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May 13, 2004
Case Study

Loyalty Marketing to Independent Sales Reps -- How to Convince Them to Keep Pushing Your Offerings

SUMMARY: If you do marketing support for a field sales force, this is the Case Study for you. Discover the three tactics that First Annuity & Insurance Marketing uses to keep independent reps highly loyal in an intensely competitive market (without offering them cash bonuses).

Plus, see data that may convince you to mail the same exact email campaign twice in a row to the same list:

"We have lots of competition out there and the space has been heating up," says Christine Lucas. "Everybody is offering newer, cooler, better stuff."

As Marketing Communications Director for First Annuity & Insurance Marketing, Lucas focuses 100% on marketing to the legion of field sales reps who handle insurance. These reps are completely independent -- they can (and do) carry competitors' offerings.

Plus, to make things harder, First Annuity is itself a middleman, representing products from a variety of insurance companies. So, First Annuity's offerings are not unique, in fact they are sometimes the exact same products as everyone else's.

So how do you convince independent sales reps to be loyal to working with you, and to promote your offers effectively?


First Annuity set three programs in place to become the independent sales reps best friend in the world...

#1. "Booster Bucks" for lead generation campaigns

Sales reps are motivated by money, but First Annuity didn't want to get into the cycle of offering bigger bonuses. It's too easy for a competitor to match your offer, or for a rep to pocket the cash and walk away.

So, instead of offering cash rewards for business, the firm decided to offer sales lead generation programs. Reps are told they'll get marketing cash, plus the marketing team will develop and launch the program to help them spend it.

"We figure they want to increase their business, and the best way is to invest in their business. If they wrote $100,000 in business, we'd bonus them back an amount to pay for another client seminar, drop a direct mail package in their area, or newspaper advertising."

First Annuity functioned as an in-house agency for each campaign, and carefully tracked results both to make sure resulting leads weren't wasted (why invest further in lead gen for a rep who won't follow-up) and to determine which tactic was best for a rep's personal style. For example, some reps excel at giving seminars, so First Annuity would focus on driving attendees to them.

#2. Highly supportive call center -- "Just ask, it's OK"

First Annuity promotes its support call center with the tagline, "Just ask, it's ok." And practically no matter help what an independent sales rep wants, he or she can get. Call center staff go well beyond simply answering questions about commissions and products.

"They work with agents from the very beginning to help them get sales leads, plan seminars, get contracted with insurance companies. They make sure the reps know which product best fits each client's needs. They can help the agent figure out what's best for their client - how much money they have to invest, what their investment goals are..."

And when need be, they can even ask First Annuity's President to hop on a plane to help a rep make a tough presentation.

Support reps don't sit waiting for calls to come in. They proactively call top producers to ask, "How can I help you grow your business?"

All of this handholding might get on the nerves of some marketers -- after all shouldn't the rep share some of the workload instead of sailing about collecting big commissions built from your sweat? Lucas explains, "If they're not in front of clients selling, they're not making money. We do everything so they have more time to be out there selling."

#3. Multi-wave promotional email campaigns

Sales reps tend to have short attention spans, and they're not big readers -- they're talkers. So, the marketing team created a sales of email promotions to appeal to them. (Link to samples below.) Emails are:

o Concise letters with bulleted points
o Designed in large typeface - easy to read and skim
o Only focused on one idea, not a confusing list of promos
o Laid out with photos of people's faces - sales reps are "people
o Written with the word "you" repeatedly in the copy
o Personalized in the salutation and signed by Lucas
o Created with multiple response channels - phone, click, email

Most importantly, for big promos, Lucas repeats the email. "It's a DM truth that's been proven over years and years. Mail it three times."

She blasts two waves about four-five weeks apart, which are identical except for subject line. She also mentions the offer, using language as similar as possible, in an email newsletter sent between waves.

Sends are timed to the middle of the week, and sent assuming reps will check email once they get back from in-person meetings. "I usually send Wednesdays at 3pm Colorado time. I get an immediate response from the East Coast and the West Coast start calling the next morning."


First Annuity's "we'll do anything to help you make a sale" approach has helped the company gain the loyalty of 500 high-producing independent reps and business has been very good.

Although loyalty operations are a lot of work, Lucas says it's scalable, "In three years, I would like to have 5,000 agents writing contracts through us."

Results from the multiple wave email campaigns are strong. Here's actual data from two recent campaigns:

                     Open     Click     Resulting   Sales

Wave one   11/17/03  55.5%     13%    $ 990,000

Wave two   12/16/03  56.1%    9.4%    $1,035,000

Wave one     1/22/04  56%       9.3%    $1,120,000

Wave two     3/19/04  56%       4.9%    $1,600,000 pending contracts

Useful links related to this article:

Samples of First Annuity emails:

Airways Communications - the agency First Annuity relies on to help with marketing campaigns

Exact Target - the email service provider First Annuity uses to manage its list and send blasts and newsletters

First Annuity & Insurance Marketing
See Also:

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