Transcript of this Episode

Dennis: [00:00:00] Hey, it’s Dennis. The host of Benefits Influencer. The episode you’re about to hear was recorded prior to California and in turn, much of the rest of the country being asked to do things like social distance and shelter in place. So before we continue, I want to take just a moment to acknowledge the employee benefits and H.R. professionals who are supporting employers, employees and families during this difficult time. I’m thankful for this audience and have been so impressed, but not at all surprised at how you’ve stepped up to help not only your clients, but also your communities. You’re needed now more than ever.

Intro: [00:00:36] What would your day look like if you had a well-trained sales assistant? Hey, I’m Hunter. I’d be working on something special for benefits brokers. Stay tuned and I’ll share it with you later in the podcast. Enjoy the episode.

Dennis: [00:00:53] This is benefits influencer. Each episode we hear from the leaders who are impacting, innovating and elevating employee benefits and H.R.. If you’re looking for actionable insights for your business or your clients, you’ll find them here. Here’s your host, Dennis Carlson.

Dennis: [00:01:11] Hello and welcome back. I am joined today by Jessica Du Bois. Jessica is a benefits adviser at the Business Benefits Group. She was a 20 20 rising star in advising recently named by employee benefits adviser. And she’s also going to be speaking at the Benefits Pro Expo on May 19th, 2020. Knock on wood, assuming that is still going to be happening. Interesting. Talking about evolving a legacy agency. Me onstage with Jeff Grocky from L.A., a friend of the podcast as well. But Jessica, today we’re going be talking about being a linchpin in a legacy agency. And give us a little even maybe preview of what we’re going to hear from you onstage at the Broker Expo. But before we dive into all of that, can you introduce yourself to our audience, what you do at Business Benefits Group? And give us a little idea of what business benefits group is.

Jessica: [00:02:08] Yes, absolutely. Thank you for having me on, Dennis. And thank you for that wonderful introduction to Jeff. He’s been great to work with. I’m excited to hopefully be speaking at that conference with him.

Dennis: [00:02:20] Yeah, we’re all we’re all praying and hoping that things get back to normal here pretty soon.

Jessica: [00:02:25] But, yes, I mean, it benefits adviser business benefits group. We are a midsized agency out of the D.C. area. We are actually celebrating our 25th anniversary in a couple of months. We grew our business focusing on small businesses. However, that’s evolved over time and focusing on health care and benefits for small, medium, sometimes even large clients here in the D.C. region. You can imagine a lot of our clients are government contractors or government based, but are our brand and our name has gotten some national movement. I feel as if my book of business in Florida and nationally has definitely grown over the last year. I’ve been at BBG, though, for two years. But this is the only industry I know of. I started on the sales rep side straight out of college, working for principal financial group, but moved over to the broker side. And since then, I’ve been a Full-Time advisor. But that’s kind of evolved into a director of marketing role as well. So now I’m mostly the advisor role, but definitely spend some time each week doing a lot of marketing for the agency.

Dennis: [00:03:36] Well, that’s a really unique skill set. We don’t get too many brokers on the show that have also pulled off. Being a director of marketing or even really having a marketing role within their agency. So that’s a skill that’s near and dear to my heart as a marketing slash sales person and kind of leads us right into what it means to be a linchpin in an agency. And I know we’re going to get into how that relates back to marketing. But just can you describe what you mean by a linchpin?

Jessica: [00:04:08] Yeah. I like famous marketer Seth Godin. He is my idol. One blog I will read every single day, but he uses the word Linchpin to describe someone who is indispensable within a company. Someone that’s too valuable or their perspective is so unique that it’s difficult to replace. And so this has been my goal since I started on the broker side and reading his book, but also figuring out who I want to be to differentiate myself within the agency, but also the industry and joining the broker side at 24. So I became an advisor at the age of 24. I couldn’t bring experience to the table. I couldn’t tout that I had many years of experience, but what I could bring was an outside perspective. Also a lot of creativity and ideas that many agencies or brokers hadn’t seen before and a motivation to make things better because I was inundated with being jaded by your ACA and a lot of the other ups and downs that brokers have felt in the past. I was starting from a fresh slate and could bring my ideas forth from an outside perspective.

Dennis: [00:05:20] And just your age, coming in as a broker. That’s unique in and of itself. One unfortunate circumstance of this industry is that there just aren’t a lot of folks coming in out of college thinking, oh, I want to go into insurance. If they do, a lot of times there’s things outside of the agency world that might appeal to them more, a little more, maybe stability or just a much more clearer career path than what we see in agencies. So I can see that just having that. Experience as a someone new coming in with, you know, with fresh eyes, looking at things like ACA and all the legislation that even came before that. Without being without being at all jaded about it, you could actually kind of come with a new approach. What are some examples of things kind of immediately that you were able to do? Because it sounds like you’ve had a pretty great trajectory. Just being in your agency for a couple of years. The fact that now you’re going to be onstage at the broker expo, you are an adviser. That’s a lot to have accomplished in just a couple of years as a benefits adviser at an agency. What are some examples of things you’ve done to kind of make yourself indispensable?

Jessica: [00:06:38] Well, to go back on your note that you said before, was that talking about the average age injury in in our industry is I think last statistic I read was around fifty four. If you look at our agency, it’s I think thirty, thirty four or thirty six. It might even be younger that younger than that. But I think that’s been somewhat of the problem that we have seen in in agencies not evolving or in health care system not evolving is that we aren’t looking to younger people. Like Dave Chase says in his book for the CEO’s Guide of Health Care. “Millennials will be the people that change the health care system”. We have to give millennials the chance to be able to do that. So hopefully I’ll inspire more and more people to join the industry by being young and hopefully give the idea to agencies that there is opportunity there that they are missing out on.

Dennis: [00:07:30] Yeah, for sure. Know, that makes that makes a lot of sense. Let’s talk about marketing. You said you’ve kind of taken on a director of marketing role. What does that mean inside an insurance agency? And I asked that because I. Because I really want you to kind of dive in for people who are saying, well, we have somebody does marketing. And what they really mean is we have somebody who gets quotes for her clients, who goes out to market for our clients, or we have some ideas, marketing, meaning we have somebody who will put together like an email blast for us and and maybe handle some of our social media.

Dennis: [00:08:07] But I suspect that when you say director of marketing role, that’s not what you’re talking about. Exactly.

Jessica: [00:08:14] Yeah. When I talk about marketing and the relationship with sales, it’s that you can’t have the sales that you want without marketing. Sales is getting that prospect to say yes. Finishing that prospect meeting, doing your follow up, getting that customer that prospect to say yes. Marketing is telling your story in a way which attracts that customer that you want and it’s telling your story through different channels, whether that is face to face marketing, digital media or through your sales presentation . The stories that you’re telling is marketing and it’s just as important as sales. So even all of us as advisors or agencies that don’t have a marketing department or someone actually focus on marketing, you’re doing marketing. You’re just not actively doing marketing. You’re not doing possibly a good job of it or have a strategy for it. But when I when I focus on our strategy for marketing, it’s to have a purpose for getting the clients that we want through telling this story that we want to relay and the message we want to relate to those prospects.

Dennis: [00:09:24] And one being a benefits adviser yourself. Do you find that you end up kind of doing marketing for yourself, which is what I hear from a lot of, you know, producing advisers in agencies, is that they’re kind of left to themselves, do it? Or are you actually putting together more holistic marketing programs for the entire agency?

Jessica: [00:09:47] So typically starts with myself. You know, it’s easier to see problems and fix problems on your own and then think, OK, so how can we develop this to where it’s a repeatable process or or make this to where everyone’s benefiting from it? And I think that goes back to linchpin conversations that we had was I’ve tried to establish your reputation as being a person that is looking out for everyone’s best interests.

Jessica: [00:10:11] And that is us as an agency, us as an industry as a whole, but us as an agency looking out. How can I look out for everyone’s best interests, not just myself. And with marketing, I have the ability to do that. And so just some ways that I’ve done it over the last couple of years is refreshing. Reinventing our sales presentations. Our Web site, the client facing marketing. So this could be like benefit guide. So it’s all gone through a rebranding over the last couple of years. A funny story about our rebranding for a lot of our sales presentations and our client facing marketing as we actually did it through a Canadian company who doesn’t understand the United like the United States healthcare system.

Jessica: [00:10:55] So it’s very interesting. But they did a fantastic job. And that, I think has moved us. That has evolved a lot because we were using this presentation that was years old and people have just been adding to it, adding to adding to it. And now we have this branded guide that everything looks like it’s comprehensive and we’re all telling a similar tailor store, similar story, our own story, but a similar one.

Dennis: [00:11:18] Yeah, I think I think people miss how powerful that can be, especially agencies where, you know, they might have really early days. They had just a few salespeople and they’ve grown over time. So they’ve never really thought too hard about marketing because they’re producing agents were kind of responsible for getting their own leads, closing their own deals and then delivering services through maybe an account manager or something like that.

Dennis: [00:11:41] And so telling a telling a unified story, never, never really just happened. When you guys took this initiative and it sounds like you took this initiative, you you mentioned you use like a company in Canada. When you think about your agency and then you think about how this this can translate into other folks agencies, do you think that it makes sense to outsource that or which pieces have you found success in outsourcing versus having it in-house?

Dennis: [00:12:16] You have this agency. I’m assuming marketing agency in Canada. You said didn’t know a whole lot about the U.S. benefits market, but you guys are the subject matter experts, so you could probably bring that to bear.

Dennis: [00:12:28] How did how does that work? And having gone through it, what do you see as kind of a best approach?

Jessica: [00:12:33] You have to look within your agency and figure out what skills you have, what skills are worth you learning and what skills you have and what makes more sense to outsource.

Jessica: [00:12:44] I originally thought it was how many clients, if we get one lead from this, could this pay for this entire project? And almost every single time it’s a yes when it comes to marketing. If we spend a few thousand dollars on this marketing project and it gets us one client, one group, then that will pay for the entire project. I think of it in that perspective. But the things that I that we look at internally are things that we outsource or insource, things that we insource are going to be face to face marketing. It’s going to be possibly that monthly webinar. If you’re not hosting one, you should be. It’s that biannual or annual seminar. If you’re hosting those lunch forums around health care and benefits. But the things that I recommend outsourcing are going to be those specialized skills you likely don’t know much about, but that are very important, such as SEO, Google ads, remarketing ads, maybe even like a digital marketing strategy. Most things under that umbrella are can be much easier and less expensive to outsource.

Dennis: [00:13:49] And how did you get started? I mean, it sounds like you either just kind of had some knowledge yourself of marketing, I think. I think one of the things that stops people from outsourcing these marketing functions or even looking internally is they don’t they don’t know really what they don’t know. They don’t know where to start. You know, if if they go to a marketing agency, they’re kind of relying on that agency to kind of tell them what they should be doing. So it’s really hard. It makes it kind of hard to discern what is the right tactic. Is the agency, the marketing agency, telling me to do things that really are going to help my agency? How did how do you get started and how do you think about that in terms of what you should be doing?

Jessica: [00:14:34] Most of the things that I’ve done started by accident of me just wanting to do things. I wanted to do a webinar series. So I just started figuring out, OK, do I need a MailChimp account? Do I need some type of email? Marketing accounts. Do I want to be a speaker? Should I get speakers? You start to put together the plan and the process. And then you try to make it repeatable. Figure out what goes well, what goes bad, what you want to change. And it just continues to get better. Using webinars as an example. We had one last week and we had over 300 people register. Two hundred and fifty people actually attend the webinar. And so we have this process from the beginning to the follow up and hopefully getting a couple of clients out of it. That’s been just through trial and error. And I think you just have to continue to do that. And that’s how the other things have gone. Like the seminar. You know, just I think me taking a stance, raising my hand and saying, hey, I want to figure this out, I want to try this out and building that trust within our agency.

Jessica: [00:15:39] I understand that’s difficult for most agencies if they don’t have someone that wants to take that active approach. But I think you have to start somewhere. So can you do possibly a monthly webinar? maybe you want to interview a couple of marketing agencies. figure out what they cost, just like someone does with a broker that is doing a consulting fee? You’re going to want to figure out, you know, here’s the scope of the project. This is my goal client. How much is it cost for you to help me get to that client? So there is the shopping process when it comes to this book, but it’s figuring out those things that you can do on your own. Those are trial and error. You just need to take that first step forward. And then on the more strategic work, like with the digital marketing, you’re just going to have to interview people. You’re going to have to spend the time to interview some agencies to figure out what it costs and what it could be worth to you.

Dennis: [00:16:33] Yeah. And I think you hit on that point earlier, but you kind of drove it home with figure out what its costs and what it’s worth to you, which sounds simplistic, but really it’s just about our way. And marketing today really should be about our why? Because you actually can tie back a lot of. I’m sure you know that you’ve been able to do that. Tieback, what you’re doing from a marketing standpoint to revenue in the door for your agency. And although almost no, no marketer will guarantee a certain level of return on investment, it’s not too hard to kind of see the initiatives you’re putting in play, especially when their digital initiatives kind of to attribute those revenue dollars coming into very specific things that you’ve done, whether it be a webinar or an email campaign or or snail mail campaign, even where it ties back to a landing page or something like that. Has that been your experience?

Jessica: [00:17:32] Yeah. And you just you get better at tracking it as well. In the beginning, I felt like I was just throwing it at the wall, seeing what would stick. You start to figure out some processes and what’s taking up too much of your time that could be spent elsewhere. Because at the end of the day, I am an adviser and I’ve had I’ve had I know this is an issue within agencies because I’ve had many agencies reach out to us and say, hey, I really like this thing that you did. What could you do it for us and how much would it cost? And I’ve realized fairly quickly that it makes much more financial sense for me to be an adviser and focus on that. But I know that there’s this big need for it on the agency side.

Jessica: [00:18:14] So it’s really developing your own strategy and doing trial and error, like I said, figuring out what you can do internally, but just start somewhere.

Dennis: [00:18:24] Yeah. Now that makes a lot of sense. And you’re not wrong there. It’s probably much more lucrative career to be a benefits adviser than a marketer for benefits advisors, although that is the jump that I made. And I spent many years as a benefits adviser. But I can say they’re two entirely different skill sets. And the fact that you are sharing both of them is is pretty unique and really fantastic. I mean, it’s just going to continue to propel you forward in this industry. Having that that additional skill set of understanding marketing and how it ties back.

Dennis: [00:19:07] Let’s talk for a second, though, and we won’t spend too much time on this, because as we’re recording this, we’re in the first week of the president declaring a national emergency rate related to the corona virus. And when this airs, we may be in a bit of a different world. But I think no matter when our listeners are catching this episode, it’s important to think about whether it’s times of a national crisis or just real distractions going on either directly in the industry or in the world. What marketing? And sales outreach looks like in those times, and I know you’ve had to spend a little time thinking about this. What do you what do you think advisors should be doing right now around this particular situation we’re in? But also, as you think more broadly about in times of of distraction, we want to really oversimplify what’s going on right now. When the world is distracted, when our clients are distracted, when our prospects are really not wanting to think about some of the things that that now seem much more mundane. What can advisers be doing to to stay in front of clients and what’s the right way to do that?

Jessica: [00:20:27] I think times like these are the easiest to stand out. So it’s devastating what’s going on right now. The phone calls I’ve had with clients today has been devastating, the types of questions we’ve had to answer. However, when you’re talking about the relationships you’re building with your clients and prospects, there is not there is not a better opportunity than today.

Jessica: [00:20:49] And I say this because those conversations that you have, they’re so meaningful with clients that that will carry on for a very long time and continue to strengthen that relationship. Now, when it comes to prospects, we’re using that time to be able to inform them about policies, things that they don’t know about their benefits that we might have access to help them, you know, educate them that their broker might not be providing them.

Jessica: [00:21:17] So what type of gap can you try to fill during a time of so much and be ambiguity? And that’s where we’re trying to find opportunity. Also, a great time to do webinars . We did that what we did a webinar last week, and that was the one we had over 300 people register, and we’ll be doing another one in another week. And we are doing this because we want to be known as, hey, if I have a question, I know to go to BBG. And so we want to be there in a time of need. And I can’t help but think that this is going to just provide us more relationships and stronger relationships in the future.

Dennis: [00:21:51] And I think that’s great advice, just really meeting people exactly where they are and providing for the need at the exact time. And I think more more interaction and more communication does allow you to really stand out. Let’s talk about the future. How are you guys evolving as an agency? And what are some things that you’re looking forward to and excited about in the future of continuing to grow, not just your client base and your current relationships, but also your agency overall?

Jessica: [00:22:24] So in looking at where we’re looking at moving forward and continuing to evolve, so BBG it’s been a business for 25 years, but we’ve more than doubled in the last five. And a lot of that has to go to. The types of people that we’ve hired and the solutions that we’ve been able to create, and so we’re continue to evolve those every single day. And with the solutions, it’s tailoring them to the clients that we want. So we are now no longer focusing on being the broker necessarily. It is a heavily on consulting agreement, is heavily on what types of projects or results can we try to accomplish for our clients. And to one like me, I’ve been able to get here is taking groups out of PEOs. So now that I have had that experience with five to ten groups, we can start charging some type of consulting agreement for that and hopefully become their broker.

Jessica: [00:23:23] And we’re really creating all these different relationships for that client to be able to move forward out of that out of that p0, not necessarily, you know, giving them tax advice or telling them, hey, this is the technology you should go for when you leave a PEO. But we’re able to provide them all the solutions in one place so that they can help make the best decisions and hopefully be the broker afterwards. We’re also doing that when it comes to self funding. Whether it’s consulting agreements for that. But it’s really trying to get away from tying ourselves to insurance carriers and providing solutions and in other areas around benefits.

Dennis: [00:24:03] Are you seeing a lot of receptivity from from businesses, from business owners and CFO and even H.R. pros that you talk to around kind of this transition? Are they surprised when you when you are coming at them as more of a overall consultant rather than a broker representing insurance options? Or is it something that feels kind of natural to them?

Jessica: [00:24:29] I think that it feels natural after. We go through a presentation. We tell the story. That makes sense for the problems that they want to solve. But also we we’re turning this direction because people are asking for it. You know, some of these consulting agreements that we’ve done, people are asking for knowledge and advice in these areas. And so we’ve created a solution to fulfill that need. It’s almost as in we we talk about category creation, as in you’re creating are creating a new category of not being an adviser, but being someone that provides solutions around, you know, your benefits overall. It’s getting away from that broker. Your name is as much as possible so that they know that we’re not going to provide them with the same solutions that have not worked for them in the past.

Dennis: [00:25:25] That’s really interesting. That’s kind of a newer take on even the the idea of moving from broker to adviser to to now kind of more overall, I guess, strategist and and solution provider. It’s a it’s an interesting take, but I think it’s a pretty a pretty smart one because I think benefits brokers have always been relied on to get involved in more areas simply than just insurance. But there’s been so much reluctance because that is that is historically how they’ve been been paid. So I think you’re making some smart moves in really expanding that and broadening that.

Jessica: [00:26:04] Something on that note, too, is that we found so we’re about 60 employees and you can only add enough so many services to your agency. You see another competitor, whether they’re a big shop or, you know, one that similar size, and they may have some service that you don’t offer. We only add on so many to our services without, you know, it just doesn’t even become meaningful anymore. And so we really do. You look, you have to specialize in one area. You have to find your knees, chef. Hey, this is what I want my client or prospect to look like. It’s much easier to. You only need one hundred people to be your client or one hundred clients to be successful. If that’s your goal, you don’t need to market towards everyone in the marketplace. And so we’ve heavily relied on the areas of specialization to move us forward.

Dennis: [00:27:00] And I think that’s a great note to tie this all back into marketing, because if if you are focused on in a niche, then you can much more easily figure out exactly who you should be talking to and get your messaging really centered around that type of of buyer or company. You can really zero in on them. And you don’t need to be everything to everyone. You really just need to show where you’re going to shine and where you’re going to provide the most value.

Dennis: [00:27:31] Jessica, this has been really informative and super helpful. I’m hoping folks get to see you onstage. We’ll see the way with the way conferences have been going. I’m sure that’s remaining a question mark. But for now, they can expect to see you on stage at the Benefits Pro Broker Expo in May. And if they want to get in touch with you either before that or or even after that event, what’s the best way to reach out and connect with you?

Jessica: [00:28:02] So LinkedIn is always an easy one for me. Jessica Du Bois, also on Instagram under Jessica Du Bois and YouTube, as well as own Web site.

Dennis: [00:28:14] Okay. Awesome. We’ll we’ll include those links in the show notes so people can easily reach out with any additional questions. Jessica, thank you so much for your time today. Really appreciate you being on the show. Thank you.

Dennis: [00:28:33] One to the revenue acceleration system for benefits.

Dennis: [00:28:37] You know, all those leads that you call e-mail once and then forget about what my job is to not try and convert them into engaged opportunities so you can close them and drive new revenue.

Dennis: [00:28:49] Want me to work for you? Just go to. Hey, Hunter, don’t you say hey.

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