Having worked in the insurance industry for my entire career as an insurer, an insurance business consultant and for insurance software providers, I have long been a fan of the ACORD LOMA trade show.  I’ve been in the industry long enough to remember the time before the two independent shows combined into the single event that we all know today.  I am also a supporter of the two organizations, ACORD and LOMA, and the work that they do. 

However, the value that ACORD LOMA used to represent seems to have been lost. It is now a shadow of its past glory, in my opinion (which appears to be shared by several others).  Just take a look at the mix of people that are attending the show.  About 30% of the attendees are from insurers and 70% are from vendors (counted as anyone who is not an insurer).  This is no longer an insurance show, it’s a vendor fest. 

Insurers don’t see the value in sending their people to trade shows, which has become apparent by the past few shows’ attendance levels.  After the financial crisis, everyone is budget conscious and often they don’t want to appear frivolous, sending their people to events that can be interpreted as a boondoggle.  Many are questioning what content they’re gaining from attending.  In the past, trade shows and conferences were no doubt a great way for insurers to keep up on trends, see what different insurers are doing in the marketplace and research technology offerings in the marketplace, plus network with colleagues.   This is no longer the case: people don’t need to go to trade shows to accomplish this, they can do mostly all of this on the Internet. 

Want a policy admin system?  Several top analysts review them in detail every year.  Want to see a demo?  There are canned demos on many vendors’ sites and all vendors are willing to do a web-conference with you, or will even stop by your office to do a custom demo.  Want to see how insurers are using a technology?   I get weekly invitations for public webinars that include analysts, press, insurers and vendors talking about any subject you want to discuss.  The web-conferences are also all recorded and available on line anytime you want to watch them, just in case you miss the live webcast.  Trade shows as a vehicle to research solutions has become almost a dead end.

As a vendor, we received very little sales/customer-facing value from ACORD LOMA this year – a trend that has been repeating for several years.  Remember that 70/30 vendor/insurer split?  The poor insurers must be inundated with calls and e-mails to visit participating vendors.   So, did we get any value from the trade show?  Actually, yes, but it was not from lead generation.  There are three value areas we can point to:

  • Analysts – we spent significant time with top industry analysts to brief them on our latest offerings, development schedules and lay a foundation for working with them over the next year;
  • Press – similar to the analysts, we were able to spend time with top journalists in the industry to get word out on what we’re working on and to see how we could help them as they cover the industry;
  • Better than a high school reunion – As long as Pega is willing to send me to ACORD LOMA I will go for no other reason than it gives me a chance to bump into countless people I’ve worked with over the years.  Our industry is a small community and ACORD LOMA is like our class reunion. 

Is ACORD LOMA truly DOA?  Maybe not.  But it’s definitely on life support.  Major sponsors have dropped out or are downsizing their investment in the show.  One large vendor that’s usually a mainstay on the show floor with a very large booth took a different approach this year (showing their lack of confidence in the floor’s ability to add value).  They did not have a traditional booth, instead opting for a couple of meeting rooms in the back of the hall.  Several other major software vendors known for their ACORD LOMA presence scaled back their investments, too.  (I wanted to list the companies who have dropped from the show or have down scaled their investment but my editorial staff won out – I’m sure you all know which ones I’m talking about!)  Which leads many to wonder: Is ACORD LOMA salvageable? 

Some suggestions:

  • Combine with IASA – taking an informal straw poll over the past couple of years it’s become pretty apparent that IASA is the more relevant insurance trade show today.  The missions of ACORD, LOMA and IASA are pretty complementary with little overlap (if any).  Combining the three shows would give everyone (insurers, vendors, analysts and press) the most value for the dollar.
  • Stop inviting insurers – as mentioned before, the current value to ACORD LOMA from a vendor perspective was having access to the analysts and press in one location (not to mention the reunion factor).  If ACORD LOMA embraced its current identity as a vendor fest then we could dispense with the expense of sponsorship and expensive booths and just get down to core vendor/analyst/press business.  We could all then eliminate having to justify the market dollars spent that we’re all going through each year.  While this recommendation may be tongue in cheek, this is where the show is heading.
  • Attract more mid-level management – before they broke the show into the executive vs. general tracks, ACORD LOMA attracted a broad spectrum of participants that mixed as part of the general audience.  Going forward, attracting more leadership that may not be part of the executive track is required.  Showing these managers the value of the show will result in increased attendance
  • Improve show marketing – ACORD LOMA has survived up until this point on its own natural momentum.  Going forward, both organizations will need to be more proactive in marketing the show and drawing audience.  This includes not only members of their individual organizations, but also non-members. The show should be a proof point to non-members of why membership is in the self-interest of the insurer.   Vendors are able to drive large attendance to their individual shows, which include both clients and prospects, so I would suggest that ACORD LOMA spend more time with some of their vendors to learn some best practices on attracting trade show attendees. (just to avoid repeating “some”) 

If ACORD LOMA finally disappears – and unless they make dramatic changes it will vanish – I am going to miss it.  Will you?