Six steps to your unique niche
Carving a path to your own space in the industry
By Landon Bentham
It wasn’t long into my career in the insurance business when I was approached and told to “find a niche” in something. “Let’s look at our current list of clients and insurance company appetites to try and find a business or industry you could focus on,” they said. “This is where the real money is.”
I’m sure this conversation, or a version of it, happens in almost every generalist agency across the country. The logic here is sound and seems so simple. However, if you’ve ever been burdened with this task, you know just how daunting it can be. When you are just getting started in the business, writing anything with a pulse is really all you care about.
How in the world do you truly find a niche you can sink your teeth into? How can you take the time away from what you know is putting food on the table to develop a new stream of leads and eventually clients?
In my third year in the business, a conversation with a wholesale broker flipped a switch in my mind. All I had to do was think bigger (I can write larger-revenue accounts!) and look around at what industry was near our location. I was focused only on whose door I could muster up the courage to knock on (hypothetically) when, really, I just needed to get my head out of the sand.
The wholesale broker mentioned a product called DBA (Defense Base Act) insurance and how government contractors needed access to the product when they worked overseas. Some quick Google research led me to discover that many people were searching for topics around DBA insurance and the internet had no real place to send people who needed help in this space.
Fast forward five years and our agency today ranks as number one or two on Google for “What is DBA insurance” and “How much does DBA insurance cost.” This has led to an explosion of business, and to date we are writing for customers in over 60 countries.
It should be obvious that developing niches within our industry allows businesses to cater to specific customer needs and stand out in a crowded market. It also gives you a leg up over the competition, as many small agencies are getting bought by larger conglomerates for their largely generalist books of business; niching has never been a more impactful strategy to bolster the income statement and set yourself apart.
In this article, we will explore six effective steps to developing niches in the insurance business, providing insights and guidance for those looking to carve out their own unique space. I will use my journey to help explain how much of this was put into practice in my agency and where it has led us today.
- Identify market gaps. The first step in developing any niche is to identify market gaps. Conduct some basic market research to identify underserved segments or areas where existing coverage is inadequate or unavailable.
In my situation, government contractors (mainly international contractors) had no local insurance broker support to purchase the coverage they needed to satisfy their successful contract awards. This led them to the web, where all they could find was an early 2000s government website that listed which insurance companies provided the coverage. But it said nothing about how to get it. Weeks and weeks later, they were able to find a single broker that had sold one policy five years ago to help them. It was from here that I decided to take our agency far beyond the five-digit ZIP code we were used to playing in.
Clearly, you must understand what your customers’ needs, preferences, and pain points are to gain insights into the potential niche opportunities in your back yard. Pick up the phone and talk with your underwriters and company representatives about unique policies they have worked on. These conversations will help you identify untapped areas within the industry and adapt your agency’s offers accordingly.
2.Tailor products and services. Once you have identified the niche opportunity, the next step is to tailor your products and services to cater specifically to that segment. Having had the idea to take our agency global, I had to figure out who could help me procure the policies I needed. This involved some deep research, as there just weren’t many brokers that focused on this specific niche. Finally, I was able to find someone who helped me understand the differences between the standard coverages within DBA insurance.
I was able to then go all in on the next step.
3. Build expertise and specialization. This can look different depending on the niche. However, the main point here is to find ways to add value back to the industry you are serving. I kept asking myself, how could I do this without having written a single international policy to date?
My first step was to read a full copy of a policy from one of our companies. Through this I was able to gain a better understanding about how and where coverage would be triggered and how it would protect the client.
This led to my creating a series of videos and blogs that still live on my website today. They focused on the basics of the DBA insurance policy and tried to educate potential clients in three areas:
- What is DBA insurance and why
do I need it?
- How much does DBA insurance cost?
- How do I buy it?
Much to my surprise, Google kept sending people our way.
You could also invest in training and professional development programs that enhance your knowledge and understanding of your niche area. This could involve obtaining specialized certifications, attending industry conferences, or networking with experts in the field. Building expertise allows you to better understand the unique risks and challenges faced by your target customers and provide them with tailored solutions.
Position yourself as a trusted advisor who understands the nuances of the niche, and your reputation will grow within the industry.
4. Leverage technology and data analytics. In today’s digital age, leveraging technology and data analytics is crucial for developing niches in the insurance industry. Embrace technological advancements such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation to streamline processes, enhance underwriting accuracy and improve customer experience.
In our example, we simply paired our blogs and videos with easy-to-navigate quote request forms that are automatically forwarded to our underwriters. This allows us to offer a solution to our clients within an hour of receiving the quote request.
In the government-contracting space, this is crucial to meeting deadlines and getting accurate bids completed for companies looking to acquire new contracts with our government.
We also used video quotes to clearly explain the quotation the client was receiving and how they could take the next step. This was huge for our customers where English was not their primary language; they could watch the videos over and over until they had the level of understanding they needed with the products.
In summary, this data-driven approach will allow you to make informed business decisions, develop targeted marketing campaigns, and offer personalized solutions to your niche market. Technology empowers niche insurance providers to operate efficiently and deliver value-added services to their customers.
[D]eveloping niches within our industry
allows businesses to cater to specific
customer needs and standout in a
crowded market. It also gives you a
leg up over the competition… .
5. Forge strategic partnerships. Collaboration is a powerful tool when developing niches in our industry. Forge strategic partnerships with complementary businesses, industry associations, or technology providers to expand your reach and enhance your offerings.
For example, if your niche focuses on insuring renewable energy projects, partnering with renewable energy developers or equipment manufacturers can provide you with a steady stream of clients and industry insights. These partnerships can also lead to cross-promotion opportunities and open doors to new markets, allowing you to further establish your niche presence.
Government contractors operate in a close-knit community. Once we delivered our promised solution to a few clients, our name quickly began to circulate among government staff in embassies across the world. They would then refer other companies to our services. There are even certain countries that almost exclusively send contractors our way.
6. Engage in targeted marketing and branding. To effectively develop niches within the insurance industry, it is essential to engage in targeted marketing and branding efforts. Craft compelling marketing messages that resonate with your niche audience and highlight the unique benefits of your specialized offerings. Utilize digital marketing strategies such as search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, and content marketing to reach your target market effectively.
You can see from the above examples of our niche that branding, social, and SEO are huge in developing a niche. To be sure, every niche will be different and require unique strategies. However, some very basic focus in this area will help propel your efforts within your niche.
Developing niches within the insurance industry is a strategic approach that allows businesses to differentiate themselves, address specific customer needs, and thrive in a competitive market. By identifying market gaps, tailoring products and services, building expertise, leveraging technology, forging strategic partnerships, and engaging in targeted marketing, insurance professionals can successfully carve out their own unique niches. Embrace the opportunities that niches offer, adapt to changing market dynamics, and continue to innovate to stay ahead in the evolving insurance landscape.
The world is waiting!
Landon Bentham joined Fayetteville, North Carolina-based Callahan & Rice Insurance Group, Inc., in 2015. He has led the way in modernizing his family’s 50-plus year-old agency. From niche insurance markets to integrating new technologies into the sales and service processes, he has begun a transformation of the business—building the legacy previous generations built before him. Landon is the former chairman of the IIANC Young Agent Committee (iLEAD) and was in appointed to the Board of Directors for the IIANC. He won Young Agent of the Year for the IIANC in 2021 and 2022 and was named in the top 40 under 40 in 2015 by the Fayetteville Observer. He serves the Rick Herrema Foundation (RHF) locally on their board of directors and executive committee.