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From the Blog

Unleashing the Value of Membership

Mission, vision statements and core values vary from one association to another.  Yet despite their differences, associations are poised to play a vital role in our society. They give voice to an industry or any group that shares a common concern. They provide a host of member benefits including networking, professional development, information, research, statistics and a forum to discuss common problems and solutions. Yet despite all these resources and services, surprisingly few members take advantage of these programs.

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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 Wearables on the Life Insurance Industry

wearable smartwatch

According to the just released 2016 Insurance Barometer Study, 51 percent of Millennials and 30 percent of people overall are very or extremely likely to consider wearing an activity tracker and share those results with a life insurance company in return for financial rewards for healthy behaviors.

Insurance companies are actively trying to promote the use of wearable and fitness trackers. Wearable users are an attractive demographic for insurance companies. In its annual Wearables Report, NPD Group found that 36 percent of fitness-tracker owners in the U.S. were 35–54 years old, 41 percent had an average income of more than $100,000, and 54 percent were women. Smartwatch users skewed even younger.

Among life insurers, John Hancock stepped out as an early leader, allowing policyholders to use their iOS devices in addition to their FitBits to track wellness goals and receive discounts on life insurance premium. However, many more life insurers may soon find innovative uses for wearables and the data they generate. Everything from marketing to underwriting to in-force management could be profoundly affected.

Whether wearables are a fad or here to stay is yet to be seen. Some studies have shown that half of users lose interest within a few months. Insurance companies are also very conservative, highly regulated and slow to change. However, if consumers adopt it and grant permission to use the data to insurers, and if insurers incorporate the data into their operations and decision-making, the future of the life insurance industry could look very different than it does today.

Putting The Affinity Back in Affinity Marketing

member pulling member into groupAssociations of types and missions are struggling with low member engagement and participation. The value proposition associations offer their members can now be found by other means. Once a primary resource for relevant industry-specific information, associations now compete with a host of tailored information resources proliferating online. What’s more, in some industries there are now a host of competing associations representing the same industry. Private firms have entered the fray by holding their own industry networking events and offering seminars, conferences and other educational programs.

Furthermore, the association’s ability to leverage lower group rates and discounts on products and services is being overshadowed by the countless savings aggregator, comparison pricing, and auction sites. Most of these services are available at no cost.

Now, more than even, affinity group and association marketers, have to find a way to make their offerings stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace. But ironically, just the opposite is happening. As more associations outsource their marketing to third-party product providers, member marketing is becoming less and less member-centric.

Too often, a member communication is nothing more than a broad market message with the group’s logo added for effect. Is it any wonder then that members see more and more association offerings as generic and nothing special? They perceive little to no added value and over time, the lack of exclusivity and value causes them to question the value of their dues dollars.

In the current economic environment, associations are facing downward pressure on membership dues and increasing pressure to provide more relevant, compelling, exclusive value, specific to the association and not easily found elsewhere. In order to continue to survive and thrive in these challenging times, associations will need to re-define what membership means and develop exclusive value in order to continue to attract and retain members.

Bodden Partners is a full-service marketing firm that specializes in affinity group marketing. Our clients enjoy some of the highest participation levels in their member benefits programs. If you would like a free affinity marketing consultation, contact us for a custom recommendation.

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.

Marketers, Don’t Be Deceived by Demographics

name badge not who you think I am

At this very moment, a client is handing its agency reams of reports to brief them on a new product. The target audience is described in detail. Be they Millennials, Baby Boomers, or a segment with a catchier name, say Alpha Moms, chances are if you showed the description to the target they wouldn’t recognize themselves.

Recently we conducted such an experiment. We handed a commonly used description of Millennials to a group Millennials. Although elements of it rang true, they didn’t think it accurately described them.  They felt you might as well be describing a stranger.

Why is there such a disconnect between the way marketers see consumers and the way consumers see themselves? In part the problem lies in over reliance on demographic segmentation. Demographics can be misleading. Taken literally, they create stereotypes and oversimplified caricatures of people.

Here’s an example from the insurance industry. According to conventional wisdom, a life insurance or P&C marketer would have a tough time selling Millennials. After all they are living in their parent’s basement, don’t want to own anything, are averse to marriage and will only respond to a marketing offer if it comes wrapped in a clever social media campaign. The reality is 70% of adult Millennials are living on their own, 40% have children and collectively they account for 27% of all new car sales. Even more surprising, 57% have made a purchase using old fashioned direct mail.

So what does all this mean for marketers? Demographic segment descriptions are oversimplified assumptions which can be misleading. If you take them too literally, you will miss out on hidden opportunities. People are much more complex than their age and income and without deep insight into what drives them, you might as well be talking to strangers. Worse still, the results will be disappointing. When people don’t identify with your message, they tune you out.

At Bodden Partners, we use a different approach. Instead of relying on stereotypes and assumptions, we conduct in-depth, one-on-one listening sessions with customers and potential buyers about their needs, attitudes and reactions to a particular offering. Then we play it back in the marketing. Consumers can’t help but identify with the message because it came from them to start with. We’ve engineered this process to cost no more than a typical focus group. If you have a segment or problem that you’re struggling with, contact us today for a free consultation.

To learn more about our how our process can help improve your results download our latest ebook entitled Do You Ever Feel Like You’re Talking to Strangers?



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