Strategic Partner Recruitment & Management Fits In The
"Attract" Phase of The ACOR Marketing Model
Let's review the critical components of a killer lead gen system based on strategic partners.
- Thousands of leads. Period. That alone should be enough to get anyone's attention. Mike, for example, did not buy a huge agency or take over his Dad's mega-agency. He started with nothing. Zero. The reason that he's one of the largest - and certainly the fastest growing - personal lines agencies in Colorado is because this strategy. (NOTE: in case you're thinking "this must be a personal lines strategy, nothing could be further than from the truth. I have other clients who sell only commercial lines and swarm their funnel with leads from partners.)
- High, high quality leads. (Much higher than you'll ever buy! These are not high-churn shoppers!) By precisely targeting your strategic partners, you're simultaneously precisely targeting the kind of business you want for your firm. Clients who are pre-disposed to multiple policies, appropriate limits and emotional loyalty.
- Super high closing ratio. It's not uncommon for partner-generated referrals to close around 80%.
- Very, very lost cost per lead. In many cases, the only "costs" are soft costs: the expense of creating and managing relationships. In some cases, you may pay commission splits. In most, you're exchanging the solution to a problem in exchange for a lead. No hard cost involved.
- What are the major technology trends in the industry this year?
- What are the trends and pressures on pricing and commissions this year?
- How dangerous is the gap between customer expectations and the agency/brokerage of today? (And what are customers doing about it!)
- As carriers merge and brokers get bigger, how does that affect the agency/brokerage of today?
- Just who are the emerging competitors to the agency/broker channel?
- And, just what are the industry's leading experts predicting for our channel in 2016?
Get crystal clear on your goal for your partnerships
Generally, when seeking lead flow, four criteria should be considered for recruiting and selecting Strategic Partners:
- Who sells to the people I want as customers?
- Who services the people I want as customers (associations, societies, etc.)
- Who has the people I want!
Be clear on what problem you can solve for your partner (not just for you!).
Be clear on mutual expectations.
Request back links to your website.
Be creative in making it worth the effort to the other party.
Sometimes insurance codes will restrict you from sharing commissions. Some parties, however, like associations, will promote your service in exchange for advertising, or sponsorship fees.
Nurture your Strategic Partners. just like you do (should!) your clients!
Your partners can jam the "A" section of your ACOR marketing model for you.
But you need to treat them like customers.
In other words, engage them throughout their customer lifecycle. Attract them. Convert them. Optimize the relationship. And retain them.
Once your partnership funnel gets big enough, you must treat it like a "business inside your business."
- If you make this marketing strategy a priority, you should nurture your list of strategic partners, just like you would nurture your clients. When you have enough of them, use marketing automation to deliver a monthly message of gratitude, value and promotion.
- Remember that your Strategic Partners are real people. Be sure to reach out to them, at times, on a one-to-one basis. Discover their birthdays, hobbies, family and interests, and engage them appropriately
- Again, if you make this a major marketing strategy, consider "levels" of participation (e.g., silver, gold, platinum) or some way to recognize your biggest contributors. It's highly likely that you'll get 80% of your lead flow from 20% of your Strategic Partners (or, even 95% from your top 5%). Be certain to acknowledge and reward them appropriately. EXAMPLE: I have a client who rewards his top referrers several times a year. They go to ball games together. And, once a year, he'll host a barbecue with entertainment. It's such a memorable event (and networking event), some of his partners beg to be invited. (And, he tells me, they'll make enough last minute referrals to qualify for an invitiation!)
Get feedback. Be sure to engage your Strategic Partners. Use marketing automation to drive them to survey and Report Card forms. And ask them what else you could be doing for them.
Always be recruiting.
Ask existing Strategic Partners for referrals to other potential partners. After making contact, continue to nurture them with your monthly nurturing message.
As your Strategic Partner Program grows, consider creating a useful page on your website for partners.
You can periodically use email to drive them there to get updates, hear success stories, download valuable information and fill out surveys and forms.