Driving Demand by Creating a Customer Community through Events

Overview: Learn how to improve relationships with your customers even in the new climate of the pandemic with Lianna Kinard VP of Marketing at The Buckner Company.

About the speaker: Lianna joined Buckner in 2016 as Vice President of Marketing. In her role, she manages the firm’s brand communications and marketing strategy for five offices. Lianna earned a B.A. in Marketing from the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah and is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in General Management from Harvard University.


Lianna is from Honolulu, Hawaii and was a member of the National Scholastic Surfing team in high school. She enjoys traveling with her children.

Host: Hello, Lianna Thank you for letting me have this conversation with you for just a few minutes today, would you let the folks that are listening here, get to know you just a little bit who you are that kind of stuff.  

Lianna: So Lianna Kinard, Vice President of Marketing for the Buckner Company, we are a local insurance firm here in Salt Lake City, Utah, but we have several offices scattered throughout the West. And usually when I tell people, I’m in the insurance industry, it clears the room. Nobody thinks insurance is fine or sexy. And so, I hope some of the things we share today will help everybody,  

Host: I think insurance is very sexy. It’s one of the sexiest industries. So with all of that natural allure and whatnot, and you’re scattered throughout the West, what are some ways that you are engaging with your prospects and clients and, and different folks that you need to work with?  

Lianna: So, one thing that our firm has done exceptionally well is we have a component to our firm called Buckner Connect. It’s something that we had asked clients about and said, What would bring value, doing business with us what we do value, we know we do insurance, was there anything that we could do, and the number one thing that came back over and over was relationships. We know all our clients, but they didn’t know each other.  

And so, we came up with this idea of, we could get some of our clients together a few times a year, and they got to know each other, that our company would be stronger for it. And so that is one way we’ve engaged with our clients. Now, we do events, maybe six to seven times a year. But with COVID, it’s changed. But that’s one of the things that we do that helps set us apart. And that has been extremely successful.  

Host: So, you heard from some of your clients that had participated in Buckner Connect, so they had they come back and give me any feedback, what is their response.  

Lianna: So, the very first events we did, we kind of just tested it out, we wanted to try something different. We got 100 CEOs together, and we put them in a room. And we said, let’s see what happens. We didn’t talk about insurance, because they know we do insurance. And what we wanted to do is create real authentic relationships between individuals. What happened that day was pure magic. We laughed, and one of our clients made four or five contacts and ended up doing work with three or four different subs. And when we surveyed those people, they said, you need to do this again. The next events that followed we had 350 executives attend. Now granted, they’re both relationship events, but the integrity of them change.   

 The first one was very intimate, and people left with friends. A second one was kind of chaotic, not in a bad way. But the intimate setting kind of had left it became this real big event. So, we found that our sweet spot was those smaller, intimate events. So, part of the reason we’re here filming at Hale Center Theatre today is this is where most of our events are here in Utah. We love changing it up and thinking outside the box. And again, at the end of the day, our big job is to make sure that our clients feel valued, and that they feel loved and appreciated, and that they belong to our network. And they’re part of our company.  

Host: So, you’re hosting big, amazing events. Suppose that 350 one that you went back to some smaller events. What were some of the differences that you saw what the folks that that came to that or what was some of some of the feedback that way?  

 Lianna: So, some of our sales guys at the larger events loved it, they could invite more people met more people, there was some buzz around it. And again, when you say insurance events, like people like Oh, what is it? We had Frank Abagnale from Catch me if you can, the real Frank Abagnale come out to Utah. And I’m like, where can we do this that would resonate with people with the movie. And he, you know, played this con man as a pilot. So, we rented an airport hangar out, we had private planes in there we had Tesla came and brought some of their cars drive it like you stole it. And it was fun, and it was pizzazz. And there was swagger, and everyone had a good time.   

But again, some of the events that we’ve done on a smaller scale, like here at the theater, people left with six solid friends that they saw after that event. But again, the Frank Abagnale events, you know, no one really wants to talk about cyber insurance. That’s not something that you know, normal people talk about every day. So, we thought what we could do that could kind of touch on cyber, but make it cool, fun and sexy. And so Frank Abagnale, who is the Director of the FBI in DC, basically told everyone how easy it is to steal from people.  

He explained the billions of dollars of fraud going on, and the point of contacts that people can steal from you. And he basically said the things that cross his desk are in the millions and billions of dollars and all you need is to get a good insurance policy. So, our cyber sells were awesome that month, but again, it’s kind of changing the realm of how to engage with people, if I just called you and talked about cyber not so cool. We create this event with, you know, Mr. Abagnale. Now, and all of a sudden people are interested. And again, it’s our job to create that environment so that people can engage with one another and with your company.  

Host: So, I love that. And it. To me, it actually makes cybersecurity seem interesting and fun and cool when you hear about it from a perspective that has such a rich story and all that all that really interesting stuff behind it. So, the trick is, so now everybody. And everybody watching this thing today is watching on the same 23-inch screen COVID hits. I know it changed some of the plans that you were able to do at the theater here in terms of gathering people together.  

How are you adapting things now, to still give them a personal feel to make them feel like they can have the six friends to make them feel like they can be interested in a topic that they otherwise just don’t want to take the time to listen to those kinds of things. What are you doing to adapt to that, in these times?  

Lianna: COVID came out of kind of not nowhere, I think we know it’s coming. I don’t think anyone understood the effect it would take on everybody on every industry, I can say that my team, when we sat down and met with one another, you can do three things.   

 We could have just canceled or altered or adapted. And we chose to adapt. We had a wellness summit that we had planned for eight months. And we put a lot of time energy, we booked speakers the venue, we had this vision of what it would be for someone to attend this. And as time went on, and the regulations kept changing, and the numbers were going down and the mask requirement and the food requirement. We sat down and said Hey, is this something we believe in? And the answer was yes.  

Is it something we want to cancel? No. So where does that leave us? The one thing I want to tell people is in order to engage demand, you have to be engaged, if we had continued on this wellness summit plan, and just kept thinking of all the problems. And that’s the only energy that we put into it would have been an event full of problems.   

So instead, we were very solution based. How can we make this cool? And how can we edit it? How can we alter it? How can we engage that same interaction? But now to a broader audience? Again, we at Buckner, we’ve always focused on the quality, it’s never been quantity, let’s just send things out to the masses. It is how do we craft a message and make people feel that they belong and that they are loved and valued.   

Going back to the wellness summit, we altered we saved a lot of money by not having guests there, right? So that was a positive. How can we take that now and manipulate it or change it to engage with our clients in a different way, because they can’t physically be there?   

Host: So some of the things that we did, I mean, we canceled everybody, the only people that were on film that day was the film crew, my immediate team, the speakers, and like three sponsors. I mean, there were no more than 10 people in an entire facility at any one time. It was very, very small, small, small crew. And we were wearing a lot of different hats that day. But for example, we had two chefs come and talk about, you know, eating healthy and being well.  

And they have a new product that came out. I said okay, since people can’t come here and taste it, why don’t we send the product to everybody who registers and that way, hey, come and register, learn a little tips and tricks. And then we’re going to send it so that you can actually do it at home. How can we engage outside of this virtual world, and as always,a call to action?   

Another one that we did our keynote speaker Colin, he wrote a book and we said, okay, great. Let’s have him interact online with some of our clients and prospects. And he did and he interacted with people. He said, we sent his books out that were autograph. Some of them were personalized, again, extending it through the virtual world. And making it real that two days later, they got a little gift from Buckner. With a little message saying thank you so much for participating with us. We still care and hey, we have a session next week.   

 Now, is it perfect, is what we thought No. Did it turn out better than we expected? Yes. I can say our original plan was to have 100 hundred and 50 guests there. Our first video and I know this is not thousands and thousands but again. We’re insurance are in our original that was 100 people 150 we had over 1100 watch the first episode. 

 So again, we drove down that cost, right we still engaged, and we had 10 times the number of viewers. So again, I think when things happen in life the one thing that we all have in common is a choice. We have a choice, we have a choice to, hey, this is really not ideal. This is not what we thought we wanted. But what can we do with it? What can we create? How can we adapt what we would have never done a virtual events had COVID not happen? And now we’re like, oh, my gosh, all my clients in you know, the surrounding states have access to this.  

My clients that are, you know, across the globe can now watch this. And so again, I think there are these little gifts that we get in life. Anytime there’s a trial or an error, that something good can come of it. And what is it that we’re learning and the last thing would be too is your team. Your team is so important. To have everyone moving in the same direction on the same train at the same speed to make sure that we’re all in this. We’re all going to make this great. We’re all going to contribute on the same train.  

Host: Yeah, we’re on the set of a train set right now for Murder on the Orient Express. Yes, we are. Which is just another little fun thing versus the regular backdrop on the zoom call. I love listening to that, because I feel like we’re I tied to a company that does this virtual thing. And magically, something shows up on my door next to my Amazon boxes. That I somehow it would it would build trust in my soul that feels like the company. That is so important for what I’m doing is put together cares about me as moving forward as all these things. 

I think it’s awesome to hear what types of ideas would you have? What advice would you give to people who need to get this messaging out who need to build this trust relationship? These types of things? Are there any things that that kind of kind of pop up?  

 Lianna: I think a couple things is be proactive, not reactive. I think in the beginning, we were all reactive. Now we kind of in our playing field, we know our environment, how can we be proactive? Second is realistic expectations, right? What are my realistic expectations? What can and can’t we do? And how do we work around that? How do we be creative and agile and change? And I think lastly is again back to your team. I’ve never worked with an event planner in my life. I’ve done events for 12 years in the insurance world.  

And with this virtual summit, it was a realm I haven’t been in and I know, and my team knew we need an expert. And so we brought an expert in sometimes there’s stuff that we’re not good at if you’re not good at Tech, bring in a tech company bring in those partners that will help boost you and be better because partnership is everything. We appreciate health center theater as one of our beloved partners. You guys have been such a good partner to us. And yeah, if anyone hasn’t been to the theater, we encourage you to come. It’s amazing.  

 Host: Thanks, Lianna.