5 Email Marketing Mistakes Insurance Agencies Make

by | Aug 26, 2015

5 Email Marketing mistakes

Do you know what the most common activity people do on their smartphones is?

It’s not checking Facebook, browsing the web or watching video.

The #1 activity people do on their phones is ‘check email,’ according to a study conducted by the International Data Corporation.

The study revealed that “email” was the most popular app for 78% of people. Web browsing came in at 73% and Facebook (who happened to sponsor the study) came in at 70%.

Not only is email one of the most popular apps used by the modern consumer, it’s also one of the most profitable marketing channels.

According to Econsultancy’s 2014 Email Marketing Industry Census, email marketing was ranked as the best channel in terms of return on investment, with 68% of companies rating the channel as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ (a 3% increase from the prior year’s census).

The bottom line: it’s worth it for agency’s to invest in email marketing.

However, like social media, you can’t just “do email marketing” and expect great results.

You have to do it right.

So here are five common email marketing mistakes agencies make, and how to avoid them.

1. Not Personalizing Your Emails

When I ask audiences in my marketing workshops what they think it means to “personalizes emails” a common response is that it means, “Using the person’s name in the email.”

If it were 1999 that would be an OK answer.

But it’s not. It’s 2016.

And today there’s powerful technology (known as marketing automation) that allows you to really personalize your emails.

For example, imagine there are two agency principals, who we’ll call Fred Flintstone and George Jetson, who each decide to run an Auto-No-Home Account Rounding Campaign.

Fred, who still operates with that 1999-mindset, decides to email his whole list that he exports out of his AMS. He doesn’t segment his list but he does use that fancy “merge” feature and assumes he’s personalizing his emails by using his customers’ first names.

He sends 2-3 generic emails out that sound like this:

Hi Justin,

I noticed you don’t have home insurance with us but you have auto insurance. Please call us to get a quote on your home insurance.

Fred Flintstone

Now, that’s not terrible. And it may generate some quotes. But it’s not personalized.

George on the other hand, is tech-savvy and has devoted a great deal of thought into how to best personalize his emails.

So instead of just “blasting” his list with generic “can I quote you” emails he decides to design campaigns that are triggered based on his customer’s behaviors.

His email reads:

Hi Justin,

Thanks for calling today. I just wanted to let you know that I updated your address as you requested and attached the ID cards with your new address (I also mailed you a copy).

And congratulation on buying your first home! That’s so exciting!

By the way, I want to let you know we also offer homeowners insurance. And if you bundle your auto and home you can benefit from our multi-line discount.

Would you be interested in getting a quote from us? It would only take a few minutes since we already have most your information on file.

If you’re interested, just let me know.

– George

See the difference there?

One “feels” more personal even though it’s still an automated message (triggered by a tag). It’s automated but also relevant to the customer.

So think about ways you could design your email campaigns so they’re relevant and personal.

(To learn more about marketing automation check out this interview with Michael Jans and Marty Agather.)

2. Using Lame Subject Lines

Another common mistake agencies make is failing to use compelling subject lines.

According to research compiled by marketing agency Convince & Convert, 35% of people open email based on the subject line alone.

This is why you must avoid the temptation to just “slap a subject line up” after you write your email. Follow these tips to create better subject lines: 

  1. Don’t be clever. Instead use simple subject lines. Remember, the purpose of the subject line is to get your email opened. Not to make your reader think. Here’s a good case study about creativity vs clarity.
  2. Use power words. Here’s a list of 317 power words, courtesy of Jon Morrow, that you can start experimenting with today.
  3. Study the masters. I’m on over 50 email lists because I like to study what other top email marketers are doing. You don’t need to obsess about email as much as me. But at least join a few lists to see how the masters do it. (Tip: create folders in your inbox for the different lists you’re on so you can easily reference the list of subject lines when you need some creative inspiration).
  4. Study the art of headline writing. One thing the masters excel at is headline writing. For a solid education on headline writing read Copyblogger’s How to Write Magnetic Headlines ebook.
  5. Offer something good. Let’s face it. People love free stuff. So if you have a free guide, white paper or video then mention it in your subject line.

The time invested improving your subject lines can pay big dividends. So take your time and write out several different ones next time you write an email and then pick the best one.

Remember, if your subject lines fails to get the reader to open your email then nothing else matters.

3. Neglecting the “From” Line

The “From” line also plays a vital role in improving your open rates.

(By the way, if you’re not familiar with terms like: open rates, click rates or bounces then read this article to expand your email marketing vocabulary.)

This is because in order for your email to get read it has to make it past a gauntlet of internal “mental filters” in your reader’s mind. One of those filters is a simple question we ask ourselves unconsciously: “who is this from and do I like them?”

Another reason the “From” line matters has to do with deliverability.

One of the filters internet service providers (ISP) use in their junk filtering algorithms is to determine if the person (or robot) sending you the email is a contact or not. If they’re not, it doesn’t mean the email goes right into spam, but it’s also not going to help your deliverability chances.

When it comes to “From” lines there’s two main options: 

  1. A person’s name: this could be the principal’s name or the person the customer has a relationship with (e.g. the agent who sold them the policy). A person’s name is good because it’s a real person. But the downside is that you may use someone’s name who may not be with your agency next year. If that person leaves then you have to change the “From” line and there’s a chance your customer’s ISP won’t recognize it and it may wind up in spam.
  2. The agency’s name: this is also a common and acceptable practice. The advantage of using the agency’s name is that you don’t have to worry about changing the “From” line if a person leaves. But the downside is that it’s less personal than a person’s name.

Either option is OK. Just don’t make the mistake some make and fail to setup your “From” line at all.

Usually, when this happens, the customer sees something like:


Or worse they use the horrid:


Agh! Nothing screams, “This is a one-sided marketing message and I don’t care about you” more than a No Reply “From” Line.

So now that you have a solid understanding of “From” lines let’s discuss email formatting.

4. Creating Emails that Look Like Ads

Remember, when people are checking their email they’re in “get it done” mode.

In a matter of seconds they decide whether to open your email or not. And even if you get them to open the email it doesn’t mean your mission is accomplished.

Now, you’re engaged in another split-second battle as your reader quickly glances at the open email and decides, simply from the look of it, if it’s worth reading or not (this is why open rates are not as important as click rates… a subject for another post).

And when someone sees an email full of images and fancy layout designs it registers in their unconscious mind as an “ad.” And the unconscious mind tells the conscious part of their mind to delete it if they don’t have time.

However, if the email looks like an email they get from their friends, family or coworkers it makes it past this mental filter and the conscious mind is granted permission to read it.

To not only get your email opened, but to also have the person actually start reading it, is a big deal today.

Now, are all HTML emails “bad?” No.

You should run your own marketing tests and let your results tell you what works best.

But if you’re not running tests yet and you just want to get advice from someone who has overseen hundreds of email campaigns then trust me, go with plain text.

5. Using a Dirty Email List

The last mistake we’ll discuss has to do with “list hygiene.”

List hygiene is a term used to describe the process of maintaining your email list, and includes:

  • Taking care of unsubscribe requests
  • Removing email addresses that bounce
  • Updating email addresses

The reason list hygiene is important is because ISPs, spam monitors and email security services all set limits for what they define as an “acceptable email campaign.” And spam complaints, bounces and unsubscribes all need to be under these limits to avoid penalties.

It’s common for agencies to export lists from their agency management system into their marketing automation or email marketing program. And as you know, the data isn’t always squeaky clean.

This can result in a high bounce rate because you’re sending emails to email addresses that don’t exist or have typos.

To avoid this you can use an online tool to help you clean and validate your lists. Here are two such services:

  • DataValidation
  • BriteVerify

(Side note: some marketing automation programs, like Agency Revolution, have this feature built in. Read their post about this feature here.)

So there you have it. Five proven ways to improve the success of your email marketing campaigns. If you avoid these five mistakes you’ll be light years ahead of most insurance agencies.

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