SAN DIEGO – Ever heard of “micro-marketing?” One advisor attending a July seminar sponsored by National Association of Insurance & Financial Advisors (NAIFA) didn’t know the term.
But it turned out that the advisor already was doing micro-marketing and was interested in learning more about it, according to outgoing NAIFA president John F. Nichols.
The agent was one of 20 advisors from the Washington, D.C., area who attended a pilot session on Advisor 2020, said Nichols, who moderated the session.
Advisor 2020 is a NAIFA-sponsored research project and a book that was published earlier this year by the GAMA Foundation. An extension of GAMA’s Firm 2020 research and book, the Advisor 2020 work identifies market and financial forces that will impact insurance and financial advisory professionals and practices over the next six years. These forces include diversity, shifting family structures (single-parent, live-together, same-sex, etc.), advanced technology for use in sales and service, and privacy and security issues surrounding customer data, among others. The study looks at the impact of the retirement of baby boomers and the growth of the middle market, too.
The pilot was the first step in educational programming that NAIFA is undertaking to help advisors apply the Advisor 2020 findings to themselves and their practices. Nichols spoke with InsuranceNewsNet about the impact of the study in advance of NAIFA’s annual meeting here.
Micro-marketing was one of the strategies raised during the pilot session, said Nichols, who is president of Disability Resource Group in Chicago.
The approach entails learning about a specific culture or community group and framing the advisory approach around that. It’s similar to establishing connections with doctors or other professional groups, as many advisors have done for years. However, in micro-marketing, the target market is a unique (and possibly underserved or emerging) culture or other subgroup, such as a religion, within the larger community, Nichols said.
It’s a niche-within-niche approach to client interaction, developed to respond to the growing diversity among today’s consumers. “That’s where the research says the future is going,” Nichols said. “Our focus is on how advisors can position themselves to get attention in the micro community” they select.
For example, the young advisor mentioned earlier commented that he concentrates on serving Indian business owners, said Nichols.
“The advisor said he started doing this by learning about the Indian business owner community, their culture and their religion, too,” Nichols recalled. From this, the advisor built up a network of Indian business owners who liked and trusted him. Then, those business owners started sending him referrals, Nichols said.
In this example, the broad category was business owners; the niche/cultural category was Indians.
The advisor approach was to conduct deep learning about the culture.
Other examples include an advisor who “nested himself” in a community of engineers who work at just one oil company in Texas, and an advisor who nested in a community of pharmacists in North Carolina. “It’s fascinating,” Nichols said.
The advisor mentioned above said he didn’t know that he was doing micro-marketing, Nichols pointed out, “but based on his comments, that’s what he was doing.”
This kind of focus can lead to peer-to-peer connections and teaming too, which is another trend for the future identified by the researchers.
The connections can happen in unexpected ways. For instance, after the pilot session was over, Nichols said he noticed that another advisor in the group made a point of speaking with the young micro-marketer. “It turned out that the second advisor was an Indian advisor, and the two started talking business.”
Nichols said he doesn’t know whether the two advisors teamed up after that, but he remembers thinking that the potential for partnering on micro-marketing is certainly a possibility.
The pilot session is the first NAIFA initiative that explores how to apply the Advisor 2020 findings to advisors. At the annual meeting, NAIFA debuted the next step, which was a full Advisor 2020 workshop that members paid extra to attend.
The workshop was in such demand that it sold out, Nichols said.
Next, the association will take the workshop around the country to local associations that want to host it. There will be webinars and videos, too, and an Advisor 2020 microsite that NAIFA has created for housing resources, webinars and related content. “We see this as a three- to five-year project,” he said.
Not the same-old
Advisor 2020 content and programming is not just the “same old, same old,” Nichols contended. “This is forward-looking. It discusses what the future will be like and how advisors can position themselves so they can continue providing value to customers. It shows there is a place for us in this world.”
Another program that NAIFA is rolling out is an enhanced version of the Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF) designation program that the association first debuted in 1984. Offered in partnership with the College for Financial Planning, the program will now incorporate field-based training along with classroom and online training, Nichols said. “This way, advisors will go out and practice what they are learning while they are learning.” The first classes will start in July 2015.
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