If you’re putting out fires in your business on a daily basis, you probably don’t have that much opportunity to think long-term. But a long-term plan allows you to achieve more in your business AND can help douse some of the fires you’re currently fighting. However...
We know you can’t simply snap your fingers and have your long-term strategy mapped out — developing a plan for the life of your business is a process.
In this upcoming blog post series, we’re going to share the steps of that process in bite-size chunks.
Today’s post is about getting the lay of the land by looking at industry, competitor, and agent recruiting trends.
Although you won’t follow every trend, it helps to know what’s going on around you to make appropriate decisions about where your business will go and how it will grow.
And it starts with knowing who and what you’re up against.
Check out your competition
What are your competitors doing? Not sure because you’ve been so focused on your own business?
That makes sense, but as a business owner, you need to know this in order to see where your competitive advantages are or how you can build them into what you do.
That being said, it doesn’t always mean you’ll follow. Heck, what they’re doing might not even be working! For all you know, they could be considering changing things up to follow your example.
Assessing your competition gives you one big advantage:
An opportunity to satisfy unmet needs.
By assessing the strengths and weakness of your competition, you’ll find out where you’re different and what you might be able to do or create. Because today, different is the new better. Agents and consumers alike want to see something they’ve never seen; they want to approach situations in new and inventive ways, which lets your agency say:
Hey, if you work with us — you could achieve all the goals you haven’t yet been able to because you haven’t been following a process like ours.
Everything has essentially been done before, but by looking at the best in the industry, you can find a different angle or different approach. This could open your business up to even greater opportunity.
So, where can YOUR business stand out?
- Customer experience
Be aware of industry trends
What new trends in the industry could potentially derail your business?
If we think back, the DOL Ruling was one of those trends. There were plenty of agents a couple of years ago who were simply going to retire to avoid it all. Think about how your agency or IMO handled that situation. Were you prepared?
It’s sometimes impossible to plan because … life happens. But here’s where a long-term strategy can help in emergency scenarios like this.
When you have a long-term plan in place, all your decisions can be viewed through that lens. Does whatever you’re considering help you continue toward your stated goals? That’s your answer.
Also, what industry trends can help your business be more successful?
Let’s take a look at a few other trends and the potential impact on your business:
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
We hear a lot about AI today and some of the conversation around it is a "Chicken Little" mentality –
Robots are going to take our jobs!
Instead, as business owners, we need to think about how AI can be incorporated for good in the way we do business. For example, artificial intelligence can be used in the form of automation. New tools not previously available to your agent base could actually make their jobs easier and free up time spent on tedious tasks. So they can spend more time on the human side of business.
Look for new opportunities opening up that could be a way to attract new agents to your agency or marketing organization. Your upline IMO could be a great resource for this information.
Not only could they tell you about new markets, but they should also be able to help you and your agents navigate the cases. Many times, they can involve high-net worth individuals or even ultra-high-net worth individuals and you don’t want the ball to be dropped.
Greying of the Industry
We all knew this was coming down the pipeline, but how will your business fill the void left by these agents? If they were some of your top producers, that’s an important consideration. What percentage of your production will be Poof! Gone! when your star producers retire?
More and more frequently, we’re hearing of cyber security threats and our industry will have to work to create more safeguards for consumers or open ourselves up to an extreme amount of risk.
Client data protection has always been important, but in today’s world, it’s a requirement of doing business. Not having a plan in place can not only put your clients at risk but your business in jeopardy.
What’s this landscape look like?
Does your firm tend to lean towards guarantees? Or towards products that carry more optionality to the consumer, i.e., fees to purchase higher upside?
Does your firm promote and train primarily on accumulation products? Does it make sense to move towards income protection with the uncertainty in the equity markets?
Your business needs a resource for learning how carriers are adjusting their portfolio of products, so you can stay ahead of their expectations.
Look at the carriers you do the majority of your business with — is the company outlook good/bad? Who do you want to work with in the future?
Are you aware of the new entries into the marketplace?
The way your agency ownership is structured could impact your selection of carriers to promote.
Acknowledge recruiting and employment trends
Think about the type of producers you work with and what effect that will have on your future – are your contracted agents primarily life insurance only and life insurance sales trending down?
Should you be encouraging agents you work with to broaden the scope of the products and services they can provide clients?
Do you have the right structure and services to support the changing landscape of independent financial professionals?
For example, how do you support a licensed-only agent versus a registered rep in a broker-dealer (BD), Registered Investment Advisory (RIA), or bank?
As an agency owner, you’re not only recruiting agents to your firm but also employees. There are a few key questions you should be asking:
What’s the current job environment like? If it’s more competitive, then where does that leave you in finding top-quality internal employees?
What are the candidates looking for in an employer? Do they want benefits, personal development opportunities, or other perks?
How important is it to your agency to acquire top talent?
A big part of acquiring top talent is having somebody thinking about your company culture and the customer experience you deliver — what’s working and where do things need to change to accommodate needs and compete?
Hiring or recruiting, company culture, and customer experience are highly relational aspects of our business and the subtle movement towards technology to replace that interaction could be good or bad, depending on how you approach it.
What trends could help propel your business to the next level?
Now that you’ve looked at what’s going on around you and how that might contribute to where you’d like to see your business years down the road, it's time to assess your own agency.
That’s what we’ll dive into in our next post, so stay tuned.
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