Tired of Being a Generalist? Here's How to Specialize

Tired of Being a Generalist? Here’s How to Specialize

Niche and New Markets, Personal Lines

Building a book of preferred business is simultaneously the easiest and the hardest thing to do, especially for newer producers who are just starting out.

If you ask them who they’re targeting, they will say something like: “prospects who rent or own a home, have autos and a decent driving record.” Essentially, they’re targeting nearly anyone who lives within 25 (or 2,500) miles of their office!

If you’ve spent any time marketing, you know how difficult it is to craft a message. It’s even harder to develop a compelling message that will appeal to 100,000, or even 100, people. Imagine crafting a marketing message to all people who like to be outdoors. Do they like hiking and camping? Playing flag football? Going to the zoo? Going fishing? Hosting an alfresco dinner party?

How do you capture the attention of each group of people while still being pertinent to their actual interest? You’d have to water down your message such that your message will be bland and non-specific.

In insurance, the only universal messaging is around price, but that’s the domain of direct carriers who can’t offer the same benefits as an independent agent. Focusing on price alone is a losing proposition for IAs. Instead, you need to show potential customers the unique value only you can offer.

You have superpowers – use them!

So, what can you do? Focus on your unique superpowers of ease, choice and advice; then, direct your messaging to a very specific target customer. It’s much easier to build content, convey your brand, and persuade your audience to consult you for a quote when you’re speaking their language!

Nearly every insurance agency is targeting the same home and auto customers you are. Nearly every insurance professional’s business card says they sell home, auto and business (and maybe life and health, too).

Instead of quoting those same home/auto customers who are only interested in the cheapest coverage, you would probably prefer to spend your time quoting customers who:

  • Are more likely to value coverage over price
  • Are more likely to buy insurance from a trusted advisor
  • Deliver a four- to five-point improvement in your retention and loss ratio
  • Have preferred-customer attributes, like discretionary income
  • Deliver 2x the written premium per account
  • Refer you to their friends and family
  • Prefer to bundle all their policies together with one expert advisor

Sounds like a dream demographic, right?

According to Liberty Mutual consumer and product research, these are the attributes of customers who have specialty exposures, like rental properties, watercraft, motorcycles, ATVs, collector cars, RVs and more.

Focusing on specialty lines as the lead line of business can help you attract a more preferred customer base –customers who value the ease, choice and advice offered by an independent agent. These customers value a trusted advisor and want to ensure their passion project is fully protected.

To go big, get narrow

Many producers are trying to build a book of 500 to 1,000 (give or take) households. To get there, they offer to quote virtually anyone who will submit a dec page. Instead of taking such a broad approach, identify a niche in which you have interest or experience. It can be a product-level niche, like watercraft, or hyper-targeted, like sailboats or bass boats. This allows you to direct your marketing efforts to speak the language of your prospect. For example, the needs of fishers are different from those who wakeboard.

Imagine crafting a marketing message to people who live to fish. You can share very specific coverages that will be of interest (like fishing equipment protection and on-water emergency assistance), show your knowledge of their favorite hobby, and easily issue an enticing call to action.

The needs-opportunity is identical for any specialty niche you select. Landlords need an expert advisor who can coach them through coverages like tenant injury, guest liability and wrongful eviction. The needs of RVers can be complex, too. In addition to protecting their motorhome or travel trailer, they need expert advice on premises liability, contents protection and travel territory.

Which niche is right for you?

If you already own a toy or a rental property, you’re more than halfway there. But what if you don’t? Do you have an interest in any of the toys? For example, do you love getting out on the water? Love camping/traveling? Love car shows and cruise-ins? If so, you have a head start on building out a niche for yourself.

If you don’t feel comfortable with your current knowledge, there are many places you can turn for help.

  • First, visit the dealerships and mechanics in your community. They’re a great source of information regarding the types of vehicles most often sold in your area and the damage/claims they see regularly. You might be able to quote their personal and commercial insurance, too!
  • Once you’ve identified a niche or two, spend some time on the internet. An afternoon online can yield coverage ideas and questions to ask your prospects and everything you ever wanted to know about the different makes and models in your chosen niche. Visit popular manufacturer sites, vehicle valuation sites and your carrier’s product pages, as well.
  • Finally, use what you’ve learned to start attracting your prospects. There are many methods of marketing. For example, Facebook and other social media sites are a great way to talk to your chosen audience. You can even join (or start) groups centered around your niche. You can also set up a booth at local events/festivals/shows. This will let you meet people who may be in the market to buy.

In conclusion, by narrowing your focus down to a very targeted customer, you’re more likely to have success marketing, attracting and issuing policies. Plus, by focusing on specialty consumers, like landlords, boaters and RVers, you’re more likely to find a preferred customer who values the ease, choice and advice offered by the independent agent.

Brook McGuire

Product Strategy Lead – Safeco Insurance

Brook is responsible for go-to-market strategy and product marketing for Safeco Insurance personal lines products and Liberty Mutual’s small commercial products. With 20+ years of industry experience, Brook has a diverse background from sales to marketing to underwriting to operations. She loves helping independent agents win, is a self-proclaimed insurance geek, and she’s a watercraft, motorcycle and classic car enthusiast.

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Jen Rolbiecki
4 years ago

Great tips Brook! As a family involved in the off road community, I can tell you that it really does make a difference when you can speak the language and connect through personal interest.

Marcus Head
4 years ago

Brook, can you help me with a market strategy for watercraft? My family are avid boaters in on North Georgia lakes. We have a 24 ft Searay and spend one day every summer weekend on our favorite lake.

Rich Dandridge
3 years ago

Loved the article!!! I trout fish and can definitely use this info as part of a marketing campaign!!!
Thank You!!

Rich Dandridge
3 years ago

I fish at Taneycomo and Tablerock Lakes a lot! This is a great idea to create a very strong niche book!!!

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