Purpose, Philosophy, People And Process

I’m often asked, “What do you think makes The Marketing Alliance attractive to so many BGAs?” At the highest level it is purpose and philosophy. On a day to day level it is people and process. TMA’s purpose is to help distributors grow their businesses by:

  • Providing leverage in the form of shared services to minimize and or better manage BGA expenses, as well as to provide a higher quality service than might be possible otherwise;
  • Developing new profit opportunities, creating advantages in the market;
  • Advocating for TMA distributors (BGAs) to carriers and vendors;
  • Serving as a “safety net” for the abrupt, impactful disruptions in the industry–converting disruptions into opportunities; and,
  • Allowing agencies to focus resources where they have the greatest impact–marketing and business development.

TMA’s philosophy is to do the above without compromising a distributor’s independence. That is a pervasive promise that presents itself in all aspects of our businesses. It takes many forms, but ultimately it comes down to helping distributors improve their businesses without expecting them to put the group’s needs before their own, never asking or expecting them to put their businesses at a disadvantage for the betterment of the group or another distributor.

Most of this is just common sense. BGAs are in a highly competitive business. To be asked to send one carrier’s business though a single agency to create scale is to ask a BGA to send his customer list to a competitor or potential competitor (who could currently be working at that agency). It is also a recipe for potential conflict of interest.

Another important feature of TMA’s philosophy of independence is to make every effort that all distributors’ contracts are in their names and vest 100 percent to them immediately. They own their contracts and their downline. Their commissions are paid to them by the carrier. Should they decide to move on, their contracts, their downline, their renewals and service fees go with them.

TMA’s purpose and philosophy are manifested on a day to day basis in the form of processes and the people that support those processes. The most visible example is TMA’s business service center (BSC). TMA employees are dedicated to moving TMA distributors’ cases to the carriers, through underwriting and issue, and ultimately back to the distributors in the form of policies. Interestingly, while most new business operations are built on the case management model, the BSC uses a much more efficient “specialist” model that is made possible by the large number of applications processed. On any given day,about 75 percent of TMA’s distributors use the BSC to control costs, improve service to their brokers or manage workflow.

TMA’s BSC has a reputation for being an industry leader. It has been paperless for more than 15 years, leading the way in imaging, direct to underwriter submissions and many other technological advances. The BSC is frequently called upon by carriers for pilot programs and projects because of the strength of their technology-based processing and data gathering expertise.

TMA has built and staffed a call center for fulfillment (completion) of “drop ticket” applications. The value of a TMA-owned and staffed fulfillment center is the extraordinary control the BGA retains as a BGA-centric business operation. Among the many advantages of TMA’s fulfillment center is the ability to provide agents with the option of a warm, customer friendly process allowing the applicant to complete the application immediately and avoiding the need to set an appointment at some later date and time. In addition to the convenience, this feature improves completion and drives placement rates.

As a result, our BGAs can deliver an end-to-end experience that never leaves their control and involvement which drives adoption and allows the BGA to pivot when a case requires it rather than a rescue of a bad situation for the agent and client…and it carries their brand and logo!

With regard to marketing and sales support, TMA provides a competition desk, marketing and communications, website maintenance and support, and distributor services and support from our headquarters. The competition desk is designed to help BGAs close large sales as well as minimize the importance of spreadsheeting while emphasizing product features and carrier strengths and advantages. The daily, weekly and monthly communications are designed to create efficiencies for our distributors. Daily publications provide time sensitive information to distributors to make sure they are aware of issues that will affect their businesses. Weekly publications recap the important carrier communications of the past week in an organized and easy to use format. Monthly publications are sales, marketing and promotionally oriented. All TMA publications may be personalized with the agency’s information and logo and forwarded to brokers.

TMA also engages insignificant research and development. Each of these endeavors are researched and tested. Those that prove profitable are made available to distributors to be used as they see fit. Should they prove unprofitable, they are put aside until the opportunity becomes viable. In any case, the TMA distributor invests no resources, no time, no money, no distraction from the business at hand. When TMA releases the new opportunity, distributors adopt the new opportunity in a manner and to the degree that best benefits their businesses.

Examples of research and development that have provided resources for distributors to grow their businesses include the annuity center, the LTC center and a pilot for the Medicare supplement center. Each of these are designed to add a revenue stream to the life insurance distributor’s business with no investment of capital or other resources–no money needed and no new employees. Another involved creating a VUL study group to help BGAs enter the variable products business. TMA hosts the study group meetings, providing speakers, moderator and roundtable discussions where issues and best practices are addressed. To encourage VUL market development, TMA has partnered with an organization that pays for study materials and registration costs–further lowering the barrier to enter this business.

The most recent program delivered was In Force Block Management that includes a study group, in force block analysis, alerts and reporting and communications to policyowners to engage them for new sales. All services associated with this endeavor are provided at no charge to the BGA.

TMA’s comprehensive business system is designed to adapt to the evolving needs of our distributors. While most of our distributors are focused on continued growth and business building, some are evaluating their options as they near the end of their successful careers. To support these symbiotic needs, TMA has developed TMA Exchange. For those agencies targeting growth through acquisition, TMA provides a matchmaking service that pairs buyers and sellers at no cost to either party. For distributors looking to sell or slow down, we provide several options and services that allow distributors to control the pace of transition. TMA also provides much support for second generation entrepreneurs and the unique challenges and opportunities they face.

In recent conversations with carriers, we talked about the agencies that are succeeding and growing in today’s environment. Invariably, those agencies with greatest success were those that were innovative, substantial and focused marketers. There was no thriving agency that was described as “a great processor” or noted as having a “great new business department.” The lesson is obvious—brokerage is not about processing cases, it is about sales, marketing and prospecting ideas. It is about recruiting new sources of production, more producers and new markets.

TMA’s focus is on creating opportunities for the growth of our distributors. We are dedicated to cultivating new sources of production for our distributors and providing efficiencies that allow them to focus on sales and marketing.

The Marketing Alliance

Alan S. Protzel, CLU, ChFC, is director of agency development for The Marketing Alliance, Inc., an organization that provides support to independent insurance brokerage agencies, with a goal of providing members value-added services on a more efficient basis than they can achieve individually. Prior to joining TMA, Protzel held executive marketing positions for MetLife and General American Life. Protzel has an MBA in marketing and finance from Washington University, Olin Business School, St. Louis, MO.