Archive for October, 2010


Reflections on the Aartrijk Brand Camp 2010

As was mentioned in a previous post, ABC2010 was indeed an idea vortex.  10 things I learned or had reinforced:

  1. A new and improved Comment moderation tool for this Blog
  2. How an Agency is using FourSquare
  3. A lot about branding and the value of a brand
  4. That Social was a strong theme running through-out the Camp
  5. That a smaller and less structured meeting worked well with this group and drives a lot of value
  6. Insurance professionals of all shapes and sizes, backgrounds, etc. can work together quickly to achieve an objective (my team won the competition!)
  7. Power-strips at tables, free use of tech, WiFi and Twitter hashtags all improve the meeting experience
  8. Agencies and Companies are open to and need massive help with Web sites and Social Tech
  9. The job of Webmaster, and to some extent, CIO, is waning
  10. When making important, strategic purchases, a very high percentage (80-90%) of buyers run various searches for the brand or person they are doing business with

While Social Media Marketing is growing extremely fast, and to some extent at the expense of traditional advertising, the concept of Channel of Choice seems to be the recurring theme.  And these Channels of Choice cannot be type-cast by gender, race, age, location or really any demographic.  Thus, in order to maximize marketing potential, all channels must be used.  To not use any one, say Facebook, is to cut off a certain percentage of the market.  Common sense… but needs to be said.

Content Curation is a tangible solution for our business, especially since we have so many restrictions on what we can say.  We also don’t seem to want to talk about insurance per se all the time.  So the question then becomes, “What do we talk about inside these Social Media’s and Networks?” Content Curation – a fancy term for pointing to other people’s content and Commenting, Aggregating, Rating, Fact-checking, Sharing and so forth.  Do-able.  But remember, when you link to content, your have to make sure it is valid content.  I believe (perhaps legal-eagle readers could elaborate in the Comments under this post) that under the “entanglement theory”, posts you link to would be considered part of your content and thus fall under compliance and legal jurisdiction. The other thing is personal stuff.  Indeed, contrary to conventional wisdom, customers and prospects DO care about the personal side of the people they do business with – it IS appropriate to talk about your trips, your hobbies, and your community, to mention a few.

Where you there?  What were your thoughts of ABC2010?  Any big take-aways you’d like to share?

What’s next?  Aartrijk is crowdsourcing the location, date, and theme of ABC2011.  Join the conversation.  There’s room for more voices.  Music video due out in December.

Pictures here.


Notes from the “Do it Now…” session

The question was asked – we want to redo our Web sites.  What should we do?

Some good sites that were recommended: – new site to be released soon – bunch of stuff by Aartrijk on Web sites

Great conversation about Social.  Amazing how conversations are turning towards social.

How an agency uses FourSquare. Brilliant story that would make for a good podcast.

iPhone App’s – Angelyn Treutel did an App herself for customer service and communicating with clients.

More tomorrow…


I just have a few minutes this morning as I rush off to a presentation on SocialTech and Compliance at an insurance company.

It’s an honor to be asked to lead a Webinar on Social for PIMA, a 30-year old association I’ve been involved in.  Without going into too much detail, I hope it suffices to say that I deeply appreciate the opportunity to snowplow the road a bit for the group.  But I know that the group will quickly catch up to me once they see the potential of all this.  It’s a group of VERY bright people that I am very pleased to associate with.  And much of what I will be discussing I’ve chewed on with some of the members over the past couple year at meetings and on phone calls.  So I definitely can’t lay claim to much original thought.  I guess that make me a Content Curator!

A word on logistics:

Learn and Register here.

Pre and Post Webinar dialog here.

Twitter Hashtag for the group – #PIMAAssn

It’s impossible to cover everything on Social in about 60-70 minutes – of course.  So my goal is share some of the things I’ve learned about the magnitude of Social as well as a few practical examples of how sales and marketing organizations are using SocialTech.  Understandably, and IMHO unfortunately, the nature of the health and life insurance business means there are not a lot of examples on the insurance side.  The business is highly regulated with the threat of losing your license always looming over you.  It’s also a conservative business by nature, so wary of hype and new stuff.  And in general, compensation up and down the org chart is tied to sales results – and rightfully so.  More industries should be that way (especially education, but that’s another story).

That said, I’ve been calling around and started a discussion (and Poll – please take it) on Linkedin.  I’m trying to get a sense about where people are with SocialTech and what people would most like to hear.  I definitely want to debunk some myths about SocialTech as well as the scope and scale of Social.  But I’m hearing that people would really like to get information on two big issues.

  1. How do we do Social in the context of Compliance and Regulations?
  2. What about ROI?  How quickly can we show sales results?

What would you like to know?  What do you know you’d like to share?  Please Comment here or on the Linkedin thread.

I would most like people to take away the concept of using SocialTech to build a powerful river of information.  In my mind, this is the biggest secret right now.  I’m personally using SocialTech to feed my brain in a way unlike ever before.  And that’s something that we can all do regardless of Compliance because it’s all inbound consumption.  To be sure, they all already know this – in general.  The difference now is how to use SocialTech to make the stream even more powerful – and efficient given all our time constraints.

Looking forward to it.  Please Comment on the Linkedin Group if you are a PIMA Member.


Meantime, next week is also the Aartrijk Brand Camp in Austin.  Really looking forward to that.  Some of the smartest people in Social in insurance.  Can’t wait.  Doing a viral video after!


A couple poignant pictures from my son’s last year as a soccer player before he graduates as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army.

Getting ready to launch on of his trademark throw-ins. Special pic because Mom is in the background.

Lifting his fellow defender Mitch carefully into the truck after he got a concussion.  Somehow I think of the Army and the future….


Frequent readers might remember that I spoke at the Kansas Association of Insurance Agents last year.  (Man, a lot has happened in a year!)  Here’s the blog post/podcast from last year.  Apparently I added value so they asked me back.

Last year we discussed e-business and social media/social networks.  Since then, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about what I now call Social Technologies – more to the point ENTERPRISE Social Technologies.  How are business using tools like Blogs, Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, YouTube, viral marketing and so forth to accomplish their business objectives?

So I did a poll of the audience as I started.  I would characterize the audience, in the words of Peter vanAartrijk, as Male-Pale-&-Stale!  Seriously, about 70-80 folks in the insurance business in Kansas.  I counted about 5 women, the group seemed to be 100% ‘white’, average age in the late 40′s, early fifties.  As to stale?  See below.  In that context, here are the results of the very unscientific poll:

Stand up if your company has a Web site? 90%

Stand up if you have sent an email? 100%

Stay standing if have written an article that appears on a Web site showing you as the author? about 10

Stand if you have commented on an article on a Web site? about 15

Stand if you are blogging for work?  0 Personally? 2

Stand if you have a Linkedin profile? 40%

Now stay standing if you have derived meaningful business results from Linkedin? 1

Stand if you have a Facebook profile? 40%

Stay standing if you tweeted within the last 24 hours. 2

Reader: What are your comments on these stats?  Anything surprising?  Why or why not?


Btw, Bob Davies spoke before me.  Great speaker for a conference.  He wants to be on TV on News Year Eve and wanted to know if Social Tech might help him get there?  Hmmm.  Yup.


A few reflections on the plane ride back to CLE….

1. At the Awards & Recognition Banquet, I heard several stories about the life and times of insurance agents in Kansas.  One agent in particular held the majority of the property & casualty policies of a section of a town that was flattened by a tornado last year – half-mile wide, Cat5, total destruction, loss of life, really bad.  I hope I get this right, but I think I heard that his office snapped into action and processed some 200+ claims in just a few days, of course helping people get back on their feet and restoring a semblance of normalcy after a catastrophic event.  Kind of brings things into focus as to why they are in the business.  Also brings to mind the incredible power of Social Tech.  Imagine the powerful video that could be made about that story with just a few images and soundbites.

2. This is the best of times and the worst of times in the insurance business.  On the one hand, we see a federal government administration that feels that the FEDS should be the insurance policy for everyone – and thus have ultimate power and control over everyone – of course in their best interest. (Yeah, sure – history has really validated that kind of political system, eh?  Let’s make a BIG CHANGE next month.  OK, my opinion.)  But for sure, the feds seem to be attacking insurance companies and agencies every chance they get.  Definitely a hostile regulatory environment right now – worst of times.  At the same time, many insurance companies have become ‘quoters’ – faceless companies providing down-and-dirty minimum coverage to people suffering through a depression looking to cut expenses and make it through, further hurting the business model of the independent agent.

3. But I see it as the best of times as well.  With the convergence of both insurance technology and marketing technology, the independent agent or agency is getting back into the drivers seat after a decade of being disenfranchised by the Web, especially the search engines, and the high cost of tech.  Insurance technology development costs have dropped, crowdsourcing is making new tech development accessible for the small business, and Social Tech is helping the independent agent get the word out and drive sales opportunities in a way never before possible.  I dare say that insurance agents are in a PERFECT position to capitalize on Social in a very unique way.  Why?

Well, for one, the vast majority of agencies are constantly serving within their communities, doing stuff that helps make their part of the world a better place.  Yes, absolutely, they are hoping to generate good will and offset the typical mindset that they are peddlers providing something people wish they didn’t need and hope they never have to use.  But community service is a good thing, right?  And there are usually good stories that result.  And the stories have corresponding pictures, images, and sound bites that can be easily crafted into viral video’s that will help the next customer understand the value of the agency.  And imagine the powerful video’s about claims that have been paid as mentioned previously.  Isn’t all this perfect for Social Tech?  What are your comments?  Out in left field, or are insurance agents perfect candidates for Social Media Marketing and innovation?  Please share thoughts and stories.

That’s it for now.  Thanks for reading.  Enjoy a few pictures from the Heartland and the Kansas Association of Insurance Agents 2010 Management Conference.  <SmugMug Gallery>  Thanks for inviting me.  Hope I added value.  Great people.  The closing entertainer, Jason Hewlett, was PHENOMENAL!  Great time.  Blessings…

Oh, yeah – as to the “stale” remark above!  Well, I didn’t get to know everyone, but the ones I did?  DEFINITELY NOT!


Every now and then the perfect opportunity comes around, usually when you least expect it.  Of course we’re always on the lookout for the next great idea that will take us to higher ground relative to sales and marketing.  We all know it when we see it.  So we try to put ourselves in The Idea Vortex, hoping to catch something that comes out.  We kind of have an idea about where we might find that vortex, where the creative types, the visionaries, will be.  We definitely sense it when we’re in the middle of it.  And we tell everyone (except our competitors) about it afterwards.  And then we remember and keep an eye out for signs of a vortex that we might want to jump into.  But it’s always hard to know.

I think I might be onto one here and so wanted to share it.  I know my readers are some of the savviest people in the insurance biz (and not to toot my own horn, but to acknowledge THEM).  And so I’m hopeful that a few of them can break away and be there (or at a minimum, share this post with their networks on Linkedin or Twitter).

The Aartrijk Brand Camp 2010 at The Driskill (smokin’ rate) in Austin, TX starts 3 weeks from today.  I know it’s short notice relative to trip planning and calendars, but that’s another thing about some of the best moments in life, right?  They are usually last minute, kind of out of the blue, definitely worth shifting the schedule for.  Well, this might be one of those times.  I just got an update from the folks at Aartrijk.  (Btw, Aartrijk has been helping ICMG the last couple years and ICMG has broken registration records both times).  Brandcamp 2010 is “shaping up to be a dynamite conference, an intimate learning experience.”  Know this: It’s not a mega conference.  In fact, less is more.  Think small, but productive.

The Driskill, as well as Austin in general, is a very cool place – which inspires creative thinking.  The Aartrijk folks and the people they invite are among the savviest in the branding and marketing business.  And the format is specifically designed to be interactive, conversational, fostering ideation – and FUN (but not a boondoggle).  And like the name says, it IS a camp – you DO stuff.  As an example, I’m going to be helping folks understand and create blogs, twitter profiles, etc.  Rest assured, I’ll be sharing ‘the good stuff’.

So check it out.  Join me.  Join the group.  Bring your wisdom – AND SHARE.  It WILL come back to you.

Were you at Brand Camp 2009 at Hotel Sax in Chicago?  Heard it was terrific.  I tracked it on Twitter.  Share a Comment below.

Share this post with a few savvy peeps in your network.  Post to your Twitter or Linkedin profile using the ShareThis button below.

Register here.  See you there.

Yes, I will be taking pics and collecting sound bites for a viral vid after.  Should add to the buzz.  Very very cool.


Yes, the rumors are true – I did have purple hair on Saturday!  I was supporting my son’s Homecoming @ Houghton College and my wife talked me into it.  The students loved it! See the pics here.  And Zach’s team won the soccer game in dramatic fashion!  Great fun.

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