The insurance market has been somewhat of a laggard in integrating social technology into its value proposition.  If the online advice is anything to go on, it seems to revolve around insurance brokers posting pictures of cats to social networks.

Even if you are from the “social media + insurance” is like an “meatball sundae” Seth Godin school of thought (with the only guaranteed outcome, indigestion), there are clear opportunities for insurers.

So, in preparation of a forthcoming keynote talk, here are 10 ways the insurance industry could drive sale with social media – with no brokers or cats getting harmed in the process.

  1. PUT STARS EVERYWHERE: We live in a recommendation economy, which is why you should systematically show customer ratings and testimonials of your products and services online, on mobile and on ads. This will offer validatory social proof to your proposition. Take a long hard look at the front page of Amazon, and see how many of their uses of social proof (there are more than a dozen) you could import.  And as we know, stars on everything can drive sales by up to 10%
  2. OWN A STAR SYSTEM: There are a plethora of price comparison engines out there for insurance, but as yet there’s not a quality comparison engine that compares insurance products primarily based on customer feedback (likelihood you’d recommend…). There’s a huge opportunity for an insurer serious about becoming the most recommended brand to own this space; simply set up and curate a review comparison site – that shows a simple ranking of products by category and competitor based on ratings and reviews (and then price).  This will lend legitimacy to the brand, establish credibility – and harness the social influence cue of authority.
  3. BE A STAR SYSTEM:  Remember how Enterprise Rent-a-Car became the most successful car rental operation in the US?  It based bonuses on word of mouth and feedback, and then ranked franchises by that feedback.  In other words, the organisation became a Star System that rewarded positive customer ratings. At Enterprise, you could only get promoted if your franchise was in the top 50%!
  4.  TAKE A BITE OUT OF APPLE:  Systematically segment your customers into fans, neutrals and detractors – and then sell to fans; and let the fans do the talking. Like Apple.  Swiss Re does the same. When Ron Johnson set up Apple Retail in 2001, he did so with an explicit social goal – to deliver Apple fans an experience that was so insanely great that they’d come back for more, and bring their friends. For example, Apple has a highly rated concierge service for customers to book appointments, why on earth doesn’t the insurance industry just do this? Apple knows that nearly 40% of a customer’s value comes not from the wallet of that customer, but from their friends’ wallets – it’s the ‘referral value’ component of CLV (customer lifetime value). So use social technology to identify your fans, segment your market, and then drive growth by introducing new products to fans that are designed to make fans smile. Take a look at Finnish insurer If, which has taken this one step further and recruited 852 of their customers to provide live one-to-one testimonials to potential customers over the telephone.
  5. MAKE EVERYTHING SHAREABLE: Take a look at insurance websites.  What’s missing?  Most don’t even offer social sharing. How can you drive sales with social media, if you even encourage people to populate social media with content. Spamming social media with your own content is unlikely to do anything (if all you are after is pointless Likes/Followers, then just buy them here (50,000 for €699)). How hard would it be to simply add social sharing buttons on products, quotes, or even marketing content?  Or even offer social sign on (TW/FB/G+) – which could be used to personalise the site experience. Come on insurers, we live in the 21st Century.  Take a cue from these guys, they getting with the plan.
  6. HOST A HUB.  Take a look at what Amex is doing for small business with its brilliant and popular Open Forum, hosting and curating a thriving business community and contributing quality content.  It sets up Amex as an authority, is good for SEO,  drives traffic, and more importantly, loyalty.  Just copy the Open Forum model, adapt it to insurance and profit.
  7. REWARD REFERRALS. Read this and realise that referral marketing done right can be a remarkably efficient sales driver.  Most insurers have a grubby introduce-a-friend offer hidden somewhere, but it’s hardly a strategic lynchpin – and too often it’s set up to fail.  We know for example you need to offer two-sided rewards (rewarding both the referrer and the referree – the new customer) to make this work, and you need to make it easy for friends to recommend to friends.  You wondered what social technology was for? Now you know.
  8. REALIGN MARKETING (with reasons to recommend).  Remember how marketing works from marketing 101?  it’s not some kind hypodermic needle model of influence where your messaging directly infects your target.  Marketing influences people who already love you, by giving them the words and arguments they need to recommend. In a study we did for Interpublic,we found that nearly half of people who said they would recommend an insurer, didn’t actually do it.  Help them in your marketing by giving them the words to do so.
  9. TANGO WITH TUANGOU.  Tuangou is the Asian tradition of ‘team buying’ which usually entails flash mobbing a retailer or service provider en masse and asking for a group discount. Insurance is ripe for group buy, neighbours, travel parties, car clubs – you name it. Invite people to club together and get a group discount.  Everyone wins. Take a look at Tuangou experiments for insurance from iMingle and Bought By Many
  10. DON’T TELL STORIES, BE THE STORYAnd this is the most important of all the opportunities – if insurers want to drive sales with social media, they’ll need to offer remarkable products and services that people will want to talk about. The prerequisite to driving sales with social media is an offer worth talking about.  It doesn’t need to be social, it just needs to be worthy of social. So, ultimately driving sales with social media is about innovation. Your goal should be to be able to preface every product with the words. “We re-invented insurance by…”

See no cats. (And no need to turn your brokers into content marketers).