To Join Or Not To Join

Bo delivers the address at the 2008 Columbus A...

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With apologies to William Shakespeare, “To join or not to join” is often the question for insurance agents.  As a sales person, you have dozens of organizations from which you may choose to join.  Which one is best for you, only you know what you wish to accomplish.  The one thing that is certain is, if you do not actively participate in the group’s activities, you are wasting your money.

Professional Organizations

Groups like NALU  (National Association of Life Underwriters), NAHU  (National Association of Health Underwriters), etc. are excellent sources of information, continuing education and political lobbying.  For me the information magazines are worth the membership dues to belong to them.

Just remember, when you attend meetings, while you will sit at a table with other insurance agents who will probably share their opinions and sales techniques with you, nobody in that room will ever buy an insurance policy from you.

You join organizations like these for professional credibility and not marketing reasons.

Religious/Charitable Organizations

The Catholic Church has the Kiwanis  club and protestants have the Gideons.  Both organizations have their own religious agenda to propagate.  At first glance they have nothing in common but a closer examination shows some similarities.  The biggest similarity is that both of them exist for religious purposes.  They also are similar because there are more costs than just the initiation fees, if any.  Both organization will want commitments of time and money.

Civic/Charitable Organizations

Organizations like the Lions, Rotary Intl., etc. are made up of altruistic business people in the community. They are not linked, in any way, to any church or religious denomination.

Many sales people join groups like this thinking they are great marketing venues.  Later, they find out that for a sales person they do not get the ROI they expected.  The relationships active members of these groups build are good for your business in the long run but be advised, organizations like these are definitely not sales targets.  They exist to allow business people to perform altruistic deeds in the community.

If you have a passion for helping in your community, this type of organization may be for you.

If, on the other hand, you are looking to join something to build your business, keep looking.

Business Mixing Clubs

I include chambers of commerce in this subdivision.  It seems that every community of any size has one or several different clubs who meet on a regular basis for the sole purpose of allowing business people to rub shoulders.

My wife owns her own bookkeeping business.  She is a member of both the local chamber of commerce and American Business Women’s Association (ABWA ).  There are a couple of things I have learned over the years while watching her.

First, there is no such thing as exclusivity except by chance.  Each organization has multiple bookkeepers and several insurance agents in it.  If you join a group like this, remember there is a very good chance that there will still be some competitors there.  It will all depend on the chance make up of your group.

Secondly, if you do not attend functions and mixers, they are a waste of money.  The entire purpose of organizations like this is to promote business within their membership.  If you do not participate, there is a very good chance your competitor will.  As a result your competitor will be the first person other members think of when they need insurance services.

If you do not feel uncomfortable with self promotion in a group, they are not bad.  If, however, you avoid social functions and become a wall flower when you do attend, they are not worth joining.  The next segment might be a better option for you.

Pure Business Organizations

The title to this group is actually a misnomer.  Groups in this classification are not strictly business but they are not just for social butterflies either.  I though the classification of “anti-social” was a bit too strong and had a bad connotation.

 If you are more awkward in social situations, you may like organizations like BNI Intl.  or Toastmasters .  Both organizations help more socially challenged sales people face their fears and conquer them.  While neither organization was formed to help people with their social fears, both of them have regular meetings in which each member is required to speak publicly.

Unlike mixers where you are required to actively introduce yourself and start a conversation, which is hard for many of us, both groups will set the stage for you but it is up to you to say something worth hearing.

BNI Intl will require you to talk about your business specifically.  Toastmasters will assign you more benign things to talk about.

All of these organizations, and many more, are worthy of any insurance agent’s time and money.  Unfortunately, there are only 168 hours in a week and a finite number of discretionary dollars in your wallet.  You will need to choose which, if any, of these fine organizations to join.  Just remember, there are two major rules.

First, if you want to get the full benefit of any group you have to become an active participant.  In most cases it is not wise to pay annual membership fees just to have your name on a membership role. 

Second, remember it takes time and patience for any new marketing effort to take affect.  Social marketing, whether done on line or in person, requires the social group to first see you as the expert in any area.  It takes repeated contact for that type of credibility to be built.

Family & friends may buy policies from you because they love you but few groups of strangers are going to buy from you until you have built up your credibility with them.  There are scores of other agents in your community they can buy from.

Until you have built your credibility with them, when they have an insurance need they will go somewhere else.  Once they have heard enough times from you to build your credibility, they will never go anywhere for insurance without speaking to you first.

There is a high probability that someone reading this article will have a different opinion from mine or a meaningful anecdote they can share.  Please, use the comments area below to share your feedback with us.  Together, we can all learn.

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About The Insurance Barn

Husband of 1, father of 2, health insurance agent and insurance trainer.
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