Meet Daniel Kerr, COO of AdjusterPro and founder of Well-Adjusted, an online community of insurance claims adjusters. Well-Adjusted was created in 2007 as a place for both proven and rookie insurance claims adjusters to connect with each other, seek career advice, and find encouragement. Six years later, the community is thriving as a collaborative learning environment, growing knowledge network, and a bridge to the next generation in the workforce.
Most people don’t think much about insurance adjusters (or much of them), but despite the fact that the job title has a bit of a PR problem, there are a lot of good reasons to get into the insurance claims business -- and the Well-Adjusted community is one of them.
In this interview, Daniel discusses the ins and outs of cultivating a community of practice in a tight niche.
Unbeknownst to many, claims adjusters are not repressed bullies who delight in nickel and dime-ing poor old ladies. They're mostly good folks just like you, and like most folks, they like to stay connected. The community at adjusterspace.org helps keep claims adjusters from a variety of backgrounds connected. A good percentage of our community is made up of aspiring adjusters who are seeking information on how to become a working claims adjuster. Why on earth would someone want to do that? Here's a little known secret: catastrophe claims adjusters make well over $1,000 a day while on deployment. And they're compensated in direct proportion to the claims settlement amount - which means they're incentivized to write a generous settlement that helps people get back on their feet! So, adjusting offers a surprisingly lucrative, stable, and fulfilling career path and adjusterspace.org (or Well-Adjusted as it is more commonly called) is a place where conversations about this career take place. We're currently at about 6,000 members.
What made you start a dedicated online community?
I started Well-Adjusted in part as an antidote to an existing community within our niche. This community was comprised largely of veteran adjusters who seemed to be dueling with one another over who could be the surliest crank on the block. That's fun for a pretty small number of people. So, I wanted to start a community that offered a positive, supportive, and encouraging environment to adjusters of all levels of competency including those who are just getting started.
What other options did you consider?
This is going back to 2007 so my memory is a bit fuzzy but honestly I don't think I considered any other options. Facebook was still in it's growth stage and I wasn't an active member (still not) and Myspace seemed ill-fitting somehow. I wanted a dedicated community that was all about adjusting. I had been introduced to a Ning Platform through a high school alumni group and I was immediately very impressed with how robust and user-friendly it was.
This would assume I had original objectives! I suppose the answer is yes and no. We've succeeded in building a fairly large and valuable resource within our niche that connects people. That's a win. I'm a big fan of Scott Stratten and the principle of UnMarketing. Honestly that's at the core of what this community was and is about. Well-Adjusted compliments my core business, AdjusterPro, which offers licensing, training and CE to adjusters. It does that by giving a lot of value and building trust and credibility. I rarely bring AdjusterPro into the conversation at Well-Adjusted (which is often hard to do!). On the other hand, no I haven't achieved the original objective of becoming THE community in my niche. Like most entrepreneurs, one of my core objectives is world domination. I'm still working on that...:)
How do you measure success or the ROI of the time and effort you put into cultivating your community?
This is a great question and I can't answer it directly. There is a very good new book out called Buzzing Communities by Richard Millington. He makes a compelling case for being able to measure ROI for a community but it takes a full-time dedicated community manager and some analytics I'm not currently using. At this point, I'm more in the Scott Stratten camp where I know the ROI is there but I'm also not worried too terribly about putting a precise number on it. How do you measure trust? How do you measure credibility? How do you measure good will? I'm not sure and I'm not terribly worried about it. I do know my business has done well and I attribute no small part of it to Well-Adjusted.
(Richard Millington leads a Community Management Talks series with Ning. He also blogs here at Cultivating Community and has been kind enough to allow our readers to download half of his new book Buzzing Communities for free!)
One of our core values at AdjusterPro is serious commitment to serve others and Well-Adjusted has afforded a vehicle to do just that. It's helped our business in so many ways. One rather pleasant and unexpected development has been that it has positioned us within our industry as being the gateway to the Millennials. There's a lot of value in being considered the bridge to the next generation in the workforce.
What features of the Ning Platform are most important to you and your members?
Obviously the Forum is critical and is the heart of our community. We're working on making Events and a Jobs Board plugin more relevant.
Any advice to someone considering building an online community?
I'm a big reader and so my recommendations usually consist of book recommendations. In this case I have two. First, is UnMarketing by Scott Stratten. Second is Buzzing Communities by Richard Millington. The latter is a super practical step-by-step guide to building a successful community. Takes you from your first member through to community maturity. Stratten's book is just a gem from an overall strategic and philosophical perspective.
Beyond that, don't let fear or lack of confidence dissuade you from action. Most people sell themselves short. Failure is glorious, don't fear it. The only thing you'll regret is not trying. (Wow, that sounded pretty grandiose and self-important coming from the manager of a small niche community in the insurance industry.) Seriously though, rely on experts like Millington and Stratten and don't be afraid to make a start. Good luck!