Marketing conferences are often a mix of bland inspiration spiced with occasional insights that can change how you think about your business. Here’s what we learned from LIMRA’s marketing event held in Baltimore from May 30 to June 1.
There’s a new way to judge your company, and it involves your mother.
Speaker Jeanne Bliss, whose slideshow included side-by-side photos of three generations of her family’s moms, analyzes the business world through a moms-centric lens in pursuit of “goodness-driven growth.” “Do you show up as a caring company?” Bliss, president of CustomerBliss, asked her audience. She’s also the author of “Would You Do That to Your Mother?: The Make Mom Proud Standard for How to Treat Your Customers.” Bliss was dismissive of some common practices: “Would you make your mom keep reintroducing herself to you?” (those companies that force you to repeat your personal data multiple times) and “Would you invite mom to dinner, then ask her to rate your meal?” (those customer service reps who shame you into rating them a perfect 10 after a call). “Make Mom Proud” companies include Pal’s Sudden Service, a burger and hotdog chain. “They hire for the human behind the resume” and their per-square-foot revenue is three times that of competitors’. Further, they “deliver that hotdog with humanity and joy.” Umm, okay. Still, don’t be too quick to laugh: Companies are leaving $86 billion on the table, she said, by not making experiences “seamless and a joy.”
Get with the times. You need to go faster. Faster. Faster.
“Technology and customer expectations are increasing faster and faster,” John Wilson, director of the UConn Center for the Advancement of Business Analytics, said in a workshop on using data to create relationships. Having a culture of flexibility and speed is imperative. He mentioned an augmented reality experience that took 22 days to put together instead of a more-normal two to three months. Think of how to remove constraints. Gaining an edge through speed isn’t just about new tech spending though, as he noted that 81% of companies in a LIMRA survey thought a technology upgrade would differentiate them, even though many companies are upgrading the same things, he said. At the same time, customer expectations are rising: “Now people are comparing their experience buying life insurance to buying airline tickets,” said Munir Pathak, senior data scientist at Life.io, who also spoke during the workshop. Oh, and by the way, if you’re thinking wearable tech might somehow be a solution to a problem, maybe rethink? Wearables could be today’s fad, Pathak said, adding that engagement with wearables is hard to sustain after three months.
Direct mail ain’t dead yet. But it has to be done right.
Direct mail has its place in a marketing campaign, John Sission, president of HBT Marketing, said in a session on storytelling that connects. “Mail is tactile,” Sission said. “You feel it, you see it.” But don’t try to tart up the packaging: the envelope should have an official feel and not look promotional. “It’s a serious-looking piece because that gets opened,” according to Sission. One downside: doing direct mail is expensive. Still, results can be impressive. Matthew Nelson, a marketing consultant for MassMutual and moderator for the workshop, said the insurer gets a high return on its investment in mailings. Some people want something tangible they can hold in their hands, he said. Separately, LIMRA discussed a survey at the conference that showed when it comes to engaging with prospects and clients in the future, 58% of financial advisors plan to use the same amount of mail, or more. Only 36% said they’ll use less.
Those product illustrations … ugh, but seriously … but there’s hope.
“The illustrations are literally the ugliest, clunkiest things” that a company makes, said Kimberly Anderson, manager of life product research and consulting for the individual product solutions group at Securian Financial Group, during a workshop on reinventing illustrations. The problem is that insurers must comply with rules from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Trying to change language in illustrations can pit marketing against legal and compliance teams. Still, Securian has managed to clear objections and hurdles and put in more marketing flow and value, she said. “The regulatory environment has pushed, let’s call it innovation,” she said. At Penn Mutual, the insurer decided to make its illustrations a little more engaging and inviting, according to Patrick Harper, director of product and concept marketing, who also spoke. It uses a table of contents, bullet points, and even customizes the photo out front with one of 75 different choices, from corn fields to skyscrapers.