Keeping brokerages competitive in an overcrowded marketplace

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LAS VEGAS — Advisers need to find ways to differentiate their businesses from the competition. With 543,000 new businesses entering the market each month — presenting new selling opportunities — brokerages that aren’t seriously thinking about the value they bring to the table may be missing out on new clients, said Adam Michaels, an entrepreneur and author of the book “Sink or Shine: Attract Clients and Talent with the Brightness of Your Mission.”

“What do you bring that differentiates you? What makes your lighthouse stand out on the shoreline and be recognizable from the distance? The answers to these questions are what make you distinctive,” Michaels said, speaking Monday at Employee Benefit Adviser’s Workplace Benefits Mania conference.

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If advisers want to attract new business they first need to revamp their internal strategy. It may be helpful to review marketing and advertising, along with leadership and talent plans at the firm. Those companies that are fearful of experimentation or change in any of these areas are at risk of failure, he said.

“The organizations that are unwilling to go outside the breakwall, their life span is diminishing,” he said.

The insurance industry has had trouble attracting new talent. About 400,000 industry jobs are projected to be unfilled by 2020, according to data from the industry group Insurance Careers Movement. Industry has been taking steps to recruit millennials, but less than 5% express interest in working in the space.

“I think it’s really about how you position yourself in the marketplace,” Michaels said. “Nobody wants to be an insurance professional.”

To be successful, firms should focus on creating a strong internal culture that values creativity, diversity and isn’t afraid of employee turnover, Michaels said. Instead of being averse to employees leaving the firm, business owners should look to learn from those workers and turn them into advocates for the company.

“That’s when you start to become that beacon in the marketplace,” he said.

It’s also important to look for new ways to promote business externally. Tailoring the message on social media can be a good way to attract the attention of potential clients. It is rare that an employer will not do at least some research before selecting an adviser to handle their benefits, he said.

“There is no such thing as a blind date in business anymore,” he said. “What are people finding when they go out and try to search you.”

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Regardless, already overburdened employers may have a short attention span when it comes to selecting a broker. If advisers can communicate specific ways they can help employers remain profitable and attract talent, they will have a much better chance of landing the client.

“There’s a battle for attention; you have to differentiate yourself in the marketplace,” Michaels said. “You have to become a beacon of light sending out a message that is resonating with your tribe.”

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