What makes your agency clearly different than your competitors? Why should a prospect do business with you? Most importantly, why should a customer continue doing business with you? Before you say something like “we give great service” or “we save people money”, think again. Those phrases are not differentiators because they are not quantifiable facts. Those are your opinions and your competitors will probably say the same things about their agencies. Thus, if you say that about your agency, you’re not any different than your competitors.
One way to stand out in the crowd is by creating a Unique Selling Proposition, or USP. It’s a short description of what makes your agency irrefutably different than your competitors and declares a promise that you’re making to your customers and prospects. Folks often confuse the USP with a catchy tagline which it is not. The USP is THE compelling reason why a buyer should purchase from you. The goal of a good USP is to create a perception of difference between your agency and your competition.
The fact is that you’re in the insurance business and to the typical buyer your agency is probably not perceived any differently than all the other insurance marketers. The question now becomes how do you discover what makes your agency different and how do you communicate that?
The first place to start is to take a look at your competitors. In addition to pricing, some points of differentiation are variety, coverages, benefits such as additional services, availability, convenience and customer service just to name a few. What advantages do you have over them and vice versa? Here are some places to look:
- Do you have more carriers available? (i.e. more variety)
- Do you serve a niche market? (i.e. specialization)
- Do you offer longer office hours? (i.e. convenience)
- Do you have a dedicated claims person? (i.e. expertise)
- Do you have 24 hour claims service? (i.e. convenience)
- Do you have a dedicated person for certificates of insurance? (i.e. expertise)
- Do you make house calls? (i.e. convenience)
- Do customers and prospects have easy access to your office? (i.e. convenience)
- Do you guarantee a quote within a certain amount of time? (i.e. reliability)
- Do you guarantee a return phone call within a certain amount of time? (i.e. reliability)
This list is by no means complete. I don’t know your specific agency and your marketplace so it’s impossible to offer a cookie cutter solution. That said, hopefully this short list will be helpful in the brainstorming process.
The next place to look for ideas for your USP is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. I once heard someone say “If you want to know why John Smith buys, you have to see the world through John Smith’s eyes”. What is it that customers and prospects really want? They may tell you that they want lower premiums but I’d be willing to bet that pricing isn’t the only reason they’re shopping. Take note of what makes people happy and what makes them mad and make accommodations to satisfy those wants and needs. Then you can use this as fuel for your USP.
While the products and services you offer are not necessarily different than those of your competitors, you can differentiate your agency in other areas. The point is that you need to uncover distinct attributes that make your agency more attractive to the target market you serve. Here’s an example: suppose you discover that most or all of your competitors close by 5pm AND you’ve gotten some after-hours voicemails regarding new business. Perhaps you can change your hours and close later. Then you can create a USP around your new, more convenient hours. The USP could sound like: “We have longer office hours just for you”. Here’s another example: let’s say that you write a lot of contractors and you find that they need insurance certificates quickly and that’s something you can accommodate without much trouble. How about a USP that sounds like “Insurance certificates issued within 10 minutes”?
Creating a rock solid USP is not an easy exercise but it’s one of the most effective ways to separate your agency from your competitors, attract more customers and increase retention. As you’re doing the research to write your USP, you may discover that your agency may not be a whole lot different from the competition. If this is the case, pay close attention to what your competition is saying in their marketing. As mentioned previously, the ultimate purpose of the USP is to create a perception of difference. If you’re the first to tell the market about a distinction, your agency may become associated with that distinction and then you will own that attribute. For example, if you’re the first tell the marketplace that you do certificates of insurance in 10 minutes or less, it will likely not matter that your competition can do the same thing. The marketplace will associate that attribute with your agency and you’ll have the advantage.