In the book Differentiate or Die, marketing guru Jack Trout talks about a Brand Keys study that found that motor oil, banks and insurance company brands have ZERO differentiation in the mind of the consumer. Zero. How is that possible? After the tens of millions of advertising dollars these companies have spent telling the consumer how great our bank is or how caring our insurance company has been over its hundred-plus years of existence? Two reasons: The first is what I call the Tyranny of Choice. The second is its evil sister, Commoditization.
A Public Relations Challenge
Our clients and prospects have been battered financially over the past couple of years. And whether it’s true or not, the perception out there is that the financial sector has been complicit in the pillage, while lining its own pockets. Our own pockets! So by mere association, whether we are selling insurance inside a bank, as a captive agent or working independently…we are guilty. We are one of them. Add to that the perception that still exists out there that insurance salesmen are the financial industry equivalent of the stereotypical cheesy used car salesman, and we’ve got problems.
But our professional image is only the first of our obstacles to overcome. Rightly or wrongly, our products simply do not rank high on the “need” scale. After all, when I am having trouble paying bills, I’m certainly not going to spend more money on financial planning and/or insurance. Besides, how can I tell the good guys from the bad? (We’ve become a commodity, remember?) And let’s not forget our friends in Washington who continue to burden the electorate with increased regulation, more debt and more doubt.
Time For A Change
So, it should be obvious that we need to change both the content and the tone of our conversations with prospects and customers. This includes how we communicate with our audience as well. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t have enough to read? Of course not. That’s because we have moved from the information age to the information overload age. Our customers are bombarded with offers throughout the day. Their smart phones are getting smarter – and more intrusive. But we can’t seem to turn them off.
So why in the world would we believe our customers would be interested in reading anything about insurance or financial planning? It falls into the category of background noise. Why? Because we continue to focus on product! We’re trying to give the answers before we even know what the questions are! And the more egregious error is – as an industry – we do not engage our clients/prospects on an emotional level to be open to a conversation.
People are Videophiles
And therein lies the mistake that we repeat over and over: Selling product. We have the best this and the most effective that. News flash: No one cares. And more importantly, no one can tell the difference among competing brands. Conceptually, they are too confusing. And where there is confusion and too much choice, there is avoidance. It’s human nature 101.
The funny thing is, we see the solution every day. It’s taking over our mobile devices, it’s played on the Internet and it runs 24/7 on hundreds of channels on our televisions People in the 21st Century are videophiles. We’ve been conditioned over the many years of exposure to it. It’s by far the most influential medium. It draws us in and motivates us to come back. Why?
Video has the ability to convey something very powerful – the ability to connect emotionally with the audience. And in a sales environment, it is the emotional buy-in that will create receptivity to move forward.
Shut Up About Product!
At the point of sale we simply need to stop talking about product. And through the use of compelling video we can do just that. A situation depicting a need that can be solved by insurance involves a prospect much more than a written or verbal sales pitch; and the fact that a video doesn’t mention the product or the tactical solution is all the more effective. “But Jerry, I’m a good storyteller. I don’t need a video to tell the story for me.” Yes you do; because the third party, objective nature of a video further disarms the prospect or client. And if the video has high enough production value, the person watching will temporarily suspend belief – you cannot get that depth of involvement unless you’re at the Dan Brown level of storytelling prowess. Remember, today access is king. You can’t be everywhere – but you’re video library can. It can be on your website. Delivered in your email. Or shown at the point of sale. It is ubiquitous and easily accessible. How cool is that?
Do we really believe that sending out newsletters is a differentiating factor anymore? Isn’t everyone sending out email newsletters – including the company selling kitchenware? Don’t forget – motor oil, insurance, banks. Consider instead a monthly video. For a nominal expense, a local videographer will come to your office and tape you speaking just about any topic…except insurance! You could send a short holiday wish for good times with family and friends, or comment on changes in government regulations and their possible impact. In fact, you can talk about any subject that portrays you and your firm as focused on the well-being of your customer, without trying to sell product. And slipped in occasionally could be the 90-second scenario that ends with a simple “If you’d like more information on a paycheck for life, contact our office.” Simple. Direct. Communicative. It conveys that you are approachable, confident, consultative, and most importantly not pushy when it comes to product.
People will remember these communications much more than anything else you do. Plus, it gives you the potential to go viral. If a short video compels them to stop and think for a moment, they’re more likely to hit the forward button and send it to a family member or friend. If something resonates emotionally, it’s touched the limbic section of the brain where there is no language but where all decisions are ultimately made. You’ve said it many times yourself. “This just feels right.”
Market forces will always put downward pressure on our ability to engage prospects and clients. Technology will continue to flood the population with data; There were one trillion unique URL’s as of one year ago. Using visual media in a compelling, clear, educational way will help cut through the clutter in the market. It will create an impression of professionalism. It will be client-focused, not product-centric. And that will move your firm closer to the rarefied air of “consultancy,” creating better retention of existing clients and more acquisition of new ones. Stop selling. Start broadcasting.