don’t miss the boat (or the RV)! boost your sales with specialty

Brook McGuire, Strategy Lead, Specialty Products

Safeco’s specialty products include personal umbrella, landlord protection, watercraft, motorcycle, classic car, recreational vehicles, golf carts, snowmobiles, and more. This range is a significant opportunity for you since many consumers need a specialty policy of some kind. So, if your book of PL business shows a low percentage of policies other than auto or homeowners, you have room to grow with specialty.

Despite the opportunities, specialty products are often underpromoted. Yet they offer multiple ways to cross-sell to current policyholders while creating a steady flow of new prospects. Let’s explore how specialty can create profitable new business for your agency.

Protecting passion projects

In garages across America sit classic cars, watercraft, motorcycles, campers, snowmobiles, golf carts, and other specialty vehicles. These “toys” represent more than hobbies — they’re passion projects for their owners.

Motorcycles and campers represent the freedom to explore the open road. Boats bring families together for sun-soaked days on the water. Rental properties generate incomes that promote financial freedom. Understanding the lifestyles and dreams these lines protect separates you from a crowded market of agents focused only on writing policies for auto, home, business, and life. Here are six tips for boosting your business.

1. Focus on a dream demographic

When you think about the most popular sedans in the U.S., guessing the likely demographics of this large group is nearly impossible.

But contrast that with a prospect who owns a cruiser-style motorcycle and you’ll get a much clearer picture. Per the 2009 MIC report, he or she is most likely married, owns a home, earns more than $75,000 per year, and has a bachelor’s degree. The 2011 RVIA report describes the average RV owner with similarly preferred demographics. These examples aren’t outliers. Generally, specialty policy demographics veer toward a preferred market, allowing you to target the kinds of customers you want.

2. Generate a steady source of reliable referrals

Specialty vehicle enthusiasts tend to congregate, whether for a Saturday morning cruise-in or long motorcycle rides through the mountains. As a result, these consumers are more likely to chat about insurance with friends with similar assets to protect — which can increase your pool of potential referrals.

Focusing on specialty also lets you pinpoint your ideal customer while setting you apart. Any licensed producer can insure a standard sedan, but fewer understand the intricacies of protecting rental properties or classic cars. Focusing your acquisition efforts on specialty can lead to quality accounts that retain and outperform other customers.

3. Cross-sell to improve retention and increase profits

Safeco recently conducted its Agent of the Future survey to get input from independent agents about the trends and strategies they think will shape insurance through the year 2020.  The survey revealed that IAs want to spend more time quoting new business and prospecting for new clients — and increasing cross-sales is the number one way they plan to grow. Specialty can help you get there. Become an expert in specialty programs and you’ll better recognize opportunities to cross-sell and improve your retention.

Our research shows that the national agent average is 1.6 policies-per-client. What’s yours? Increasing your average to 2+ policies can have a lasting impact on your book.

Cross-selling is especially important now as the public increasingly views an auto policy as a commodity. Focusing first on specialty increases your chances of capturing the entire account. Plus, building this side of your business can improve your bottom line by helping offset auto losses since specialty policies are typically profitable with more stable rates than auto or homeowners.

4. Generate professional referrals

Your current home and auto policyholders are good places to start for specialty leads, but don’t stop there. To drive referrals and establish new leads, visit local specialty vehicle dealerships, attend boat, motorcycle, or classic car shows, or reach out to realtors selling rental homes.

How to Sell Specialty Coverage

Now that you see why growing your specialty line is worthwhile, let’s focus on marketing strategies.

5. Become a specialty expert

The key is to focus your efforts. And going with what you already know is a great place to start.

Do you own rental properties? Do you boat, bike, or snowmobile? If so, you have a natural place to begin. If not, follow your interests. If you’ve always loved muscle cars, for instance, become an informed enthusiast. With all the resources now available, you can become a niche expert in no time and boost your cross-selling and long-term sales. Plus, the ability to educate clients about better protecting their passions further sets your agency apart — while opening new avenues for growth.

To get there, try these two simple tips: first, discuss specialty policies each time you do a risk assessment, and especially at renewal time. Second, every time you insure a truck or SUV, ask if it has a trailer hitch. If it does, they’re likely hauling something you can insure.

6. Get to know your customers’ interests

Building strong customer relationships is essential to selling any policy, but specialty offers unique ways to connect with your customers. The trick is to speak their language.

When you can talk to a customer about the hours she spent selecting just the right motorcycle, she’ll know you really “get” her. When you know your customer pondered for weeks about the perfect paint color for his classic car, he’ll know that he chose the right agent.

While bonding over classic cars or the latest RV models, you can ask deeper questions to better gauge customer needs and interests. The conversation also lets you highlight your expertise, giving customers more confidence in the risk management strategies you present.

7. Put the “special” in specialty

Specialty policies are different — they protect labors of love and lifelong passions. Recognizing this will help you speak to both the emotional and financial value of what’s being protected, and your clients will appreciate it. The peace of mind you provide enhances their enjoyment of these treasured possessions. Demonstrate you understand your customers’ lifestyles, priorities, and passions, and selling the right policies becomes easier and more profitable.