Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What Twinkies and Insurance Marketing Have in Common

Getting the attention of your audience is getting harder every day. That's why you need to consider what supermarket aisles of Twinkies and doughnuts have in common with insurance marketing – and it’s more than you might think.

Consider thinking of the insurance marketing organizations or distribution partners you work with as supermarkets. Now you’ve probably spent a considerable amount of time and resources building relationships with these organizations. But so has your competition.

Insurance wholesalers stock their hypothetical shelves with annuity and life insurance products they offer to producers. They also have many more products than prime shelf space. So the question for you is: What shelf is your insurance product on? Is it eye level at a prime spot with the Twinkies and the doughnuts? Or, is it on the top or bottom shelf like the Streusel Cake and dessert cups?

The point is, you’ve made significant investments in building your product and getting the attention of the insurance marketer who can sell it.

Now, how do you get your audience to pay attention to your marketing message and take action? How do you get your product or service to be top of mind – or as in our example – get that prime shelf space?

It all starts with a good marketing plan. You must design comprehensive communication plans in a way that maximizes your marketing results. The next challenge is to get your audience to take action.

Insurance promotional efforts are all too often the “me too” variety and not truly unique. Which camp do your promotional efforts fall into? Truly unique promotional efforts will put you on the prime shelf space and allow you to stand out from the crowd to attract more premiums.

Truly unique campaigns, in short, digestible increments that speak to your audience are a must to be on the prime shelf space in today's insurance marketplace.

Do you create unique campaigns that get your audience to respond to your message and your product?

Share your thoughts by clicking on the "Add Comment" link below.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Stock Market Crash of 2008 – Where Will Americans Put Their Retirement Savings?

Going into the week of October 6, 2008, the stock market was having a dismal year, since the Dow Jones Industrial Average was already down 27% from its high one year earlier. Then, the Dow almost inconceivably plunged 18% in one week. The already inadequate retirement savings of the Baby Boomer generation took a staggering hit.

American citizens have seen big banks fail. They have seen a major insurer, AIG, require a government bailout. They have seen a money market fund break the buck. What does it all mean for where they will put their savings in the future?

I suspect it means two things, one of which is immediately good for the fixed annuity industry, and the other of which will require us to adapt.

The first implication is that consumers have again been acquainted with what investment risk really means. Whoever wasn’t already spooked by the stock market decline of 2000 – 2002 is now terrified thanks to the incredibly rapid decline of 2008. Thus, people will value safety and will be perfectly happy with the modest level of returns offered by fixed annuities.

The second implication is that people want to be able to move their money quickly and without penalty when they see the need to move it. This is where the fixed annuity industry needs to change. Our competitors, banks and mutual fund companies, enable customers to move money around quickly and without penalty.

Thanks to the stock market crash of 2008, our message of safety and stability will sell very well in the future. If we can pair that value with high-tech service processes and giving our customers flexibility to move their money, we have the potential to move alongside mutual funds as the American public’s savings vehicle of choice.

Share your thoughts by clicking on the "Add Comment" link below.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

SEC Rule 151A: What Happens Next?

Rule 151A is the new rule proposed on June 25 by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission which would declare indexed annuities to be securities that must be sold through broker/dealers.

The official comment period for proposed Rule 151A ended on September 10. Counting form letters, the SEC received over 2,000 comments from insurance agents, registered representatives, insurance carriers, industry associations, and other interested persons.

Some within the insurance industry have characterized 151A as a raw grab for power by the SEC. They believe that the SEC will move forward with the proposed rule’s implementation regardless of the merit of any of the comments it has received. It certainly was not promising that the SEC received a letter signed by 18 members of Congress – a letter that merely asked the SEC to extent the comment period – and the SEC did not grant the extension.

So, now the entire industry waits for the SEC to show its true colors. Will it consider the merits of some of the comments, make changes to the proposed rule, and open a new comment period? Will it quickly move implementation forward with the existing proposed rule, as many fear? Or, will it surprise everyone by withdrawing the proposed rule completely?

Two things seem clear. One is that if you look at the entire landscape of the U.S. financial markets, index annuities should not be a major issue on the regulatory radar. The stock market, the credit market, the mortgage market, and the housing market are all a mess. Major retail and investment banks are faltering and failing. The federal government even needed to bail out Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and AIG at an enormous cost to taxpayers. Compare that to the index annuity market, where no policyholder has lost money other than by voluntarily taking an action that triggered a relatively modest surrender charge.

The other clear item is that if your income relies upon sales of index annuities, now is the time to prepare for this rule, just in case it is enacted. Increase your sales efforts related to traditional fixed annuities or life insurance. Those products have a lot of merit, and in fact, sales of traditional fixed annuities have increased dramatically this year. Also, study to obtain your securities license. It is best to be prepared. You cannot afford to have this rule take you by surprise.

Click the “Add Comments” link below to share your thoughts.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Where Will We Get New Life Insurance Agents?

And, who will sell our products? Those are the big questions that will plague the insurance industry in a few years.

There is a fascinating article on this topic in the August 2008 issue of InsuranceNewsNet Magazine entitled “Is Wall Street Killing Life Insurance?” Here are some key statistics from the article:

  • More than 40% of the U.S. adult population has no life insurance whatsoever.
  • From 1985 to 2006, the number of life insurance policies sold declined by 39%, while the number of households with children increased by 19%.
  • There are 11% fewer producers today than twenty years ago. Some industry analysts say the number of producers could drop by 40% by 2017.

The article notes that the cause of these issues is that Wall Street does not reward investment in distribution. Insurance carriers have boosted profits by cutting their expenses related to developing tomorrow’s producers, and Wall Street has rewarded them with higher valuations.

Alternative distributions systems, such as banks and direct marketing firms, are not selling substantial amounts of life insurance. In the meantime, our country’s agent force is aging and shrinking. Get this: “Thirty years ago, the median age [of an insurance agent] was 38. Now it’s 53 and going up at the rate of one year every year. Half of the active producers today will retire over the next 10 years.”

Many industries will face a crisis finding workers in the future as our country’s entire workforce ages. But, the insurance industry looks like it will have even bigger problems than most simply because, as an industry, far too few organizations are even attempting to bring young people into a career selling insurance.

Of course, starting an insurance career from scratch has always been extremely difficult. It will be a shame for our country, however, if the general population becomes more vulnerable to financial risks as a result of the insurance industry’s underinvestment in future distribution.

How do we fix this problem?

Click the “Add Comments” link below to share your thoughts.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What Will SEC Regulation of Indexed Annuities Mean for Insurance Marketers?

On June 25, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it will propose a new regulation regarding indexed annuities (Release number 33-8933, Proposed Rule 151A). The details provided by the SEC regulators made it clear that essentially all currently popular indexed annuities would be considered securities once the regulation goes into effect.

To back up the need for the new regulation, the regulators showed clips from the April 2008 Dateline NBC report called “Tricks of the Trade,” which purports to show abuses in the sale of indexed annuities. The regulators also mentioned the role of surrender charges in exposing purchasers to the risk of loss.

Without question, the insurance companies who write indexed annuities and the insurance industry lobbying organizations that they work with will attempt to vigorously oppose this proposed new regulation. They may even be successful in modifying the regulation or stopping its adoption altogether.

However, if I was the owner or CEO of an insurance marketing organization heavily dependent upon the sale of indexed annuities for my profitability, I would not wait to see how that process plays out. The risk to my business is too great not to work on a solution starting right now.

There are two primary courses of action that an insurance marketing organization can take. One course is to attempt to build the segments of its business that are not under regulatory attack, such as traditional fixed interest rate annuities or life insurance. Fortunately, in today’s environment of low bank CD rates and declining equity returns, traditional fixed interest rate annuities have tremendous appeal. The other course is to become securities licensed by setting up an RIA firm and/or a broker/dealer firm. This will not only allow me to offer indexed annuities, but a whole variety of securities as well.

The problem for annuity marketing organizations is that many agents will choose not to become securities licensed. So, the primary challenge for these annuity marketing organizations will be a training and motivation challenge – to induce as large a portion of their existing agent force as possible to become licensed and productive in the sale of securities.

As in any environment of intense change, there will be firms that aggressively embrace the changes taking place to grow and profit, and there will be complacent firms that suffer dramatic declines in sales and profit. The key question for each marketing organization principal is this: are you willing to make the effort?

Click the "Add Comments" link below to share your thoughts.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Annuities Are Never Stupid

On June 12, 2008, The Motley Fool published an article by John Rosevear entitled “Are Annuities Ever Not Stupid?” The article mentioned that “we [the Motley Fool] really don’t like most annuities,” and it referred to equity indexed annuities as “ugly.”

In our opinion, Mr. Rosevear did not adequately answer the question he posed, so here is our answer. We believe that our answer does a better job of explaining why annuities are popular financial products.

Are annuities ever not stupid? Of course. Immediate, fixed, indexed, and variable annuities all provide an attractive value proposition to certain customers.

Immediate annuities: Retirees face a dilemma. They have a limited amount of savings, and if they dip into the principal to provide an adequate cash flow during retirement, they face the prospect of running out of money one day. Immediate annuities are the one financial product that can allow you to liquidate your principal yet be guaranteed not to run out of cash flow, no matter how long you live. This is because insurance companies pool the longevity risk across a large number of annuity owners, ensuring that there is adequate money to pay those who live a long time. As Mr. Rosevear mentions, the March 2005 issue of the Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement newsletter includes an article showing how adding a lifetime income annuity to your retirement portfolio can help ensure you don’t outlive your retirement savings.

Fixed annuities: Fixed interest rate annuities include so-called “CD-style” annuities. They are available in a variety of durations with a variety of interest rates. They are very comparable to bank CD’s and are often sold by insurance-licensed employees of banks. Because of the different investment strategies employed by banks versus insurance companies, there are times when fixed annuities offer much higher interest rates than bank CD’s of the same duration. When they do, fixed annuities are a smart choice for consumers who would otherwise put their money in bank CD’s.

Indexed annuities: Indexed annuities get some bad press because some writers and consumers by mistake think that these annuities are designed to replicate stock market returns. They are not designed to do that. They are designed to have similar safety of principal features as bank CD’s, money market funds, and savings accounts. They are an excellent choice for consumers who are looking for safety of principal yet the potential for a higher return than those other comparable products. You can even make a good argument that indexed annuities are more attractive than bond mutual funds. See our article, “Turning the Fixed Indexed Annuity Critic into an Advocate.”

Variable annuities: Variable annuities get some bad press because some writers (including most at the Motley Fool) believe that all customers should be willing to bear stock market risk in order to achieve stock market returns. But there is some risk of losing money in the stock market, even over long periods of time, and many consumers cannot stomach bearing that risk. So, variable annuities offer a way for such consumers to put money in risky securities. Consumers give up some of the return in the form of fees to the insurance company, which provides various guarantees to protect the invested principal. This provides a way for risk-averse customers to achieve some element of stock market return at a risk level that is comfortable for them.

Why do you think most commentators ignore the fact that annuities are a good option for consumers who are looking for safety of principal? What can we do as an industry to better educate these commentators? Click the “Add Comment” link below to share your thoughts.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Positioning Annuities for the Retirement Wave

The June 2, 2008 issue of the Wall Street Journal includes an article entitled “Riding the Retirement Wave.” It is an article about the latest trend in mutual fund product development: managed payout mutual funds, which are designed to help boomers turn their savings into a steady stream of checks.

The advantages of the new managed payout funds are that they invest in multiple asset classes, they allow investors to withdraw their money at any time just like a traditional mutual fund, and the account balance can be passed along at death. The catch is that the funds’ values and payouts will fluctuate based on market returns. The funds can plan and promise projected payouts, but ultimately there are no guarantees.

According to the article, “most firms quickly point out that these [managed payout fund] products shouldn’t be considered substitutes for guaranteed annuities. For those whose nest egg is just sufficient to cover their expected cost of living, annuitization is likely the right decision because these retirees can’t tolerate much risk.”

This begs the question, what do some customers find unsatisfactory about annuities? The article answered that the disadvantages of annuities are that consumers fear the loss of liquidity, they feel that annuities have hidden fees, they don’t know how their money is being used (lack of transparency), and they feel that many annuities are too complicated.

So, as an industry, we can see our challenge. Part of the challenge is positioning. Annuities are criticized as complex and non-transparent, yet managed payout funds are surprisingly complex and non-transparent products. Regular statements are needed for these managed payout funds to show investors what fraction of each payout came from income earned by the fund, capital gains, and what was made from return of capital. The amounts paid out by the funds will fluctuate based on market returns.

Also, just because a fund carries a certain label, it does not necessarily make that fund consistent with other funds carrying the same label. For example researchers, at Financial Research Corporation in Boston recently looked at the assets of 58 mutual funds designed for workers planning to retire in 2020. Their findings were that the amount of holdings invested in stock, stock funds, and related instruments varied from 51% to 95%!

So, we must conclude that the mutual fund industry has taken very complex financial products and successfully positioned them as easy for the consumer to understand. Also, annuities are criticized as having hidden fees. Yet, every so-called “no load” mutual fund has an expense ratio that is never revealed on an account statement, only in a prospectus.

The payout phase of life is the phase where annuities should take center stage over mutual funds because of annuities’ guarantees and other safety features. If the mutual fund industry manages to capture the lion’s share of client assets during the payout phase of life, it will leave our collective retirements less secure, which could be a tragedy for us all.

What can we, as annuity creators and marketers, do to position the benefits of our products more successfully? Where should we focus?

Click "Add Comment" below to share your thoughts.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Whatever the Name, an Annuity Is A Much Needed Financial Product

On May 29, 2008, the Iowa Insurance Commissioner published Bulletin 08-07, which outlined procedures that insurance carriers should follow for annuity illustrations.

Interestingly, there has been an NAIC Model Life Insurance Illustration Regulation on the books for over a decade now, but there is no similar regulation on annuity illustrations. Fortunately, most carriers have carried the spirit of that life insurance regulation over to the annuity side, in that they have included detailed disclosures on their illustration output and have limited the latitude agents have in projecting future product performance. But apparently there have been some exceptions.

The most interesting aspect of the Iowa bulletin is this directive: “Illustrations for fixed annuities which contain a ‘fixed interest rate’ which is specified in the annuity contract must clearly state whether or not the ‘fixed interest rate’ is actually permanently fixed or based upon an index. Consumers must be told if the ‘fixed interest rate’ may in fact vary, as determined on a contract anniversary.”

What makes this interesting is that indexed annuities were originally called “equity indexed annuities” by the industry. Then, when some in the securities industry started asserting that these annuities should be regulated as securities because of the equity link, the industry switched its terminology to “fixed indexed annuities” and started emphasizing that they are a form of fixed annuity. Apparently, this has led to some confusion with consumers who expect the annual interest credit to be steady, i.e. “fixed”, from year-to-year.

The wonderful thing about equity indexed annuities, fixed indexed annuities, or whatever you would like to call them, is that they are innovative and much needed financial products. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could come up with a brand new name to describe them, one that would not confuse consumers, agents, or regulators? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Click on the “add comment” link below to suggest a name or leave a thought.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Let's Make Insurance Product Marketing More Personal

Since I have an insurance license, every couple of weeks I get some big package in the mail from some random insurance carrier. It usually cost the carrier about $4.80 to mail and I’m willing to bet, especially for the last one I received, anywhere from $5 to $10 to print (the last one was really nice). My first thought is, “Wow. Someone just spent close to $15 to market their insurance product to me and they don’t even know me.” They usually get my name and address from some list they bought.

So what do I do? Well, I usually take a quick look at the material and skim the cover letter. I usually give it at least that much attention because I am an insurance marketing strategist and I am interested in how other people market insurance products. My next step after that is to usually pitch it into the recycling bin. Then I usually wonder how many of these product promotions go into the trash and wind up in a landfill. It makes me a little sad to tell you the truth. Sorry, I’m here to focus on insurance marketing and not saving the environment. Let me get back on track.

Is this “spray and pray” marketing really effective? To me it’s kind of the equivalent of randomly meeting someone on the street and offering a marriage proposal all at the same time. Call me old fashioned, but where is the courtship? What about letting me get to know you and building a relationship? After all, isn’t marketing and sales about relationships?

I have a problem with this type of marketing and producer recruiting. One, I think it is overwhelming to the recipient. How is someone supposed to digest all that information all at once – and why would I want to? And, honestly, if I have that much time to review all that material I’m probably not setting any sales records. Two, I believe it is very impersonal. You have to have a pretty big marketing budget for that kind of marketing. Why not use that marketing budget more strategically? There are so many options to create a marketing strategy that can be viewed by your audience more effectively and seen as being more personal.

As attention spans get shorter and shorter we should all be looking at ways to engage our audience in a way that makes them feel like they are the only person we are communicating with at that time. The communications can be concise, targeted, economical, and still get our point across.

What are your thoughts? Click on the “add comments” link below to share your thoughts.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Road to Retirment - People Want What Annuities Offer

In the May 26, 2008 print issue of Fortune Magazine, there is a special 7-page advertising section entitled “The Road to Retirement.” Sponsored in partnership with the National Association for Fixed Annuities, this section discusses the benefits of owning an annuity.

Even though it is a paid advertisement, it's refreshing to see something in print that discusses the benefits of owning an annuity instead of criticizing the product.

At the end of the day, real-life customers want the things that annuities offer: safety from market risk, tax deferral, and assured income. Customers are not necessarily looking for the highest possible return when the stock market does well. They are looking for good returns consistent with assured preservation of their capital.

The material presented in the advertisement should make each of us in the annuity market feel a little more confident in ourselves. We are not selling a second-class product. We are selling an outstanding product. Even if the financial press sometimes seems biased against our product, customers are what count. And, they like what we are offering.

What more can we do to promote the benefits of annuities? What are your thoughts?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Did Dateline NBC Throw The Baby Out With The Bath Water?

When Dateline NBC aired its episode entitled “Tricks of the Trade,” which focused on some agents’ sales tactics when selling equity indexed annuities, did it throw the proverbial “baby out with the bath water” by not presenting a fair and balanced report about equity indexed annuities? Sure we can sit here and complain about the reporting being sensationalistic and one sided. But, is Dateline really the one to blame? Or, should we, members of the insurance industry, blame ourselves?

Just like many times before many of us will focus, after the fact, on how to do damage control from a story that misrepresents what the product is and the benefits it provides. Many compliance officers will probably be writing emails about the many more things we should not call ourselves and the words we can’t say. But is this really the solution to the problem? Is this really where our energy should be focused?

Unfortunately, it seems like the answer to those questions, at the moment, is yes. But why do we put ourselves in this position? An annuity (fixed, indexed, variable, etc.) can and should be part of a savings plan for many people. And, yes, this can include seniors.

We need to spend the time promoting the product for what it is and the benefits it offers. We should spend the time educating all of our constituents – consumers, agents, the media, state attorney generals, insurance commissioners – about what the product provides and how it is able to provide those benefits. There are some great suitability programs in place that we should talk about. Believe it or not, a suitability program can help solidify a sale for you, not cost you one. We should spend the time talking about how interest is credited and not worrying about if it can or if it does beat the market index the interest crediting is linked to. Why should we think that mentioning surrender charges is a bad thing or be embarrassed by them? They are an important part of the product and help provide the many benefits the product offers the client. Maybe we’re over simplifying here – but it really should be that simple.

If we take steps to get back to the basics of the product and its benefits, maybe we can start to turn some of the annuity critics into advocates. Wouldn’t it be great to be in a proactive position rather than a reactive one? What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Using Technology to Drive A Strategic Marketing Plan

Using technology to drive a strategic marketing plan can provide significant benefits to your company. Most importantly, it provides you with exceptional opportunities to reach your goals, build stronger relationships and drive more sales.

Insurance Insight Group’s Principal & Marketing Strategist, Mark Stone, has written a white paper, Using Technology to Drive Dynamic and Compliant Marketing Initiatives, that aims to show you ways you can use technology to help your messages be:

  • Consistent with your goals and your audience’s needs
  • Interesting and actionable to your audience
  • Delivered in a format that is flexible and available to your audience when they want it
  • Engaging and have a personal feel, even when you communicate to a mass audience that is geographically scattered

Using the technology and strategies mentioned in Mark’s white paper can help ensure the integrity of your message and your brand. These days, most organizations are seeking ways to keep their messages consistent and compliant.

Marketing technology tools that are available to the insurance professional today, can also give you the means to break through the clutter and capture the attention of your audience.

Another huge benefit of using technology to drive dynamic and compliant marketing initiatives is that it provides consistency and flexibility. Your messages then have a better chance of reaching your goals, building more relationships and driving more sales.

How are you using technology in your insurance marketing campaigns? Are your messages breaking through or getting lost? We’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Building New Distribution Channels

Frequently, you face the challenge of building new distribution and growing your sales volume quickly when you are entering a new distribution channel in the life insurance or annuity marketplace. But even in existing channels, there is still a need to create new relationships and build sales quickly.

Growing sales quickly can seem daunting. But realistically, we can analyze the problem by looking at two key challenges:

  • creating a product that has appeal in your target market, and then
  • building relationships with distributors and customers.

You can fully explore both of these challenges Chris Conklin’s white paper, How to Build New Distribution Channels and Grow Sales Volume Quickly, but we’d like to focus in on building relationships with distributors and customers right now.

Is it better to grow these relationships organically with your existing staff or hire a company that already has existing relationships in the distribution channels you’re looking to grow in? Or, is it best to use a combination of the two?

We believe if you approach the challenge of growing sales with a systematic solution, your chances of success are excellent. The systematic solution should include, good product development, strengthening and building relationships, a good promotional plan and working with individuals or a group that already has strong relationships in the channel you’re looking to for growth.

We would love to hear your stories of success and failure in attempts to build new distribution channels and grow sales volume quickly. What have you found that works, and what has failed?

Can Customer Service be Leveraged to Increase Sales?

To be successful in today’s challenging environment, insurance carriers and marketing organizations must offer agents a consumer friendly product portfolio with competitive compensation that is processed in a timely and accurate manner. Within our industry, solving the operational equation can be the toughest part of the agent value proposition.

In his white paper, Leveraging Operations for Success, Steve Kennedy, Insurance Insight Group Principal & COO provides proven strategies to reduce processing times and increase productivity without requiring a significant capital investment in operations.

Through focused utilization and motivation of staff, a detailed workflow analysis and enhanced inventory management, Steve believes that key performance metrics will quickly improve. The key is to then support the program with a full customer communication campaign to ensure that their perception of service moves toward the new reality.

What are your thoughts? Can customer service be improved without a significant capital investment? Do companies place enough emphasis on customer service? Please provide your comments and experiences regarding customer service in the life and annuity insurance marketplace.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Can the Fixed Indexed Annuity Critic be Turned into an Advocate?

It's an interesting question, isn't it? Can the Fixed Indexed Annuity Critic be turned into an Advocate? We just posted an article Chris Conklin, Insurance Insight Group Principal and Actuary wrote on this very topic. You can download the article, "Turning the Fixed Indexed Annuity Critic into an Advocate", by clicking here.

In the article, Chris states that most critics find fixed index annuities unattractive because they typically return much less than a stock index in a typical year with a positive return. When you read the article you will see how Chris shows how an agent can agree wholeheartedly with this assessment, yet still position a fixed indexed annuity as an excellent place for a portion of many individual’s retirement assets.

Isn't this the point that most critics miss? The fact is that a fixed index annuity, when suited, can be position as a viable alternative to other non-stock retirement savings vehicles that critics recommend to their clients.

What are your thoughts? Do critics get so focused on the trees that they can't see the forest? Be sure to post your comments. We'd love to hear from you on this topic.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Can Product Development Be Improved?

According to Chris Conklin, our Principal and Actuary, product development is a slow, inefficient, and stressful process for most carriers. In his latest white paper, Improving Product Development: How to Become the Speed-to-Market Leader in the Life and Annuity Marketplace, Chris aims to change all of that by giving some key steps to quickly improve the product development process.

According to Chris, and detailed in his white paper at www.improvingproductdevelopment.com, these four proven strategies can enhance the product development process:

  1. Determine your desired outcomes and put them in writing, along with who is responsible for specific outcomes. This will help shorten your timeline and drive down your costs.
  2. Devote qualified staff to a permanent product development team - designating this as their primary priority cuts down on conflicts that bog down the process.
  3. Let the product team determine the target dates, rather than senior management.
  4. Put in place concrete incentives for achieving the goals.

Chris believes that putting these changes into practice can result in creating big advantages.

What are your thoughts? Has product development ever been a nightmare for you or an effective process? Please share your thoughts and experiences.