Direct Line was just too direct

A recent experience with Direct Line insurance illustrates a salutory tale for any business – there’s little point spending a fortune getting new business leads, if you don’t handle them appropriately.

I called up for a car insurance quotation. I was put through to a lady in India – no problem with that, happy to speak with a customer service representative anywhere in the world, so long as I can understand them, and they take note of what I say. I asked for a quote, went through personal details, vehicle details and answered some other questions. She provided me with a quotation, rattling through the terms and conditions, which included a large variety of differing “excess” amounts for different types of claims: from memory, they were between £100 and £400, depending on whether it was a claim for theft, non-fault damage, malicious damage etc.

I asked her if she could send me the details, maybe by email, so I could review them. “No, we don’t do that, we are a strictly over the telephone operation,” she said. I hardly felt in the mood to ask her to repeat them, so that I could write all the details down, as she then immediately proceeded to a hard sell, telling me that their price would be better because they didn’t pay brokers, pushing me to close the sale there and then. Feeling uncomfortable, I refused – so she then proceeded to book a time later that afternoon for her to call back.

Getting off the phone, and somewhat flustered, I found the number for the helpful brokers I used for my home insurance. The guy on the end of the phone was friendly, helpful and not at all pushy. So when I’d reviewed his quote at leisure – which included a simple £100 excess on everything, for a premium that was within £5 of the Direct Line quote, I called back and arranged the insurance with him.

Direct Line did call back later – but I hadn’t changed my mind.

Simple lesson – listen to your prospect, and if you can, provide them with what they ask. If you develop an inflexible sales method, you will be guaranteed to lose some potentially valuable prospects.

What do I blog about?

This week, I was taken aside by a business colleague, who then said to me: “I know I should be blogging, I’m in marketing after all, and I tell my clients I should do, but what should I write about?”

My suggestion was to consider three pointers:

1) ongoing issues in your sector

Make a list of the key issues facing your business sector at the moment – things that will continue to be issues, and you could probably write about them in a year from now without them having moved out of date. As an example, if you are in the motor industry, it might be electric cars.

These are issues you can proactively plan and write about. Your blog entries don’t need to be tied to an event or a date, so you could potentially write them at your leisure and post them in due course.

2) what have you been up to lately?

We’re all busy people, often doing things that we think are entirely common sense, but to an outsider might be clever, interesting, or helpful. So, without embarrassing the client for whom you may be working (unless they and you will mutually benefit from mentioning them, and they’ve said they are happy to be mentioned), go ahead and write about how you helped them recently.

3) what’s your take?

Blogs are meant to give the reader an insight into your views and your passions. So keep an eye on news happenings in your sector, and comment on them. This has to be reactive, but you probably keep regularly abreast of activities in your sector anyway. They could be items in the national press, or specific niche items that appear in your trade media. Always be sure to reference the source of the information to legitimise it, before adding your take.

Time to tidy up my blog

So here is it, with a fresh new look and an increased focus on my main, daily activities mainly involving the world of copy, communications and modern ways of working.

I’m continuing to write about property and about planning, but comments on that topic will be hived off in future, to my new blog here.