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.)

********************************

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…

********************************

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.

********************************

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!

********************************

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.

********************************

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.

********************************

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

********************************

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.

DSC_0593

A picture of Kelle with her favorite Christmas present.

_MG_4674

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…

_MG_3627