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Are You Getting What You Need From Your Brokerage Relationship?

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By David A. Macchia

Is your brokerage general agency (BGA) providing you with the tools and strategies you need to attract more clients and increase your income? Are you benefiting from advanced multimedia technology that conveys complex concepts and products in a manner that clients can easily understand?

Have you received the latest in seminar presentation programs that help you capitalize on huge, new sales opportunities, such as retirement income distribution planning for seniors? Have you been offered a Web site capable of delivering rich multimedia sales presentations and designed to make a dramatically positive impact on your success?

If you find yourself scratching your head, unable, perhaps, to even recognize that these important marketing developments exist, it may be time to realize that youve become a victim of the disastrous trend of commoditization in financial services. Its time to demand better.

Adding value

The past decade produced unprecedented price competition in financial services as increasing numbers of insurance carriers adopted a product manufacturing stance at the expense of their traditional role in developing marketing tools. This shift is often referred to as “commoditization,” in which products generally look the same, act the same and are priced the same.

As insurance carriers further focus their efforts on product manufacturing and less on sales and marketing, the art of selling is in danger of becoming permanently lost. Many companies that used to boast about the strength of their home-grown distribution systems, systems comprised of individuals highly skilled in their ability to sell financial products, today sell exclusively through independent planners, brokers or producer groups. As result of that change, one source of quality, conceptual marketing and training programs, has disappeared.

Commoditization also has caused BGAs to focus almost exclusively on price. Loyalty to companies has become a quaint concept. Consequently, for carriers to attract business, they must either lower premiums or raise commissions.

When advisors can go anywhere to get the products they need to help their clients, how does the BGA fit? I would argue that todays BGAs must furnish real value to advisors to continue to justify their role in the financial services distribution “food chain.”

Innovative marketing and training strategies

One way to add value is through a new approach to training. No matter how smart or sophisticated an advisor or a producer is, financial products and advanced planning strategies are complex. And with new riders and concepts being unveiled daily, advisors appreciate a thorough and engaging way to learn about product innovations quickly and, thereby, deliver appropriate products and strategies to clients in a timely manner.

A new model that is achieving excellent results emphasizes leading-edge multimedia presentations and Internet strategies, which synergistically boost the sales process. Forward-thinking carriers are harnessing the latest multimedia technology to craft presentations that educate the advisor while also conveying the benefits of a product or a concept to the client.

In essence, you have both a persuasive, client-focused (and compliance-approved) sales presentation and a comprehensive, winning training tool. By wrapping the multimedia presentation around other coordinated marketing effortsseminar package, printed marketing materials, simple and client-customized illustrations, etc.the BGA provides a huge value-added program to advisors.

BGAs also should think outside the box when it comes to Internet-based marketing strategies. The Internet has become such an important part of the general publics lives that it should not be ignored or under-utilized in the financial services arena.

In fact, the Internet is where many clients go first to collect financial information and conduct their research. Yet, all too often, advisor-branded Web sites and most BGA Web sites do little to enhance an agent or advisors business. In nearly all cases, advisor and BGA Web sites are uninteresting repositories of reading material.

However, the fact remains that clients want to be engaged by interesting, compelling and motivational content. They want a learning experience that is no less impressive than what theyve become accustomed to from DVDs, movies, cable television and satellite radio. Finally, the financial services business is waking up to this reality.

For example, advisor-branded Web sites are being developed which are capable of delivering sales presentations in vivid multimedia. These presentations are being created in three arenas: a carriers specific product, generic product types and concept sales opportunities.

Organizations that are behind the effort to deliver these valuable sales aids will own the future of financial services. Why? They will have escaped commoditization, engender loyalty among distribution channels, and enable up-selling and cross-selling opportunities, which until now have been elusive.

As an advisor in a competitive, complex business, it makes sense to demand more from insurance brokerage firms with whom you have a relationship. Look for the ones that focus on creating opportunities that can change your practice for the better.

Seek organizations that want to expand your sales and effectiveness through the development of marketing and training programs that have enormous value to you. By demanding more, youll signal your unwillingness to accept the status quo. And youll pressure the industry to provide those tools that help you reach your goals.

David A. Macchia, Sr., is president and CEO of Wealth2k Inc., a national strategic marketing consulting firm for the financial services industry located in Hingham, Mass. He can be reached at [email protected]

Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, April 8, 2005. Copyright 2005 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.