Archive for October, 2006

26th

Well, our client was not selected as the overall E-Fusion Award “Recipient” in the Customer Management category at the A.M. Best Insurance and Technology Conference in Boston. But we’re still pretty proud that our entry, www.communitycarerx.com developed for MemberHealth Inc., was selected as a Finalist.

The Medicare Part D enrollment and information site is unique because of its ease-of-use, its tremendous results, and low cost. Geared toward senior citizens and their caregivers, the contest judges noted the site caters to an under-served online community. And, the success of the site bodes well for the future selling of insurance to seniors.

There were a lot of great entries, and the competition was stiff. Hats off to the winner in our category, Oceanwide Inc.: GENOA, a collaborative, comprehensive Web-based software for global marine insurance.

I had a good time at the conference. It was great networking with other successful insurance e-business veterans, hearing about their successes, and all the great health and life IT department jokes. The buzz this year was wireless technology, and how it is used to set up virtual offices where and when they are needed.

I spent a lot of time talking about online agent licensing or appointment. Everybody seems to know it is needed and how helpful automating the system can be. Our Case Study AppointMyAgent.com is a great example.

Boston is a great city. I had dinner with a dear friend, an old roommate from school who is a naturalized citizen from Iran. He is planning his doctorate on the convergence of four “tectonic plates” moving in the world today: Globalization, the rapid evolution of IT, international relations, and religion.

It was a fascinating discussion. He mentioned how IT is really disrupting a lot of things in the world today. People living in the most remote shacks of developing countries have satellite dishes on their roofs. They’re picking up incredible amounts of information about the world. It will be interesting to see how the world will continue to develop over the next few years. Effective communication and diffusing misunderstanding will be critical. I told Reza he should consider a Blog along the way….

That’s all for now. The next conferences I’m scheduled to attend are the PIMA Annual Meeting in Boca Raton, FLA January 18-21 and the ICMG Annual Meeting, January 31 through Feb. 2, at Bonita Springs, FLA. I hope to see you there.

24th

Outstanding Top of the Hub networking last night.

Familiar Boston nights

Take a wild guess on food items?!?!

Old friends catching up…

I know there is a lot going on, but lets start by taking a look at podcasting.

  • Podcasting is just beginning to touch the insurance industry. It allows you to deliver the latest news in audio form directly from your office or LOB through the Internet. What amazing potential!
  • What to podcast about??? There’s so much to comment on, including agents using tech., thoughts from the biz line, impact of current events, competition, etc.. Podcasting is the perfect vehicle.
  • Materials and cost?? All you need to podcast is a laptop, USB microphone, Dynametric plugs to record interviews taken over the telephone, Audacity freeware for the audio-editing. Or spend a little more on Digi-design MBox2 Pro Tools.
  • Designate a young creative-type on our team as the “production guru”.
  • Create and 8-week cycle – the current 2-3 weeks are ‘in the can’ and getting approved, middle 2-3 weeks are in production, last 2-3 weeks in concept (lining up speakers, images, soundbites, etc.).

Memorial in front of Trinity Church near the Copley Kahlil Gibran, Boston’er in the early 1900′s (click on the photo to see the bird swooping in… for some camera time middle-right!)

Now let’s take a look at Enterprise Mobility, the ability for an employee to access job-related tools and information out on the road. It’s no longer just nice to have. It’s now a must have.

Wireless devices are becoming standard equipment like laptops. But rather than just a simple cell phone, you need to use the good stuff – Blackberry, Treo, etc… It is important to integrate wireless with core business processes. Remember the need for sporadic, multmedia training and that devices wear out in a year.

And while you may be thinking “Why would I complicate my life more?” there is a strong ROI. Enterprise Mobility promotes less inbound calls, greater knowledge in the field, improved inbound data quality and more. And if you do it right, it simplifies your life, makes you more efficient, and allows for more free-time, not less. Don’t stick your head in the sand on this… like anything else, it’s about managing responsibilities and stuff.

This is way cool: There are now computerized pens with Bluetooth capability for ‘wet’ signature online. You can read about it here.

More later…

Thanks, Mike

Sent from Treo handheld

23rd

Unfortunately, my flight from Cleveland to Boston was delayed, so I missed the Head of the Charles.

Radcliffe Crew wrapping up at the Harvard Boathouse

Fairmont Copley Plaza is a beautiful place

Conference Chair Lee McDonald, A.M. Best

Got my mug on the screen talking about “Why EFusion???”

Some interesting points…

  • Web 2.0 — a recent term that seems important. It means new Web technology that encompasses “online community” and the “architecture of communication.”
  • 2004 — $9b in insurance premium was influenced by the Web.
  • Existing players in insurance Web marketing are increasing their spending.
  • Web site development “star” function is on the rise (hmmm… like IdeaStar?)
  • Facilitate Web user “conversations” rather than assuming you have them captive when they hit your site.
  • I love this one: Joke among P&C crowd — “at least the Health & Life folks are moving online faster than libraries!”
  • Stagnation & Decline – this is what happens when exec’s don’t drive change and keep score.

Yikes… More later.

Sent from Treo handheld

20th

I recently returned from the Securities and Insurance Licensing Association (SILA) 17th National Education Conference in Florida. It’s mostly an educational conference for those who deal with agent licensing. State regulators and licensing professionals are brought together for a few days of “how to’s” and “what-do-you-do’s.” We stayed at the Gaylord Palms right near the entrance to Disney World. Great hotel if you’re interested…

Lots of gators and turtles in this pond in the hotel (click for a larger image)

They also had a trade show for various vendors serving the agent licensing market. I was particularly impressed with Sircon, Vector One, and Interstate Background Research (IBR).

I found agent licensing folks to be a lot different from the marketing folks I usually deal with. They eat a lot more, and they smoke like chimneys!!! But they’re very nice and open to ways to automate things. Unfortunately, based on much informal chatter at meals and on the cigarette porch, they seem to be at the bottom rung of the ladder when it comes to IT resources.

Some of mel Fischer’s stuff from the Atocha find…

As a “newbie” I was very fortunate to have Jenn McQuade, Interstate Background Research sales and marketing coordinator, to introduce me to other attendees. Interstate specializes in pre-employment screening. We’re currently working on a job together, with IBR providing the screening and IdeaStar providing the online automation for licensing.

Jenn gave an excellent example of how important prescreening is. In a recent case, an automatic fraud check helped uncover three insurance agents, all related with different last names, raiding a broker database and reselling insurance on new ‘paper’. Without IBR’s work, they would probably still be in the business, and possibly leading to the downfall of the brokerage. This really points out the value of integrating services with automated online licensing. Licensing departments clearly need as much sophistication as sales departments. The only difference is that it’s not about incremental revenues, it’s more about saving money and reducing risks.

Hammerhead shark with the eyes on the ‘hammer’!!!

Next I’m off to E-Fusion 2006 in Boston. The A.M. Best annual fall event is dedicated to highlighting new developments in insurance through resourceful uses of technology as applied to business strategy. I’m hoping to bring home the grand prize with our client MemberHealth. Theirs is a terrific story about a successful e-commerce site being in the right place at the right time. I’ll also try to catch the Head of the Charles rowing regatta. Pictures to follow.

Oh yeah… I’m reading this great book called “Don’t Make Me Think,” by Steve Krug. It’s all about Web design. It really hits the mark based on my experience with Web and e-business design. I highly recommend it.

That’s it for this week. My fortune cookie at lunch predicted “a great award will soon come my way.” :-)

5th

CCRX

Fra-gee-le’! Must be Italian! It’s a major award!!!!! “Christmas Story”

Very very cool. I found out Monday during the 2006 Professional Insurance Marketing Association (PIMA) MarkeTTech Symposium in Chicago. IdeaStar was awarded the “Best of PIMA Award” for www.communitycarerx.com. IdeaStar designed and developed the Medicare Part D enrollment Web site for MemberHealth Inc. The site won the Gold award in the Marketing Methods competition, e-Commerce Web sites category, and then went on to win Best of PIMA against the other Gold winners.

There were 60 to 70 entries spread out over 11 categories. Six Gold Awards were given, and for the second time in three years, a Web site won Best of PIMA. The judges mentioned in their recognition speech that www.communitycarerx.com was cleanly conceived, cost effective, and very successful, with over 100,000 enrollments.

Other conference notes: The conference theme this year was the “Winds of Change.” One of those “Winds of Change” widely discussed was the use of the Internet for selling insurance products. At MarkeTTech last year, I introduced my blog – and nobody knew what I was talking about. This year, everybody was talking about the Internet, podcasts, blogs, etc. and how they relate to insurance products sales.

All this to say that insurance companies need to focus on their Web strategy. The Internet is not just for education any more. It’s grown to include sales and management too. If the Internet can work for Medicare Part D, clearly marketed toward seniors, it will work for main-stream products as well. But it ain’t easy – the slightest misstep and down you go.

FYI — Watch out, those of you who are doing things inhouse. During the conference, I had several meaningful conversations with well-known carriers in the health and life space who want to outsource Web development. They’ve already tried it in-house, and now they are ready to turn it over to somebody whose projects have already proven successful.

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