E34: Sticking Out In A Commoditized World. How Small & Mid-sized Insurers, Banks, Brokers & Tech Providers Can Differentiate Themselves

“Clients don’t understand that their success is related to standing out, not fitting in….” – Don Draper

On some recent This Week in Coverager episodes, I have asked this question: if a local mutual disappeared, would anyone notice or care? The majority of people I survey say NO! Why is that? It’s because they have been commoditized. Essentially selling a product that is easily replicable with lots of substitutes in the market (like auto or homeowners). If one disappeared, a customer would have lots of similar options elsewhere. This is a massive problem – not only in insurance, insurtech, or fintech but in all of business. So how to stop being a commodity???

You differentiate!

In this episode, I spoke with branding expert, Ben Baker as we discussed this problem. We discussed a bunch of simple and straightforward ways that any company can differentiate themselves and their product. Everything from real customer-centric actions, to culture, hiring practices and perhaps scores of other ways outside of price (superior or simplified coverages, go more vertical or horizontal in your product/service, etc.). No matter what your competitors are doing, no matter how big they are or how many resources they have, there are customers they can’t serve better than you. Figure that out, execute, control your fate!


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And we're live. We're back...the Coverager Podcast. I have the pleasure of having a good friend of mine, Ben Baker join me today, Ben, how are you?

I'm doing great. It is so good to see you again. Nick. I always love our conversations.

Same same. I, you and I were having a personal conversation, and we were talking about small businesses, you know, in our space, insurers, brokerages, even banks, and we had a really pleasant conversation about how they were going to compete, you know, and what they're going to do, and you brought up like, well, they need to, they really need to differentiate themselves. And I said, let's do that! Let's have a conversation on differentiation and what these companies can do, because Ben, I look at the landscape of in my area insurance, and I see lots of companies all selling very similar products, and all selling them in a very similar way. Yeah. And I see a lot of plateauing premium and a lot of hand wringing. And so, yeah, I think I think this is like a really appropriate topic. And why don't you give the stat that you gave me right before we hit record about the number of small businesses that exist in the US?

Yeah, I mean, let's, let's call small business, and we're differentiating a small business from large business, as employees under 500 people, if a company employs under 500 people, let's call it a small business. If we use that stat in mind, we're talking almost 31 million small businesses in the United States as of last year, that's 99% of all businesses in the US are small businesses. So when we take that stat in mind, when we have that in mind, pretty much every business save, you know, 1000/10,000, you know, maybe a million large businesses across the US landscape are small businesses. And we need to sit there and realize that this isn't just a conversation for insurance. It's not a conversation for banks. This is a conversation for any company to realize that small business is what runs the United States, which runs North American business, if not worldwide business. And it's all about differentiating yourself, because there's so many businesses out there, all, as you say, doing virtually the same thing. It's those little nuances that make all the difference in the world. Because if you don't accentuate your nuances, if you don't tell your story, if you don't understand what makes you valuable to your audience and why they care about you. All you are is another commodity and commodities. Guess what? It's a race to the bottom. You're easily forgotten and you're easily replaced.

Yeah, yeah. there's a there's a quote in one of my favorite TV shows Mad Men you ever see it?

Oh, yeah, many times

Yeah. So don don draper quote, where he says he as the content director as the, you know, the the director, what do they call it? That content is the cat director.

Yes. So he kind of he runs the the intellectual piece of the creative director, creative director. So as the creative director, he was getting pushed by one of the executives to basically do a campaign for one of their accounts to match their competitors campaign like this, you know, one of the execs of the of their clients saw their competitor and said, Hey, I want to do that. And he said, like, this great line, he's like, he like Can't they understand he's like, their success is dependent upon them standing out, not fitting in, right, you don't fit in, you know, you, you zebras fit in to protect themselves from lions, peacocks stand out to find the mate, right. If you want to sell more, you have to stand out and you have to be able to differentiate yourself. And so I think this is a this is a timely conversation that you and I are having, and I want to try to talk about different ways that small businesses, whether it be any small business, but you know and not in this in this conversation, insurers, brokers, agents, banks,(tech cos) you know how they can put that differentiate themselves. And so let's talk about that. Let's talk about some of the different ways that they can potentially do that. Because I think there are a lot that they can do that are maybe off the beaten path, like you wouldn't necessarily think of them as differentiating, but they could be, right? So let's talk about that.

Well, the first thing we need to understand is every business's every person with a heartbeat. And a credit card is not our client. We can't serve everyone. Coca Cola can't serve everyone. Visa doesn't serve everyone. Pepsi doesn't serve everyone. Adidas doesn't serve everyone. Nike doesn't serve everyone,

Apple doesn't.

Apple doesn't serve everyone

Biggest company in the world.

Exactly. I mean, my wife is an apple girl, she absolutely loves her Apple. Me Not so much. We all have to sit there and realize there are far more people that will never be our clients than ever will be. I tell people, if 1/10th of 100th of 1% of the population of the world, beat a path my door, I'd have to close my doors because I would be too busy to handle all their business. You'll have the 7.5 billion people in the world. Truly? How many people can any one business, especially a small business, serve and serve well? You can sit there and say, I'm going to serve everybody I know I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this like way, wait a second. But if you're doing trying to do everything, if you're trying to master everything, if you're trying to be everything to everybody, who are you? You're just another commodity. You're just somebody say I can do that, too. And better for companies to sit there and say, wait a second, let's take three steps back. What do we do well? What are we passionate about? Where are the skills within our office? We've got 10/5/15/30/100 people within our office, what do they do? Well, how can we enable our people to shine? How can we enable them to be able to create unique and differentiated products or services that will speak to a specific audience that will find those valuable and want to beat a path to our door? Yeah. You know, because that's what it's all about. It's all about you sitting there and realizing first and foremost, your job is to figure out who your customers are NOT before you figure out who they are.

Yeah. And that's challenging, right? Because I think in my experience, I think a lot of business executives, business owners lie to themselves. I mean, how many times have you heard someone say, we're customer focused? all the time? What does that mean? If everyone can't be customer focused, because I, in my experience, most businesses are pretty bad when it comes to when it comes to that thing. So I feel like there are a lot of platitudes when it comes to that. And so put in, in sort of discussing and debating point number one, maybe even take another step back. So instead of three steps, let's take four steps back and say, Are you going to be honest with yourself? About what you're really good at? You know, and how, like, are you? Let's put it this way, then. if, what if what you're really good at is what your competitors are really good at too


And then what?

You know what, and then we look at the new lots, I mean, the first thing we need to do is def define what your brand truly is. Your brand is not your logo, it's not your color scheme. It's who are you truly, what do you wake up in the morning to do what do you would wake up in the morning and you're passionate about you're good at because your brand is not controlled by you anymore? It's controlled by your customers, your brand is how people view you when you're not in the room. And if people can sit there and say, Nick does this, Nick does this extremely well. This is why I go to Nick, this is why I go to bed. This is why I go to company XYZ, because I know they're going to take care of me for this. And when something outside their wheelhouse, guess what? They're going to refer me to somebody who's a trusted partner, there's that they know, is an expert in the other thing that they don't know how to do. Yeah, know what they do well, and they know what they don't do well. And I think that that's something that most businesses are terrified of. They're terrified of saying, no, they're terrified of saying don't do this. Yeah, terrified of saying that's outside of our expertise,

Because the natural progression of what you're saying. So let's give let's give a concrete example to just sort of highlight that. Take some county mutual in the United States that sells homeowners and compare them to State Farm.


In terms of what the public thinks, who does homeowners better? Most people haven't even heard of that county mutual. Even if they have, they still might think that State Farm does it better. But from what you're saying, there, State Farm can't do all of them better. Like there's got to be something that that county mutual can do better than State Farm. And that could be customer service, like you know,

It more than likely is customer service, is it? But, you know, as you said before, when we first started, everybody talks about customer service. But how many times have you been on hold for 15 or 20 minutes? Waiting or gone? is some phone tree from hell? Or sent an email to some info at your email address? And 72 hours later, when you already have the answer? You know, some nondescript email comes back to you. That's where small companies can thrive, small companies could thrive because they can be, you know, far more interactive, it can be far more amiable, they can be far more responsive. They can know the local market. I mean, that's could be the thing is they know the local market, where State Farm could be looking at it from somewhere in Pennsylvania, or somewhere in California, or wherever the call center is. And they have no idea where Rush street is, where you as a local business know exactly where Rush St is, and can sit there and go Wait a second year. You know, what, because of the geographic location because of this, or this, these are some things that you may want to think about with your assurance that somebody who doesn't have local knowledge would never have. And it's it's those little things that allow you to differentiate yourself. It's those if those extra pieces of knowledge that you have about your specific industry about your specific location, about your specific clients that make you valuable.

Yeah. So that that then it follows from that. If that's, so let's assume you're that company that's decided, hey, you know, we're a county mutual, we know the community better than anyone, we have relationships with a community, doesn't it follow them that you have to design your product, but more importantly, invest in your services in a way where you can actually make that claim? So if you're going to claim, hey, we're more amiable, we have better customer service, then you can't just have like a two person call center like you, you have to think through, what does my call center? What does? What does? What does my entire operation need to look like if I'm going to market myself as having better customer service? I better goddamn better have better customer service? Like, what's the point? If they get on? You know, they get on the line, and they have to wait 15 minutes, then that we're no better? And I think that it seems like that's the natural follow through is that you can you can decide from that differentiating factor and sort of start to see how the other elements of your business need to be aligned. If you're going to, if you want that to be your differentiating factor, am I right?

Yeah. So let me give you a perfect example, you got two companies, both have decided they're going to put a bot system onto their, onto their website, they're going to put a website, so have some type of a chat bot. So you can sit there and you can actually, you know, interact with this chat bot and realize what it could do. And it's a difference. There's two companies, one that sits there and just says, Okay, here's a chat bot off the shelf, we're just going to let it do what it's going to do. And you know, we're gonna put some some basic information in there about ourselves in there, but we're just gonna let the other one realizes Wait a second, here are the top 15 questions that our clients are already asking. And here are some videos that we could create that talk about those things. So people do it, not only do they get an answer, but they say, here's a video that you may want to look at the tags, an actual person from your company that's explaining that particular thing. Now, if all of a sudden, your chat bot falls outside of those 15 things, if something's complicated, boom automatically says would you like us to get in touch you with you have an actual person? Yes. Great. Hang on the line. The chatbot has the ability to connect you with somebody in the call center. That person in the call center automatically already has your contact information already knows your name. already has the status already has with you in the chat bot have already talked about sitting up on a screen. So when you answer the thing you're not just saying hi it's Bob Who am I talking to? It's Hi Bob. It's hi Sally. It's Bob. Now I see we're talking to the chat bot and We were you guys were talking about this and it obviously wasn't getting you the answer that you were looking for. Here's some things that we can do to work with each other. How can I help you? Now, how does that make you feel as a customer are, it makes you feel that you know what, they use technology. But they use technology to drive me to a human that was actually able to solve my problem.

Even even better. Ben, I would say they respected my time,


they respected me and didn't make me jump through the hoops and have to give my name again, or my social or whatever. They respected me enough to respect my time.

And that's what it's all about. It's, we're in the trust economy. You know, this is the economy number four, whatever you want to call it, it's a trust economy. It's people trusting people, it's humans relating to humans. It's all about sitting there going, Okay, how can I make the experience of the people that I want to be my clients so special, that not only do they not want to go anywhere else, they'll pay more for the experience. And not only that, they're also going to tell all their friends how wonderful the experience is, and bring their friends over to shopping your location? That's what we need to be thinking about as businesses.

So as as we go through this conversation, Ben. And for those that are listening, this is, this is assuming...you can differentiate your product, but I think the conversation Ben and I are having is the assumption of you have a product that might be commoditized which in insurance is definite. So what I think what Ben and I are going to be debating over the course of the next half hour or so is given that you have a commodity, right, how can you still differentiate yourself? And I think that's the that's the frustration I had. So it is absolutely without a doubt. And I think for those that are listening that have some sort of, you know, executive level pull on this, I think you need to be honest with yourself and listen to exactly how Ben described that because you have, there's a dichotomy there, I think, mostly what you see is I'm going to put a chat bot up because someone else is putting a chat bot up, and it goes right back to the beginning of our conversation, you need to be able to stand out, not fit in, you don't want to copy your competitors. Maybe Ben, maybe the best approach is, what are my competitors doing? And how can I one-up that? Exactly? If they're putting in a chatbot? How can I put in a chatbot and make it better than their chat bot and not just mirror that?

Let me take that one step further. Are you asking your clients? What makes a better chatbot? And what they need? And what makes their life easier? And what would make things easier for them to deal with you? Or are you assuming, because to me yesterday, sit there and they assume they know what's best for their client, they assume they know what their clients want. And they've you know, they've looked at the metrics. And they've read the reports about what the industry is saying. And therefore my exact clients are going to be exactly like anybody else. And therefore I believe I know what's best for my clients, which is just the way to commoditization you need to talk to your clients, you sit there going, look, we're thinking about doing this, what are some things that you would like to see that would make this great for you?

Exactly. And, and to top it off, it's, that is the differentiator as well, because State Farm doesn't do that. And it's, again, it's you're showing your degree of respect, like you're putting your money where your mouth is, your time where your mouth is, and you're basically saying, Hey, we're a customer centric organization. And we're, we're going to prove it to you by having surveys, or we're going to get out into the community and talk to you about how we can make your experience better. It has added effect. Yeah, it amplifies.

Let me tell you a story. That's good. That's gonna paint a really good picture. I spent years in the promotional marketing industry. Now the stuff that I did was custom branded materials that came directly from Asia. You couldn't buy it anywhere else in the world. It was stuff that was designed specifically for you. So I was completely different than the average person that has better product all that that kind of right

right off the bat, the product was better or you knew

it was it was a better product, but not only that, it was stuff that when you gave it out to your customer, you knew the people down the street, were not gonna be able to give them the exact same thing because it was something it was in your in your custom color. It was it was bespoke, it was interesting. It was something that was valuable to your customer, but I go to a trade show every year in Vegas that's at the Mandalay Bay, and it's 1 million square feet of promotional products. It's 3500 booths. It's 13 and a half miles of show floor. And it takes you about two and a half days to walk the show floor if you actually sit there and talk to people. All right. There's probably over 125 different companies that just sell lanyards. Everything else, nevermind everything else, nevermind, pens and mugs and T shirts. There's 125 companies what

a commodity is. Yeah, they're all they're all basically the same. Right?

Exactly. I mean, some might have a different color, they might have a different, you know, there might be a different connection. Some might glow in the dark, some might light up but lanyards are lanyards are lanyards to a point, you know, there are some little differentiation, but for the most part, it's a commodity. There's one company that I have used for 25 years that I will never step away from as long as I as I sell this, I haven't sold lanyards in years. But I still recommend them. And I've been out of the industry for five or seven years. And the reason is, is that we did a job for a client, it was a major company, we did 50,000 of these lanyards. And my purchase orders said that these were to be printed on two sides. Their acknowledgment back to me said yes, that they're printed on two sides, and the factory in China printed them on one side. There was no muss, there was no fuss, there was no kickin screaming, there was I'm sorry, our factory made a mistake. How quickly do you need these things to make sure that your customer's not embarrassed. And they airfreighted 25% of them to get them there in a week to make sure that we were able to make a launch date. And I don't care what else you do in your business life. If you can be the company that says we made a mistake. We're sorry, what can we do to help you make this better? You will gain a customer for life. And that is people will talk about you forever. And sometimes it's expensive. And sometimes it's just the words I'm sorry. But there's too many people out there shirking responsibility. It's not my fault. You know, oh, you know, I didn't get your email. I didn't get this, oh, yo, the pushback is on the customer. We're always good to push it back on the customer or blame somebody else. When you're the company that says, You know what? This happened? I'm sorry, it happened? How can we work together to make this right? It's amazing how you have just immediately differentiated yourself in this world, and how quickly you became the go to trusted partner

of that person, instead of just being yet another quote, quoted price.

It's in an in a business world and in business environment where you don't differentiate yourself, you can't establish trust,


you can't. It's you're essentially competing on price. That's all anyone ever will care about. Because you haven't gone through any sort of effort to distinguish what you do. Therefore, I think, by definition, you're not trustworthy. Well, that maybe that's strong, but in a way,

to them you are not trustworthy.

That's very different. That's very different than the story you just told where, you know, it, let's let's assume that company does that routinely, not necessarily make mistakes, but they're had they have that aggressive, customer centric attitude that sort of permeates the culture of their business. You, I think everybody listening would agree that there's probably a high degree of trust, that customers are just like, these people will fall on the sword, they're not going to dump this back on us. They care that we don't get embarrassed. And so that's a differentiating factor, too. And I just, you know, I think it just goes without saying that you can't claim to be customer centric, unless you're willing to put that degree of effort in.

It's true. And if you take that attitude, right to your customer, where I'm sure a lot of your listeners deal with commercial clients, you know, and they sell, they sell health policies and commercial insurance, all that kind of commercial insurance. I'm a big believer of when I bring a great idea to you and allow you to implement it. It's yours! Is a client, here's an idea. Do you if you implement it and it's successful, it's yours, it was your idea. You look good to your boss I want, I want all my customers to look good to their boss. It's not me that came up with a solution, I worked with them to come up with a solution. And they're the ones that are gonna bring it to the boss and I want my customers to shine. Because when they look good, I look good. Bbut when something goes wrong, I'm the one who's gonna take the blame for it. And I'm the one who's gonna sit there and say, the buck stops with me. If it's truly my fault, and it's something that I can lay down and lay a sword on. Because I it's something that I didand it went wrong. Why should I ever embarrass my client? Why should I ever make my client look bad to their boss, when I can sit there and say, You know what, let me help you fix this, I'm sorry, if you need me to have a conversation with your boss in the spirit, and we'll all figure this out together, we'll, we'll work through this and work past it, we will and 99% of the time, my relationship is stronger with that company, after I've made that mistake, than before, because all of a sudden, they realize I'm going to be there for them, and I'm going to take care of them. And I'm going to make sure that they don't look stupid, in front of their stakeholders in front of their clients in front of their, you know, their board of directors or whoever, you know, they know they've got a vendor that's that side by side with them to make sure that they look good at all costs.

Maybe the, you know, the mental exercise to make on something like that is, you know, something to something to the effect of consider it a marketing expense. I goofed up! Just consider it a marketing expense, just consider the goodwill you'll be building by doing that, versus the Oh my God, I'm gonna lose this money now. Well, not if you think of it as marketing, because you may now have a customer for life or for, you know, rescuing the situation. And think of the referral possibilities or something like that. Oh, no, just different different mindset. Maybe

we'll talk people will talk either way. If you don't,

yes, of course, especially.

Then you're the easier Well, yeah, all right. They're cheap, but they never took care of me when there was an issue,

especially in this day and age. It what's more common going online to voice your complaint, or going online to give a five star review, I only give out the reviews on the ones where it's just like, mind blowing, you know, like, Whoa, I am so impressed with this, I need to go give that five star review. I don't give three star reviews. You know, it's either it's either five or one like, and most likely you did a shitty job. So, you know. So I feel like an economist saying that. So then it follows Ben, if, if, if you're a company and and I don't mean to throw State Farm under the bus, this is not. This is just like state I consider, you know, I State Farm is a prestigious organization. And when I'm, when I see a, you know, small startups, or smaller companies in the homeowner space, the first question that arises, how are you going to compete against them? You know, that's the, that's the measuring stick. So it follows if you decide, well, our approach to differentiate is going to be x, y, or z. I'm going to assume it's going to be customer centric. So I think most small companies can pull that off. Yeah. But in order to pull that off, it follows that they have to have the right culture to pull that off. It can't just be the CEO say, we're gonna be a customer centric company, they have to have the right culture. So talk about culture, differentiation, and how that can be used as a as a competitive advantage not only to execute on the other differentiation, but for everything else that that could lead into.

Yeah, I have a, you know, a simple math formula that I use with all my clients.

It no math allowed here, Ben, sorry, this

is this simple matter. There's, there's no square roots allowed. People plus purpose equals profit. People plus purpose equals profit. And if you focus on your people, and you have a strong purpose, the profits will come. The profits will always come if you have a situation where you take care of your people. And everybody in your organization understands your purpose. They understand your why. Why do we do what we do? And that's where culture has a strong part is To many companies as they get larger, ignore the culture, they ignore their purpose. They don't build it into the onboarding process. And right now the real onboarding process, and we can talk about that as well. But it's, it's getting people to understand that companies need to live, breathe and die, the culture from the very top of the organization down. If the CEO is saying one thing and doing another, everybody is going to sit there and look at what he's doing, not what he's saying he or she is doing not saying, it's what everybody believes in the culture. This is who we are as an organization, and you can't just sit there and go, Well, I want to have the IBM culture, I want to have the Google concert culture, I want to have the Nike culture, you have to have your own culture. You have to sit there and say, What is our culture? How do we talk amongst ourselves? How do we do ideation? How do we, how do we deal train each other? How do we lift each other up? How do we support each other? How do we support our clients? heal? What are the things that are absolutely critical to us as a company? What do we believe in? What do we fight against? What you know, what is the social program that we all get? We all stand behind, you know, one of the one of the people that work in the organization that kids has autism, you know, what we love this person, we love their kid, we're all going to get as an organization, autism is going to be where we raise money, and we put our time outside the organization as a group. That's great. Everybody needs to understand what the Why is. Because it's not what you do. It's why you do it. And if everybody in your company understands the why that's huge. And how you do that, is through a brand story. Mission vision value statements, those pithy words that are six words, or eight words, and a couple sentences that are written on a board somewhere, mean nothing, if they're not lived. And I'm talking every single day of every decision isn't made out of them. If every every, you know, every hire isn't done because of it. And everything, they mean nothing. If you have a brand story that says, here's where we came from, here's where we are, these are the challenges and successes that brought us to here. This is what we do. These are the people that we serve, this is why we serve them. This is why our people are important to us, this is how you as an individual, help support that mission, to be able to internalize it for every person. And by the way, this is where we're going. And this is why we're going there. And this is how you're going to help us get there. If every person in the company understands that and take that story and make it personal, internalize it, and retells it in their own language. That's how great culture is invented. And that's how great culture is maintained.

And so I really like it. It's set, it's seared in my brain. I remember when we agreed to do this particular conversation. It was like 100 degrees out in Florida, I'm sweating outside walking in the specific story that I was bringing up where you were basically, I don't know, you're almost counseling me, as well as I was like, lamenting the, the status, the you know, where we are as an industry, I think I was telling you the story of like, you know, I come from New England, and they're Mutual's all over the place. And these Mutual Insurance like, these mutual insurers have names of communities or counties, where it's like, outside of those communities, nobody would even know they exist. Right? And that gets to even like, not only how does this mutual competitor compete against State Farm, but how does this mutual compete compete against the others that are like right up the street? And you I remember, clearly, you're just like, if they don't know why they exist, then they're always going to have a problem. It just like seared in my head. I'm like, we need to have this conversation. And so that's like, the the compelling element I'm hoping the audience is taking away from this is why do you exist and be able to use it pithy words, I think it's, you need to be able to connect not only those pithy words, but have concrete evidence that you are living it, like, this is the training program. This is the onboarding program, like, you know, I'll give you an example. If your employees are all like in these, like mini pods in an office with like, you know, equipment that's five years old, in there, you know, you bought the cheapest chairs and stuff like that. You're going to struggle to convince me that you're doing you have evidence that you're doing those things, because it's got to be The opposite it's got to be, you'd need to be Bob Kraft of the New England Patriots who bought to 747 jets, because he didn't want his football players to fly charter. He figured he figured out like, I'm gonna buy my own jets and spend the hundred million dollars to buy my own jets, because that's going to translate to comfort. And that's going to come for it's going to translate to victories in victory is going to translate to money. You can't think of the money first. No, you have, you have to

think about it from pride point of view, your pride in the company pride in the organization, pride pride in what you do. And if if every employment craft is a perfect example, with those football players, and the coaches and the staff, and all the exemplary people board those 740 sevens, there is a sense of pride working

for that, yeah,

this is a man who put his money where his mouth was to make sure that we are going to be an elite team, you know, we are going to be an elite team. And I'm going to put my money where my mouth is to make sure that we're an elite team.

Yeah. And companies have to think the same way. So if they're going to classify themselves as Hey, we're the best at you know, customer satisfaction and insurance. Well, the evidence you have to have for that is, you know, a set of, you know, employees who are comfortable employees who can work employees who are well trained employees who are who, who not only well trained in solving insurance from a well trained and solving conflict, you know, an angry customer who calls them because the claim was denied, and be able to leverage that if you can't point to those things, then you can't claim that you're that customer centric thing. And the kind of the whole story falls apart. So it's Ben, I think, like, I think we're onto something that we should write a book. We'll we'll talk about your book. But it's, you know, when I hear the word branding, and I hear the word marketing, and I hear it, like some of the stuff that you're talking about, I think the thing that's missing from most people is that it just sounds so straightforward. It's like yes, of course, then what's missing is the effort. Like, it's, it sounds so straightforward that you think, well, if I believe it, it will come true. But that's not how it works. Can you can you give it like, you have any other examples of design of insurance? Yeah. Where can you give any examples outside of insurance where you, where you where you saw transformation?

Sure. The one word I'm going to use that we've forgotten to use is vitally important is empowered. Training is nothing unless we empower our people to make decisions, and stand behind them if they make the wrong ones. You know, what, people who are trained well understand your brand, understand your purpose, understand who your clients are, understand what you're doing, and why you do it should be empowered to make decisions to be able to that affect those customers, they should be enabled to be able to make things right for a customer without having to check with 17 layers within an organization to make things right. Here's a perfect example. Zappos, which is the gold standard, yeah, that goes is the gold standard. And let's face it, a man calls up zappo. So this is goes up in the legend of Zappos. And he says, He says, I'm furious with you guys. Why are you furious, says eight pairs of shoes GE showed up today, and my wife died on Tuesday. The show the shoes arrived, nothing that Zappos did wrong. They were ordered before this woman died. She had a heart attack. She died in any gut. But it wasn't that he was furious at Zappos. He was frustrated, didn't know what to do with this. And the person that was on the other line said, first of all, the first thing you're going to do is I'm going to send you back a way to send these things back to us immediately. And we're not going to charge you I says I'm going to I'm going to before before we get off the phone, I'm going to credit your views on these things. And here's, you know, here's a UPS slip or whatever it is to be able to send it back. He sat there and listened to this guy for 10 minutes talk about you know how wonderful his wife is how much he loved her shoes and this that they're they and when they hung up the phone, the guy immediately called up a florist in in the area and had a flower arrangement delivered to this person's house saying you're sorry, from your love. Fear loss from Zappos, he didn't check with anybody. He didn't, you know, didn't didn't ask permission to do it. They just did it, because they knew that it was the right thing to do. Because it was part of the culture, it was part of the purpose of the organization, it was part of who they are as an organization that they take care of their people. So yeah, he could have just, you know, refunded the money brought the shoes back and been done with it. But they went the extra step. Yep. And because of that, trust me, that story is probably been told 1000 times 5000 times

marketing thousand, get it out of your head, that's just like, Oh, my God, it's gonna be expensive to fix this, and say, I'm going to do the right thing here, I'm going to account for this as marketing, and just call it marketing. Because that's what it becomes, if you do it the right way. It does become marketing, you know, because people will tell that story. And, and it makes, it's, it's a good selling point for within the Zappos organization of this is how we do things. This is who this is who we are, you know, that that's how I want you to behave. And we're empowering you to do that. So I want to, I want to flip this a little bit, sure what, so, find customer centric, let's, let's focus on the business that is thinking, you know, I, my, I don't think that's our why I don't, I don't think we can pull that off, it's not really the direction I want to go in, you know, and be, you know, with the, with the extra effort on the customer center, because that's, that's one way you could differentiate yourself, let's say you're a small mutual, right, or small brokerage, or whatever. And you're thinking, you know, our advantage is we can make these transactions easier, we're not going to, we're not going to flip off our customer. Well, we'll have a base set of, you know, customer relation tools that they can use, but we're going to make the transaction simpler. And we're going to differentiate that way. And so part of part of where I came up with this idea, I was excited to talk to you about this, because on the past episode of This Week, in Coverager, with Avi and Patrick West, um, we talked about the agency carrier dynamic, and how a lot of the tech companies that were coming in, you know, basically say, we're going to carve these agents out, or now secretly bringing the agents back on. And as I was preparing for this conversation, I thought, you know, that would be a differentiator too, right? Maybe, maybe you're not known, maybe it'll be too difficult for you to have a Zappos reputation, maybe that's too much, you know, it's too too big or too far a bridge for you to cross. But maybe you help your agents do that. Maybe your agents who represent you can be the ones that I was thinking specifically, like of, you know, five or a small carrier, I would consider my agency force my sales force, and I would be lining up the same type of onboarding and training and other stuff and make it perpetually available so that my agency system was top notch. And representing me, that could be considered a different another alternative way to differentiate, right?

Absolutely. It's it's technology, when done right is a huge differentiator, because it's got to be technology that makes things simple. And it's got to make things simple, it's got to make things straightforward. And it's got to make things simple and straightforward. Throughout the entire process. From the minute you log in, to the minute you log out, it's got to be it's got to be seamless, it's got to be intuitive, it's got to be easy to use. And, you know, you're right. And if you're a large carrier, and you create this technology that is just so simple to use, or Insurtech, or whoever. And it's, all of a sudden, your ecosystem adopts it and goes, Oh, my God, this is better. This is an incredible system. You know, this works every single time. It's not crashing my servers, it doesn't have enormous learning curve for my people, we can train a new employee within two weeks on this thing. It's not costing me a fortune to do to integrate this into my into my current workflow. That's a differentiator. Yeah, that in itself is a differentiator and you sit there and say, okay, fine, I don't care I got, you know, I got agents or whoever in the field. And if I can make their lives easier, and I can make it so they have the information that they need at their fingertips and they can make things easier for their customers. They can be the most to focus on the customer experience, and I just focus about making my internal ecosystems lives better, and providing them with the tools that they can make their system better. So, you know, differentiation can come from a whole range of different things Ale, it can be better, more effective communication, let's face it, things like having a series of how to videos on your website, even if you don't have the technology in house to do it. Okay? If you don't have people in house, if you don't have a customer experience team, if you don't have a whole bunch of customers experience agents that whose job it is to sit there and answer questions all day long, or a tech support team or whatever, then you can't afford to hire 50 people, what if you had that as people that are really good at explaining the situation, take the top 1015 2030 problems that they're hearing every single time and create a series of videos that speak directly to your customer in a way that solves the problems efficiently and have those things available. So, you know, at two o'clock in the morning, you don't have to have a tech support team in India or Singapore, whatever that's handling this. People can go to the videos and have 99% of their of their problems fixed. And it says did this answer your question? Yes. No, if no, would you like us to book an appointment for one of our customer service people to call you back?

Yeah. I will even simplify that further. Because, to me, that's table stakes. Like, if you're not doing that, I don't even know what to say like it's your your goal is to help your customers do things easier with you. That's like creating videos, that's easy to do. That's table stakes. I'll go one step further. Because you and I, you know, have had several conversations about one of your new endeavors, which is to work with companies to create podcasts. Yeah. And to me, that's table stakes to like, so I'll go back to the let's go back to the comparison. I don't think State Farm has a podcast, you want to differentiate yourself. You could have a podcast like you're immediately distancing yourself from from them. If if you're a small, mutual small agent in a small community, and your others, your competitors locally, don't have a podcast, you're immediately differentiating yourself from them, because you have now a forum to talk to prospects to current policyholders to other stakeholders and just say, Hey, this is our family, I would caution. A try to make it entertainment, not like really boring insurance stuff. But you have that opportunity. And even that is a way to sort of differentiate yourself from your competitors.

Well, and it's interesting, because we were talking off air over LinkedIn, about an hour, hour and a half. Yes, yeah. We're there was a message coming up that people are talking about the insurance podcasts, and 95 or 98% of the insurance podcasts? Are insurance people talking to insurance. Yeah. And they're not adding any value to the ecosystem outside of the insurance industry, because it's spoken in insurance ease. You'll buy insurance people for insurance,

life insurance, and yes, it I don't think there's one I don't really I don't think there's anything done by any entity in the insurance fear that talks directly to policyholders. Yeah, I think I don't think that exists. Here's, you know,

the the topic that we're talking about is a program that I have called podcast hosts for hire. And what podcast host for hire does is it allows me to come in and do a done for you type podcast program, where we host it, we produce it, we help you create it, we help you create the language the you know, the the whole content calendar, and allow you to speak to your stakeholders be able your your your vendors, your customers, your employees, and be able to have that ongoing conversation. And not only that, but every single week we create 30 pieces of content from that interview that your people can turn around and share on their social media platforms. It's on message and it's on point and on brand. So the trick is, is that if you as a medium to large size, your carrier or whoever has a large enough audience, use the podcast data allow your customers to tell their stories of how they are improving and how they're thriving through COVID. And be able to have lessons learned from your clients telling other clients what to do and it's sponsored by you. So Baby, you're speaking one out of 10 people So what every five episodes whenever eight episodes, and the rest of time, your ecosystem, your employees, your vendors, your teaching partners are all telling the story from their point of view. So everybody gets some viewpoints about, Hey, I could do that. And that would make things better. I can do that a little bit. Every once in a while, you put a commercial by Allstate, or whoever is paying for it, inside the, the podcast itself, to allow people to understand that this is sponsored by, so and so. And as brand recognition, it builds trust, it's marketing, it's relationships, it enables that conversation and draws your customers to you. Yeah, that's what we're doing right now,

having having had a podcast for three years, I can just tell you that your, your credibility when you do this goes off the charts. Because, you know, it's, I can't hide, you know, you're getting, you're getting me stuttering, you're getting my COVID hair. You know, if it's a bad day, I may like you may not have a lot of emotion in this, like, this is the real me. I can't I can't hide from that. And I don't think company should, either. That's why I think the podcasts are just such a wonderful element. And it's all I think it's almost table stakes. Now I almost think like you have to have one, you'd be foolish not to have one. Just because you get to you get to show everybody that you're human, that you stutter, that you have bad hair, you know, they can't smell your breath. But you know, you get all of this other stuff. Like, you know, I wear these polo shirts, and I'm always like, flatten them out, because all day long. They're riding up and curling. That's who I am, you know.

I want to sleep good.

Oh, thank you. Thank you.

Well, we'll talk to my wife about that. I want to talk about the last thing, and I think maybe most importantly, you've you've hinted at it a few times when we brought it up and employees, I think that is consider. So again, not throwing State Farm under the bus. I'm sorry, State Farm. You know, Jake seems like a really good guy. But they're, they're the measuring stick for this. And if you're an employee of State Farm, you're one of I don't know, 10s of thousands? I don't know, I don't know what they're, I don't know what the number is, but I'll bet you it's every bit of 10s of thousands, yes. Um, you're a small agency, or a small mutual or an MGA or an Insurtech. Company, you have an opportunity here, you can be family. Right? You can, things can be different. You can attract, you can still attract rockstars, to your payroll under under the guise of something that's different and special. And that's another way that you can differentiate. Can you talk about employees, I personally love the Southwest Airlines story. To me, I just think that is the that's the role model that every company should should should sort of shoot for. Because if you look at that company, everything going against it. startup, hi, hi high amount of capital required. It's airplanes highly regulated. And they came up with a very simple philosophy of putting employees first and everything sort of trickled down from there. Can you talk about you and you mentioned the word re onboarding, talk about how companies can differentiate themselves? Just by eat? You can't have a culture unless you have the employees talk about employees?

No, it's true. And let's talk let's talk Southwest Airlines before we do anything else. I mean, when you talk about the story of Southwest Airlines, I don't know if your listeners know this story. But just after 911, one of the top clients of Southwest Airlines was a woman who flew flew hundreds of thousands of miles with them. And she basically said and a handwritten note, say, I'm going to have to stop using Southwest Airlines and take my business elsewhere because I'm uncomfortable with the nonchalant way your people continue to do the safety announcement after 911. You know, I think that they should be a little bit more serious about this. And the email or female the handwritten note that came back was, we will miss you. And it was putting it all first it's taking the employees and saying this is who we are as an organization. This is what we believe. And we're sorry that you're going but we're not going to change who we are because of one customer's you know, not understanding of our brand. I think that the fact that the CEO and I forget is passed away. But the, you know what his name was the founder. But it was it was a brilliant piece of communication of visionary understanding of what his brand was about. And the fact that they believed in their people said, Listen, our people are extremely serious about the job that they do, it doesn't mean that they have to be do it in a serious way.

I would even counter that I've Hold on there, the screens are flickering all over the place, I would even counter Ben and say something to the effect of just practicality. The entertaining safety parts are the only ones I've ever listened to the ones I tuned out, Oh, totally, though. So I would think even the message of like, Hey, this is this is in your best interest, they figured out a way to make something that's completely commoditized everyone's going to do the same message. And they did it in such a way that it's like they're getting actually people's attention, that's a differentiator by itself, just that piece of it, that they will defend an employee, you just don't see that a lot. And, um, you know, they're the only airline that for, you know, consistently was profitable. And I think you can honestly, like, if you, if you kind of pointed to Well, what's the, you know, what was Southwest Airlines advantage? What was it? Their p did they have? Did they have better planes? No. Did they have better routes? I think you could argue they had inferior routes, you know, um, you know, when they got first got started, wherever they went, they always took the lesser airport and went to midway, not O'Hare. Right. They, you know, they went to Love Field and not DFW. Um, so wasn't that? Did they serve great food? No, the opposite. They give you a bag of peanuts. They were very inexpensive. Was that it? Was that their differentiating factor? No, there have been a lot of other airlines that have been pretty inexpensive as well. It, you can't look at Southwest Airlines as a use case without boiling it back down to it was the it was the people? Yeah, it was the employees and to them it was they the way? Um, is it Kela? Her? I think is that's what it is Keller. Keller, I think I mean, great guy. I'll write it down. And I'll link to it. You gotta love the book that he wrote, it's basically him flexing his arm with a big tattoo. I think it was a military guy that turns lawyer. And his thinking on this was in the way he explained it to investors, that would always come back and say you need to start charging more money. And he said, this is basically how the calculus works on this, because you want a profitable airline, you need to have a steady stream of happy customers. And there's only one way to do that. You have to have employees who are empowered to do that. And so to them, it was employees always come first. If we don't treat our employees, well, how are we expect going to expect their employees to treat our customers? Well, exactly. And that leads to profits. And I think going back to sort of ending this with your why is there I don't know, is there any situation that you can think of? Where the why was I just want to make a lot of money. And that worked?

No, I quite honestly, there's, there's there's so many companies out there that you know, and we're talking the pre COVID days, and hopefully this world is going on where it was all about market share. It's all about you know, it's it's all about top line dollars. It's all about how quickly can we get bigger and bigger and bigger. So we could be bought out by somebody else who is bigger than we are, you know, and it's the kids in front of the Jets, you know, and and the renting the Lamborghini for the afternoon so you could have your picture taken in front of it. And that whole mentality of nobody cares anymore. Really, nobody cares anymore. Nobody seems like a yacht have nobody cares about your your Learjet. Nobody cares about your Ferrari, people care about did this person treat me well? Did this person actually, you know, look me in the eye, tell me they were gonna do something and actually went and did it. And I think that's where business needs to go if people want to be successful moving forward, and maybe we will make hundreds of millions of dollars instead of billions of dollars. But you know what, if you can make hundreds of millions of dollars and do good Work for your people, good work for your community, and be known as a business that is successful in its own right. And people talk about you in a, in an embracing way, you're pretty darn successful. It has nothing to do with the money and has to do with all of a sudden, you're not spending billions of dollars, trying to get 1% market share.

But even if it was been even eat a lot, even if it was about the money, even if this is like a transparent, it doesn't matter if you're if you're if you're single linkage is revenue to profit, and you're not connecting dots. It's it's not gonna work, you want more revenue, you got to do certain things, you got to treat your people a certain way, you have to treat your customers a certain way. Like all of those things kind of cascade in a natural way. And I just don't see any, you know, apples, the largest company in the world with a nearly $2 trillion market cap, but you can't tell me that Apple doesn't have like, isn't a differentiator like that? I would say I would I would tell you that. That is what made them a $2 trillion company. It wasn't like, you know, its purpose is a $2 billion company into intellectual property. Not really, you know, it was they strung together a whole bunch of stuff and created a culture around this thing. Now, maybe they have gone too far. Who knows? You know, but I use their products. I still have some sort of, I feel like relationship with them. But it's like, I think that's the point I was hoping we could make as we end this is that, like, find your why and your why just can't be money. Yeah, it just can be something bigger, bigger than that. And if your why is money, you're going to need some other supporting wise to get to that money. That's just it's just the only way it's going to work. So by the way, what, before we before we sign up, what is re onboarding?

Okay, so re onboarding, real simple is we've come to a point in time in every business, where over the last six or eight months, we put band aids and duct tape on everything. There's been changes of every single company big and small, whether with our people our purpose, or culture, or why our process, whatever. And now is the time and less, we're taking the time to make sure that every single employee understands what those changes have been and why we've made those changes. They're not going to embrace the moving forward. If we tell people, we're just going back to the way things were. It's going to be a hot mess because the world changed. Yeah, we as companies have changed. We need to explain to our employees and our customers, how we have changed why we have changed, and why these changes are good for them.

Yep. beautiful way to end this. Let me give you a little bit of a soapbox. I'm quickly talk about the podcast again. And then you have a book coming out. describe that.

Yeah, the book is actually out. It's called leading beyond a crisis, a conversation about what's next. And I will definitely give everybody a free chapter. I'll send you a link in the, in the show notes where everybody can grab a copy. It's available on Amazon. You know, it's it's doing extremely well. It's called leading beyond a crisis a conversation about what's next. And that's that's book number two, the podcast host for hire program is all about working with some bespoke companies this year. And what we want to do is help you tell your story and create your ecosystem in a way that your ecosystem, your employees, your teaching partners, your your vendors, and your clients all start telling your story for you. So that's what we're doing. So go to podcast host for hire calm,

beautiful, beautiful, awesome conversation, we could have gone for two hours. You know, we should, we should we should do workshops on this stuff. Maybe we will. So if you're listening, and you want a part of this Reach, reach out to us and and reach out to Ben reach out to me and we will connect you. But awesome conversation. Something I think about all the time is just how is this different? How is this different? Like? And I don't know, I think I'm fanatical about it. But this was, I think a very timely topic. So Ben, appreciate it. Thank you,

Nick. Thanks for having me on the show. Always a pleasure to have a conversation with you.

Yeah, until next time, everyone. Please subscribe whether it's YouTube, any of the audio, podcasts, your favorite you know, whether it's popular to cash or Apple iTunes or Google Play. Please subscribe. If you can leave a note. You don't tell me tell me how messy My hair is. I won't bite. So fen thanks again.

My pleasure.

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