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Reaching the Small to Mid-Size Business Owner - What is Working For You?

I want to get some feedback from other entrepreneurs whose target customer is the small business owner. What is working for you to get your product or service in front of them?

In my case in particular we have developed a 100% free tool for businesses to use in order to achieve better pricing and coverage on their insurance needs. Basically a business creates a profile on our site and we connect them with the best insurance agents from around the country who compete to provide the best insurance quote possible.

However, making businesses aware that this tool is available for them to use has proved to be a challenge to say the least. We can spend a ton of money on AdWords and acquire businesses, but the quality of businesses that this method attracts is lacking. Social Media has been another avenue that we have explored; however, the conversions just aren't there.

We have just recently launched an affiliate program to incentivize businesses who work with a lot of business owners on a daily basis to refer their clients to us, and that is yet to prove itself. Our thought is to get this in front of Lawyers, Accountants, Financial Planners, Credit Card Processors, Bankers, Etc. and pay them a fee amongst other benefits to send clients our way.

What about......Telemarketing? Email Blasts? Content?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

25 Replies

Stephen Campbell, PMP
2
0
Project Management Professional
Hi Marc,
Firstly, kudos to you for this very beneficial service. I don't know of your competitors, but believe it or not, they're not a bad place to start (if any exist). Track their marketing efforts, subscribe to their blogs/social media/newsletters/etc and see how this game is working for them. There are a ton of tools that allow you to essentially "stalk" their online presence in any capacity - let me know if you need a few. Borrow what's working, eliminate what's not. See what their customers are saying, asking, doing and go where they are going. Of course this all assumes that you indeed have competition.

If you do not, then as someone who targets SMB owners, I might I suggest tarting with compiling an organic list of targets, determining who the appropriate contacts are (by role/title, then by name), choose a CRM, hone your pitch and value proposition, and hammer out a campaign or two or three. Creativity is a big deal. Learning their likes and dislikes is a big deal. Persistence is a big deal. Treating "no" as 1 step closer to yes is a big deal. Understanding your sales cycle is a big deal. Customer tracking, feedback, and issue management is a big deal. But timing is everything my friend.

Luck is what happens when hard work meets preparation, and you must be persistent but prepared at all times to get lucky. The majority of all sales is a matter of being in the customers mind and/or space at the right time. Some of it is predictable depending if your product/service is cyclical (open season in your case), and some of it is good timing.

Understand that a normal closing rate is approximately 1 out of 10 (oftentimes less than 1) sales prospects. You sound slightly discouraged, but I'm curious if you're having this average, but don't realize you're on track OR if your issue is something more substantial like price, product, process, people or some combination thereof. Hard to say what's best for you without doing a deeper dive, but start with a list of your top 5 or 10 KEY prospects and court them like you were about to ask for their hand in marriage because hey... you are!

Godspeed!
Ron Boyd
0
3
Ron Boyd Entrepreneur
Website Consultant / Business Owner / Speaker & Trainer
Small businesses use brokers to do that for them, they do not have the time to look at an app. I'm curious what your market research was prior to developing the app. Having been both a broker and agent in commercial, personal lines and group at different points in my career, and now for the last 20yrs owning my own business working with and providing website solutions for small business, I can't see business having an interest in such an app. Small businesses rely on professionals to provide services to free up their tube and look after those aspects of business that larger companies would hire employees to cover. Another note: The insurance industry has software out there already to compare coverage between insurers and reinsurers automatically. It existed as far back to when I was a broker in the 90s. Call a broker they'll ask a couple questions and call you back with the solution you need. -- Ron Boyd [removed to protect privacy] Twitter: @boydrw Orion's Web: WordPress Consulting o Website Marketing & Management o http://orionsweb.net OWHosting: Domain Registration o Cloud Hosting o http://owhosting.com --- Save a tree - Think before you print ------- This message & attachments may be private & confidential, and is intended for the above-named recipient(s) only. If you are not the intended recipient of this message please delete this message. Thank you! -------
Tami Belt
1
0
Tami Belt Advisor
Owner, Blue Cube Marketing Solutions
What about good old-fashioned relationship building? Also, have you tried to get a news story about your company in the local media or trade publications of your target audiences. Finally, what about video testimonials online or case studies? Tami Belt Blue Cube Marketing Solutions [removed to protect privacy] www.1bluecube.com [removed to protect privacy] "The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it." - William James
Marc DeLeonibus
0
0
Marc DeLeonibus Entrepreneur
CEO, QuotePie - helping the commercial insurance industry write more business
Hi Stephen,

Thanks for getting back to me and for the kind words! We do have competitors in this space; however, the approach that we are taking by really putting the power in the businesses hands has never been done before. We have taken it another step further by creating a truly open marketplace where buyers can connect with sellers while we remain neutral in the transaction. Essentially provide the platform to make a good match between business and insurance provider.

I'm going to take you up on your offer for some good "stalking" tools? I've used SpyFu before to take a look into AdWords activity, but that is about the extent of my use with these tools.

I've started to build a list of other companies that run in parallel with us and work with SMB owners. The majority of them are professional and financial services based. My thought process here is that a recommendation coming from someone in this space might carry more credibility than say a company who built their website.

Until January 2015 I have put most of my energy into acquiring insurance agents or sellers for the platform and we have done a great job of growing that side of our user base. We have relied on paid search to fill the other side of our marketplace with business owners, but this is not sustainable for us especially if we are not attracting higher quality business that our agents want to engage with.

The exciting thing is that the quality businesses who are using our platform are seeing great results thus far.
I'm not discouraged because I know we have a good product that has shown it can really help small businesses, but I guess there is a bit of frustration in my tone because we have been bumping into a number of dead ends lately with some of our efforts.

I'll keep you posted on my closing ratio as I reach out to the potential partners that I have targeted.
Marc DeLeonibus
0
0
Marc DeLeonibus Entrepreneur
CEO, QuotePie - helping the commercial insurance industry write more business
Hi Ron,

Thanks for getting back to me!

Your right businesses do have brokers to do this for them, BUT, all brokers do not have access to every insurance option available. Furthermore, there are brokers from across the country that have specific programs for particular businesses that if a businesses was only made aware about could save them a ton of money and include more robust coverage than they had before.

Beyond that the insurance landscape is constantly changing and if a broker isn't up on new coverages there could be major exposure for the business. Look at all the recent cyber crime for example.

Also, shopping for business insurance is pain in the butt. Think about how it has been done for years...call up multiple agents......answer the same questions 4 or 5 different times.....send emails back and forth.....phone calls......more emails....meetings.....all leading up to the time that a quote is ready. This is not efficient. The system is so antiquated its disgusting.

Why not just come to one place create a profile for your business and do all of what I listed above once...

This marketplace isn't just for the business owner its also for the agent. They get access to an inventory of businesses who are looking to connect with them and can choose the businesses that they work best with. It makes prospecting for them a breeze.

I worked as an agent for 5 years before starting this project.
Marc DeLeonibus
0
0
Marc DeLeonibus Entrepreneur
CEO, QuotePie - helping the commercial insurance industry write more business
Tami,

Video testimonials are a great idea!
Tami Belt
1
0
Tami Belt Advisor
Owner, Blue Cube Marketing Solutions
Word of mouth remains the best form of advertising. People remember stories, not statistics. Bring in numbers for back-up when necessary but get the story out so people have something to talk about. You can say anything in an ad, but a story - testimonial or news story - carries much more weight. It is an endorsement that builds credibility. Tami Belt Blue Cube Marketing Solutions [removed to protect privacy] www.1bluecube.com [removed to protect privacy] "The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it." - William James
Ron Boyd
0
0
Ron Boyd Entrepreneur
Website Consultant / Business Owner / Speaker & Trainer
I understand, but still as a small business I'm just going to call a broker, they input my info one time and get me details, quotes and recommendations from between 5 and 50 different insurance companies, depending on what coverage I'm looking for. I should ask if you are in the U.S. or Canada? -- Ron Boyd [removed to protect privacy] Twitter: @boydrw On Feb 24, 2015 12:24 AM, "Marc DeLeonibus" <
Marc DeLeonibus
0
0
Marc DeLeonibus Entrepreneur
CEO, QuotePie - helping the commercial insurance industry write more business
Hi Ron,

I'm located in the U.S. I can respect your point; however, think of this an agent or broker has obligations to meet for every one of those 5 or 50 insurance companies. Meaning that they need to give each of those companies a certain amount of business every year to keep there contract with them. This might not always align with the businesses best interest. Just something to consider.

Look at what has happened with the U.S. personal insurance market in the past 10 years. You can find and buy auto or home insurance anywhere online today. It's just the way its done. I know I'm only one person but in my opinion and through conversations that I have had with carriers, the small business market next or maybe even now.
Rodrigo Vaca
3
0
Rodrigo Vaca Entrepreneur • Advisor
Product & Marketing
Marc -

At Zoho we target mainly SMBs. I certainly sympathize with your position. Marketing to SMBs is hard!

I don't know a whole lot about the insurance industry, so I'm sorry I can't offer very specific advice. But here's my general take on the challenge you face:

- You may already be doing this, but I haven't seen it mentioned in the thread yet. What triggers a business buying insurance, can they switch at any time, is it when they incorporate, around tax time? These are simple question - but if you have a short window of time to reach a customer, you need to understand what that window is and try to get to customers as they're entering that window. This is more than an academic exercise, it would also dictate your marketing activities. For example, if you have a broad window and businesses can switch at any time, then maybe you will be better off with broad-based strategies (advertising, social media). But if you have a narrow window, then you need to employ more directed strategies (for example, adwords).

- If you do Adwords right, it can certainly power your acquisition for a bit. It is not cheap, and this will depend on your cash position. But if you target it smartly, I think you might be able to get some traction. This assumes, of course, that business owners wake up one day thinking about insurance for their business, - which I assume they will. You will of course need to keep your CPA and LTV in check.

- Social. Social can be good for certain kinds of customers... not for others. My first reaction to your business is that social is probably not the best one.

- Dial for dollars. It actually might be one of the best strategies for you at this stage (reading your post, I assume it is very early). Just make sure you have a good strategy for how to go about this - a clear customer segment (size, industry, location, etc) and that you can try multiple different pitches.

- Your affiliate program sounds like a good idea - but then of course you need to reach out to those entities, and have them agree to promote you, and then you might see results. I can work, but I think it'll take a little more time than you think, particularly because you're new to the business and people in the line of business you outline are not known for being in the "cutting edge" of things.

- That said, be sure to include customers in your referral program as well - word of mouth can be very helpful!

One last thing - you might need to try all of them and then decide what works best in your case. Every business is different. I wish I could offer more specific guidance, but this is a world a bit foreign to me. Best of luck!

Rodrigo
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