Insurance advisors are looking for more help and less hassle when it comes to promoting their individual businesses. Many advisors surveyed for this year's Insurance Advisors' Report Card said their firms and managing general agencies (MGAs) need to improve the marketing support they have available.
This was evident in the ratings that advisors provided for the "firm's marketing support for the advisor's practice" category, which received one of the lowest overall average performance ratings in the Report Card at 7.8. In addition, the satisfaction gap for the category - the difference between the overall average performance rating and the overall average importance rating given to the category by advisors - is one of the highest in the Report Card, with advisors rating marketing support at 8.4 in importance.
Advisors had concerns relating to staffing and little variety or customizability in marketing materials, as well as long wait times for the compliance departments to approve marketing content.
Regarding staffing, several advisors pointed to the shortage of personnel in their firm's or MGA's marketing support department. Says an advisor in Quebec with Woodbridge, Ont.-based Hub Financial Inc.: "Hub is always short-handed, so it's hard when we have to order something. They're trying to cut costs."
Other advisors complained that the process gets bogged down by the marketing staff's lack of knowledge about the insurance sector. "People in the marketing department don't understand the field," says an advisor in Ontario with London, Ont.-based Freedom 55 Financial. "It takes a while to negotiate [the marketing material] during the creative phase. The quality is great, [but] it just takes a while to get there."
Speaking of marketing material, advisors want to see more customizable content as well. They said what's currently available is just too standardized. Says an advisor in Alberta with Winnipeg-based Great-West Life Assurance Co. (GWL): "If I were to compare [the quality of material] to the carriers', it would be lower [for GWL]. Manulife [Financial Corp.] will contact you directly and ask if they can build you brochures with your information on it. They're proactive about getting your name and their name out there. Great-West doesn't do much."
But even if firms help their advisors put together customized marketing content, many advisors complained that they have to deal with long approval processes - due to either concerns with compliance or brand consistency.
"They help you get stuff out to clients," says a Freedom 55 advisor in Ontario. "But it has to conform to a lot of guidelines and get approval because of compliance issues."
"It's bureaucracy at its worst," says an advisor in British Columbia with Waterloo, Ont.-based Sun Life Financial (Canada) Inc. "It took me three months to get a radio ad approved."
"We do our best to review marketing materials as quickly as possible; however, there is no substitute for the process of due diligence," responds Vicken Kazazian, senior vice president of Sun Life's career sales force, who notes that the time involved for such reviews varies: print ads for Sun Life advisors have a three-day turnaround, whereas a radio ad can take much longer.
Firms and MGAs looking to improve their marketing support departments could look to the practices that Toronto-based PPI Advisory and World Financial Group Insurance Agency of Canada Inc. (WFG) have implemented. Advisors gave these two MGAs the highest ratings in the category, at 9.5 and 8.6, respectively.
Advisors with both MGAs praised these firms for providing knowledgable consultants, as well as a wide range of marketing material. In particular, an advisor in B.C. with PPI Advisory noted that he has "access to marketing people who customize programs and materials."
Meanwhile, WFG advisors raved about the variety of the marketing material the MGA provides.
"They provide brochures," says a WFG advisor in B.C., "that are quick and easy to customize."
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