Rethinking your brokerage? Start from scratch

For advisers who continue to struggle on how to reinvent their benefits practices to remain relevant to their clients in this rapidly changing environment, we suggest thinking about your business as if you were just starting out. How would you organize your business operations?

You should focus on the characteristics of your customer base, your value proposition, competitive advantage and marketing strategies to connect with your target audience. For many of you, that will help you to envision what you need to do to think more concretely about a strategic process that will enable you to transform your business.

You need to think about your own capabilities. What are your strengths? Weaknesses? At a certain level, it’s about matching your capabilities with the needs of your employer clients and their employees. If you don’t have the requisite capabilities or you cannot hire the skill sets needed, then you likely will be unable to effectively serve that client base. And this will also determine your marketing positioning so that you emphasize your skills and any competitive advantages.

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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. As you can see, 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. Let’s face it: you cannot be all things to all people. Perhaps you never thought about marketing your personal brand in quite this manner, in which case, reflecting upon this should be quite enlightening.

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. How do you accomplish this? How do the top five percent of advisers elevate their status in their business relationships?

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 or someone ghost writes for them. They are featured as columnists in relevant and targeted employer magazines and blogs for HR, benefits, finance, business owners. 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.

If you’re unsure about this, ask yourself these questions: Do I ever spreadsheet my attorney’s services? Do I shop my accountant’s services every other year? You get the point. You want to associate with 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.

Hopefully you are beginning to grasp how to implement the necessary changes to transform your business model and your marketing positioning. It’s the future of your business and it deserves this kind of critical analysis to assure your future success.

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