In 1999 Colin Baker became just one more in the ever increasing book of redundancy casualties sweeping the insurance industry as a result of merger mania.

But instead of resting on his laurels and lamenting the insurance environment, he decided to use the new arena for his own gains.

Late last year he set up the Marketing Function, which aims to open up new doors for brokers and affinity groups as well as providing them with a competitive edge that they thought that they could not afford.

Drawing on his 21 years at Commercial Union, including 11 in the broker marketing department, Baker hopes he can take brokers' marketing capabilities beyond simply producing a glossy brochure.

He comments: "Marketing in the broker market is very much underdeveloped. Many companies think that finding innovative ways to market themselves in today's market is too difficult, especially with the new challenges of the internet.

"Many are not aware of the strength of marketing. What firms need to focus on is product development and technology. As well as constantly researching their market and conducting sales training."

"The marketing mix is essential to businesses today. It is as important to co-ordinate people and technology as it is to understand what makes the consumer tick."

Baker believes that the poor reputation of the insurance industry is undeserved since brokers are often seen as the consumer's champion.

Cutting costs
He adds: "Insurance is a necessary evil and without it society would collapse. There are a few bad apples and everyone gets tarnished by those companies. But if brokers focus both on service as well as price they will win in the end."

The first step in marketing, he says, is to understand your business.

The word marketing should be put into a realistic context – that of making money. To do this brokers need to look at where they can cut costs, save time and benefit from sponsorship.

He says: "Looking at distribution channels is also a big area of focus in a marketing drive because sometimes brokers can be selling to the wrong market.

"A product could have the wrong sales hook or brokers could be trying to sell it as a stand alone product when it would work better as an add-on.

"In addition, brokers should be thinking more about packaging products."

He uses as an example the use of lifestyle marketing where a client's portfolio is built up according to their career, family and hobbies.

"Another growing idea is marketing to children. South Essex Insurance Brokers for example attempted to grow their equestrian business by advertising in children's equestrian magazines, and using promotional give-aways for children.

"This is a clever way of selling and if more companies use ideas like this, then the broker market is potentially huge."

Staff are the key
He realises that the broker base has diminished in the last decade as a result of acquisition activity and technology, but feels this only makes marketing more important.

Succession planning has also had an impact on this decreasing market. But Baker feels that there is a simple solution to this – that of spending and investing more in staff.

Even with the growth of technology, staff will always be a company's most important asset and their input should be put to good use.

Baker believes that brain-storming sessions can be an effective way creating innovative new business plans. But he says that it has to be the right sort of idea-making.

"It has to be completely off the wall," he says.

"Participants need to concentrate on things that will work. It can be easy to come up with an idea, but someone needs to own that idea, take responsibility for it and then drive it forward."

He adds: "Marketing is an evolving beast. Ideas always need development and you have to keep evaluating them. Sometimes companies just need someone who is going to help them stop and take stock of their business set-up."

Income Value
Country Commercial and Residential - make the most of your market:- £1,000-£50,000

Add ons- think within and beyond your own client base:- £1,000-£20,000

Reciprocal marketing – cut your costs - open distribution beyond the normal – umbrella marketing:- £100-£10,000

Design to cut costs - feature marketing by CD :- £100-£5,000

Don't open the door with insurance – how to make impressions with big companies:- £1,000-£50,000

Warranty – can you change the distribution:- £100-£5,000

Customer loyalty – can you afford the news letter and is that it ?:- £100- £5,000

Lifestyle marketing:- £100-£5,000

An insurance broker or a business man - time to diversify ?:- £1,000-£100,000