Almost forty years ago, a couple of advertising guys, Al Ries and Jack Trout, published a book that revolutionized how firms market and sell themselves to the public. The book, Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind — still in print and regularly updated — promotes the concept that to succeed, a product or service must achieve distinctiveness in the buyer’s mind.
Essentially, the book asks, how do you distinguish your product or service from your competitor’s? For insurance producers the question would be, Why should anyone want to buy insurance from you rather than the other agent who wants the business?
There are several strategies agents use to distinguish themselves.
One of the simplest ways to stand out is by offering lower prices. Certain insurance lines lend themselves well to this approach, particularly automobile, term life and other individual insurance policies. Offering the lowest price might be a great way to start a relationship, but in the long run you probably want customers to rely on you for qualities that endure, such as service, reliability and professionalism.
Providing good customer service is essential to the success of any business, so I’m not sure it’s that much of a differentiator. Answering phones promptly, conscientiously helping with policy changes and claims, and communicating with clients regularly with phone calls and newsletters are simply what people expect, especially today in our highly customer-service-oriented world.
Being knowledgeable, professional and resourceful will inspire clients to rely on you and help you retain their business. But again, these are qualities people expect or they wouldn’t consider doing business with you in the first place.
Helping the community is not only responsible but a good way to get your name out there. Whether you sponsor a local Little League team, 5K runs or are just active in service organizations, you want to give back to your community. Again, I’m not so sure this is as much a market differentiator as it is a communications strategy.
Designing an appealing corporate communications strategy will help you build your brand. Your logo, choice of fonts and colors will build recognition as you communicate to your audience with ads, a professional newsletter, website and other media.
These are all good strategies that may very well help you build a strong position in the buyer’s mind. In a small community, these qualities alone may be sufficient.
But the most powerful positioning strategy — the one that in the long run will trump the rest if you let the other qualities I listed guide you too — is to specialize in target markets. By identifying yourself with certain professions or industries or even products, you can stand out in the buyer’s mind in a way that few other agents may be able to. As Ries and Trout would say, now you have a place in the buyer’s mind that’s not occupied by anyone else. Instead of having competition, you are the competition. You don’t even need to stand out in the crowd. Now you stand apart from the crowd.