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March 02 2016 | Deb Smallwood

Having just come through the Super Tuesday's Presidential Primaries and all of the associated media coverage, it made me reflect on how candidates interact with their constituencies and the lessons insurers can learn.

I have been a New Hampshire resident all of my life, and one of the special privileges of living in this great state is being able to vote in the First-In-The-Nation Presidential Primary every four years. Of course, with that privilege comes some pretty aggressive campaigning. Robocall after robocall, commercial after commercial, canvasser after canvasser ... New Hampshire was inundated with candidates for several months until voting day came.

Our primary is over and the rest of the country is having its chance to weigh in and experience the campaigning. I can’t help but apply the insights I got as a potential voter to the insurance industry, and more specifically, to customer demands and business practices.

primariesFirst, it became clear that 20th century campaign tactics won’t win elections in the 21st century. The rest of the nation saw how New Hampshire voted overwhelmingly for outsiders in both parties. Neither Sanders nor Trump has strong party affiliations with the Democrats or Republicans; they are considered outsiders. Voting party line is a thing of the past, and in New Hampshire, where voters can register as independents and vote in either party’s primary, this is especially true. The same principle is true for insurance – 20th century tactics won’t work in the 21st century for our industry either. Customers have more information, more choices, and higher expectations than ever. Just like a New Hampshire voter, every potential insurance customer is an “independent” and can pick any P&C carrier that suits their unique needs and then leave them just as quickly if a better opportunity comes along. What keeps a customer loyal is new ideas, innovative approaches, and efficient and effective service. Couldn’t the same be said for how voters respond to our political candidates?

Next, I witnessed some interesting data and analytics gathering during the campaign. My land-line phone rang off the hook for months with robocallers asking my opinions on various policy issues or my opinions on one candidate or another. However, I found it odd that many candidates did not ask basic demographic questions – how many phones I had, how many people lived in my house, how many people were of voting age – the basic demographic information that would have been helpful in targeting the message. For instance, most people no longer have land-lines in their homes. The candidates that used alternative forms of campaigning tended to do better in New Hampshire. The same is true for insurers: gathering data is great, but it’s the savvy application of the collected data that differentiates an insurer from the rest of the pack. New technologies are making it easier than ever for insurers to use data to their advantage. Now it’s time to embrace those technologies.

Finally, campaign spending. Isn’t it interesting that the two candidates who won New Hampshire are funding their campaigns in non-traditional ways? It was clear that regardless of whether they were self-funded or funded by individual contributors, these candidates made strategic investment decisions to win the election. Insurers also need to look at their technology investments through a new lens, focusing on the technologies that will provide the most return or improve the most services.

Insurers should take a moment to imagine themselves as candidates in a race. Their goal is to be the best option to the greatest number of people. Then they will win. This means using innovative approaches, gathering and utilizing data for advantage, and making sound strategic investments. As in this Presidential election, anything seems to be on the table. And the sky is the limit in terms of new ways to reach the customer of today.