I want you to imagine that you are sitting at your desk and you get the following call:
Prospect: Hi Mr. Agent, I understand that you are an expert on designing group benefit programs (or long-term care insurance or ancillary benefits).
Agent: Well, I like to think so and I appreciate hearing that. How can I help you?
Prospect: Well, evidently you know a lot about consumer-driven health plans and from what I've read that is the best way for me to get control of my premiums. I would really like to meet with you and talk about how you can help me.
Agent: Great. Are you talking with other agents as well?
Prospect: No. Since you are obviously the expert in this field I figured I would begin with you. If you can help me then I see no benefit in talking with other agents.
How cool would that call be? When was the last time that you received a call like that? If you have ever received that call at all, how often has that happened?
This is what I can tell you with absolute certainty: you can get calls like that in your field regardless of your product or specialty. To get those kinds of calls you have to position yourself as the "go-to" expert in your marketing area. And before you jump to any conclusions, this is not about branding. This is about creating an identity as the expert. But make no mistake about this - it will take work and time to be effective because everything that you do and every marketing piece must communicate expertise.
Expert positioning does not take a lot of money but it will take some work. The first step is to look at your business card. If it says "Specializing in medical, dental, life and disability" throw it away immediately. That card communicates a complete and utter lack of understanding of the word "specialize." You can specialize in employee benefits or you can specialize in medical insurance but you cannot "specialize" in four different products or niches.
You cannot say: "Specializes in employee benefits, long-term care insurance and senior issues." Physicians do not specialize in family medicine, radiology, immunology and plastic surgery. If you saw that on a sign you would think that physician was an idiot! Expert positioning means that you want to be perceived in a specific specialty such as benefit planning.
Establish a specialty website
Ninety-nine percent of you have a typical brochure-type of website that screams: "I am just like every other broker in town!!!!" The only difference between you and everyone else is the amount of money that you invested in your site. You may sell all types of insurance products including car and homeowners insurance, but you must have a website that says: "I specialize."
That is why I have numerous websites and each has a separate focus. Visit my critical illness website at criticalillness4employers.com to see an example of a specialty website. As a group benefit professional you should have a website that focuses on prospects and prospects only. Everything on that website should communicate your expertise in employee benefit planning.
Create a Google identity
If a prospect were to Google you what would they find? For most of you the answer is: very little. And understand that prospects do Google you before your first appointment. Of course, none of your competitors have much to be found either, so it doesn't help you.
Now take a moment and Google me, Mel Schlesinger, and see what happens. Now that you have seen how many times my name comes up on the first few pages, imagine that I am competing with you and I tell a prospect that if he wants to know about my expertise he can Google me. Even though I am focused on sales and training benefit professionals, my expertise in benefits will be evident. All things being equal, I have a ton more credibility than any of my competitors.
Creating a visible identity on Google requires a coordinated effort utilizing Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, e-zine articles and more.
I know that sounds like a lot of work, but it really can be done in as little as a couple of hours per week. You just need a strategy along with a timeline to which you can adhere. If you do not want to do it yourself you can pay someone to do a lot of this for you, but you need to recognize that success will take some time.
Social media and expert positioning
While it may be possible to utilize Facebook alone to generate business, it is highly unlikely to position you as the expert all by itself.
The biggest challenge with Facebook and Twitter is that you have to build a list of followers that are not your friends from within your industry. By combining numerous media such as public speaking with your social media activities you can drive your list building. But to build your Facebook fan page you will need to provide content that is interesting and useful and will make fans want to "like" your information.
Recently I started a YouTube campaign beginning with two postings one week apart which I then posted on Facebook and Twitter. With just two postings so far I have seen an increase in my Twitter followers. These new followers already perceive me as an expert in both the ancillary benefit arena and the sales coaching for insurance agents space.
My goal is to post one new video every week to my ancillarybenefitpro YouTube channel. My first two videos utilized an animation program known as Xtranormal and are relatively short. This week I plan on creating a short video that I will shoot in my conference room.
To further establish myself as the expert in my field I will write a series of short e-zine articles which I will post on ezinearticles.com. My goal will be to post one every two weeks. As soon as I receive approval from the site, I will post to both my Facebook page as well as my Twitter page.
In addition, I will add a link to one of my websites. The more often that I post an article online the easier it will be to find me on Google, making me appear to be the expert in my field. It is important to note that your e-zine articles do not have to be very long. In fact, it is better to have numerous short articles than to have a few long articles.
Beyond the Internet
If you really want to solidify your image as the "expert" you should engage in both public speaking as well as article writing in a niche-specific publication. Because every paper medium also is now posted online, your Google visibility will be enhanced with every new article.
Public speaking will also add to your online presence if the organization that you speak to posts an announcement to their website. There are some tricks to make public speaking effective, but understand that the moment that you stand up in front of a group of people you become an immediate expert.
Being seen as an expert really does give you an unfair advantage over your competitors. As everyone knows, the key ingredients to sales success are the ability to make a prospect feel like they know you and, more importantly, trust you. When you are perceived as an "expert" before you walk in the door you begin with a level of trust not found in a normal sales appointment. And the more valuable your content, the more the prospect will trust you. The new market reality is that we are in an information age where people seek a lot of information before making a decision. The reality is that "content is king" and the person who can provide that content will win.
Next month, I will cover video marketing from creation to posting.
Schlesinger is president of the National Association of Health Underwriters and a sales coach specializing in working with employee benefits professionals. Reach him at (336) 777-3938.
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