Historically, the small to mid-size insurance agents have relied on traditional direct mail (‘paper mail’) as the CRM arm of their marketing efforts. Many still do, successfully. But a growing number of companies are quickly experiencing the ROI and efficiency that lies at the heart of e-mail marketing.

With all the buzz about the power of social media these days, it’s easy for smaller businesses to overlook e-mail. One shouldn’t be substituted for the other, because together they can work wonders to grow your customer base and drive revenue. Here’s how:

E-mail programs are easy to set up and execute. Companies like Constant Contact have turnkey solutions designed for the smaller business owner — complete with press and play templates. Or, they provide easy tools with which you can custom design your own.

E-mail is a great way to grow and nurture your customer database. There are lists available for purchase, but it’s better to grow your database organically, because customers will be more willing to open e-mail communications, and you run less of a risk of ‘spamming’ prospects. Use your website and social media platforms to entice prospects to ‘opt in’ and receive news and information about your company.   A great way to do this is to launch a promotion or sweepstakes on your Facebook page. Give people a chance to win a prize and they’ll opt-in to your database. You can support the promotion with a small Facebook media buy that can be geotargeted down to your zip code (or any zip code you want to reach).  This will drive people to your promotion.

E-mail increases and maintains top-of-mind awareness of your agency. Even if a prospect isn’t ready to purchase a policy, chances are you’ll be in the consideration set when they are.  A regular program of e-mail communications will work in your favor to keep the agency on people’s radars.

Well-written, engaging newsletters will strengthen relationships, loyalty, and trust with both current customers and prospects. In effect, you’re developing one-on-one communications with the individuals in your database pool. They get to know you, get to like you, and a bond is formed. And your newsletter doesn’t have to be a dry sales pitch. Share what your agency is doing in the community. Give people tips about home safety. Make it fun and interesting.

As noted earlier, email marketing is an extremely efficient medium. In 2013, email marketing brought in $40.56 for every $1 spent, according to the Direct Marketing Association. Without the added expense, time, and manpower of printing paper mailers, e-mail marketing drives ROI. It’s that simple.

And, finally, e-mail marketing works. Open rates are rising, particularly among organic databases where people have opted-in. And, according to a recent survey by Exact Target, 66% of online Americans have bought something as a result of receiving a marketing message via email….3 times that of Facebook (20%) and more than 4 times that of SMS text messaging (16%).

Bottom line, it’s worth a test for insurance agents. You can start small and gauge the impact.

Good luck!