Planning For The Success Of Life Insurance Awareness Month

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of the industrys Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE) program that is geared to creating a better understanding of the role of life and health insurance.

LIFEs “real life stories” have dramatized the way our products impact in a positive way the lives of families. Reversal of the downward slide of how we are perceived by the public has occurred in large measure because of the LIFE programs.

And so now, we are set to embrace the newest initiative from LIFE, a national “Life Insurance Awareness Month” (LIAM). While a few state and local underwriter (advisor) associations have done this in the past, this is the first all-industry effort and also the first on a national basis. Wisely, the planners have targeted September as the awareness month. I say wisely because it allows for at least 7 months of planning before the event and this is vital if it is to be a meaningful effort.

Planning, I believe, is essential because we should think through very clearly what it is we want to have happen. Awareness is, of course, but a first step and if that is all we create, then the program will not have accomplished much.

Awareness without action is, in the long run, of very little value. I am sure that the residents of the Iranian town of Bam were aware that their town lay across a severe geological fault. However, even with this knowledge, it is apparent no action was taken to build homes and other structures to withstand an earthquake. And so it seems to me that the purpose of the awareness we want to create should logically lead to action. How do we do this?

I remember many years ago the 3M company, maker of abrasives and tapes used by body shops, tried to create an awareness among the public of the importance of repairing minor body damage on their cars. Advertising this message to the public did little to motivate people to fix up the dents in their cars and so the focus was shifted to the service advisors in car dealerships. This was done primarily by the creation of “DOOF” month. DOOF stood for “dents out of fenders.”

Ordinarily, hundreds of cars would pass through a dealers service department each month and many needed minor bodywork that was, for the most part, ignored. But during “DOOF month,” service advisors constantly were reminded to suggest such repairs–and it worked. Body shop business picked up–3M sold more products and car owners took greater pride in the appearance of their automobiles.

I mention this incident as a way of suggesting that the ultimate goal of LIAM be understood clearly as a means to improve the financial security of families and businesses–that will require action as a follow-up to the awareness we wish to create. The logical group to secure such action is our field force by whatever name they are called.

The field force is, I believe, a legitimate first target for the promotion of LIAM and fortunately, we have a number of months to prepare them for the main event in September. I say legitimate target for there is no question that we can do a better job of presenting ourselves to the public. Studies by LIMRA and others demonstrate there is a strong willingness by the public to buy our products but also, unfortunately, a decrease in the opportunities to buy. In short, we are not seeing the people.

Like the cars with dents passing unnoticed through a car dealers service department, most veteran agents have in their files the names of policyholders that have not been called upon in years. LIAM can be a motivation for agents to dig those names out and either call on them, or enlist the help of a new associate who has time to do so. Likewise, there are also names in those files of prospects to be called onsomeday. LIAM can be “someday.”

The goal of the initiative is to make LIAM a rallying point for the whole industry to work together to get Americans thinking about their life insurance needs while positioning agents as a critical resource. Advertising, public relations, home office communications all can combine to help position the agent as a resource in the publics mind.

But all of this could be to no avail if the agents are not motivated to follow through on this advantage. So, in my view, the process starts by engaging the field force in the planning process to assure that they buy into the program. If we want action beyond awareness, this is an obvious first step.

Local managers and general agents should, right away, start the process with their agency. Next August is too late. Every local association monthly meeting should include a segment supporting this project. Who knowsthe spirit of working together on something this important might even stimulate membership and attendance.

National meetings such as the Million Dollar Round Table should lift this project up in a significant way. MDRT sees itself as an industry leaderLIAM offers an opportunity for true leadership. The international flavor of MDRT provides an opportunity to export the LIAM concept beyond our own borders.

If we plan well now, in September we can reap the benefits of a well executed industry effort. But more importantly, if we succeed, the public we serve will be better insured and families and businesses more secure.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, January 23, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.