I wish I could take credit for coming up with that observation, but it was Bruce Springsteen who said it in a recent speech to the “South By Southwest” (SXSW) convocation in Austin, Texas. The Boss followed that up by saying “Today, authenticity is a house of mirrors.”
Think about that for a minute. In a world where so much of everything – conversations, meetings, music – is “virtual,” people are struggling to find something authentic; something that they can trust, rely upon, believe in.
Was that opportunity that just knocked on our door? Based on the results of our most recent consumer research, fraternals can offer people just that type of authenticity. And when we use the right words to describe who we are and what we do, we can ignite a spark among millions of potential members.
Summary of Phase I Research
By now you are well acquainted with the results of the Alliance’s Phase I (focus groups and national poll) consumer research project conducted in August 2011. If not, here’s a quick summary:
- Despite the fact that most consumers in our target market of potential members have virtually no awareness of fraternals and don’t equate fraternals with financial-services providers, when they understand the fraternal business model their reaction was incredibly positive.
- One of the obstacles to success is that it takes too long to explain what a fraternal is. We need to find a way to quickly and clearly communicate what fraternals are, and what they can do for prospective members and the communities in which they live and work.
- The words that describe fraternals that most resonate with prospective members are community, caring, non-profit, give back, stable and reliable, moral and shared values, and connected (with customers and the community).
- Women react most positively to the fraternal model. This is important when you consider that 80 percent of the financial-services purchasing decisions are made or significantly influenced by women, and that well over 90 percent of widows switch advisors within a year of their husbands’ deaths because the advisors never took the time to develop relationships with them.
- It takes more than good deeds. When non-members were asked if they would consider purchasing a financial-services product from a fraternal, the response was uniformly positive, with one important caveat: “All things being equal.” This means that fraternals have to offer life insurance and annuities that meet consumers’ needs, are priced competitively, and that provide consumers with the peace of mind that comes from knowing they have the enduring financial strength to pay for the promises they make.
- It’s all about relationships with a trusted advisor. The focus groups reinforced the belief that at the end of the day, consumers purchase financial-services products from an individual, not an institution. Societies won’t be successful without the well-trained, dedicated experts who really believe in the fraternal model.
Well, what about Phase II?
Glad you asked. We just completed Phase II of our research project in an effort to address the main obstacle to success that we identified in Phase I: finding an effective way to quickly and clearly describe who we are and what we do to prospective members in a way that really rings their bell.
The Alliance’s Consumer Research Task Force – a group of communications professionals from small, medium, and large member societies – worked with our research consultant to develop nine “definition statements” based on the most appealing aspects of fraternals described by the focus group and national poll participants.
We then conducted a national online survey of consumers with the same demographic characteristics as the participants in the Phase I segment of the research project. The results were enlightening and encouraging. Survey respondents selected several clear “winners” from the nine statements, and we were able to identify a handful of words that really resonated with consumers – words that were consistently included in each of the most popular statements.
We’re preparing a full report on the research results and will share that with every member society in the coming weeks. Participants at the upcoming Mid-Year Section Meetings will get a sneak preview of the results (I hope to see you at one or more of those meetings, by the way).
I have one favor to ask of you: when you get the report on the Phase II research, please don’t put it on a shelf. Take a good look at it; share it with your executive team, your Board, your local chapter leaders, YOUR SALES FORCE! The report contains words and phrases that can help your society grow. Those words need to be on your Web site, your Facebook page, and on the lips of anyone who is representing your society.
Words are powerful! Let’s use them to promote our advantage embedded in our “authenticity.”
I’ll be spending a good bit of the next six weeks on the road participating in Section meetings – Secretaries, Presidents, Investment, Fraternal/Communications, and Canadian – as well as a few other industry conferences. I sure hope our paths cross. I’d love to get your feedback on how the Alliance can better serve you and other members. My blog posts may be less frequent because of all the travel, but I know I’ll pick up some great items to share with you along the way.
The Boss is Touring…
By the way, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are on a concert tour (with a full brass section to replace the recently departed Clarence “Big Man” Clemons). Supposedly they’ll hit Wrigley Field this September. That might be the only event worth attending there…
Here’s one of my favorite Springsteen lyrics:
Oh, come and take my hand
We’re riding out tonight to case the promised land
Why does this ring my particular bell? First, the belief that a “promised land” exists and second, the unspoken notion that you can actually get there.
Share your favorite song lyric with your colleagues by posting it right here…
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