What Apple Can Teach Independent Insurance Agents

July 4, 2017

To Satisfy Your Marketing Soul, Ditch Queen. Think Spoonful

By Chris Amrhein

Far too many independent insurance agency marketing schemes are clearly based upon the lyrics of Queen: “I want it all, and I want it now!”

A better musical model may be the Lovin’ Spoonful: “Did you ever have to make up your mind? Pick up on one and leave the other behind.”

The recent announcement of the new Apple HomePod reminded me how common this “Queen” error is — believing the marketplace is a zero-sum game, that any sale made by another is one taken from you. Here is but one review that reads like a myriad of others:

In classic Apple fashion, the HomePod is elegantly designed and fairly impressive from a technical standpoint. But it comes with a pretty hefty price tag … It’s just not worth it when there are already two fantastic options that are much more reasonably priced.

Talk about déjà vu. Sounds amazingly similar to reviews about the original iPod in 2001:

Clearly Apple is following Sony’s lead by integrating consumer electronics devices into its marketing strategy, but Apple lacks the richness of Sony’s product offering. And introducing new consumer products right now is risky, especially if they cannot be priced attractively.

The “two fantastic options” in the 2017 review are Amazon’s Echo and Google Home. Those old enough may remember that in 2001 the iPod was not only up against Sony but also a techie favorite MP3 player from Creative Labs. In 2001 as in 2017, Apple’s latest product was doomed to failure for being (1) late to the game and (2) ridiculously high priced. Yet the iPod became the most successful electronic product launch in history. Until even its sales records were smashed by yet another “late to the game and overpriced” Apple toy, the iPhone.

And as with every Apple launch, once again critics are snidely predicting that only true Apple “fanboys” will be suckered into this latest scheme.

If it’s true only “fanboys” buy Apple’s offerings, there are evidently more than enough of them to make Apple, in technical accounting terms, a whole boatload of money. Apple ignores Queen to take the Spoonful: targeting that part of the market that not only appreciates their products but evidently believes they are “priced attractively.”

It’s Not a Zero-Sum Market

Once again, the key marketing misunderstanding underlying all these criticisms is not that Apple products are flawed or unpopular, but rather that the marketplace is zero-sum. If the others win, Apple must lose.

Following the logic of zero-sum, critics and consumer reporters have asserted that no smart consumer would ever:

  • Drive a Lexus when there are Camrys.
  • Drink Starbucks when there is Dunkin’ Donuts.
  • Use an independent agent when there are direct writers.

And they have found themselves totally astonished when Lexus, Starbucks, and independent agents seem to keep sailing right along. It’s not so much that the critics are wrong, just shortsighted. Millions of folks do agree with them, as the success of Camry, Dunkin’ Donuts and direct insurance sales channels attests. But there are further millions who choose differently.

Certainly in 2001 there were those who decided to buy Sony or Creative Labs and ignore the iPod. In 2007 those addicted to their “Crackberries” didn’t rush to the new iPhone. And those who today are perfectly content with their Echos will probably pass on the HomePod.

You Don’t Need the Whole Pie

Well, duh. You’ll probably never win over every gecko or Flo lover, either. But take a lesson from Apple — you don’t have to.

Aartrijk: Go for the slice of pie you serve bestApple has long realized that no matter how you define the overall market, within that potential pie are a plethora of slices, ranging from narrow and slim to high and wide. The real question you need to be asking yourself is not how you stack up against specific competition, but rather is there a slice (or slices) of that pie that would be perfect for you and of sufficient size to generate your target income? Is there a slice of consumers who would love to do business with you, appreciate the value you bring, and be willing to pay a fair price for the total value/relationship package?

To find that slice or slices, first you must:

  • Define what you consider success — specifically, not just “more than I got.”
  • Define your target client profile — specifically.
  • Create and deliver products and services a segment will consider of sufficient value to pay your asking price. (And for those who insist your asking price must always be lower, two words: Starbucks. Apple.)

You don’t need it all. You need enough. As for how much is enough, that’s your call. Let blues artist Willie Dixon have the last word:

Could fill spoons full of diamonds,
Could fill spoons full of gold.
Just a little spoon of your precious love
Will satisfy my soul.

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