In an increasingly competitive brokerage industry, how can small- to mid-sized independent brokers distinguish themselves and create a solid brand that positions them strongly with their customer base?
It’s a question that Steve Pieroway (pictured) has been asked many times. He founded his brand marketing consulting firm, Benevolent Marketing, to help insurance brokers get to the heart of their value proposition.
“I would start with the set of values that that the brokerage principal and his company follow. It must be something authentic and that can be delivered on,” said Pieroway, who is now VP of marketing at InsureLine Brokers.
The values-based approach is a powerful tool for smaller firms to leverage, especially if they’ve chosen to remain independent amid the widespread consolidation in the industry.
“Often, part of the reason a brokerage chooses to remain a certain size is intentional. They’ve decided not to sell to a consolidator and remain independent, and to me that reflects a certain value system,” Pieroway said.
“Potentially, they want to have a closer connection with customers. So, I would start with those reasons, develop your value system based around it, and try to weave them into the everyday experience.”
The most common brand stories or themes for brokerages revolve around competitive pricing, being a trusted advisor, offering customized coverage, and delivering personalized service.
But these are “risky” positions to take because most brokers will also claim to deliver those things, noted Pieroway.
He argued that smaller brokers have the advantage of being bold in their brand messaging, compared to larger consolidators. He encouraged principals to talk directly to their niche markets.
“If you think about degrees of separation from the customer to the principal, in a smaller brokerage it’s probably just one or two degrees,” Pieroway said.
“There’s this opportunity to be bolder. The larger the organization, the safer they might make their messaging, which is going to be broad because of the vast number of different businesses and segments that they work with.
“On the other hand, a smaller broker might be able to pick a segment and really talk to it. So, if I was a smaller broker, I’d one look at the larger brokers that I’m competing with and think about how I can not be like them. Because the whole point is to stand out, and I think the riskiest marketing is talking the same way as everybody else.”
Smaller brokers that don’t have a big marketing budget need to strategize more to get the most out of their spend.
“Marketing, in my mind, is a formula of your offer and your message, and how often you’re able to get that in front of a customer,” Pieroway said.
Three key actions to take are:
“The first thing I would always suggest is operationalizing the goal,” Pieroway said. “What are you trying to achieve? What do you want your outcome to be?
“For smaller brokers, I would say the next thing would be to do an analysis of your book. What is business like? What segments do you serve? What’s your average premium per policy?
“After looking at those metrics, you would then be creating some kind of differentiated offer, and for me that’s where I believe small to mid-size brokers having the advantage of being bold.”
Pieroway also had words of comfort for brokers who are afraid to push the boundaries in their messaging and marketing.
“If I push this boundary too far, what is someone going to think?” he said. “Well, to me that’s a better outcome than sounding like everybody else, and no one even thinking about you at all.”
Do you have any tips on marketing for small and mid-sized brokerages? Share your ideas in the comments below.