When I first encountered Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s Trust Agents, I was listening to the audiobook as I drove through the Rocky Mountains of Alberta on my way to a vacation in Kelowna, BC.
Perhaps the dreamy landscapes and my relaxed state of mind contributed to my enthusiastic embrace of the book’s messages about trust-building in social networks. Listening to Chris and Julien reading the book to me, I had this strange feeling that they had written their book for ME specifically.
I had recently moved out west, leaving my occupation as a life licensed insurance advisor. I had a long history in web technology and had been personally using social media for some time. I was looking for my next thing.
Trust Agents catalyzed the realization that has led me to where I am now: advising financial services businesses on how to leverage social media to build the most fundamental building block on which their entire business model is based – relationships.
Though Trust Agents borrowed some concepts and language from the financial advisory world, it was not a book about nor particularly written for financial professionals. Yet its relevance to the financial industry was screamingly obvious. Well, to me anyway.
I spoke recently at the CAILBA annual meeting about how insurance advisors need to become Trust Agents and suggested several social strategies that insurance distribution organizations should be supporting.
There is a massive opportunity within insurance distribution in Canada (and in the US, for that matter, though the markets have distinct differences) for a few organizations to take the lead in social. The benefits that will accrue to those who realize this are significant and they include:
1. Improved value proposition for advisors
Insurance distributors exist as an operational intermediary between the insurance companies (also known as “manufacturers” or “carriers”) and the insurance advisors (the folks that sell the products and service the clients). The more value they can add, the more attractive they are for advisors to choose to write their business through them. Providing social media knowledge, strategy and support is a great way to enhance the value that distribution organizations offer to their producers.
2. Business development
Distribution organizations that actively help their advisors use social media more effectively to build their brands and market insurance products intelligently in social networks will reap the business development benefits.
3. Attracts next generation advisors
One of the biggest, if not THE biggest, challenge facing the financial services industry (but particularly insurance distribution) is a demographic one. There are far too few young recruits entering the business. And there are many, many reasons for this. However, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that next gen recruits that do enter the business will be attracted to distribution organizations that help them leverage social networking technologies that help them get at their natural markets.
4. Thought leadership boosts brand
Distribution organizations that build capacity to help their advisors’ digital marketing efforts – including social networking – will themselves be seen as thought leaders and reap the benefits of enhanced profile for their brand in the industry.
5. Earned media increases competitiveness
Social media is earned media. You can’t buy your way in. If you start earlier and invest intelligently in building relationships in social networks, you will gain advantage over your competition. Developing a smart social media strategy in the insurance distribution space now will reap the greatest rewards in a few years. Strategic business builders will see this opportunity.
I welcome your feedback and input.