The Only Hope for Protection Market Growth is the “Social” Financial Adviser

Protection continues to struggle. According to Swiss Re’s Term and Health Watch report 2014, term insurance sales are down 17.4% year on year, critical illness cover is down 21% and income protection is down 24%.

We’ve talked for years about what we can do to make protection grow. Is it generic TV advertising? Or simpler products?

Whilst some companies are dabbling with new direct to consumer approaches, providers to the adviser sector seem content to add complexity to existing products to keep their slice of a shrinking cake.

I think it is up to the financial adviser to stimulate protection market growth – and I’m speaking about this at the Financial Liverpool May event.

Protection Market Growth

Here’s an outline of what I’m going to cover.

Protection is the cornerstone of anyone’s financial existence. And yet the market remains flat and consumers remain indifferent.

Providers are locked in a price and conditions war that layers more complexity onto products and processes. Complexity requires advice but complexity doesn’t engage clients or grow markets.

I believe that the only way we can grow the market now is through advisers using social media and content to find more customers. The “Social” Financial adviser is now key to future success.

In this presentation we’ll consider:

  • The current state of the protection market and its products. There’s no going back from complexity, but how can we better help clients understand what’s available

  • Will complexity in the adviser market drive clients to buy direct? Many providers seem to think that D2C is the way forward for protection. Is this true?

  • How can advisers grow the market using social media and content? For most consumers financial services are of no interest until suddenly it is the most important thing on their minds. How can we be there when it “gets urgent”?

To find out more about the event please click here.

If you can’t make it – I’ll post my script as another post in June.

Now it’s your turn: What do you think about growth in the protection market? Do we need TV advertising? Will more D2C products increase awareness and encourage more people to seek financial advice? Is the only hope for protection market growth the “Social” Financial Adviser?

Please leave a comment or a link to your own blog or article.

What a Caffe Nero Grande Americano says about Empowered Staff and Happy Customers

Is coffee an important part of your business day?

Last week I took an early train down south from Edinburgh. In my pocket was a complete, stamped Caffé Nero loyalty card.

I decided to buy a huge coffee to make my early start more bearable. As I stood at the Caffé Nero Express kiosk at Waverley station I  asked for a Caffe Nero Grande Americano black coffee.

The lady checked again whether I wanted milk. I replied, “No, just black.”

caffe nero grande americano

She accepted my stamped loyalty card and I took my free coffee with me on the train. I settled into my seat as the East Coast train lumbered out of Waverley station and into Calton Tunnel.

I peeled the top off my coffee cup.

And my heart sank.

Staring back up at me was white coffee. I am lactose intolerant and so I couldn’t drink the coffee I was so looking forward to savouring. I asked my immediate neighbours in the carriage if they’d like a white Coffee. One lucky gentleman accepted my cup with a smile.

But I felt annoyed. How much clearer could I have been? East Coast trains Coffee is not as tasty as Caffe Nero coffee.

I tweeted Caffe Nero but of course received no reply. I imagine they must receive thousands of tweets per day.

Over 12 hours later I arrived back at Edinburgh Waverley station. I went along to the Caffe Nero Express kiosk and explained what had happened during my early morning visit. The gentleman in the kiosk immediately apologised and furnished me with two completed loyalty cards. He did this without questioning my story. Nor did he have to refer to a supervisor or a colleague to make me happy.

I immediately felt better and Caffe Nero will stay on my Christmas card list.

So many times these days staff are not allowed to make such gestures without referring up the line. Empowerment in these circumstances is important to keep customer loyalty.

I remember visiting the Ritz-Carlton chain of hotels in the USA a few years ago and going behind the scenes to get some business ideas. They allow every one of their employees to spend up to $100 to look after a guest. They do not have to refer to a supervisor or manager. They use their discretion. This means that the service they deliver is exceptional.

Would you allow your staff to make such a decision without referral?

Now it’s your turn: I love stories about great customer experiences. If you’ve been wowed by a response similar to mine please share your story. Leave a comment or post a link to your own website or blog.

Do you Dread Strategy Planning? Let’s make Strategy Simpler.

What strikes fear into the hearts of even the most hardened businessmen?

How about strategic planning. And the strategy plan that emerges from it? All two hundred pages of it. And that’s just the Executive Summary.

Does your heart sink when you hear “strategy” or “strategic plan”?

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m stuck in a strategic planning meeting for the next three days?” No doubt there’s a distinct tone of despair in their voices. And a pleading look in their eyes.

Strategy is so important for any business large or small. So why do so many people dread strategy planning?

Strategy Photo

Is it because many companies make it complex. They let the strategic planning process become all-consuming and forget about the “actual strategy”.

Perhaps it’s because strategy is often inextricably woven into the annual planning cycle. Inevitably we divert conversations about the strategic intent of the business to talk about budgets, cost cutting, staff numbers and pouring over the financials of the previous and the coming years.

As the plan grows in size, the accountants will want constant readjustments to the business projections and revisions of the costs. Planners want to draft and rewrite project plans try to save a week here and a day there. They stick millions of post it notes on walls and then spend days re-arranging them.

And everyone wants absolute certainty over the amount of future revenue that the plan will deliver. The problem is that costs, people and premises are totally under the businesses control, where as future revenue depends mainly on the will of the customer. How can there be absolute certainly over future revenues? There can’t.

The resultant strategic plan is often hundreds of pages long and extremely detailed and yet during this process the “actual strategy” of the business is often glossed over because  planning and budgetary cycle complexity swamps this most important part.

It’s the “actual strategy” that makes the customer want to spend their money with you that creates the revenue.

Of course budget planning is important.

Of course detailed product launches and systems development plans are crucial.

Of course cost control is required.

Of course controlling staff numbers is necessary.

But these need to come once you’ve developed and agreed the strategy. Because the strategy is the most important thing that will drive revenue in the future. Get the strategy nailed first and then commit to the detailed plans.

Yes a company strategy needs a mission statement, a vision and a goal (often a revenue amount for the equivalent expressed as market share), but strategy needs to drive these.

And the best thing to do is to keep it simple.

Customers will spend their money with you if your value proposition is superior to your competitors. You only need to do two things:

  • Decide which specific customers to target – who are they and what are their key characteristics?
  • Create a compelling value proposition for those customers – what will you offer them and what won’t you offer them and what sets you apart from your competitors? How will you price it? Where you will sell it? And how will you promote it.

That’s it.

Don’t get bogged down with planning, cost control and many iterations of strategic plans to guarantee success. Don’t overwhelm simply finding the core strategic intent. Deal with all that once you know where you are going.

Now it’s your turn: I’m sure as many people will disagree with my opinion as will agree with it. What is your experience of creating strategy within a business? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below or, even better, share a link to your own articles or blogs.

Are you going through a strategic review or do you know anyone who is? Why not share this post with them.

Get in touch if you want to talk about simplicity in strategy!