Thoughts, real-world observations, and anonymous examples – good and bad – regarding the use of Web/Social/Mobile technology in the insurance industry. Follow Mike Wise, President WebWisedom LLC, for the latest in Social Technologies.
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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!
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.)
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.
A picture of a pricelsss gift I made for my buddy Dave Recchion that moved to North Carolina in 2008.
A picture of Kelle with her favorite Christmas present.
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…
PIMA MarkeTTech 2009 at the Loews Philadelphia hotel this week – definitely worth the trip. Several neat stories:
1. Best of PIMA award went to Marsh. More on that in a future podcast (I hope).
2. IdeaStar’s client, Forrest T. Jones, won the top Gold Award for E-Commerce Web sites, surpassing some great sites by AON and others.
Ftj.com is absolutely a ground-breaking site. See the White Paper I helped write here. Phenomenal site. Kudo’s to the entire team that worked on. From the early e-business readiness consulting work that Mark Seghers did, through the diligent, competent, and persevering efforts of the FTJ team (Fred & Debbie and others), including the IdeaStar team (Mary, Brent, Phil, Wayne and others), all the way to winning the award and beyond. Simply outstanding efforts and results. Matrix-driven architecture with content management is a great solution for multi-carrier, multi-product, multi-association, multi-state education, quoting, and enrollment. Only way to go circa 2009.
3. A long-time attendee approached me and said, “Mike, I’m finally ready to do a blog. And I want my CEO to do one also…” Cool.
An amazing event on several levels. I found it remarkable that something I brought up at the Stoweflake resort in the summer of 2007 finally yielded some fruit. And I’m flattered and gratified that he came to me. Very very cool.
The decision is not ‘whether or not’ to participate in social media. It’s HOW to participate.
Social Media is a marathon not a sprint. – good quip for the book I’m writing.
Great story about customer service and addressing the customer through social media, turning the relationship around, finding out about a service issue with the rep and a management issue with the rep’s boss – all because they were monitoring social media and then addressed the issue that was raised by the customer. Great story.
Anything more than 2 minutes is boring.
5. Sound bites for a music video to open a panel discussion at the next PIMA Annual Meeting called “Demystifying Social Media”
The audience at the annual meeting will be the executives, so in general the bosses of the folks at MarkeTTech. With notable exceptions, the exec’s are generally crossing their arms and rejecting social media and social networks. But their people are using the tools and definitely see opportunity for insurance marketing. So my hope is that with sound bites and corresponding images, we’ll arrive at a short (<2min!), punchy opener that grabs the execs.
Any comments on this post are welcome. Do you think Social Networks (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin) and Social Media (Blogs, YouTube, etc.) are relevant to the distribution of insurance in the affinity and association markets?