By DAN REYNOLDS, senior editor of Risk & Insurance®
BALTIMORE---Maybe it was the sweet salt air gusting in from the harbor in Baltimore on Tuesday morning, or maybe it was the improving fortunes of the U.S. economy, but for whatever the reason, openness seemed to be the theme of the midyear meeting of the Target Markets Program Administrators Association (TMPAA) at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel.
Openness was identified as this country's greatest weapon against terrorism by former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell as he gave the morning keynote address, and it was identified as a predominant trait in understanding social-networking media and the benefits it can bring to an insurance agency--in this case, a program administration agency.
Where once Facebook was the Web domain of 18- to 24-year-old males, it is now a favorite among 25- to 44-year-old women, said Bill Tancer, the author of the bestselling "Click" and a general manager of global research for New York-based Experian Hitwise, an online competitive intelligence service.
Facebook users over the age of 55 are becoming "ubiquitous," he added.
So what does all of this mean for a program administrator who is trying to build a national business with, say, the workers' compensation line of business? It means plenty, according to Robert Barcum, the CEO of the Oklahoma City-based Unisource Program Administrators, who took his specialty in Florida workers' compensation national in 2009.
Just how did Barcum take his business national? Did he hire 50 new agents, one for each state?
Not quite. What he ended up doing was using social-media marketing in an effort to attract 50 e-agents per month, people across the country who could bring him new workers' compensation business using the Internet.
By July, Barcom had added 670 e-agents, soaring beyond his goal of adding 600 agents in the first year.
What did he learn, besides what he calls his "shocking" success? He learned that by not holding his cards so close to his vest, and by putting information about his company for millions of people to see, much came his way.
"You have to be able to give in order to be able to receive back," is how Barcum put it. Or as someone else once told him, "In order to get what you want in life you have to help other people get what they want."
"You're planting seeds, you are dropping rocks in a pond," is how Russell Kern, president of the Woodland Hills, Calif.-based Kern Organization, described it.
The three gentlemen spoke during a session Tuesday morning about social-networking media at the TMPAA event.
And that brings us back to that openness that Powell referred to in his opening address. It's the openness of our democracy that ensures that we will always have a vibrant country and a vibrant economy, Powell posited. And what is this social-networking media, used properly? It's openness on a grand, grand scale.
April 14, 2010
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