People don’t buy what you sell. They buy you and your ideas. And when all you talk about are your products, you’re losing potential buyers.

I’m always looking at websites and researching trends as we partner with agencies to develop their marketing strategies and build their websites. One of the “trends” I see way too often is not one that I’d recommend following: Agencies seem to genuinely believe people want to buy their insurance products.

This may sound kind of funny considering insurance is the business. But at Q4i, we’ve long argued that no one wants to buy insurance. They only do it because they have to for some reason: They want to attract and retain talented people at their companies; the government tells them they have to; their employees ask for/demand it.

Even when the employer feels good about providing the health insurance to the employees, no one wakes up and says, “Today is gonna be a great day because I get to research health plans and the brokers that sell them! And it’s going to cost me a fortune! But that’s okay, because my employees are all going to love it and stay with me forever!”

No. That doesn’t happen.

What does happen is employers decide they are going to begin offering insurance, or they decide they want to look for a new consultant, and they start talking with people, asking around, searching online, and essentially window-shopping various agencies/consulting firms.

You’re boring me to tears

What they see for the most part are agency websites that say the same, dreadfully boring, product and service-focused things. Everywhere.

Half of the websites are at least five years old. And talk about nothing but the type of insurance products they offer, the great relationships they have with the carriers, and that they “personalize” their service to their clients.

Right. Same products, same carriers, different clients. We know the drill.

The other half of the sites have been freshened up in the last couple of years and look more modern. This is an instant relief! As soon as we see these sites, our confidence in the agency grows. But then we’re left with the sad realization that it is still the exact same message with a freshened-up look.

Your offering has changed and now your marketing needs to change

It’s no secret that the independent agency model has shifted from being a product-selling business to being an advice-and-results driven business (which really means you’re becoming consulting firms). And in that shift, you also need to seriously reevaluate your method of marketing and selling this advice-and-results model.

Okay, but where do we start? Start by going to websites for consulting firms. They have always been in the advice-and-results business. And you’ll notice a drastically different experience.

They aren’t selling or pitching products. They are prolifically sharing their ideas.

Because they well know that if you don’t connect with their ideas and the way they think, they know that you’ll never appreciate and follow their advice, and then you’ll never get the results you need and want.

Selling ideas

Go to McKenzie & Company or Booz Allen Hamilton or Accenture and what you’ll find is a virtual magazine of thought provoking content. Probably so much that you’ll feel overwhelmed by all the amazing headlines you want to read, and you’ll get lost in the site and have to pull yourself away for a much-needed brain break.

When you love the ideas a firm is sharing through articles, videos, white papers, webinars, and other assorted content they’ve created, you’ll start wondering how you can become a client of theirs and have this type of information directly as a part of your brain trust.

At the point you buy into their ideas, you’ll buy just about anything they recommend – product, service, or otherwise. Because you believe in them and you’re building trust in them and how they can potentially help you.

Think this doesn't apply to insurance agencies? Go check out the national brokers and you'll see that they, too, are beginning to move toward this content-forward approach. And keep in mind that these are the comparison sites your prospects are seeing when doing their research.

Hawking products

Now, if someone just wants an insurance product and doesn’t care about ideas and advice, you might be a great match.

And if all they care about is simply a transaction to get the job done, and you’ve got a dated looking website, chances are pretty good that they’ll alternately be lured by an online competitor who promises an easy, no-hassle transaction with a fresh and modern look and way of doing business.

If, as the agency, you have this product-hawking website, yet want to attract people for long-term relationships where you can be their much-coveted “trusted advisor”, I’m sorry to say that they’re going to look right past you.

Products vs. Ideas

Promoting products doesn’t sell your capabilities as a professional services company. Promoting your ideas does.

This is a reality very few agencies have recognized, which means there is nothing but opportunity for the taking.

Employers are craving a new broker experience. A prospect recently said to one of our clients during a first meeting, “I hate you guys – insurance brokers. I hate your industry.” Not a very welcome conversation to walk into. But it’s the reality that the industry is not delivering to employers what they want and need in today’s environment.

Product hawking is out. Compelling ideas and advice are in.

Two things you can start doing right away to promote your ideas

  1. If you do any blog writing, share the articles on the home page of your website. And I don’t want to see articles about your summer picnic. I want to see ideas you have about the industry and how you help clients make good business decisions and drive new results.
  2. Spend time on LinkedIn every day. Share your ideas in micro-posts and as lead-ins to relevant articles. Participate in what others are saying through comments. The more you let others see how you think, the more opportunity the right buyers will be drawn to you. Create your own noise.

As a consultant, you’re interviewing for the role of business advisor for potential clients. You can maintain a narrow focus and help them with insurance, or you can broaden your scope and be an advisor around all things related to managing employees and/or risk. What they both see and hear from you will determine the role they consider hiring you for.

Review your website and sales conversations – what role are your prospects interviewing you for?

Photo by Random Retail.

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