Competition can work in an advisor’s favor. But constantly searching for the perfect MO can mean frequent changes in alliance, hardly an optimal outcome in a business where continuity is the name of the game. Still, change is sometimes necessary. Savvy advisors know how to find the ideal fit with a marketing organization and they know when it’s time to stay put.

In our quest to find out what advisors look for most in their marketing organizations, we once again turn to you, our readers. What it is you appreciate (or don’t) about your current MOs? Actively planning to make a change in the near future? How do you evaluate your marketing organization? In what areas do you think your MO could or should improve? And, most importantly, what sources of information do you use to learn more about other options if you are serious about a new organization?

These and many other questions were posed to our advisor readers during the course of the survey, which was conducted in January. The results, drawn from more than 450 responses, give important and interesting insight into the advisor mindset and the ways MOs are working to meet advisors’ needs – or, in some cases, not doing so well.

By and large, the folks who responded are independent-natured, small organizations (65 percent employ less than five people) selling more than a million dollars a year in annuities and a considerable amount of life insurance products, but not an especially large volume of long term care insurance. Almost 32 percent have been at the game for more than 20 years, with seniors – especially the lucrative and emerging boomer market – the primary focus of their efforts.

As open as many are to change, the vast majority of respondents – almost 72 percent – are not considering switching MOs. They are very much interested in adopting new products (more than 76 percent would like to consider their options), but there’s a relative level of contentment.

That said, most of you have worked with multiple MOs over the course of your career: equal percentages have affiliated themselves with two or three different MOs and 18 percent have jumped around as many as five times or more.

For the small percentage of respondents currently shopping around for a better deal (or a flashier product, or more personal service), the evaluation process for finding a new MO usually takes three to six months (65 percent say they take their time); a smaller percentage, 18 percent, say they like to strike when the iron is hot and tend to make immediate decisions when it comes time to make the change.

What’s the motivation for advisors who do want to make a change? Various respondents offered frank answers: “Too many promises and not enough follow through,” says one. “I am just not going anywhere [with the one] where I am at,” says another. “[I need to be] able to trust the individual(s) who run/own the company,” asserts another.

How do you go about searching for a new MO? As they likely do with their own business base, respondents told us that peer referrals play the biggest role (nearly 68 percent), closely followed by research provided by magazine articles or through Web sites and online information. Magazine advertising is also a significant resource (almost 50 percent agreed); e-mail, old-fashioned direct mail and trade shows each contribute a less important role.

When examining and evaluating new product options, survey-takers – much as it is with the buying public – ranked customer service as being “extremely important” (62 percent); 56 percent gave similar weight to product features. “Very important” attributes of new products included marketing materials and customer demand (both about 40 percent); trailing behind, but still “important” were commission payment terms and commission rates.

What about your current marketing organization could use some improvement? The largest segment (38 percent) of respondents desired better communications; 35 percent sought improved training and coaching; other important and apparently largely unmet needs included, strangely enough, better marketing (34 percent), plus nuts-and-bolts factors such as back office operations and processing and technology.

Not to paint an entirely negative picture, most respondents said their primary MOs had a lot to offer, and said that their satisfaction depended on factors such as reliability (47 percent) the execution of promised deliverables (43 percent) and compliance (40 percent).

Many of those same criteria were also very important when it comes to making decisions about a new MO: reliability (62 percent), execution of promised deliverables (56 percent), compliance (46 percent) and communications (42 percent) were the most important factors, while product selection (47 percent), back office operations and technology (both 40 percent), marketing (40 percent) and culture and training/coaching (both 34 percent) were seen as just a little less important. Commissions and incentives trailed just behind the rest.

Finally, when it comes to a wish list for carrier products respondents would like to see their MOs offer, top choices included products from John Hancock (54 percent), Genworth (51 percent), AIG (44 percent) and Allianz (43 percent). Other top wish list carriers included AVIVA, Mutual of Omaha, Prudential, American Equity, Mass Mutual, Principal and Penn Treaty.

Now that you know where your peers stand on MOs, it could be time to take stock of your own MO relationship.

For a reprint of this article please call Brandie Carr-Moore at (303) 662-5275.

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