Scatter-Blogging and re-shaping... changing this section to describe the things learned while hunting for a... job.
WE'VE ALL WONDERED, AT LEAST ONCE... COULD WE HAVE DONE BETTER?... I'VE GIVEN UP THE NOTION OF DOING BETTER... SO HERE ARE SOME THOUGHTS ON DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY...
What they asked for; an interpretation of what they were looking for; the opportunities I presented... What I would like to have presented... [BS] through [BO]
[draft 1.01, December 2nd, 2012]
So this is the starting point, the beginning of my quest, a quest for a Brighter Life... a small story, a bit of musing, ...the setting of the mood... some staging, some scenery...
It was last January, the start of this year, twenty and twelve. I'd just returned to the Canada's; my motherland, my birthplace, my old home... My wife and I had been planning to leave NYC; bring our son to Canada and take a shot at Canadian living before the winds of wander blew us somewhere else. The plans were in the works, unfortunately my departure from NYC became hurried, more rushed than we would have liked. It became necessary for me to leave the family behind, to find that next gig, set up the next new nest...
"NO MORE START UPS" was the mantra, a loose pledge, a speculative starting place, at the very least a notion of an idea of a place for me to, start, up...looking again. I hit the 'boards' and found the blue chip want ads; deciphered those I could barely relate to and fired-off the "old" resume, systematically, methodically, meticulously... Really, It had been, oh, about 1,000 years and a generational shift or two since I'd last started upon this particular of 'journey'... A job search? The first of these fired-off resumés that actually got sticked somewhere got stuck onto the good folks down at the corner of University and King.
This set the wheels in motion on a process that would see me thinking, almost obsessing over how one would apply, digital... build a social strategy around the sales and CRM of the insurance industry, the financial services industry... research ensued; I dove headlong into figuring this out... the first thing I came across... a duck... then, a king... then for lack of better wording, a definition of methodolgy (perhaps).
upon starting out on... the quest for a brighter life
I found, after all these years... Content is still King ...REALLY?
...and the King still
wears no clothes
MANY years ago there lived an King, who was so excessively fond of grand new clothes that he spent all his money upon them, that he might be very fine. He did not care about his soldiers, nor about the theatre, and only liked to drive out and show his new clothes. He had a coat for every hour of the day; and just as they say of a king, “He is in council,” so they always said of him, “The King is in the wardrobe.”
...just what arsenal had the good folks at SunLife assembled on the battlefield; how did their artillery stack up against say the legions at London Life, marauders of Manual, or the un-cooperative lined up for The Co-Operators. Upon these Plains, in this hundred years and more tumultuous-tussle for that so coveted "insurance" dollar. How had SunLife deployed the systems of modern warfare? Their botts in the battle for clicks, likes and follows?
This ancient battle for "The Insurance Dollar", the battle for that buck we put aside to cover the loosing bet that we will live for ever, or worse loosing early against that unexpected illness, wrong turn at a red light, or... How had SunLife positioned their troops along the digital frontline? How were they positioned to pluck my "heart strings"; offer me the protection and well being of my loved ones; the education of my son... and perhaps someday help me achieve comfort in my own personal, wildly-imaginative fairy tale... my retirement?
It's a key battle, I mean after all... it is LIFE insurance, after all...
LIFE, that thing that finally dawns on you (if you're a tad smarter than I) somewhere between your 30th and 35th birthday...
I found that, digitally, SunLife had rolled their particular brand of, you can have that sunny LIFE sunshine into a BRILLIANT name for a new property... But how exactly had they deployed this brightness. What weapons and tactics did their sergeants, chief warrant officers, warrant officers, petty warrant officers and foot soldiers carry? What weapon of "sunny sunshine" were they to march across my digital lanscape...
All set sarge! There you are, here it is, your publishing system, your content management system... All laid out and at the ready; branded with SunLife's "sunny sunshine", primed and already pumping out the content. Reams and reams of that rich, luxurious, brilliantly written well designed, shot, drawn and quartered content. Proof of SunLife's expertise; proof of their guiding hand guidance, advisorly advise with a little soft sell sewn into the mix at the off chance any of it would capture the notice of, you know... a customer. A place for the avid reader to read and read, and read some more about just where they might consider put that there "insurance dollar" of theirs... of course, once and only if, they were certain; you know, that good folks at SunLife actually knew what they talking about.
On first review... I adored the branding.
As part of my research I did what I believe most people would do; I tried to figure out how I might go about buying insurance from the good folks at SunLife insurance (really?)... I skimmed the stories I was, and am still not even barely interested in... THEN, I set off to find someone who would picth me this life insurance, you know, fill me in on how the game works. Give me the 10,000 foot "what's for" training I needed in exchange for my offering him or her a little sniff at that imaginary "insurance dollar" I had sitting in my back pocket...
Excuse me sir, your sites search engine, quite simply, SUCKS! eh hem... You'll have to excuse me for being a little too "seasoned"; a little too "long in the tooth" in all of this, but honestly, when I was growing up my dad bought his insurance from an "insurance agent", and ya, ya, I know, you're trying to get out from under that stereo-type, and your whole industry has been re-wrapped under the gelden-glistening "financial services" banner; BUT seriously, friends, If some young-old coot like me, some young-old coot who has been navigating web sites his, hers and the other guys, since before your SVP of Customer Experience had graduated with his degree from UI/UX/U goes looking directly for an "Insurance Agent"; you'd think you could tweak your bloody search engines in a fashion to put this old-young coot directly in front of the person, that one person, in your organization most likely to extract that... "Insurance dollar"... from this, back pocket.
Sigh... the sadder thing yet... when I finally figured out that I was after an "Advisor" rather than an a trusty insurance agent, that darned engine was not that much more helpful... KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK!
Really, I must apologize, its just I really had to get that out of my system before I really start "KNOCKING" on the good folks at SunLife...
SO...who owns the relationship?
...AND what triggers the transaction?
I really must thank Darin and William VP & SVP's of digital marketing down at University & King. By putting this offer out there, and dangling it my sights, they had me take a first look in a long time at how companies; in this case, very large companies, were employing the tools and tactics I'd been so involved in all these year, but had become so myopically focussed on simply, selling stuff (wait?)... My last gig found me pulled slightly sideways; focussing less on the specific use of digital, social, et al concentrating on the "chain", the end to end, all the events and activities required to move product from the factory door to your living room floor, AND all the little points in between where one dollar turns into $2, then $2.6, then $3.3 then... and then some.
It was really GREAT to be back to my roots. You know, the internets, where an idea costs you a dollar and earns you fiddy cents.
I've always tried to be a bit of a practical business man. The big ol' bubble burst didn't really surprise me as we worked and watched companies all around us billowing up; riding good ideas well beyond reality and loosing focus on the simple notion that the basic concept of business is to put at least a dollar more in the till than you take out each day. Oh sure, I built a company designed to tickle the fantasy of investors, but at the start of each day we set out to close a contract or two, put the kids to work (at their desks) and finished the days jobs before we turned out the lights and went for a beer (to talk, ideas).
The marketing pieces we produced were designed to support our salesmen... Oh for certain that support can be oblique, askance and askew of the "pitch", but at the end of the day, if we hadn't put another tool in the salesman's tool box, if it wasn't a tool to be used on the path to the close... You get he picture?
Who owns the relationship with the customers at Sun Life? The agent... What triggers the transaction... I went to find out...
Oh sure, it was a small struggle and I was eventually able to find an agent... Buried within the SunLife site, with no immediately apparent or obvious link, nor any attachment to that "Brighter Life" (which for some reason always feels like it's, over there)... buried in the pages of the SunLife web site was the ONE really useful tool... An interactive "advisor match" that asked me more or less who I was; had me describe my situation in life. It had me express my basic life concerns even asked if I were more comfortable working with a man or a woman 'agent'... I quite enjoyed clicking through this. It presented me a choice of five agents along with a short bio. I choose Andrew, partly for his office's proximity to SunLife's head office but primarily because I was told that he had travelled extensively. He sounded like a good fella.
I submitted my choice on a Friday evening fully expecting to generate a little "disappointed in this" fuel for my first meeting with Daren later that week... Andrew's assistant, Michael, called me at 9:30 Monday morning, foiled!
I told Michael I was on the road, we quickly came to an agreed time to meet. I asked Michael to email a confirmation, which of course was already in my inbox before I got back on the highway...
Quite honestly, the only "disappointed in this" ammunition Michael and Andrew left me was the simple basic utterly ridiculously stupid lack of any branding, links or referrals to SunLife let alone my "Brighter Life" within any of the communication we exchanged. I had to get that out of my system... outside of this oversight, Michael and Andrew had just answered my first question, brilliantly. They now certainly owned the relationship with me.
Michael and I went back and forth via email & phone prior to the meeting. He covered the pre-screening questions which allowed Andrew to present me with tailored set of benifits and essentially a complete set options ...what triggered this transaction?
Honestly, honesty... Andrew laid it all out, described how there was very little difference between Sun, Manual, the co-Operators and/or any of the other top-tier providers; he assured me that the level of assurance was assured by going top-tier. The unique selling proposition? Firstly this relationship with Michael and Andrew, secondly, my confidence in this service level... SIMPLE
Integrate this into a social experience and by golly, we could be on to something! OH...and here's how...
BUT FIRST... The King, exposed, must be deposed
let's get this behind us.
SunLife's digital agency, High Roads won awards for their work on "Brighter Life"... how much more business did SuneLife DO as a result of... these "Brighter"... awards?
...yes, I do feel I have to get a little something off my chest. It's been well over 20++ years now that I've been "going to battle" with "the Agency"; either in bids for new contracts, OR while seeing one of my hard won contract through to completion. It's a nagging continuous annoyance; one I'm astounded to find remains such a silly roadblock. An impasse blocking too many companies who are frankly sitting on the verge of making digital work for them... sitting ready to click with and add just that slightest of upticks in the "personal service" level they could be offering their customers AND prospective customers.
Your Ad Agency, apparantly, continues to see your customer as a blob. A block of wood sitting passively at the end of their poop-spiggot; interested only in snappy flashy images, hi-larious or heart wrenching vignettes and piles and piles and piles of documentation and data that even your insiders and admirers find dull... they'll toss you a metric that shows you an uptick in sales after they've bombarded your customer base with a billion-branded impressions while completely excluding the notion that your salesmen worked a little harder during that month when that campaign put a little extra fuel in their tanks.
Social media must support the sales channel; must be implemented and integrated correctly to assist your sales men acquire, verify, pre-sell and hold interest as a warm lead warm. It can be a "place" were they meet with and help identify needs, express benefits and turn the cycle towards... the closing.
Admen don't close, salesmen do. Begs the question... how much does that sales man make at the ad agency?
I'm over it :-)
SO... my Brighter Life... ideas?
No one will tell you that this is easy but it is, simple... First thing, lets get one or two of your agents in here; stat. ...and despite my near mental breakdown earlier, let's catalogue your assets! Yes, your content has its uses; but is useless until Michael and Andrew tell us how they want use it. Content is not king, but it as a valuable part of the mix, a possible tool in the tool-kit... It's a matter of delivery, and most importantly, who is delivering it.
FLIP THIS OVER
When I arrived at the King & University, Sunlife had 6,784 likes... their stated goal, 20,000+ likes, in so many months... Ask yourself, why would anyone want to like or become friends with SunLife, a Brighter Life or any insurance company for that matter; OK, ok... I'd become friends with a duck, maybe a gecco... a caveman but...
THEN, ask: Why wouldn't anyone NOT enjoy a friendship with Machael and Andrew?
If LIKES were the only objective... 4,000 agents x 100 likes each = you get the picture.
Of course LIKES are NOT the objective, likes is simply a measure of how successful Michael and Andrew are at harvesting leads; I'm certain Michael would have far more than one hundred folks signed on to Andrew's Brighter Life Facebook page... That's correct, Andrew & Michael's Brighter Life page... one of 4,000... AGAIN, it's not easy. But here's how it's easier... at least on Michael and Andrew; who are, after all spending most of their time... doing the actual seeking and selling for that "Insurance dollar"...
SunLife's central role is the support of... sales. This network of Facebook accounts (and tool set ad infinitum), is originally built, set up AND promoted by SunLife... "Find and Agent, AND their Facebook Page"... this branding, link and opportunity to capture goes on every single dispatch from ad fliers to billing... (how many impression is that along the High Road?)
Your content? This content is fed, THROUGH this network at the discretion of the agent; oh, sure a levelled stream can be developed citing posting be optional through mandatory, you'll likely find most of your agents using all of it anyhow.
...a two, three, four page at most hand book can be distributed to Michael. The network is rolled out, documented, tweaked, measured and presented to new agents under the headline, "proven ROI"...
IF Facebook was the objective... it's NOT, get the picture... not easy, simple.
YOU CANNOT BECOME SOCIAL WITH YOUR CUSTOMER IF YOUR ORGANIZATION IS NOT SOCIAL...
Start using this, this... this or this or this... this and this AND ...THIS... yes, these things are not easy to use...
Simultaneously; while you are setting up, teaching and training your agents how to target and fire this weapon, the Brighter Life SOCIAL network you need to be gathering the company around your own, social network... All of these enterprise CRM tools come, with all this built in.
THEY won't use it? They're be resistance; legal, HR, executive management will simply balk...
The smart agents WILL use it, they'll win and the dumb ones... If they're still selling gang busters, it doesn't matter (that much).
Set THIS up, slowly, in stages... and then there are a THOUSAND things we can use it for... (things I may or may not add here from time to time...
and again... Its NOT easy, its simple.
well, that's just a little bit on this wee quest for MY own...
...and at the end of this tale.
You know; I am extremely happy I did NOT end up at SunLife, then. There has been so much cool stuff come my way since, dozen's more failed bids a couple of "currently right in the middle of" product and service launches.
I'd love to work with these folks; in some capacity... Unfortunately, I doubt they'd have me... AND, I wonder, there is always the possibility that all of this IS all underway; or at least some rational and reasonable form of it.
[BO] - I'll update this as we go along