There's Something About a Sell Sheet

It’s an innocent but frustrating request.

“Can I get a sell sheet?”

However you refer to it, the sell sheet — also known as a one-pager, slick, flyer or handout — continues to be a standby marketing piece in the insurance industry. It neatly summarizes a product or service’s salient selling points. You can co-brand it with a business partner’s logo and even include personalized contact information. It’s easy to email or hand out at a booth. It’s the all-purpose tool in the marketing tool box.

The sell sheet’s versatility and ease of use is a primary reason why it has turned into a crutch for many underwriters and producers. They can lift copy from the sell sheet and cut-and-paste it into an email. They can easily convert bulleted coverage features into talking points for a phone conversation or bullet points on a PowerPoint slide. Because marketing creates the piece, and legal approves it (depending on the company), people feel safe using the copy.

The crutch-factor is part of what makes us as marketers cringe when the inevitable request comes in. There’s nothing strategic about this often last-minute request.

“The sell sheet is a default tactic because everyone knows what it is,” explains Angela Kim, Regional Director, Gallagher, and an IMCA board member. “Or we’ll get a request to update an existing sell sheet and the producer wants the same type of piece because that’s the way it’s always been done.”

When faced with this situation, Angela and her marketing colleagues try to determine why the producer is requesting a sell sheet. Once they’ve uncovered the true need, they can offer a better alternative. Angela recalls one situation where the original request for a copy-heavy printed sell sheet for a conference evolved into an infographic that more effectively explained the concept. In another situation, a request for a piece that listed risk control services turned into a digital heatmap of a warehouse that exposed the risk and offered solutions to mitigate it.

Olga Levin, Director of Marketing and Communications for Allstate Business Insurance agrees that uncovering the real need is the way to go.

“Marketers hate sell sheets because they’re not strategic and we can’t measure their value,” she says. “Creating them takes time away from activities that provide more value and can drive the business.”

Like Angela, Olga first determines the problem that needs to be solved. Once her team has an understanding of the true need, their first step is to review existing materials to see if something already created could be the answer. In situations where a new piece does need to be created, Olga will often make recommendations that offer a more targeted solution, such as talking points, a pitch deck or new website landing page.

Another sell sheet challenge for insurance marketers is when the person making the request also tells you exactly what the piece MUST say no matter the copy length.

“The sell sheet is the ‘let’s-cram-everything-into-one-piece’ tactic,” jokes Angela. She recalls a situation where she finally had to flow the copy into design so the requester could see how difficult it would be to read their proposed copy in a 7 point font size.

Both Angela and Olga look upon these sell sheet requests as a chance to educate colleagues about their department’s capabilities. As Angela notes, often people making the request just aren’t aware of how much more marketing can do. Once they see the possibilities, they’re often open to new ideas. More importantly, it often changes their perception of the marketing team and leads them to see marketing as a strategic partner, rather than just a creator of sell sheets.
Pictured: Olga Levin