The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 54
Methods to Attract Business
Methods to Attract Business.
It does not follow that all offices should take the same steps to attract new business. For life insurance offices the same principles hold good as for other commercial undertakings. It may be said that there are two principal means by which traders can get business—by advertising and by the employment of travellers. For some businesses, where it is desirable to appeal direct to the public, advertising is the preferable course; but where the public are not approached directly, but through the medium of middlemen, such as shopkeepers, it may be a simple loss of money to spend it upon advertisements, and the employment of travellers may be really the only suitable means for obtaining custom. The same seems to me to hold good with regard to life insurance. Some companies are from circumstances able to approach their public direct, and in fact do receive a great part of their business in proposals made over the counter, without any introduction that can be traced. For such companies advertising is useful; but when a company obtains the bulk of its business from its paid agents, whether they are paid by salary or commission, it is probable that advertising is of very little advantage. Some traders are in the happy position of page 15 getting most of their business with very little exertion from a connection already established, and the same is probably the case with a number of life offices, as, for instance, when the bulk of the business is introduced by the directors; but there is a constant tendency in a business obtained in this way to shrink, as the supporters of the office either die, or grow old, and take less interest in business matters. It is, therefore, I think, certain that no office which trusts to its connection, can hope to be permanently successful; but every office must take active steps to make good from new sources the loss that it sustains in the manner just described. It must not be forgotten that in certain circumstances the two methods of obtaining business which I have mentioned may be inconsistent with each other. If, for instance, a trader relies principally upon the exertions of his travellers, and they are paid principally in proportion to the amount of business they introduce, it will scarcely be fair towards them to receive business direct from the public and give the traveller no benefit from the business that may probably be more or less due to his exertions; while, if the traveller's remuneration is so arranged that he derives a benefit from the whole of the business from a certain district, whether directly introduced by him or not, the office, if it advertises to any large extent, would be paying twice over for its business. In connection with this matter it must not be forgotten that life insurance is not a commodity which all persons feel the need of—that, in fact, most persons do not insure until they are solicited by some friend who represents, or is interested in, a particular office; and that, under these circumstances, they are not likely to read advertisements for the purpose of seeing which office offers the greatest advantages. So far as these considerations prevail, I am inclined to think that money spent upon advertisements is almost thrown away, and that it is better for an office to rely upon its agents. These considerations must, however, not be pushed too far. I believe that experience shows that, in populous places like London, there are a large number of prosperous professional and commercial men who certainly should be candidates for insurance, but who are not accessible to the solicitations of an agent in the same way as persons who stand somewhat lower in the social scale. In order to reach such persons, it will be necessary to advertise in some way, and it becomes a matter of careful study what form of advertisement is most likely to come under the notice of the persons in question.