Finding and building a specialized insurance practice can be challenging.
In a recent PC360 webinar, Finding Success in a Niche Market: Building Blocks for Agents & Brokers, sponsored by Safeco Insurance, agents and industry experts shared their tips for building a brand as a niche expert.
Here are some of the highlights from the conversation:
The benefits of specialization
Drew Tewksbury, director of sales and marketing for McGowan Allied Specialty Insurance, said that finding a niche helped his agency stand out.
Instead of competing with thousands of generalist agents in his state, he could compete with just four or five outstanding brokerages across the country that specialized in the same area.
Brook McGuire, product strategy lead for Safeco Insurance, said that having a niche helps agents target their marketing and prospecting, making for higher conversion rates. Plus, expertise in a particular area builds trust and brings in referrals.
“The best benefit is that you’re competing on your knowledge and expertise and not your ability to turn around the fastest or cheapest quote,” McGuire said.
How to find your niche
“I’m a big fan of trying to find places to fish where other people aren’t fishing,” said Rachael Rizzi, vice president of risk management for Branch Benefits Consultants, explaining that emerging markets and emerging risks can be great places to find a niche. If you’re willing to take a risk and figure out how to help clients in those emerging places, you will automatically own that niche, she said.
McGuire suggested agents start by finding something they love or know a lot about and building a niche around it. After all, she said, there’s an unlimited number of niches. You could specialize in insurance boat owners, or horse owners, or model train enthusiasts.
For his part, Tewksbury said he found his niche by looking at his book of business and identifying an underserved industry. He started asking a lot of questions and doing deep dives in the industry segments to learn about the market.
How to build a successful practice around a niche
Once an agent has identified a potential niche, it’s time to do a lot of research, Rizzi said.
Where are your potential customers getting coverage now? What are their pain points? Who are the big players in the niche? How can you add value that they’re not getting now?
It’s important to understand the marketplace for that niche from a holistic, 360-degree view, she said.
Michael Herzak II, vice president of Insurance Systems Group, Inc., says it’s also important to find good carrier partners. Agents should ask carriers about their appetite for the particular niche, their knowledge in the niche industry, and their history with insuring niche segments.
Tactics for success
Succeeding in a niche requires that an agent establish themselves as a trusted expert in that space.
“Be everywhere,” Tewksbury said. “If you’re focusing on an industry, you have to be immersed in that industry so that people know you.”
This may include getting involved in local trade associations, writing articles for industry magazines and blogs, speaking at conferences or doing webinars.
It also helps find the ancillary groups that support that industry. For example, finding the attorneys or CPAs or regulators that work in that niche. Getting to know those people can help agents build a mutually beneficial referral network and also add value to clients by acting as a connector.
For those without a ton of expertise in a niche, McGuire said, it can help to talk to potential customers to get to know what’s important to them. This will help you test your ideas for marketing messages to see what connects.
She suggests building a visible brand around the niche – creating business cards specific to the niche, building out a website or landing page on your agency website about your niche services, using social media to connect with others in the niche.
How to tell if it’s working
It can take some time to build momentum in a niche. McGuire suggested that agents be patient when things are getting started, slowly ramp up, and test marketing methods. She said to every prospect how they found your agency so you can focus on which channels are most effective.
Agents should also track their return on investment – how much they spent to acquire a new client – and their response rates for marketing messages.
Tewksbury advises agents to build a business plan that includes milestone goals for premium. Most agency management systems make it easy to track data, he says, and if you focus on the process, before you know it, you will reach those milestones and pass them.
Watch the full webinar for more great insights on building a strong niche. Register through PC360 to get access to the full recording for free.