In the insurance industry, sometimes we need a carrot; sometimes we need a stick; sometimes we need a ridiculously strong cup of coffee (as advertised above) to wake us (the you know what) up.

We have been living and competing in an online world for a long time now. Like it or not, your future success is now largely dependent upon what others learn, or don’t learn, about you online and your level of engagement in that online world.

It used to be said that when you meet someone new, they formed an opinion of you in less than 10 seconds. Now, based on meeting the “online you,” that opinion is formed before you even meet face-to-face. The typical “online you” is that of a stereotypical insurance salesman. And how exciting is it to have them invited to the big party?!

Your online presence will make or break your chances of success.

When you establish a strong online presence, the resulting personal brand makes it clear how you are able to bring meaningful improvement to the businesses of your clients. You will have them excited to meet with you and to see what you might do for them.

However, when your online presence is non-existent, or the same as your competitors, you become an easy person to check off the invite list.

As an industry, our online presence and level of engagement sucks! I could tell countless anecdotal stories to support that opinion, but it is also backed up by hard numbers. LinkedIn has been providing the data to validate our “suckiness” via their Social Selling Index (SSI). It’s like being forced to look in the mirror after watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

And, it is that suckiness that is leaving the insurance industry ripe for disruption. While you have either convinced yourself that “this Internet/social thing will NEVER catch on” or, more likely, have simply forgotten the “social” aspect of social media, other competitors are engaging your prospects and customers and showing them a better way.

If you’re not familiar with it, go and check out your personal score real quick, but come right back!

The LinkedIn SSI measures each of us in four categories and awards up to 25 points in each for a perfect score of 100. Did you notice the industry-wide score of the insurance industry? A pathetic 13!

Let’s look at how the industry scores in each of the four categories.

Establish your professional brand

Here’s how LinkedIn describes this category: “Complete your profile with the customer in mind. Become a thought leader by publishing meaningful posts.” This is our best performing category with an industry-wide score of 6.1 out of 25.

Don’t even worry about the publishing yet, simply go and complete your profile (LinkedIn tells you what to do), and you will move ahead of most of your competition. And, please use a professional-looking profile picture. Pictures with others obviously cropped out, you driving in the car, or you in your swimsuit (seen them all and even worse) are better left for other forums.

Build relationships

“Strengthen your network by finding and establishing trust with decision makers”. Our industry-wide score? 3.69!

I hear producers and agency owners pontificate all the time that “this is a relationship business.” First of all, it’s not anymore; it’s a results business that requires a strong relationship. Secondly, your opportunity to establish and build a relationship based on results now starts online.

Find the right people

“Identify better prospects in less time using efficient search and research tools.” Our collective score of 1.89 out of 25 tells me you must have an overflowing pipeline of prospects, right? I believe that as much as I believe we currently have an abundance of quality presidential candidates from which to choose.

I know that putting quality prospects in your pipeline is one of your biggest challenges; and I also know you’re missing one of your biggest opportunities by not being an active participant in social media.

Engage with insights

“Discover and share discover-worthy updates to create and grow relationships.” We should be embarrassed by our collective score of .91 out of 25. You did see the “.” in front of the “91” didn’t you?

By definition, YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO CREATE ANYTHING to move up in this category, all you have to do is interact with what others have created. It’s like simply not staring at the floor at the party!

It truly is time to wake the (you know what) up and participate at the party! This industry is dooming itself by ignoring a platform being leveraged by the rest of the business world. Given some of the topics I write about, I get to experience this firsthand. I have had several posts that LinkedIn has featured in other categories outside of insurance: Marketing, VC & Private Equity, Social Media Marketing, Best Advice and Editor’s Picks to name a few. Readers from these other categories engage in conversation via comments, share the articles, and even simply “like” articles at an exponentially higher rate than those in our industry.

Don’t justify your non-participation based on the suckiness of the rest of the industry; you’re not trying to get the attention of, or sell to, people in your industry anyway. Let the rest of the industry’s non-participation be to your advantage. But recognize where your target audience is researching and engaging in conversations and let that be your motivation.

Curious what scores other people or industries have? Google “LinkedIn Social Selling Index” and then select Images. There are plenty of people willingly sharing their Index reports.

Our job is getting harder every day, and the lines of the industry have become blurred at best. You have to give yourself every chance to establish your relevance and stand out from the crowd. The good news, I guess, is that your peer group has yet to wake up. I suggest setting that alarm clock early, grabbing a cup of “extra strong coffee” (as offered above), and building a presence and competitive advantage for yourself. If you won’t, you may as well roll back over and continue with your online slumber.