There is no silver bullet in building a remarkable product and it might take you months or even years to find the right recipe, but if you start with a small audience and gather feedback on the way, your chance of coming up with a remarkable product or service will get much, much higher. — How Seth Godin Would Launch a New Business
My business, With Jack, isn’t reinventing the wheel. It’s all manual processes and I’m not doing anything innovative.
If you were to ask what makes With Jack different, currently I’d say not much. Sure, people enjoy the conversational interface instead of a generic form. And yes, customers are delighted when I respond to enquiries at lightning speed. But I’m not disrupting an industry.
What I am doing is building my book of customers. I’m talking to people and making discoveries that will in time lead to creating a remarkable product, all whilst growing monthly revenue.
This approach has enabled me to get to market quickly, at a low cost and start collecting insights.
Build a remarkable product for a tiny audience
I’ve created With Jack for a small audience. 70% of my customers are freelance web designers and developers. The rest is comprised of internet marketers, photographers and businesses that fall on the fringes of digital and creative.
If you’re a plumber or estate agent, I’ll recommend you go elsewhere.
Getting a quote with Jack means not being shown 200+ occupations that aren’t relevant to you. You won’t have to scroll forever to find a category you think you fit into.
We know who we’re building With Jack for, so every design, copy and product decision is influenced by that.
Positioning With Jack for freelancers means only showing the type of insurance that’s relevant to them. A lot of sole traders approach me with insurance packages they’ve purchased elsewhere that have uneccesary cover added.
It’s not that the insurer intentionally tried extracting more money from the sale. It’s that they’re targeting so many types of businesses, their customer journey, packages and products aren’t right for everyone. This means some businesses end up paying for cover they don’t need.
On With Jack’s blog, you’ll find stories that resonate with freelancers. You won’t read about the importance of public liability because of the risks working on a construction site presents.
Instead you’ll hear stories about insurance helping with scope creep, missing project deadlines and client relationships breaking down. You know, the kind of stuff that’s relevant to our target audience.
Lastly, once you’ve bought your policy you’ll receive a host of benefits that are relevant to the work you do. This includes discounts for software, eBooks or learning material for freelancers.
Perhaps I’ve overused the term ‘relevant’, but that’s the key word here. Applicable. Apt. Fitting. Because we’re not trying to target every type of business in all industries, we can perfect each area of With Jack for our tiny audience. That’s the power of positioning.
There were a few reasons I positioned With Jack for freelancers.
I had experience in their world
I was a freelance wedding photographer for 6 years. I know some of the fears I faced when freelancing. Equipment failing, not meeting client expectations. Maybe I’d miss a crucial moment at a wedding or work with a problem client.
There was one difficult customer I had (I was lucky for the majority of my freelance career). It was the first time I worried a situation could escalate to something more. Whilst it was a stressful situation to handle, there was a lot of comfort in knowing that I had insurance if it did escalate.
There would be a team of legal experts to help me and a policy to cover my defence costs. Even though the situation diffused after some time, that one difficult client—and the fear and anxiety I felt whenever I received communication from them—was worth the £300 I had paid for insurance that year.
I had a small audience to launch to
I had previously launched Insurance by Jack (I’ll talk more about this later). Whilst this project wasn’t a success, hundreds of people had submitted quotes which gave me a lot of data to analyse.
I surveyed every quote and noticed an overwhelming amount were from freelancers. This was clearly something they were interested in. It also gave me a small audience to launch With Jack to.
Most insurers target every type of business
There weren’t a lot of options on the market for freelancers. The incumbents that have a monopoly on business insurance target sole traders, limited companies, traditional tradesmen, digital trades, high-risk careers like financial advisors etc.
It felt like there was a gap in the market for somebody to say, “We do this one thing really well for this one group of people”.
I like freelancers!
Having previously worked in buy-to-let insurance and selling to landlords, I realised it was important for me to like the audience I’m serving. I measure this by asking myself;
- Would I have coffee with them every day?
- Do I enjoy chatting to them?
- Am I interested in what they’re working on?
If I can answer ‘yes’ to those questions it’s the right fit for me as a founder. Justin Jackson has a great article on founder / market fit.
The importance of positioning
We’ve established that With Jack isn’t doing anything innovative. What it does a good job of is positioning. This means freelancers feel With Jack is unique to them.
Take these tweets as an example.
Only offered in UK currently but this is the kind of insurance I want for freelance work in the US.
Got super excited about this until I saw the .uk extension.
We need a service like this in the US—freelancer insurance.
With Jack specialises in professional indemnity insurance. This product does exist in the US and elsewhere in the world. It has existed for a very long time.
What’s confusing people is the terrible job insurers do of positioning. Remember, most insurers are trying to be everything to every type of business. They cater to large businesses with employees and complex risks the same way they’re catering to sole traders turning over less than £50K per year.
People are unaware this policy exists in their line of work because insurers take a product (in this case professional indemnity) and package it for lawyers, SME’s, freelancers and more.
These are all different sizes of businesses across different industries with different needs and risks. This leaves the messaging of how this product can help you lost, unfocused and—you guessed it–not relevant.
This is why positioning is important. Not just in insurance, but any business. It helps you speak directly to a particular group of people.
If With Jack was targeting plumbers as well as web developers, our messaging would be muddled. We’d be sharing stories about burst pipes as well as the dangers of scope screep. There’s no crossover and—as a result—our messaging wouldn’t ‘speak’ to anyone.
Web developers would visit the website and think, “I’m not doing manual labour. This product must not be for me”. Tradesmen would visit the website and think, “I’m not building features for a client’s app. This product isn’t for me”.
The result? Fewer sign-ups.
In the latest episode of Build Your SaaS, Justin and Jon are exploring what to charge for their podcast hosting app. They’ve been looking at how competitors price themselves and their differentiator.
Rob Walling, co-founder of Drip, offered advice on charging more than your competitors. First, you can have features that no one else has. Secondly, you can position yourself differently by saying: “We are the podcast host for businesses”.
Justin acknowledges the successful job ConvertKit did of positioning themselves.
Your positioning matters a lot. Is there a huge difference between Nathan Barry's ConvertKit, which is email marketing for bloggers, and MailChimp, which is email marketing for whatever. Is there a big differentiator? No. A lot of it is the language they're speaking.
ConvertKit is now doing $1,000,000 MRR. They carved a niche as email marketing for professional bloggers, and have evolved their positioning to email marketing for creators.
At With Jack, being clear on our positioning allows us to build a customer experience that’s easy to navigate, use content to deliver a focused message and offer the neccessary products to our target audience.
Positioning is scary. Trust me, I get it
Before With Jack there was Insurance by Jack. When I launched Insurance by Jack, I was trying to target lots of different businesses. Creative agencies, technology start-ups, freelancers and more. I was terrified of excluding people and losing sales. There was nowhere on the site that actually said who Insurance by Jack was for.
It’s no coincidence that Insurance by Jack never gained traction.
Lesson: Start by focusing on the tiniest audience possible. It doesn’t mean you’re stuck serving that tiny audience forever. Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook for Harvard students and it’s now at 2.19 billion monthly active users.
It’s easy to think that by launching to more verticals you’ll increase sales. You might attract more people through the door, but it’s tricker to win them over.
A freelance web designer should feel like With Jack has been built for them. They should feel like we understand the challenges they experience as a designer, and have stripped out all of the crap so they can get the insurance they actually need, quicker.
Philip Morgan, a consultant who specialises in positioning, says that when you define your positioning you are making a claim of expertise. So, what do you want to be an expert in?
Our statement is that we understand freelancers and the kind of problems they face with clients. Because of this we can offer them a product (professional indemnity insurance) to solve those problems.
Other insurance companies insure 300+ industries and sectors. But being the insurer for all businesses means people don’t know what products to buy, if they’re applicable to them and how they serve them in their line of work.
Again, this isn’t exclusive to insurance. All businesses should be positioning themselves to occupy a niche.
Positioning focuses your messaging, marketing, customer service and products. With Jack isn’t doing anything innovative (yet!), but we’ve done a good job of the above which is how I’ve been able to organically bootstrap to almost 300 customers.
It can be scary because you’re worried about excluding potential customers, but by positioning yourself to a tiny audience you’ll know things about your customers’ needs and problems that competitors don’t. This will give you an advantage. From there you can gain access to other ideal customers.
Positioning doesn’t mean you’re locked into serving that audience forever, but it’s a great place to get started. You’ll gather feedback and learn from your customers, helping you build a truly great product.