A glance at the handful of business cards collected from a recent industry convention offers clues about change or the lack thereof among life insurance distributors.
On every one of those cards is printed a mailing address, several phone numbers, an email address and sometimes an insurance license number.
Only one of those nine business cards - the one belonging to insurance agent Gene Burkett, license No. 0664517, in Felton, Calif. - features a professionally-photographed portrait of the agent himself.
But missing from those very same business cards are the agent’s Twitter handle or LinkedIn or Facebook address.
How about listing their YouTube or Instagram accounts?
On every one of those cards is printed a fax number, yet 20-somethings are asking: What’s a fax?
Are we reading too much into what a simple 3.5-inch by 5-inch business card tells us about where agents stand? Probably.
And yet, in the words of one advisor interviewed earlier this year, the model of handing out business cards during a networking event is a relic of the last century.
Printing a card with an address and phone number still works, but it’s no longer where millennials dwell. Twenty-somethings left the physical world more than a decade ago.
If you’re going to be handing out business cards, at least have the courtesy —in the eyes of the millennials — to have those cards include all your electronic contact accounts including your social media accounts. How are young prospects supposed to reach you?
Certainly not through a physical address. And yet, that physical address remains anchored on the card, chewing up valuable space front and center.
Why not list an Instagram account to which agents upload hundreds of portraits, or dozens of images of their home office?
Use that effective relic of the physical world — the business card — to link young prospects to the virtual world.
OK, so the business card remains a foggy window through which to draw conclusions about how well agents are aligned with young prospects. Agents aren’t in the technology business. They don’t work for Google, after all.
Last-century habits litter the industry, said Ryan Pinney, vice president of sales and marketing for the brokerage general agency Pinney Insurance Center in Roseville, Calif.
The apprenticeship-based agency system in which mentors supervise novices on sales calls is no longer suitable for millennial agents who would prefer to learn through watching YouTube videos or through mobile apps on smartphones.
Not that the apprentice sales call doesn’t work, but it’s just not a format that millennials care about or resonate with.
Some segments of the population prefer to do business with insurance agents who drive around with folders in the trunk of their Chevy Luminas, but those segments are shrinking fast.
“Companies that are going to be successful, that adapt and change and evolve will be the ones that are very tech thinking,” said Pinney, a 12-year veteran of the insurance sales trade recognized for is creative approach to insurance sales.
Progressive carriers and distributors will be the ones using social media and apps on mobile devices, and even develop new language.
When carriers and agents talk about “protection,” millennials hear the phrase “birth control.” When the industry talks about a “policy,” millennials hear rules, rigidity and inflexibility. Mention “premium” and young prospects think of higher quality.
Susan L. Combs, president of Combs & Co. in New York City, said her company has created an Instagram account and opened a YouTube channel to highlight everything from new offices to her company’s work with charity.
“Being able to connect to people is very important,” said 36-year-old Combs, a rising star among a new generation of insurance agency owners. “Generation Y is technology dependent, not just tech savvy. Millennials wouldn’t know what to do with an old phone.”
Which bring us back to phone numbers printed on business cards, and what at least one young leader thinks the industry should do with them.
“Toss ‘em,” said Ted Jenkin, co-CEO of oXYGen Financial in Atlanta and founder of ditchthenametag.com, a website designed to help other advisors grow their business.
The place to look for millennials — advisors and prospects — is in the virtual world of websites and Internet connections, not the physical world of hotel ballrooms, nametags and thick paper stock business cards, Jenkin said in an interview with InsuranceNewsNet earlier this year.
As proof, last year his company received 1,250 inbound leads last year from Facebook, LinkedIn, a blog and a column published on WSJ.com, he said.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Writer Cyril Tuohy has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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