Repeating the same old message and expecting a different client reaction will not work. So re-evaluate your marketing positioning. What is your value proposition? Does it resonate with clients and prospects alike? If you can’t articulate it clearly in two or three sentences, value-conscious prospects and clients certainly are not going to take the time to figure it out. They will simply move on to some other firm whose messaging resonates with them. Is your marketing message consistent across all your promotional materials? Brochures? Website(s)? Proposals? Other media? Or is it a confusing mix of dated platitudes that were relevant two decades ago?

You need to clearly differentiate yourself and your business. What exactly is your competitive advantage? And please don’t tell me your firm gives good service. Everyone says that; and few ever deliver. As a consumer, do you ever believe those claims? And quite frankly, every client expects great service, so that’s definitely not a differentiator. That is simply meeting the client’s expectations.

In addition, you need to focus on your clients’ needs and become much more consultative in your approach. You have to deliver greater value and position yourself to become your client’s human capital consultant. You need to go beyond being perceived as a product vendor. You cannot afford to define your value as the point of access to benefits product information and services. You need to transcend your client’s expectations.

Also see: "How to turn around a decline in revenue."

That means you will need to reconsider your business model and the solutions you can provide to your clients. Employee benefits. Voluntary benefits. Executive benefits. Retirement planning services. HR consulting services. And a myriad of other offerings. Those are all potential solutions. But it all starts with your client’s critical needs. If you can help to solve two or three of their most pressing human capital needs, you will have made yourself invaluable.

Ensuring the alignment of HR initiatives and corporate business strategy has never been more important. The traditional “functional” approach to benefits planning must adapt to become more strategic and longer term. A benefits strategic plan will allow for a more proactive, holistic and analytical approach for managing the benefits program and improving overall results.

Get started

And now is the perfect time of year to initiate such discussions with your clients and prospects in advance of their upcoming plan renewal. It can be a powerful planning process that will enable you to guide all the major benefits decisions facing your clients. Propose the development of a 3-5 year strategic plan to the pertinent decision-makers in your client’s organization. Encourage HR/benefits to take the lead, and if possible, get the CFO and CEO involved in the process.

Also see: "The time for reinvention is now."

A benefits strategic plan articulates how the benefits program will continue to support the attainment of the overall business plan and corporate objectives. It will explain how the benefits component fits into the total compensation plan and provides rewards and incentives to employees to achieve the corporation’s goals. By using a strategic planning process as a tool you will establish greater credibility and elevate your interaction with your various client constituencies to that of a trusted adviser.

We realize that initially you may not be comfortable with this approach, but there are tools that can assist you and like anything else a little bit of experience goes a long way. And in no time, you will be wondering why you didn’t start using this approach years ago. Becoming a human capital consultant may just be the next phase of your evolving career.

Kwicien is managing partner at Baltimore-based consulting and advisory services firm Daymark Advisors. Reach him at

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