How does a small broker fight a big guy and win?

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As a brokerage principal, it’s your worst nightmare. One of the national, multi-million-dollar brokerages has opened an office in your community. You and your family have been serving this community for decades. The idea of going up against a national chain is daunting.

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Yet, despite national brokerages springing up in communities all over Canada, many small, independent brokerages continue to prosper. How do they do it?

The secret is to do things the national, multi-million-dollar brokerages don’t do. You may be doing some of these things already, and with some success. Here are three ways your brokerage can survive and thrive against the big guys.

1. Find a niche and work it.

The national brokerages usually offer a bit of everything, while a small, independent broker can have a little of most things and everything of one or two types of products or services. This will establish your brokerage as the place to go when buying those products or services.

If you’ve been serving the community for decades, this is a huge advantage over the new guy because you’ll have a much better understanding on how to focus on a narrow but profitable niche.

Look for gaps in the market that are abandoned or poorly covered by the nationals. For example, you may be the only brokerage in your region that has one or more markets that write a specialty risk like commercial welding. Then, train your commercial lines team to be experts in that line.

2. Give your brokerage some character.

Like McDonald’s, the national brokerages use the same branding at every location across Canada. Make your brokerage stand out by giving it some flair.

If the sign on the front of your brokerage hasn’t changed since 1980, it’s time for a makeover. Also, make your reception area welcoming and warm. Always have someone greet clients as soon as they come in. Let them know that you and your staff are always there to help them with all their insurance needs. Being genuine doesn’t cost anything and goes a long way.

During festive holidays and community events, make sure your brokerage has the best decorations that start a conversation. Try to get the local newspaper to take some photos for some free publicity too.

3. Make the most of technology and the data you have.

Technology, namely technology for handling commercial lines insurance has become more advanced and more affordable for small, independent brokerages. It is the biggest weapon you have in leveling the playing field between you and the big guys.

Presently, you may be using the Microsoft® suite of products like Word, Excel and PDFs to create submissions, proposals and binders. Microsoft is a basic tool to have, it’s been around for decades, but things have progressed considerably over the years. As Steve writes in his blog, “data stored in Word, Excel and PDFs is static. Stuck. Trapped. It doesn't move.”

The opposite of static data is machinable data. Machinable data is information that can be exchanged, without human intervention, from one system to another. It's standardized. It's not trapped. It can travel within (internally) a brokerage workflow and between (externally) the different stakeholder systems.

If you’d like to learn more about how machinable data can reduce work and save time at your brokerage, let’s talk.

When a national, multi-million-dollar brokerage moves into your community, hitting the panic button only makes the situation worse. You may not be able to fight them on their terms, simply because you don’t have the numbers or resources; but you can have an upper hand when it comes to being more agile, industrious and innovative.

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