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Let’s Make Lemons Out of Lemonade

Especially since the announcement of its plans by Lemonade, there’s been an awful lot of buzz and concern about the arrival of so many new disruptive technologies and how they’re going to change the insurance marketplace. Many of these changes are welcome, bring benefits broadly and root out inefficiencies and costs in places where they should be reduced. I say, more power to them.

Some people, however, fear that new selling systems will reduce or eliminate the need for producers and brokers, who are such a part of the traditional insurance buyer’s journey. That will happen to some extent but will only disrupt your business if you let it.

The ancient warrior Sun Tzu said, “Swift as the wind. Quiet as the forest. Conquer like the fire. Steady as the mountain.”

When the enemy is at the gates, you’d better be ready to both defend your holdings and also strike out strongly to expand your position. Here are four ways you can both hold your ground and expand your territory by using the unique advantage and value positioning that you already have today:

See also: Lemonade: A Whole New Paradigm  

1. Your Network is Your Net Worth. Focus on identifying a group of network partners who will become what I’ll call your “A list,” where you’ll be building deep, high-trust relationships. Network partners should be professionals in your market area, your city or county who are already serving people who look like they’d also be ideal target clients for the products/services you feature.

Imagine having a group of 10 to 12 other key professionals who agree to work together as a team, a trusted team, an inner circle. Now consider they are all committed to and known for delivering the highest-quality products and services and all then actively agree to introduce each other to clients when the need for another’s products become apparent. Once this team is formed, there are myriad ways that members can nurture relationships and promote each other without being costly or over the top. You will increase the value you’re each delivering to clients, and, then, your network will grow your net worth. (Here are 17 ways to build your business by working with referral partners.)

2. Engagement. How many times have you wondered if a service provider you were working with really cared or was committed to you after the sale was made? Many times, I’ve thought, “Because I haven’t heard from XYZ in so long, maybe I should just check out what I can learn online.” Sadly, I’ve had that thought many times with my insurance providers, who let the gap in the relationship build and made me feel unappreciated (except maybe at renewal time). In one case, I went so many years without hearing from my provider that I switched brokers.

Today, web marketers have positioned themselves to exploit your weakness if lack of engagement is your modus operandi. But know, this weakness is so easy to fix. With just a little focus here, you’ll produce huge results.

A highly reliable survey conducted over many years showed that professionals who stayed in touch with their clients in various informative and personal ways every two to three weeks had extraordinary retention rates and virtually a 100% incidence of getting referrals! Lower that engagement level, or make conversations just about sales, and that referral rate fell to no higher than 7%.

I found those results amazing. I still do.

Building highly engaged relationships with your clients by staying in touch personally is easy and is the best offense against the wave of disrupters trying to move your clients over to their offerings.

3. Influence. Give and Give. A few years ago, Arizona State University Professor Dr. Robert Cialdini wrote a seminal book titled, Influence: The Power of Persuasion. It speaks to the amazing human force or emotion I’ll call “the law of reciprocity”: When one receives something of value from someone, there’s usually a desire ultimately to give something back. So imagine what happens with your clients, your trusted network, even your friends and family when you are building your stance as the “giver.”

Getting in touch, staying in touch, giving and giving, in various ways produces huge returns as the people you give to build this desire to reciprocate. In this “economy of giving,” everyone benefits, and it is very, very hard for an outside influence to come in and dislocate this relationship. We’ve seen many insurance professionals apply this process in a systematic way to a small group of key connections and end up with as many as 40 new referred opportunities in just 90 days.

Relationship “glue,” higher retention and a filled new prospect pipeline… how does that sound as a good offense to face the external market changes coming at you.

4. Do Your Job! That comes from coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots, and, regardless of your feelings about the Pats, his simple demand has helped produce the most consistent success among all NFL teams over the last 15 years.

Yet so many of us don’t work the process in a consistent, disciplined manner. Instead, we float from idea to tactics to new idea, and the simple things that are so clear and proven fall by the wayside or slip through the cracks. Imagine what a “15 minutes a day” new habit of following the steps above might do for you and your clients, for your 2017 and for the long-term viability of your business. Imagine how your producers could move from struggles to abundant pipelines with a little more structure and focus on the basics… of simply doing the job of building deep, connected relationships with clients and influencers in your market area. Things will very quickly turn “right side up” across all areas of your business.

See also: Why Can’t We All Get Along?  

So if you’re concerned about the markets running away from you because of outside forces, stop and make a decision to do the things that are fundamental to every good business. Get yourself and your team aligned on the right behaviors and focused on making a daily effort on the steps that will withstand the intruders.

You’ll not only have a defensible castle with a huge moat around it for your business, but you’ll be building a strong offense and growth pathway that makes your business even more valuable. You be taking Lemonade and other threats and turning them back into nice, juicy lemons.

I’ll guarantee the ROI on your following these steps will produce so much more than any other marketing or social media programs you might be considering.

Unstructured Data: New Cyber Worry

Companies are generating mountains of unstructured data and, in doing so, unwittingly adding to their security exposure.

Unstructured data is any piece of information that doesn’t get stored in a database or some other formal data management system. Some 80% of business data is said to be unstructured, and that percentage has to be rising. Think of it as employee-generated business information—the sum total of human ingenuity that we display in the workplace, typing away on productivity and collaboration software and dispersing our pearls of wisdom in digital communications.

Free IDT911 white paper: Breach, Privacy, And Cyber Coverages: Fact And Fiction

Unstructured data is all of the data that we are generating on our laptops and mobile devices, storing in cloud services, transferring in email and text messages and pitching into social media sites.

Many companies are just starting to come to grips with the complex challenge of figuring out how to categorize and manage this deluge of unstructured data.

Sensitive data at risk

But what’s more concerning is the gaping security exposure.

It was unstructured data—in the form of a text message transcript of employees conversing about deflating footballs—that blindsided the New England Patriots NFL team and its star quarterback, Tom Brady.

Yet the full scope of risk created by unstructured data is much more profound.

“The risk that unstructured data poses dwarfs that of any other type of data,” says Adam Laub, product management vice president at STEALTHbits Technologies. “It is the least understood form of data in terms of access, activity, ownership and content.”

STEALTHbits helps companies that use Windows Active Directory identify and keep more detailed track of shared files that hold unstructured data. That may sound basic. Yet the fact that STEALTHbits is part of a thriving cottage industry of technology vendors helping organizations get a grip on unstructured data is truly a sign of the times. I met with Laub as he was pitching STEALTHbits’ technology at the recent RSA Conference in San Francisco. “Any single file can contain the data that puts an organization in the headlines, and turning a blind eye to the problem or claiming it’s too big to handle is not a valid excuse for why unstructured data hasn’t been secured properly,” Laub says.

A decade and a half has elapsed since the Y2K scare. During that period, business networks have advanced and morphed and now tie extensively into the Internet cloud and mobile devices.

Time to close loophole

Along the way, no one had the foresight to champion a standard architecture to keep track of—much less manage and secure—unstructured data, which continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

Criminals certainly recognize the opportunity for mischief that has resulted. It’s difficult to guard the cream when the cream can be accessed from endless digital paths.

Just ask Morgan Stanley. Earlier this year, a low-ranking Morgan Stanley financial adviser pilfered, then posted for sale, account records, including passwords, for 6 million clients. The employee was fired and is being investigated by the FBI. But Morgan Stanley has to deal with the hit to its reputation.

“The urgency is that your information is under attack today,” says Ronald Arden, vice president at Fasoo USA, a data management technology vendor. “Somebody is trying to steal your most important information, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a small company that makes widgets for the oil and gas industry or you’re Bank of America.”

Fasoo’s technology encrypts any newly generated data that could be sensitive and fosters a process for classifying which types of unstructured data should routinely be locked down, Arden told me.

Technology solutions, of course, are only as effective as the people and processes in place behind them. It is incumbent upon executives, managers and employees to help make security part and parcel of the core business mission. Those that don’t do this will continue to be easy targets.

Steps forward

Simple first steps include identifying where sensitive data exists. This should lead to clarity about data ownership and better choices about granting access to sensitive data, says STEALTHbits’ Laub.

This can pave the way to more formal “Data Access Governance” programs, in which data access activities are monitored and user behaviors are baselined. “This will go a long way towards enabling security personnel to focus on the events and activities that matter most,” says Laub.

Smaller organizations may have to move much more quickly and efficiently. Taking stock of the most sensitive information in a small or mid sized organization is doable, says Fasoo’s Arden.

“If you are a manufacturing company, the intellectual property around your designs and processes are the most critical pieces of information in your business, if you are a financial company it’s your customer records,” Arden says. “Think about securing that information with layers of encryption and security policies to guarantee that that information cannot leave your company.”

Some unstructured business data is benign and may not need to be locked down. “If I write you a memo that says, ‘We’re having a party tonight,’ that’s not a critical piece of information,” says Arden. “But a financial report or intellectual property or something related to healthcare or privacy, that’s probably something that you need to start thinking about locking down.”

How Literature and the NFL Shed Light on Innovation

Baltimore Ravens Coach John Harbaugh complained that Patriots Coach Bill Belichick used deceptive tactics in a playoff game last weekend, after a novel, efficiently executed series of third-quarter plays disoriented the Ravens defense and helped power the Patriots to AFC championship game. But the complaint is short on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Ralph Waldo Emerson and overlarded with Edgar Allan Poe.

Everything about the Patriots resounds with innovation, resourcefulness and the persistence celebrated by Longfellow and Emerson.

In “Paul Revere’s Ride,” Longfellow expressly celebrates those virtues achieving independence against a stronger adversary:

“In the books you have read,

How the British Regulars fired and fled,

–How the farmers gave them ball for ball,

From behind each fence and farmyard-wall,

Chasing the red-coats down the lane,

Then crossing the fields to emerge again

Under the trees at the turn of the road,

And only pausing to fire and load.”

Individual and organization, player and team, succeed when all embrace innovation, as Emerson says in “Self-Reliance”: “Power…resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state…. This one fact the world hates, that the soul becomes; for that forever degrades the past…. [A] man or a company of men, plastic and permeable to principles, by the law of nature must overpower and ride all cities, nations, kings, rich men, poets, who are not.”

The Patriots’ clever disguise of which players were eligible receivers and which ineligible presented a new way of reading, a fresh legibility executing so quickly that the Ravens could not read the play until it had transpired.

The play was simply another of Belichick’s irrepressible innovations. A decade or so ago, in two Super Bowls, linebacker Mike Vrabel deployed on offense and caught touchdown passes in both games.

Ravens Coach John Harbaugh’s choice of words after last week’s deception captures his frustration. “It’s a substitution type of a trick type of thing,” Harbaugh told journalists. “They don’t give you a chance to make the proper substitutions…. It’s not something that anybody’s ever done before…. They…announce the ineligible player, and then Tom Brady would take them to the line right away and snap the ball before we had a chance to figure out who was lined up where. That was the deception part of it.” A complaint got nowhere with the league. Celerity trumped incumbent legibility.

In effect, Coach Harbaugh is perseverating Poe.

Poe portends as much in the team’s namesake, the poem “The Raven”:

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!-prophet still, if bird or devil!-

Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,

Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted-

On this home by Horror haunted-tell me truly, I implore-

Is there—is there balm in Gilead?-tell me-tell me, I implore!”

Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

Of course, no one is saying “nevermore” about the Ravens or the coach, whose team did well in a competitive game and won a Super Bowl but two years ago.

But immersive reading in Emerson and Longfellow charts the Colts’ best shot prepping for the AFC championship game against the Patriots. Colts coaches and players would find few other drills as efficient or effective as they get ready to challenge New England champs.

Comprehension of Emerson’s and Longfellow’s insights shows how to innovate in a highly competitive game.