I recently found myself in need of a pair of running shoes.
I did an online search and found a couple of “running store aggregators”—virtual catalogs offering several brands of running shoes. The website functionality allowed me to view the sneakers, rotate them 360 degrees and look at them from different angles. I could buy them with the click of a button and they would ship directly to my door—no sales tax or shipping charges involved.
I didn’t buy at that point, but I was favorably impressed.
Later, during a business trip, I went into a running shoe store to take a look around. An associate greeted me with a friendly inquiry: “Tell me about your running habits.” I responded there wasn’t much to tell—I’m a Clydesdale type of plodder who wears a size 14. I also mentioned I was recovering from a calf strain.
The associate asked my current brand of running shoe and informed me that I should be wearing a running shoe with a higher heel, which reduces the strain on the calf. He then recommended a different brand, which I purchased and which appears to be working.
Buying insurance is obviously a tad more complicated than buying running shoes. But there’s a lesson here. When it came to a topic in which I wasn’t an expert, I fell into the category of someone who doesn’t appreciate the nuances. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Instead I focused on superficial appearance and convenience.
Direct writers are spending billions of dollars convincing consumers that insurance is a simple purchase that should be determined by price and convenience alone. As independent agents know well, many consumers don’t realize their insurance coverage doesn’t fit their needs until the time of a claim—when it’s too late.
My experience buying running shoes serves as a reminder of a few key sales and marketing strategies:
1) Spend time with the customer. Don’t just ask what they want—invest some time in learning about their specific situation and objectives so you can help them arrive at the right fit.
2) Since consumers don’t know what they don’t know about insurance, refresh your agency’s website and use social media to educate them about relevant insurance topics.
3) Most consumers start their search online, so make sure your agency takes steps to show up in search engine results. Participating in TrustedChoice.com as an Advantage subscriber is a great place to start.
There is a “new normal” when it comes to marketing, and it requires investing in tools and capabilities to reach potential clients. Once you attract prospective clients to your agency, be sure to take the time to extoll the advantages independent agents provide. Don’t procrastinate—hit the ground running and embrace a new approach while emphasizing your unique value proposition.
Dave Evans is a certified financial planner and an IA contributor.