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My How Things Have Changed

Rogers_building_Hartford-m-to1It is Thursday and I am writing a TBT (Throw Back Thursday) post -and yes, I know I am actually posting on Friday. I am not sure why I have been thinking about my first job in insurance… but here goes.

After graduating from Colorado State University and doing some post-graduate work in psychology at Connecticut College, my first “real job” was as a personal lines underwriter in Denver with Aetna Life and Casualty. So, much for my degree in psychology.

At the time IBM Selectric typewriters were the leading edge office technology. So, most applications were still filled out by hand. In fact, many agents delivered the applications to us in person and we would take time to discuss the risk. As an underwriter at that time I had a good deal of latitude to accept or reject a submission and the relationship and trust between me and the agent was key.

Shortly, after starting with Aetna they introduced their Auto-Rite auto policy, which was one of the first direct-billed policies. Only the very best risks qualified and the premiums were 20% less but commissions were also 18% verses 20% for the standard agency-billed policy.

Interestingly enough, many agents completely rejected the idea of direct-bill. Besides getting less commission they did not want the insurance company dealing directly with their insured.

My time at Aetna ended when I left to help run a gubernatorial campaign in Colorado and purchase my first insurance agency. Yet, I look back on my time at Aetna with a great deal of gratitude. Aetna was a great company to work for and thanks to my immediate supervisor Pat McCarthy, I learned a ton about insurance, politics and literature – Pat was a true mentor.

How did you get started in the insurance industry? What are your best memories?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Need To Do More Than Social Media

 

6217869581_0c7d0be694_oSeveral years ago, just getting on social sites being and posting status updates was leading edge and unique. No longer. Pretty much everyone has a Facebook page.

Over a year ago, I wrote a post for the Aartrijk “Brain Food” blog entitled “Becoming a Social Business”.

In that post I was making the point that there is a difference between organizations that simply execute social media tactics and those that actually become social businesses. Agencies that find success with social media realize their business must be transformed or reinvented. They understand the need for a comprehensive social strategy that is clearly aligned with business goals as well as senior management involvement and organizational alignment that enables execution of that strategy.

Being social vs. just doing social is still a key concept. Yet, there is more. Our society is going through (some would argue has gone through) a digital transformation. That is, all aspects of our society have undergone change born out digital technology. Individual businesses in order to stay relevant must also go through a digital transformation – they must learn to adapt and master transformational change.

I am not sure of the origin of this concept but digital transformation is sometimes considered the final of the three stages of embracing digital technology. The fist two stages being digital competency and digital literacy.

The reinvention required to be successful in our digital world is even more comprehensive than just becoming a social business. It is the difference between a Borders bookstore and Amazon. It is the difference between improving a traditional business and creating an entirely new model. The Apple iPod wasn’t just an improvement over the traditional music store. Rather, it was the creation of an entirely new model for purchasing and consuming music.

How does the digital transformation impact insurance agents – what does a digitally transformed insurance agency (or industry) look like? While I am don’t have the definitive answer to this and would like to hear what you think – I do know we need to be doing more than social media.

Photo credit – Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig

 

 

 

Social Conversation: It’s Not That Complicated.

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I don’t know about you but I am feeling overwhelmed and growing weary of the proliferation of all the blogs and posts about how to do social media. You know posts like: “10 Ticks To Get More Followers, The 5 Best Strategies To Grow Your Fan Base, 5 Roadblocks To Social Media Success, A Comprehensive Guide To Digital Marketing Success, 8 Social Media Strategies for Small Business”, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I can only imagine how many agents must feel. – Does it is really need to be this complicated? Does success depend on strict discipline and adherence to a formal set of rules? I don’t think so.

Social Media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn Google+, etc. are just a set of new tools to be used by you to communicate with your customers and potential customers. They are tools to be used to help you create awareness, build community, and strengthen relationships.

Involvement is social media is more about being social than doing social. Of course there are a set of best practices and strategies that should be followed. Yet, I think most of those fall under the category of “common sense.” The good social manners you use in the real world still hold true in the digital world. For example, just as you would not go to a Chamber of Commerce meeting and ask every new person you meet to buy insurance from you – don’t to use social outlets to blast a sales message. Being a good listener, not hogging a conversation, being respectful of your audience, and having something of value to say are all good practices in the online world just at they are in the real world.

Don’t get caught up in all the “how to succeed” hype and clutter. You don’t need “tricks” to get followers or complicated strategies to be successful. Rather, step back and ask yourself how you would act and what you would say in a face-to-face conversation and do the same online.

Keeping Busy with Aartrijk and ACT

The picture with this post is from Ridgway State Park, which is where JoAnne and I spent the summer volunteering as camp hosts. We liked it so much we will be going back again next summer.

Yes, summer is over and I am back home in Broomfield. In fact, yesterday the foothills of the Front Range in Colorado saw their first snow. Some of the mountains in received over a foot of snow and Wolf Creek ski area is open.

From a work perspective, I continue to serve as the Chair of the Social Media workgroup for ACT (Agents Council for Technology). Most recently, Cindy Donaldson and I hosted a “Facebook for Insurance Professionals” webinar, which had close to 1000 participants. ACT continues to do great work and if you have not already, I would encourage you to visit their website and consider getting involved.

My role as Sr. Vice President at Aartrijk is where I focus most my effort. I have great respect for Peter van Aartrijk and the entire Aartrijk team and in my role fully enjoy helping our clients find their “voice” in the “social” space.

Which reminds me, have you taken a look at Google +? I think you should. I know, the last thing you want to think about is yet another social site to add to the time suck of social networking. Yet, I am really liking Google +. I find it much cleaner than Facebook and really like to “circle” concept for organizing my communities. I do not see Google + so much as competition to Facebook. Rather, I think it may be the beginning of a very compelling “cloud” environment that will grow as Google integrates all of its apps. If you join Google + (or are already there) please add me to one of your circles. You can find me at: http://gplus.to/rickjmiv or just click the “Add to Circles” button in the right sidebar of this post. If you want a Google + widget for your website or blog you can get it here.

Finally, while I am going to provide periodic updates to this post, most of my blogging will be on the Aartrijk blog. My most recent post: Disaster Communications: We Can Do More with Social Media. So, again please consider following me and the rest of the Aartrijk team: Here.