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  • Writer's pictureSteve Pieroway

Insurance brokers? Am I crazy?

“Why?”


This was my wife’s reaction when I told her I was focusing my consulting and coaching efforts on insurance brokers.


“Uhm, okay. But you know you’ve spent the last 18 years in software.”


Yes, I knew that.


But I was …


Before I finish that sentence, I need to go sideways for a minute.


I believe the key to successful service marketing starts by asking this one question: who am I serving?


It’s the headwater question. Everything is downstream of this one question. Everything.


And it’s the hardest question to answer. Most people don’t give it the credit it deserves. It’s why it’s the first thing I’m sharing about my journey. (And why it’s the first thing that gets attention with every client).


In hindsight, choosing to focus on insurance brokers would seem almost obvious. But, alas, I didn’t start out with a focus on insurance.


Here are the 3 key factors that led me to choose insurance brokers.


#1 Been there. Done that. Burned out on software.


Repeating the same journey I’d just taken with Policy Works wasn’t something I wanted to do. It was a great ride. Made life-long friends. Learned a ton.


But that was it. If I’d wanted that life, I would’ve stayed at Applied (which provided even more opportunity).


No, I needed something different.


#2 I’ve always been intrigued by service businesses.


In university I took a services marketing course, taught by Canadian Marketing Hall of Famer Jim Barnes. No other course sparked my interest and curiosity like this course.


I still remember this one paper I did on levels of consumer involvement. It didn’t even feel like work. I was hooked.


What struck me about services was the challenge of the intangible. The invisible. Everything to that point I’d learned about marketing was really product focused. This was different.


#3 The 20% realization


When I first started consulting in October of 2021, I thought, “I’m going to start with a focus on service businesses, both white and blue collar.”


Everything from contractors, lawyers, accountants, dentists, insurance brokers.


My thought process was, “Hey, all of these service business owners have like 80% of their marketing challenges in common. I can speak to that 80% and win a ton of business.”



So I started consulting in a couple of different industries, doing projects.


And what I found was that, yes, the 80% similarity in challenges held. Broad buckets like target market, positioning and messaging were common.


But it was in the other 20% - the industry specific content, the language, the nuances - that’s where the real cheesecake was. I mean, you can only get to the meaty stuff, the stuff that matters, when you truly understand the industry you’re serving.


And you need that deep knowledge to get past the generic type of work that is often a start, but not enough to move the needle.


(At Policy Works, we hired a number of consultants to help with strategy and sales. Look, I like being pushed to think about things differently. And I believe in the value of consultants to help do that.


But when you work with someone for a day or two, and they don’t know your industry intimately, there’s only so much you can expect. What you get out is often a repackaged version of the vision you already knew. I didn’t want to operate like that.)


Back to the 20% realization and focus. The one industry I knew something about was the insurance industry.


So in September of 2022, I decided to focus solely on insurance.


Now, I initially thought, “Oh man, am I crazy? I’ve immediately shrunk the total market I could sell my services to. I went from all of these industries to way less.”


And at the strictly headcount, breathing, walking business owners level, maybe I’d shrunk my market.


But what do I know about the accounting ecosystem? Or law? Or contractors?


Nothing.


And to do the kind of work I was thinking about, to make the impact I wanted to make, I had to go deep.


So I chose insurance. Specifically, insurance brokers.


My thought process: start narrow. One audience. One common set of challenges. One message. Create one offer that works. That helps brokers (specifically producers) dial in their marketing.


But is it really a narrow focus?


There are 38,000 brokers across Canada (according to IBAC). Which means there are thousands of brokerages and thousands of producers.


That’s a big market. Surely big enough to start with.


And when you look at other geographic markets, like the US, Australia, UK, etc., who have similar insurance industries, well, that’s a BIG market.


What first felt small, got big. At least potentially. Which gave me a moment to breathe and focus.


Focusing on one industry allowed me to:

  • Save time having to learn about all of these other industries

  • Leverage the brand awareness (albeit limited) I had within the Canadian insurance market

  • Start creating a service offer based on what I already knew about the challenges brokers face

  • Combine my knowledge and expertise with the challenges specific to brokers

  • Connect with brokers using targeted messaging


As I said, the first question I ask clients is, “What industry do you focus on?”


I ask participants to choose an industry. It doesn’t mean that producer or brokerage is going to only do that kind of business. Far from it.


But when building out a marketing strategy, when you’re trying to show expertise, trying to bring specific help to an audience, they should know that you truly understand them and their struggle, because there’s always a struggle to reach some aspirational thing <fill in the goal>.


That’s why for me, my target industry focus is insurance brokerages.


Next week I’ll dive into the model I used to build my messaging strategy.




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