What Channels Drive The Best Quote Conversions?

What Channels Drive The Best Quote Conversions?

When writing a recent business plan for an underwriter, I had to dive into Google Analytics to gauge what channels convert best for Jack. This is something I should do regularly, I know, but juggling everything as a solo founder is hard.

Conversions are based on the number of quote completions. People who haven’t just clicked ‘Get a Quote’, but have supplied all of the requested information to receive a formal quote.

Top 10 Converting Channels
  1. Google / Organic
  2. The Future of Web Forms
  3. Twitter
  4. Business Health Check-up Tool
  5. Designer News
  6. This blog
  7. Email
  8. Facebook
  9. Web design galleries
  10. Instagram

Let’s take a closer look at how I’m utilising some of these channels.

Google / Organic

I used to struggle with knowing what content to write, but I now have a better idea of what’s helpful to my audience of freelancers. I learned this through;

  1. A neat trick from Tiny Marketing Wins on researching what customers want
  2. Asking them! Whether we’re having coffee or chatting via email, I explore what confusions freelancers have about business insurance and pay attention to the questions they ask

I explore common questions freelancers have regarding insurance, then I create a blog post or landing page around it. Insurers focus their content on more traditional industries, so freelancers in the digital sector still have a lot of confusion about insurance.

Recently I decided to focus a lot more on writing. It’s clearly effective in converting to quotes, and the bonus is that it costs only my time.

By following the above practices, I add my research to a Google Doc and highlight what would make a good landing page or blog post. Then I start writing.

The document I use for my content research
The document I use for my content research

By doing this I’ve built a decent backlog of content ideas. All of it is relevant to my audience and is questions they’re explicitly asking or terms they’re searching for online. Win-win.

Business Health Check-up Tool

A while back I conducted a survey of freelancers. The results highlighted that some don’t treat freelancing like a business. No contracts, no insurance. Yikes.

Many freelancers could be doing a better job of protecting their business, so I made this business health check-up tool.

I covered the importance of monitoring cashflow, having insurance, working with contracts and backing up your work.

If something goes wrong, the reality of freelancing is that there’s nobody to hold accountable. You are your business. If a client’s unhappy, it’s you they’ll be pointing the finger at. It’s a lot of responsibility on one person’s shoulder, which is why I think freelancers should protect themselves.

While this tool hasn’t driven as much traffic as I’d have liked (partly down to my poor marketing effort), the leads it has sent have been high quality and converted to quotes. It’s Jack’s 4th best channel for conversions.

Investing in building tools like this—which are useful to my audience—makes more sense than throwing money away on ads. Even Hiten Shah says so.

Designer News

If I was to make a list of places my target market hang out, it would look something like this (in no order):

  • Designer News
  • Product Hunt
  • Reddit
  • Hacker News
  • Twitter

Designer News drives a lot of traffic. The downside is that it’s time sensitive. Your submission will get buried quickly, so it isn’t evergreen traffic.

Jack’s been featured on Designer News a few times. When we launched, for a landing page I created, with the business health check-up tool and also for a paid slot.

I was surprised the traffic it’s sent my way converted so well. When I send customers their policy documents, I ask how they heard of Jack. Designer News has been cited on a few occasions.

It isn’t an immediate conversion. They see the name, they bookmark us for later.

This also ties into the channels I covered above (the business health check-up tool and organic content). To take advantage of Designer News’ audience, I have to keep creating useful tools or content to help my audience.

It’s worth mentioning that the second best converter, The Future of Web Forms, is curious users. I don’t think any of them have become paying customers and that’s OK. I welcome people to check out Jack.

The channels that drive the best quote conversions will change as the business develops. I’m learning as I go along and there are still many avenues I haven’t explored.

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Why I Launched With One Product

Why I Launched With One Product

If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late. — Reid Hoffman

Anybody in the start-up world will have heard the above quote. It makes a lot of sense, but it’s challenging to launch with an incomplete vision. After refining your idea for so long, launching with anything less than perfect doesn’t feel right.

You want to share the end result with the world and get it right from day one. It’s this danger that prevents people from shipping at all.

In August I launched Jack. I wouldn’t say I was embarrassed by it—I was proud to get to the point of shipping because it had been a long slog. But I purposely launched with a bare bones business model.

Jack started with just one type of insurance.

Despite it not being the industry norm to offer only one type of cover, I’m glad I did. If I was to build another business I’d adopt the same one product approach. Below are the reasons why.

Avoid Making Assumptions By Gathering Data

Professional indemnity is the most popular cover amongst freelancers. Making this Jack’s flagship product—and the one we’d launch with—was a no-brainer. I wouldn’t run any business without it.

The other key covers are:

  1. Public liability
  2. Employers’ liability
  3. Contents

I could guess what insurance my audience required, or I could let the data tell me.

After putting 60-odd freelancers on cover, buying patterns began to emerge. I can see that many require more cover than just professional indemnity.

22% also bought public liability. Some clients contractually require this if a contractor is working on-site.

17% insured their contents. This is a good move considering I was recently a victim of theft.

5% added employers’ liability to their policy. The lack of demand for this cover is because freelancers usually work solo. A digital agency will sometimes arrange their insurance via Jack, hence the request for this cover.

This data is influencing the business and what products I offer. Looking at these figures, it’s obvious my audience want more cover options.

Professional indemnity alone isn’t enough. Customers also want to protect their work tools (contents), themselves in case of causing third-party property damage (public liability), and their clients in case of injury (public liability).

This month we’re improving the quote system to include options to add public liability and contents insurance.

With only 5% buying employers’ liability, it doesn’t make sense to include this just yet. If Jack starts attracting more digital agencies and teams, then it would be worth building it into the quote system.

I could have guessed what cover was relevant to my audience, but assumptions can be costly if you get them wrong. Instead I’m letting the data I’m gathering influence the direction of Jack.

tl;dr

Professional indemnity is the most popular cover for freelancers. It made sense to launch with this product, then use data from sales to influence what other products we offered. We didn’t make assumptions. Jack’s customers told us what cover they need.

Keep Costs Down

Launching with one product keeps development costs down. The more products I offer, the more options we’ll have to build into the quote system.

It’s not just that. We’d have to implement the extra functionality into the risk question form and my CRM tool. It all adds up.

I’m bootstrapping Jack from money I earned doing wedding photography. I’m not a venture-backed start-up with deep pockets, so I have to be wary about expenditure.

One of my struggles with Jack has been knowing where to spend money. It made sense to launch with one product, earn money from that and invest it back into the business based on what the data / feedback was showing me.

Also, launching with one product has the benefit of getting to market quicker.

tl;dr

Launching with one product reduces the cost of development, design and other factors. This is crucial if you’re bootstrapping.

Do One Thing And Do It Well

Jack’s focus is on building a better customer journey for freelancers. I didn’t want to get bogged down in making the system more complex.

I also wanted to avoid decision fatigue. Instead of overwhelming freelancers with different products, I wanted to give them the most popular cover for their type of work.

My goal is to use design and technology to remove barriers, making it simpler for freelancers to source the insurance they need. I wanted to say, “Hey, this product is ideal for your business and it’s easy to buy”.

Excuse the pun, but I don’t want to be a Jack of all trades. I want to offer a great product (professional indemnity) to a specific audience (freelance web designers and developers). Once I got that right, then I could expand.

tl;dr

Take one thing and own it. Specialise.

Launching without the bells and whistles of your competitors can make your business feel incomplete. I get that. I’m breaking into an industry where the big players have been established for decades (or in some cases over a hundred years).

Some of the other factors I’d like to have launched with:

  • Instant quotes and cover
  • Customer dashboard
  • Better benefits
  • Referral program

Not having these features hasn’t prevented people from using Jack to arrange their insurance. Instead I was able to launch quickly, start generating income and use feedback to influence the direction of the business.

That’s why you should launch with one product.

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Lessons Learned From Inheriting The Family Business

Lessons Learned From Inheriting The Family Business

In 2005 I inherited an insurance business from my late Dad. Weeks earlier I had been studying music at college. It was big leap to running a business in an industry I knew nothing about.

Trying something new inevitably means making mistakes, but the upside is coming away from that experience having learned a lot. When it comes to building Jack, I’m applying those lessons and have (so far!) avoided the same mistakes.

Don't Put Your Eggs In One Basket

I’m explicitly referring to marketing.

While it may seem obvious, when you find a channel that’s converting well it can be tempting to focus all your efforts on that. Especially when it’s low cost.

My Dad’s business model was built around Google. Of the 10 results on Google’s first page for our chosen keyword, his websites accounted for 6 or 7 of them. He dominated the organic search results.

This worked well for him. In those days Google was the key platform people were using to shop for insurance online, and getting on the first page only cost my Dad his time. At the height of his success, he was selling 40 policies a day.

Go, Dad!

Around 2005—when I inherited the business—comparison websites exploded in popularity. The number of people using Google to shop for insurance plummeted.

Instead they flocked to comparison sites. GoCompare, Confused.com, Compare The Market…

Alongside this increase in popularity of comparison sites, Google blacklisted us for the SEO tactics my Dad had employed. Remember keyword stuffing? Apparently my Dad was a fan.

We went from having a healthy flow of leads to being completely de-indexed. All of this was happening while comparison sites were booming and we were facing tougher competition than ever.

Lesson: Diversify your marketing. Focus on 2-3 channels at a time.

Like The Audience You're Serving

My Dad’s business served the buy-to-let market. While I don’t dislike landlords, I can’t say I’m excited by their trade.

Unlike my Dad, I didn’t have experience as a landlord. He had worked in the property industry for years, first as an estate agent before moving into insurance.

He had first-hand experience buying and renting properties. This put him in the mindset of the audience he was serving, which makes business a lot simpler.

When I inherited the business in 2005, I learned web development, digital marketing, SEO (this was still a thing back then!). I studied our policy documents to understand the product, and I devoured business bibles.

Where I went wrong was failing to learn about the audience.

Getting into the heads of landlords didn’t excite me. Where did they hang out? What were their pains? What language did they use when talking about insurance? I didn’t know. I wasn’t passionate enough about buy-to-let to find out.

What did interest me was design, development and technology. I immersed myself in the web industry. Attending (and speaking at) conferences, reading publications, engaging with the community…

All of this lead to the creation of Jack. I focused on freelance designers and developers—an audience I like.

Lesson: You’re going to spend years talking to, dealing with and serving this audience. Make sure you like them.

Don't Assume A Problem Exists

This is a common mistake creators make. Think about the developer who builds a SaaS app without researching their target market’s pains. Nobody uses the software because it doesn’t solve a problem that existed. It solves a problem the developer thought existed.

The developer has now wasted months developing this product, only to make no financial gain. This is a mistake that could have been avoided had they spoken to their target market.

I made this mistake, too.

Sales had taken a hit. With comparison sites booming and our diminishing visibility on Google, I had to ask, “What can I do to improve our figures?”.

While the insurance industry has improved, back then insurers weren’t investing money into their technology.

I believed that if I used design and technology to make the process simpler for landlords to buy insurance, we’d see an increase in sales. I focused on redesigning our quoting process. I built a rough prototype of a quote system from the little Ruby on Rails I had learned.

I hired a designer to redesign our website. I’m confident we were the first UK insurance broker to implement a responsive design.

I snagged the .co.uk extension. This symbolised our business maturing, laying to rest the .net extension and giving us more credibility.

I built Lodger, a SaaS app for landlords to manage their rental properties. It complimented our customer-base perfectly, and gave us a unique selling point.

Surely this would solve our problem of falling sales.

I took my Dad’s business from this:

How Brokers Direct looked when I inherited it
How Brokers Direct looked when I inherited it

To this:

The current version of Brokers Direct
The current version of Brokers Direct
The app I built for Brokers Direct customers
The app I built for Brokers Direct customers

But this didn’t produce the results I’d hoped for and we didn’t see a surge in sales. Why? There was something I had overlooked.

Responsive design, a nicer quoting experience… None of that really mattered to our audience.

Landlords don’t care about good design. They don’t get excited about clever technology. Landlords are content filling out a traditional proposal form on their desktop computer running an old version of Windows.

It took a long time to realise the problem I was addressing just didn’t exist for this audience.

Lesson: Research your audience’s pains. Don’t assume a problem exists. Talk to them.

Silver Linings

Whilst all of these factors contributed to the business not performing as well as it once did, I don’t see this as a failure.

I was able to use my Dad’s business as a platform to learn coding, marketing and about insurance. Through inheriting his business I developed a passion for design. I used my experience as a stepping stone to do something I love.

On the topic of failure, reflect on why it happened and what you can learn from it. Failing at something simply means you’re trying something new. Failing at something means you’ll do better next time.

It’s OK to fail.

My Dad’s business was the catalyst for Jack. Those lessons—as difficult as they were to learn at the time—are helping me build a better, stronger business today.

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How I Won My First 3 Customers

How I Won My First 3 Customers

When I launched Insurance by Jack in 2014, I struggled to win sales.

One week passed… nothing. Week two… zilch.

It took me three weeks to make my first sale. It was a slither of momentum, but it wasn’t the start of my business gaining steam.

I knew why I was struggling. Insurance by Jack had a strong brand, but the process of getting a quote involved a third-party form. This resulted in a customer journey that wasn’t cohesive and made for a poor user experience.

Fast forward two years, Insurance by Jack has evolved into Jack and I’ve been granted more permission and responsibility. Now that I’ve taken control of the design and technology, I’ve created a customer journey that compliments Jack’s brand.

The theory that this would improve sales was true. So much so, I made my first sale three weeks before I launched. A stark contrast to 2014’s launch to crickets.

Last week I celebrated putting my 50th freelancer on cover, but I want to start at the beginning and share how I won my first three customers.

My First Customer

In the run up to launch, I replaced Insurance by Jack’s website with a landing page. I wrote a couple of paragraphs on my vision for insurance, which I followed with a call to action to be notified of launch.

Jack's landing page
The landing page that replaced the original website

120+ people opted in. This surprised me because it’s insurance. Having 10 people pay attention would have been a success.

I sent 3 emails to this list.

1. Coming soon: The new Jack. I touched upon my journey in insurance and detailed what people can expect from the new Jack.

2. Want to test the new Jack? A short email asking for beta testers. 29 people responded.

3. Introducing the new Jack. The soft launch email. I announced I was open for business.

Designers and developers love collaborating. They enjoy seeing other people’s work and offering solutions as to how they’d approach it differently.

Email number 2—where I asked people to test the quote form—was the ideal way to open dialogue with my target audience. Not only did I get constructive feedback on the process, but several people actually wanted to buy insurance.

This is how I won my first customer before I launched.

Lesson: Involve your target audience in the build process. At the very least be transparent about what you’re working on—people will take an interest and want to support you.

My Second Customer

I quietly pushed Jack live from a hotel room in Berlin with terrible WIFI.

When I say quietly, I didn’t announce the service was available. I deployed it to GitHub Pages, walked away and played tourist in Berlin.

The following day I checked my CRM tool and was surprised to see a quote had come through. It was from a name I recognised.

This person had been following me on Twitter for years. Our first exchange was 5 years ago—back in 2012! This was two years before I had even started my crusade into business insurance.

Lesson: Marketing is about the long game. Relationships established years ago can blossom into paying customers.

My Third Customer

By this point I still hadn’t announced I’d launched Jack. I was aiming to do a few weeks in soft launch, so I was expecting any quotes that came through to be from beta testers.

During this time I gave a talk at Hybrid, a conference for creatives.

With the first iteration of Jack (Insurance by Jack), I had no control over the customer journey. I had no idea who my customers were or where they were coming from. It made tracking marketing very difficult. Especially public speaking.

As a quote had come through from someone that wasn’t a beta tester, I asked where they’d heard of Jack.

We heard about Jack through friends that'd been chilling at Hybrid. We looked at your site and we're suckers for a good design. Truth be told we'd never thought about insurance, but the site was fun, friendly and didn't feel like chewing glass.

What do you know, public speaking can convert. Thanks to the HybridConf attendee who passed along Jack’s name.

Lesson: Share your story everywhere. All it takes is for one person to hear it and share it with their friend.

tl;dr

I won my first three customers through the following channels:

  • Beta tester
  • Twitter
  • Public speaking

I’m having a lot of fun building Jack and finding ways to win customers, but I do need a better formula.

I’m heading to Switzerland for my birthday in a few weeks for a (working) holiday. One of the books I plan on reading is Traction. I’m hoping to use their three-step framework to discover the best channels for marketing Jack.

Hopefully one day I’ll be writing about winning my 3000th customer, but I’m documenting my journey of building an insurance business from the start.

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My Goals For 2017

My Goals For 2017

Every year I’m guilty of setting too many goals (and vague ones at that). ‘Be more successful’, ‘Earn more money’, ‘Get fitter’. This year I’ve put more thought into defining my goals.

Business, creativity and fitness are the themes of the year.

#1: Add more cover features to the quote system

I launched with one product, professional indemnity insurance. This is the most common type of cover for freelancers and it kept the build process simple for the quote system. Lean startup and all that.

After giving 160+ quotes and putting 47 freelancers on cover, I have a better idea of what cover they commonly require. Worldwide cover, contents insurance and public liability are often requested.

Now I have access to a wide suite of insurance products, I’ll be building these into the quote system.

It’s a win / win situation and my priority going into 2017. I earn more commission per policy, and freelancers can customise cover to their individual needs. I know I’ve lost sales due to the quoting process focusing solely on professional indemnity.

Where the money to invest in this will come from is another blog post for another day. (Fun fact: Jack is bootstrapped on £10,000 I earned photographing weddings.)

#2: Build a dashboard for customers

Customers will be able to login and access their documents, freebies and have an overview of their insurance.

I’m going to hack on this project solo to keep costs down (but hire a designer). I’ve built a Rails app in the past, and I spent the Christmas period brushing up on my Ruby skills… and levelling up in Dragon Age: Inquisiton.

I can already envisage it being a frustrating project to tackle, but I’m open to the challenge.

#3: Create a referral scheme

A lot of my first customers have come from referrals. This is handy because Jack is bootstrapped and I’m marketing on a tight budget.

I haven’t put much thought into the referral scheme just yet. It will, of course, begin with asking customers, “What can I do to encourage you to recommend Jack to your friends?”.

#4: Double the number of policies I'm selling

At the moment I’m putting 2-4 people on cover a week. This works out at 150+ customers after a year. I’d like to get to 300.

Right now this feels unlikely, but it’s a numbers game, right? With a conversion rate of 26%, it means I need to deliver 1200-odd quotes to get to 300 customers.

Now to attract thousands of freelancers primed to buy insurance to Jack’s website. That won’t be hard. /sarcasm

#5: Run a half marathon

In October I started training for a half marathon. No race in particular, but I was inspired by Chad’s 27.2 mile jaunt around Chicago. After running four 10K’s in the space of a year, I knew I needed to step up to the next milestone.

I’ve never enjoyed running, but following a training plan on Runkeeper has (mostly) kept me on track. I did contract the flu on Christmas day, so I’ve fallen a little behind with the plan. This sucks because Santa brought me new trainers.

My goal for 2017 is to sign up and run a half marathon, finishing around the 2 hour mark.

#6: Sit my next insurance exam

In March of 2016 I sat and passed my first insurance exam. Studying for this was as painfully dull as you’re imagining.

Although it doesn’t benefit my career right now, it’ll come in handy down the line when I’m aiming for full authorisation (I’m currently an Appointed Representative with limited responsibility).

The best approach I found to studying was blocking out 30 minutes a day. No intensive 2-3 hour sessions, otherwise I wouldn’t do it. I love the challenge the insurance industry presents—not the ins-and-outs of the industry itself.

#7: Do a photo project

One thing I slacked on in 2016 was photography. I shot a lot of weddings, but I didn’t take many photos for me. My blog was updated only 33 times. Compare this to 2011 when it was updated 149 times, it’s clear I’ve fallen behind on doing photography for fun.

I tell people who are just getting started with photography to carry their camera everywhere for 30 days. I need to follow my own advice, so I’ll be doing a project that requires a degree of commitment.

I haven’t decided what that project will be yet. I’m open to suggestions (but no Project 365, please).

My ultimate aim for 2017 is for Jack to be delivering instant quotes and cover. I can only get there if I’m generating enough business for an insurer to consider giving me their rates to plug into my system.

It costs an insurer a lot of money to onboard a broker, so they need to ensure it’s worth their resources. If I keep building my book of customers and focusing on creating a good customer experience, I’m confident it’ll happen.

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