There’s Nothing New on the Internet

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I read a quote. The name of the author escapes me. The content stuck.

The gist of the comment was that the internet has not created anything new. It simply provides an easier way to do things we were already doing. Insightful.

The internet is certainly a positive thing; I use it a lot. But every miracle has it’s price. Here’s four problems. I’m certain there are more:

#1. People don’t talk to each other. Human interaction has been compromised. We’re chained to smart phones. You can trade a thousand text messages with somebody but when you try to call that person they don’t answer.

#2. Everybody thinks they are a movie producer/director. It’s difficult to imagine why people record and share the most bizarre situations…once uploaded these antics have a life of their own. Daniel Tosh built a career around YouTube and he’s eager to tell his audience that fact repeatedly. Smart guy.

#3. Nobody cares what you had for breakfast. Or what your kids did last night at the dance recital, where you went on vacation (except criminals) or your mood today. It reminds me of those endless newsletters people used to circulate at Christmas. If we were good friends, I would know everything about your life because you would have told me – in person. In a conversation. Over a glass of wine. Or a dinner. Etc. But please, no pictures of your vacation. No one even looks at the pictures they take of themselves. Just enjoy the vacation. Relax and turn off your phone. You won’t die.

#4. People have stopped spelling (or can’t) or compose a sentence. But they’ll use 10 exclamation points after a comment. One is enough. And if you don’t answer a text message instantly something must be wrong. Are you mad??????????

I read a statistic that people look at their smart phones EVERY SIX MINUTES. Most sleep with the darn thing.

I use technology every day, but thankfully I don’t have to enter a 12-step program to address any addiction to it. I actually believe there’s a ground swell of support to go back to the art of conversation. That would be a good thing in business and in life.

Corporate Sominex

sleepytime

We’ve all been there. The obligatory presentation…everybody has to go. It’s 8:00AM and the presenter is not good. Not even a little bit. Monotone voice, lumbering through slides nobody cares about; he has trouble formulating a complete sentence. Rehashing the same content we’ve all heard a thousand times, he reads each slide. (That helps?) And we’re supposed to be engaged? Get the hook.

Where are these individuals coming from and who keeps hiring them? An intelligent person does not equal a good presenter. And honestly, some are not very smart. Check the calendar, know your marketplace and better yet know your audience. They are distracted. And unless you’ve got something or someone who grabs them in the first :30 seconds, it’s nap time.

This is where we are today. Our audience – regardless of the industry – has short attention span-itis. They are a picky crowd and have been spoiled by extremely high production value -  and great stories. One episode of GAME OF THRONES (my favorite show) is about $6 million. That’s a tall order to fill, and John Snow is likely not hosting your next presentation.

So when you dial up a potential lecturer you better look carefully at what they have to say and HOW they say it. These people are still out there stealing without a gun and pretending to deliver value. They will happily take your money, your time and rob your audience.

Worst of all, they represent you.

That’s Not My Dog

Twodogs

There’s about 24 million small businesses in the US. Most of these individuals are extremely busy. Running a company is time-consuming. Of course, business owners will hear people saying, “oh, you have your own business, that’s great…no boss and you can do whatever you want. You are so lucky.”

Some of that is true. It’s like having a child. If you’ve never been a parent you can’t really explain that reality.

Small business owners make an enormous commitment of time, energy and money. There are no set hours but plenty of sleepless nights; and weekends may or may not be part of the work week. This is one reason why (insurance) advisers have so much difficulty getting an appointment. Business owners have enough to do. By the way they don’t like insurance, just ask them.

So now, how many insurance producers are going to devote any time to try and arrange a meeting with the CPA or attorney? That could be more difficult. All three work for the same person and all three want to help, but they are generally too focused on their own agenda. End of story.

Yes, Mr. or Ms. Business Owner would be much better served if these professionals cooperated. And their respective clients might be more willing to listen. But we all know what happens when an insurance adviser has a chance to meet with a business owner independently. Soon after they leave, the owner will call the CPA and/or attorney to ask,“should I do this?” Without knowing what “this” really is or having a clear understanding, there’s a good chance no one is going to get an intelligent answer. The owner can’t – or won’t – connect the dots. It’s a distraction. Everything STOPS.

So who should take the lead? Maybe the business owner should force the issue. Nope. I believe the producer, CPA or attorney (who all claim to be an adviser to their clients) have an obligation to take the initiative. If they do, everyone benefits. While many professionals in the business bark about why this strategy is the best course of action in Advanced Sales, few are committed to make it happen.

And everyone goes back to their own bowl.

SADE. Thank you.

SADE

When I was a “new” father my little guy would sometimes get fussy. He would not sleep. But, I discovered (quite by accident) that SADE’s voice, her music, her songs would gently lull him to sleep. I’d play her CD (yes a CD, it was 1993) and I would gently rock him on my shoulder. After a song or two my little buddy was out cold.

My son is 21 years old now. He doesn’t remember SADE. He has no idea who she is, but I do and can remember many of her songs very well. “Haunt Me” was one of his favorites. Maybe my favorite. He doesn’t know that.

We all look for a little comfort. Anything to make us feel better. Perhaps we’d all feel better if we knew our business, our family, our lifestyle was better protected. Maybe that’s the approach for insurance advisers. To make our clients feel better.

A new Dad is consumed with many things; I was was so anxious bringing home my first son. I think they made us leave the hospital too soon. But everything worked out OK and I found one small thing to help him sleep better; it helped me too. SADE.

Life is full of challenges, responsibilities, and the last thing anyone needs is another problem. Getting a newborn to sleep is a little issue. Helping a client (a nervous Dad) avoid much bigger problems is a wonderful accomplishment.

And maybe that’s why I love what I do. In a small way I can help an adviser – help their client – better protect and preserve what they have worked so hard to build. And their little boy or little girl will be so much better protected as well. Even if they never realize what happened…when they are 21 years old.

“Haunt Me.” SADE.

Thank you.

Lions, Tigers and Bears…

lionstigersbears

There’s been a lot of snow and ice in the Northeast recently. Too much for me. A couple of days ago about 640,000 lucky individuals (myself included) were treated to a power outage. Ice accumulating on trees and power lines is a recipe for disaster. The happiest people are the guys with snow plows, chain saws, and body shops.

Of course, the news folks everywhere are (still) talking about preparation for these weather events and the importance of planning. Sometimes forecasts are accurate; and when the bad weather shows up, we’ve gotten a warning. Make that 500 warnings – every hour on the hour. Every minute if we want it. We’ve all seen the weather-in-motion radar maps, right?

Snow, ice storms, hurricanes. When they hit your geography there’s always trouble. Sometimes people die. That’s why everyone pays attention to the warnings and they prepare.

Too bad “life” doesn’t come with warnings. A radar map would be nice. Heck, if we knew there was going to be a premature death, disability, estate issue, sickness, problem with succession planning, taxes, and on and on, people could prepare. Or would – at least – think about preparing.

I heard a Home Office person comment that we “shouldn’t use scare tactics to sell insurance…” or something along those lines. I personally believe the correct strategy is to educate our clients/prospects on the very real scary outcomes they could avoid with proper planning. And the best way to communicate these dangers is with video. Short video. Real life stuff. Just like the six o-clock news.

You’ll never hear any network executive worrying about frightening people with pictures of toppled trees, downed power lines, floods, car accidents, and motorists stranded on snow-covered highways. They understand the potential danger and (hopefully) want to help people recognize risk and avoid problems.

Isn’t that job one for an insurance adviser? A financial planner? How about a CPA?

ELECTRA 225

electra225

My Dad owned a 1968 4-door Buick Electra 225. He bought it used. The car was gigantic and very cool. I would wash it often, scrubbing the white walls with a Brillo pad. When it was time for me to buy my first car I knew exactly where to go. The transaction went quickly but there were three requirements: I had to come up with $600 (the agreed upon price), maintenance was my responsibility, and of course – I needed car insurance.

Fast forward to 2014. I still have the same agent. By my calculations, that individual and the insurance company he represents have collected 40 years worth of premiums for 21 cars, five homes and now four drivers. That’s a fair amount of money, paid religiously. Every year. I have never filed a single claim; I suppose that’s a good thing.

What’s the point?

Car insurance is an obvious necessity. Life insurance, disability, etc is not. And let’s turn up the volume on this discussion by considering business owners. How important is insurance to them? There’s a lot more at stake for these individuals, (and their employees, families) but many do not recognize the need. They don’t even want to talk about it. They are terminal procrastinators.

My Pop, who was very smart and street savvy, listed insurance as one of the “deal breakers” for the Electra. But he never mentioned life insurance when I started my first business, got married, had kids, bought homes, and on and on. He had to know all of this was more important than a car. Right?

I believe car (and home) insurance is commoditized for sure. Heck, I’ve called my agent a few times to tell him, you have to get me a better rate or I’ll walk. He does.

In Advanced Sales the last thing the adviser wants to be is a “commodity.” There’s too much at risk for everyone involved. It’s the drum I beat every day.

The Italian Job – Christmas Dinner

This isn’t about the Feast of the Seven Fishes for Christmas Eve; that’s a completely different story. But the theme of this post is quite similar.

I am 100% Italian. This year Christmas Dinner was at my home. I have three brothers and plenty of cousins, nieces, nephews but this would be a small affair…let’s call it 20 people. Many weeks before the 25th the planning began. If you are Italian, know any Italians, married an Italian, etc you can relate. These dinners are events. They last for hours. And spending time with family is one of the greatest blessings there is, no doubt. Especially when your 88-year old mom is there to enjoy, supervise, guide, and yes provide “advice” regardless of your age.

Generally, everyone eats too much and it can get loud. (“Why is everyone screaming at the table”, my non-Italian wife once asked when we were dating. “Who’s screaming”, I replied.) But once again I ended up comparing this to my business experience. Christmas and the related social events are important for sure. I love this holiday. But, why are individuals so reluctant to spend any time planning and protecting their business, personal assets, family, or lifestyle. Working with insurance and financial services professionals I continue to wonder why the topic is met with so much resistance by their clients. It’s the rare circumstance to hear of a business owner proactively addressing this subject let alone taking the necessary steps to plan. And I talk to a lot of advisers across the US.

Christmas is easy. Over commercialized for sure, but everyone knows what it is and what is generally expected around the holiday. But planning for an unforeseen event regardless of the impact is much different. Is that it? If you think about it and I do. It’s not about selling or buying insurance. It’s about planning. Priorities.

How important is your family, your business, your life…and is it worth protecting?

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Where’s the Face in Your Facebook?

The music business has changed. Artists really don’t need a record label because content can be distributed on the internet by anyone. For that matter, with some talent and the right “ear” people can record and mix a pretty decent product without a recording studio. So most big name artists dedicate a fair amount of their time to touring. That’s where they make real money.

If you’ve been to a concert, you’ve seen (and heard) the product. Good or bad. It’s delivered through a massive array of speakers, lights, equipment etc. Sound reinforcement is key. But if there were no songs, no talent, no CONTENT…why would any artist bother with the equipment, the expense and all the ancillary effort? And would anyone go? No.

In any business, music or otherwise, CONTENT IS KING. The internet will never change that. So for every professional who is now fixated on having a social media strategy, Facebook page, Twitter feeds, etc., they better (first) be certain they have a clear vision of their brand, their message, their “content.”  That is what differentiates them in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

A social media strategy by itself – just like the tour bus, roadies, speakers, instruments, lights – is of no use without the song.

Merry Christmas!

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Slide Rule vs the Scientific Calculator

In the Fall of 1973 I entered college as a Chemistry Major. Some of the more affluent kids in the class had scientific calculators. Wow. I was really impressed by the capabilities but simply did not have $150 to buy one. It was a great tool but it was expensive. So, I used a slide rule…at least for the first semester.

Today, every smart phone comes with a calculator and a lot more functionality. The calculator cost, zero. We take technology for granted. And insurance advisors may be overlooking the opportunity (with technology) to connect with their customers. It’s not enough to have – or want – a social media strategy; you need content. Communicate with something the customer can connect to…a story perhaps.

There are several very inexpensive options. But the cardinal rule remains. Keep it short. Use video. Be certain it reflects your expertise/professionalism and don’t ever over stay your “visit.”

Customers may not ask to hear from you, but when you’re absent they will easily forget. Oh, and I would suggest skipping the ubiquitous messaging abbreviations “U” “R” etc. Leave those for the teenagers.

Insurance is serious business. A company or family, (or both) could depend on it to protect and preserve what someone has worked their entire life to create.

Keep the message short and use grown up words.

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Bottle of Red, Bottle of White

wine

A business owner I know very well will spend about three hours each month researching (and buying) wine. Now that works out just fine for me because I enjoy wine as much as anyone.

But it occurred to me Friday night while we were having dinner at a small Italian restaurant in South Philadelphia, that my friend has spent little or no time protecting what he has worked so hard to build. His business. Isn’t that more important than wine?

Sure, we’d both be heart-broken if he didn’t have a nice selection of Cabernets at home, our favorite. But what would happen to his family, business, home…if something happened to him.

It’s a common circumstance for any advisor who works in advanced sales. Business owners procrastinate. Especially when it comes to protecting their business and/or considering intelligent steps to plan a successful exit strategy. It’s too far away. They don’t want to think about it. For whatever reason they do not engage in the process; they just don’t see the value. Don’t feel the urgency…it’s not a big problem and they will not do anything to fix it. In a way they’re right. It’s not a big problem – today.

This time there’s a happy ending. I was able to overcome my reluctance to talk about what I do (all day) and convince him he needed to address issues surrounding his business. Next Thursday, 8:30AM he’ll be meeting with an advisor. How did I change his mind over dinner? I told him a :90 story. With my iPhone. At the restaurant, during dessert.

Everybody likes a good story and the message was well received at the table. I played it twice for Lisa, his wife. She made the appointment.

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