"Pull out the latest piece of collateral produced by your marketing organization. Does it equip your salespeople to teach customers about their company or about yours?" - The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson
Pulling ideas from the The Challenger Sale, Dixon and Adamson specifically address how marketing and sales can better work together. I don't see the need for insurance agencies to necessarily work better with marketing since it's largely been non-existent in agencies, but instead for agencies to embrace marketing as a valuable way for influencing agency revenue.
Marketing activities should be used to set producers up to succeed in the sales process. All the time and resources your organization currently puts into marketing activities, or activities you're considering, should be put through this filter of priming the prospect for the sales process.
But we've always done it this way
Everything that has been touted as "best practice" marketing since the beginning of time – talk about the product, explain the features, explain the benefits – is no longer enough. At least for those whose sales process now focuses on the buyer rather than the seller. And, this needs to be all of us.
Remember, your marketing message is the first communication you have with a prospect. If it doesn't set the appropriate expectations for the actual sales conversation, then the sales process will prove confusing for the prospect.
So, when a sales conversation is focused on the seller and their products - the features, benefits, and price – then the historic "best practices" makes sense.
However, the most effective salespeople are now focused on the needs of the buyer and finding an alignment of the right solutions - the needs they are already aware of, as well as needs they can't yet see.
If your marketing message doesn't prepare your prospect for this buyer-focused conversation, they won't be in a very good position to participate. Even more important, it will likely be this type of differentiated marketing message that gets you an audience with a prospect in the first place.
Unfortunately, marketing in agencies has been viewed as largely unnecessary since there is a direct sales force; the producers get to do their own marketing. Unless it's for the sake of name recognition, marketing usually doesn't get much, if any, consideration in the scope of the agency budget, resource allocation, or overall strategy.
Now there is a new and better way
Shifting a conversation from focusing on you as the seller to a conversation focused on how you can help your clients improve their performance isn't necessarily easy. It fundamentally changes your value proposition as an agency. To do so successfully requires you to plan more strategically, adjust the way you engage prospects during the sales process, and requires you to start with a more a cohesive, insightful marketing message. And it is critical for that marketing message to be driven by the agency, not individual producers.
The type of marketing needed to educate prospects is an intellectual process, not an administrative one. Not one based on just counting leads and impressions, but instead one based on creating valuable information that challenges the customer about the way they see their own business.
Marketing should focus not on what the customers say they most want and value, but instead it should be based on what clients are overlooking as valuable opportunities in their business and challenging them to re-think their current views.
And it can be quite effective
Sure, it can be difficult to think about taking a stand on ideas that people would prefer to avoid. It's like putting yourself out on a limb that might break, knowing that everyone can watch it happen. But, I can tell you from first hand experience, our most popular articles and blog posts are the ones that take on difficult subjects and challenge agencies to reconsier the status quo, and they seem to appreciate it. We know this because they (you) tell us.
At Q4i, for about four years now, we've been using marketing as a means to set our sales process up for success, and it works. It connects with prospective clients, and it's worth every effort poured into it.
If you want to know more about how we do it and what it might look like for your agency, give us a call. We'd be happy to talk with you about it.
Photo by Casey Fleser.