Clusters – Are they right for you?

By Val Jordan   As both an independent agent and a sole practitioner, you know how it is becoming increasingly more difficult it is to find products and services. Carriers have increased production requirements, wholesalers are starting to require volume commitments, and your clients are demanding more services than you can provide. So, how do you stay competitive and service your existing book of customers while increasing your customer base.   Consider a cluster! That’s right, a cluster. What is it? How does it work? Read on.   A cluster is a group of independent agents centered in a common geographic area who join forces to service a wider customer base and cross sell via their individual expertise. Similar to a producer group, which services corporate or affluent life insurance clients, the cluster achieves the same thing for the property/casualty agents but in a more defined area. By banding together, these agents share a common business philosophy, a compatible marketing strategy, and the promise of top-of-the- line product offerings yielding higher compensation.   Here’s a snap shot of what a cluster might look like:  

• Personal lines agent wanting to offer commercial coverages • Commercial agent wanting to offer personal lines and benefits • Benefit advisor wanting to offer both commercial lines and individual personal lines products to small business employees and owners

  Through their alliance, it is clear that these agents now have the ability to cross sell to existing clients while providing a full complement of products which will generate significantly higher compensation for the entire group.   How do you get started?  

• Determine your geographic footprint. • Evaluate and select your independent brokers • Execute a marketing agreement • Create a new agency entity • Design a business plan • Determine a cross-selling marketing strategy


Determine your geographic footprint – Decide how large of an area you can effectively service.


Evaluate and select your strategic partners Determine who within your geographic area is a potential for alliance and evaluate their book of clients to avoid duplication and mine new opportunities.


Execute a marketing agreement Just like a third-party marketing firm, determine the roles and responsibilities of each strategic partner and the compensation arrangement for the new entity.


Create a new agency entity To maintain your independence while rolling up your production, you might consider creating a new agency entity. You can either place new business from the strategic alliance captured here or you can appoint each independent agent as a sub-producer of the agency, thereby consolidating accounting while tracking individual production.


Design a business plan Taking the time to create a business plan will focus all the parties on the new business opportunity. This plan will determine specifically what financial capital is needed to expand on your current technology, hire additional support personnel, or fund a new hub location. To assist you in providing this capital, you might consider consulting with Oak Street Funding. They specialize in financing independent agents for the purposes of expansion, acquisition, and producer development.


Determine a cross-selling marketing strategy Now that you have a potential book many times the size of your existing one, a systematic contact strategy must be crafted.

  Clusters are not going to be for everyone. But, however, for those who are looking for ways to increase their base while providing their expertise to a wider universe of prospects, clusters provide a new and exciting business opportunity.   Val Jordan has been providing consulting services to the insurance industry since 1991. She is both President of Jordan & Jordan Associates, and AgenciesOnline, a communication, marketing, and technology company, which serves as an outsourced marketing arm of an agency email  



“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” - Henry James


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“Persistent people who continually ask – they receive. Persistent people who continually seek – they find. And for persistent people who keep knocking – doors open for them.” - Luke 11:10


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  © COPYRIGHT 2011 Michael Mercer, Ph.D.,  



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