ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

Market Research - The Key to Program Development

Last month we defined the difference between Programs and Target Marketing. This month we will illustrate how market research methods can be used to identify, define and qualify programs.

It all starts by identifying different groups that would be viable customer bases and may have needs that are not properly fulfilled through the marketplace. Most agencies develop programs because they already have expertise in a specialized area in which they have written a fairly large number of accounts. The easiest way to find out what your customers needs, is to ask them. Whether you do it on an individual information call or through a focus group professionally established to elicit that information, do not expect to create a viable program in a vacuum.

On you question a few dozen clients in a common industry about the strong and weak points in their insurance programs, take the results to a larger industry group of which your clients are representative. Further surveys, focus groups and visits are necessary, assuring these businesses that your immediate goal is fact finding to provide a better product for their entire industry. Once you've identified a set of unfulfilled needs originated by your own customers and verified through non-customers, approach your carriers and determine which of them would be interested in helping you fulfill the needs. This must be done with some assurances and confidence that the carrier will not educate themselves as a result of your work effort and create the product on their own. Trust is of extreme importance in program design.

Once a company commits to working with you to develop a better product for the target audiences, your next step is to locate and sell the idea of a program to a target audience association or a large group of customers in that industry. If an association is available, their sponsorship is needed. This will not be accomplished in one or two visits. A marketing program to an association may take years of penetration to achieve the appropriate results. If an association is not available, advise a large number of companies within the target industry that you are developing a special program for them. A questionnaire asking if they would be interested in participating begins your directed marketing plan. This is on-going while the program is being developed.

It all comes together when the sponsor (or group of prospects) accept the program in concept while the carrier assists in the development of the product (or filings) that permit you to sell the program.

A number to ACG clients have determined that the development of Programs is within their Strategic Planning process. They have committed to implementing three or four programs each year with the expectation that only one every few years will be successful. However, they accept the fact that one can not expect to hit a home run by swinging at the ball once and retiring from the game if they miss. These clients will put in a great deal of time and effort with the expectation that the few programs that will succeed will become investments in the future rather than simple target markets.