E&O Prevention
Strategies for the Professional Agent

April 30, 2009
Compliments of Agents of America.ORG

Volume 5
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Albert Einstein - "Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value."
In this issue, we present several fine RM articles.  And we start with Ron Hedges' eagerly-awaited analysis of the electronic-document-retention survey we included with our February 2009 issue.  Also coming next month the first edition of the AOA eBook, "Thirteen Things Every Insurance Agent & Broker Should Know". Check out the www.agentsofamerica.org for details

        -  Britton Weimer, Editor
 
 

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Understanding the Legal Requirements for Documents Retention
By..Ron Hedges, JD
 
  
What have members of Agents of America said about preservation of electronic records? Members were surveyed in the February 27th issue of E&O Prevention. The results of that survey, although tentative, speak volumes about the nature of the independent insurance agent today and his or her knowledge of how and when to preserve electronically stored information ("ESI").
 
Not surprisingly, those who responded to the survey conducted business through the use of lap tops, PDAs, and home computers. Moreover, every responding agent had a web site and an overwhelming majority of the web sites were maintained by vendors. Again, not surprisingly, ESI was maintained both on local drives and on outside networks. Thus, it is fair to say that today's agent makes extensive use of various computer systems and generates substantial amounts of ESI.
 
Once ESI is created, however, the law may require that it be preserved. Here, the survey results may generate concern. Less than half of the respondents were aware of the legal concept of the "litigation hold."  This is a duty imposed by law to preserve ESI (and paper) once litigation is commenced or is reasonably expected to commence. For example, if an agent is served with process, he or she, not later than the time of service, must preserve information relevant to the law suit. Similarly, a duty to preserve information arises when an agent reasonably contemplates commencing a legal action. The duty to preserve may extend to email and, again, the survey results may lead to concern: Almost half of the respondents were unaware that the preservation of email might be required.
 
Where do these survey results leave us? First, ESI may "reside" in different locations. These include electronic devices maintained by agents on their persons, in their offices, and in their homes. The duty to preserve may extend to relevant information on any or all of these. This makes it essential for agents to know where their ESI resides and to establish procedures to impose an effective litigation hold.  Second, relevant ESI may be in the "possession" of vendors. Agents should enter into contractual relationships with vendors which, among other things, recognize the duty to preserve.
 
A failure to preserve may have severe consequences. That failure may lead to so-called "spoliation" of evidence. Spoliation encompasses the destruction or material alteration of information and can lead to, among other things, monetary sanctions against the offending party.
 
This brief article is not intended to be alarming, but it is intended to inform the reader of the need to establish a policy for the retention of records, which policy addresses ESI wherever it may reside and also addresses the preservation of ESI when appropriate.
 
 
Ron Hedges served as a United States Magistrate Judge in the District of New Jersey from 1986 to 2007.  He is a member of The Sedona Conference Advisory Board and participates in Sedona Working Groups on e-discovery and records, international e-discovery, and confidentiality/public access. Ron is also a member of the advisory boards of the Advanced E-Discovery and Corporate Counsel Institutes of Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches e-discovery and evidence as an adjunct faculty member. Among many other publications, he is the author of Ron is author of Discovery of Electronically Stored Information: Surveying the Legal Landscape (BNA: 2007) and a coauthor of Managing Discovery of Electronic Information: A Pocket Guide for Judges (Federal Judicial Center: 2007).  He now consults on e-discovery and records management issues.
Practical E&O Prevention Tips for Agents (Part 3)
By... Sheri Pontolillo
 
8.     Don't Jump Off The Bridge With Your Client!   
 
We are back in the market cycle where your clients will be screaming for higher returns.  Demanding more!  Repeating rumors of how Mr. SoAndSo is getting more returns than you are, implying they will change advisors unless you perform better.  This is the season where the snakes come out of the grass and create schemes guaranteeing higher returns.  They tout how safe the investment is, and make the claim "it's not a security - you don't need to tell your broker dealer."  Well, it will become a security when the SEC deems it a security and when that happens, you'll have "sold away" from your BD, be guilty of a regulatory violation and exposed to fines, penalties, lawsuits and harm to your reputation.  The traps range from blatant Ponzi schemes, note deals, poorly constructed private placements to shoddy limited partnerships run by general partners with little experience or worse, a colored past.  Hold your ground.  Be prepared to defend your position with your clients as to your investment philosophies based upon your years of experience and that of others far smarter than you, such as your third party money managers.  We all can lose business for the right reasons, and we should.  Sometimes the deal or customer you lose is not a loss at all.
 
9.     Too Good To Be True?  
 
Do your clients scream for products that give them better returns?  Are you tempted to offer products that pay greater commissions? The bulk of E&O claims (and therefore higher rates for all) come from products that seemed too good to be true, and were!  Vanishing premium policies.  Promissory notes.  Pay phone deals.  Product innovation is terrific and necessary, and it is the professional's responsibility to know all the moving parts of a product and sell them to the appropriate clients.  There are plenty of great products to sell without utilizing products on the fringe. Know that E&O safety is found nearest the double yellow line.
 
10.     Birds of a Feather Flock Together. 
 
Most professionals refer their clients to another professional from time to time.  Can you be sued for such a referral?  In short, yes you can. Unfortunately, most lawsuits today involve the "shotgun" effect, and anyone in the food chain can be named.  Will you ultimately have liability?  Probably not, unless you co-produced the business, received some form of compensation or otherwise participated subsequent to the referral.  However, if you are named, you must defend yourself.  Your defense will be prolonged if you referred your client to someone with a blemished history or reputation.  Do your own due diligence before such a recommendation.  The most successful con men look the part perfectly.
 
11.     How To Best Disclose Prior Claims. 
 
Church is for sinners, not for saints.  Likewise, most insurers are willing to accept applicants with prior claims.  Of course apps must be completed with utmost honesty and disclosure, and here are a couple of tips. Only disclose E&O claims, not employment related claims, commission disputes, other business related claims or claims typically covered under other forms of coverage (assuming the application does not specifically ask).  Describe how the claim happened, the circumstances giving rise to the claim, what you learned from the experience and what you have put into place to prevent a similar circumstance.  The more they know about the claim, the more likely they are to provide a competitive quote.
 
 
Sheri Pontolillo is CEO of E&O Pros (E&O Professional Risk Management & Insurance Services LLC), a national brokerage in Laguna Hills, CA that sells and administers group and individual E&O programs.  She has specialized in E&O insurance for 23 years, including life insurance and P&C insurance agents, and is the author of numerous industry articles, seminars and continuing education programs.
 
Keys to Avoiding E&O Claims:  Policy Renewal Letters
By... Britton D. Weimer, J.D. 
 
E&O litigation is an upside-down world.  In real life, you as the agent are encouraging the customer to purchase more complete (and expensive) coverages.  In E&O litigation, the customer is suddenly claiming that it was eager to purchase more complete coverages, but you as the agent were not interested in making the sale! 
 
To help peel away this aura of unreality, the attorney defending you in E&O litigation wants to point to correspondence between you and the customer, reinforcing that it was the customer's decision to select the limited (and less expensive) coverages ultimately contained in the policy.  Unfortunately, agents often miss a golden opportunity, renewal time, to document that the customer elected to save money by selecting incomplete coverages.
 
When the customer receives the renewal policy, the agent has a natural opening to remind the customer, in writing, that you stand ready to sell them more complete insurance.  You can send a friendly letter thanking the customer for its business, and asking the customer to (1) read the policy, (2) ensure it contains all the coverages the customer desires, (3) let you know if any coverages should be added, and (4) let you know if anything is unclear or confusing.
 
This letter may well lead to additional sales.  And it will definitely be a gold mine for your defense attorney, should you become a defendant in an E&O claim.  In short:
 
"Send customers a standard letter, at time of policy issuance or renewal, asking them to read the policy and let you know if anything is unclear, or if they would like more complete coverages."
 
This preempts claims that the customer wanted additional coverages, but did not understand the policy.
 
 
Britton Weimer is an insurance-defense attorney in Minneapolis, and has defended insurance agents and brokers in E&O litigation for over 20 years.  He is the co-author of the new Thomson-West treatise, The Law of Commercial Insurance Agents and Brokers. 
E&O Coverage Tip:  General Thoughts on Your E&O Application
By... Raymond Wahl
 
I've met very few people, actually none that I can think of, who like to fill out insurance applications. Doesn't much matter what type of app it is, they all can be a pain. That includes the application for your own E&O insurance as well. I've tried to keep this in mind when creating apps over the years - I try to stay only with questions that really matter to an underwriter.
 
What you need to keep reminding yourself as you complete your own application is that the information you are providing will be used by the underwriter to evaluate your operation and to determine if he or she wants to offer a quotation and, if so, at what price and on what terms. Keep this in mind if you are tempted to rush through the application or to cut corners. Answer all the questions to the best of your ability. And be neat - there's nothing a busy underwriter hates more than a half completed application that can't be read.
 
Remember, too, unless your underwriter personally knows you or visits your office, that application on his desk is the only tangible indication of how well you run your business. A sloppy, half completed application doesn't present a very professional image of you or your operation. And the underwriter is, after all, trying to gauge your level of professionalism as a means of evaluating the likelihood of an E&O claim against you.
 
One final thought - while it's been fairly easy to obtain E&O insurance over the past few years, the market is likely to harden considerably over the next 12 months, so the application that is presented to the underwriter will become more critical. Poorly completed apps will be relegated to the bottom of the stack.
 
 
Raymond Wahl has been an insurance underwriter for over 38 years.  He specializes in professional liability, including in insurance agents and brokers E&O.  He is a past president and trustee of PLUS.
Preliminary Guiding Rules for Sellers (Part 2)
By... Daniel B. Price

Last month we presented the first three of our top ten rules for sellers of insurance agencies - 1. Seek Professional Guidance, 2. Commit to the Process, and 3. Understand the Value of Your Agency.  This month we continue our discussion of guiding rules for sellers who seek to monetize their years of hard work and maximize net proceeds.
 
1)     Be Proactive.
 
Do not wait for buyers to come to you. Be proactive and approach buyers under your terms and your timeframes. This will allow you to control the process and most likely result in the most opportunities and the highest value. Create competition but be careful not to create an obvious bidding war.  Competition creates leverage and leverage creates value; however, bidding wars often have an inverse effect on value as buyers are highly suspicious of sellers who are driven purely by price.  Being reactive, where you allow the buyer to approach you and control the process will generally result in less-than-optimal results.
 
2)     Present Your Agency Properly
 
Never just hand over your financial statements to a prospective buyer. While such a request may seem innocent, if you grant it you will start off behind the eight ball, and catching up is hard to do. Presenting your agency properly means preparing a Confidential Memorandum. This document includes a narrative description of the business, historical and pro forma financials, other organizational, financial and operational data and the intangible aspects that are critical for a buyer to understand and evaluate. How you present your agency often makes the difference between an initial low offer versus an attractive offer right from the start.
 
3)     Understand the Details. 
 
Too often a seller will just focus on price but price is just one aspect of a transaction. The devils are in the details.  You need to understand not only the total price but how much is up front and the terms of any earn out.  Do you have to grow your bottom line 20 percent per year for three years to achieve your earn out?  How much control will you have to make day-to-day decisions?  With what overhead allocation costs will your firm be charged?  What are the terms of your non-compete and non-solicitation agreements?  What are the terms of your escrow agreement?  How about the representations and warranties you'll be asked make?  The list goes on and on. The bottom line is that price is the easy part of the deal. The details often make the difference between a good and a great deal!
 
Taking the time upfront to properly position your agency and then proactively presenting it to select market participants lets buyers know that the seller is fully committed to the process and not simply undertaking a cursory level fishing expedition.  Proactively approaching a transaction also increases the seller's leverage in negotiations and often allows for the seller to quickly and efficiently evaluate offers.      
   
 
Daniel B. Price is Vice President of Hales & Company, Inc.
Autopilot for Success
By... Robert Stuberg

One of my passions in life is boating.  I live on a beautiful lake that is directly connected to Lake Michigan and my office looks out on the water.  My home was built in 1937 by one of the leading businessmen in the area, and it's an example of some of the finest craftsmanship from that era.
 
I recently purchased a new boat and installed a high tech boatlift to make my boating even more enjoyable.  Since my office overlooks the lake and the boat, I opted for a remote controlled boatlift that allows me to lower my boat into the water from my office when it's time for a cruise.  I simply press the button and by the time I walk to the boat everything is ready for cruising.
 
The person who installed the boatlift asked me how I was able to create such a perfect setup for myself.  He told me that my home was one of the nicest estates he has ever seen, and he reminded me that I am on the international waterway.  He said:  "You can literally go anywhere in the world by boat from your backyard."
 
I decided to invite my boatlift installer friend for a ride on the boat so I'd have a chance to get to know him better.  As we cruised through the channel to Lake Michigan, I asked him about his goals in life.  While he clearly had some vague notions of things he wanted to do, he had no real "Clarity of Intent" as I like to call it.  He was obviously a very talented individual but it was apparent that he wasn't fully engaging all of his talents and abilities.
 
I decided to use the boat and its electronics to get him to think about how he might develop some real plans for his life.
 
Any serious boater will have a few pieces of critical equipment on his boat.  One of the most important pieces of equipment is a GPS or Global Positioning System.  Many people now have this in their cars as well.  Personally, I wouldn't own a car without one because I'm willing to admit that I don't have the greatest sense of direction.
 
The wonderful thing about a GPS is that it will tell you where you are on the planet.  You just look on the screen and you see a picture of where you are in relation to everything else.
 
This got my new friend and me talking about where he was in his life and how he got there.  On a good GPS, there is something that is often called "Tracks" which show the trail that has brought you to your present point.  In my life, I use a journal to provide my "Tracks."  I believe that if life is worth living then it's also work recording.  And by reviewing your "Tracks" you can learn a lot about yourself as well as life in general.  My new friend shared all sorts of "Tracks" that had made up his life so far.
 
Another great feature on a good GPS is something called "Waypoints" which are like targets or destinations that you want to reach.  I think of these like goals and subgoals.  In my life, I use LifeOrganizer to develop my goals and subgoals.  It's a wonderful tool that allows me to make detailed plans for the future.  Of course, you don't need anything very complicated when it comes to establishing goals, just a blank sheet of paper and a pencil along with some time to think about what you want are all that's needed.  However, it's great to have excellent systems such as LifeOrganizer to make goal setting a serious and ongoing priority.  My friend was so sincere about his desire to establish some new "Waypoints" that I decided to set him up with LifeOrganizer to put his plan together.
 
Our conversation was going so well that I also decided to show my new friend my latest electronic piece of navigation equipment which is my autopilot.  It's certainly fun to steer your course to various waypoints and destinations while boating but sometimes it's even more fun to let the boat steer itself.  Once you've programmed in a "Waypoint" or perhaps a series of "Waypoints" which become a complete "Route," you can literally let the boat steer itself.
 
I actually believe that this is what many people are doing in their lives -- i.e., they have opted to use their autopilot.  Unfortunately, for many people, they have never taken the time to chart in a course of where it is they really want to go.  Instead, their autopilot system just has them pointed in the general direction that they have been traveling.  If they like that direction, then life is good.  But what if you want to improve your direction?  You need to chart a new course.
 
Maybe now would be a good time to think about the "Waypoints" and the "Route" you have plugged into your autopilot system.  If you are not heading where it is that you really want to go, it's time to change your course.  You received absolutely free at birth the most amazing autopilot system every designed.  It's called the human mind.  The only challenge is that most people take it completely for granted.
 
I promise you that your mind has all the power you will ever need to take you where you want to go.  All you have to do is use it properly by programming it with the "Waypoints" that you want to visit.  Why not start on a new journey today by programming your mind with a "Route" that you really want to travel?
 
If you are not now living the life you most want to live, the chances are excellent that your autopilot system needs some attention.  Why not take a minute and program in a new course?  Feel free to try my programming system which I mentioned a moment ago.  It's called LifeOrganizer, and it may be just what you need to program in a new course for your life.
 
 
Robert Stuberg is one of the world's leading authorities on personal and professional success. He is most widely recognized for his role as Founder and Chairman of Success.com, the premier source for personal and professional development products and services worldwide. Robert is an internationally acclaimed author, speaker, coach, entrepreneur, and consultant.
Safety -- Showing Emotion Can Mean You Care
By... Paul Halter, CPCU, CIC, CRM
 
Why do you get upset when an employee has an accident? Is it because your premium might increase; or is it because you have an injured employee? Both are valid reasons for being upset. So, how do we communicate to employees the importance of a safe work environment where employees are free from injury while at work?
 
Do you let employees know that you are upset? It is important to simply be honest with employees and state that you are upset whenever anyone is injured for any reason. You take great care to offer a safe work environment and for someone to get hurt because of horse play or not paying attention is troubling to you. Let your employees know that you care about their safety and let your employees know that it matters to you. Send regular communications to your employees to communicate that you care about safety and don't be afraid to emphasize that you care when someone gets injured.
 
Recently, we had a customer that lost sleep over an incident that definitely could have been avoided. We advised our customer to post a communication that verbalized the anger the owner felt over the horseplay that could have resulted in injury to the employee and damage to company property. The employee response to the communication was overwhelmingly positive resulting in the employee involved in the incident conducting a safety meeting to help avoid future similar occurrences. Employees communicated to the owner their appreciation for the strong emotion regarding their safety.
 
By positively communicating to your employees about Safety on a regular basis, you may not need to lose sleep over an unnecessary accident and you may reduce your worksite injuries. You certainly will let your employees know that Safety is of the utmost importance to you.
 
 
Paul Halter is Executive Vice President with The Resourcing Solutions Group.
Methods Help you Hire Super-Productive Agents (Part 1)
By... Michael Mercer, Ph.D.
 
Pre-employment tests plus other applicant evaluation methods help you select Agent job applicants who will turn into highly productive, super-profitable Agents.  These applicant evaluation methods include pre-employment tests, intriguing bio-data, vague job interview questions, plus colorful role-plays.
 
Hiring fantastic Agents is crucial.  As Henry Ford wisely observed, "Until someone sells something, no one else has a job."  An insurance agency with monstrously effective Agents grows and prospers.  However, an agency with with lousy Agents withers away.
 
So, how can agency owners and managers hire highly productive Agents?  There are four great methods you can start using immediately.  This issue will examine the first one:
 
1st METHOD = PRE-EMPLOYMENT TESTS - CUSTOM-TAILORED FOR AGENT HIRING
 
Use two pre-employment tests to evaluate applicants for Agent jobs:
1.  Behavior or personality test
2.  Mental abilities or intelligence-related test
 
The behavior or personality test needs to forecast the applicant's behavior in three key areas:
a.  Interpersonal Skills -  e.g., friendliness, assertiveness, and teamwork
b.  Personality Traits - e.g., poise under pressure, optimism, and action-orientation
c.  Motivations - e.g., if the sales applicant feels driven to earn incentive pay
 
The mental abilities or intelligence tests forecast if the applicant has enough "brainpower" to
+  learn - how to do your company's sales job
+  think correctly - to solve problems encountered while selling your products
 
Importantly, before using personality and intelligence tests, you must conduct a benchmarking study.  This custom-tailoring tells you specific test scores of your company's best Agents. 
 
Then, when you test applicants, you quickly, easily and objectively can
>  favor job applicants who got same test scores as your company's best Agents
>  weed out applicants whose test scores differed from your best Agents' scores
 
Hundreds of pre-employment test benchmarking studies I have done - for many companies - often result in this "benchmark" pattern of test scores gotten by the highest producing sales reps:
>  high scores on Friendliness
>  average scores on Assertiveness
>  average scores on Following Rules & Procedures
>  high scores on Poised Under Pressure
>  high scores on Optimism
>  high scores on Money Motivation
>  average scores on Intelligence or mental abilities
 
As such, pre-employment tests enable you to objectively - not subjectively - know if an Agent applicant has crucial personality and intelligence qualities similar to your agency's best.  That is the reason pre-employment tests tremendously help owners and managers hire highly productive Agents.
 
Importantly, using pre-employment tests removes the tendency of owners and managers to like applicants who con them through (a) charm in interviews or (b) semi-pseudo-relevant work histories.  Pre-employment tests helps you avoid getting fooled again by a smooth talking sales applicant.
 
Michael Mercer, Ph.D. .  Dr. Mercer is a business psychologist specializing in pre-employment testing and hiring the best.  Dr. Mercer created the 3 Forecaster™ Tests - pre-employment tests that many companies use to predict job applicants' potential for success.  The 5 books he wrote include Hire the Best - & Avoid the Rest™ (in 13th printing).  
Position Yourself as a Leader
By... Mark Hunter
 
It's been said that to be a successful agent, not only do your listening skills have to be great, but your closing skills have to be even better.  However, I believe that although these skills are helpful, they are not essential.  In my opinion, to be a top-performing agent over the long-term, you must be a great leader.   Leadership is a fundamental character trait of the most successful salespeople.  Although we've all known agents who have had stellar years based on the luck of a few great clients, those with sustained, long-term success always exhibit great leadership skills.
 
What is a leader?  Leaders are people who empower others to do seemingly impossible things, whether individually or as part of a group.  They help people see issues and opportunities they would not normally see themselves.  Most importantly, they instill a level of confidence in people that make them pro-active in dealing with situations they otherwise would be hesitant to handle. 
 
These leadership traits are essential for top-performing agents to exhibit in their jobs on a daily basis.  By demonstrating these qualities to your prospects and clients, you are communicating your value to them.  They will see that you have their best interest in mind and are not out to just "make a sale."  You will create the confidence they need to desire to do business with you.  These character traits are what drive a 25 year-old just starting out to see the importance of buying life insurance as both an investment tool and a "peace of mind" policy.  Similarly, these same qualities can give the assurance a client needs to trust your financial planning strategies.   Agents who see themselves as leaders are far more likely to provide the client with the services necessary to help them achieve their long-term goals.  
 
Top-performing agents understand how positioning themselves as a leader can further their success.  Since the best way to sell a policy is to an existing customer, it only makes sense to display leadership with all of your clients.  In addition, because the best new clients often come from referrals, your existing customers will be much more apt to confidently recommend you.  In my past work with agents, I've observed that agents who behave as leaders are less likely to have to use multiple closing techniques to secure a policy.  I firmly believe that the higher the degree of leadership in an agent, the less time spent on closing the policy.  Similarly, the opposite holds true, and the result is a loss of valuable time.
 
Over the years, I have come to believe that "sales is leadership and leadership is sales."  The more salespeople I work with, the more I confirm the validity of this statement.  Although it's important to work on both your ability to listen and your closing techniques, fostering your leadership skills is far more essential.  Begin today to set yourself apart from the competition by positioning yourself as a leader to your employees, your clients, and your prospects.
 
 
Mark Hunter, "The Sales Hunter," is a sales expert who speaks to thousands each year on how to increase their sales profitability.  



 
Event-Triggered Marketing
By... Marvin Zalevsky 

Event-triggered marketing is simply timing the marketing message to the needs of your prospects.  This timing is usually based on the occurrence of some event or milestone, hence the name.  And this event could be anything that fits with the product or service that you are selling.  In this article, we will delve into the art and science behind timing your marketing message.
 
Timing (Really) Is Everything. 
 
We have all heard the old saying that timing is everything.  And some of us have probably even heard about the 4P's of marketing (Price, Product, Place, Promotion).  What happens when you combine the two?  You add the most important element to the mix - timing the offer.  It does no good whatsoever to show up at your prospect's door selling insurance policies if they just renewed yesterday.  You should have been at that customer's door 30-60 days prior - then again 20-45 days prior - then again...until the customer renewed their policy WITH YOU! 
 
Prospecting the Old Way Just Won't Work
 
 If you are still thinking that you can just get a list of the local businesses and start making some calls, then you are probably still driving to work in a Model T.  You just can't compete in today's connected, hi-speed world if you don't leverage information.  And information about an event that directly impacts the timing of your marketing message is the "holy grail".  If you can gain some insight about your prospect that would let you know how to properly time your message so that the prospect is 10 TIMES as likely to buy your product or service, how could you ignore it?  The question is where to gain this insight?
 
Start With What You Know. 
 
If you sell commercial insurance policies to businesses, it would be EXTREMELY helpful to know when those businesses policies were expiring.  Then you could time your message to match their decision cycle and help create a product that serves their needs at a time when switching is very painless.  Did you know that 70% of all businesses renew all of their business insurance when their worker's compensation policy expires?  This worker's compensation policy expiration date is a great trigger event for your marketing message.  Knowing this date, you could time your message to have the greatest impact...and generate much more premium as a result.  If you sell personal lines insurance, look for events in your prospect's lives that could trigger an opportunity for your marketing message.  These events could be the sale of a home or the purchase of an automobile.   It only takes an understanding of your product/services and an understanding of events that would impact the timing of your message to create an amazing process that can yield results that no ordinary prospecting could ever match.
 
 
Marvin Zalevsky, ClearData International, Inc.  ClearData is one of the nation's leading providers of automated prospect management solutions.
Some Brief Thoughts on Social Networking Issues
By...Howard Tullman
 
Social networks, for better or worse, are in the process of changing branding, marketing, interpersonal and B2B communication and even the nature of what we used to think of as conversations around the water cooler at the office. Increasingly, we will all tell our stories thru our customers rather than to our customers. I recently spoke to a group of direct marketers and I included 10 critical considerations to keep in mind as we all approach this new and very challenging area:
  1. Your Brand No Longer Belongs Just to You.
  2. If You Don't Control the Conversation, Someone Else Will.
  3. You Can't Control the Conversation, but You Must Be A Constant and Authentic Part of It.
  4. A Little Bad Pushes Out Tons of Good.
  5. Talking to Yourself is Like Wetting Your Pants in a Dark Suit. (You Get a Warm Feeling, but No One Notices)
  6. Talking to Existing Customers is Much More Valuable than Trying to Solicit New Ones. 
  7. Deeper Connection is Always Better than Wider. (Commitment and Spend.)
  8. Value Exchange is Critical for Engagement.
  9. Additive and Empowering - not Interruptive and Trivial.
  10. Build Up from Bite Sized...Start Small, then Scale.
 
Howard Tullman is President/CEO of Flashpoint Academy, Chicago's newest digital media arts college. www.flashpointacademy.com 
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