During a time of economic downturn, with big insurance companies like AIG in trouble, one would think it to be counter-intuitive that the 2009 PIMA Annual Meeting would be well-attended, vital, and optimistic.  Yet it was.  Another thing I noticed: People seemed to be much more focused and serious this year as compared to the 2008 meetingTo their credit, this time of trial seems to have encouraged industry professionals to focus on the essentials – networking, learning, growing, and reaching for new solutions to timeless direct marketing challenges.

As an example, last year I remember asking a number of people about Linkedin.  What?  Huh?  What’s that?  Or… Yeah, I heard about that.  I’m in there, but I don’t know why…not doing anything with it.  A year later, I’d say 3/4ths of the Board Members raised their hand to Bill Tyson‘s question about being on Linkedin.  In the past year, I’d say better than half have started connecting on Linkedin.  I’d imagine with all the buzz this year, prehaps 25% of the rest will get started.  And I’m hoping the first group will start actively using the tool – Tripit is awesome, connecting to new people through your contacts, WordPress integration, Twitter integration, Slideshare…

So listen:  With all these tools available to you, here’s my main call-to-action for the group – START AN INTERACTIVE WEB SITE (i.e. blog).  Lurkers are Lame.  Join the conversation.  Learn.  Don’t be left behind and become irrelevant, of limited value, ignorant(???)… All the myths and fears of compliance, negative talk about the company, etc., all those issues have been resolved with new releases of Blog technologies.  So there’s no excuses anymore – seriously.  And TREMENDOUS ROI, both tangible and intangible.

A few more thoughts from the meeting:

PIMA is focusing on technology this year – one of Frank Fimmano‘s top three focus points (GREAT talk at the closing dinner, by the way.  Sorry I didn’t think of recording it until about half-way through.)  Webinars will be one of the items.  That’s a work area for me as well.  My personal goal is to learn how to make videos as easily as I do a blog post.  Example: A simple 10-minute tutorial on how to maximize Linkedin using voice-over and screen capture.  I’d like to get to the point where I can do something like that in less than an hour…

Funny story – I was leading a discussion on Linkedin at a breakfast roundtable when one of the participants started telling a story of what they are doing…

As he was talking about commenting on a discussion in the Linkedin PIMA Group, I noticed him miming typing on a keyboard with his two index fingers.  It was an unconscious thing.  So I said, “Wait.  Time-out.  Did I just see you hunting-and-pecking on your keyboard?!?!”  He bashfully said, “Yeah, I know, it’s an issue….”  And we laughed.  It’s funny because I just had the same conversation with a friend over for dinner last week at my house – can’t do that.  Can fix that in 30-days, an hour a night.  Must fix that.  Although the good news is that soon keyboards will become obsolete one day – replaced by voice recognition technology.  That will be Mike’s Get out of jail free card!

The notes from the panel I sat on with Bill Tyson, Warren Hunter, and John Coleman, moderated by Linda Brignola-Braverman are here.

My notes from the speaking sessions at the conference, in order of appearance:

Thredgold: in 1980, college grad made 25% more v. HS grad, today it’s 90% more! – computer skills rewarded by mrktplc (15-20% more $$)

In American colleges, 1 of 3 is 40 years old or older

Smallest increase in CPI in 2008 in 50 years.  Inflation pressures will stay under control.

  1. Competition will keep inflation under control.
  2. In every industry, 1/3 excess capacity.
  3. Investment in technology – 2.5 trillion last 10 years, 10-12 billion in last 2-3 years
  4. avg worker productivity – rising annual rates 2.5-3% last several years
  5. The Internet – next 3 years, save 1.25 trillion dollars by improving business.

Al Gore school of Dance – Al Gore Rhythm!!!  Ba-bum

Global Economy – Asia, China is struggling – growth close to zero, jobs not available 20million people have lost jobs in recent months, will see more social unrest

Japan economy is in freefall, contracting at 12% rate, nothing in the last 10 years other than govt stimulus.

Europe – Banking system challenges equal to US, Russia now dealing with oil prices fall

S.A. – tied to oil prices

Canada in it’s own recession, lost 129,000 jobs in Jan, worst month ever

US will lead global econ out of recession

12-14 years ago, bloated dinausor

Then down-sizing

Emerged – most powerful economy in history of the world

Critical industries of the future

  • Technology
  • Transportation
  • Telecom
  • Financial Services
  • Energy
  • Entertainment
  • Bio-Medicine

In one way or another US in will lead all of these.

3 guaranteed gainers in coming years, thanks to babyboomers

  • Healthcare
  • Financial Planning
  • Leisure & Entertainment
  • Tatoo Removal – big business in coming years!

Your garbage disposal eats better than 50% of the people in world

2/3 of the people are alive today that have ever been born in the history of the world

Universal translator is about 15 months away.

Internet – incredible tool in your business, estimates we’ve tapped about 10% of the power

65,000 new Web sites every 60 seconds now

“People respond to incentive.” Free enterprise economy

Communism and socialism – very few incentives

50 yrs ago – half the world was under communism, now it’s a handful.

This is not a logical world.  If it were, MEN would ride SIDE-SADDLE!

Marilyn Carp – stronger companies will survive and emerge even stronger

Higher-quality investments, evaluating businesses, looking at fundamentals

Internet 6% – sales and marketing channels, POS – 43%

Consumers have less trust in larger companies, want guarantees, BETTER JOB OF COMMUNICATING with customers

Then why aren’t you blogging???  Why aren’t the Web sites interactive?

Direct response – moving from push to pull – usually on the phone or online

Sam Fleet

Disorganized response will distract from hidden opportunities

Cmu with employees – top asset, must cmu w employees, make them aware of events

Price, commission, revenue reductions that are heading our way.  We need to deal now

Assess your vulnerabilities relative to – modest downturn, recession, or full-blown depression

Generate financial outcomes based on three variables, develop a plan to deal with it.

Cash is king.  Maximize cash position.

Reduce or postpone spending, maximize cash in-flows

More aggressively manage customers premiums.  Reduce working capital.

Good old days of leverage are gone.  Minimize debt profile

Aggressively manage top-line – protect existing customer base, generate more sales

Revenue today, not revenue tomorrow – re-focus sales and marketing

Rethink product mix – what are people looking for in a recession

Costs 4x as much to acquire a new customer than save an existing one.

Reduce costs – move rapidly, selling G&A and marketing costs

If you slash marketing costs today, might have to spend 2-3x as much to make up for lost ground.

Best companies thrive in a downturn

Product development, information technology, people – cost of these are lower in a downturn

Think long-term (this conflicts with point made earlier re Revenue today…)

Exploit competitor’s vulnerabilities

Really do your due-diligence

This is a changing event for our industry.

Be aggressive and hustle during the recession.  Lincoln – things may come to those who wait, but only those things left behind by those who hustled.

Lori High, Prudential

Disability incidents are not occurring – people want to stay at work.

Why I like association and affinity – 14% of business, stable, predictable, partnerships with business, attractive risk profile

What is happening in employer business – shift away from employer-sponsored life insurance

Cost-shifting to employees, employees have more choices.

Where do we make decisions: 4 – Trusted advisor, internet, at work, affinity association

Employees bought more life insurance during downturn – recognize more risk

Capitalize on the fear that exists

Buyers – They are willing to listen and are listening.  Blogs?!?!

Bill Vitt

Proactive communication toward clients

Supply Chain Management

Customer Outreach

Portfolio Mgmt

Situation Room – 1000 people have signed up to receive updates

Solution Room – Proprietary products

Absolutely committed to the online marketplace – double-down on the internet WOW!

Developing Web 2.0 strategy, 41% of sales online in 2007, 70% in 2008 WOW!

More functionality, connectivity, and end-user tools

Affinity – convergence of insurance non-insurance, leverage brand value.

Technology is up 20% this year – system enhancements, buying new systems


Legislative updates

Monopoly money in DC

Things are getting paid for

Healthcare reform – Clinton, detailed blueprint, Obama – 4 pages, $630Bln, no detail WOW!

Medicare Advantage Plans slashed dramatically

Medicare/Medicaid 5% of GDP to 20% in 10 years

Healthcare is what’s causing US Corps to send jobs overseas

Taxes on higher income Americans will fund HC reform – but will make it difficult to get bipartisan support, esp with Republicans in Senate

SCHIP $32 mln package, covers 4mln more children, paid by a cigarette tax

3.55 trillion budget, details released in April, scant details now

Half of the money from taxing higher-income people

1/3 comes from slashing MA Plans

Medicare Bill – Medicare Part D is the one thing that is working, yet continued assault

So that the doctors don’t get big cuts and will stop serving Medicare population

Inevitably a big bill – MA Plans, Medicare Part D changes, etc.

Pay-go – Obama wants to re-institute this.

America spends the most about HC but doesn’t get the best results

Chinese symbol – Danger = Crisis & Opportunity

See www.cbo.gov or www.senate.finance.gov

Percentage of seniors using the Web

Email, Internet – 1% of sales purchased on line

Use it for information, but use the center for processing.

Negative feedback on the amount of mail from AARP?  No

100mln, 25mln households marketing to

That’s it for now.  So much more happened.  Hope to be writing more in the weeks and months to come.  Great conference, great content, and optimistic that my phone and email will be active with PIMA folks looking to do new things online with experienced resources.

LURKERS ARE LAME. Please comment.