Insurance Talk — Paper Marketing Techniques for Small Businesses
Cheri Martinen – Welcome to Insurance Talk with Cheri Martinen and today I have a very special guest with me, Tammy Lesueur. Tammy Lesueur is Rex Lesueur’s wife and she is definitely the pillar or probably the person that sits in the background of our business and makes amazing things happen, which is what we’re talking about today. We’re going to be talking about marketing and how my mom, over years of trial and error and really intense study, has taken our agency from a small mom-and-pop insurance agency to a larger small business that’s serving a bigger population and really helping Oregonians. We are now also licensed in thirteen other states.
Tammy Lesueur – I always tell people when they ask me what I do that I’m the largest salesperson that nobody sees or talks to in our agency. And the reason is because you are buying from me digitally or via the old-fashioned mail and other types of advertising.
I’ll give you a little bit of history, so you know where we started from. Several years ago, like most small business owners, Rex and I had our little insurance agency in La Pine and we were frustrated on how to make it grow. And I think every business owner’s done that.
Strategies to Grow Your Business
CM – Yes, this isn’t a unique problem to insurance. And the reason why she’s here today is because we want to share her knowledge with other small business owners or even entrepreneurs to maybe grow their own business.
TL – Everybody starts out and there’s a lot of building and then you get to a point where you wonder, ‘How do I get more customers? How do I grow this business?’ And we hit that point and I started looking around and reading and studying and I hired a couple of people who were professionals in it and you know, it taught me a lot about how to market. And I think one of the biggest fallacies that are in any industry is, ‘Oh, I don’t read advertising. I don’t pay any attention to it. I just throw it away or delete the click or whatever.’ The truth is, even if you do delete it or you throw it away, you’d look at the piece of advertising and the people who are in that profession know that and they use it. And so any small business can do this. There’s nothing magic. It’s just sitting down and learning how to do it.
The Power of Direct Mail Marketing
CM – And again, that’s kind of what we’re talking about. Mom, how many years of insurance marketing do you have now?
TL – At this point it’s over 20 years. Like I said, when we first started it was out of frustration and learning how to grow our business. And the very first campaign I did was an old-fashioned, what they refer to as ‘direct mail’. And direct mail is just like you go to your mailbox, you pick up, you open it up and there’s a postcard or there’s a flyer or there’s a letter or maybe even a little magazine in there that you never ordered, talking to you about something. It can be anything. Dental, try a new dentist, you know, buy this, do that.
The old Sears catalog, that was a huge direct mail piece. And a lot of families look forward to it, especially this time of year ‘cause you wanted to go through it and look at it and see what you wanted. So that’s all direct marketing. So anytime you get a postcard in the mail, advertising auto insurance or advertising home mortgage or whatever, that’s a piece of direct mail. People don’t just send those out willy-nilly. You were targeted and that’s part of learning how to market. As a small business owner, you have to say, ‘What kind of customer do I want? Who am I looking for? Who do my services appeal to?’
CM – And it is interesting, we’re starting with direct mail because that was one of the first things that you guys did to really grow your business. But it is one of the more expensive ways to market.
TL – In today’s world, it is the much more expensive way to market than it used to be, because obviously now you have to pay for the postage, pay for the printing. All that adds up. Where, you know, when I first started, there wasn’t really a lot of Internet marketing.
CM – So thinking back to this, what was your first piece?
TL – My very first piece was a very expensive direct mail piece of marketing. And basically what your dad and I did was went through our book of business. Now we’re an insurance agency and we noticed we had mostly auto insurance customers, which is great, but my customers live somewhere, right? I said they have to live in a house or they have an apartment or whatever it was, and we should be having that piece of business, and we should be also writing the home or the apartment. So we did a, what they call in the marketing lingo, a ‘lumpy mail piece.’
A lumpy mail piece is, you’ve all gotten one before, is you’ll get an envelope and it’ll have something in it that’s lumpy. And it could just be a little key ring or it can be anything, but they call that a ‘lumpy mail piece’ because you can feel there’s something inside the envelope. I was marketing to my own customers, so I was willing to spend more money because I was looking for the second piece of business. What I did was send out a nine-volt battery and said, ‘Hey, have you put a new nine-volt battery in your fire detector in your kitchen or living room? By the way, we also do homeowners’ insurance.’ It’s basically what the letter said, and, ‘Call us for a quote.’
CM – Was it successful?
TL – It was wildly successful. We increased our homeowners’ business by over 50%. You know, we kept running that program for a couple of years and over time we were like I said, we started off marketing to our own customers, but getting that second piece of business and if depending on your business, anybody knows that if you sell them first one time, but you sell them two times, they’re twice as likely to be more loyal to you over a longer period time. And in the insurance industry, if you have three policies with somebody, you’ve got that customer for life because it’s very painful to change insurance companies and people don’t like to.
Repetition with Direct Mail
CM – It changed to how customers related with them and came back to them to buy maybe a second time or even a third time. And it helped to grow their business slowly but surely, right? And that’s how we all want it. I mean it’s really great if you could send something out and get a huge flood of people coming in, but it’s better if it’s more consistent.
TL – You don’t always get that. One of the other things that we learned as I was going down the marketing road and learning was really identify who your customer is, who do you want. And, like with any small business, when we started out the first customer, we’re so happy we got them, right? And over time you get more customers.
That’s the most exciting thing is to have that first customer come in. But after you’ve been in business for a couple of years, you often hit what is normal, is a plateau. And you may not have ever sat down and looked at your customer list and said who are these people who are buying from me? Are they buying from me only within my area? Or are they buying from me from another state, maybe, or from a different place?
The first thing you do is, look at your customer base. Who are they, where do they come from, and maybe even ask them, ‘Hey, so why did you stop by? Why do you like doing business with me?’ People may often say, ‘Hey man, I like you.’ Well, that’s awesome, ‘cause people do business with people they like. And that’s another reason. And one of the things that we found is when we segmented our book, is we did a lot of business with contractors, building contractors. Well, at that time, our area was growing very, very fast and there was a lot of small business contractors who were out there building homes or repairmen.
CM – Or doing the flooring, maybe the wood floor, or maybe they do the counter installments, or they do the kitchens, all that stuff. The roofer, the deck builder.
TL – All of it. So we realized that, when I went through my book of business, I actually had about a hundred contractors in our book of business. This sounds like a lot, but it’s really a very small number when you look at the state of Oregon and there are 75,000 or more contractors in the state. And I’m only in Oregon, my license is good for the entire state. So I can, you know, I didn’t really, you know, a hundred was a very small number compared to what was available out there.
In going down the contractor line, a lot of times the next thing is, okay, these customers, I have a product for and they like me. How do I get a list of lookalike customers? Well, back in the day, now there are list curators online that you can go to and you can find that customer. But when I started, there was no such thing as any place online that I could do that. But fortunately in the state of Oregon, if you are a contractor, you have to be a licensed contractor.
CM – Well you should be. And we insure licensed contractors, so those were the people we wanted.
TL – And the state of Oregon will sell you that list. So I bought the list from the Contractors Board here in the state of Oregon and a lot of industries have lists. Anybody who has to be licensed, normally you can get a list of that license, whether it’s hairdressers, contractors.
CM – A liquor license for a restaurant. It could be, gosh, there’s so many.
TL – Yeah, I mean, you go online and say, go to the state of Oregon and type in ‘licensed professions’ or ‘people who need a license’ and you’ll get the entire list. So, well there you go, you have your list.
CM – But like we said, nowadays there are places where you can go and buy a curated list. So you can say, I want to target homeowners with this value of home in these five zip codes.
TL – Correct.
CM – Or, you could say, I’d like to target business owners, if you’re a B2B-type business. Business owners in this field, in this like maybe these five zip codes.
TL – Correct.
CM – Or maybe it’s just on, you know, maybe you just want like I-5 Corridor. Maybe you’re not on the I-5 Corridor like us. You’re over on the other side of the mountain and you’re focusing more on the east side of Oregon, so you have a lot more flexibility.
TL – Yeah. So you can decide who your customer looks like and who you want to target. And there’s a ton of information. The online list curators, they’re fairly inexpensive.
CM – They’re more inexpensive to get a list of addresses than emails as well.
TL – Correct. That’s a whole other conversation.
There was your direct mail. My first, you know, was I wanted to go ahead and get that list. So your list is probably one of the most important things that you have as a marketer because those are the people that you’re going to go after to make that next sale, no matter what it is.
CM – And I think one of the interesting things about direct mail is the consistency. So you can’t just mail once and be like, I did it.
TL – No. So the numbers for in the line of direct marketing is you need to mail that piece at least eight to ten times.
CM – So it’s a commitment for a year.
TL – Easily. A lot of people will mail one piece out and they’re like, ‘Oh, I didn’t get any phone calls.’ Well you mailed it once. And you know, everyone knows everybody’s busy, they go to their mailbox, they pick up the mail and they’re like, ‘Oh, flyer, pitch it.’
CM – And it might not be time. Maybe they run out of that product that you sell in another month. And then when they get the flyer, they’d be like, ‘Oh, I need to purchase that.’
TL – And there’s something to be said about being repetitive. Like I said, even though people will tell you, ‘Well, I got your postcard, I just threw it in the trash.’ I’ve actually had people tell me that, but they’ve got my postcard enough times and thrown it in the trash enough times. They recognize the name of our business and then they go ahead and call us. I mean often Rex and I have been out for dinner and we’ve actually had someone walk up to us that we didn’t know and they would say, ‘Hey, you’re the guy.’
What are You Selling?
TL – Once you’ve got your list. I want to market to these people, whoever they are. And then you have to decide what are you going to sell them?
CM – Is it service? Is it the lowest price? Is it maybe the quality of the product? Or maybe you have something unique to that product that makes it special that you want to make sure that you get across?
TL – Right. So, in our case, we sell insurance. Insurance, a lot of places you can buy your insurance anywhere. You can buy it online, you can buy it from us, you can do a lot of different things. Why would you do business with me? So one of the things that I always try to sell is our knowledge. In Bancorp Insurance we have, when I add up all the people, we have over 150 years of knowledge.
CM – We have a lot of our employees and staff as well as our owners that have years of experience in insurance. Not just selling it but using it themselves. And we have a lot of experience, as you know, you’ve listened to me and Rex before, claims over the years and how to handle insurance companies to make sure that our customers get the most from their insurance when something bad does happen. Or to make sure that they’re covered in the event of something happening, right? Where maybe somebody with less experience might not know to purchase that additional piece of coverage.
TL – Correct. And because we do a lot of niche marketing and we sell to a lot of niches, we have a lot of specialization, for instance in our contractor business. Other ones as well.
CM – And then that’s something that we haven’t talked about but actually niching. And so like you said, looking at your customer base and saying, ‘Who are my customers? Who are my best customers?’ Don’t just pick the ones that shop once and never come back. Who are the people that come back again, again and again, and try to find more people like them?
TL – Who do you know on that first name basis when they pick up the phone and call you, or they go online and they send you an order request. You know the guy who’s ordered three things from you or five things or whatever it is.
CM – Or maybe you have like that association that you know five people from that association that all orders from you constantly. Maybe you need to be part of that association to connect with that group of people. Where are they congregating? What are they doing? How are you going to get to them?
TL – And in the land of marketing as we say, what keeps them up at night. So what are they worried about? ‘Cause they have worries as well. If you’re doing business-to-business, or B2B, that other guy that you’re dealing with, there might be a need that you fill and there are ten other people just like him that you fill that need. So when you design your marketing piece, you want to make sure that you’re speaking to that need and that’ll make it a more successful piece. They’ll all of a sudden either click on your landing page button and say, ‘Yeah, I need this. I need to know this now.’ Or they’ll pick up the phone and call you, however you want them to contact you.
CM – And we call that the ‘call-to-action.’ What are you telling them to do to create a purchase or action to move them towards a purchase, whether that’s reading an e-book or clicking on a landing page that gets them more information about your product. Or is it calling you directly, maybe you’re the best at just talking to people on the phone and filling that order?
TL – Right. So it all depends on what you’re trying to sell and you want to speak to that customer specifically and help them solve whatever the problem is your product solves. And it could be like I said, it can be any business.
CM – I mean, we talked about contractors, maybe somebody needs a kitchen to remodel, where can you find people that need kitchen remodels? Maybe you’d be at a home show, right?
TL – And there are contractors I’ve worked with over the years who actually have called and said, ‘Hey, can you help me out?’ And they went to the home show and we’ve set up a booth for them. That’s one of our marketing things that Rex and I do is that we do a lot of trade shows where we’re at a booth and you are selling the product that’s designed for that business.
CM – Or designed for that group of people attending that conference or that event.
TL – And that’s another avenue. I think a lot of times when small businesses open, they think that the only people they have to sell to is the people that is in their community and their town and their city and yeah, you have those people, but if you look outside of your city, there’s a whole bunch more other people that are exactly like your very best customer. We live in a large enough area that you don’t have to be, if I had stayed just in La Pine, we wouldn’t have been very successful, not just because La Pine is small. And so we’ve obviously ventured out to now thirteen different states.
CM – And we have just talked about direct mail. We’re going to continue our conversation on marketing at our next show and kind of go more into digital marketing. But other ways that you can market that are paper or more maybe like old school, even your newspaper. The local newspaper, making articles, like not just having an ad but maybe having a story about your business helping your customers, or your business helping another business. That kind of thing goes a long way in a small community or even a larger community.
TL – Newspapers these days are content-starved, so it’s very easy to pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, would you mind if I wrote, you know, once-a-month article on X, Y, Z?’ Most of them will say yes.
CM – And most of the time you have some sort of knowledge that somebody else is looking for. Even if it’s how to install a window or if it’s how to do something better on their website or on the computer or how to build this.
TL – Yeah, just look at the DIY online video content that tells you this is how you, you know, winterize your RV in X, Y, Z. I mean it’s endless.
Contact Bancorp Insurance for Your Insurance Needs
CM – If you have any questions about your small business insurance or personal lines insurance, or Medicare and health insurance, give Bancorp Insurance a call at 800-452-6826.
Bancorp Insurance is a niche insurance agency located in La Pine Oregon.
Physical Address: 51473 Hwy 97
Mail: P.O. Box 327
La Pine, OR 97739