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.