If there has been a single theme to this year’s LIMRA Annual Conference, it is that technology in general and social media in particular are not just handy tools for facing the life industry’s myriad challenges. They are essential for anyone in the industry to make the necessary evolution in order to survive as everything radically changes over the next 10 years.
LIMRA head Robert Kerzner made this point loud and clear during his opening speech on Day One of this year’s LIMRA Annual Conference, here in New York. He pointed out that we are in a world of 6.8 billion people and 5.2 billion mobile phones. That dynamic alone should be enough to prove that anybody who wants to sell anything to anyone needs to be able to do it through a phone. Entire communications architectures in India, Africa and Asia are leapfrogging land lines altogether, and the already wired West is becoming even more so as new generations grow up with smart technology of some kind or another in their pocket. And with that comes different expectations of how people are to interact. What makes a social circle anymore? What kind of response can you expect from a friend across the world and who you have never seen? What does it mean to have a circle of friends who span continents and are united more by their common interests than by their heritage, nationality or location? Selling to this brave new world will not be easy. But it must be done. There is no other way.
Kerzner noted that other technologies are also rising to make it possible for life to be sold in entirely new ways. Tablets can be used for agents to take on-the-spot refreshers right before a sales call, or to videoconference with a mentor while sitting curbside at a prospect’s house. Virtual conferences can transform how recruiting is done, while interactive websites enable insurers to engage their customers in a much more inviting, engaging, organic way.
But the prime mover of all of this is social media technology, and it was a point made repeatedly throughout the conference. Following Kerzner was Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, and an engaging visionary whose job it is to help companies better innovte their way out of problems. He does this by engaging what he calls “design thinking,” which is essentially approaching innovation with three needs in mind for any proposed solution or new product:it must be desireable (people must instinctively want it without being sold on it), it must be feasible (it has to be actually deliverable) and it must be viable (it must create a sustained value). The key to this, he pointed out, was that often times, products do not necessarily deliver on these needs. But experiences do.
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He used Apple as an example. He noted that that Apple’s products are not fundamentally different from anybody else’s. They are computers, music players, the same basic types of technology built and sold by many other companies. But what Apple does so well is it uses those products to deliver a very unique experience, from point of sale, to unboxing to initial use, to ongoing support, and to follow-up sales. The entire thing is a seamless experience that makes the user feel not that they have been sold to, but that they have been invited to join in with something that understands their needs.
This kind of engagement creates a network of people, and networks, Brown pointed out, are a very powerful way of changing people’s behavior.
This is where things like Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter and YouTube come in. Right now, these are the four primary social medial platforms in the world. It will not stay this way forever, of course. Each is still less than five years old. But right now, there are more people on Facebook than there are in most nations. YouTube counts its pageviews in the daily billions. And Twitter is such an active torrent of information that the average lifespan of a tweeted story on it is a mere five minutes. And guess what? This is only the beginning. Each platform, according to recent LIMRA research unveiled at the Conference, showed a specific applicability for insurance operations, based on how they are already being used by your colleagues.