The Center for Media Research recently reported on a study from Forrester Research that included this fascinating point: “Customers now control the buying process far more than today’s vendors control the selling process.”
That’s certainly the case in the insurance industry, isn’t it? When my mother worked for an independent agency, the only way someone in our small town could obtain coverage was through the agent she worked for – or from one of his competitors.
We know the world has changed in a dramatic manner since that time – and this recent study illuminates an aspect in which many agents and their agencies are having difficulty.
The Forrester Research report reveals that — given the easy access to information from the Internet and our customer’s ability to use smartphones and tablets to acquire a wide range of knowledge — companies and their marketing teams in every industry are struggling just to keep up.
The study offers three essentials for growing sales in today’s economy:
- A customer-obsessed approach to defining the business and marketing strategy;
- An in-depth understanding of customers’ behaviors and needs;
- A customer engagement strategy that is calibrated to those behaviors and needs.
What this study is saying is, in essence, what I advocated when I initially wrote the first of my “Distinction” books over a decade ago — and emphasize in my latest book, “Iconic.” There are “Four Cornerstones of Distinction”:
- Clarity— you have to have a clear strategy and approach that differentiates your products and services
- Creativity— create a single, unique point of distinction that provides competitive space for you in the marketplace
- Communication— craft a compelling story that — from the customer’s perspective — develops engagement and emotional connectivity
- Customer Experience Focus— be obsessed about what it feels like to be your customer so your agency can deliver an “Ultimate Customer Experience ®”
Every agent and agency can begin now to execute on each of these four cornerstones.
A challenge that we all face, however, is our tendency is to keep doing what we have always done – to the point that we may be working harder on the wrong plan. As my friend, author and speaker Joe Calloway, often says, “Success means you know what used to work.”
This “changing buyer dynamic” alters in fundamental ways how you should consider marketing your agency and your approach to selling insurance from the way you’ve done it in the past.
Another critical point from the study:
- Marketing now owns a bigger chunk of the “selling process.”Guiding a prospect through the early stages of the buying process (traditionally the role of sales) requires an outside-in approach, calibrated to the buyer’s wants and needs. This shifts the focus of insurance selling from content (that details the features and benefits of specific policies and coverage) to engagement that informs, persuades, and convinces.
Here are two critically important questions for every agent and agency:
- Has your marketing and the intensity of your customer engagement evolved to the level that you can sell and serve today’s customer effectively?
- Do you create an “Ultimate Customer Experience ®” for them that provides a compelling reason why they should choose you instead of the other alternatives available in the insurance world today?
There is no reason for any client to be loyal to your agency unless they’re clear about why they should. If you have not provided enough reasons for your customers to buy with you and stay with your agency, why should they?
Review those Four Cornerstones of Distinction – and ask yourself how you can apply and improve at each one. It’s your first step to delivering the essentials required for success in today’s insurance industry.
About the Author
Scott McKain has designed and delivered high impact keynotes for the world’s most dynamic brands and has helped companies enhance profitability and loyalty by teaching how to sell uniquely and serve remarkably.