April 23, 2024

How to Plan and Build an Insurance Referral Programme

Insurance Referral Program

Referrals and brand advocacy are important for most businesses. It’s no different for insurance companies. Particularly when the industry faces an issue of low consumer trust and tightening regulations. 

A referral programme helps insurance companies restore consumer trust, craft a compelling point of difference, whilst adhering to new industry regulations. Referral programmes encourage your customers (and even your employees) to advocate your brand in order to bring in warm, highly qualified leads.

In this blog post, we’ll take you through the benefits a referral programme brings to your insurance company. Follow us in our step-by-step guide of planning, designing, establishing, implementing, monitoring, optimising your referral programme and ensure its success. 




Key takeaways

  • Insurance referral programmes offer numerous benefits, such as cost-effective customer acquisition, higher conversion rates, increased brand awareness, and improved customer loyalty and retention.

  • Identifying the target audience, offering compelling rewards, and simplifying the referral process are crucial for the success of an insurance referral programme.

  • Effective promotion through various marketing channels and exceptional customer experiences are essential for cultivating a loyal customer base that is more likely to refer friends and family.

  • Automating referral tracking and management, as well as encouraging employee advocacy, can generate significant growth in leads and website traffic for the referral programme.

  • Ensuring the long-term success of an insurance referral programme requires continuously monitoring performance metrics, improving customer experience, offering additional incentives, and adapting the programme based on data-driven insights and feedback.


Benefits of insurance referral programme 

Referral programmes offer several benefits for insurance companies and their customers. Some of the advantages you can expect after implementing an insurance referral programme include:


Driving customer acquisition at lower costs

The beauty of having a word-of-mouth strategy is that it not only introduces your brand to new audiences but also helps you acquire customers at a lower cost. 

When someone hears about your insurance company from a trusted source, they're more likely to give you a shot. It's all about harnessing the power of trust and turning your satisfied customers into brand advocates. I've been working with businesses in the industry, and let me tell you, it's a game-changer when it comes to driving customer acquisition at lower costs.

According to the New York Times, 65% of companies receive new business from their referral programmes. 

By leveraging your existing customer base and incentivising them to tap into their network of friends and family, you can expand your reach and bring in more qualified leads. Trust me, once you see the results, you'll wonder why you didn't implement a referral programme sooner!


Higher conversion rates

Conversion rates of insurance ads are pretty much on par with other industries, but here's the thing – paid advertisements can be a real money sink. Not only are they expensive, but they also pale in comparison to how well an insurance referral programme converts leads.

The average conversion rate of an ad is approximately 5.10%. Whereas leads that come through customer referrals boast on average 30% conversion rate. That’s six times the amount of conversions!  

The massive gap between the two boils down to that familiarity and trust I’ve touched upon. When a lead is referred by a friend or family member, they come to your brand with a degree of familiarity. That in itself is a powerful catalyst for driving higher conversion rates and, ultimately, generating more revenue.


Amplifying brand awareness and reputation

In today's insurance landscape, consumer trust is a precious commodity. A recent survey paints a grim picture, with a mere 13% of the British public expressing trust in their chosen insurance provider. The reasons behind this trust deficit are multifaceted, often stemming from lacklustre customer experiences, ineffective retention and engagement strategies. 

However, integrating a well-designed referral programme into a broader suite of loyalty-building initiatives, cultivates a sense of allegiance among existing customers. But don’t take my word for it. The numbers speak for themselves.

According to a Nielsen report, an astonishing 92% of consumers place more trust in referrals from friends and family than any other form of advertising. The inherent connection and trust between the referrer and the referred individual lend an unparalleled level of brand amplification and credibility. 


Maximising marketing budget

Instead of pouring money into traditional advertising and lead generation tactics that may or may not deliver results, insurance companies can redirect those resources into referral rewards, engagement initiatives, and retention strategies. These investments not only create a buzz around your brand but also establish long lasting relationships with your existing customers.

Think about it this way; when you allocate funds to referral incentives, you're essentially turning satisfied customers into an army of brand ambassadors. They become walking, talking billboards if you like, spreading the word about your exceptional products and services to friends, family, and colleagues. 

You're not just saving money on advertising; you're also gaining invaluable word-of-mouth recommendations that money simply can't buy.


Boosting customer loyalty and retention

When you allocate resources to loyalty programmes and referral rewards, you're showing your brand advocates that you value their efforts and appreciate them.

From a customer’s perspective, 70% of their buyer’s journey is based on how they feel.

By making customers feel appreciated, you're taking a step forward in retaining them long enough to become your brand champions. Rewarding customers for successful referrals is a simple yet powerful way to create strong emotional connections, leading to long term loyalty. So, if you want to keep your customers happy and turn them into passionate brand advocates, start by showing them some love through an insurance loyalty programme!


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Key elements of successful insurance referral programmes

Here’s some of the key elements of successful referral programmes. Best to take note of these should you ever try to build customer loyalty


Offering compelling rewards and incentives

Successful insurance referral programmes offer rewards and incentives that truly resonate with target audiences. They understand customers' preferences, needs, and aspirations. Without this information, it’s difficult or even impossible to tailor compelling rewards. 


Streamlining the referral process

They also make the referral process as simple and user-friendly as possible. In fact, it’s that enterprise-level need for simplicity and efficiency that’s shaped our own platform’s design.

At Propello we’ve minimised the number of steps required for customers to refer others. This ensures that the process is intuitive and easy to navigate for our clients’ customers. So bear this in mind should you build a programme in-house.

Promoting the programme across multiple channels

Successful loyalty programmes are always promoted across various marketing channels. So try leveraging email marketing campaigns, social media platforms, website banners, and targeted ads to raise awareness. I’ll discuss this in more detail later. But the overall idea is to highlight the benefits of the programme. 


Automating referral tracking and management

Automated referral tracking and management systems streamline the administrative aspects of referral programmes too. Whether the insurance companies design these in-house or outsource them is at their discretion. 

At the very least, you need CRM software integrated into your referral programme to track referrals, monitor performance metrics, and allocate rewards accurately.


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Designing an effective insurance referral programme

Okay, now it’s time for some actionable steps of designing an effective insurance referral programme that truly resonates with your customers. 


Defining clear objectives and goals

When you're planning your referral programme, it's easy to get carried away with all the potential benefits. Higher customer acquisition, increased retention, better brand awareness – the list goes on. My team and I always encourage prospects to hone in on their most pressing challenges first rather than the outcomes. This could be a lack of leads or lots of leads that you struggle to convert. 

Whatever your biggest pain point is, identifying it sets a clear, overarching goal for your referral programme. The next step is to break the goal down into smaller, actionable targets. Think of these as the building blocks of your referral strategy. 

You’ll assign these as tactical objectives to specific teams or individuals within your organisation. Taking the time to define clear objectives and goals upfront focuses the strategy behind launching your referral programme successfully. 


Identifying your target audience

After identifying your primary challenge, the next step is to determine your target audience. Avoid the mistake of assuming your entire customer base qualifies as potential referral programme members. Some customers just simply won’t be ready to advocate your brand. 

With that in mind, analyse your current customers and look for common behavioural patterns. This will tell you the point at which most of your customers will cooperate in advocacy. 

  • Identify the types of customers most likely to participate and advocate for your brand.

Conduct market research through surveys, feedback reports, and focus groups to gain insights into which segments align with your referral programme's overall goal. Factors like policy type, customer lifetime value, engagement level, and satisfaction when targeting your audience, helps you determine and predict which segments will advocate. 


Defining referral incentives and rewards 

Referrals are the ultimate expression of customer loyalty, so your rewards should be enticing. 64% of consumers say that incentives directly affect their likelihood of referring others to your brand.

During market research, broach incentive and reward ideas to customers. After you receive the results, try to understand the commonalities between customers that have the same reward preferences. Then plan out different incentives for different segments at different stages of the customer lifecycle. 


Determining the programme structure

When designing your referral programme, consider the structure and mechanics of the rewards. A gift card might suffice for a certain demographic of brand advocates, but my advice is to carefully decide whether it will be a one-time offer or a recurring incentive.

Define the eligibility criteria, limitations, and exclusions when creating your rewards package. For instance, determine whether rewards will be based on a fixed amount discount or a percentage of the referred individual's premium.

Carefully assess the sustainability and effectiveness of each reward option to ensure your referral programme remains attractive to customers while aligning with your business goals and budget constraints.


Developing clear communications and encouraging engagement

To effectively promote your referral programme, create compelling messaging and marketing materials that highlight the benefits and simplicity of participation. Clearly explain how the rewards benefit your customers and how easy it is to get involved.


  • Utilise various communication channels to reach targeted segments of your customer base. 

  • Keep customers excited and motivated to refer others by sharing regular programme updates, reminders, and success stories of referrals.

I’d even consider incorporating gamification elements into your referral programme. Adding these elements can increase engagement by up to 30%, making the referral process more interactive and enjoyable for your customers. Let’s not forget that gamification also builds anticipation!


Simplifying the referral process 

Remember when I said simplicity is integral to Propello’s design? The referral process must be simple for both brand advocates and new leads. A complicated, slow, and frustrating referral process deters customers from participating. That’s the last thing you want. 


  • Provide customers with a seamless way to refer others, such as through a dedicated referral portal or landing page. 

  • Streamline the referral process by minimising the number of steps required and offering clear instructions to make referring friends and family effortless.

You'll encourage more customers to engage with your referral marketing and participate with the programme itself. Ultimately this will lead to increased word-of-mouth promotion and a higher number of qualified leads. 


Providing excellent customer experiences

Exceptional customer service is the foundation of any successful marketing strategy. If your customer service or support is subpar, implementing an insurance referral programme will be a waste of time, effort, and resources.

Delivering on your promises and exceeding customer expectations cultivates a loyal customer base that is more likely to refer to their friends and family. So, when planning your referral programme, ensure that your team members are properly trained to handle customer inquiries related to the referral process. 

In our experience, we’ve found that some customers may need assistance understanding the rewards, especially if they are tied to specific coverage and premium conditions.


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Establishing your insurance referral programme 

To successfully launch your insurance referral programme, all the careful planning and design should be consolidated into a single deliverable strategy.

Promote your referral programme via various marketing channels. It’s also critical  to use compelling messaging that resonates with your target audience. I’ll show you a couple of ways how: 


Promoting your referral programme on marketing channels 

Announce the referral programme to your existing customer base. In the insurance industry, where customer satisfaction and loyalty are often below average, introducing a referral programme should build anticipation and delight among your current customers.

Targeting your existing customer base also allows you to reach warm and highly qualified leads who are already paying customers. Definitely consider the following marketing channels for your referral programme launch:


Email marketing 


Social media

Leverage social media platforms to create engaging posts, videos, and guides that clearly explain how the referral programme works. 


  • Social media allows you to engage both existing customers and new leads, encouraging them to spread news of the referral programme to their networks

  • To incentivise sharing, include referral links or unique discount codes, which also provide a convenient way to track referrals.


Website and landing pages 

Feature your referral programme prominently on your website and dedicated landing pages. 


  • Provide a clear outline of what the programme offers, including details on rewards and how customers can participate. 

  • Accompany this information with eye-catching design and compelling copy to maximise visitor engagement and participation.


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Encouraging employees to promote the programme

We’ve also found that employee advocacy is a crucial aspect particularly when promoting an insurance referral programme. According to a study by Hinge Marketing, insurance companies receive the third-highest number of referrals from employees. 

Employee referrals in the insurance industry are primarily driven by social media. When employees share referral programme information on their personal social media accounts, it can generate 60% more growth in leads and an increase of nearly 57% in website traffic. You’ll find these stats on page 12 in the linked study. 


  • To encourage employee participation, provide them with the necessary resources and training to effectively promote the referral programme. 

  • Create shareable content, such as social media posts and email templates. Employees can easily spread the word about the programme to their networks.


Use social proof 

As your referral programme matures and begins to yield results, it's essential to gather feedback from participating members. Reach out to customers who have benefited from the programme and collect their positive experiences and testimonials.

Share these success stories, testimonials, and statistics with other existing customers who have yet to sign up, as well as potential leads. We’ve seen the powerful impact of showing customers the benefits of participating in referral programmes. Which is why we encourage our clients to do this. 

  • Incorporate social proof into your marketing channels, such as email campaigns, social media posts, and website content. 

  • Highlighting the tangible benefits and positive experiences of participants builds trust and credibility. 

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Craft compelling referral messaging 

To create a compelling message about your insurance referral programme, I’d recommend focussing on two key aspects:


Highlight the benefits of the programme

Your referral programme messaging should primarily emphasise the benefits it offers to your customers. 


  • Clearly communicate how the programme benefits both the referrer and the referred individual. 

  • Rewarding both people is known as double-sided referrals. In my experience, these work best. 

Highlight the rewards, such as cash incentives, discounts on premiums, or exclusive perks, to motivate customers participation.


Personalise the message 

To make your referral programme messaging more impactful, tailor it to resonate with your target audience. 


  • Use language and tone that align with the preferences and values of your customer base, which you can glean from market research and customer segmentation.

  • Speak directly to your customers' needs, concerns, and aspirations to create a personal connection and evoke an emotional response. 

  • For example, if your target audience is primarily young families, focus on how the referral programme can help them save money on insurance premiums, providing peace of mind and financial security.

Also remember, when crafting your message, use language that evokes a sense of value and excitement. Emphasise how the referral rewards help customers save money, enjoy exclusive benefits, or gain access to special offers.


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Monitoring your referral programme 

Regularly evaluating the performance of your referral programme is crucial for assessing its impact on revenue and retention rates. While there may be challenges along the way, analysing data helps identify areas for improvement and necessary adjustments. Here’s what’s involved: 


Setting up referral tracking mechanisms 

Utilise technology such as referral tracking software, CRM systems, or custom-built solutions. These tools will help you measure the effectiveness of your programme and marketing efforts. Collect and analyse the data to identify key segments and gain insights into the performance of your referral programme.


Training agents and employees on programme guidelines

Insurance employees are a valuable asset in your overall referral marketing strategy. As I mentioned earlier, the insurance industry enjoys relatively high employee advocacy compared to other industries.

Provide comprehensive training and resources to both employees and agents, enabling them to promote and manage your referral programme effectively. They should have a thorough understanding of the referral process, terms, and conditions to answer customer inquiries and resolve issues promptly.


Consistently monitoring and analysing your referral performance

Regularly monitor key metrics to gain a comprehensive understanding of your referral programme's performance. Track metrics such as the number of referrals, conversion rates, generated revenue, and customer acquisition costs.

The data will provide you with valuable insights into purchasing and referral trends, patterns, and areas for improvement. 


Adjusting your programme as necessar

Use the data gathered through consistent analysis to optimise your referral programme. Data-driven insights should inform any changes you make to ensure the programme remains effective and aligned with your goals.

Test different reward incentives, messaging strategies, and referral methods to identify which ones yield the best results and performance metrics. However, just be cautious about changing aspects that are working well for the majority of your customer base. That’s an easy mistake to slip into and emphasises the importance of segmentation. 

Continuously strive to understand what resonates with even the smallest demographics within your target audience. Encourage feedback to drive retention, engagement, and other key KPIs, as this will help you make informed decisions when adjusting your referral programme.


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Ensuring your referral programme succeeds 

While metrics, marketing, and planning are crucial for a successful referral programme, it can quickly fall apart if the programme itself isn't engaging. To ensure your referral programme succeeds, focus on constantly improving the customer experience, maintaining proactive communication with referred prospects, and offering exciting incentives reserved for your top referrers.


Continuously improving customer experience and satisfaction

Improving the customer experience and overall satisfaction goes beyond optimising the programme with data-driven insights. While this will enhance the programme's effectiveness, and sharing feedback is always positive from a customer's perspective, proactive communication leads to much more.


Offer additional incentives for top referrers 

Use metrics to identify your top referrers and offer personalised rewards based on their spending habits, referral behaviours, and previously shared preferences. This helps retain certain aspects of the referral programme that are working as intended. Plus, it gives you flexibility to adjust the programme to attract other segments.  

Insights from extensive market research and your own experiences will shape these rewards. So, just like we do when helping our clients, try granting exclusive VIP status to top referrers to inject a sense of achievement. Bear in mind, this also allows you to responsibly scale valuable rewards to a small but lucrative demographic.

Ultimately, as an insurance provider you will know the industry better than we will in spite of our roster of clients. Just ensure that the rewards address the needs of insurance customers.


Encouraging referrals beyond policy sales 

Encourage referrals outside the policy sales cycle by building on rewards like the VIP example and further developing the programme. This way, you can implement rewards such as policy upgrades and cross-selling in exciting, engaging ways, which are essential for driving retention and a steady long term revenue stream.

Here’s just some reward content ideas that Propello uses:


  • Percentage-based rewards

  • Cash bonuses

  • Luxury gift items from partners

  • Travel vouchers

  • Unique experiences locked behind specific milestones or referral thresholds.

Something else I’ll add before finishing up; consider incorporating other programme structures in your referral process. For example, adding reward tiers to your referral programme to create a sense of exclusivity and show appreciation for top brand advocates.  


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Drive revenue and retention today using the power of a referral programme

A well-designed insurance referral programme is a transformative game-changer. You can drive customer acquisition at lower costs, boost conversion rates, enhance brand awareness, maximise your marketing budget, and of course, build long term customer retention.

Incorporating the key elements and continuously optimising your programme based on data-driven insights, unlocks the full potential of customer referrals. Brand advocacy is the ultimate goal of building loyalty. I hope this blog helps propel your insurance agency to new heights of revenue and retention.




Q1: What are the key benefits of implementing an insurance referral programme?
The key benefits of an insurance referral programme include driving customer acquisition at lower costs, achieving higher conversion rates and revenue, amplifying brand awareness and reputation, maximising marketing budget, and boosting customer loyalty and retention.

Q2: How can insurance companies identify their target audience for a referral programme?
Conducting market research through surveys, feedback reports, and focus groups can help gain insights into which segments are most likely to participate and advocate for the brand looking for common characteristics like demographics, policy types, and behavioural patterns.

Q3: What types of referral incentives and rewards work best for insurance referral programmes?
Effective referral incentives and rewards for insurance programmes should resonate with the target audience's preferences, needs, and aspirations. These may include premium discounts, cash bonuses, gift cards, or exclusive access to VIP perks and services.

Q4: How can insurance companies simplify the referral process to encourage participation?
To simplify the referral process and encourage participation, insurance companies should minimise the number of steps required, provide clear instructions, and offer multiple referral methods like unique referral links, shareable social media posts, or personalised referral codes.

Q5: What are the most effective channels for promoting an insurance referral programme?
Creating compelling content on effective promotion channels like email marketing campaigns, social media platforms, targeted ads, and website banners, highlight the benefits of participating, showcase success stories, and communicate the value of referral incentives generate interest and engage the target audience.

Q6: How can insurance companies automate referral tracking and management?
Automated tracking allows for accurate data collection on referral sources, conversion rates, and customer behaviour, enabling data-driven optimisation of the programme and ensuring prompt reward allocation to referrers.

Q7: What role does customer experience play in the success of an insurance referral programme?
By delivering on promises, exceeding expectations, and maintaining proactive communication with referred prospects, insurance companies can cultivate a loyal customer base that is more likely to refer friends and family. 

Q8: How can insurance companies encourage employees to promote the referral programme?
To encourage employees to promote the referral programme, insurance companies should provide them with the necessary resources, training, and shareable content like social media posts and email templates. 

Q9: What metrics should insurance companies monitor to assess the performance of their referral programme?
Key metrics to monitor for assessing the performance of an insurance referral programme include the number of referrals, conversion rates, generated revenue, and customer acquisition costs. Regularly tracking and analysing these metrics can provide valuable insights into purchasing and referral trends.

Q10: How can insurance companies ensure the long-term success of their referral programme?
Regularly gathering feedback, testing different reward incentives and messaging strategies, and adapting the programme based on data-driven insights can help maintain engagement, drive sustained growth and optimise improvements. 

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