Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Michael “Slades” Sladek

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Michael “Slades” Sladek is vice president of Brokerage Sales at Mutual of Omaha. In his current role he is responsible for sales and marketing to industry leading NMOs and BGAs and managing a team of seasoned sales professionals. Slades has spent 30 years in the financial services industry. He is an accountant by training and started his career at KPMG Peat Marwick as a tax accountant in the late 1980s. Slades has a Bachelor of Science in Accounting with a double major in Economics from Northeastern Illinois University and received a Master’s of Science in Taxation from DePaul University. Sladek can be reached at Mutual of Omaha, 3300 Mutual of Omaha Plaza, Omaha, NE 68175. Email: Michael.Sladek@MutualofOmaha.com.

Mutual of Omaha 2024 Carrier Forecast

Creating an Even Better Broker And Customer Experience In 2024

For 114 years, Mutual of Omaha has defined success by our ability to help people address their financial needs. Working with brokers, we have evolved to meet customers’ changing needs over generations, innovating and expanding into new markets to continue growing and serving even more people.

As many of our brokers know, serving clients in the current environment isn’t without its challenges. Inflation and interest rates remain high, contributing to increased expenses and reduced consumer purchasing power. Consumer expectations are constantly changing when it comes to digital, customized experiences. And the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence has put a premium on companies’ ability to leverage data to better serve customers.

Growing With You
It takes our entire team–including our trusted brokers–to navigate this complex environment, operate with excellence and help even more customers with their financial needs. At Mutual of Omaha, we aim to provide an exceptional broker experience that enables you to serve your clients more easily and effectively.

One way we delivered on this commitment in 2023 was by releasing the Book of Business tool so producers can access their in-force policy information in one easy-to-sort file in Sales Professional Access.

Here are some of the other notable enhancements we implemented for our brokers and customers in 2023.

Life and Supplemental Health

  • We launched e-signature enhancements on our life insurance products, including text message signature capabilities.
  • We strengthened our indexed universal life product line by launching a fourth crediting strategy, the Bank of America U.S. Agility Index: One-Year Uncapped account.
  • We increased the maximum issue age on IUL Express and Term Life Express products to age 75.
  • We launched a new tool that enables producers to run their own in-force illustrations to provide better ongoing service to existing policyholders.
  • We added Mutual Income Solutions (disability income product) to our mobile quotes tool.
  • We updated the underwriting guidelines for Term Life Express and IUL Express. Marijuana is no longer considered an unlawful drug for the purposes of applying and underwriting.

Senior Health

  • We released a new e-App storefront, making it easier to cross-sell Medicare supplement, dental insurance and prescription drug plans.
  • We enhanced our dental insurance benefits in most states by offering a no-wait period, immediate coverage for major services and maximum benefit options up to $5,000.
  • We continued to help customers save money by offering competitive Medicare supplement rates and discounts.
  • We auto-decisioned over 70 percent of Medicare supplement underwritten applications, resulting in decisions in less than three minutes.
  • We formed a strategic alliance with Wellcare to offer co-branded Medicare Advantage PPO plans in Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina and Washington as well as in the Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston markets in Texas beginning with plan year 2024.
  • We focused on the broker experience and enhancing interactions with key service areas.

Looking Ahead to 2024
In 2024, we will build on our efforts to create an industry-leading broker experience in a variety of ways.

Life and Supplemental Health

  • We will continue to focus on enhancements and competitive pricing for our simplified issue portfolio.
  • We will continue to enhance our e-application platform and e-signature process for additional product lines.
  • We will continue offering our strong stand-alone long term care products.
  • We will expand and improve our digital capabilities to provide convenient options for our sales partners and customers.
  • We will plan to enter the fixed indexed annuity market.
  • We will continue to offer competitively priced IUL plans and evaluate marketplace positioning to bring you and your clients the most valuable IUL products.
  • We will continue to focus on growing our simplified issue and indexed universal life business.

Senior Health

  • We will expand the Book of Business tool to include prescription drug plans.
  • We will continue to offer comprehensive Medicare solutions and value-add options for our senior-aged clients.
  • We will continue to focus on our e-application capabilities as we strive to create the easiest and fastest experience in the industry.
  • We will roll out enhanced dental benefits in additional states.
  • We will explore additional Medicare Advantage opportunities to expand our footprint in the senior health market.

Mutual of Omaha’s purpose today remains the same as in 1909. We help our customers plan for the future and protect what matters most. We appreciate your ongoing support in fulfilling that mission and look forward to a successful 2024! [RM] [MS]

Pay Yourself First

A Slow Start
When I was 26, I had already been married for four years to my first wife, I was expecting my first child and working at a large CPA firm in downtown Chicago. Sounds good, right?! But I also lived in a one-bedroom apartment, had too much debt and a too low credit rating. Like many young people today, I had little to no financial training. My parents never prepared me, my teachers never taught this subject in school, and I was missing a vital piece of my ability to be successful. Sure, I had attended college and achieved a double major in accounting and economics and was about to attend graduate school. But I was financially illiterate as to how to manage my own money. Sounds hopeless, right? Or, maybe for some of you, familiar?
Fortunately, I met a person who owned his own brokerage general agency and had access to other financial products besides insurance. As I lamented my inability to get ahead, get out of debt and get a house, he made one simple comment to me, “Slades, you need to pay yourself first.”

I asked him to explain what he meant because, to tell you the truth, I had no clue. “Slades, you will never have anything in savings if you don’t make a concerted effort to pay into your savings first, whatever it is, with each check, and start to save for your future.” I wasn’t sure that I could do that financially, but he set me up with a simple mutual fund for just $25 per month.

I know that does not sound like a lot but trust me it was. The $300 I saved in the first year was small, but the path it put me on was worth way more. As my pay increased and I paid off debt, I was able to boost that monthly amount and improve my savings significantly. Years later, I still have that same mutual fund account, albeit worth a lot more, as well as several other savings and investment vehicles. Also, I have taught the “pay yourself first” concept to my children.

You might be saying, “Slades, that’s a nice story, and I’m glad it worked out for you. But how exactly does this relate to me or my clients?” I’m glad you asked. I think this is a concept we can help our clients apply in their own lives and increase our depth of relationship with the client. Everyone can use some form of financial training and education. To this day I still balance my checkbook to the penny every month. I use a very popular software tool that I have had for over 22 years, but it works, and I am able to manage my money very easily.

Our HNW Clients
We may think that because they have money, our high-net-worth (HNW) clients don’t need this type of education but they do and, more importantly, so do their kids. These clients are looking for ways to get their kids off to a good start as well as transfer assets to their children and set them up for financial growth for the future. What better way than to approach your HNW clients and speak with them about setting up an IUL for the kids? Think of LIRP for children or maybe a CLIRP. Funny name and I don’t really think it will catch on, maybe C-LIRP would be better. The concept is a way to get your kids saving for retirement long before they will ever have their first job. In addition, it can provide a financial backstop should things get financially tougher for them when they get older.

The Product—How it Works
Below is an illustration on a one-year-old male for an income-focused IUL with an initial death benefit of $100,000 and an increasing death benefit. The annual premium is about $1,950 or around $165 per month.

By the time the child graduates college at age 21, the parents will have paid in about $39,000 in premiums but the policy will have over $70,000 in accumulation value on a non-guaranteed basis.

After the child graduates college and wants to purchase their first car, imagine they are able to take out their first loan at a very reasonable rate…from themselves! The payments are going back into their IUL to pay themselves back, not to a bank or auto financing company.
This IUL also has a return of premium (ROP) feature. So if the market does not perform as expected, the parents or the child can turn in the policy and get all of their money back. The only thing lost is the opportunity cost of what could have been earned in another savings or investment product.

All of us who sell IUL policies know that they should never need this feature or should ever have to use it. But what a great peace of mind to know if they do need it, it is there. In addition, what a great way to close the sales process for your agent by letting their client know that as long as they pay the target premium every year, they will always have the ability to receive their premiums back on the product in years 20-25. That’s six opportunities to take advantage of the 100 percent refund.

The Sweet Life
If there is no need to touch the money until retirement then, at age 65, after paying for 64 years at less than $2,000 per year, the child, now ready for retirement, will have over $1.3 million in non-guaranteed surrender value and over $1.6 million in death benefit. If they retire later at age 70, it would be $1.8 million in non-guaranteed surrender value that could be used to fund retirement and over $2 million in death benefit.

As you can see, the concept is pretty simple. Approach all of your current clients and show them how easy it is to transfer cash to their children and provide a way to set them up for future growth and cash accumulation.

The Objection
I know what some of you are thinking and I also know what pushback you might receive when you present this to your clients. “What if I invest the money in a mutual fund instead of buying an insurance product?” You absolutely could do that and when you run a straight future value calculation on $1,950 for 64 periods at 6.25 percent, the future value of the mutual fund, assuming you could get 6.25 percent every year, is closer to $1.5 million versus $1.3 million in the IUL.

The good news is the cost of insurance charges for your kids are extremely low in an IUL policy. In fact, in the first 20 years, they never exceed $85 per year as illustrated.

The IUL has about $1.3 million in cash surrender value and the mutual fund has about $1.5 million. However, this does not net the value of the mutual fund after taxes. Taxes would need to be paid on accumulation for investment products every year in addition to the taxes due on any withdrawals.

The IUL provides similar accumulation in a tax-favored product that also provides your client with a death benefit option for their child. So they always have a life insurance benefit, and it includes a safety net that is not available in the mutual fund with the return of premium.
I think by now you can understand how passionate I am about our industry and how much I believe in this product and the options it provides. I am also passionate about leaving a legacy for our children and wealth transfer. I hope you can use this idea in your practice as you help your clients with their long-term financial planning needs.

Pay Yourself First

A Slow Start
When I was 26, I had already been married for four years to my first wife, I was expecting my first child and working at a large CPA firm in downtown Chicago. Sounds good, right?! But I also lived in a one-bedroom apartment, had too much debt and a too low credit rating. Like many young people today, I had little to no financial training. My parents never prepared me, my teachers never taught this subject in school, and I was missing a vital piece of my ability to be successful. Sure, I had attended college and achieved a double major in accounting and economics and was about to attend graduate school. But I was financially illiterate as to how to manage my own money. Sounds hopeless, right? Or, maybe for some of you, familiar?
Fortunately, I met a person who owned his own brokerage general agency and had access to other financial products besides insurance. As I lamented my inability to get ahead, get out of debt and get a house, he made one simple comment to me, “Slades, you need to pay yourself first.”

I asked him to explain what he meant because, to tell you the truth, I had no clue. “Slades, you will never have anything in savings if you don’t make a concerted effort to pay into your savings first, whatever it is, with each check, and start to save for your future.” I wasn’t sure that I could do that financially, but he set me up with a simple mutual fund for just $25 per month.

I know that does not sound like a lot but trust me it was. The $300 I saved in the first year was small, but the path it put me on was worth way more. As my pay increased and I paid off debt, I was able to boost that monthly amount and improve my savings significantly. Years later, I still have that same mutual fund account, albeit worth a lot more, as well as several other savings and investment vehicles. Also, I have taught the “pay yourself first” concept to my children.

You might be saying, “Slades, that’s a nice story, and I’m glad it worked out for you. But how exactly does this relate to me or my clients?” I’m glad you asked. I think this is a concept we can help our clients apply in their own lives and increase our depth of relationship with the client. Everyone can use some form of financial training and education. To this day I still balance my checkbook to the penny every month. I use a very popular software tool that I have had for over 22 years, but it works, and I am able to manage my money very easily.

Our HNW Clients
We may think that because they have money, our high-net-worth (HNW) clients don’t need this type of education but they do and, more importantly, so do their kids. These clients are looking for ways to get their kids off to a good start as well as transfer assets to their children and set them up for financial growth for the future. What better way than to approach your HNW clients and speak with them about setting up an IUL for the kids? Think of LIRP for children or maybe a CLIRP. Funny name and I don’t really think it will catch on, maybe C-LIRP would be better. The concept is a way to get your kids saving for retirement long before they will ever have their first job. In addition, it can provide a financial backstop should things get financially tougher for them when they get older.

The Product—How it Works
Below is an illustration on a one-year-old male for an income-focused IUL with an initial death benefit of $100,000 and an increasing death benefit. The annual premium is about $1,950 or around $165 per month.

By the time the child graduates college at age 21, the parents will have paid in about $39,000 in premiums but the policy will have over $70,000 in accumulation value on a non-guaranteed basis.

After the child graduates college and wants to purchase their first car, imagine they are able to take out their first loan at a very reasonable rate…from themselves! The payments are going back into their IUL to pay themselves back, not to a bank or auto financing company.
This IUL also has a return of premium (ROP) feature. So if the market does not perform as expected, the parents or the child can turn in the policy and get all of their money back. The only thing lost is the opportunity cost of what could have been earned in another savings or investment product.

All of us who sell IUL policies know that they should never need this feature or should ever have to use it. But what a great peace of mind to know if they do need it, it is there. In addition, what a great way to close the sales process for your agent by letting their client know that as long as they pay the target premium every year, they will always have the ability to receive their premiums back on the product in years 20-25. That’s six opportunities to take advantage of the 100 percent refund.

The Sweet Life
If there is no need to touch the money until retirement then, at age 65, after paying for 64 years at less than $2,000 per year, the child, now ready for retirement, will have over $1.3 million in non-guaranteed surrender value and over $1.6 million in death benefit. If they retire later at age 70, it would be $1.8 million in non-guaranteed surrender value that could be used to fund retirement and over $2 million in death benefit.

As you can see, the concept is pretty simple. Approach all of your current clients and show them how easy it is to transfer cash to their children and provide a way to set them up for future growth and cash accumulation.

The Objection
I know what some of you are thinking and I also know what pushback you might receive when you present this to your clients. “What if I invest the money in a mutual fund instead of buying an insurance product?” You absolutely could do that and when you run a straight future value calculation on $1,950 for 64 periods at 6.25 percent, the future value of the mutual fund, assuming you could get 6.25 percent every year, is closer to $1.5 million versus $1.3 million in the IUL.

The good news is the cost of insurance charges for your kids are extremely low in an IUL policy. In fact, in the first 20 years, they never exceed $85 per year as illustrated.

The IUL has about $1.3 million in cash surrender value and the mutual fund has about $1.5 million. However, this does not net the value of the mutual fund after taxes. Taxes would need to be paid on accumulation for investment products every year in addition to the taxes due on any withdrawals.

The IUL provides similar accumulation in a tax-favored product that also provides your client with a death benefit option for their child. So they always have a life insurance benefit, and it includes a safety net that is not available in the mutual fund with the return of premium.
I think by now you can understand how passionate I am about our industry and how much I believe in this product and the options it provides. I am also passionate about leaving a legacy for our children and wealth transfer. I hope you can use this idea in your practice as you help your clients with their long-term financial planning needs.

The Sister Sale

As we expand our businesses and look for alternative revenue streams to supplement the financial planning and life insurance products we are selling, many of us are looking for new ideas and new products that complement our current sales processes and customer base.

For example, if I am meeting with a prospective client who is interested in purchasing a final expense product I may have a conversation with them about buying a children’s whole life policy for their grandchildren (see “Don’t Forget the Babies” in Broker World, July 2019) or an annuity, prescription drug plan, dental coverage or Medicare supplement policy. Many refer to this as a cross-sell.

For my team and I, we refer to it as the “sister sale.

Sister sales happen all around you, every day. For example, when you access a popular online retailer to have items delivered to your home, there is often a list of products at the bottom of the page that says “inspired by your shopping trends.” That retailer realizes that if you bought one product, there are complementary products you also may want to buy.

If you remember your microeconomics course from college, we studied complementary products. For example, sugar and cream are examples of products that have an interrelated use with another good, such as coffee or tea. So, if sales of coffee dipped, so might the sales of cream and sugar. Conversely, if sales of coffee spiked, you might see a rise in sugar and cream sales, regardless of the price of the complementary items.

The P&C industry effectively cross-sells by offering bundles, meaning you can save more money if you purchase your home and auto insurance together. While this works for a commodity like property and casualty insurance, it is not always the case for financial products because there must be a perceived value to the customer. Even if they are told the price is less, if they see no value in having it the customer still won’t spend the money. While perceived value is also important for the P&C sale, a lot of times the customer is purchasing because insurance is required on the home for a loan or for the auto to legally drive in the state. The life insurance customer is not “required” to purchase life insurance, or other products such as critical illness or long term care—that is of course unless their spouse is requiring it.

This brings us to our sister sales idea. Whether you are a seasoned agent or a newer agent, the following may apply to you:

  • You need to earn commissions now to pay for leads or just to build your business.
  • You would love a way to secure your future and earn larger trail commissions.
  • You have your typical sales pitch and you know the drill:
    • Final expense
    • Mortgage term sales
    • Policy review
    • Income replacement

If any of these points apply to you, the sister sales idea may be just what you need. And it really boils down to asking prospects one simple question: Who provides your cancer, heart attack or stroke insurance coverage?

When you ask this question, it naturally leads to multiple follow-up questions:

  • Wait, you don’t have cancer or heart attack and stroke coverage?
  • Are you concerned at all about getting cancer or having a heart attack or stroke?
  • You have health insurance, that’s great, what’s your deductible?
  • Are you concerned about the “hidden costs” or expenses you might incur should something like this happen?
  • If something like this would happen, would an extra $10,000, $20,000 or $30,000 in your pocket make your life easier?
  • A 60-year-old male can get $10,000 of coverage for just $20 per month.
  • Can I run you a quick quote?

This leads to the second part of the conversation and the intrinsic or emotional part of the sale.

  • Do you know anyone who was diagnosed with cancer?
  • What would you do if you got that news?

The critical illness products available from many carriers provide a way for someone who has probably gotten the worst news of their life to help plan for unforeseen or unexpected costs, get their affairs in order, or even live out a dream.

  • Living the dream could mean taking the family on a vacation or buying something you have always wanted but could never afford.
  • Getting your affairs in order could mean paying off debts or bills so your surviving spouse will not have to worry about paying them off or finally having the money to pay a lawyer to write up a will.
  • And of course, there may also be unknown or unexpected expenses that also occur with a major event such as a heart attack, stroke or cancer. What if you were in a hospital and your spouse needed a hotel or airfare to be with you? Or what if you needed a wheelchair and needed to build a ramp in front of your home to get up the stairs?

The Benefit to You
Most carriers, mine included, levelized the compensation on these products for the entire life of the product. What this means to you is better trails and a way to build a larger stream of income for your future. Let’s take a simple example and assume 10 percent trails for every year after year one. If you just sold five cases per month, at $50 in ANBP per case, that would equal 60 cases per year at $300 ANBP per annum. You would earn an extra $3,600 per year in trails (not including the first year’s commission). This might not sound like a huge number, but after 20 years would give you an additional $72,000 per year in trails. Imagine what the number would be if you could double or even triple your sales or sell higher premiums! The rewards are significant.

For Me…
It is hard for me to admit that I am approaching 60. It is even harder for me to think about the fact that I lost two very dear friends of mine this year who were both not yet 60. I have been in the insurance industry for 30 years now and I have a great passion for what we do. I am never embarrassed to talk about the protection we provide. People need to be educated about their insurance options so they see the value and what it will mean in their lives should a tragic event happen.

Your Call to Action

  • Ask the question! Who provides your cancer, heart attack and stroke coverage?
  • Ask every client, family member and friend you have!
  • Go back to clients you wrote in the past and ask.
  • Ask everyone you know age 50 and older.
  • Write the application, no matter how big or small.
  • You can write at least $10K of coverage today and I bet you are even thinking of someone to talk to about this right now.

Most importantly, make critical illness products a regular part of your agent and client discussions. Everyone knows someone who can use this product.

Happy selling!

Don’t Forget The Babies!

Increase Your ANBP By Adding The “Come-Along Sale“ To Every Policy You Sell

How many of you reading this article either have grandchildren or children, or have a client that has grandchildren or children? All of us, right? And besides our spouses, whom do we love more than our “babies”? My wife Rose and I are lucky enough to have five children and seven grandchildren. And like every parent or grandparent, we want to do what’s best for them. Time after time we reach into our pockets and buy them gifts for birthdays, Christmas, Hanukkah, graduation and the list goes on. We think nothing of spending money on things that will not stand the test of time. How many of you still have the toys you played with as a kid lying around your home? Not many I would venture to guess.

What if we changed our thought process? What if we thought about it like we do when we consider their education? Several of us have started 529 plans for our kids to provide for their education, but have we thought about a way to guarantee their insurability and lock in the cost of that insurance with a product that builds a cash value and costs pennies on the dollar?

Many agents have gotten away from whole life sales because our clients thought it was too expensive—and for years certain groups preached buy low and invest the difference (which most of us never did).

What if we changed the conversation though, changed the narrative? What if we offered a way to buy coverage at very low prices before a child attains the age of 18—and even better, we lock-in the price for the life of the policy? In addition, the policy would provide five opportunities to increase the coverage up to the original face amount (at either attained ages or for certain life events). That means that on a $50,000 policy, if the child exercises all five options, he or she could buy up to $300,000 in their lifetime. And…the policy would build cash value.

Some of you reading this article are old enough to remember the “Be Your Own Bank” concept. Basically, you buy a cash value life insurance policy with low interest rate loans, then you borrow from yourself (your policy) and pay interest back to yourself (your policy) instead of a bank. The challenge with this sales concept is those products are usually too expensive for us when we are younger, and we don’t have enough time to build up enough cash value to take a loan.

Earlier I mentioned Rose and I have seven grandchildren. They range in age from 1 to 13. I have a quirky habit of naming our grandbabies with “B” nicknames. It started with our youngest daughter who I affectionately call Biscuit and it just stuck. Weird, I know, but they all love grampy’s quirky nicknames.

When we bought the whole life policies for our grandchildren last year, they were obviously a year younger. The table shows the annual costs for our seven grandchildren.

Sladek Table 0719

For less than $900 per year we were able to purchase each of our grandkids a $25,000 whole life insurance policy.

Somewhere between their mid-forties and mid-fifties each of them will have more cash in the policy than we paid in premiums. And, as we know with a whole life policy, the cash value will equal the face amount at age 100.

Now I realize that an $852 premium sale is not going to change any agent’s income significantly, and, in many scenarios, there may be less than seven children in a family. But that is exactly why I call this the “Come-along Sale.” What if we at least ask this question of our clients: Would you like to provide for your child or grandchild’s future and guarantee their insurability for pennies a day?

A 10-year-old child covered for the maximum amount of $50,000 is only $23.50 per month or $282 per year. An agent who sells just three of these policies each month adds an additional $10,000 of ANBP to his or her bottom line every year. For a brokerage agency, if just ten of your agents add this to their practice, it could add over $100K per annum to your sales.

I think you get my point here. This sales idea is not going to make any of us rich! But it will help grow our businesses and protect families. And maybe, just maybe, what started out as a little sale will be what is needed to help the next generation understand the importance of life insurance.

So consider adding a Children’s Whole Life policy to your sales conversations. It’s a great way to help your clients start protecting their families and planning for their future.

Technology Panel… How Can Independent Producers Take Advantage Of Technology To Transform And Grow Their Agencies?

Bob Barney
Compulife Software, Inc.

Search Engines

It’s been 30 years since I first recognized that micro-computers could be used to shop and compare the costs of life insurance products. It motivated me to start Compulife Software in 1982. Today, the idea of comparing life insurance by computer has evolved to the status of “self evident.”

If you have not yet arrived at that point, stop and put yourself into the shoes of the life insurance buyer. Doesn’t a consumer want to purchase life insurance from an agent who shops to get the best deal?

Apart from the actual job of shopping and comparing, the challenge for the agent is to demonstrate that he has shopped. It’s one thing to say you shop; it’s another thing to show the client that you shopped specifically for him. I’ve handed enough comparisons to consumers to know that they are impressed by comparisons which were done specifically for them.

Through the years Compulife has adapted to the changing technologies which allow for delivery of the proof to consumers. In the beginning that was the printing of the comparison on paper which had to be delivered. The next evolution was the creation of comparisons in file formats such as PDF. These could be emailed to the consumer. Today, at very little expense, agents can add live comparison software to their own websites, which allows the prospect or client to produce quotes himself. To say that internet marketing is on the minds of agents would be an understatement.

The biggest concern I seem to run into with agents adding comparisons to their websites is the notion that they don’t want a consumer to do a comparison unless the consumer has “signed in.” In other words, if the consumer doesn’t give the website his name and phone number (or email address) the agent doesn’t want the consumer to see a comparison. I think this strategy is a big mistake.

Free life insurance comparisons for website visitors should be thought of as the window display at the front of a retail store. Does everyone who walks past the window display go into the store? Does that make a window display a bad idea? But what if the consumer saw something in the display and went to another store and bought it? Just think of it, the store did all that work and somebody else got the benefit. Despite all that, stores continue to do window displays because the casual passer-by might see something that they like and come in. Store displays are like fishing with nets, not with a line and hook.

What makes a website good is that it has something of interest for visitors. What part of free live insurance comparisons isn’t of interest to people visiting insurance websites?

Which brings me to another very common question that I get from agents: “How do I improve my search engine rankings?” Apparently everyone wants to be on the first page of Google. One of the things search engines look at is traffic. Just suppose that hundreds of people visited your site to do free comparisons and only a handful actually bought life insurance.

What do you call that? Traffic. How bad is that? If you want search engine optimization, you need traffic, so whether you are in need of New York SEO or Texas SEO, you’ve got to be sure of what type of customer base and traffic you want coming in. And how much work did you do to serve up all those free comparisons? Virtually none. The work you do is to deal with the handful of people who actually saw something that they liked and contacted you. Thus, it is always prudent to contact digital marketing agencies similar to iTonic, or others in your vicinity. This could give your business the desired boost by assisting them to recognize the marketing goals and work on the same.

A small slice of a very large pie is much bigger than the whole of a very small pie!

Michael Sladek
EbixExchange

Data Transfer

Since the early 1990s brokers and agencies have been asking the question: “How do I get the carrier information about my cases into my system?” This holds true whether you are a broker or agent using a contact relationship management (CRM) tool or an agency, broker/dealer or wirehouse using an agency management system (AMS). Taking advantage of what carriers and service providers provide through the process we call data transfer can help independent distribution automate a number of their processes and reduce their work load.

Let’s start with the basics. Most carriers today provide some type of status feed for currently pending cases. We call this a pending data file. Today many independent producers and agencies manually update their system with case information by looking at the carrier website and updating the status in their AMS or CRM. That means if you do business with 19 different carriers you need 19 log-ins and have to go to 19 different websites. However, most vendors today have a way to automate this process and bring data directly into your system so it does not have to be re-keyed by someone in your office. This process can be a great time-saver and improve efficiencies.

Some distributors do not use the automated data feeds because they feel the carrier’s data is incorrect or their data is more current. This used to be true for many data feeds, but times have changed significantly. Additionally, carriers have started sending additional data feeds such as inforce, license and appointment information and commission data. By integrating these feeds into your daily routine, you will yield a significant increase in productivity and reduce errors in your system.

The new stuff: Some carriers have started integrating a process of two-way messaging into your AMS and CRM systems. Two-way messaging allows an agency or agent to respond to a carrier’s request for additional information. So, for example, if the underwriter notices that the driver’s license number is missing on an application. The underwriters can add driver’s license and state of issue as a requirement on the case. The requirement would come through the pending data feed directly into your AMS. The difference is that rather than emailing or faxing a response, the case manager can simply respond in the AMS with the information.

This process does two things. First, it eliminates the need to key the information in two locations such as the AMS and your email to the underwriter and, second, it automatically records the action taken and closes the follow-up. Carriers such as Prudential have been leading this effort for a few years and other carriers are quickly adopting the process.

Finally, we can’t forget our service provider friends. Suppliers such as APPS, Portamedic, Superior Mobile Medics, ExamOne and others have taken great strides to ensure you have the ability to order paramedical services directly from your AMS or CRM. This is one of the least utilized functions that AMS vendors have put into their systems, but one in which you can receive a significant benefit.

Your case managers spend most of their day in the AMS. Why should they have to log on to multiple provider websites to order services and APS requirements when it can be launched within the AMS? Again, this process gives you a double benefit: It orders the paramedical service or requirement, and it records that the action has taken place. During the order, the proposed insured data is automatically transferred to the order so it does not need to be retyped and the action of ordering the requirement is automatically recorded in your system. Finally, all status about the order will be sent back through the AMS and updated into your system automatically.

I urge you to take a new look at the data movement processes that your carriers, vendors and service providers have put in place. Contact your AMS vendor and see how you can add the additional feeds and services to your system; you’ll be glad you did.

Matthew Sapaula
Matthew Sapaula, Inc.

Social Media

Building and maintaining a positive awareness of the financial services our practices offer is becoming increasingly difficult. Newspaper headlines and daily television news continue to spread fear into the minds of Americans, and stories of people losing all their retirement savings and home equity have become common.

But what about the people who have not lost any money because of the ongoing work with their financial advisor or independent insurance professional? What about the people who are not just surviving through this recession but thriving?

From a marketing standpoint, amajor shift is occurring in how we research and receive information. Simply throwing money at a problem, like doubling the mailing for seminars, doesn’t always work the way you think it should. Businesses are having to spend more time conducting data driven marketing campaigns, and are getting good results from them. You can read more about data driven marketing here.

The ongoing development and business application of the Internet has created the ability to speed the process of how business gets done. And now, the phenomenon of social media platforms-that advertising has shifted toward-reaching the same eyeballs that were normally found reading the newspaper or watching television.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are no longer sites for our high school kids. Rather, they are a platform to research and deliver your marketing message faster and cheaper, and obtain real-time feedback. Technology today can help you avoid spending thousands of dollars and two weeks of valuable time to “test” if your latest seminar will be a hit sensation in your marketplace.

Until recently, most financial service firms had completely restricted their independent contractors from promoting their businesses and brand association through the portals of blogs and social media sites. As a breakout speaker earlier this year to a LIMRA Marketing and Research Conference, I found an eager audience of marketing executives indicating that this tide is turning.

For the past two years I have been tweaking my approach to gaining influence, increasing authority and sprinkling celebrity into how we attract our ideal client. This not only greatly reduced our traditional marketing expenses but filtered through the clients that we truly, genuinely enjoy working with-far beyond the revenue they represent in our book of business.

Today we live in an on-demand world. Here are a few things to make your clients and future clients feel an ongoing confidence in your practice and create raving fans that make it easy to refer business and opportunities to you:

1.?Share an Experience, Not a Transaction. Tell the world what you see through your eyes and experience without blatant pitching of your services. Unless you want to be viewed as a commodity and be shopped around to your competition, lead with genuine interest to the issues of your target market. With your website and Facebook profile, create short updates to daily issues that engage your followers. When you see something in the news, create an update that answers, “If they knew what I knew, what would they do differently?” People will “get you” and cold calls or uncomfortable rapport-building dialogue are a thing of the past.

2.?Engage Your Audience with Website Video. Uploading a two to three minute video of a problem you solve daily creates added curiosity and increased trust. Consider this your virtual handshake, a quick tour around your office, or a cup of hot chocolate on a cold day. This allows your website visitor to place a name with a voice and face. This gives them an opportunity to begin to know you, to like you, and to allow themselves to trust you-all without you having to do this yourself. People who were never meant to be your clients automatically opt themselves out and you begin to attract more deeply those that are.

3.?Freebies Online Versus Dinner at Seminar. Instead of feeding people and hoping they’ll set a meeting with you, give them a free report, you could work with a helpful podcast production company and give them the best free podcast possible, a free instructional video or free webinar, allowing them the opportunity to take you on a “test drive” without risk. Take those same dollars to build an email database that you can constantly update at your discretion without the high cost of direct mail. Over time, this attracts people closer to your message and speeds along a process that normally would take two hour long meetings involving your time and energy.

Does this take time to learn? Sure. But the sustainability of your business depends on your ability to grasp, learn and implement. In the words of Zig Ziglar, “Blessed are the learners, for they will inherit the world, while the learned are beautifully prepared for a world that no longer exists.”

With technology and social media sites growing constantly in our daily lives, our practice has to be found, or stumbled across, where the eyeballs are going. Today’s modern executive and evolving entrepreneur is tomorrow’s retiree. They behold not only your future opportunities, but a natural expectation for their trusted advisors to use technology as their friend, not their foe.