Why Life Insurance Agents Need an Email List
An email list is the gold standard when it comes to marketing, but it's often overlooked in the insurance industry. Agents want leads, not email subscribers they have to manage, nurture, and convert. But what other marketing or communication strategy nets an average ROI of $38 for every $1 spent?

Whether you prospect within your community, buy leads, or use SEO to target online consumers, you need an email list.

In this post, we’ll explain the big-picture strategy - why your list is so valuable and how to use it to grow your business. In a follow-up post, we’ll show you how to build and manage your list.

Email Marketing Works for Everyone

The Traditional Agent
If you prefer to do business face-to-face, you may be wondering why you should keep reading this article. The reason depends on your answers to these questions:

  • How many of your clients check email on a daily basis?
  • What do you plan on doing with your book of business when you retire?

If you want to sell your business or pass it on to a younger partner or family member, your successor will need to adapt to today’s market and become a digital marketer. If you think it’s not necessary because your client base is older, think again. Seniors are the fastest-growing user demographic in the social media space. In 2015, a Pew study reported that 35% of those 65 and older used social media. It’s no accident that you need an email address to sign up for a social media network. These companies know that email is the single best way to communicate with their users. Even if you don't use the email list you build, you can bet your successor will.

Email is also the fastest and easiest way to communicate with a client - especially if they don't text. You can use it for one-on-one communication, like setting an appointment time. You can also use it for blast announcements, like a holiday greeting or a change to your office hours. Both of these uses support and enhance a face-to-face business model.

Email marketing has an ROI of 3800%. -DMA National Client Email Report 2015

The Digital or Hybrid Agent
If you already do business in the digital space, you know that email is often the only way to get a hold of a lead. You may remember our article on Seth Gray (aka “Goose”), where he pointed out that reaching leads by email when they submit an invalid phone number is a great way to turn a cold lead into a warm lead.

Email marketing can make or break a business.

Digital marketer Michael Hyatt has an email list of 115,000+. He said: “I have literally built a multi-million dollar business on the strength of my email list. Ninety percent of my income comes from it.”

Ask anyone in the digital marketing space, and they’ll tell you – your email list is worth its weight in gold. But what makes it such a great communication and marketing tool? And what’s the best way to use it?

Email Marketing Showdown

Email is the only communication and marketing tool that’s stood the test of time. Checking email is the #1 activity people do on their smartphones, according to the International Data Corporation. Email apps are still more popular than social media apps. For 89% of marketers, email is the primary way they generate leads (Mailigen). No matter who you want to reach, email remains the best and most affordable way to do so.

Email vs. Social Media

In 2011 and 2012, when social media marketing was relatively new, many companies gave up on email. Why bother when they could reach customers via social media? That was all well and good…until late 2013 and 2014, when Facebook ratcheted down organic reach to 6%. Suddenly, brands and marketers realized they had no way to reach the audience they’d accumulated. The lesson? Social media platforms are a middleman, and they can shut off access to your audience any time they want.

Email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter. -McKinsey

Email vs. Paid Ads

Once social media networks realized companies depended on them to reach their audiences, those networks began to charge for better access. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, AdWords, Google’s display network – there are plenty of ways to pay to reach prospects online. The problem is that once a method works for one brand or vertical, plenty of others jump on the bandwagon. This increases competition, which increases the cost to bid for a customer's click. Combine that with factors like ad block and ad fatigue, and what worked a year ago might cost double or triple to achieve right now. But guess what? Email is still effective and still free.

Email vs. Organic Search

Google updates its algorithm 500-600 times a year, according to Moz. Most of these changes are minor, but some of them are designed to correct a problem Google sees with sites that have found a way to manipulate the rankings. Webmasters who optimized for that now-penalized strategy are left with diminished rankings at best, and a manual penalty at worst. Guest blogging and link building are two tactics that many marketers invested in heavily, only to see a penalty destroy their efforts. Where do you turn when a Google update slashes your traffic in half? What if that traffic is your main - or only - lead source? In contrast, you only lose access to a client via email if they unsubscribe from your list, or change their address without notifying you.

Email vs. Purchased Leads

What would happen if your lead provider ran out of leads? Or went out of business? What if they raised prices 150%? Or what if government regulations forbid the selling of leads to protect consumer data in transit? None of these scenarios is likely, but you always need a backup plan. If you bought leads while building a robust email list, you could continue working that list and making sales even if your lead source vanished.

72% of consumers say that email is their favorite method of communication with companies they do business with. -MarketingSherpa 2015

The purpose of this article isn’t to scare you away from any of these marketing techniques. They’re to warn you not to put all your eggs in one basket. Through all the changes, past and present and future, the best and most consistent way to reach your clients and prospects is through email.

The Value of Your List

Okay, so we’ve convinced you that email marketing is more valuable than marketing exclusively via the channels listed above. But where does that value come from? What can you do with email that you can’t do on Facebook or with an ad in the Yellow Pages?

  • Email gives you a one-on-one connection with your client or prospect wherever they are. You can reach them on any device, even when they step away from social media. Plus, you’re not competing with cute dog videos in a social media feed. Email fosters a sense of conversation and intimacy that lets a prospect feel comfortable asking personal financial questions, which isn’t likely to happen in a public forum.
  • Survey your subscribers to find out what your prospects are thinking and feeling. In this post, we showed you how to conduct a survey for free using Google Forms. When you have a large email list, you can learn a lot by surveying them. Which financial topics are they most interested in? What are their pain points? Do they have stories about how life insurance has changed their lives? From intelligence gathering to user-sourced content, your mailing list has more uses than you realize.
  • Email subscribers are motivated. They’ve already expressed interest in life insurance or a related product. Email provider MailChimp crunched the numbers based on a jaw-dropping 6.6 billion email sends. Subscribers buy 25% more often than website visitors who aren’t subscribers.
  • Inactive subscribers are still incredibly valuable to you. With every email, they see your name in their inbox, which is a valuable branding activity. These periodic check-ins help you fulfill the seven touches of marketing often required to get a prospect to take action. According to the MailChimp study linked above, when it comes to making a purchase, an inactive subscriber is worth 32% of an active subscriber. Inactive subscribers are also 26% more likely to make a follow-up purchase than a non-subscriber.
  • 89% of marketers say that email is their primary channel for lead generation. -Mailigen
  • You own your list. No third party can slash its reach, the way Facebook did. No search engine can hide them from you, the way Google can bury a website with a single algorithm change. As long as a prospect remains opted in, you can reach them in an instant. No other marketing medium gives you that power.
  • You can re-approach subscribers who don’t buy a policy. If you require an email address to get a quote, it's easy to retarget prospects who didn't buy. They may need more education - and if you have their email, a drip marketing campaign can deliver it in a single click.
  • You have a built-in audience for cross-sells. When someone subscribes to your mailing list, they're telling you they want more information. Whether they buy life insurance or not, they may also be interested in long-term care, an annuity, or DI. The bigger your list, the more likely it is that one simple cross-sell email will generate new leads for you.
  • You can ask your email subscribers for referrals. In every email, you can ask subscribers to forward your emails to interested friends or family members. Once you earn their trust by providing valuable information, you’ve unlocked the key to instant digital referrals. If you cross-sell to your list, you can ask for referrals in multiple product categories. Think of these marketing efforts as concentric circles. It starts with one email to an interested prospect. Then it creates ripples as that prospect learns about insurance, buys a policy, tells a friend, buys a second type of policy, tells a different friend, etc.
  • You can use your list to better target your Facebook ads. If you want to run Facebook ads, use your mailing list as a starting point for paid advertising. You can tell Facebook to create what they call a “custom audience” full of people who have similar behaviors and interests as the folks on your email list. This is a huge head start that can save you a lot of money if you take the plunge into paid social media advertising.

Now you know why your email list is so valuable...and what you can do with it once you have it. But what if you don't have one yet? How should you go about building it?

We’ll cover that in depth in a follow-up post, with tips for agents who prefer working face-to-face with clients, as well as those more at home in the digital space.

Stay tuned for part two of our look at life insurance agents and email lists!

Want more information about email marketing? Check out these posts:

Check out our other posts on creating, growing, and managing your email list: