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Creating the right message to target and be attractive to employers you want to work with is challenging, particularly when you don’t have a clear definition of your ideal client. We hear agency leaders say their ideal audience is “anyone who can fog a mirror.” Even though it gets a laugh, we know all too well that it’s really true.

When you’re just starting that can be acceptable. But as you grow and hone your craft, you should feel the privilege and obligation to limit those who get your attention, for your own benefit as well as the clients’.

“We can’t afford to work with you.” I listened to a highly focused agency explain their approach, finding it refreshing and remarkable among brokers. Simply put, they don’t have the resources to serve clients that are not ideal. Any time and resources spent on the periphery is wasted and a loss to clients who truly benefit the most from what they do.

Also see: "How role stagnation stifles agency growth."

This is an approach I recommend every agency begins adopting. If a client is not well suited to what you’re doing, no one is going to effectively benefit from it.

Who benefits the most from what you do?

Invest in your business this month by clearly defining your ideal client. Standard demographics are a good start, but beliefs and structure are of even greater importance for your profile.

Get at the heart of what you really want, starting with beliefs:

  • How does the employer feel about benefits? Do they offer benefits because they have to or want to?
  • How does the owner feel about his/her employees? Are they a necessary expense or the heart and soul of the organization?
  • How do the decision-makers feel about outside advisers? Are they simply necessary, perhaps expendable, for benefits and HR/employee decisions, or critical to the function and growth of the business?

Explore structure and how you best help, developing long-term relationships.
Some agencies thrive with smaller employers who have no HR manager and really need benefits and HR support.

Others prefer larger clients with an HR manager looking to be a more strategic contributor. They may also want help managing the back-office workload.

Also see: "'My clients don't want technology' is simply an excuse."

Other times, the focus is on ownership, working with the owners as decision-makers. The adviser helps a small or family business build the company for successful growth and/or perpetuation.

We even hear people honestly say they work with unsophisticated businesses that just need a lot of help and advice.

Every agency has preferences and specialties in what they enjoy doing, do best and with whom they prefer to work. Yet one commonality among Q4i agencies is that they are deeply committed to working with deeply committed businesses.

Think about your favorite client(s). What do they value? What is their structure? How are you able to help them and celebrate wins together?

Agencies that are going to survive will no longer be mirror-fogging chasers. They are developing very clear pictures of ideal clients and becoming highly focused on how to help employers become feared competitors in their own industries.

Keneipp is a partner and coach at Q4intelligence, driving agency transformation. Learn more at Reach her at, on LinkedIn, or Twitter @WendyKeneipp.

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