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Through The Lens Of Insurance Agents: A Case For Asking Consumers Directly

There’s a cool opportunity right in front of the eyes of the life insurance industry. The trouble is, their glasses are a little dirty.

In a business that is so distribution focused, or in hipper terms, “B to B,” it’s not only convenient to ask producers and agencies for input before launching a new product, service or business model, it’s imperative. However, many companies are stopping there. Sometimes it is because they don’t want to spend the money on consumer research when the agent is controlling the sale anyway; sometimes it is because there is a perceived threat in going to consumers directly; and sometimes it is because they just don’t think they will get a different answer.

What’s interesting is that the more the industry matures, the less validity there is to these arguments. Particularly in the case of Millennials, (aka Gen Y), there is more and more disconnect between what the industry does and how it is relevant to these younger consumers.

The opportunity in front of us is innovating the language and manner in which we communicate.

A recent study by Maddock Douglas analyzed a number of commonly used insurance terminology and asked its respondents what they associated those words with. In some cases, they were asked to define what they mean. You may or may not be surprised at some of these findings. Did you know…?

…the word “protection,” a term used in almost every life insurance brochure or advertisement, is more often associated with birth control than it is insurance. This is true of Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y.

…for Gen Y, the word “policy” is associated with government or rules more than 60 percent of the time and insurance only 33 percent of the time.

…Gen Y also associates the word “agent” with the FBI more often than insurance.

…the word “disability” is more often associated with a handicap than it is about being unable to work.

…insurance terms evoke the emotions of frustration, confusion, anxiety and boredom more than they do confidence or satisfaction.

But agents don’t necessarily agree with this. And it makes logical sense. Agents are very well-informed, educated and experienced in these areas. They feel a sense of confidence all the time, and they can react in a more logical than emotional way.

In fact, at a recent LIMRA meeting, a study presented by Competiscan suggests that there is a big disconnect between the way that producers feel about company advertisements and literature and the way consumers do. Of 12 companies’ literature analyzed, consumers consistently gave lower scores than producers on the dimensions of clarity, reassurance and likelihood of doing business. And in almost half of the companies surveyed, consumers and producers were on opposite sides of the spectrum with respect to emotional impact versus rational impact.

So what is the opportunity? Look at language and communication as “white space.” Think about doing some primary research and develop insights. Come up with some new ideas to help consumers hear your message in a way that makes them really get it logically so they do not feel those negative emotions. Then, of course, turn it into new revenue streams for your company.

Anyone have any lens cleaner?

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