As COVID cases fall and vaccinations ramp up, the world is inching closer to some semblance of normalcy. This development is a welcome sight for brokers who’ve been hit hard by clients’ businesses shutting doors, moving to alternatives for coverage, or simply refocusing energy away from their insurance needs.
However, some of the biggest challenges brokers faced this past year will likely persist. Brokers need to make plans of action to thrive, not just survive.
Learn more on: 10 Ways to 10x Your Book of Business Guide
Across the country, brokers face the reality of plummeting insurance premiums, increased competition, and the growing popularity of state-run insurance funds. For example, it’s estimated state funds now insure more than 40 percent of California businesses.
Brokers who, in the past, secured and retained business primarily on a cost basis should anticipate more difficult days ahead.
At BBSI, we expect some fundamental industry shifts that will become a more permanent part of our working landscape, including:
Our customers will be more selective about services they pay for and seek a better “bang for their buck” in HR and workers’ compensation products. They will want assurance their brokers provide them the best advice and service. Insurance is a commodity we all need but hope not to use. If your clients understand how they manage their X-Mods and take control of their premiums, they will be more motivated than ever to implement changes.
For many years, successful brokers relied on standard sales tactics like mailers, cold calls, knocking on doors, and working their referral networks. Brokers who fail to adjust to the new realities and best practices will quickly fall behind their more innovative competitors (or colleagues).
The problem is, these brokers are some of the most talented and experienced in the industry. If the insurance world is to bounce back quickly, agencies across the country will have to work cohesively to implement new strategies.
The following are a few tips to overcoming change resistance in the insurance industry.
Changing team culture starts at the top, with a shift in attitude and thinking among the leaders on the team. The right message can encourage both new and existing producers to implement the industry’s most successful strategies.
By promoting open-minded thinking, you set a precedent for agents to follow and quickly adapt to changing conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of why agencies must learn to be agile and adaptable. Producers who previously depended on in-person interactions had to rethink strategies completely. The brokerages thriving right now are the ones that implemented digital tools for communication and outreach, such as video conferencing, email marketing, social media, and more.
Keep your eye on the future to identify potential threats to renewals and new clients. Competition in the insurance industry is changing as aggressive, comprehensive business service providers like ADP and Paychex get serious about expanding their markets.
Many brokers have seen or experienced these PEO’s common tactics of getting their foot in the door with payroll services at first before slowly taking over related services on the backend, including workers’ compensation, benefits administration, and more.
If your client begins payroll services with one of these providers, you’ll likely have to play catch up and fend off these providers from cannibalizing your services.
Partnering with the right team, such as BBSI, allows you to offer more services while protecting your book of business. With a business model focused on a true partnership with brokers, BBSI provides value to the client-broker relationship. Rather than replacing the broker, it empowers them to offer more services to their current clients to support the growth of their book of business.
Insurance brokers often make the mistake of maintaining a siloed approach in their businesses by only offering insurance solutions. To break out of this, brokers should consider building a local network of referral partners outside the insurance industry. By connecting with related providers, such as financial advisors, payroll services, merchant services, and even printing companies, brokers can build a community that proactively helps each other’s client bases and improves their processes in each area.
When someone asks one of your partners for an insurance referral, you want to be sure your name comes to mind. Likewise, you can strengthen the relationship by referring clients to your partners’ businesses. Networking connections can have a night-and-day difference in whether a client is happy or dissatisfied with the overall service you provide.
As arduous as the pandemic has been, it is one in a series of stumbling blocks that have challenged agents’ ability to expand their book of business for years.
What’s certain is that the old ways of prospecting don’t work as well as they once did. To remain competitive, brokers need to embrace new technologies and modern marketing techniques. Using more targeted, strategic, and arguably efficient outreach tactics consistently will help you break through your current plateau and breathe new life into your business.
Want to skip to the action plan? See our ten best tips to 10x your book of business here.
It’s said that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. But if you don’t know where you’re going, that first step can lead you in the wrong direction. Consistent growth requires planning.
Look six months into the future. Where would you like your agency or your book of business to be? Choose ambitious (but realistic) goals and lock them in. Let these goals guide your actions over the coming months.
Now decide how best to achieve these goals. If you’ve chosen to work with a marketing agency, they’ll take the lead on tactics and implementation. If not, you’ll need to plot your strategy. Ask yourself what sorts of collateral will reach your desired audience most efficiently. Which touchpoints — like email, social media, phone calls, and mailers - will you use? How will you acquire the needed skills? What sorts of contact databases will you use, and how will you find them?
Remember that while your goals shouldn’t change once set, your strategy should be fluid. Every few weeks, check on your progress. Make changes to tactics that aren’t performing well. Pour more resources into those that are. Experiment, A/B test, refine, and iterate. Keep your goals in sight even as the path forward changes.
You can’t be all things to all people. Every industry has eccentricities and unique requirements a blanket approach can’t fulfill. If you try to appeal to everyone, you may find that you aren’t appealing to anyone.
Instead, choose a few verticals to focus on and learn the industries inside and out. Discover their triggers, worries, and challenges. Find out what drives their decision-making and what they need to be successful. You can use this information to craft compelling marketing messages that ring true and address what’s most important to them.
If you’re considering enlisting the aid of a marketing agency, look for one with experience targeting your chosen industries. These agencies already know your audiences’ pain points and can speak to them with authority. They’ll get you in front of the right people with blog content, Instagram posts, automated email campaigns, and a host of other tactics to establish your credibility within your verticals far more rapidly than you could alone.
Warm leads are always preferable to cold, but the latter still have a place in any thorough outreach plan. The trick is to use data intelligently to optimize these efforts for maximum impact.
For example, workers’ compensation policies are generally 12-month contracts with a renewal date. In the past, brokers had no way of knowing when competing policies were up for renewal, but today, you can purchase lists with relevant renewal dates. Armed with that information, you can create targeted email campaigns designed to attract customers to your policies in advance of those renewal dates.
There’s plenty of data out there, waiting for you to parlay it into effective marketing campaigns. You just need to know where to find it. A professional marketing agency can help. They know how to acquire the data that can give you a competitive advantage. And they have the expertise to utilize that information best. Enlisting an agency’s help could be money well spent.
The days of “set it and forget it” are gone. Competition from other brokers is steep. State funds are stepping up their service offerings, and comparison markets are driving down rates. If you’re not offering your clients value beyond a policy, there’s a good chance someone else will.
Take stock of your performance. How often do you communicate with clients? Are you checking in to see if their business situation has changed? The pandemic and other factors have created a volatile environment. Plans that you made six months ago may need to be revised to reflect evolving conditions better. Make sure that you’re providing your clients a partner and not just a policy.
It’s equally important to evaluate your clients’ present situation and help them forecast future needs. Renewals don’t require a lot of upkeep, so that’s where many brokers put their focus. They approach their book of business with the thought, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Except that if you’re not checking in with your clients — learning where they plan to be six months to a year in the future — you won’t know if it’s broken.
At BBSI, we don’t focus on annual renewals. We work to ensure clients stay with us for the life of their business. We use renewals as an opportunity to align our solutions with the business’s future needs. To become invaluable to clients, ask them questions about their future growth plans, their ability to scale, and what their future threats will be. Not only does this practice ensure that we’re providing relevant service, but it also demonstrates our commitment to the customer and strengthens the relationship. Strong relationships are the basis for long-term retention.
You’re a broker. People come to you for their insurance needs. If they’re looking for payroll support, they’ll have to look elsewhere. If they need HR support, you can’t help them.
Or can you?
If you’re consistently and earnestly staying ahead of client needs, this is where you can make an impact. You’re not an HR professional, but you probably know a few. You can help your clients in ways unrelated to your professional expertise by referring quality professional service providers. Leveraging your network in this way sets you up as a trusted advisor. You become a hub for services and advice outside of your purview, which naturally adds value to your relationships and insulates your value from price-based risk.
As a side benefit, when you refer clients to other professionals, they’ll return the favor. Suddenly everyone you know becomes a potential source for new business leads.
The plain truth is, brokers and traditional PEOs have had strained relationships in many parts of the country for decades. Although large PEOs claim to partner with brokers, they often contact a broker's client directly to slowly take over lines of insurance and support in crucial business areas.
These large PEOs hope their name recognition and breadth of services and product offerings will allow them to take over established broker-client relationships.
And it's working.
As mentioned above, traditional large PEOs can absolutely threaten a broker’s book of business for the reasons outlined above. However, that’s also what makes options like BBSI so attractive. BBSI is a broker's best defense against the threat of predatory PEO providers.
Rooted in the essence of true partnership, BBSI’s business model depends on brokers' trust to thrive.
There’s a reason why BBSI clients stay with BBSI at a 90% retention rate. Below is a list of the ways BBSI differs from a traditional PEO:
While the insurance industry felt the crunch from increased price sensitivity from clients, the cheap comp market, and technological shifts for years, the pandemic effectively pushed these effects into hyperdrive.
And yes, while many of your clients and leads will return to pre-pandemic life shortly, many others will not. Remote work and shifting communication preferences will continue to influence how brokers rebuild their books.
Clients will come back to the office likely revenue-short and risk-averse. Brokers will have to work overtime to show value to keep their clients’ attention.
Luckily, with the right help, brokers can use this time as an opportunity to ingratiate themselves further into their clients' business. Strategic partnerships, regular check-ins, and efficient new outreach tactics will go a long way to getting ahead in this changing environment.