With a growing number of traditional and alternative distribution channels entering the insurance marketplace, producers must continue to reinvent themselves to remain relevant and gain the attention of the distracted, overwhelmed and increasingly elusive insurance buyer.
One strategy gaining momentum is niche selling. The premise behind it is simple: Buyers like to know that the people they are buying from possess expertise in their industry and can provide a high level of service and insight on the issues that matter to them.
Niche sellers aren’t bogged down trying to learn about several different industries. Instead, they immerse themselves in two or three. Rather than being outsiders looking in, they consider themselves part of the industry and therefore capable of making valuable contributions to it.
Becoming a niche seller takes commitment and a plan, but the rewards can be immense. Aaron Ross, author of “From Impossible to Inevitable: How Hyper-Growth Companies Create Predictable Revenue,” defines a niche as “the ability to solve a specific pain for an ideal target customer in a believable, repeatable way with predictable methods to a) Find and b) Interest them.”
Let’s look at five steps that will help you gain “nichepertise”:
Step 1: Assess your existing book of business. Do you have pockets of business within certain industries? Does your current book reveal any natural extensions?
For example, let’s say you find that most of your clients fall into hospitals, transportation, assisted living and landscaping categories. Natural extensions to these sectors might include vendors that serve these industries—medical supply companies, home health care providers, medical waste haulers and industrial food service providers.
Step 2: Quantify your opportunities. Now that you’ve identified some niche-building opportunities, it’s time to explore how many are within your geographic reach. Remember, you need enough prospects to make it worth your while to invest the time it takes to really understand the needs of a particular group.
Quantifying your opportunities will require some research on your part. Begin with some simple Google searches. You want to see hundreds of opportunities, not dozens. A statewide search for medical waste haulers, for example, reveals 300 potential prospects—not bad for about 10 minutes of work.
From there, build out a list of prospects with website addresses and contact information, including email addresses, mailing addresses and phone numbers. You can then expand your research to find X dates and carrier information.
Step 3: Identify common pain points. To solve a prospect’s specific problem, you must understand the most common challenges and risks they face. Focus on challenges that impact sustainability, profitability, competitiveness, insurability and growth. A good brainstorming session with your colleagues, underwriters and clients can help you uncover real insights that will be beneficial to both you and your prospects.
Be sure to stay away from one-off challenges. Instead, focus on recurring issues that can have a big impact on a business. If you’ve ever been frustrated by supplemental applications, now is the time to embrace them. Questions on these apps are asked for a reason. Use them to your advantage.
Finally, research LinkedIn groups that cater to your prospects’ industry to learn about hot discussion topics. Reading these threads can help you gain insights and prepare questions to ask prospects.
Step 4: Develop a compelling value proposition. Your value proposition must answer the question, “Why should this prospect choose me as their agent versus other options in the marketplace?”
Building a persuasive value proposition takes some thought. Don’t rush through this important step—this is where you gain confidence about what differentiates you from competitors by answering questions like:
- Why you do what you do?
- How you do what you do?
- What is the impact of what you do?
Step 5: Develop your messaging strategy. Your last step is to let your prospects know you exist. Capturing their attention requires you to embrace a consistent and effective messaging strategy that piques their curiosity.
Keep your messages focused on the risk of not doing business with you. Shake things up with a steady stream of emails, direct mail and phone calls. Incorporate podcasts, blog posts, social media and videos that are relevant to them and their business objectives.
You won’t become an expert overnight, but over time, you’ll begin to view yourself as a contributor to the industries you are seeking to serve. Eventually, your prospects will, too.
Susan Toussaint, partner and co-founder of Oceanus Partners, provides agents and brokers with strategies that help them more effectively pique the curiosity of business owners and decision-makers and lead them away from the flawed process of bidding and quoting insurance, toward a more effective client engagement strategy.