Archive for January, 2010

22nd

I can’t mention the insurance product, project or company, but I was excited to be involved this week in the early stages of a marketing campaign that has an uncanny link to last week’s post.  This insurance company spent a good part of 2009 in Focus Groups, market tests and other forms of discovery in attempt to learn how to align its product with the market.  The outcome of it all is a brand new configuration of a traditional product that is specifically tuned to the market.  Going further, the insurance company also considered how to optimize the education, quoting, and enrollment for lowest cost, easiest to do business with, and highest potential for virality.  The result of that is a secret, but let me just say, it’s got the potential, if marketed in a savvy way, to set the standard for, if not rock the world, of a very big corner of the health and life insurance  industry.  The point is, the company is vigorously pursuing Product Channel Market Alignment – on a minimal budget, leveraging outside resources, and using an aggressive time-frame.  So glad to be involved.  How about you?  Have you seen any compelling examples of Product Channel Market Alignment within the insurance space?  Please comment at the bottom of this post.  Share a story.

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Insurance Direct Marketers take note:

84% of Marketers to Shift Portion of Direct Marketing Budgets to Social Media

The timing is perfect for this story.  I will be leading a discussion at the PIMA Annual Meeting a week from today.  The panel is called “Demystifying Social Media” with myself as moderator, Sherri Lagana with Liberty Mutual (interesting link), and Scott Hilchey with SourceLink.  Relative to the article, in my humble opinion, I hope that the veteran direct marketers in the audience either walk away from the session with a richer understanding of the incredible power of social media and social networks to potentially drive the kind of results they are looking for.  The early adopters, the ones who say, “All right, what the heck, I’m going for it…” will be handsomely rewarded – if they do it right.  Some are already moving.  It’s going to be neat to see.

Insurance, technology and Social Media – Man, if you’ve got the right components in place, the market is going to respond very favorably.  Let me know if you need help crafting the strategy and/or finding partners that can execute…

Comments?

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I’ve just got to tell two quick stories:

1. Did you know why there was a special election to replace Ted Kennedy?  It’s incredibly ironic.  As I understand it, when Kerry was running for Pres. and Romney was then-governor of Mass., Kennedy didn’t want a Republican Gov. appointing a Rep replacement should Kerry get elected and vacate.  So Kennedy got the law changed to force an election instead of an appointment by the governor.  Wow!  Another interesting thing I heard this week was that social media and social networks played a huge roll in the election of Scott Brown, to a large extent undermining the efforts of MSM to influence the vote.  Lastly I heard this morning that Nancy P. said that a Senator from a state with state-run health care shouldn’t be allowed to vote.  Is that true?  So Kennedy wouldn’t have been allowed to vote either?  At one point, they were thinking of naming the whole initiative after Kennedy?  Oh the ironies… If anyone has links that support or deny these word-of-mouth stories, I’m all eyes.

2. A friend of mine whose parents were on a routine medical mission trip to Haiti when the earthquake happened, and so now is intimately involved with relief efforts, shared a telling story this morning with me.  His Dad, an MD, is connected with a medical mission organization out of OH.  Last Saturday, the org assembled a team of surgeons to fly into Haiti.  The team met up in Miami and was told by FEMA that FEMA would fly them in on one of 30 flights into Haiti.  At the last minute, they were told that their plane had been taken and they would have to wait – by none other than Hillary Rodham Clinton.  A team of surgeons flying in to save lives having to stand down.  Help me understand the logic there. (I’m no Eistein and certainly have my faults and bone-headedness, but what was she thinking???)  To make matters worse, once the docs finally got another flight, they were in-country for 3 days before they saw their first patient due to government bureaucracy.  No, we don’t need more government.  We need more democracy.  The good news is, I was encouraged to join a team to go down there later this year.  Just might do that.  Any one want to join in???

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New blogger of the week: John Pogas.  Good stuff on insurance marketing technologies.  Destined to be a rock star!

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Pictures from this week:

Out with my buddy Steve Snell in Green Bay (who’s starting a new blog btw).   Steve’s available, but only if you need someone with deep experience in insurance sales and marketing on the agent-driven side of things, and only if you need someone that communicates as clearly as anyone I’ve seen, only if you need someone with an incredible sense of humor, and only if you need someone with connections all over the health and life industry, both senior and underage.

Me posing like Vince Lombardi – I know – I’m a goof.

15th

I’m still waiting on approval for the podcast I mentioned last week.  So I can’t link to it just yet, but just as a preview, we spoke about three things:

  1. Our take on 2009 and 2010 and beyond
  2. Product Channel Market Alignment
  3. Freelance project-based workers

I’d like to comment on Product Channel Market Alignment today.  As I listened to my guest talk about these concepts, they seemed to elicit an aha-moment.  And later, as the concept has been circulating in the back of my mind, it’s kind of grown on me and I think it characterizes the life and health insurance space right now.  Further, I think that it is BECAUSE of a huge out-of-alignment situation in the health insurance space that we are in the mess we are in.

So the concept you’ll hear about is that product configurations need to be in alignment with the distribution channel and both of those need to be in alignment with the Market demands and preferences.  Envision an isosceles triangle (equal sides, right?) with Product, Channel, and Market at the three angles.  The company that does the best job of keeping these three dynamics in balance with each other will likely see the best results.  Example: as the distribution channel changes, how does the product need to change?  As market preferences change, how does the distribution channel and/or the product need to change?  When one is out of balance with the other, what happens?

Great example from health care today: In the last several years, consumers have come to expect the ability to self-teach, make decisions, choose, and control – the DIY mentality (in this case buying insurance PRODUCTS, especially via online CHANNELS).  At the same time, with all the C-level and board-room scandals, they’ve also lost a lot of faith in corporate America and as a result, the MARKET can come to demand transparency and authenticity from the companies they do business with.  Meanwhile, insurance companies have not moved far and fast enough to adapt to these changes, causing an out-of-alignment scenario that has been exacerbated through out the last several years.  Thus, when a presidential candidate comes along and speaks about solving that problem (the how is another post), the market jumps at it.  And now we’re all fighting over it, etc. etc.

So in fact, in my humble opinion, insurance companies (really the whole health insurance industry) are sort of now being penalized in a very public and dramatic way because they failed to adust their products (and services), they failed to adapt to the shifting channel preferences (and specifically technologies), and thus got hammered by a huge shift in market demands.

What do you think? Am I out in left field?  Can the health insurance industry salvage itself in 2010 and beyond by making long-overdue changes and get things back in alignment? Take a sec and comment.

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One thing I’m very excited about: Businesses I’ve been speaking to in the last couple weeks are suddenly starting to see the incredible ROI associated with a good corporate Blog strategy.  Having been blogging for 5 years now, I’m SO excited to be telling the story and helping business partners and clients adapt Blogs to their environment, culture, and markets.  Very very cool.  Did you see the movie Julie and Julia?  Did you notice that Julie’s blog was a huge part of the story??? (Here’s her new blog, btw.)  It’s fricking amazing the potential with these things…

Any stories of yours?  Do share..

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Speaking of cooking, one picture to share… I taught my son to cook a favorite meal over the holidays.  I call it Inga’s Chicken TWO!  Long story behind the name, but it’s simple, cheap, and oh so good.  Great job, Zach Wise!  Do it up at Houghton!!!  (And there’s another story about the blue kitchen cupboards that brings a smile…)

Oh yeah – 30 minutes to write this post, 30 min to edit.  Some people have been asking me that question.  Worth the time?  Good use of one hour a week?

4th

Recent events

December started out in a whirlwind followed by an almost complete 2-week vacation from work, something I desperately needed.  Thus the quiet period relative to blogging.

On the Agent-driven side of the house (versus association and affinity)… MyAgencyCenter focus…

Based on my travels and discussions in the early part of December, I remain convinced that local insurance agents can create a self-generating lead system – cheaply and sustainable.  Those seem to be the two keys in this market.  The solution needs to be an affordable, pay-as-you-go subscription model and easy to support with a simple weekly schedule of agent activity.  However, the tricky part is the agent Web site.  With the compliance requirements of insurance companies and regulators, and the complexities of insurance quote engines, agent Web sites that are meaningful lead engines for the agents are a real conundrum.  They have to be professional, up to date, useful for the prospect, and thus able to move the visitor from the cloud to the funnel.  At a bare minimum, the site needs to reinforce the agent’s reputation in the marketplace as a committed insurance professional.  MyAgencyCenter, in combination with social media strategies, seems to be the solution.  For now, my focus is on MGA’s, IMO’s, career and captive agencies, insurance companies with W-2 agents, and other similar large organizations.  (Sorry, MyAgencyCenter is not quite ready to serve individual agents or small agencies.)

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Blog Consulting

So I finally got my first paid consulting gig helping another insurance marketing organization get started with a blog strategy!  I’m pretty excited about it.  Of course, it’s a covert op at this point, but I’m hoping it will become overt later in the year as the blogs mature and the client becomes more comfortable with the environment. Let me know if you feel motivated to start your own.  I can’t recommend it highly enough…

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Sidebar – Priceline.com rocks.  Might be ‘old news’, but I’ve developed an affinity for it with all the budget cuts.  Just gotta say that I’ve saved a ton on air and car rentals – without much adverse impact on convenience, I must say.  Let me know if you’d like some tips.  What about you?  How do you save money with travel expenses?  Any neat ideas?  Please comment.

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PIMA 2010 Annual Meeting in three weeks in the Florida Keys

In collaboration with Bill Tyson and Sherri Lagana, as well as pointers from Rick Jones, conference tri-chair and Mona Buckley, PIMA CEO, I’m working hard on the panel discussion “Demystifying Social Media”.  It’s a tall order for a 45-minute session, but I’m working with some really smart and savvy people.  The interesting thing that we’re netting out to is that, once you get into the social media game, it’s really not that mysterious. I’d be interested in your comments.

And the other really neat thing is that each Social Media program within each organization will likely be, by very nature, unique and different based on the people and products of the organization.  And lastly, unlike Web sites and the tendency for CIO’s and IT departments to hijack what should be primarily simple marketing projects, Social Media strategies and the execution there-of are clearly destined to be managed by sales and marketing (of course, in collaboration with IT and Compliance as appropriate).

Look for a Social Media survey in the next week or so.  And yes, I’ll be taking interesting pictures.  Smile… but don’t look at the camera if you don’t have to!

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While I’m on the Social Media topic, here’s a very useful aside.  Do you have a Social Media ‘Policy’ for your organization?  A couple months ago, I collaborated with a very savvy group of insurance marketers on the P&C side of the business.  Let by Jeff Yates and the IIABA ACT subgroup, we developed a helpful guide for establishing a Social Media Policy for an organization.  Again, Social Media Strategies will vary by organization (let me know if you need help with that), so it’s not a cookie-cutter thing.  SM Policies will vary.  But the guide will help you cover most if not all of the must-haves for an effective policy.  Also find it HERE, another great blog.  I’d be interested in any feedback as it’s by nature a ‘living’ document.

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ICMG 2010 Annual Meeting in Tucson

Looking a little further out, ICMG is coming up on the heels of PIMA.  (Btw, I’m glad Mona and Audrey make the effort to collaborate on the scheduling of these two very important events as there is significant overlap, especially on the vendor side of the equation.)  Last year’s meeting was a record-breaker.  It will be interesting to see if this year will surpass.  I know I’ve seen a lot of new members signing up over the course of 2009.  But 2009 was a rough year as well, so we’ll see.  I’m looking forward to connecting with folks about MyAgencyCenter as well as about Web sites, insurance technologies like quote engines, e-applications, agent portals, and single or multi-carrier agent contracting solutions.  As always, there will be ample things to talk about and great opportunities to connect needs and solutions, whether they are mine or not.  And oh yeah, I’ll be taking cool pictures.  Might even do a vid-cast.

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Next: Final Reflections on 2009 and Forecasts for 2010 – A podcast with the legendary Mark M. Hill

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A few final pictures from 2009

I had a pro-shooter take a picture of me at the NCAA College Cup, the Men’s Division 1 soccer equivalent of the basketball Final Four.  Thought it came out well.  My team lost a heart-breaker though.  Very long trip back to CLE, lemme tell ya.

Mike Wise shooting the 2009 NCAA D1 College Cup for Akron

A picture of a pricelsss gift I made for my buddy Dave Recchion that moved to North Carolina in 2008.

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A picture of Kelle with her favorite Christmas present.

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And a pic of me and Zach at the Hudson Chapel Saturday morning Men’s Bible Study.  (Btw, speaking of technology, check out what my church is doing with a .TV site… simple and creative, and very cool use of Social Media.  And it’s a great church group if you’re looking for one.)  I also made a short and sweet music vid over the holidays trying to capture my year in the study…

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