Masterclass in Modern Marketing — Bonus Edition!
From Scratch Agency to 10,000+ Clients
A few weeks ago, we announced a 3-Part ‘Masterclass in Modern Insurance Marketing.’ Now it’s a 4-Part Series! After I recorded this interview, I just had to add it to this series. As I’ve mentioned, I felt strongly that it was time to swoop down from our 30,000′ view of ‘big trends and forces’ and focus on what’s working today. Practical, tactical tips you can put to work this week.
This interview is a delightful mix of high energy, good humor, and real-world, street-smart insurance marketing. Zack Gould & Matt Naimoli are the co-founders and principals of G&N Insurance in Massachusetts. In this conversation they reveal:
- The Customer Acquisition System they used to go from a clean-slate, zero-revenue, scratch agency to over 10,000 clients… in eight years. (Hint: start with strategy… then – and only then – move to tactics!)
- Did someone say TACTICS? Zack and Matt roll out the step-by-steps of what they do, when they do it, and what makes it different than other agencies. (Remember the word ‘system’ as you listen to this part.)
- Solutions to the Social Media Mystery. What they do. What they don’t. (Be prepared to take notes!)
Personal or commercial lines… this interview may cause you to re-think what you do every day, the way you run your agency, and just how high your goals could be!
Please don’t miss this conversation with two of the insurance industry’s game changers. This is a conversation that will stay on your mind for weeks!
What are other agents & brokers doing to thrive? What are the biggest trends affecting the retail insurance agent & broker? What are the most important strategies and tactics you need to grow faster? Find out here in the Connected Insurance Podcast, where Michael Jans discusses the biggest issues affecting the independent insurance agent and broker with the industries leading figures.
One More Thing! What do you think? How will you and your peers use this to grow your agency or brokerage? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, subscribe to get updates delivered to you, and *please share this if you found it informative.
Michael Jans: Zack and Matt, thank you so much for joining us today how are you?
Zack Gould: Great, thanks for having us.
Michael: Okay. At least one of you is excited about this [laughs]. All right, for the audience, I don’t often get the opportunity to interview two people at once and I always anticipate there’s going to be some element of mass confusion and wondering who’s actually talking. We’re going to try to do this as organized as possible.
The two of you have a terrific story and I think it to some extent it’s a story about the modern age of insurance and the modern age of insurance marketing. that’s where we’re going to be diving into. Number one, thanks so much for joining us, number two, how about a real short thumbnail from each of you about who you are and then we’re going to talk about the agency and some of the wonderful things that you’re doing to grow. Randomly, Zack, you want to go first? Zack Gould?
Zack: I’d love to. Yes, I’d love to. My name is Zack, I grew up in Southborough, and that’s where I still live, which is super exciting. I went to the University of Connecticut and I was I think one of the many people at insurance that studied risk management insurance. That’s a joke, not really good. I went to risk management insurance at UConn. My major was eight people in the University of Connecticut. They got a business degree with eight people in my major at UConn, which is like an unicorn.
Every single company like Travelers, the Hartford, et cetera, I had underwriting job lined up for days as a junior because every single company wanted underwriters. My professor at junior year of college just sat me down and basically said, “I don’t think this path for you, you’re not really one of those class guys who sits down and studies, and what have you. I think you should kind of take a look at a sales class.” At his recommendation, I take up a professional sales class in 2005 in my last year
Michael: Was that at school? Was at UConn, the sales class?
Zack: Correct, yes, professional sales class. The professional sales class was in the School of Business, but it was for anybody. It was run by Pete Peterson. It was the second or third year or maybe it was the first or second year it’s been run. It was basically a public speaking and how to deal with objection. One of the presenters was Liberty Mutual. They came in and they described about how a sales career could really work at Liberty. I liked it, and I said, “Sure, 22 grand or 25 grand guaranteed salary and commissions on top, sounds like I’m a millionaire, that sounds like a million bucks in college.”
I took the job and I got accepted to Bridgeport Connecticut, but my girlfriend at the time who is now my wife, got a job in Cambridge Massachusetts and then said, “You know what? We’ve only been dating for two months, but maybe I can get transferred to Boston.” Got transferred to Boston, never worked a day in Bridgeport. That was one of the luckiest things that happen to me because I never would have met the Matt Naimoli, who is on this call as well.
Matt and I, where Matt is going to describe his story, he was in Framingham, I was in Boston. We were top two sales reps in the entire country as Liberty Mutual. We were introduced by one of our mutual friends of the companies saying, “You guys shouldn’t be pitted against each other, you guys should really understand that you guys both hustle, you guys are both great guys. Why don’t we just grab a beer?” In 2006, we grabbed a beer and Matt wooed me over. He is a redhead, he’s in shape, everything looked good for me [laugh] and yes, here we are, but I wil let Matt tell it himself.
Michael: Matt, T-H-E Matt, let’s hear your story.
Matt Naimoli: Yes, Cheap beer won Zack over early, now it’s more of a little bit of the higher end.
Michael: It didn’t take much?
Matt: It still works. I didn’t grow up in the area, I lived actually all over the world. My parents are Peace Corps volunteers, so I lived overseas in West Africa for a while, Germany, a bunch of places. Naturally, Peace Corps volunteer parents, you’d naturally want to go into property and casualty insurance.
Michael: Well, both my parents were social workers, so you never know what’s going to happen.
Matt: I went to- grew up in a high school Maryland and then I played baseball, and so I wanted to play baseball in college. Recruited by a couple of different universities and I ended up going to University of Vermont. I played Division I Baseball there for four years, studied hard, worked hard, did well in school. My senior year was looking for an internship in sales, Some sales internships that I could also navigate the crazy baseball schedule, and Liberty Mutual offered one in for $19 an hour which was nuts for a college senior. The day that I started, the funny thing, the day that I started interning for them was the same day the manager quit, so I had an internship with Liberty-
Michael: Was it something I said [laugh]?
Matt: Yes, about my cologne or something. The internship at Liberty for a couple months, at least, 20 hours a week or 15 hours a week and I enjoyed the team there, I enjoy the process and naturally it was an opportunity after college. Came down and started working and selling for Liberty in Framingham. Zack had mentioned how we met and how we connected but that’s the path that I took.
Michael: The two of you guys had the beer and you started talking. How long were you–
Matt: We talked before the beer. There was an opening and then there was the beer.
Michael: Okay, the infamous beer. How long were you talking about breaking out and starting your own independent insurance agency before you did it?
Zach: Yes. That’s an interesting topic, but going back one step is there’s one thing that we’re really proud of is that our partnership has lasted longer than that bar. That bar closed down a couple years ago. We outlasted it. Number two, we did not start talking right away about it because we got to paint the picture, we were the top two sales rep from the entire country like [crosstalk]–
Michael: The two of you were the top two in the country?
Zach: Yes. We had the type of monetary reward at 22 to 25 year old, the desire, we had the recognition, we had– There’s a lot of good things happening but we started to both have that little bit of pain point into, “You know what? I would tweak a little bit of- this isn’t really great for the client. I don’t think I did a really good job.” Because it’s one-size-fit-all. I grew up with a father who’s an entrepreneur. He owned his own financial practice but my path was always learn a little bit and take over my company but I never wanted to do that. I always wanted to do something different.
It’s interesting Matt and I, the more we’d share, the more we became closer and we started to realize that both of us wanted to do something for ourselves and create something. When you’re 23 and a half, 24 that’s good enough to start drawing up maps and drawing up plans. I would say about a year, Matt, maybe, a year and a half after we met we started talking about it?
Matt: Yes, I think it was about a year, a year and a half after then we spoke- we talked and planned it loosely and then a little bit more intensely for 18 months. The business planning, marketing planning–
Michael: Kickoff was what year? How many years ago?
Matt: January 2010, we started.
Michael: Okay. It’s an eight and a half-year-old agency going on nine years, yes?
Matt: Yes. In general, I think, we’re both builders and expanders. When you work for a Fortune 100 company, it’s great because you can expand pretty quickly and build and get to hit certain ceilings. But once you reach a certain limit, it is claustrophobic in ways, so this is a natural next step and we didn’t know necessarily what the process would look like but we just took the leap right around the time when the recession hit, so it’s interesting.
Michael: Yes, I know. I’ve been there, I know what that’s like, okay. Fast-forward, we have an agency, you have an agency that has over 10,000 customers. You are in Inc 5000 fast-growth company. You’ve been recognized as one of the best places to work in Massachusetts.
Matt: You’ve got it.
Michael: Right. Okay. There are 34 people that are on the team enjoying being part of your culture, so it’s a great story. Let’s dive into what did you do to make it happen? I’m going to ask you, at least, to me, an interesting question. I want to address this one. You guys are- you’re naturally– It sounds like you have the natural profile of an entrepreneur. At a very young age you were both number one and number two sales rep in the country for Liberty, right?
Michael: By the way, who was number one, who was number two?
Matt: Depends on the year [laugh][crosstalk]. After all, don’t kiss and tell, that kind of thing.
Zack: The good thing is we flipped ’07 and ’08 and so, at least, we can look back and say like, “Oh, we both shared stage.”
Michael: Okay, all right. I want to address a concern that listeners might have like– They are 16 years old and they’re already the best sales people in the country. What would you say to somebody who’s like, “Hey. I’m not necessarily an A+ player, maybe not the best sales person in the world but I really want to share similar kind of success you have.” What would you say to somebody who didn’t have that success just coming out of the chute?
Matt: Well, Zack and I’ll flip-flop here and chime in but two things come to my mind right off of the bat. One, I think, self-awareness is critical when entrepreneurship is on the horizon. If entrepreneurship is appealing, if business ownership is appealing to you but you don’t have necessarily what it takes to really take the risks, stick to it and go all-in, then it might not be the best path.
The second piece is that I think that if you aren’t necessarily the best salesperson in the world at whatever you do, that’s okay but you need to find someone who is. If you’re going to go into business, the lead gen, the relationship management, and the top end of the funnel is so, so vital. You could be the best operationally minded individual out there, it’s great fact-finder, super, super process oriented, frankly that would have helped us a ton early on having someone that was that but you got to be able to go get- create leads and convert them into sales or you don’t have a company.
Michael: Now, you guys say that- correct me if I’m wrong here- your approach to lead gen, to some extent, it’s street leather and hustle, right? It’s boots on the ground and creating relationships. Is that an important part of it?
Zach: Yes. Going back to your question though, the other question you had before, it’s going to lead to this question is that first off, successes is the mindset. Matt and I were top two in the country on rep ranking at a fortune 100 company. Honestly, who cares. I never bragged about that. I didn’t go around holding my head up high and I don’t really value money the way a typical person does. It doesn’t really matter. It was more of a mindset that, “We could do. We could do the mission, do the path that–”
We had jobs but we were really more studying the industry and that leads me to my point. Matt and I got we were not because we’re the best cold callers or not because we could sell insurance the best. It’s because we were both very successful at creating relationships. If you’re successful at creating relationships, you just got to find the niche that you can dominate.
We found a niche of people purchasing real estate and realize that if we created niches and we focus on that niche and created relationships with people who are influencers in the home-buying industry, well, the referrals will flow and that’s where we focus, that was not our focus at Liberty Mutual because in that time and still, they do not have a very good home product so we were told to sell auto.
The relationship’s there, but we saw a long-term- even we were at Liberty Mutual, this is like ’09, ’08. They were already installing kiosks in dealerships so people could walk in and get their auto insurance quote right there. That is a telltale sign that they don’t really need the agent. We could see that, “Oh, my God, we sell so much auto there.” They’re getting rid of that and we think home is way more of a valuable sale. That’s really how we reverse engineered how to open up the company because we’ve found a differentiating factor.
Michael: Okay, it sounds one of the core principles the success of your agency is building strong relationships, number one. Number two, strategically, you zeroed in on relationships with partners in the real-estate industry that could be a source of lead generation for you. Am I reading that model right?
Matt: You are.
Michael: Okay, so– Yes?
Matt: The home buying process for us, we identified that as an awesome opportunity to capture clients that are valuable clients at the best time you can get them. The closing ratio is the highest, the retention is the highest, the policies per client is the highest, The time cycles of the sale cycles are shortest, and the loss ratios are really strong. You have multiple parties that are evaluating the credit of the borrowers as well as inspecting the quality of the property.
For personal lines minded individuals, which we were, that’s was our experience, it was natrually the best opportunity to zero in on, and instead of focusing on 8 to 10 million people in Massachusetts, which I think a lot of salespeople in general look at, “Oh, my God, the pie is so huge, that I have so much opportunity. I’m just going to go capture it all.” We said, “Screw that. Let’s focus on the 50,000 homes that are being purchased each year.”
Michael: Is that what it is? Is that what you your recent shows–
Matt: In Massachusetts.
Michael: Yes, 50,000 homes.
Matt: 40 on a bad year, 60 on a good year but that’s our pie. We forget everything else. We literally punt every other opportunity and we just say, “Hey. Let’s just focus in on that pie and try to carve out the most we can.” Getting 5% to 6% as we will this year of that 50,000 is a monster, monster year. We still look at it as a great opportunity to expand even more.
Michael: Okay. You did say something a moment ago that describes marketing Nirvana. It’s the ideal client, which in your case that you describe the person with the highest closing ratio, the most policies per customer, the longest retention and a low loss ratio. It’s like, “How do we make money in this industry?” Well, it’s good to have a good closing ratio, multiple policies per customer and long retention. You’ve zeroed in on a demographic that statistically meets those qualifications and personal lines, probably, about as well as any demographic on the planet.
That’s really pretty interesting. I’m not sure if that was lucky happenstance but you’ve certainly dove into the trifecta of closing multiple policies and retention. Let’s talk about–
Zach: Yes, I think we just described how it wasn’t lucky. If you actually look back that was, I don’t know. I think that’s the opposite of luck. There are some instances of luck you need to get successful. Our first employment we both think was lucky meaning our appointment with an insurance carrier. Literally the guy retired a month after appointing us. I think he just checked the box and said, “Forget it.”
Michael: I’m out of here.
Zach: Yes, that was after 17 companies said no. That was maybe a little bit of skill but it was also luck and timing. When you look at what Matt just detailed out about the home buying process, I mean, we talked about the recession casually about it being a bad time to open. Well, in a recession in a home buying market, 40,000 homes were still sold. That’s incredible. Now, in a recession, if you’re just trying to throw a dart in the ocean in Massachusetts there’s seven million people or so. If you’re in a recession and you don’t have a niche you better save somebody money or else they’re not going to move because money’s tight, but if you have a niche and you get 40,000 people who are still purchasing property, we still have the same size of market, so it doesn’t matter.
Finding your niche, I think, the more podcasts you do et cetera, and the more people you meet, if you were to ask an insurance agency owner and insurance agent like, “What’s your niche?” You’re going to shake your head after because so many- that’s why I think this industry is interesting because so many people don’t have that exact customer. From an age perspective to where the potential is moving, to their income level, to how many kids they have, to if they’re married or not. We have that down to the exact person. If more insurance agents owners had that exact person narrowed down marketing becomes easy.
Michael: Got it. Well, I think one of the things that you exemplify is that strategy trumps tactics. Tactics, of course, is very, very useful but they can be chaotic and people can be chasing the next shiny new thing in the absence of a strategy that gives them an alignment. You’ve got something that aligns, it seems, all of the direction of the agency and, probably, the behaviors of pretty much all 34 people who work there. You’re going in a common direction. You had mentioned the top of the funnel lead generation.
Let’s start looking at your marketing process there. How do you get people into the top of the funnel? I suppose we need to talk about two different groups. At the top of the funnel there can be the referring partner and at the top of the funnel, ultimately, there’s the insurance customer. Where do you want to start?
Matt: Well, I think we all start with B2B, which is the COI, the referral partner. I think that’s our secret sauce, which isn’t very secret but we went all in on networking. From very, very early on even though we’re a scratch agency and we had so many different hats we were wearing, we’re taking out the trash, and filling the toner, literally doing everything.
Michael: [laughs] What do you mean there’s no coffee this morning?
Matt: Right. Well, coffee would’ve been a good day. I think we did a good job early on in understanding, going back to what you said, a strategy. We understood the importance of allocating considerable amounts of our time to networking, to connecting and building relationships with those who could influence their homebuyers, their borrowers, their clients to refer them to us.
When you look at networking, I think, there’s three different types of networkers. The first, they don’t network at all, they just have a handful of people that maybe work with but they really don’t network at all. The second are those who get out a ton and they may network all over the place, they are in BNI groups, forced networking groups, their go-to Chamber of Commerce events et cetera and they tell anyone and everyone what they do.
The third and we think are the most mature networkers and the most successful networkers are the ones that just network within their niche. They only stay within their niche. The really top of our funnel is generated through warm introductions of clients that value the opinion of their referral partner. We just focus on mortgage lenders, realtors, attorneys, financial advisers and people in Massachusetts who influence their buyers and that was our networking through literally eight years. That’s all we did when it came to networking.
Michael: Okay, quick question, do either of you sell insurance policies?
Matt: No, not anymore. Not since February of 2015, I think.
Michael: Okay, it’s been three, four years but you did for a while, right?
Matt: Oh, yes.
Michael: Okay. Now, let’s break this down. Let’s say, I was going to tail you for a day and this is a day where you’re saying, “I’m going to go create some new relationships in my network.” How do you do that?
Matt: Do you want to run with the day? Maybe pre when we were selling and for business development?
Zach: Well, yes, to answer your question directly, we don’t really do that. That’s interesting. Yes, I just want to be transparent as possible, we don’t ever get up and say, “I’m going to go make some relationships. How am I going to do this?” Let me just try to tell you how our day is. Matt and I, we have- I’m not saying this because I think other people should do it.
Matt and I are very self-aware on what our strengths are personally and we delegate out the rest, we never delegate something that we haven’t done ourselves.
Sales is a great example, Matt and I, we think we’re the two best salespeople out there, doesn’t mean that the other people can’t do it, it means we need to delegate, train and make sure the right people are in place to do it. We do not book our own appointment. We don’t book speaking engagements or what have you, we don’t do a lot of things- our schedules are pre-arranged for us in a way.
Michael: “My buddy Jill will take- Jill takes care of that stuff.” Right?
Zach: Exactly. That’s not to sound pompous, that’s just because that’s not our strength. We don’t want to follow up with someone 17 times to get the best coffee shop. That’s not a good use of our time and I don’t want to look up Newberry Street in Boston and say, “How about this shop?” Then, the referral partner say, “Oh, I didn’t like coffee there last time.” I think it’s just a waste of time.” Somebody else does that.
Michael: We’ve cleared out everything except your unique ability or your personal gift. Then, what is left?
Zach: This is what we do. In essence, Matt and I wake up, we both have different morning routines, you can look at those on [unintelligible 00:28:38], on our Facebook and YouTube pages. We do our morning routines to get our mindset in the right place. Then we open up our calendar, we go to where we’re going and wherever we’re going, we typically have a phone call on the way.
That phone call, almost always, is you are mentoring another insurance agent across the country, checking in on a referral partner that specifically requested to talk to us, maybe calling a teammate, maybe calling our a leadership people rather, but we’re using that time wisely. We get to the meeting in the right mindset because we’re doing stuff well. We have that meeting with a referral partner or whomever and really spend in the moment that could be new or that could be existing or that could be existing introducing anew, all work. You have that coffee meeting– go ahead.
Michael: Okay. Well, on that moment, let’s say, that you’re are a new relationship, what’s the nature of the conversation?
Zach: I panic and I call Matt.
Matt: When we do conference calls, FaceTime conference calls, that’s what you’re talking about. I think, where we are now versus where we were for years is different. We’ve matured. We’ve built systems. We understand how to run a business much more effectively. There’s like a pre-structure and a post-structure. Our pre-structure when we were wearing all the hats it alluded to the question, the question you alluded to earlier, the best way for us to get meetings is to just ask people to introduce us and that would be current clients.
If we helped the client we say, “Hey, like you bought a car from yadda-yadda, who do you get your loan from when you buy your house? Could you make an introduction to your loan officer?” We ask realtors introduce us to loan officers, vice versa. We’d ask attorneys and judges to financial planners. We would just ask for introductions because that warm introduction to someone in your own network is the most powerful way to get a meeting. It’s the most successful way.
Michael: Then you have the meeting, right? I’m curious. What’s the nature of that meeting? In other words, you establish relationship but presumably, you make some promise of value.
Matt: Yes, well- what’s the book Zack? How to Win Friends and Influence Others? Became a famous, famous book, right?
Michael: David Carnegie? Win Friends and Influence People.
Matt: Yes, and what’s the main premise? The main premise of that is you can win over everyone if you just ask them what matters to them and listen and ask great questions. Be interested, be present and ask a ton of really questions to learn about them and get them talking about themselves and what they care about. That’s what would we do. Literally, we go through the meeting and we dig deep to find out everything about the person, not just personally, professionally, all their pain points, everything.
How they get their business, what their network looks like, what they would remove out of their day to day if they could, what pain points they have that they’re constantly running into, what goals they have now, how they drip and stay in touch with old clients, how do they add value to their referral network? In doing so, we’re focusing 100% on them and they’re telling us valuable, valuable information.
Michael: Okay, so you’re you’re actually asking them fairly intimate questions about their business life.
Zack: Michael that that’s a good point. There’s nothing more frustrating in my– Not nothing, but I get very frustrated when someone asked a question that they don’t care about the answer. A good example is if I started this phone call and say, “Hey Michael, how’s things?” like I don’t care, that’s not a good question. Yes, it’s an icebreaker sometimes, but maybe you should already know how things are for the other person. What Matt and I really do is, we’re not trying to get super deep and super heady, but during this meeting, we’re asking questions we actually care about the answer.
It relates to interesting discussion in the questions we typically ask are either very deep in business process, very interested in networking, like how can I introduce you? How can I help grow your business? Also to see if they need help. We actually with all of our heart in that meeting want to help. For two reasons, one, increase impact and two we might be able to obtain value from them. We go in with a giver’s mindset and we ask questions that we care about the answer and it relates to a good conversation.
Michael: Okay. Did you say giver’s mindset?
Michael: That’s a that’s a beautiful term. I have two questions. First one is, have you discovered that when you meet these people, the mortgage brokers, and lenders, and so on and so forth, the real estate agents and their meeting with you as insurance agents. Are there other agents that are like competing for their attention? Or these guys saying, oh, this is an interesting and unique conversation?
Matt: Yes, there’s a variety. We see anything and everything out there. Maybe nine years ago, we’ve met with the loan officer and they said to us, hey, I work with three really good insurance agents. Thanks, but no thanks. We’re like, “Okay, all right. Well, moving on.” Now, if someone works with an insurance agent, we applaud that. That’s great, because what that means is they already refer, they already have that built into their system. All how we have to do is add more value than the next.
Michael: My next question is, what is it that you think you do or What promise of value can you make that’s above and beyond what they’re currently getting?
Interviewee: Well, we won’t know until they tell us what matters.
Michael: Okay, so typically, what are the kinds of things that arise?
Zack: Yes, you can’t ask a direct question we’re just going to rephrase.
Matt: There is a number I’ll throw [crosstalk]
Michael: I want the recipe for the secret sauce. That’s my job to get it.
Matt: We’ve mastered- well we haven’t mastered. We feel like we’re mastering every day running a business and so we really understand all the ins and outs and structure process, accountability, systems, people, everything and so a lot of top end loan officers, top end realtors, top end attorneys who do a lot of volume are just basically stuck in their business. They have a hard time team building, they have a hard time systematizing their business.
They have a hard time creating accountability and getting everyone growing in the same direction. A lot of value that we can add to top end producers is how to make them more efficient, how to get them out of their own way, how do you actually create systems that work? That’s a pretty big one, especially for those that are producing a lot. If those that are not producing, many who just want to referral here and there not really going to be the best relationship for us.
Michael: Got it. All right. My notes from our previous conversations says that you have over 1000 referring partners?
Matt: That’s correct.
Michael: Okay. I want to walk through this part of the funnel. You’ve established relationships with over 1000 of them. What do you do now to maintain strength and deepen and nurture those relationships?
Zack: Yes, that’s a great question. Every relationship is different as we, said, and Matt and I do a couple things very well. Again, going back to my previous statement, we’re not going to do anything that we don’t care about the answer. We’re not going to mail Starbucks gift cards, we’re not going to mail, Dunkin Donuts gift cards, we are not going to share commission, we’re not going to do anything where it’s just there’s no value there. We do a lot of personal touches depending on what their referral partners are engaged with.
If our referral partners are heavy on social media, we’re going to do a lot of interaction with them. We’re going to make sure that we know that we’re interested in what they’re doing. We’re going to comment on their stuff, we’re going to engage with the stuff, We’re going to advertise their stuff, We’re going to make sure they know that we are in support of how they get business.
If there are other introductions we can make, we make a lot of introduction. In the previous years like 2010 to 2017, we’d be out a bunch of nights of the week together and separate really spending time at their events and bringing people to them and et cetera. Now, we focus much more on other drip campaigns. Non-email, non-phone call if possible. What I mean by that is we focus a lot on social media, we do a lot of texting, we do a lot of different ways where their phone isn’t even up. Matt and I don’t do a lot of emails, so if we emailed our referral partners it wouldn’t authentic.
Matt: Michael, a perfect example early on if we met with a really high-end loan officer, did a ton of transactions. If our value to them was offered as I’ll give you 10 bucks or Starbucks gift card every time you refer or anytime I have an opportunity to refer myself or someone else buying a home, I’ll refer them to you, that’s really limited value and it’s going to dry up quickly. You cannot scale networks like that.
Early on introducing a really good real estate agent that we network with and we’ve built a relationship with to a really high end loan officer and almost playing matchmaker created way more referrals to that loan officer than we could have ever created over years. Then it’s just a matter of really helping them and their clients on the insurance front. We don’t talk too much about it on our processes internally, who is the best team, best process when it comes to people buying homes? Like a proven system that works so well, so to speak, convenience, pricing, everything works.
Frankly, if you’re a high-end producer, in any industry, your partnerships, you really rely on them to remove hurdles and remove obstacles to get to the finish line. That’s the most value you can offer.
Michael: Okay, one last question about the relationships with the referring partners and then I want to jump over to the other side of the business, the actual customers who purchase insurance from you. You’re referring partners. Okay, you have over 1000 of them and you obviously try to make the relationships as real as possible but 1000 is 1000. Now, you’ve probably identified some 80/20 principle. Some of them are giving you lots of referrals. Do you do anything like get-togethers, meetings, or anything? Where you sponsor something and provide almost like a networking event in and of itself, or is that now part of it?
Matt: Well, we have an internal media team. We like to stay away from sponsoring. We like to stay away from sponsoring because everyone and their brother and uncle and cat asks us to sponsor events. We would be out of business if we said yes to everyone. Plus, there’s something about just paying for the opportunity to maintain a relationship, it just doesn’t feel quite right to us.
We do a lot of different things, we have in the past filmed segments with our own internal team, even media department, some segments for our high end our level A partners. Then promoted them on social and broadcasted them to real estate agents and other potential referral partners.
Michael: Very interesting. This was my follow up question, you’d mentioned you have a media team or some people might call it a marketing team. I want to break this down a little bit. The social postings and the activity that you engage in on social platforms, is that the two of you or is it team members who do it or combination of the two?
Zack: Yes, it is a marketing team. We call it a marketing team. I technically run it even though Matt and I both have a lot of input in it and inside it’s made up of Jill our executive assistant, Rock our social media specialist to strategist and Ziddy who is our full-time videographer and editor. Again, going back three years like literally every single post and every single engagement– Every single post is done by me and engagements Matt and I both did, et cetera, but we did all of the social.
That we never delegate a second of that until literally about three months ago. That’s why it was that it was because we really had our hands on it and we were very tactical and how we did certain things. Then we were doing our own video editing, we were doing our own video production with an iPhone. It wasn’t like we had the best technology. We just did it, got through it and then once we got traction, we said okay, now let’s bring in an expert to make it better.
That’s been every single step. Okay, we booked own meeting. Okay, let’s bring in experts and let’s make it better. We did our own videos, okay, let’s bring an expert make it better and you see how this is going. We feel like we’ve done that in every single department. The key to that is the training aspect of it, of making sure that they get the purpose and the end result in mind and then letting them add their own creativity and go.
It’s really been a good– Our marketing team matches reference. We’ve only done a couple of those videos, that’s not the core thing that marketing team does. We were very creative based on our partners and what they needed, what they do but what we really have our marketing team really doing is following us around in a lot of our speaking engagements and a lot of our networking and highlighting as partners while our show is going on. It’s much more than [crosstalk]
Michael: They maybe they’re shooting video and they’re posting video and maybe taking pictures and posting them. In your business what social platforms do you participate in? Let’s go through them one at a time. Personal lines, right? So, Facebook?
Zack: Yes. I don’t care what comes out next will be on it if it’s necessary. We’re not emotionally attached to any platform but Facebook and Instagram and specifically Instagram right now are obviously the biggest one. We’re on Twitter just to be on it. We’ve tried Snapchat, we didn’t love it, we don’t do too much there. We are on LinkedIn, we are on YouTube. The actual platform is not as important as where you think your referral partners or your clients are. If you’re selling auto insurance-
Michael: Okay. In your business, Facebook and Instagram are probably pretty dominant platform?
Michael: Okay. LinkedIn maybe less than your situation with a strong personalized emphasis?
Zack: It’s just for a different strategy.
Michael: Yes but you’ve got those B2B relationships, right? Your business comes from relationships with professionals so they probably are on LinkedIn. It’s just that your customers, maybe less.
Zack: All of the different channels are valuable but really the objective is to stay top of mind in a positive light because with the value, we go back to the thousand referral partners. There’s only some, there’s a few handful that we can really deepen and strengthen and see on a consistent basis, we just can’t. But with social media if you’re offering really valuable creative, innovative, fun content that people actually want to consume, it which is going to be dependent on the medium that you choose, right?
People aren’t going on LinkedIn to laugh at funny videos about whatever, right? You’re not, so understanding why people are clicking on that app and opening that application is the first point of discussion. You go on from actually how do we create content that people who want to watch and how you surrounded around our brand.
Michael: Setting aside the now that you’ve delegated some of it but so let’s go back four months, in the course of a typical day how long do you think between the two of you you spent on social from a business perspective?
Zack: Are you talking about now or [crosstalk]
Michael: No, back then before you delegate it.
Zack: Yes, I would head it up so I probably spend some bit of time every two hours on it.
Michael: Okay, really. Interesting.
Zack: Yes, the reason why Michael, is because it was my focus and I was responsible for it. When Matt and I divvy our responsibilities, it’s not like ugh, I gotta go on social because that the most important thing I had to do right now because I got to have to do it. I would need a lot of mass help for engagement in a lot of things we were doing and a lot of also personal posts to both our pages in LinkedIn. The typical agent that we talked to, looks at social media as an I have to, we look at social media as I need to, because it’s helping that much.
Michael: All right.
Zack: We have to do it. It’s so important to sound like, “I have to, oh my God, I need to,” like yes it’s going.
Matt: I also think that Zack, a lot of agents are- not even agents- they has no specificity to the actual industry. It’s not insurance like specific, but most people have a ton of trouble sticking to it because it’s one of the first things that fall off the list when they have clients calling when they have complaints from vendors, when they have referral partners who decided that they’ll cancel meetings or rescheduling.
Well, chaos happens on a daily basis and I think the reason why we were able to- why Zack specifically was able to spend so much time and effort and concentration, was because so much of the other stuff were delegated out and systematized throughout the agency. Process is not sexy but it is critical, critical, critical. If you want to grow and scale and delegate and expand and become an entrepreneur and not an agent.
Michael: Okay. Clearly, the two of you have identified those activities which happened on a repetitive, redundant basis over and over again and you’ve created clear, efficient and effective processes that deliver reliable results?
Michael: Okay, There’s one other area I have to explore before we’re done, okay. The other side of the business, the customers, the actual insurance customer. If I have this right, normally from a marketer’s perspective, I’m looking at how do you attract, convert, optimize and retain clients. The attract part sounds like you’ve got that wired through this other part of the business, your referral partners, right?
Michael: Maybe you do other things but this really seems like this is the engine that’s driving the top of the funnel. Then they make an inbound call and they’re coming really warm, right? [laughs] so your closing ratio is high. Did you mention at some point four policies offered, is that something that I’m pulling that out of memory from a previous conversation?
Matt: Yes. The great thing about proven processes is they only proven until you’ve proven a better way to do it. You can establish proven systems and proven processes with the mindset of we’re going to constantly improve and tweak to make it better.
When we did finally get out of the sales process ourselves, we didn’t have the best systems, the best-proven process and the greatest training to set our sales reps up to succeed the level we were but we improve doing continue to tweak and we then don’t management we build leadership teams, et cetera. It has changed over time but yes, we have desired results for every single process that’s built and specific things that have to happen to produce the desired result.
Michael: All right. We have partners that generate leads, we have internal processes that manage the businesses efficiently and effectively and now we’ve got these 10,000 plus customers. I’m going to presume that they don’t get ignored for a year until it’s time to hit them up again for the commission, okay. Safe presumption with you guys I think. What do you do to deepen and strengthen relationships with customers?
Zack: What we are doing, and it’s always ever evolving. Actually, we thought we are doing things in a really great way. We have a great renewal retention percentage that feels good. It’s higher than the industry average and we’re really proud of it. But we actually listened to a chat form Billy Williams at a BrainShare event in Las Vegas two weeks ago and we totally rewrote a bunch of our processes.
That we’re going to start doing in Q4 because we are learning. Matt and I can raise our hands and say, “You know what? We think we are the best at X,Y and Z.” And to us it’s probably branding culture and networking and sales. But we think we’re like really sit there and that’s how we can hone our grip around it. But the spirit of this process is we’re constantly trying to get better. We don’t think that we can put our stake in the ground and say, “We have the best renewal process in the world, come challenge it.” But what Billy Williams added to our processes is really great. He basically said to try to find weaknesses on every single renewal, and find two weaknesses and present that to the client.
If they don’t want it that’s fine, just document the file that you talked about it. That’s one of the–.
Matt: Just a piggyback on that and enhance that a little bit to the– We always looked for a while and I think a lot of the industry does look at the renewal processes. We need to touch these people in the hope that they continue to renew with us. Zack and I, we sat down the other day, especially after we talked with Billy and we were like, “Why don’t we flip this on its head, because that’s a really passive sort of cross your fingers mentality.”
We were doing a lot of good things on renewal but we weren’t really sure if it was leading to the desired results we wanted, which was increase retention, increase premium. We’re flipping the switch now and looking this at the renewal process shouldn’t be about passively hoping they stick, and more of a proactive approach to identify opportunities to increase premiums, increase touch points that actually can lead to sales.
The by product is going to be increased retention, because we’re touching them with quality discussions on renewal. But we’re looking at it more as a sales process, less of a service renewal process. That makes sense?
Matt: If you don’t have auto, home, umbrella and flood, we’re going to offer it to you on renewal, and there’s going to be a reason why.
Michael: Yes, okay. Do you offer anything beyond that? Do you have some customers who have more than just those four policies?
Matt: Yes. We have a rental client, we’ve got master condos and apartment buildings, a lot of our personalized clients have those needs as well. For a little while we were doing commercial and life insurance. But we stopped doing both because it’s much easier to scale faster vertically if we would stay hyper-focused on the bulls eye.
Michael: Got it, all right. Guys, I think one of the interesting part of this story is that you didn’t come into this industry in this age with a lot of bad habits. [laughs] I say that a little bit facetiously because frankly a lot of the bad habits today were really good habits. They were good routines back in the 1990s. Obviously some of those things need to be let go of and they need to be transformed and some new routines and protocols need to be introduced. You guys didn’t have to do any of that really hard transition stuff. But what you did do was you approached the industry really clearly with what obviously is a very well-conceived strategy and really, really good execution.
Guys, one last question for you. Take this any way you want, but if you could deliver a coached message to your peers, owners of retail insurance agencies what would you say?
Matt: Listen to Michael’s podcast.
Michael: [laughs] We’re done. By the way, I can’t remember who answered the phone originally and said, “It’s Michael Jans. Your voice is as buttery on the phone as it is on the podcast.” That is not how I think of my voice. [laughs] But I am a raving fan of yours now forever.
Matt: Thank you.
Michael: You had me at butter. [laughs]
Matt: I think the answer to the question, we have a lot, to narrow it down to one recommendation is kind of tough. But for us, hiring a coach that was outside of the industry was really beneficial to us. It helped educate us on how to be entrepreneurs and business owners and not just insurance agents.
Michael: Very good.
Matt: A lot of our success, at least the last three years of scaling out of the business is a by product of systems and structures and not necessarily lead gen and sales process and service process, the over-arching.
Michael: Yes, okay. Very good. Gentlemen, congratulations on your success. On behalf of our listeners, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom so generously.
Zack: Thank you for having us.
Matt: You are welcome.
Michael: You bet. It was terrific.