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From the Blog

How to Create A “Must Attend” Conference

In our research, we have found that most Associations and professional groups are eager to increase the number of members who attend their conferences. According to recent industry research, 80% of members do not attend the Association’s annual conference. When asked about their reasons for not attending, many members respond that the conference is irrelevant, boring, inconvenient and expensive.

The problem is compounded by the environment in which businesses operate today. Whereas associations were once the primary resource for relevant industry-specific information, the annual conference now competes with a host of tailored information resources proliferating online. Calculating how much business-related content is being produced is an exercise in futility. The numbers change so rapidly that what I write here today is going to be out of date by next week.

It is estimated that almost 80% of marketers participate in content marketing. Instead of marketing their products, they are marketing information. This has resulted in an information explosion, spewing out an nonstop and nearly unmanageable torrent of information about every business problem imaginable. Between blogs, tweets, enewsletters, RSS feed from online business publications, webinars, business podcasts, and posts on business-focused sites like LinkedIn, who can even keep up anymore? And who is going to wait around months to attend an annual or semi-annual conference, when many of the answers you seek are no further away than a Google search box?

So why attend do people still attend conferences? Most would answer that they are looking for deeper, more relevant insights and to form connections with industry peers. What do your members want from your conferences and other events? How can you know and what is the best way to provide it to them?

At Bodden Partners, we believe these questions should be answered sitting around a conference room table. We believe that nobody knows what they want more than the members themselves. What critical issues are being discussed in your member community? What challenges are making their work more difficult? What opportunities excite them?

These are some of the questions that need to be answered before any Association can plan a successful conference. There are two ways to find the answers. One way is through using social media monitoring, trending topics and content aggregators to analyze and identify topics that are generating the most coverage and interest within your community. The other way is by going straight to your members and conducting in-depth interviews into their needs, concerns and interests.

Keep in mind that although associations bring together people with common concerns and interests, the membership itself is often quite diverse. Therefore, association management will need to identify the lifestyle and professional needs of each member segment. For example, according to the study Generations and the Future of Association Participation, the needs associated with career stage carry more weight than those associated with life stage. Each membership segment (entry level, mid career, senior level and near retirement) has needs that are unique to their career stage and these needs heavily influence what they are looking for from the association.

Is all this effort worth it? Most definitely. A strategically designed and well-executed conference will increase attendance which will in turn, generate more interest, support and revenue from sponsors and exhibitors. Additionally, members who attend the conference will return with real-world, practical solutions that demonstrate the tangible value of their membership thereby increasing their likelihood to both recommend and attend future events. This member satisfaction will result in deeper member engagement which improves member retention and supports new member recruitment.

If you would like assistance planning your next event, contact us for a free consultation.

5 Ways for Associations to Increase Conference Attendance

Associations invest heavily to provide conferences, meetings, and training opportunities to members yet industry statistics show only 20% take advantage of these offerings. What can associations do to increase attendance? This blog post is the first of five-part series that will answer that question.

Help Potential Attendees Build a Business Case for Attending

Conferences are expensive. Whether the attendee is paying or their company is funding it, the cost of attending a conference can easily run into hundreds if not thousands of dollars. The expense includes not just registration fees, but also travel and accommodations, per diem allowances and lost productivity due to time out of the office. Could it be that many of those 80% of members who don’t attend your conference didn’t go because they couldn’t provide a strong enough rationale to their companies (or themselves) that the expense would be worth it?

Most associations put a lot of thought into planning the program for their conference and in marketing that content to potential attendees. However even if you have created an attention-grabbing program for your membership, attendance will still fall flat if members can’t secure approval to attend from their managers who are holding the purse strings.

Unfortunately, many members who want to attend your conference will simply submit a request and cross their fingers. As a meeting professional, you can help your members by showing them how to put together a business case for why they should attend your conference and equip them to articulate that business case to their management.

Equip Members with Key Talking Points

As part of your marketing materials, consider including a template that members can use as a “talking points guide” for their management. The guide will suggest members think about the most important issues facing their organization and how their work is aligned with those challenges.

For example, will there be training sessions in areas that will immediately benefit your company or department? Will there be workshops designed to teach attendees a special skill and/or help your team overcome current or future challenges?
Encourage members to thoroughly review the conference agenda and focus on the sessions that relate to those issues or speakers with relevant experience in those areas. Advise potential attendees to articulate a short business case for how attending these sessions and meeting these people will help them contribute to the organization’s success then urge them to use this business case to make their request for attending the meeting.

For example, part of the business case might read as follows: “At present, our organization is highly focused on cost savings. My personal contribution to this organizational strategy is to be responsible for finding ways to reduce sales costs. At the XYZ annual conference there is a session entitled, ‘Using Technology to Maximize Sales Efficiencies,’ and an expert, Sarah Smith, will be running the session. I would like to attend Smith’s session and meet with her privately to get ideas about maximizing the cost savings we could receive from using technology in my area.”

The sessions aren’t the only area of the program that can support your business case. Does the conference include an expo? Will the exhibitors include vendors with tools you use or are evaluating for potential future use? Is this an opportunity during which you’ll be able to compare competing tools?

So that members will be able to demonstrate the value of attending, your marketing materials can include additional elements to help members prepare successfully for the event. You can include a “list of people I’d like to meet” and reminders for members to reach out to other attendees for a meal, coffee or chat. You can include a personal agenda template with “Sessions I’d Like to Attend” with space for notes, “Exhibitors I Want to Visit” with space for booth numbers, and “A List of People I’d Like to Meet” with space for their contact information and time and place to meet up. You can also include a “Conference Summary Sheet” so that members can concisely communicate what happened at the conference and how they will use this information to benefit their organization.

The purpose of all these materials is to help more members secure the necessary approvals to attend your events. The increased attendance will help attract more speakers, sponsors and exhibitors. But more importantly, it will help demonstrate the value of membership and thereby increase acquisition of both individual and corporate membership as well as improve member retention.

These are just a few of the ways associations can help increase conference attention. In our next posts, we will be discussing some additional strategies. Bodden Partners specializes in associations and membership marketing. If you would like assistance in marketing your next event, or improving member acquisition, retention and engagement, please contact us for a free consultation.

The Secret to Improving Association Member Engagement

Studies show that on average only about 20% of members ever engage with an association after joining. Some members may attend an association conference or take advantage of a professional development meeting, but the vast majority of members never get involved or become engaged with the association. This poses real risks to the association. According to ASAE research in why members drop out of associations, 56% of those surveyed said it was because they did not receive the expected value to justify the cost of dues.

Although associations bring together people with common concerns and interests, the membership itself is often quite diverse. To maximize member participation, associations need to identify the lifestyle and professional needs of each member segment. For example, one of the greatest fears expressed by association leaders in recent years has been the prospect of declining membership owing to younger generations that no longer find value in the association experience.

However according to the study Generations and the Future of Association Participation, the needs associated with career stage carry more weight than those associated with life stage. Younger workers tend to be entry-level and research shows they are more apt to think that association options available do not adequately suit their needs. Yet in a four-year longitudinal tracking study, it was found that the same Gen Xers and Millennials who previously had low membership rates were later joining associations at rates that surpassed those of Baby Boomers. When asked to anticipate the need for associations in the future, Millennials, more than any other age group, said there would be a greater need.

This finding is reassuring in that it shows younger workers have not dismissed associations entirely. Rather it suggests that many associations are not adequately addressing the needs of entry level workers. It confirms that each membership segment (entry level, mid-career, senior level and near retirement) has needs that are unique to their career stage and these needs heavily influence their perception of association value.

There are a variety of factors influences what members need from their association, ranging from career stage to demographic, attitudinal to generational influences. Each of these characteristics will indicate needs that may vary from one member segment to another. A better understanding of these unique needs will help association management determine the mix of products, offers, marketing strategies that will prove effective in recruiting, engaging and retaining members.

How can Associations develop a deeper understanding of member needs? What is the secret to building association member engagement? Traditional focus groups and surveys are not the answer. Associations have spent millions on focus groups yet the fundamental problem of low member engagement remains. True insights come from exploratory, open-ended, probing research. The type of research that gives members the opportunity to talk freely and at length. When conducted properly, insights-focused research will result in members telling you exactly what is holding them back and what they need to hear in order become engaged.

If you would like help uncovering member needs and translating that insights into actionable marketing strategies for your association, contact us today for a free consultation.

Good News for Life Insurance Marketers

happy insurance agent

Insurance agents across the nation have been waiting, and waiting and waiting for Millennials to start buying life insurance and other life stage related insurance products. However since Millennials are marrying, starting families and buying homes later than previous generations, many insurance companies are unsure when to begin targeting Millennials in earnest.

A new study by TD Ameritrade seeks to answer some of those questions. According to the Millennials and Money survey, the late 20s seem to be the time when Millennials are taking stock of their financial lives and actively planning for the future.

According to the study, the average Millennial starts setting financial goals at age 27, some nine years earlier than when Boomers started. By this point some 80% say they have already created a budget and 72% are actively saving for retirement. As to future plans, most Millennials are looking to buy a home by age 29 and hope to have their student loans paid off by age 33.

We were curious just how well their future plans were lining up with reality. So we compared these hopes and dreams to the National Association of Realtors 2016 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report. Sure enough, for the last three years of reports has been that Millennials (buyers under age 35) make up 35% of home buyers, the largest of all the demographic groups. And 64% of these Millennial homebuyers are married and 20% had at least one child.

Taking on financial responsibility, buying a home, getting married and having a child are all proven insurance-buying triggers. And even better news for the insurance industry is that Millennials appear to be very disposed to buying protection. According to the 2016 Aflac WorkForces Report they’re more likely than any other generation to use their hard-earned money for cell phone, home appliance, identity theft, trip, pet and even instrument insurance. They’re even the most likely to insure major events, such as weddings, and to purchase products protecting them from tax audits.

Despite all the trends pointing in their favor, many insurance marketers are still struggling with selling traditional insurance products such as life insurance to Millennials. Is there some missing piece to the puzzle of breaking through this barrier? Bodden Partners, known in the industry as leaders in insurance marketing, has recently published The Essential Guide to Marketing Life Insurance to Millennials. The report includes four key strategies to convincing Millennials to buy life insurance. Download your free copy today.

The Protection Paradox

thinking about insurance

Insurance marketers are living in the best of times and yet in the worst of times. The need for protection has never been more evident. Americans are being bombarded by more risks from more sources than ever before. The Great Recession, globalization, climate change, terrorism, sudden outbreaks of diseases and other forces beyond their control. Everything they hold dear is under threat, from their livelihoods to their retirement security to their health, homes and possessions. Insurance was created to protect against the very risks we are now living day to day.

Yet ask any insurance agent or insurance marketer and they will tell you insurance still has to be sold, and skillfully sold at that. The average consumer, battered though they may be, is still not clamoring for insurance. How is it that a product that was created to provide peace of mind isn’t even part of the mindset of those who need it the most?

LIMRA reports that 95 million Americans do not own any life insurance and two-thirds of Americans don’t own disability insurance. And although most homeowners readily admit their house is their biggest asset, just two percent say having the right level of insurance protection is their biggest financial priority.

With rising rent and skyrocketing healthcare costs, many Americans are still so financially distressed they can’t cover their current bills, let alone find funds for insurance premiums. But studies show even as income rises, insurance remains a low priority. 44% of Americans who earn between $50,000 and $250,000 have no life insurance. 70% of renters don’t own renters insurance. Even the industry-old standby of life event triggers aren’t working like they used to. 75% of adults with one or two children in their household and with incomes below $50,000 have no life insurance. 900,000 children are born every year to single parents who do not have any life insurance.

In such an environment what is an insurance marketer to do? How can the insurance create more demand for protection products?

To start, marketers need to go beyond figuring out what is stopping the sale. For decades the industry has been studying why people buy or don’t buy insurance. Agents have been lecturing people, shaming them, guilting them and coercing them to buy, but it has largely been to no avail. Insurance ownership levels remain stubbornly low. What is needed are solutions that don’t just study consumer behavior, but change it.

At a time when many insurance marketers are struggling, Bodden Partners is thriving. We are a marketing communications firm that specializes in insurance marketing. Our clients include some of the largest, most innovative markers in the business including Prudential, Transamerica, Mutual of Omaha, The Hartford, Nationwide Insurance and many others. If you are facing a particularly resistant (or apathetic) insurance consumer, contact us for a free, no obligation consultation.

How to Get More Association Members to Attend Conferences


According to industry research, the vast majority of Association members do not attend their organization’s conference. What is behind these numbers? Where members in the past may have looked to associations for community and networking, social media is now redefining how people interact. Once a primary resource for relevant industry-specific information, Associations now compete with a host of tailored information resources proliferating online. The ability to offer lower group rates and discounts on products and services can be overshadowed by the countless savings aggregator, comparison pricing, and auction sites. Most of these services are available at no cost.

How can Associations overcome these challenges? The key is in providing tangible, relevant, exclusive value, specific to the affinity that cannot be easily found elsewhere. To that end, strategically designed conferences will play an essential role.

When asked what is the most important function of an association, training and professional development was the number one response. Conferences, events and training sessions are one of the most common ways associations try to meet that need. However, up to 80% of members don’t take advantage of these programs.

With an ever growing choice of events to attend, a compelling theme, engaging program and desirable site are crucial. A strategically designed and well-executed, integrated conference marketing plan will increase attendance which will in turn, generate more interest, support and revenue from sponsors and exhibitors. Additionally, members who attend the conference will return with real-world, practical solutions that demonstrate the tangible value of their membership thereby increasing their likelihood to both recommend and attend future events. This member satisfaction will result in deeper member engagement which improves member retention and supports new member recruitment.

The key to accomplishing this goal is developing a strategic and comprehensive conference marketing plan that leverages key marketing opportunities before, during and after the conference.

Conferences must serve a variety of masters from attendees, to exhibitors to sponsors to the corporation or association hosting the event. Unless communications are tailored to the interests, needs and perspective of the recipient attendance, revenue and ROI will be disappointing. Segmentation is key to communicating the conference’s unique value in a relevant way that will resonate and motivate each audience. At Bodden Partners, we work with our clients to identify discreet segments within the membership and their reasons for attending or exhibiting at the conference. If you would like help planning for your next event, contact us for a free consultation.

The Impact of Self Driving Cars on the Auto Insurance Industry

car odometer

Reportedly there are over 30 companies in the race to develop self-driving cars and the implications for insurance companies can hardly be overstated. It is estimated that up to 94% of all accidents are caused by human error. If the promise of self-driving cars becomes reality, the auto insurance industry is in for a real game changer. Data from the Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) already show a reduction in property damage liability and collision claims for cars equipped with forward-collision warning systems, especially those with automatic braking.

This is not to say the need for insurance will be eliminated, but it will most certainly be changed. The risk of an accident cannot be completely removed because life is not totally predictable and automated systems can fail. There will still be a need for liability coverage, however over time the coverage could change as more responsibility for accidents (and insuring against them) shifts from drivers to vehicle manufacturers and suppliers.

Comprehensive coverage will still be needed for losses due to theft or for physical damage from weather-related causes. However, auto insurance as a whole may become significantly cheaper if the potentially higher costs to repair or replace damaged vehicles is more than offset by the lower accident frequency rate. Claims for vehicle-related workers’ compensation would also drop as will the share of healthcare and disability insurance costs related to auto accidents.

Underwriting standards may also need adjusting. The number and kind of accidents an applicant has had, the miles he or she expects to drive and where the car is garaged, will still apply, but the make, model and style of car may assume a greater importance. Assumptions regarding repair costs may also need adjusting. While the number of accidents is expected to drop dramatically as more crash avoidance features are incorporated into vehicles, the cost of replacing damaged parts could increase because of the complexity of the components. It is not yet clear whether the reduction in the frequency of crashes will lead to a reduction in the cost of crashes overall.

Despite industry hype, the shift to driverless vehicles will not happen overnight. Some people enjoy driving and do not want control taken from them. They may resist the move to complete automation. Privacy concerns may scare off others. Self-driving cars by their very nature are reliant on sophisticated, real-time data collection and there has been no commitment by car manufacturers this information will only be used for vehicle operation. Monetizing the data for marketing and other purposes could prove too great a temptation to resist.

Despite these challenges, the race to the future is on. It is expected that self-driving cars will eventually become the norm. Estimates vary anywhere from by 2020 to 2050. Forward-looking insurers are already thinking through the implications for themselves and their policyholders. We at Bodden Partners are actively strategizing how to market to the insurance buyer of the future. If you are interested in learning more about our consumer insights, contact us for a free consultation.



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