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Do we know what business owners want?

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There’s plenty of evidence suggesting that the business exit planning market holds a lot of opportunity for life insurance professionals. There are some general trends and facts that lead us to that conclusion:

  • The incidence/ownership of small businesses is increasing.
  • The number of small-business owners approaching or at retirement age is increasing.
  • The number of closely held businesses that survive to the next generation is concerning. The number surviving two generations is scary.

So our assumption is that more business owners will have more desire to retire and be interested in their business’s survival. Therefore, they will be more interested in planning — and in financial products and cash value life insurance.

We know what can sometimes happen when we assume. The insurance industry has made many assumptions about consumer groups and has built programs, products and practices around them. Sometimes they work; sometimes they don’t. It all depends on whether the idea solves for a specific tension in the marketplace and whether the tension is widespread enough that many people want the solution.

Good insight should sound like the potential buyer could have said it, and it should take this form:

I statement of fact, because reason, but tension.

For example, we may be assuming that business owners would say: “I would like to retire, because I would like more time to do other things, but I don’t see a way out.” If that is true, or true for some percentage of business owners, it points to significant opportunity for exit planning, because you provide them with the “way out.”

However, what if the statement of fact is not accurate? What if some business owners don’t really want to retire? What if working in their business is the thing they like to do with their time, and despite pressure, they secretly don’t want to ever stop doing what they love? What if the business is earning enough money without too much effort, and it seems silly for them to stop?

What if the reason is a little off? What if they want to retire so they can offer an opportunity to their kids, not because they really want to do other things?

What if the tension is wrong? What if it is really that the fear of losing their identity is what is making them hesitate? Or what if it is that they fear the business will fail because they don’t trust their kid’s abilities?

Does that sound like you need a degree in psychology? Not necessarily. There are ways to find out the answers if you just ask the right questions to enough people and pay close attention to their answers. That’s research.

When you find the really strong insights, you can imagine all kinds of possibilities for differentiating your practice and invent new ways to make money.

A neat way to envision that is to pretend to title a book you’ve written about a very specific problem your client has and then create and communicate ways to solve it. The title should speak to the insight, and the tone should sound real. If the above hypotheses were true, the titles might sound like:

  • “When Someday Never Comes: A Business Owner’s Guide to Saying ‘When’”
  • “Put Your Oxygen Mask On First: The Objective Way to Put Your Kid into Your Business”
  • “No Reasonable Substitute: The Business Continuation Conundrum”
  • “Your Work and Your Life: Balanced, Blended or Blurred?”
  • “Killing Sacred Cash Cows: When Retirement Seems Stupid”

Do any of these sound interesting or inspiring? If not, can you rewrite one to make it so?

The secret to being the best in your field starts with knowing who your ideal customer is, understanding him better than anyone, and being perceived by him as an expert. Rich, deep and transferable insights are the way to start.

For more from Maria Ferrante-Schepis, see:

Is Infertility Killing Independent Distribution?

The New Mutuality

Life insurance language: Is it creating irrelevance?