This is the Super Bowl of the insurance marketing industry--the annual "Insurance Marketer of the Year" Event. Attendees are the "who's who?" of sales and marketing for the business.
In the last two years, there have been surprise winners. Folks (or should I say "kids") who don't know much about sales and even less about marketing but do understand the Internet and all that social media stuff have won this most coveted prize.
A revolution is taking place. Probably the tipping point occurred last year when the membership demanded more diversity and multicultural awareness. Several founders were booted off the board, and some of the aforementioned kids took over. Tonight's theme is: "This ain't your daddy's Oldsmobile."
This year, the convention center is not decorated. The stage curtains are closed. Two simple quotes are projected on the wall: "We're not one world" (Paul Harvey) and "The medium is the message" (Marshall McLuhun). The audience is mixed, with old timers in their tuxedos and dress gowns and the next generation in jeans or worse. This is going to be an interesting night.
As the presentation commences the crowd grows quiet. The emcee states simply, "Tonight's winner of the most prestigious Marketer of the Year Award will be obvious to some of you and a shock to others. Our honored recipient is now behind the curtain with the affinity group that she created and the affinity group that created her. She's asked that I not mention her accomplishments since these she credits to her followers. She's limited my introduction to the following five words: 'She was born this way.'
"Ladies and Gentlemen," he continues. "Lady Gaga."
The curtains opens and the Little Monsters celebrate their Mother.
The jeans crowd goes wild with enthusiasm, the tux and gowns group goes silent in anger and awe. You can hear their quiet whispers of: "Who?" "What the hell?" "Well, did you ever think this would ever happen here?"
If this sounds absurd, think again. Are we not celebrating affinity group marketing?
Let's start with the definition below from my friend John.
"Affinity group marketing is a process committed to creating a deep knowledge of and intimacy with a group of individuals or organizations that share similar interests and/or risk profile. Successful affinity group opportunities generate value by establishing and sustaining credible relationships and delivering products and services valued by group members."
Affinity group marketing is not about selling insurance to several members of an industry niche. It is not an association endorsement. It is not representing an insurance company that has a product designed for a specific need or joining a trade or professional group as an associate member.
It may be a good tactic to speak at trade group meetings, advertise in their journals or attend conventions, but that doesn't ensure success with affinity groups. Study the definition above, in particular these words: "... a deep knowledge of and intimacy with a group of individuals or organizations that share similar interests ..."
Now let's compare your results with what Lady Gaga has done.
A Google search on "Lady Gaga" showed 445 million results. She has 35 million Facebook friends and 10 million Twitter followers. Forbes has her atop their showbiz power list, knocking Oprah off after four years. Her income this year is over 55 million pounds. (See this Sun article for all the stats.)
Her affinity group members (more correctly, devotees) have named her Mother Monster and themselves Little Monsters. She, to honor them, called her tour, the Monster Ball.
Now before you storm out of the auditorium in anger, look again at the quotes on the screen.
"We are not one world."
"The medium is the message."
Ask yourself: Do you define your group and do they define you, or are you just trying to sell more products and services? Is your connection to your group financial and need based or at an emotional and psyche level? Have you bonded with your niches? What're your medium and message? What are your results?
We are not one world. Do you create legitimacy for your clients? Lady Gaga does.
MICHAEL G. MANES is owner of Square One Consulting, a New Iberia, La.- based consulting business focusing on planning, sales and operations, and change management and architecture. He has over 37 years of insurance industry experience, including serving as an instructor of risk and insurance at Louisiana State University.
July 11, 2011
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