch football on a Saturday afternoon, is that a wide enough demographic you’re reaching?” he asks.

Case study: Macbeth Insurance Brokers builds business via networking events

Reading-based Macbeth Insurance Brokers uses different methods to market itself locally, including sponsoring a local football team and a young up-and-coming tennis player. The firm has also staged a golf day in aid of charity and has recently employed a specialist to look at the firm’s social networking strategy and explore how Twitter and Facebook can be used to boost the business.

In addition, the broking firm attends business networking events hosted by Business Network International. It costs Macbeth £2,000 per year to take part in BNI events, but it expects an annual return on this investment of between £6,000 and £7,000.

Macbeth Insurance Brokers sales director Tony Gibbs says: “We attend structured networking events – there’s a weekly meeting where we give referrals. Networking does work but it’s a slow burner. You could go a month without getting anything, but then you may get one referral that will pay for the networking for the next two to three years.”

He adds: “We have a client we met through the network – he never knew we were here. He had a number of different vehicles insured with different insurers but we put them on one fleet policy. It was a slightly higher premium, but it was so much easier for him.”

Gibbs adds that brokers considering joining business networking events should ensure that the networking is properly structured.

“Make sure that business is being passed. It shouldn’t be wishy-washy – business cards being swapped and then forgotten about,” he says. IT