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LTCI Watch: Creativity

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Recently, LifeHealthPro.com honored The 20 most creative people in insurance. 

But that list comes with an asterisk: The people included on the list this year couldn’t be people who were on the list last year.

The benefit of that choice was to help make the list interesting and maximize the number of people LifeHealthPro.com has highlighted. One challenge is that it hurt me a little to see Margie Barrie, a LifeHealthPro.com sales and marketing columnist, not be on that list, even though she was on the list in 2014.

Margie seems to have a magical idea-generation spring hidden somewhere on her laptop hard drive.

So, just to help anyone with an interest in generating ideas for promoting long-term care insurance (LTCI) and related products and services know how she does it, I’m devoting this blog to giving you a look at how she answered questions posted to the people included on this year’s top 20 list.

1. Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?

Before I went into insurance, I had a public relations and advertising agency and did a lot of work in the health care field, including serving as executive director of a small association of nursing homes in Maryland. So I was somewhat familiar with long-term care.

The real impetus that convinced me to become an insurance agent were the following events:

I was a divorced mother with two sons, and my divorce agreement stipulated that I pay half of their college expenses. I was prepared when my older son selected an expensive college. When my younger son was looking at Ivy League colleges — and I realized that we were not going to be eligible for any financial aid — I knew I was in trouble.

See also: The love letter strategy

I needed to start making more money. I did extensive research and realized that health care and seniors were going to be two hot areas. Plus my new husband had just started a long-term care insurance agency, and I was doing his marketing anyway. Thus, I decided to make the switch to LTCI. That was 26 years ago, and I have never regretted the switch.

2. Describe what you do.

I wear three hats:

  1. Long-term care (LTC) planning specialist with ACSIA Partners: the one I wear the most often.

  2. Columnist and book author: I’ve been writing the LTC Insider Column for 15 years and have written two books.

  3. Trainer: For a number of years, I was the national marketing coordinator and master trainer for AHIP’s LTC Designation. I decided to stop doing that because of the extensive traveling; I found that I was on the road 30 weeks a year. But I still do training either via the Internet or in nearby venues. I miss it, but not enough to start traveling again.

3. Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

I can answer that from two perspectives — personal and professional.

Personal: I really think my biggest achievement is my two sons. Getting divorced was very traumatic and knowing I had to raise two boys was initially terrifying. I did a lot of reading about how to raise healthy children in that kind of situation — and also while balancing work and parenting. My sons are college graduates, have great jobs, are wonderful husbands and are excellent parents. My reward: four grandchildren whom I adore.

Professional: I would have to say my columns. It started as a fluke. I got a call from the then editor of Senior Market Advisor who had seen one of my articles in another publication. (I love to write. I have a degree in journalism). He asked if I would write an article every other month for his magazine and I told him absolutely not; it was too much work. During the night, I had this great idea: a column with a question and an answer. The format would make the column very easy to read. Short words. I called the next morning and pitched my idea, and the editor said yes. That was 15 years ago. I’m proud to say that every time the magazine did a readership survey, my column always appeared in the top four. And I have never gotten paid. It has been a labor of love. (I did get flowers once.)

4. Insurance is not widely recognized as a creative industry. How would you define “creativity” as it relates to the work you do?

I approach the marketing challenges in selling insurance as I did in my previous public relations and marketing agency career. First, you have the branding part. But then what?

Let me give you an example. Right now, I’m focusing on changing my practice from being dependent on leads provided by the agency via direct mail and the Internet to a referral-based business.

See also: An agenda for referrals

I started by developing my business plan using the traditional marketing approach: identifying my goals, strategies, target audiences and implementation steps. I have already started implanting two programs specifically created for the long-term care sale:

  1. A client-first program.

  2. A three-level “dinging system” targeting prospects and centers of influence. I’m in the beta version now, and once it is perfected, I plan to offer it to others the first quarter of next year.

5. What excites you most about the industry today?

What excites me the most is also what is the most challenging. And that is change. This industry is continually evolving in a number of areas: the products themselves, benefit recommendations, inflation protection choices, hybrid products and more.

It is definitely not boring. This is a continual learning process.

6. How do you anticipate the industry will evolve in the next 10 years?

I am convinced that it will definitely grow stronger and sales will increase. Here’s some reasons why I’m saying that:

  • Baby boomers are experiencing being caregivers and realizing the importance of having this coverage. Last week, I was involved in a work-site case and did 11 employee seminars. Many of the attendees are already dealing with aging parents and LTC issues, And I was amazed at the number of people who said that their parents had long-term care insurance.

  • Co-insuring definitely makes sense. It’s better to have something in place than nothing.

  • People are living longer. Thus, it is inevitable that they will need long-term care at some point in their lives. And for most people, it definitely does not make sense to self-insure. Watching my own mother go on claim has taught me a lot. Thank goodness she has the insurance. She was able to keep her assets and principal intact, so they can continue to generate income that she is using to fund her lifestyle. As more and more baby-boomers personally witness either the advantages of having this protection or have to grapple with the disastrous outcome of not having it, others will understand why this is such an integral part of financial and retirement planning.