How to Build an Insurance Referral Program

How to Build an Insurance Referral Program

Enelin Toneva

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Here’s how my team at Vivian Agency built a referral program for an insurance company offering travel medical and global insurance products. This program was created to align with the unique needs of digital nomads and leverage the power of word-of-mouth and community recommendations in an industry where trust is paramount.

Why Build a Referral Program as a B2C/B2B Startup?

This insurance company’s decision to partner with Vivian Agency to develop a referral program was a strategic one. Their first product, designed for digital nomads and remote workers, caters to a group that relies heavily on recommendations and online research when making purchases. A referral program taps into this existing trust within the community, making it an effective method for attracting and engaging potential customers.

Some additional benefits they considered:

  • No Upfront Cost: Traditional advertising can be expensive and less effective for niche markets. Referral programs, on the other hand, offer a more cost-effective way to market products. There is no upfront cost because affiliate partners get paid only when they sell the product. They are highly incentivized to reach your potential customers.
  • Scalable Growth: Referral programs are inherently scalable. As more satisfied customers refer others, the reach of the program expands organically.
  • Building Brand Advocacy: Engaging current customers as advocates through a referral program allowed them to build a stronger community. Happy customers sharing their positive experiences add credibility and authenticity to the brand. This is very valuable for an insurance product, where trust is crucial.

Crafting a Successful Referral Program: A Strategic Approach

Their referral program was launched in 2018 and is still running, with 1000 active partners bringing in sales every month. This year, the referral program generated $350k+ each month, representing a total of $5M in revenue since 2018. This makes up 40% of the company’s total yearly revenue.

How We Built the Insurance Referral Program

The program was designed to appeal to digital nomads and remote workers as their main client base. We emphasized the importance of building trust, especially considering the sensitive nature of health-related products and the insurance industry.

Key strategies for a successful referral program include:

  • Focusing on niche, interest-specific websites for higher relevance and engagement.
  • Incorporating a blend of influencer marketing across diverse channels for broader reach.
  • Prioritizing the creation of evergreen content for sustained impact.
  • Utilizing SEO-friendly platforms like their main website and YouTube channel, optimizing for long-term benefits.

After we built it, it took 6 months for the program to start generating revenue and grow 20% MoM consistently. Here are the main things we focused on while building and growing the program for this insurance business:

  • System Infrastructure: The company chose to design and custom code their affiliate management tool, a more time-intensive process than using an existing tool. Both are great options, depending on your internal resources. I worked directly with the team to build this system and create a seamless referral process.
  • Referral Strategy: The program offered a 10% commission, which was effective because their product was a subscription – the affiliates would get a recurring payment each month the customer who bought through their referral link kept the subscription. This structure encouraged affiliates to promote the product consistently. Gift cards are also a good add-on, but the higher the monetary incentive, the more affiliates you will attract.
  • Targeted Affiliate Selection: This involved identifying influencers and content creators in relevant niches. You can make specific offerings for each category and test which one performs best.
  • Craft your Messaging: The program started with 100% outbound outreach to qualified leads. It was important to create an outreach email that incentivized digital nomads to join the program, with authentic copy and an email signature. Later on, we started getting referral requests to join the affiliate program.
  • Building Trust: Trust-building was crucial in the initial stages of reaching out to potential affiliates, as there was natural skepticism about a new insurance company. We created case studies, shared results and company insights, and talked openly about how the product works.
  • Active Management and Relationship Building: Managing and motivating affiliates was a significant part of the program. This included community management, regular communication, and providing value to affiliates with initiatives such as educational webinars to help them succeed.
  • Evergreen Content Creation: The focus was also on creating evergreen content that would continue to drive traffic and sales over time, rather than short-term, quick-sales ads or social media posts.
  • Diverse Channels and Creative Ideas: The program is not static; it is constantly evolving and adapting. We explored other options like B2B partnerships, community engagement through Facebook groups and WhatsApp, podcasts, and even events.

The resulting referral program was a blend of strategic planning, robust technical setup, trust-building in a niche market, and innovative marketing strategies. This combination, along with an emphasis on relationships and continuous improvement, drove the program’s success.

How the Referral Program Works

Each step in building and optimizing a referral program is connected and has an important role in its overall success. Attention to detail, understanding the audience, leveraging technology, and continuous improvement are key. A well-optimized referral program not only drives growth but also strengthens brand loyalty and customer engagement.

Here’s the process we created for this particular referral program:

  1. Affiliate Registration: Interested affiliates sign up for the program through the company’s website.
  2. Link Generation: Each affiliate is provided with a unique referral link or code that they can share with their audience.
  3. Promotion by Affiliates: We provide them with branded marketing materials to start with and invite them to the company’s private community of ambassadors. They have the creative freedom to promote us in the most genuine and useful way to their existing audience.
  4. Tracking Referrals: When someone purchases a product using an affiliate’s link, the sale is tracked back to that affiliate. They can see the exact number of sales and registrations in their account.
  5. Commission Payouts: Affiliates earn a commission for each sale made through their referral link, which is then paid out monthly.
  6. Reporting and Analytics: Affiliates have access to a dashboard where they can track their referrals, earnings, and other analytics.
  7. Support and Engagement: Affiliates receive ongoing support and engagement from the company and Vivian Agency to help affiliates maximize their referral potential.

Our team is continuously monitoring the performance of the referral program and making adjustments as needed. This could involve changing commission structures, experimenting with different promotional strategies, or providing additional support to affiliates.

We actively seek out and recruit affiliates who have a strong presence in the digital nomad and remote work communities. This could include influencers, bloggers, and content creators. After some time, the program started growing on its own through marketing efforts and word of mouth.

Measurable Success: Impact and Growth

This affiliate program continues to generate over $350,000 per month in sales. This growth was driven by the careful selection of affiliates, our focus on building trust, and leveraging the right mix of influencers and platforms.

Our collaboration with the insurance company is an example of how specialized affiliate marketing strategies can drive significant growth in revenue. By understanding the unique needs of their target audience, we were able to create and grow a successful insurance referral program that not only resonated with digital nomads but also translated into substantial revenue.

Hoping to build an affiliate program similar to this for your own business? Let’s talk about it!