There is an adage that if you advertise, you don’t know what you will get, but if you don’t advertise, you know exactly what you will get.
So, if you remain at home, join no organizations, do no advertising or marketing and, above all, assiduously avoid involvement with the internet and social media, the life of a hermit comes to mind. But, the majority of insurance professionals are not hermetically sealed in a basement home office. They are out and about in the community, and they are joiners. They are establishing a reputation in the community.
Let’s pause for a moment and consider reputation. The insurance and financial services industry is basically highly ethical. When I joined the industry in 1972, I learned the Latin phrase, “uberrima fides” or “utmost good faith.” While Latin expressions don’t litter my mind, I do focus on that one, particularly as it applies to transparency – if everyone could see what I am doing, would they consider it appropriate? Am I keeping faith with my client?
Now, how does one build a reputation? It’s easy to build a bad reputation. Just one untoward action is sufficient. Just one! How about skimming premiums? Or here is a creative scam: the agent sold condominium shares of spaces in the building in which his office was located. The problem was that he didn’t own the building.
Let’s focus on building a good reputation, one that I, immodestly, believe that I possess. As a frequent volunteer, my efforts have been with my local business association, my township, my college alumni board, my professional association (National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors), The American College alumni board and my homeowners association board. What I need to make clear is that I volunteer for organizations and causes in which I believe. I do not join because I expect my involvement will lead to sales. Any positive reputation which may accrue is a byproduct of my serious efforts in supporting the mission of the organization. I join no organization unless I can truly get involved.
We have all seen instances when people join a board, contribute no time or treasure and then leave, miffed that they have attracted no business from their negligible efforts. This is an example of hypocrisy at its finest! If anything, their reputation is damaged.
How else might you promote your valuable name in the community? As a related effort to your community involvement, consider writing and public speaking.
Yes, writing a blog gets your name out in social media. However, consider writing for something with a bit more gravitas – for your local newspaper or a professional magazine. If writing is not your forte, prepare an article about a favorite subject and ask someone you trust to proofread it. Some years ago, I prepared a CD on disability sales ideas. In 2011, The American College Wealth Channel used ideas from the CD more than 50 times during the year. Great free promotion by an impeccable source!
And consider public speaking, which, for some, buckles the knees. I understand. I was one who trembled many years ago when asked to speak. Now it is fun.
I actively seek speaking opportunities. It’s great for the reputation and there is usually a free meal! I maintain an up-to-date list of those organizations to which I have spoken. It is valuable when I am seeking another speaking engagement.
Community involvement always involves public speaking to some degree and, often, writing. Shy away from either and you stunt your professional growth.
Tagging along with the public speaking idea, consider getting an opportunity to speak on television or radio. Comcast Newsmakers is a five-minute cable television news program in the Philadelphia region on which I have been asked to speak on both professional and community-based subjects. What is required? Knowledge of your subject plus a clean shirt and tie. The programs were each re-broadcast 21 times over the course of a month – at no personal expense.
You might get called upon to testify as an expert witness. Some years ago, I represented NAIFA-Pennsylvania before the Pennsylvania House Insurance Committee in Harrisburg. The testimony was taped, broadcast statewide on the Pennsylvania Cable Network, and is available on YouTube. And, yes, I had a clean shirt and tie. And, again, no personal expense.
Just how many clients has my practice obtained through my community involvement? I will never know for sure, but I can give some specifics:
My leadership roles in NAIFA on the local, regional and state levels have generated untold brokerage business for my practice.
My years of teaching Life Underwriter Training Council (LUTC) courses have led to new brokers doing business with us. I taught an LUTC course in long-term care insurance at The American College nearly 10 years ago. Two of my students in that class have since given us thousands of dollars of business.
My involvement with the Lafayette College alumni board led to a 30-year friendship with a local physician and thousands of dollars of premium. It also brought me a large life case in 2012 with Rich, who is a fraternity brother.
I wrote a long-term-care policy with a $12,000 annual premium on a fellow board member of my local business and professional association. He led me to a fellow Lafayette College graduate, who also became one of our long-term-care clients.
These are folks who came to use my services of their own volition. I have no idea who we attracted because of articles I have written or my speaking engagements.
There are many ways to enhance your reputation in the community with little or no expense. You need to be transparent in your efforts and you need to prepare. And with community involvement, it is important that you ask what you can do for your community, not what it can do for you. Give and you will receive.