The data is in and the message is clear: Agents and customers alike want more technology incorporated in their business relationship.
That’s a no-brainer in 2016, said Debra Jasper of Mindset Digital, a Columbus, Ohio, social media/branding firm.
“Social media is critical to doing business today,” Jasper said. “You really can’t ignore a space where so many of your clients are occupying.”
The insurance industry has been notoriously behind the curve on use of new technology to communicate with clients. Hurdles include an aging agent force and compliance concerns about the liability exposure from such communications.
Jasper and Betsy Hubbard, co-founders of Mindset Digital, are working regularly with insurers to help the industry change. They are leading a special session today at LIMRA’s 2016 Distribution Conference for Financial Services in Miami.
“The industry has an adoption challenge,” said Jasper, who has a doctorate in educational policy and leadership from Ohio State University. “How do you get people to go from reluctance to relevance in the digital age? You can’t just outsource this. You actually have to understand it.”
Jasper and Hubbard will discuss “three shifts today’s professionals can’t afford to ignore.” Those shifts are:
- The Lecture is over. People tune into the informal, so the idea is to write more like you talk. And think about making connections, not commercials.
- There are no captive audiences. Today’s professional has an eight-second attention span.
- Show me a story. Busy audiences and better visual tools - such as Vine, Periscope and Instagram - make new approaches essential.
“You really have to rethink your sales presentations,” Jasper said. “You really have to rethink how you send out those emails. Every piece of communication you send out today must be short, concise and to the point.”
Engagement is key
In today’s workshop, Jasper promises 340 slides in the hour-long presentation. The session is packed with factoids, she added.
Such as how Americans consume 13.6 hours of media per day. Or that Pinterest has more than 75 million active users, and five tweets per second contain a Vine.
“If you’re going to inform people, first you have to engage them,” said Jasper, who is a former investigative journalist. “I often say boring doesn’t work, and it never did, but now it really doesn’t work.”
Executives acknowledged the need for innovation and technology in their responses to the 2015 Retail Life Insurance and Annuity Executive Survey, released in January by Ernst & Young.
“The surprising aspect of the survey this year was the amount of activity around innovation,” Doug French, principal with EY, told InsuranceNewsNet. “When we talked with CEOs probably two years ago, there was a lot of pause around innovation and you could get the feeling that folks weren’t really thinking about it.”
Some executives predicted that the IT function will become one of the largest and most important functions at insurance companies.
To date, technology adoption in the industry follows the traditional bell curve, Jasper said, with some early adopters enjoying significant success. Others have done virtually nothing.
“Understanding how networking has changed and understanding how information is exchanged, those things are critical in the digital age,” she said. Successful adopters, she added, “have invested in platforms and they’re invested in big innovative ideas and people that help them think about what’s coming next.
“What they have to invest in now are their own people.”
Age no barrier
With the average age of an insurance agent in the mid-to-late 50s, some question whether they can learn to incorporate social media tools. But age is not an issue, Jasper said.
Mindset Digital shares several easy tips for interaction of LinkedIn and Twitter. Three big ones are:
- Be personable. Add a compelling first-person summary. You wouldn’t introduce yourself by saying “Bob is a leader.” Don’t talk about yourself that way on LinkedIn either.
- Think twice, post once. Tweets can travel far and fast. Be thoughtful about what you write and share.
- Be active. Stay top of mind by sharing useful information and showcasing your thought leadership.
“It’s less about age and a lot more about attitudes and a willingness to learn,” Jasper said. “Even if digital natives understand the platform, they sometimes don’t understand how to use the platform for business.”
Mindset Digital is working with dozens of clients in the insurance, financial and health care fields. The company offers three training options in marketing, social media and sales.
Almost everyone in a company can benefit from the training, Jasper said.
“Sales teams get more business when they’re using new platforms and new approaches,” she said. “I think people do want to do it, but the industry has to rethink how they’re helping them do it.”
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton has covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. John may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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