The business of selling earthquake insurance to homeowners in California may have just gotten a bit easier.
The California Earthquake Authority has launched its annual “Marketing Value Program,” in which the quasi-private earthquake insurer encourages agents to sign up to receive at least 200 pieces of direct mail marketing pre-printed with agents’ names to send to potential clients.
This is the program’s second year. Last year’s program saw more than 4,500 agents participate and 10,000 policies sold as a result of the program, according to CEA.
The intent is for the mailers, which are available in English, Chinese and Spanish, to get into the hands of 5,000 agents per round over two rounds, said Glenn Pomeroy, CEO of Sacramento, Calif.-based CEA.
Each agent signing up for the program receives 200 pieces of mail to send to homeowners who could be prospects for earthquake insurance. The mailers are post-marked by CEA, and custom printed with the agent’s name. An additional 100 mailers each are avialable in Chinese and Spanish.
Agents must first visit EarthquakeAuthority.com, click on “Register for 2012 MVP,” and fill out a form.
For the first round of mailings, agents must be employed or appointed by participating insurers.
A second round, which requires agents to be employed or appointed by participating insurers, also requires agents to take a class on CEA’s earthquake products, puts another 200 mailers in the hands of those agents. Mailers in the second round will be wrapped around Great California ShakeOut mailers that go out each year and they will be co-promoted with that popular annual event. Last year’s Great Shakeout event drew more than 8.6 million participants. This year’s Great California ShakeOut is set for Oct. 18.
“For agents who haven’t concentrated on earthquake coverage in the past, it’s absolutely valuable to spend two quick hours in a focused training to receive the information in terms of what our policy covers, how it works, how we respond following an event through the adjusters of the company, and so on,” Pomeroy said.
Last year there were three rounds of mailings. The number of rounds this year has been narrowed to two to simplify things, he said. Also new this year, in select areas an additional 100 mailers are avialble to send to renters.
Last year CEA’s MVP program more than doubled the amount of agents trained to sell through CEA, according to the organization. In 2010, from January through the fall, CEA trained 1,300 agents. In 2011 they trained over 3,000 agents.
“We recorded an additional 10,000 new policies issued as a result of that program,” Pomeroy added.
At the end of 2011 the authority had 821,000 policies in force, Pomeroy said, adding, “That’s more policies in force since 9/11.”
“Here at the California Earthquake Authority, we’re in a race against time,” Pomeroy said. “The scientists have made it clear that it’s not if the next big earthquake’s going to strike, it’s a matter of when.”
He cited a study from the Working Group on California Earthquake Probabilities, showing there is a 99.7 percent probability of a 6.7 magnitude earthquake striking somewhere in California within the next 30 years.
“My take from this is it’s going to happen,” he said. “Earthquakes are entirely unpredictable, completely unstoppable.”
That’s where the need for marketing and awareness programs come in, Pomeroy said, adding that the potential catastrophe isn’t the only obstacle faced by agents selling earthquake insurance products.
Less than 12 percent of California homeowners have purchased earthquake insurance, according to the Insurance Information Network of California.
“As much as we’re in a race against time, we’re in a battle against indifference, too,” he said.
And there’s some added incentive for those signing up.
The first 15,000 policies sold and reported through MVP will qualify people to receive an earthquake starter kit, which includes a backpack with putty to help secure things, picture hooks and television straps. The first 5,000 agents who sign up will get their own starter kit.
While it’s going, the program will supported by a marketing campaign on television, in newspapers and on the internet.