Brokers Should Demand More Than Product From Carriers
Many carriers are looking to court the independent broker. They understand that brokers represent an increasing share of their current and future business. They use traditional incentives to woo your business like higher payouts and trips. But is your carrier thinking about new and different ways to reward your business?
You have the right to demand more of your carrier than access to product. Smart carriers help grow your business through marketing. The question is: Are you smart enough to ask?
Define the Marketing Process
Brokerage agencies and independent brokers often lack the resources or expertise needed to execute a comprehensive marketing plan. In its simplest form, marketing comprises three phases: planning, execution and follow-up. Many carriers help their career force with some or all three phases. Since these resources already exist, top brokers should have access to them.
Phase 1: Planning
During this phase, you start by looking at economic and demographic trends to identify markets in which to expand or enter. Many carriers have research departments that generate this information.
After market analysis, brokers should analyze their book of business to segment clients into the identified markets that have high potential. Dig deep into the top clients within these markets.
Have you cross-sold all the products they need? Sometimes examining your client base by market provides a different perspective, allowing you to position the next sale more effectively.
Some carriers can help you with the client segmentation as part of the planning process. Their systems usually can sort your client base by multiple criteria. Discuss with your carrier about its client segmentation capabilities.
You also should investigate whether your carrier targets markets that are complementary to your business. Can it provide prospect leads from its own prospecting programs?
Many carriers provide this assistance to their career agents, but some leads cannot be assigned because there are no local career agents. Where do those leads go? This is a perfect opportunity to support top brokerage producers.
Finally, you have to do marketing planning, a crucialthough not easystep. If you dont feel comfortable with the process, ask your carrier about marketing experts on staff. Perhaps they would help you develop a marketing plan.
Phase 2: Execution
Carriers can offer the most support for this labor-intensive phase, which is when you think about the message to use for each market/product and how to communicate the message. Some carriers provide compliance-approved marketing materials to help with the message development.
Most of these materials are product-focused, but with a few minor changes, a more market-focused message can be crafted. Be sure to review your changes with compliance again.
Marketing materials can be in many forms: postcard, letter, advertisement, seminar scripts or e-mails. Whichever one you choose, think about how your market accesses information.
It is always more effective to communicate your message several times, with multiple media. Be sure to provide several ways for prospects to contact you, including phone, reply card or e-mail.
If you choose to execute a mailing, ask your carrier if traditional mail or e-mail services are provided. Since carriers send a lot of mail, they usually have preferred pricing on mail services. Some even have online mail capabilities that allow you to automate the process.
Lastly, you will need to craft a budget. Here again, the carrier can be useful. In addition to helping cut costs by providing the services mentioned above, many carriers will provide co-op dollars for top brokers. Usually they offer to split the cost of marketing, ensuring that you both have skin in the game.
Phase 3: Follow-up
This is the most overlooked phase of marketing, but here, too, carriers have many resources. Marketing follow-up is typically and most successfully handled via telephone. However, in these post-Gramm-Leach-Bliley days, you need to make sure what you say on the phone is also compliant, especially if you are using junior producers.
Most carriers will have compliance-approved telephone scripts or would be willing to review yours. However, if you are developing a script from scratch, be sure to provide your carrier with enough time to get through the onerous compliance process (usually four weeks!).
You also can ask whether your carrier has a relationship with an outbound telemarketing service. Certainly this wont be as personalized as what you can do yourself, but it is more important that you follow up on your marketing investment in a timely manner. Again, you can capitalize on your carriers economies of scale by tapping into its resources.
Finally, when you are in front of the prospect, be sure that your presentation conveys your knowledge of the market, the financial process and the products to impress. Many carriers will have compliance-approved client presentation materials.
Again, these may have a product focus, but many are being developed now to address a market need. Talk with your carrier about the type of presentation materials available.
It Comes With Strings
If you want to optimize your marketing by using your carrier more effectively, know that some of these services come with strings. Carriers dont just give these services away. The more business you do with a carrier the more clout you have to demand marketing support.
is managing partner of Lochridge & Company, Boston, Mass. You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.