How to Differentiate Your Agency from the Competition & Make More Money

July 18, 2005

When you think of marketing your agency, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Cold calling? Print ads? Direct sales letters delivered before ex dates? Maybe even a Yellow Pages ad? That is what is referred to as the tactical side of marketing. By far the more important aspect of marketing however is the strategic message.

What you say, how you say it and when you say it is what makes the difference between effective and ineffective marketing. It is the strategic message that allows you to differentiate yourself from the agency down the road and gives you a substantial return on your marketing investment.

According to the 2002 Census, there are over 26,800 insurance agencies and brokerages in California alone, including over 5,000 in metro Los Angeles and over 2,600 in the metro San Francisco area.

This is a lot of competition and yet most insurance marketing messages look and sound the same, providing prospects with little to no way to distinguish one agency from the other. The big question is , how can you look any different or any better in the eyes of your prospects?

What your marketing should be doing

The role of marketing is simple. All of your tactical marketing should capture the attention of your target market, facilitate the prospects’ information gathering and decision-making processes, and most importantly, lower the risk of taking the next step in the sales cycle. Simple, right?

The problem with today’s world of copy-cat marketing and advertising

Most agencies and brokerages have unique and innovative processes or systems in place that sets them apart from other agencies. We call this the “Inside Reality.” Inside Reality equals the value you bring to your marketplace (your ability to provide expertise, best product, services, etc.).

For example, an agency we spoke with has a unique way to process claims. They typically get a claim, respond to it within 24 hours, and achieve claim resolutions 99 percent of the time in the favor of the client. Their clients love this.

But this agency failed to communicate their innovative system to their marketplace. Their sales literature and advertisements only state “claim services.”

Look at it from the eyes of your prospects: What exactly does “claim services” mean? Does this nebulous statement really communicate to the outside world what they do for their clients?

Only clients that have already benefited from this unique and innovative claims resolution process understand and appreciate what this agency did for them. Instead of communicating their claims resolution success to the outside world, this agency relies on their happy clients to tell their friends and business associates …

We have a phrase for this-“Outside Perception.” Outside Perception is how you are perceived by the outside world based on your marketing messages.

Here is the rub: Most agencies’ Outside Perceptions do not match up!

Confidence gap

When the “Outside Perception” does not match up to the “Inside Reality,” it results in a huge “Confidence Gap.” This simply means that the buyer is unable to determine whether any of the businesses or any of the products or any of the services are any better or any different or any worse than any of the others.

The buyer feels like he doesn’t have control, so he stalls, thinks, compares, and tries to gather more information and ultimately defaults to shopping for price. Since you-the agent-has no control over pricing-that is not a good thing!

So how can you overcome that confidence gap problem and stop competing on price?

You need to build a case for your services-just like an attorney would, to educate your prospects and help them reach a decision to take the next step in the sales process. Develop your strategic marketing messages (“case”) around your prospect’s “Hot Buttons,” not around how great you are or how long you have been in business, as it is commonly done in insurance marketing.

“Hot Buttons” are what causes your prospects to pay attention to your marketing messages. “Hot Buttons” open doors by identifying the pain that a prospect needs solved. “Hot Buttons” are what motivates a person to engage with you in the sales process.

Here are some of the most common hot buttons of the insurance buyer:

• Customer Service;

• Communication;

• Expertise/Insurance solutions that fit;

• Claims Resolution.

Back up your case with evidence, and provide your prospects with a low risk way to engage with you. A low risk offer can be anything from providing more information or a “checklist” to use when comparing one agency against another.

Before engaging in “tactical warfare,” be sure you have developed your marketing strategy. Determine first what to say, when and why you are saying it, to whom, and where to say it. For any marketing campaign, you must have something good to say, say it well and say it often

These few tips are truly the tip of the iceberg as to how any insurance agency can differentiate itself from the competition.

Insurance Results Marketing Group, LLC
offers marketing solutions to make more

money for the busy independent insurance
agent and broker. Marilyn Chelini and Birgit

Rickert are principals and founders of IRMG.

A licensed insurance agent, Chelini has more
than 20 years of experience assisting

companies achieve better performance in their
marketing, planning and implementation.

Rickert’s 30+-year career in accounting,
marketing, and business management spans

over three continents and diverse industries,
including insurance. Rickert’s insurance career

began in 1981, when she became a Farmers

Insurance Agent in Thousand Oaks,

California, where she identified a need for
insurance specific marketing systems. For more

information, visit,
or call (800) 679-1572.

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