Lessons from InsuranceHotline.com’s experiment in bringing lead generation in house
Two years ago, our team at InsuranceHotline.com found ourselves in the unique position of having more leads available for sale than we had partners to buy them. We took this as an opportunity to try something new by establishing an in-house distribution model for our leads. What started out as a manual process has evolved into a trackable, automated system that enables us to optimize our sales funnel and reach consumers through their preferred method. Here’s how we turned a challenge into a profitable new arm of our business.
Implementing a Lead Gen Process
Our solution was to develop an “outbound” team of ambassadors comprised of customer service representatives trained to connect with the consumer using the same method of lead distribution popular among our partners. We essentially became our own partner by selling the lead to ourselves. We received the same lead email as our partners used to “work the lead” by reaching out to the consumer the way that our partners do.
This provided us with a couple of valuable insights:
- We were able to put ourselves in our partners’ shoes by working the leads ourselves
- We were able to provide leads to new partners who, by virtue of their own processes, were unable to take advantage of our program before
We faced several challenges as we worked to identify the best process for optimizing our lead generation efforts, but emerged with a keen understanding of when is best to connect with a consumer as well as how often to attempt to connect in order to achieve optimal leads.
We found that timing is everything.
The process ended up looking like this: Once our team member connected with the consumer, we verified their intent and connected them via phone with the partner who offered the best rate for that consumer’s profile. The consumer would then be transferred to the partner to close the sale. At that point, our part is done.
Three-Strikes Leads to a Homerun
To get here, we took a “three strikes” approach to reaching out, meaning that we would make three attempts to connect with the consumers.
Initially, we made the first phone call to the consumer within five minutes of receiving the lead. If we connected there was no need to go further, but if we missed the consumer we left a message and sent the consumer an email at roughly the same time to acknowledge them and advise that we would try again. We would follow up with a phone call the next day.
Our consumer connection rate when calling within five minutes was acceptable at 30 per cent, but we knew that we could increase conversions. We switched to contacting the consumer within 15 minutes of receiving the lead and saw our connection rate increase to 40 per cent. The extra 10 minutes or so gave the consumer time to finish their searches online while keeping our quote top of mind.
To increase our connection rate further, we changed the second contact attempt from the next day to 48 hours after the first attempt, and the third attempt 24-48 hours after that. Our connection rate with the consumer increased to 45 per cent.
This process ultimately increased the number of transfers that we were able to send to our partners, making it a homerun for InsuranceHotline.com as well as our partners. We still use this timeline today and have since built our own tracking tool to automate and streamline the follow up process.
Best Practices for Lead Generation
Our team now follows these guidelines as best practices:
- Have a dedicated resource to work the lead. Within business hours work the lead within 15 minutes of receipt.
- Reply promptly to voicemails from the consumer otherwise you risk them moving their business elsewhere
- Log the outcome of leads to measure the return on investment (ROI) such as policies sold, policies cross sold, etc.
To measure ROI, create a document that helps you track what happened with each lead. There are several types of sales software you can get that can help you do this, though depending on the quantity of your leads, starting with an Excel spreadsheet that can be used to analyze and optimize your data may be enough to get your lead generation model off the ground.
Consider tracking these types of metrics:
- Did the consumer buy a policy?
- Can we follow-up? If so, when?
- Was the lead cross sold to another line of business? Etc.
Understanding the path of each lead helps you to better calculate your ROI, identify opportunities for improvement, and monitor your internal processes. Work the lead as you would any referral. Point out why the consumer should buy from you. What is it that separates you from your competition?
Most of all, don’t be shy about asking the consumer for their business. Letting the consumer know that you want to be their insurance professional humanizes the process and could make all the difference in them committing to you, or going to your competition.
This process is a powerful form of data collection that helps you to better understand when and how your consumers prefer to be contacted. Leveraging this data will help you to save time and resources, and ultimately increase your profit margin as well.
Throughout our lead generation process, we identified several obstacles and opportunities.
For example, email addresses provided lots of learnings. Consumers don’t always leave valid contact information. The consumer may be doing research at this time and thus might not be ready to commit at the time of the quote. We discovered that when they were ready, often they reached out to us directly as they remembered quoting on our site and/or had seen our ads.
We also learned that some partners were willing to pay a premium for leads where the consumer’s email was validated. As a result of this, we created the option for our partners to purchase validated email leads and integrated this into our lead generation system.
Never underestimate the value of talking to potential new customers. Ask them where they heard about you so that you know which marketing efforts are working for you. Was it through an online search engine, a display ad, social media, or perhaps a recommendation from a family member or friend? Consumers are often happy to share how they heard about you, especially when they’re excited by the product/savings you’re offering them.
Winning at Lead Generation
What started out looking like a big challenge in 2016 turned out to be a huge opportunity. We’re proud that this is now a new arm of our business that has proven beneficial for our consumers and our partners, too.
We are always looking for ways to help our partners improve their ROI on our platform. If you are facing a challenge please let us know. We might be able to help!