Looking for Organic Growth

Here’s how: Consistently deliver the right message to the right audience

By Paul Seegert 

Organic growth has always been the holy grail of business — especially in our industry. During high times and low times in the economic cycle it is always listed as a top priority for agencies of all sizes. However, when times are good and money is cheap, organizations can “buy” growth through acquisition — so it is often more of a placeholder on the list of goals than a real focus.

In a Reagan Consulting “Growth and Profitability Survey” released in November 2022, organic growth for employee benefits respondents averaged 5.56% over the last 6 years. At first, that sounds somewhat positive, but when you consider that Mercer recently reported that employers are seeing a 5.6% increase in healthcare costs in 2023 it seems that organic growth may be a bit tougher to generate than the first set of numbers would indicate.

As we head into tougher economic times and the cost of money has gone up considerably, organizations will be dusting off the “organic growth plans” and those who can produce it will be in demand. They will also be the agencies that can still command a high multiple when exploring an M&A deal – cheap money or not.

Sometimes it is easier to define what something is by pointing out what it is not. So, here are a couple of hints:

Hint #1: You’re in the sales and marketing business if you have consistent organic growth.

The best growth agencies are often not driven by the best technicians. More product data doesn’t get more customers. In fact, great sales and marketing people are able to make complicated things simple. 

Are you spending more time learning about products and solutions or learning about how to have meaningful conversations with ideal prospects?

Hint #2: The laundry list of value-added services that have become the norm in our industry are not a competitive advantage that drives organic growth. 

Rather, they are the minimum expectation that employers now have of any broker. Once an item has mass adoption amongst brokers and employers, it is now a commodity part of our business. 

Just like a college degree has become so commonplace that its value has declined, Free COBRA, ACA, Compliance, HR assistance (and the list goes on) are not unique anymore in the eyes of a potential customer.

So, how do you grow organically in an industry where you can easily be commoditized? What is that X factor that growth agencies have in common?

Over the years I have had the chance to work with more than 50 agencies around the country on their sales and marketing systems. From that experience, I have found that agencies that grow consistently and aggressively know the answer to a couple of key questions. And, as a result, they are the go-to resource to their audience and anything but a commodity.

Here are the questions:

#1. What is your competitive advantage?

How exactly do you deliver unique value to your customers? How is it measured? Where is the proof? Remember, market data is more compelling than product data. It is the easiest thing in the world to make general statements and they have correspondingly low value in the eyes of a good prospect. Here are some examples:

  • We provide personalized customer service
  • We find the lowest cost solutions for our clients

The same things can be framed in a very different way that motivates a prospect to stop, listen, and ultimately make a change. It is critical that your prospect knows exactly how much better their life would be without you vs. without you — and they need proof!

Here are some examples:

  • Our team resolved 1,437 service issues for our clients this quarter with an average response time of under 2 hours and resolution within 24 hours. This resulted in our clients saving 280 hours of administrative workload in their HR department. 
  • Our clients enjoyed an overall trend increase of 2.9% while the rest of the market saw a 5.6% trend this year and their costs are 21% below their industry peers for comparably benchmarked benefits.

 #2. Who is your ideal client? What type of employers are your best clients? 

To be clear, the question is not who you wish were your best clients. While many would like to have 500 life cases that each drive $250k/year in revenue to their agency with a lean staff, not all are suited to be competitive in that space. 

Do you have a niche where you have done well? While it is true that benefits are benefits and industries of all types have the same challenges, it is also true that prospects will have more confidence in making a change if you are able to show proof that you have like clients.

#3. Does your value proposition/competitive advantage have more impact when delivered to HR or Finance?

Know your audience and consistently deliver your message to the right person in the organization.

#4. Do you have a geographic area with a concentration of clients that you can leverage?

Again, while “benefits are benefits” and you can learn the technical differences from area to area, the confidence of a potential prospect will be higher if they can see proof that you are working with others around them.

In closing, when you know exactly what your unique value proposition is and your ideal prospect, organic growth is now down to consistently delivering the right message to the right audience to have a calendar full of great conversations.


Paul C. Seegert is managing partner at PCS Advisers. After serving as a Russian intelligence analyst, Paul worked for a national insurance company. Five years later, Paul left to fix healthcare and has consulted for thousands of employers. He is a nationally recognized expert who speaks to employers and advisers. Paul regularly appears in the media to discuss healthcare related topics and his appearances have included Wharton Business Daily, various Fox affiliates, The Wall Street Journal and its nationally syndicated radio show and others. He also started a marketing company to serve consulting firms around the country and is currently running campaigns in more than 50 metro areas in the USA. Paul is a father of five and a student pilot — so he can work and still be home for dinner.

Contact: www.pcsadvisers.com