Thirty years ago the Swiss watchmaker Blancpain was on the ropes. Its watches didn’t use electronics or quartz, so $20 digital watches kept better time. Jean-Claude Biver bought the rights to the name and came up with a new slogan: “Since 1735 there has never been a quartz Blancpain and there never will be.” He then sent retailers seven watches for every 10 they ordered telling them supply was limited. The result? Sales soared!
The value of scarcity
The scarcity of an item impacts its perceived value. Gold has intrinsic worth due to its physical properties such as conductivity and malleability, but it is its scarcity that makes it highly prized. An annuity producer has actual worth because he or she can help a consumer find an appropriate annuity for their situation, but how can you be perceived as scarce when you need to be in the customer’s face asking for their business? You do this by getting the consumer to value the one resource you have control over–your time.
During the prospecting phase the producer hides behind other people so he or she is never seen nor heard. The seminar invitation highlights the producer as a distant expert, and at the seminar the producer is introduced to the audience by someone else. When using direct mail the producer does not personally call and set the appointments. The impression being built is that the producer’s time is much more valuable than any money the consumer might spend as a potential customer. The people you hide behind can also say things you can’t, such as, “Every year [producer] agrees to give a couple of pro bono presentations as a thank you to the community and luckily this one is in your neighborhood.”
Let my people get in touch with you
The perception of value is significantly increased when the producer has a full-time assistant and an office. Consumers know that every important person has “people” they need to go through and no important person schleps out to a consumer’s house. Value is further increased by initially asking the consumer why are they in your office, as opposed to beginning with a pitch on why they need the producer. And you agree to work with a consumer and sell them an annuity not because you need the commission, but because you find their case “interesting.”
Jean-Claude Biver has turned around three watch companies and made them valued brands because he created the perception of limited access to the product. Annuity producers can add value to their brand by creating a perception of limited access to their time.