Have an objective observer visit your website and those of eight or nine of your competitors. Have this individual select the two or three most impactful statements on each site and "spreadsheet" these comments on a blinded basis so that no names are included. Finally ask your team to "find themselves."
I bet they can't.
Differentiation is a buzz word in our industry and nearly non-existent in the reality of the marketplace. Almost without exception all agencies represent the same carriers, offer the same products and value-added services and process all activities on similar or identical agency management systems. See the problem?
More often than not your agency is product defined, and producer and product driven (be honest) -- rarely, if ever, do I see agencies that are truly client defined and client driven. You celebrate the "relationships" and the "technical knowledge" that are your success. You are right -- but you are also "so 1980." What you do has worked in the past for you -- evidenced by the fact that you are still here and doing well, or maybe even great. Why would you want to change?
Unfortunately for you the marketplace has changed. The marketplace likes the changes to date (the world of "E" is the new Main Street, Mall and Wall Street). This "E-market" is positioning itself for even more significant changes.
Historically, agencies had all the knowledge necessary and relationships needed and could leverage these to profit and perpetuation. Tomorrow, all knowledge necessary will be in cyberspace. Also power shifts among the generations are occurring. To Generation X and Generation Y, social media is more valuable than country club memberships and lunch at the City Club.
Gen X and Gen Y are reversing the past -- instead of Mommy and Daddy telling them where to buy insurance (business and personal), they are teaching their elders how to buy more effectively in cyberspace.
Check out this video on YouTube. Scott Klososky: Technology Futurist, CEO, Author and Keynote Speaker. This short video explains your challenge. In the words that follow, I'll be presumptuous enough to offer a solution:
Most find change difficult. In prosperous times change is "difficult on steroids." Continuing to do what you've always done, won't create change. Your future "differentiator" will be people not process or product. You'll need smart people, thinkers and creators - not doers. "Selling insurance" will not work. "Facilitating clients' buying" will.
Selling "what" you offer is not as important as "why" you offer it. (See www.ted.com ? Simon Sinek ? How great leaders inspire action) Your "purpose" will trump your products.
Agencies have enjoyed historical success. Clients don't feel as fulfilled. Most agencies are prosperous -- dumb, fat and happy. Prosperity is addictive and creates arrogance and complacency. Peter Drucker, the father of modern management theory wrote, "Whom the gods want to destroy they send forty years of success."
Are these examples of arrogance or complacency?
The executive management group in an efficient affinity group insurance company in 2001 gave up training underwriters and began hiring smart people "so we don't have to tell them everything they need to do." This innovation ended when executives found there was too much variation in activities and inconsistent results. Was this a failure of management or a failure of "smart people?" In my opinion it was yesterday's management trying to function in tomorrow's world!
A recent cartoon by Ted Goff showed two business professionals, one saying to the other, "Your idea is flawed. I just want to let you know that before I hear it." I saw this played out in real life in an agency that has fought the best innovation recently offered. This cartoon personified the fight.
A young innovator in Texas sought the genius of the diverse marketplace before introducing a "game-changer" idea. He got input from the best and the brightest in his niche. The boss criticized him by saying, "Why do you need to talk to anyone outside of our agency? Besides if there is anything we don't know we can access XYZ Consultants."
The agency system has reached the fork in the road. Do we move forward in traditional ways or step boldly into the new world of knowledge, technology and "smart" -- smart people, smart phones, smart clients, smart networks, smart media and smart innovation?
Brand yourself with "smart" -- release the power of smart - think, innovate, create and be.
Robert Frost once wrote: "Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."
Which road will you choose? Will it make a difference? Will it be "the" difference?
"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step," said Lao Tzu.
February 14, 2012
Copyright 2012© LRP Publications