The groupthink among benefit advisers leads to many copycat ideas and behaviors industry-wide, yet following these standard practices only puts you on a level playing field with your competitors. Brokers everywhere are simply promoting a better version of the same business model. But from the client perspective, brokers look the same, which makes you a commodity purchasing decision in their eyes.

Commodity positioning

Homogeneous thinking encourages commodity positioning. You’re likely viewed as a commodity if:

  • Your clients don’t know how much they pay you because commissions are hidden in the premiums.
  • Your clients call you about a business decision after they’ve made the decision.
  • You work with anyone that needs insurance and accept any referral as a good one.
  • Your website and print materials only talk about your company history and products.
  • You invest in “value-added” services simply as a sales tool to win business.

Relevant, partner positioning

To break away from the commodity model, agencies need to see and do things differently. Instead of price and product being your leading message and “differentiator,” connect with prospects over your ideas, advice and experience you’ve had solving challenges for clients. Leading with this message and discussion puts you in a different category.

When you’re in a different category — one that you’ve created — it suddenly changes your competitive landscape. Instead of buyers seeing you as yet another brand of tomatoes on an overcrowded shelf, you’ve now created a whole new category for the burgeoning market of cooks who only want the finest ingredients for their creations.

By focusing on client challenges and advice, you’re making yourself relevant and attractive to buyers in a whole new way and creating a new need for your services. You are likely seen as a partner if:

  • You discuss compensation with all clients and some even pay fees.
  • Clients call you for advice and counsel on making a decision.
  • You have a defined audience that benefits from your expertise and services.
  • Your clients use and find immense value in your services.
  • Your website, blog and printed materials address client challenges as the leading message.

It’s time to break the tired, old model and start some new, bold conversations. You might be uncomfortable with them at first, but I guarantee the new discussions will liberate you once you get the ideas on the table.
Pull a list of clients and write down all the challenges you’ve helped them overcome. What consistent challenges do you see? What is causing the difficulties? What are some of the solutions you’ve created and/or used to help them?

Use this challenge/solution information as the basis for your new client-focused messaging. Stay alert and keep track of new challenges you see and add them to your growing list of things to write and talk about. Change your perspective and positioning to become the feared competitor in your market.

Keneipp is a partner and coach at Q4intelligence in the Seattle area. Reach her at

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