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Affinity Group Sales Often Cannibalized, Marketer Says

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An affinity group marketer says people in his profession should stop stealing each others’ business.

Companies selling group benefits to associations and other affinity groups need to look for ways to create new sales opportunities by developing niche products and finding new markets, said Samuel Fleet, chief executive, AmWINS Group Benefits Inc., Warwick, R.I., during a session of the Professional Insurance Marketing Association’s 2007 Summer Conference in Stowe, Vt.

“We have been and continue to cannibalize each other,” Fleet said. “Ozzie and Harriett-era insurance marketing is a dead-end when the prospects we target today gather in Google groups or on MySpace pages.”

Professional societies and trade associations have largely been experiencing declining membership and demographic changes while core affinity products are facing a mature market, he noted. Added pressure on third-party administrator business comes from increased competition from dot-com insurance sites and direct selling by carriers.

People are still joining groups and coming together in different ways than in the past, Fleet suggested. These changes are coming from the younger generations and immigrant populations, which do not see a welcome mat from traditional American associations, so they form their own affinity groups, he said.

To create sustainable growth, TPAs and carriers must look to these other affinity groups, develop new products and redesign marketing initiatives, he said. Carriers should also consider more group underwriting, take risks on new ideas and offer flexibility in delivery, Fleet suggested.

Market opportunities include banks and credit unions, employers and even online communities such as Yahoo! or Facebook groups, he said.