Compelling Headline. I’ll get back to it at the end.

The PIMA 2012 Annual Meeting. On the surface, a big success. Solid numbers, lots of engagement, great feedback.

Some of my take-away’s:

Mary Jane Fortin, CEO of American General Life Companies:

Mary Jane Fortin - Challenges

Mary Jane Fortin - Challenges

Appreciate the Comments on Usability, Education, Consumer Experience, Plain Language, Japan as a model for consumer protection rates. Man do we have a LOT of work ahead of us if we want to take her challenge to heart. I know there are exceptions, but in general, as an industry, our Web sites are terrible, our communication with current and prospective policy holders is confusing, we don’t create nearly enough content, and so our penetration rates are extremely low by comparison.

Warren Hunter, Chairman of DMW:

Unintended but I heard someone put it, “raked several insurance brands over the coals” from a branding perspective. Heard a lot of people praise him for his content. Agreed on all fronts.

The Ignite sessions:

Lot of high praise from around the group. Great format, engaging content, good choices for speakers. Great work to Rick, Mark, Gerard, and Renee. <<See the pictures here>> Understand a video will be published soon. Especially liked Gerard and the importance of hygiene relative to lists. I’d be interested to know how many people have follow-up with him. Also liked Renee’s content around the ability to do contests and sweepstakes using Mobile – big opportunity for list building and cross-marketing. Again, interested to see how many people follow through and actually start doing something.

Kipp Bodnar:

So glad HubSpot came. Key points I liked..

Kipp Bodnar - Powerful Trends

Kipp Bodnar - Powerful Trends

Don’t rent your Web properties – OWN!
Blog’s are the cornerstone of your Social Strategy.
Microsites and landing pages are hubs.
Email marketing – still critically important, but will run its course eventually.
Sold Out the Limited Supply of B2B books – encouraging
Inbound Conference in August, possible Boston Social Tech Boot Camp in conjunction with that.

At the closing reception, I had a very interesting conversation with one of the executives about more collaboration within PIMA with an express goal of increasing the protection rates within the US. The comment was that association marketers are perfectly positioned if we will do a better job coordinating our efforts.

Those final words from one of my favorite people in the group spun in my head all day Sunday as I made my way home. So I made some notes on the plane:

Back to the headline

Are PIMA members working to solve industry problems, really, or are they being seduced by big money? Yes, with the utmost respect, they’ve been successful in the past and as a result, big dollars are flowing. But will the processes, tools, and strategies that “got them there” keep them there? Perhaps it’s more about Comfort Zones. But either way…

A few poignant questions, understanding there are exceptions, but from a macro view:

Is our Industry as a whole badly positioned for online reputation management, organizational voice, crowdsourcing, socially directed buying, and the protection and advancement of the industry which these leading business concepts will nurture?

1. Very few industry players seem to be communicating well online, both B2B and B2C. Products seem to be often designed, developed, deployed, and maintained with weak consumer insight. There seems to be very little strategic and thoughtful collaboration between manufacturers, distributors, and strategic marketing partners. Government regulators and internal legal and compliance teams seem to be hopelessly out of touch and uninformed about core societal trends and business issues. Understaffing, underpayment, and inexperience seem to be rampant. Perhaps as a result, but certainly at the same time, US consumer impressions and demand for protection are at record lows. Is our industry leadership woefully behind the times, both individually and corporately, and thus putting the industry at grave risk?

2. Going further, it seems that the majority of industry leaders are at kindergarten, grade school, or at best, high school levels of competency with respect to critically important technologies like mobile, tablet, laptop, and Web software such as browsers, analytics, cloud-based tools, not to mention Social Tech tools. And so their leadership is often whispered as “male, pale, and stale”. Their down-lines and corporate hierarchies seem to be prone to follow suit, ostensibly taking the path of least resistance, waiting for their turn at the top. All this seems to be resulting in paralyzed, deaf, and mute insurance organizations – culturally, operationally, and societally. Generally True or False?

3. Product development and maintenance seems to be silo’d and overrun with fiefdom’s, protectionism, and politics. Marketing machines seem to be entrenched with archaic strategies and tactics, led by executives whose inherent characteristics of creativity and risk-taking have been beaten out of them over time, and who are now without vibrant information streams that keep their fingers on the pulse of their environments. Compliance departments are over-the-top too influential and stunting, themselves not tapping new technologies to keep pace with critically important changes on the legal and regulatory front, certainly not writing, creating content, and seeking to influence and lead.

4. Lastly, our industry, seems to be in need of a deeper, more functional overhaul. Should the association extend its industry leadership, a stronger insurance industry voice with expanding influence, a content machine driving education, conversation and solutions?  Should the Web site, while continuing to be a hub for the logistics of the group meetings, etc., also grow to an insurance affinity network, media, and influence hub, possibly powerful enough to overcome any legal and regulatory threat, and helpful in growing the consumer demand for protection products?

IMHO, if we don’t urgently and immediately focus on these core issues in the next 18-24 months, we will look back and regret it. Yes, these are hard questions and strong statements, but I’d like to have these dialogs. But like the insurance exec alluded to, perhaps these are the questions that most urgently need attention so that we can grow our industry and see US protection rates like those of Japan, as an example.

A Helpful Step Towards a Solution?

Social Tech Boot Camp for Insurance Executives

I’ve put this together specifically to give insurance executives a small, private and safe place to grow their IQ with respect to Social. My understanding is fairly deep, both of Social and Insurance. The materials I have are spot-on Keynote slides. And my facilitation style in a small group is open, conversational, and yet passionate and instructional. See the comments and the video on the sub-page.

While not ALL the solution, certainly part of it. Crowdsourcing, Online Reputation Management, Organizational Voice, Rating Systems, Tools, Measurements, Compliance, Policies and Guidelines, Mobile, Information Streams, Consumer Intelligence, Game Dynamics, the Future – all items critically important to the future of insurance companies and agencies. What’s beyond Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, etc. (although Day 2 will be a 1/2-day session called You Incorporated – because executives need to know how to leverage the tools themselves ala Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos).

Thoughts? Comment below.

PS. As Ed mentioned in his closing remarks, remember the Give Back Tour, October 2012.

<<Link to the PDF overview>>