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How to "Brand" Your Agency

Author: Jack Burke

Mention "branding" and people generally think in terms of company names...McDonalds, Nike, Disney, Ford, Xerox, etc. Or, they think of burned cattle flesh. Aside from the cattle flesh, Webster defines "brand" as "a class of goods identified as the product of a single firm or manufacturer." What is your "class of goods" and how can you distinguish or brand it?


As middlemen, too many agencies think of branding as the domain of the company that provides the products they sell. Maybe if you're a State Farm agent, but that's definitely not the case for the independent agency that represents many "brands". You may sell the Safeco brand of products, or the Harford, but what is your brand? Who are you? How can you burn that imprint into the minds of your clients and prospects?

Branding for the independent insurance agency has a number of components that must work together: your market(s), your ancillary profit centers (financial services, etc.), your agency positioning (uniqueness), and often your clientele (association marketing).

Numerous agencies, particularly niche players, fall into the product or market trap. They brand themselves based on what they sell, not what they offer. Your product is not your uniqueness, especially in the insurance industry where the competition can surface overnight. You are your uniqueness! But how can you quantify that and translate it into branding?

Another problem, generic to all business, is that we think we know what is important to our customers. Quite frequently we're wrong. Therefore the first step in developing a brand is to find out why your best clients do business with you. You have to find out what makes them give you their money, then build your brand on what they say are the critical factors.

If they say "trust", ask why. Did you earn it with special expertise in their business? Did you position yourself as a trusted advisor? Is it because you provide risk management assistance? Did you save them money over a prior agent or broker? You need to know the specifics.

If they say "service" (like you often do), ask them to specifically define the good service that impresses them. Is it your claims processing assistance? Is it because you are available when they need you? Is it because you return their phone calls? Is it because of the caliber of your staff? Is it because you have the technology to meet their needs faster through the electronic world? You need to know the specifics.

The third challenge is (or should be) the awareness of the many services and products you can provide. The independent agency system has to break out of the P/C mold. Clients want more and you should be giving more as the industry moves into full financial services. You have to package your agency as a full-service, multi-faceted financial partner to your clients. If you can't do that, you may not be around to worry about branding.

Once you discover and determine the base points on which to solidify your branding, there are three critical components:

  • You must meet or exceed all expectations that your branding creates. Truth in marketing, verified by performance, is the cornerstone of your future success.

  • Create a template for your brand. Every message, every marketing exposure, every advertisement should be captured within the template.

  • Your brand must be "alive". Nothing is static in life. Your brand, like life, must be in a continual process of renewal.

As a child, our insurance agent used to visit monthly to collect premiums from my parents. He was more than an insurance salesman, he was a friend, a consultant, and an advisor. If they were going to buy a refrigerator, they asked him first. If they were going to buy a car, they didn't ask him because we had a dealership -- but if we didn't, they would have asked him. In arranging finances for my college, they sought out his advice. And when I needed insurance for life, home, car, health, it was automatic that I went to him.

In today's hectic and harried world, we have to recreate that "brand" which we used to have. We have to position ourselves to be known as the first string for anything relating to the financial well-being of our clients. This means we have to use that "brand template" in dispersing our message through every tradition medium from the phone to the mail, through every new medium from the Internet to e-mail, and be ready to utilize every medium that will be surfacing in the days ahead.

It is a lot of work, but the results will begin almost immediately as you create a singular brand identity for your agency that will create top-of-mind positioning amongst your clients as their total financial resource.


Jack Burke is the president of Sound Marketing, Inc., the editor of ProgramBusinessNews, and author of Relationship Aspect Marketing and Creating Customer Connections. For more information, please visit, call 1-800-451-8273 or e-mail

Click here to visit the Trusted Choice web site....Copyright 2001 by Jack Burke.
Used with permission.

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initiative, visit us at

​127 South Peyton Street
Alexandria VA 22314
​phone: 800.221.7917
fax: 703.683.7556

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