Marketing · Small business

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

Marc DeLeonibus CEO, QuotePie - helping the commercial insurance industry write more business

February 23rd, 2015

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!

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Rodrigo Vaca Product & Marketing

February 23rd, 2015

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

Stephen PMP Project Management Professional

February 23rd, 2015

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! 

Anonymous

February 23rd, 2015

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 tami@1bluecube.com www.1bluecube.com 702-341-8859 "The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it." - William James

Steve Birnhak CEO at Inwindow

February 24th, 2015

Hi Marc,

After reading this post I filled out a profile on your site (so you got 1 lead via FD!). As a SMB CEO, I find insurance (commercial and health) to be an annoying part of my business. It's confusing, opaque and the process is antiquated. I like the fact that you are using technology to simplify the process a little, but given the present structure of the industry, independent brokers are still part of the equation. I wish I could contact a handful of carriers directly (preferably online) and cut out the agent who seems most interested in talking to me (and bringing me cupcakes) only when my policy is up for renewal. One step at a time I suppose. Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing how your site works.

Lastly, I don't fully understand what your fee structure looks like from the broker side, but if you can give SMBs that sign up with an agent via your service some sort of financial incentive and perhaps add a referral program, you might find a lot of interest.

Best,

Steve

Ryan Rigterink Midwest Manager at Hematogenix Laboratory

February 24th, 2015

I would echo what Rodrigo already stated above.  

I would add the following:

What comes to mind for your sites functionality and marketing position is an Expedia for business insurance.  If this is the case, this is search oriented.  And setting up a profile is secondary and elective by the user.  If this is a fair assessment or comparison for your business (you know your business, I do not), there needs to be a compelling reason to create a profile, and perhaps make it optional if that aligns with your business needs.  In an optional profile scenario, a user would sign up for the benefits being a member brings, but also experience the sites search functionality as a step in that direction (building trust).

An incentive for creating a profile could be a variety of things such as insurance reminders or insurance reviews based on the renewal of their current insurance.  A sort of autopilot for business insurance, so the business owner no longer needs to think about this important but non-core business activity.  This would also align your marketing efforts for your timing sweet spot for use and conversion rates through the site.

Just my 2 cents.

Anonymous

February 23rd, 2015

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 tami@1bluecube.com www.1bluecube.com 702-341-8859 "The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it." - William James

Ron Boyd Website Consultant / Business Owner / Speaker & Trainer

February 23rd, 2015

Ah ha! My apologies.. U.S.and Canadian markets and tech are very different. 17yrs ago in Canada, brokers networked together so one brokerage would have a few hundred affiliate brokers, each independent from each other, but it meant that they could leverage the collective buying power of 10's to 100's of thousands of personal and commercial clients, and offer solutions from almost all insurers.. Not all brokers have affiliations but many do... In the U.S. there would be a much larger demand and market for your app. I love what Tami was saying and fully agree.. Whether via social media, or person to person nothing beats word if mouth.. Testimonials are great. Try having your customers testify on their blogs, social media, or websites. It carries far more weight than you posting their testimonial on your website. -- Ron Boyd rwboyd@orionsweb.net Twitter: @boydrw Orion's Web: WordPress Consulting • Website Marketing & Management • http://orionsweb.net OWHosting: Domain Registration • Cloud Hosting • 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! -------

Jason Lee TheSmartCone.com

February 24th, 2015

Relationships sell.  If you focus on the people you will stand out.

Find a way to bring personal relationships into your online or app experience.

Consider that 'teckies' are lonely.  Sitting behind a screen...just like you and me.

Alex MBA Are you a Customer Success Manager? Visit bit.ly/csm-elite

February 28th, 2015

This is more or less the approach we use to promote content - http://wpcurve.com/content-promotion-strategy/

Gil Allouche Founder @ Metadata

February 26th, 2015

Hi Marc! Check out AMEX Open platform, Radius targeting.. both have focus