How to reinvent a brokerage to keep it current with clients' changing needs

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For those who continue to struggle with how to reinvent their benefit practices to remain relevant to their clients in this rapidly changing environment, think about your business as if you were just starting out today.

How would you organize your business operations? Focus on: the characteristics of your customer base (size, demographics, industry sector(s), etc.); your value proposition; sustainable competitive advantage; and marketing strategies to connect with your target audience and centers of influence.

You also need to think about your own capabilities. What are your strengths? Weaknesses? Match your capabilities with the needs of your employer clients and their employees. If you don’t have the requisite capabilities or you cannot acquire or hire the skillsets needed, then you likely will be unable to effectively serve that specific client base. This will also determine your marketing positioning, as you will want to emphasize your unique skill sets and any competitive advantages that you may have.

Some self-analysis is in order. Are you very strategic in your approach? Are you consultative? Or is your forte product knowledge? Are you particularly adept at plan design for complex and diverse employee populations? Or is your expertise focused on self-funded plans? Perhaps you are more effective at benefits communications and engaging employees from an educational perspective. Or maybe you are more comfortable with individual financial needs analysis which lends itself to voluntary and executive benefits marketing.

This is a critically important exercise to help you determine which audience your capabilities can most effectively address and which marketing strategies, products and services you should be offering. You cannot be all things to all people.

Define your role
Another consideration is how you define your role in your relationship with clients, prospects and centers of influence. If you position yourself as a product vendor, the point of access to insurance products, you have no differentiating value and you have painted yourself into a corner to be replaced by any electronic quoting service.

However, if you position yourself as a subject matter expert, someone who is viewed as a trusted adviser, you have relevance and your expertise and counsel will be valued. So how do you accomplish this? How do the top 5% of advisers elevate their status in their business relationships?

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Well, think about your most effective competitors. What do they do? Their marketing constantly reinforces that they are thought leaders whose opinions are sought out by other industry professionals and forward-thinking employers. They publish articles and white papers. They are featured as columnists in relevant and targeted employer publications (magazines and blogs for HR, benefits, finance, business owners, etc.). They are frequent guest speakers at pertinent conferences commenting upon the issues confronting their audience having been introduced as a subject matter expert whose opinion is valued.

There’s real power in this kind of personal marketing. And they also likely partner with an employer’s other trusted advisers, meaning they co-sponsor seminars and webinars with accountants, attorneys or bankers, all of whom are viewed as insiders by many business owners and key management personnel.

Ask yourself these questions: Do I ever “spreadsheet” my attorney’s services? Do I shop my accountant’s services every other year? You want to associate with your clients’ other trusted advisers and emulate their professionalism, positioning and value propositions to elevate your own stature in the eyes of your clients and important business relationships.

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