Cyberspace and The Internet - Are you ready?
If everyone in your office has a terminal but you, skip this article. It might scare you and it certainly won't interest you.
But if you are curious about the world of cyberspace and how the Internet can be used in the business of insurance agencies -- read on.
Approximately 20,000,000 people scan the World Wide Web of the Internet.
THE WORLD WIDE WEB DISPLAYS INFORMATION IN FULL MULTI-MEDIA FORMATS. YOU CAN SEND AND RECEIVE TEXT, GRAPHICS, SOUND, PHOTOS AND EVEN MOVIES. ALL YOU NEED IS A GATEWAY (LIKE PRODIGY, AMERICA ONLINE OR COMPUSERVE) OR A WEB BROWSER (LIKE MOSAIC) TO ACCESS THE WWW.
The reason that number is an approximation is that the Internet is a true anarchy. No one owns it. No one runs it. No one controls it. And the way it has grown, everyone in the know understands that the Internet would be more difficult to regulate than marijuana. Our government is worried about Pornography on the Net and are taking steps to identify and locate abusers of this communications medium. It is possible to track and identify most users (unless they register with one of the anonymous servers).
SERVERS - INTERNET SERVICES ARE BASED ON SERVERS, WHO PROVIDE INFORMATION TO THE WEB, AND CLIENTS, WHO READ THE INFORMATION. A SERVER CAN BE ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD (IT SIMPLY DOESN'T MATTER WHERE) AND A REQUEST FOR INFORMATION WILL ACCESS IT AS QUICKLY AS OPENING A BOOK OR DIALING A TELEPHONE. THE INTERNET ITSELF IS THE MEDIUM THAT CARRIES INFORMATION TO AND FROM SERVERS AND CLIENTS.
But as fast as the government cracks down on one server, 20 others are established. If morality and politics requires the government to pursue these "sickos" they will find that this challenge will make the war on drugs look like a holdup at a candy store. But what has this to do with business applications?
The Internet was originally used as a vehicle for exchanging information by intellectuals at universities all over the world. But normal people started corresponding over the Net. Then some interest groups started and, as with all hobbies, people started buying, selling and trading over the Net. Eventually, professionals entered the scene and began dealing within the interest groups as a career.
Suddenly a whole new world opened up. Companies all over the world assumed that establishing a Homepage on the Net provides them access to 20,000,000 customers. That's true -- to a degree. How would you like to offer car insurance and get responses from Rome, N.Y. AND Rome, Italy? It's easy to understand why some insurance product sales methods would prove useless on the WWW. But -- other products and markets may be exactly what the doctor ordered (to give a booster shot to your marketing and sales efforts).
Here are some examples of uses you could have for cyberspace today:
1. E-Mail - Once you are hooked into the Web, you automatically have an E-Mail address, accessible at virtually no cost, to anyone in the world 24 hours a day with guaranteed delivery. Our E-Mail address is on our letterhead and our business cards. Many of our clients use this vehicle to reach us when time zones cause a problem and they would like to contact us as quickly as possible. When I turn on my computer, it tells me I have mail waiting. Many agents are already using E-Mail to contact their underwriters. Imagine the marketing punch of permitting your clients to contact you without printing a letter, typing an envelope, sticking a 32 cent stamp on it and waiting two days to a week (hoping that the Snail-Mail) will even reach you!
SNAIL-MAIL - THE TERM USED BY NET SURFERS SYNONYMOUS WITH THE UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE.
E-mail can be sent on your customer's schedule and can be responded on your schedule with no delivery delays. This, alone, is an excellent reason for getting on the Internet.
2. Develop a HOMEPAGE
HOMEPAGE - YOUR OWN PRIVATE AREA ON THE INTERNET. A HOMEPAGE PERMITS ANY CLIENT (SEE SERVER DEFINITION - ABOVE) TO ACCESS ANY INFORMATION ABOUT YOU OR YOUR SERVICES THAT YOU CHOOSE TO MAKE AVAILABLE. HOMEPAGES ARE ACCESSED THROUGH THE USE OF A WWW ADDRESS.
Particularly valuable for generic products that can be sold to and purchased by everyone, everywhere (i.e. life insurance), you can describe your product and offer free quotations with no salesperson, no sales pressure, at the customer's convenience.
Also valuable for Target Markets and Program Markets, your Homepage can provide Hyperlinks that provide substantial information, applications, and even video (with sound) for specific industry, or program customers.
HYPERLINK - USUALLY A WORD OR ICON IN YOUR HOMEPAGE THAT, WHEN HIGHLIGHTED OR CLICKED ON WITH A MOUSE, LEADS THE CLIENT INTO ANOTHER PAGE THAT IS SPECIFIC TO THE TOPIC CHOSEN.
3. Host a Bulletin Board - If you become a coverage expert or insurance GURU on the Net, you're likely to be asked questions that will lead potential customers in your direction. But be prepared to answer inane questions as well. It is better to direct a Board for a certain type of policy, coverage or for a specific industry with which you are well versed.
BULLETIN BOARD - PERMITS CLIENTS TO POST NOTES TO WHICH YOU OR ANYONE ELSE CAN RESPOND. MONITORED BULLETIN BOARDS EXIST ON MANY SUBJECTS WITH AN EXPERT IN ATTENDANCE. FOR INSTANCE RICHARD BLOCK HOSTS A BULLETIN BOARD ON TAXES.
Whether you are ready for the investment of a Board or Homepage (they can cost a few thousand dollars to set up and a few hundred dollars per month to maintain) or not, get involved in hyperspace business. An account with Prodigy, AOL or Compuserve can cost as little as $10/mo and they give you immediate E-Mail and Internet access. If you use your E-Mail address in your business you will soon find out how many of your customers are also already traveling the Information Highway.
And drop me a line: Al Diamond - address is TKHH10A@Prodigy.com