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The insurance advisors surveyed for this year’s Insurance Advisors’ Report Card offered higher praise for their insurance agencies’ marketing support efforts compared with last year.

This is evident in the ratings advisors gave their “firm’s/MGA’s marketing support for advisor’s practice,” which rose significantly (by half a point or more) in the category for four firms while only one firm’s rating declined by that same margin.

Furthermore, the overall average performance rating for the category increased to 7.7 from 7.3 year-over-year.

Advisors praised their firms for providing financial support for marketing, helping advisors create their marketing strategies and providing client-friendly materials for advisors to use.

Toronto-based PPI Advisory and Calgary-based PPI Solutions Inc. received the two highest ratings, 8.8 and 8.7, respectively, in the category. (In fact, PPI Solutions’ rating rose from 7.8 last year.) The sister managing general agencies (MGAs) provide their advisors with access to marketing specialists as well as online tools.

“They certainly give us all the help they can muster,” says an advisor with PPI Advisory in Ontario.

A PPI Solutions advisor in Alberta points out that the marketing support the firm offers is “very good” and that there are “[support staff available] for more sophisticated projects.”

Advisors who work through Woodbridge, Ont.-based MGA Hub Financial Inc. also gave their marketing support top marks. In fact, these advisors rated the MGA’s efforts in the category at 8.3, the third-highest among all firms, and up remarkably from 6.9 last year.

“[Marketing support] is off the charts. They stepped up their game this year,” says a Hub advisor in Alberta. “They’ve created almost a ‘business in a box.’ If you ever need anything from them, they have it. It’s almost like they thought about what advisors need at every level.”

Adds a colleague in Ontario: “[Marketing support] is excellent – and they’re very prompt in their support and in answering questions.”

In fact, according to Terri Botosan, president of Hub, the firm has become more hands-on in providing a variety of support to its advisors.

“In the past year, we have tried to take a very proactive approach in supporting our advisors by understanding what [they need for] their specific practices that will help them grow their business,” she says. “When we talk about marketing support, we can provide [advisors] with ideas and ways to build their own brand. We can help them with ways to mine their own client base and we can help them with ways to enter new markets.”

Kitchener, Ont.-based Financial Horizons Inc. also garnered a much higher rating in the marketing support category this year, at 7.3 vs 5.9 in 2017. However, given that this year’s rating still is below average, the mixed reviews were not surprising.

For the most part, the differences of opinion can be attributed to communication effectiveness: many Financial Horizons advisors said they were unsure about what marketing support the firm offers.

In fact, a comment from a Financial Horizons advisor in Ontario – “I don’t know what they have available” – was a common response.

That said, some advisors with Financial Horizons noted that the firm’s efforts are improving. Says an advisor on the Prairies: “They’re making me more aware of [marketing tools] I didn’t know about.”

Meanwhile, a colleague in Atlantic Canada adds that the MGA does offer some good support, but it just isn’t clearly available: “There is stuff on the website if you crawl all the way through it. Sometimes, they have good things tucked away.”

London, Ont.-based dedicated sales agency Freedom 55 Financial’s rating for marketing support also rose significantly, to 6.8 from 6.0 in 2017. However, this year’s rating still was the lowest in the category.

“[The support] is improving,” says a Freedom 55 advisor in Ontario. “I see better materials coming out that are more applicable than what we’ve had in the past. They’re more user- and client-friendly.”

Abbie MacMillan, vice president of Freedom 55, says the firm created a new customer experience marketing division to connect with advisors and meet their needs: “We’re putting out more relevant and timely marketing support.”

In the year ahead, Freedom 55 plans to work on its Marketing Assistant Program, which provides marketing assistants to each of the firm’s advisor centres. This will help the centres be more effective in supporting advisors, MacMillan says.

The only ratings to drop year-over-year were those for Waterloo, Ont.-based Sun Life Financial (Canada) Inc. and Mississauga, Ont.-based IDC Worldsource Insurance Network Inc. (IDC WIN): to 7.0 from 7.4 and to 8.1 from 8.8, respectively.

In the case of IDC WIN, which nevertheless garnered an above-average rating in this category, many advisors who work through the MGA said they don’t depend on their marketing support, even though they know it’s available.

“Anything I want, it’s there,” says an IDC WIN advisor in Ontario. “It’s entirely up to me [whether I rely on the support].”

Sun Life’s advisors, on the other hand, noted that the firm places too many limitations on marketing efforts.

“All the marketing support is given to all the high-producing new business[-generating] advisors,” says a Sun Life advisor in Ontario.

Adds colleague in Ontario: “There’s lots of help. The issue is that there are so many restrictions. This is an issue for advisors: we don’t use [the support] as much because of some of the limitations.”