Archive for August, 2007


Interesting stuff this week….

First, AIG Small Business® named IdeaStar client McGowan & Company, Inc. as its Community Associations Program Administrator. I view this as a pleasure/pain situation. On the pleasure side, very cool that McGowan has been selected. It’s quite an honor for them to be working with AIG, one of the largest insurance providers in the world (and a sponsor of World Cup Soccer!). On the pain side, this is one more thing to throw up my hands at, because on the health and life side, this insurance provider seems to be hamstrung by internal IT security.

Second, a recent Wall Street Journal article really caught my attention. It states that health insurers are targeting the two groups of people least likely to be covered by insurance at work — young people in their 20s and 30s, and early retirees who don’t yet qualify for Medicare. The article references Wellpoint and Tonik products geared toward the younger set. Note that they are advertising where those customers are: on social networking sites such as MySpace and affinity groups such as the US Open of Surfing. Tonik has three health plans to choose from: Thrill-seeker, Part-time Daredevil, and Calculated Risk-taker.

Now there’s some fresh innovation. They’ve developed products to suit a particular market, and they are marketing through channels that particular market uses. And by-the-way, their products are selling like crazy!

Third, the Wall Street Journal’s recent article, “Why Most Web Sites Receive Failing Grades” rang a bell, since IdeaStar designs Web sites. I agree the following can bring a Web site down:

  • Worthless bells and whistles
  • Cute instead of clear
  • Over crowed
  • Lack of trust

It was interesting to read that if a site is slow, users conclude it is less secure. And, to get a huge pay-off, often all you need is to change your conversion rate a little.

Here’s what I’ve observed. The vast majority of insurance Web sites are developed by IT programmers. As soon as they are finished with the front page, they are off patting themselves on the back, and never thinking to include marketing. What’s wrong with this picture? What IT departments don’t realize is that an insurance Web site is a marketing tool. If done correctly, it can have a big impact on sales and service.

My fourth and final observation of the week. Four years ago, IdeaStar earned its first AM Best honorable mention award, followed by finalists status in 2004 and 2006. I just learned I will be serving as a judge this year. IdeaStar does not have an entry. Our new projects are just launching, so we’ll have to wait until next year. It will be fun to see what all the other companies are doing.

Oh yeah… favorite picture from the new soccer season… so far!

See the ball compressing? Click to enlarge… See more…


John Steber is a significant asset to the affinity marketing profession with the Life and Health insurance vertical. With an interesting background in a couple other industries, John brings some fresh ideas to the marketplace. And the impacts of those ideas are starting to be seen.

In listening to John, he has a clear grasp of the critical issues we all face in selling L&H insurance via the Web. Since voluntary and supplemental insurance products are not top-of-mind products (versus auto and home), the key is triggering the thoughts of people, and then using Web sites to help them make those thoughts actionable.

John’s 3-step marketing approach is terrific. He also shares some VERY interesting thoughts on some of the barriers to more effective Web utilization and how to overcome them. These are ideas everyone in our biz needs to hear and contemplate. I also appreciate John’s comments on the value of outsourcing. Lastly, John shares a creative perspective on MarkeTTech and how to use the symposium to lift the effectiveness of the whole insurance development and distribution team. John, Hartford Life is lucky to have you.

John Steber, came to insurance from… Progeny Marketing and BankOne Credit Cards

Click here to hear John’s thoughts on the future of the Web for insurance


I left the 2007 PIMA Summer Conference completely satisfied and fulfilled, notable because that’s unusual… for me anyway. There’s almost always a wrinkle, regret, or worse yet, a travel-related issue. But this time, I guess it was my turn to have a great time, do some business, and leave on a positive note…. Following are some pictures that tell the story. I’ll also be posting two podcasts recorded live at the conference as soon as I get a bit more unburied.

Cool pic from the Board Meeting (l-r immed. past Pres, next Pres., curr. Pres., CEO, 3rd in line Pres.)

Balloon ride on the property… took lots of these.

I was pretty happy to be there with my camera for these people. Tough to get the flame in the shot like this…

Kayak-ing trip down a local river… Great trip – a favorite of the kids (right)

A morning Roundtable discussion… tough subject matter for these folks… but a good discussion nonetheless.

Got to stop by Ben & Jerry’s for a tour.
Very cool company…pun intended

Sorry… I had to have someone take my picture. Thanks Dave.

The preso went really well (I thought). People liked the music video. JDo, you ROCK!

This person said she really liked this picture of herself… and normally doesn’t.

I think this as a Vermont guy, but hard to say. (click to enlarge)

The bear definitely IS!

Colored by the setting sun, this is the Pres’s wife and son.

Netnet, I’m pleased with the receptivity e-business is starting to receive. Perhaps the Life and Health Insurance carriers and distributors are finally starting to move as a herd. Speaking of animals… a funny story from the conference. Someone came up to me at a reception and said,

“Mike, I see you’re taking a lot of picture of everyone. Must be like a safari.”
I said, “A safari? What do you mean?”
“Well, you’re taking pictures of insurance people in their natural habitat!!!”

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