I returned to Boston this week from Florida after attending the 2012 annual meeting of the Professional Insurance Marketing Association (PIMA). The group is regarded as the premier business development group for affinity and direct marketers within the insurance or “protection product” space. As a first-time attendee, I came away from the conference impressed with the quality of the program and the number of key decision makers in attendance. Five observations I made:
Positivity on the economy.
Potential renaming opportunity to “lack of negativity on the economy.” In the myriad conversations I had at PIMA, the subject of our tough economic times was absent. In general, the overall tone of the conference was optimistic on the subject of future economic prospects for the industry and the economy in general.
Internet and mobile take center stage.
Affinity marketing has a long legacy in direct mail, but a great deal of attention was given to digital channels in the program. Speakers such as eHealth Government Systems CEO Sam Gibbs, Envisage International CEO Keith Clausen, and Ventura Associates SVP Renee Azoulay provided tangible and compelling roadmaps for the use of the web and mobile to drive affinity sales of financial services products.
As a first-time attendee, it was quickly apparent to me that PIMA is a close-knit group focused on developing their market. One of the themes of the conference was to challenge attendees to think more broadly about affinity marketing, in an effort to inspire the creation of new economic opportunities for members and business partners. My observation was that the effort was successful and that the conference was a positive step toward this goal. Networking was non-stop and broad, with agencies, underwriters, and business partners swapping innovative and non-traditional ideas and business opportunities freely.
Direct mail still core to affinity.
Don’t let the digital focus of some of the program fool you, direct mail was strongly represented at the conference. Most of the business partners and vendors attending the conference whom I interacted with had a strong focus in direct mail, direct response analytics, creative services, and print.
Inbound marketing deserves attention.
American General Life Companies President & CEO Mary Jane Fortin shared a useful piece of research in the opening keynote: only 36% of online shoppers for life insurance purchased a policy. In e-commerce circles, that’s an eye-opening number. Sentiment amongst conference attendees I spoke with was that this kind of result was common. Ironic, and timely, that HubSpot Inbound Marketing Strategist and author Kipp Bodnar delivered a well-attended presentation on the power of inbound marketing on the final day of the conference. Kipp’s remarks underscored to me how massive an opportunity financial services marketers have to improve the sales experience and nurture website users from interested shoppers to purchasers through methods such as inbound marketing.
Lastly, I’ll note a bit of good news – NGI Managing Partner Bill Suneson was elected to PIMA’s board for the upcoming year. Congratulations to Bill!