Look Smarter: Where to Find a Commercial Niche

About half of agencies currently specialize in a market niche like construction and contractors, restaurants or agriculture, according to the latest Future One Agency Universe Study.

If you’re considering using specialization as a commercial success strategy, here are three ways to start developing your niche.

Get involved. Carolyn Reynolds, principal and producer at Reynolds Insurance Agency headquartered in Berea, Kentucky, will serve as president of the local homebuilders association this year—a perfect in for an agency that specializes heavily in construction and contractors.

“You have to get involved in your local homebuilders association, chamber of commerce, economic development, planning and zoning—anything that’s going on in your community,” Reynolds suggests.

Greg Sandrock, partner at The Cornerstone Agency, Inc. in Tampico, Illinois, which specializes in agriculture, uses a similar strategy—with a twist.

Because the demographics of the ag industry are not too different from those of the insurance industry, “we go to specific conferences and meetings that are geared toward farming in the future,” Sandrock explains. “We focus on that next generation of farmers.”

Remove the transaction. ISU-Lipstone Insurance Group in Cary, North Carolina, which specializes in restaurants, seeks to make inroads in the restaurant community without relying on those connections to be a source of future business.

“You have to try to provide some value beyond just insurance,” says Josh Lipstone, vice president. “We’ll go in and meet with a restaurant owner to provide tips, training for their employees, education on how to best market their restaurant—without a string attached of, ‘Hey, I’m going to do this and then I’ll quote your insurance.’”

Solicit referrals. That strategy helps strengthen your reputation as a trustworthy expert, Lipstone says—to the point where now, the agency is “able to utilize referral sources from not only our clients, but also centers of influence—the CPAs, real estate agents and attorneys we work with will recommend their clients to us because we have an expertise in this area.”

“Word of mouth can make or break you,” Reynolds agrees. “We’ve built up a good name for ourselves.”

Jacquelyn Connelly is IA senior editor.

In Touch

According to the latest Agency Universe Study, here are the top five ways agents communicate with commercial prospects:

■   Referrals: 53%

■   Personal visits: 30%

■   Regular phone calls: 24%

■   Cold calling: 24%

■   Business/civic association meetings: 23% —J.C.