Posts Tagged ‘Sales’

20th

At dinner last night, I had the pleasant opportunity to dine with James Obregon and his wife Alessandra. James runs a niche insurance agency, Trinity Risk, that specializes in protecting independent truckers with various types of insurance products. As we spoke about the event sponsor, Fairmont Specialty, that brought us together, James gave them kudo’s for their wisdom in orchestrating the event. He said, “I appreciate rounds of golf and rides on boats – I really do. But this is the gift that keeps on giving. I hope to walk away from here with knowledge that I can immediately apply to my business and ultimately write more business.”

Fairmont Specialty Boot Camp

Fairmont Specialty Boot Camp

I couldn’t agree more with James! The perplexing thing about this is that I’ve literally been talking to insurance companies about doing something like this for almost three years now. A private Social Tech Boot Camp for Insurance Executives, sponsored by the insurance company, exclusively for their top distribution partners. Congrats to the team at Fairmont Specialty, led by Gary McGeddy, encouraged by Lauren Woods, and endorsed by the managing underwriters. They caught the vision.

So the purpose of this post is to demonstrate the effectiveness and reach of a Blog. I am crafting this content from 6:30-7:30am this morning and will publish this afternoon, Live, in the Boot Camp.

Here’s what you, the reader, can do. If you were at the Fairmont Boot Camp (or other previous ones), what are your Comments about the Boot Camp? What was your favorite part? Would you recommend the concept of a private Boot Camp to other insurance companies? Would you encourage other agencies to attend? Why?

And then share the post across your network. Post it to your Linkedin status update, your Linkedin company page, your favorite Linkedin Groups, all the while asking for readers to Like, Comment, and Share. Same thing with Facebook and Twitter. Let’s just see how far it goes, with that little amount of effort, and people’s good will.

To wrap it up, in a week or two, I’ll share various stats from the effort. In the meantime, I’ll moderate the Comments. Oh and by the way, the Comments don’t necessarily have to be good. Like any conference evaluation, there’s always room for improvement. That’s a great takeaway for me! So thanks for being candid.

7th

Pew Internet: Over 50% of Seniors are now online. They are also among the fastest growing demo on the Social Web. Online, Social, and Growing in numbers – an interesting recipe for a marketer, eh?!?! <<Full Report>>

4 Thoughts to Discuss…

iPad Helps Stroke Victim

1. Don’t Seniors also have the highest discretionary income, combined with the best understanding of the value of insurance/protection?

2. What is the most effective way to reach these Tech-Savvy Seniors with our messaging and related products, insurance and non-insurance? Mail? Phone? Email? Search? Facebook? Video? Blog? Multi-channel? What do you think? and Why?

3. What about the down-stream influence of Seniors on Gen-X’ers and Millenials? Now that they are online and beginning to use Social Networks and engage with Social Media, can we leverage that Social Influence? As an example, would a viral video work, perhaps sponsored by a senior life company, spoken by seniors, one that specifically encourages following generations to take insurance and protection seriously, to save their money, to make a difference, or as my 22-yr old daughter said in her recent “Digital Philosophy of Teaching” video for a class project, that “accomplishment without contribution- is insignificant.”  Could we do a whole campaign around that, maybe even sponsored by an association rather than one company? Or both?

4. As anyone will testify who had a Mom who suddenly learned how to Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: emails a few years back, aren’t Seniors also a VIRAL demographic in that they share stuff like crazy – both good and bad?

If my hunch is right, we now have the ingredients for a tasty recipe here. We just need to figure out the right combinations of measurements that will yield a “restaurant-quality” meal. What do YOU think?

Come on now, don’t leave me hanging. Let’s discuss.

Shameless plug: I touch on these very concepts in my Social Tech Boot Camps for Insurance Exec’s. Still a few seats left… Chicago, Boston, Hartford.

10th

It’s interesting what strikes executives at Boot Camps. That’s why it’s never wise to assume and put my own filters on things, especially in the dynamic and ever-changing realm of Social Technologies.

At the last Boot Camp in Columbus, based on the feedback I received from the 14 people in attendance, Crowdsourcing was the big Aha!

Curious about that. I had another conversation with a CEO in Toronto about Social Tech. Same thing: Crowdsourcing was a big flash of insight. I heard him shoutout to his CIO as we left his corner office, “Hey, we need to talk about Crowdsourcing!” A perplexed look flashed across the CIO’s face.

So I thought it might be helpful to do a podcast on Crowdsourcing. And who better to interview than an experienced insurance veteran with specific experience in Crowdsourcing? Not sure what Crowdsourcing is? Listen in and read along. And then Register for an upcoming Social Tech Boot Camp for Insurance Executives where we talk more about it – as well as a host of other Social Tech opportunities that are transforming business. Or better yet, organize a private camp for your team or distribution partners.

Episode 36 – Crowdsourcing, with Ken Hittel

Read along as you listen. Perhaps grab and share Comments on Twitter.
WebWisedom Transcript courtesy of

Mike Wise: It’s May of 2012 and time for a much-needed podcast on a new concept which holds much promise. To further illuminate the concept, I’m speaking over the phone with an insurance industry veteran who has “been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.” This is Mike Wise, president of WebWisedom and I’m helping insurance companies leverage Social technologies within the unique environments of the organization, markets and regulatory guidelines.

On the podcast today, we have a very special guest, Ken Hittel. Ken, would you like to introduce yourself to the listening audience?

Ken Hittel: Sure. And thanks, Mike, this should be, in fact, a very engaging conversation. As you mentioned, I’ve been in the insurance industry for quite some time, working for New York Life, consistently, for 25 years. The last 15 or so have been in the Internet space and have been involved in running their Corporate Internet department. Currently, I’m working as the Digital Strategy Advisor for the Board of Advisors of Fairwinds Partners, in Washington DC.

Mike: Great. We’re podcasting today on Crowdsourcing as it applies to the insurance space. By the way, just a word on technology, we are recording this via Google Voice. We are editing it in a tool called Audacity. It will be uploaded to WebWisedom.com and on iTunes, with a companion article.

The goal of the podcast is to educate the insurance community on what we consider to be an essential element of Social technologies, Crowdsourcing. I understand, Ken, there might be some noises in the background. You’re podcasting from New York City and as anybody knows, New York City has noises. So, there’s a little bit . . . What’s going on there?

Ken: Well, for one thing, we have a dog who likes to bark whenever anybody walks down the hallway. Right now, he is quiet. Then, also, some work is being done, so you’re liable to hear some pounding in the background and also occasionally drilling.

Mike: Those workers, they just don’t care that we’re doing a podcast on Crowdsourcing for insurance executives. [laughs]

Ken: That’s exactly the case.

Mike: Well, life is full of little things that have a tendency to create noise, and we just have to work through them. Right?

Ken: Yep. Exactly.

Mike: Okay. So, let’s get started. What I’m going to do is, I’m going ask Ken questions about Crowdsourcing because he’s coming at this from a point of experience. He’s actually done Crowdsourcing in previous jobs. And I know a lot about it from a philosophical and a strategic standpoint, but I thought it might be interesting and better for the listeners to hear some perspectives from somebody who’s actually done Crowdsourcing.

So, first of all, let’s start off with the definition. For those, where this is a relatively new concept, Ken, how would you define Crowdsourcing?

Ken: Well, Mike, there are several different ways that you can come at this. Crowdsourcing, as a term, has become somewhat amorphous. So, actually, I decided why not check the dictionary and the dictionary, in this case, being Wikipedia. So, let me just read you a couple of sentences from Wikipedia. “Crowdsourcing is a process that involves outsourcing tasks to a distributed group of people. This process can occur both online and offline and the difference between Crowdsourcing and ordinary outsourcing is that a task or problem is outsourced to an undefined public, rather than a specific body, such as paid employees.” I think that says it pretty well and, in fact, since this is taken from Wikipedia, that is itself, probably, the most prominent and best example of Crowdsourcing. But, I think the important part here is that, from a company standpoint, you’re not necessarily relying on your own employees. Although, as we talk some more, I’d like to actually give you some examples of how, in fact, you can use your employees, very, very effectively for Crowdsourcing.

Mike: That’s right. They can be the crowd.

Ken: They can definitely be the crowd and their Social network can be additive to that, but let’s get into that a little bit later.

Mike: Okay. One of the things I’m talking about in my social tech boot camps for insurance executives . . . and side note, a little plug, the next one is scheduled for July 12th, in Chicago, at the Aloft Chicago O’Hare, which is going to be . . .
[Dog barking]

Oh, there’s the dog.

Ken: [laughs]

Mike: Somebody must’ve walked by the street.

Ken: It’s the hallway here, actually. Anytime anybody comes or goes past the door, which he regards as his territory, that’s when he starts up.

Mike: [laughs] This hallway is mine.

Ken: Exactly.

Mike: [laughs] So one of the things that I talk about with people about Crowdsourcing, there’s a couple of good, really good examples of Crowdsourcing in our space, that can really make some changes. One of them is from an IT development standpoint. There’s a couple of websites, actually several websites, out there like TopCoder’s a pretty prominent one, one of the first ones, where you can submit the specifications of a programming project, traditionally an IT project like a quote engine or an e-application, workflow or who knows what, that you have that needs to be done from an IT standpoint, and you can submit that project, the scope of work for that project, and put a bounty up with it. So, in other words, you’ll pay X amount for the code, the finished code, for this particular specification and put it up on TopCoder. Whoever wants to bid on that, or try to program that and compete for the bounty, can do that, as a registered user of TopCoder.

And so what you’ll get back as… Let’s say you’re the CIO and you’ve got a raft of projects that you need to get done, that you just can’t get done because you don’t have the bandwidth, you don’t have the expertise or whatever the situation is. What you’ll get back is several really good results where the actual code has been placed in a way that you can download it and test it and these people are competing for the money. So, you only pay for the one that you choose. So, you get what you need out of this process and it conforms to your specifications. Your programmers test it, etc., etc. So, it’s a beautiful way to use Crowdsourcing to get that bottom third of your IT projects done, that you’ll probably never get to, and if you do get to them, they’ll be done quickly, probably haphazardly. Not that I’m slamming anybody. That’s just the way it is in the business world these days. And it will be expensive. So, that’s a really good example.

Another example that I use is actually your example of video and Poptent. So, I won’t steal your thunder, but I like the Wikipedia definition. Be sure to go to Wikipedia and search on Crowdsourcing. Go to Google and search on Crowdsourcing. There’s tons of information out there.

So, turning the conversation back to you, Ken, what has been your experience? What comments do you have to start out with?

Ken: Well, you mentioned the experience that we had with Poptent. That turned out to follow, essentially, the same type of model that you just spoke about. In early 2010, we had launched a micro-site called guaranteesmatter.com, which was a little bit out of the ordinary, in itself, for New York Life. It was meant to be a platform for rich media experimentation. Along those lines, we thought, “Is there a novel way that we can promote this website that is outside of the normal ways that we might promote a micro-site?” And we came up with the idea of producing some online videos that we could perhaps post on our Facebook page, send people to from our Twitter account, obviously post on our YouTube page as well.

So we went to a company called Poptent, which is a Crowdsourcing video site, and we engaged their community to come up with short videos, under a minute, 30 seconds if possible, to promote the main creative behind Guaranteesmatter, which of course is that guarantees matter. We supplied them with a short creative brief and set, I believe it was, a three-week time limit to come up with ideas and submit actual completed videos to promote the website. In three weeks, we ended up with over 100 submissions. It was our choice as to which video would be the overall winner and would receive the prize money. In fact, we ended up paying for five of the videos. We probably could’ve paid for ten of them, but we did end up paying for five of them. So, five creative individuals actually received a bounty for their work. The others, as it always works in the Crowdsourcing process, we didn’t have to pay for at all.

So, we managed to get five extremely creative, funny and, in some cases, actually quite profound videos around the idea of guarantees. It took us only three weeks. If we had done this internally, it would almost certainly have taken us three weeks to simply write a script and get it approved by our compliance and legal people.

But, like I said, we had five complete videos. Unfortunately, they never were used publicly. We did use them internally and, in fact, we actually used a process called “crowdvoting,” that is, obviously, an example of Crowdsourcing itself. We placed the five videos on our employee Intranet and asked employees to vote for their favorite and actually to rank them one through five. And then, that way we were prepared, actually, to release the videos in that order to the public. Unfortunately, as I say, it was decided that we wouldn’t unleash the videos publicly.

Mike: OK. Let’s come back to that lesson learned. Let me just recap what you said. So, you put this project into Poptent, which is a Crowdsourcing site for video creation, Poptent.com. You have the script for the videos or essentially, what you were looking for. You had the bounties. You have the timeline and within three weeks, you got back over 50 submissions, five of which you found to be spot-on and brilliant, which you paid for. At that point, you were pretty much done with Poptent.

Then, you rolled those videos into your, probably, intranet, and rolled them out to your internal employees and ask for them to vote and rank them, which is another form of Crowdsourcing, internally. Which, by the way, further cemented exactly what you were trying to accomplish with GuaranteesMatter, with the employees, if they haven’t heard about it already. It sure is a great way to learn and get buy-in on that. OK. So just net it out. How much did that part cost you, in total?

Ken: Well, for anyone that knows anything about video production, producing scripts, hiring actors, filming, postproduction work, I think the figures will be quite astonishing. We ended up spending $35,000 for five winning videos.

Mike: So, that was probably about, what, three to five minutes of content?

Ken: It was roughly four minutes, in total, between the five winning videos.

Mike: If you strung them all together?

Ken: Yes.

Mike: So, I’m more than happy to say that the average price of a five-minute video is usually about, somewhere between $5,000 to $10,000, per minute, when you throw everything all in, depending on how sophisticated and polished, etc. or how much money you want to spend on this stuff, but that’s a good rule of thumb, wouldn’t you agree?

Ken: Yes. That’s a fair amount. Working here in New York, the figures are a little bit higher. But, yes, at the end of the day, $35,000 for roughly four or five minutes of video is . . .

Mike: Very cheap.

Ken: Yes. It’s just a tiny fraction of what it would’ve cost us to use their own internal video production talent, by the way.

Mike: Yes. Your own studio, etc., etc.

Ken: Yes.

Mike: And it was done in three weeks.

Ken: And it was done in three weeks. And it was done in such a way that the ideas that came in were ideas that simply would not have originated within New York Life itself. I think that’s one of the most important aspects of Crowdsourcing to be able to point out. Certainly, I’m not saying that you want to use Crowdsourcing for everything or anything, but certainly, when you have a need or desire to bring in outside ideas that you know, simply, were not going to originate within your own organization, Crowdsourcing is the way to go.

Mike: Yes. And by the way, if you go to crowdsourcing.org, there’s just an unlimited amount of information on ways you can use Crowdsourcing. As I mentioned before, IT, you can use it for marketing. Crowdfunding is a really big, hot subject right now. There are laws being considered at the national level about crowdfunding, crowdideation, crowdscribing. There are books. I contributed to a book, “Enterprise Social Technology,” that was crowdscribed. So, I wrote a chapter of the book and a bunch of other people wrote another chapter, very neat way to create books and, of course, these videos. There’s just so much that can be done.

Now, this project ran into a barrier. Let’s talk about that because that’s a very important subject, as well.

Ken: Well, without getting into a lot of the details, I think, my experience would say that while you always have to be somewhat politically aware of any endeavor that you end up in, within a corporation, I think it’s particularly the case when it comes to Crowdsourcing. Getting buy-in from the very beginning, from any of the major executives that can be impacted, or believe that they can be impacted, by a Crowdsourcing project, I think, is absolutely essential. And perhaps, we didn’t do that as well as we should have because at the end of the day, while pretty much every single person that saw the videos loved them, at the end of the day, it became very difficult for our executive management to approve unleashing these videos to the public. So, they never actually were.

As I said, we did go to our employees. They were extremely happy with them. We probably had the highest level of voting for anything we ever asked employees to vote on. But there were still some executives who were, I think, unnerved by, let’s say, the non-New York Life stance, of these videos. It seemed to some people, to conflict with our established brand. I felt it was more of a brand extension than a conflict, but clearly, there were people who saw it as a conflict.

Mike: Yes. So, like anything else, change is hard. There’s a certain level of lack of understanding and confusion about Social technologies at the executive level, and Crowdsourcing, even more so. It’s often a term and a concept that people know very little about. That said, Ken, what would you recommend to other people in terms of overcoming some of these issues?

One of the things that I talk about, in the boot camps, is that Crowdsourcing is really an essential part of an enterprise social technology strategy. And in order to really pursue it, a deep understanding of it needs to be had by the executive, by the decision-makers, by the stakeholders of any project. So, in my mind, if they haven’t already, I think it would be a really good idea to get all of these stakeholders, and all means all, right, get all these stakeholders in a room together and spend a couple hours going through what Crowdsourcing is. What are the issues that need to be addressed? So, you definitely want to have compliance in the room and talk about intellectual property, legal and you want to have marketing and branding in the room, customer service. You want to have, really, all of the critical stakeholders in the room to talk about these issues. That’s my perspective. What’s your perspective on best practices in terms of rolling out a Crowdsourcing initiative?

Ken: I think you’re absolutely right. And I think we may have been a bit premature. We certainly, when we did our venture with Poptent and its creative community, we really didn’t wrap it up in terms of our overall social media strategy, certainly not as convincingly as, looking back on it, we should have. We did go to all of the individuals, executives, and groups that you mentioned. Our five winning videos were, in fact, all approved by our Compliance Department. The Brand Manager at New York Life had some qualms about one of the five videos. We decided to not use that one. But I think our mistake was in doing those separately and individually, as opposed to bringing everybody together at one time and explaining what we were up to and why, how the process worked, and what our plans were then for a future rollout.

Mike: Okay. Interesting. Let me ask you a question, Ken. Knowing what you know now about Crowdsourcing, what kind of urgency, how important is Crowdsourcing? What do you see down the road in the future of Crowdsourcing in the insurance space? If you were talking over breakfast at an industry association meeting, with an executive from another company, what would you talk to them, how would you encourage them, looking forward, regarding Crowdsourcing? Is it really important? Is it moderately important? Is it going to change our way of doing business?

Ken: I do think that it is an extremely important aspect of a Social strategy. I think that it can be extraordinarily productive. It can be an extraordinary cost savings for things that you might otherwise attempt to do internally. To me, the most important aspect of Crowdsourcing is precisely being able to harness the so-called “wisdom of the crowd” and, obviously, you can only do that to a certain extent, in terms of your own staff, your own department and your own company even. So, there are just tremendous advantages to Crowdsourcing.

As I said earlier, I don’t believe we need to crowdsource everything, but certainly, there are so many things that can be crowdsourced in one way or another that it almost seems silly to me not to take advantage of it.

Mike: You mentioned a really big brand. What about some of the smaller brands and medium-sized, even down to local agencies, is Crowdsourcing applicable?

Ken: I think it definitely is. Quite enterprising sales agents that I know, that are willing to invest a little bit of time and a fair number of dollars promoting themselves, advertising themselves, I know many agents who have gone out and used professional videographers to create videos for themselves. Why not, instead, use a video production company such as Poptent, and there are competitors out there as well, obviously, to crowdsource a video for yourself in your practice? For the amount of money that it would cost you to do that, it’s going to be far less than anything that you dream up yourself or that you and your videographer dream up together. And you’re likely to get much more creative solutions than you ever could just pulling them up out of your own mind. So, yes, I think even down to the individual agent level, I think there are certainly lots and lots of opportunities for Crowdsourcing to work productively for you.

Again, I think the crucial aspect of this, even if we’re talking about a case of individual agents, is enabling the creativity of the wider community, so it isn’t just you coming up with an idea, which may be a perfectly great idea and maybe that’s the basis for your creative brief. But allow the creative community to come up with the idea and give you the realization of those ideas. I think that’s where the real strength lies.

Mike: OK. Well, this has been very interesting, Ken. Again, thank you so much for spending some time and talking about your experiences in the area of Crowdsourcing. I really appreciate it. Just a plug for Ken. I got to know Ken through the blog, when I was talking about his former brand a couple of years ago. In fact, I’ll put a link to that story on this podcast article. But, Ken is really one of the brightest lights in Social in the insurance space and it’s a real treat and a privilege to have him on the podcast talking about some of these things. Ken, how can people reach you?

Ken: Well, the easiest way right now is either through my page on LinkedIn, which would be Kenneth Hittel, but also Gmail … khittel@gmail.com.

Mike: Great. Any closing thoughts about Crowdsourcing or Social, in general?

Ken: Yes. Definitely. I think, clearly, we are going to see more and more creative investment in social space within the insurance industry. We certainly started seeing it a couple of years ago with companies like State Farm and Allstate. New York Life has come in, I think, very strong from the life insurance industry perspective and is doing some very successful things. But, clearly, there’s a huge future in Social.

Mike: Great. Well, thanks for listening. Please comment on the podcast on WebWisedom.com , where the podcast will be hosted. Please share this with your network as you see appropriate.

Again, this is Mike Wise, President of WebWisedom, and I’m helping insurance companies leverage social technologies within the unique environments of the organization, markets and regulatory guidelines. Connect with me across the social web via MikeWise07 and learn more at WebWisedom.com.

WebWisedom-Crowdsourcing-podcast-w-Ken-Hittel-May2012.mp3

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30th
Understanding the Customer

Understanding the Customer

Two years in development, three months in planning, the much anticipated and discussed Social Tech Boot Camp For Insurance Executives finally came to pass.

We had 14 very smart and successful insurance marketing folks, and yet with low levels of awareness of the fundamentals of Social Technology tools and concepts and how to leverage them. This is a very common state in the leadership ranks inside the life, health and accident insurance markets. Thus the need for the Boot Camp.

A few comments looking back from some of the executives:

“I lead a Division that manufactures and sells various specialty insurance products…I would absolutely recommend it to others. This is the way of the future and where the current environment is and unless you understand Social Technologies and how to leverage it, you’ll be left behind. I think it’s in every business leader’s interest to learn about it and execute on it.”

Social Tech Boot Camp Columbus

Social Tech Boot Camp Columbus

“…better ways to understand the customers and their preferences using crowdsourcing… and then how do we get customers into the funnel and getting them to push out that they like us.” Role: strategy and product development in the insurance industry

“…has been interesting to learn how to better leverage this… being deliberate and thoughtful about things like online reputation management.” Role: President of a portfolio of small businesses in niche insurance areas that we are looking to grow at a pace that is faster than traditional expectations of the insurance marketplace.

Lead the sales and client services team within employee benefits… “I’m just scratching the surface re Social technology and the application of it… I’m immediately going to assess my sales and client services team’s knowledge and bandwidth and map out a plan to implement some of these tools, technologies and methods on a day-in/day-out basis.”

Next up: Chicago, May 23-24. The class is starting to take shape. Should be another good group. And yes, I’ll be crafting a video of the Columbus camp in April. Looking forward to it.

15th

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>>

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