In this episode learn:
1. How Glenn generates leads online for his agency
2. Importance and tips Glenn uses to increase conversions from website visitor to lead on your website.
3. How and why he builds most of his life insurance agency technology himself.
Click Here to View the Full Transcript
Jeff Root: All right. So it’s my pleasure to have Glenn Cooke on the podcast. I’ve actually interacted with Glenn back in 2007 on the life insurance forum he actually built, and we just recently reconnected, and I just had to get him on this podcast. Welcome to the podcast, Glenn.
Glenn Cooke: Hi Jeff. Thanks for having me on.
Jeff Root: Of course. Let’s start here. You have a very unique background in the business before starting your online life insurance agency. Tell us about your background and how you got started.
Glenn Cooke: Sure, well my original intention was to become a programmer. This is back in the eighties, and I was just an absolutely horrible programmer, so I ended up doing tech support at an insurance software company, and that’s led me into doing a lot of insurance software kinds of things. I spent a bit of time working to be trained as an actuary at a head office of an insurance company. Back in the nineties, I actually presented to the vice president of marketing a proposal on websites for insurance brokers at the insurance company I was working for, and that got turned down. So I actually left my job at the insurance company, struck out on my own and started doing websites for insurance brokers around about 15-18 years ago. Did a lot of work in the U.S. market. Sold websites and online turn quoting systems and [inaudible 00:02:57] optimization services to insurance brokers. And about seven or eight years ago I determined that the American market is relatively competitive. The Canadian marketplace is both five years behind what you folks are doing down in the U.S., and I just transitioned my business away from providing websites and services to brokers, and took that knowledge and created my online life insurance agency up in Canada, and it’s just a much easier marketplace because it’s much less competitive.
Jeff Root: So you’ve had your Canadian agency for how long now?
Glenn Cooke: In the range of about seven years, I think.
Jeff Root: Okay, great. And in that length of time, I mean, being online in Canada five years ahead of the curve, from what you’re saying, you’ve probably done a lot of business the past seven years.
Glenn Cooke: I have. I personally have a few thousand clients. All of my clients I have sold non-face-to-face; I never see clients. It’s all from my home office. We live in a rural location; I’m not even centrally located anywhere. And all of the leads I work off of our website. That’s exclusively the source for our leads, so I’ve generated that volume of clients just off of my website and over the phone.
Jeff Root: I love it.
Glenn Cooke: Currently we have about, well, not about, we have exactly three brokers and one admin person, who share the leads with us. And we are in the midst of transitioning to a wholesaler type of business arrangement, where we’re acting as a general agency for other insurance brokers. And, again, one of the draws we’ll be providing is leads off of our website.
Jeff Root: So let’s talk about how do you generate leads for an agency? What’s your main strategy?
Glenn Cooke: Well, and this is kind of pertinent, because folks … You get reading on the internet, and it’s just an overwhelming amount of information as to how to generate a lead. There’s kind of two ways to look at marketing and lead generation, and anyway, one is, you actually push yourself out to people who aren’t specifically looking for insurance, so that’d be a direct mail blast or something like that, which you can also do that kind of promotional marketing on the internet.
Alternatively, and this is what we do, we try and get a front of people who are, on their own decided that they were looking to research life insurance. And those are the people we target. As a result of that, we’re targeting people who are doing research on life insurance. Consumers who are looking to buy life insurance. And the end result of that is, there’s really only one place where that happens. So if you’re a consumer, you’re sittin’ down, lookin’ for life insurance, where are you going to go? And the answer is you don’t go to Twitter, you don’t go to Pinterest, you don’t go to Facebook. Nobody is looking for life insurance on Facebook. Some people have success with those venues, but it’s extremely limited. The best place to get life insurance leads, if you’re developing them yourself, is Google. That’s really the focus, because it’s where all the consumers are.
Jeff Root: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely. So-
Glenn Cooke: So that’s what we do.
Jeff Root: What’s your main strategy on Google, then? I mean, what have you found that works for you? That brings in all your leads?
Glenn Cooke: Okay. Well, in terms of … The short answer is you want to be on the front page of Google. But what a lot of people miss is, if you go Google a variety of topics, there is probably a half a dozen different ways to get on the front page of Google. People think you need to rank organically, in the regular listings. And that is certainly our focus currently. We’re moving away from that, which, we’ll go further into that in just a sec, but there is, if you want to search on Keurig coffee machines, as an example, you’re going to see a whole bunch of ways to get on the front page of Google.
There’s Google Images, there’s Google News, there’s the organic results, there’s pay-per-click advertising, and there’s also something that’s called the three-pack or the seven-pack. Which are the local listings. If you do a search on something like life insurance brokers in Austin Texas, Google will try and find people who are physically located near you in Austin, Texas, and they actually parachute that lock of brokers’ websites right into the front page. You beat all the organic rankings, all the big guys, by getting into those local search results. And they call ’em the three-pack and the seven-pack because Google usually lists three people or seven, and it’s that listing where you get the little map on the side, is where you can click on and get the broker’s address. Right now, we have been focusing on what is called the short tail. So big search terms, like “term life insurance,” “life insurance brokers,” and stuff like that. Very very hard for an independent broker to rank on those search terms on any country.
So we are rapidly expanding into doing local search engine optimization. We are going to start recruiting brokers and putting their office, their physical location, as one of our locations in Google’s eyes, with the expectation that when somebody types in “life insurance brokers” in Toronto, or Edmonton, or Calgary, or Vancouver, that our website will show up as having a location in that area. Not in the organic results, in that little seven-pack that gets us bumped right onto the front page. So 2015, 2016, that is one of our strategies going forward, is the local [SEO 00:07:47]. And that is probably the easiest strategy if an independent broker wants to get started, forget getting ranked organically initially. Go after local search engine optimization. Much easier, much less competitive, and you’ve got a big advantage because of your physical location.
Jeff Root: Right, and you’ll probably get less leads just doing it local if somebody contacts you under local to you, they’re going to have a high conversion rate because they’re local. That in itself has value.
Glenn Cooke: Absolutely. Now, in terms of numbers, numbers are all over the place, some folks say they don’t have much success. The yardstick, or the measurement that I use is one of my brokers on his own does very well in a city of about 200,000 people, and he tells me he gets three to five leads a week, plus a couple of phone calls. And they are excellent leads, because they’re not just looking for life insurance brokers, they’re looking for somebody in his city, and that’s him. So they’re absolutely wonderful, wonderful leads.
Jeff Root: Right. And, to rank for local, it’s completely different than any sort of organic, you know, the typical search engine optimization that we do. Can you dive a little bit into that? What that entails?
Glenn Cooke: Absolutely. Now, I’m still working on being very successful in the local SEO field. However, there are some fundamentals that aren’t that difficult. You need to set up a Google+ page and tell Google your physical location. They’re going to mail you a postcard, so that verifies your actual address. Second thing is, on your webpage, you want to indicate the hours you’re open and your location. Again, there’s a website called Schema.org. S-C-H-E-M-A.org. Schema.org will generate some code for you that you can put on your website. It’s HTML code that sits in behind things, maybe your developer will need to do this for you, that will specifically tell Google on your website your physical location, and the hours that you’re open. You can dictate that to Google right on your webpage using the code from Schema.org. So that’s the first thing, is set up your website, tell Google where you’re physically located. That guarantees to Google that you are in fact where you’re located.
The next thing is, you need to go through a bunch of directories, local directories, you want links from other websites that are relevant to wherever you’re located. So if you’re in Austin, Texas, I would start doing searches on businesses in Austin, Texas, and seeing if I can find websites that have directories of local businesses. Yelp, Yellowpages, all these types of large business directories, very good places to get into. One of the things you need to be careful about is that you address is formatted identically across all of these websites, because Google’s going to pick up your address in all of these websites, realize it’s the same person or the same business, and again, give you more preference in getting ranked in the seven-pack of local search engine optimization results.
Jeff Root: Awesome advice. And I’ll add here, that, I think they call it the NAP, the name, address, phone number. You need all those to match. If you’ve moved, you need to update that somehow within the directories. What about agents that don’t have an office that they can use? Do they recommend they use their home address for…
Glenn Cooke: Absolutely.
Jeff Root: Okay.
Glenn Cooke: Absolutely. No reason why not. I use, again, we’ve got phone calls and leads coming in all day long, and our physical location is our rural home. I have a home office, we don’t have an external office anymore, and I’ve just had to Google mail the postcard to my office.
Jeff Root: Perfect.
Glenn Cooke: Forgive me, my home office. People don’t drop by typically, there’s little danger of that. People that are looking for insurance on the internet … The location is really for Google, not your consumers. Consumers typically aren’t going to walk up and knock on your back door and say “Can I buy some life insurance for ya?” Anymore than they would if you had a retail storefront location. I mean, that’d be nice, but clearly doesn’t happen.
Jeff Root: Right. Okay, perfect. So there’s local, what about long tail? You’ve focused on a long tail I’ve noticed as well, with some of your websites.
Glenn Cooke: Absolutely. Now, let me just define what long tail is, and a little bit about search behavior. When you graph the number of people that do searches on certain search terms, a lot of people, tons of people will search on a term like “term life insurance.” Not very many people are doing searches on “life insurance brokers in Austin, Texas,” so searches like “term life insurance,” “life insurance brokers,” that get a lot of searches on a few narrow search terms is called the short tail, or the fat tail.
The long tail is all these little search terms that collectively generate a ton of traffic. Like I think it’s actually over half the searches these days are on these long tail search terms, and they’re much less competitive, so rather than trying to get 100 or 100 visitors off of one search term, like “term life insurance,” very difficult to do, instead, you focus on one visitor from 100 search terms. Much easier to do. So you start getting searches on “term life insurance Austin, Texas,” “life insurance brokers Austin, Texas,” “how much life insurance does a stay-at-home mom need?” All these secondary, minute search terms.
Now the cool thing about doing that is, first of all, it’s much less competitive, much easier to rank on these things, and finally, these long tail search terms are where consumers actually convert. The research kind of phase starts with a consumer typing in “life insurance,” they do a bit of research, then they realize they’re looking for term life insurance, they type in “term life insurance,” then they do some more research and then eventually they’re looking for somebody who does term life insurance in Austin, Texas, and they do the last search, which is going to be something like “term life insurance brokers in Austin, Texas,” and that’s bang, if you show up there, that’s where you’re going to convert.
Jeff Root: Right.
Glenn Cooke: So, these long tail search terms, it’s just a matter of volume, small volume on a lot of terms, but they’re extremely high converting terms, and they’re easy to rank on. Absolutely where an independent broker should be focusing on.
Jeff Root: Absolutely, and I’ll add to that to, as far as long tail goes, people search the darnedest things. We get people … Google and Bing, they sometimes pass on what the search terms are to their website, maybe like 98% is cut out from analytics and everything, but they do pass some terms, and when you look at some of those terms that are passed on, I mean, it’s stuff like “life insurance for fifty-eight-year-old male with multiple sclerosis in Denver, Colorado.”
Glenn Cooke: Absolutely. Now, if you’re going to overwhelm this, I wouldn’t personally do this,
Jeff Root: Right.
Glenn Cooke: But I have seen it done, where people will put up articles, 500-word articles on “life insurance for over-fifty-year-olds,” “life insurance for over-fifty-five-year-olds,” “life insurance for over-sixty-year-olds,” and they just kind of broadcast across all those search terms, because absolutely people type that kind of stuff in. The stay-at-home mom example that I used earlier, “how much life insurance does a stay-at-home mom need?” Sometimes in the long tail search term you’ll find some absolute gold. And many years ago, Prudential, in the U.S., put up a calculator on how much life insurance a stay-at-home mom needs, and I thought “hey that’s kind of a cool calculator,” so I did an article on our website talking about a similar topic, “how much life insurance does a stay-at-home mom need?”
I got a noticeable amount of traffic off of that search term. It’s not a search term that everybody targets or even necessarily knows exists, but there’s a substantial amount of traffic on that term as an example, and there’s plenty of more examples like that.
Jeff Root: And I’ll add to that. All of my traffic, from all my websites and I can vouch for other people in the business, it’s mostly long tail. You know, we’re hitting those long tails. The long tails, anybody can rank for. Anybody.
Glenn Cooke: That’s correct. Absolutely. And again, that’s exactly where the local search engine optimization and the long tail stuff, that’s what an independent broker should be targeting, because you can have some level of success doing that. Very easy, not that expensive to do, you can do a lot of the stuff on your own without assistance just by doing a bit of research and a bit of leg work.
Jeff Root: Absolutely. All right, so let’s shift gears here and now that we’ve talked about how to get people to your website, now that they’re on your website, let’s talk about conversions. When looking at a website, what’s the first thing you look for at a life insurance website to make sure it’s a high-converting website?
Glenn Cooke: Okay. This is the easiest thing you could possibly do, and it’s the biggest mistake almost everybody makes. And, let me just phrase it in sales terminology. Everybody who’s done business face-to-face knows that at some point you have to ask for a sale. If you sit at a kitchen table and do your presentation, and never quite get to the point of saying “are you ready to sign for the life insurance?” The consumer never will.
On your website, the conversion is not … You’re just going to need to refocus on what a conversion is. A conversion is not the purchase of life insurance. On your website, the sale is the conversion of a visitor to a lead. So what you’re trying to do, or the “sale” on your website is “I want their name and phone number or name and email address,” so when I look at a website, the first thing I ask myself is “Is this website asking for the sale?” Are you specifically asking for their name and phone number?
So it’s very obvious, the most visually obvious or important element of your website when I look at it needs to be you asking for the sale, which means you asking for the name and phone number. If you look at your website and the biggest thing there is not “give me your name and phone number,” you’re doin’ it wrong. Now, the reason this is so important is this can have a huge impact on the number of leads. And this, again, goes back to a fairly traditional sales funnel type of approach where people know that, in the traditional marketing strategy, you need to speak to 100 people to get 10 visits to get one lead, or, forgive me, one sale.
That’s kind of a traditional type sales funnel. In the online world, if you get 100 visitors, and 10 of those convert into a lead, you might make one sale. If you want to get two sales, the automatic reaction is “well now I need to get 200 visitors. I need to double the number of visitors from Google.” That’s very, very hard to do. Instead, what is much easier is take the same 100 visitors and don’t convert 10 of them, convert 20. So that conversion aspect on your website is completely in your control, you can [inaudible 00:18:17] it, you can play around with it, you can do stuff with the same 100 visitors, so rather than taking 100 visitors and pumpin’ ’em up to 200, take the same 100 visitors, just create a much better-converting website, again, by asking for it, and that will generate more leads and, thus, more sales.
So one of the keys is, again, as I mentioned, you need to make sure that your website is specifically asking for the sale. If you visit the top-converting websites, that’s the focus of their website, is “give me your name and phone number.” The other thing that can help and this is much less focused on, but it’s something that I do with some level of success, is, the question now for the visitor is “Why are they going to give you their name and phone number?” And there’s a lot of things that go into that. Some of it is authority. Are you a member of the Better Business Bureau, do you have certificates, or media presence, or a nice-looking website, or that kind of stuff. Do they like the look of your website, and does it look like somebody they want to do business with, so that’s one thing.
The one thing that a lot of folks overlook is why is somebody going to give you that name and phone number? The most immediate answer to that is “because you have some sort of insurance quoting system.” You’re going to give me your name and phone number, I’m going to give you quotes from 150 life insurance websites. And there are a number of online life insurance quoting systems you can plug into your website. Final Expense, I think [inaudible 00:19:34] Quotes has a website that lets you plug in Final Expense quotes, Compulife has a plug in quoting system. These are all reasons why. But if you can do some thinking about additional reasons that other people aren’t doing as to why a consumer might give you their name and phone number, you can get some surprisingly good lead generation.
Now, I’m going to give you one of the things that I do. I don’t reveal this up in Canada, this is kind of one of my little trade secrets. But in Canada, we have multi-policy discounts, so if we have a husband and wife, they get a bit of a discount if they both buy policy together. I’m not sure if that’s the case in the U.S.
Jeff Root: Yeah, it’s not.
Glenn Cooke: But in Canada, it’s absolutely the case. Okay, so in Canada, what I do, is something I’m doing that other people are not doing, is I have my regular quoting system, and then I have a little link at the top of every single quote that says “click here for more discounts if you’re quoting two people,” which almost everybody is; it’s normally husband and wife or a couple. So I get a lot of leads coming off of that, but then I get more people clicking on the “I want more discounts” button, filling in a name and phone number, and that’s them specifically asking me to give them a call. Those are the, you want to cherry pick leads, those are the best.
So, you need to think about additional ways on top of insurance quoting systems as to why somebody might fill out their name and phone number. That’s one example. You might have a link for “click here if you’re hard to insure,” or “click here for a personal call,” or “click here for top ten reasons why you should buy life insurance,” or something. You want to give them back something that other people aren’t giving in exchange for the name and phone number. The more you can do that, the more conversions to leads you’re going to get, and, therefore, the more sales you’re going to make.
Jeff Root: Great advice, and I’ll even add to one of the value ads you can give beyond the life insurance quotes and all that, is if you’re targeting a certain niche such as, say, diabetics, you can build a lead capture that asks a couple diabetic questions that say “Hey, we help diabetics. What’s your A1C level? How many years have you had diabetes?” And so on, so they know it’s a specific form for them, they’re more likely to fill that out over anything else out on the web, because nobody’s asking that question up front. It’s kind of an added layer of trust. So you can kind of get specific with really any niche. Skydivers, SCUBA divers, any health condition really, if you are targeting a specific demographic of people. So that’s just one thing that popped in my head … A way to take it beyond life insurance quotes and asking for the sale to get that conversion.
Glenn Cooke: Absolutely. And this, Jeff, what you’re suggesting ties in to kind of everything. I actually have a friend in Pennsylvania that does exactly what you’re talking about, and this also ties into long tail, because searching for life insurance on diabetics is long tail stuff, they hit his website, it’s very authoritative because he has lots of information on diabetics and the impact on life insurance. He talks about that a lot through a variety of articles which makes him very authoritative, and then he’s got a form that says “here, if you’re lookin’ for more information or want a personalized consultation by phone, click here and give us further information on your diabetes,” and then, again, we’ve got an absolutely wonderful lead that’s got a high probability of converting into a sale.
Jeff Root: Awesome. Really good advice here. Let’s move on I want to make sure we cover this other topic before we finish here, and you have a programming background and one of the things that I admire about your business is you’ve pretty much built everything yourself. You’ve designed and built everything yourself. You’re not going out there and purchasing all the software that I’m purchasing. You’ve pretty much figured out “Okay, this is the way I want it. This is how I want the process to be. I’m going to build it myself.” Can you talk about that process and your advice on kind of creating your own systems?
Glenn Cooke: Absolutely. Well, the first thing is I was a programmer back in the eighties. I was not a good programmer. I was a horrible programmer. So that’s nice that I have that background, but I’m not any sort of programmer at all. What I have is a bit more of a business analysis experience. I know how to speak to programmers in terms that they can understand, but that’s not even that necessary. Most programmers these days know that they have to translate business speak into programming speak.
My concern with buying prepackaged softwares is, it’s a couple concerns I have. The first one is, I don’t have control. If I want new features, it’s very difficult for me to add them. If I’m speaking to a big company and I say “I want this done,” they’re not going to do anything. If I do the code myself, or have it created for me using a programmer, if I want to change, if I want to tweak something it’s very easy to do. I pick up the phone or send an email to my programmer and say “Please make this change,” and I get the change the next day. So it’s very, very customizable.
The second concern might be price. These days, and just to compare back to 15-20 years ago, 15-20 years ago I was paying programmers 150 dollars US. That was per-hour. That was the competitive rate. Today, if you go on Craigslist or something like that, you can find local programmers probably as cheap as 30 bucks an hour. Programming isn’t that expensive. So the key to doing it yourself is, or one of the keys is make sure you document every little thing that you can think of about how you want it done. Mock up some screens. Say “when I push this button, this is what I want to have happen.” And that’s exactly what I do.
For everything on our website, it’s all customized, forgive me, the basic website is on a WordPress platform. That’s what we use, which is what most people use, but beyond that, everything else is customized. And that’s right up through, to, and including graphics. A number of years ago, I just got tired of the same stock image that every other website has, and we no longer use images that I don’t specifically own the copyright to, and again, surprisingly inexpensive, I found a local graphic artist. He charges me 35 bucks an hour, and designs all the graphics or web design that I want. So as an example, when I write blog posts, and this is one thing that makes my website better, all of my blog posts have a custom image inserted into them. I didn’t go out and get a stock image to fit an article on ten-year term life insurance. I had my designer create an image just for ten-year term life insurance that’s actually got my copyright information right on the image, so nobody else can take it. And again, that adds authority. Very inexpensive. I can have my developer, forgive me, my artist, develop 10 or 20 images for 10 or 20 blog posts to the tune of about 30 dollars.
Jeff Root: And especially with websites like Pinterest and so on, some of these things, if you have a really good image with a really compelling message, you know, an image that strikes emotion, not a stock image, you can generate some traffic with those.
Glenn Cooke: Absolutely. Now, actually, if we could just go on a bit of a tangent, it’s curious that you mention Pinterest. One of the world-renowned search engine optimization experts is a lady out of, coincidentally, Texas, called Sugarrae. That’s her online name, it’s S-U-G-A-R-R-A-E. Her name is Rae Hoffman. Her website is sugarrae.com. Last week, she released a 16-dollar eBook, I think it’s about 15 pages, that talks about how she got something like 50,000 back links just from Pinterest. Not even using Google. And I bought the eBook. I haven’t implemented it, but it’s something I’m absolutely going to try before the end of 2015 is to see if I can increase my traffic using Pinterest. It’s not even so much I want the traffic from Pinterest, but if the traffic from Pinterest gets me additional back links from people’s blogs and websites, then those links then help me rank in Google.
My expectation is when I do something in Pinterest, once I figure out how to do this, I will be hiring probably my daughter’s best friend from high school, who’s a bit of an amateur photographer, and I’ll throw a few hundred dollars at him, have him take 50 or 60 pictures on different topics, family, Canada, finances, just stuff like that. And I will own those images for a very, very low amount of money. And then I’ll tack on some phrases and everything will be completely custom, and copyright-owned by me, which means consumers will notice this stuff, that it’s not the typical stock image stuff that some of you pay five dollars a month for access to.
Jeff Root: Awesome. It’s those types of thoughts and action that really make a difference in why you see a lot of these websites, your websites, our websites, ranking. Is taking action on stuff like that, or constantly testing new things, whether it be marketing, whether it be technology, whether it be, you know, anything really. Conversions. It’s constantly testing and figuring out what works and do the things other people aren’t doing. Let’s get back to the third-party software and everything.
Glenn Cooke: Yes.
Jeff Root: So, can you give me examples of some things you’ve built for your agency? Just doing it yourself, that you really can do with purchasing an out-of-the-box piece of software?
Glenn Cooke: Absolutely. So, I created a, well on our website we have four different quoting systems. We have life insurance, critical illness insurance, no medical exam life insurance, and travel insurance. For the life insurance, I use Compulife to backend the quoting engine, because they’ve got the rates and it’s far easier and cheaper for me to pay them. But the [inaudible 00:29:27] generation component is done by me.
The critical illness calculator, again, that’s backended. The data is pulled from Compulife, but we’ve put a wrapper around it that compares not just premiums, because that’s sure enough easy to do, but we also compare product features, and the coverages, and the contract conditions of critical illness policies from the different companies. So that’s very much an addon. There’s about 25 different conditions that are covered in the critical illness policy in Canada. I’ve got every single one of them defined for each company, and that shows up in the actual quote. It’s a lot of additional information they don’t see in any other critical illness quoting system on the internet.
The travel insurance quoting system we built from scratch. It’s not that hard. I had five companies send their rates in an Excel spreadsheet, sent them to my developer, told them how to calculate the premiums, I gave them specific examples, and said “Here’s what I want. I want this drop-down, this image,” and so the travel insurance quoting system is ours, and again, the no medical exam, which I think in the U.S. you guys call final expense, that was done from scratch. I actually went personally out on the internet to a lot of the big companies’ final expense systems, and I just spent like an hour on each website running quotes and marking down the data. I actually scraped the rates from a lot of these companies, popped them back into our website, and then had the programmer develop the quoting engine. The quoting engine for the no medical exam stuff, it might have cost me 500 dollars to get done, just to put it into perspective, it was not a huge, huge image, and I get a lot of traffic off of that. I think I’m the only [inaudible 00:31:07] candidate that quotes more than one company. We’ve got about 50 no medical exam, final expense policies on our quoting system, and I don’t think anybody else in Canada even has two. And we rank very, very well for that, and get a ton of traffic from it.
So those are all examples of the kind of thing that we’re doing. Now, let me just give you a counterexample.
Jeff Root: Sure.
Glenn Cooke: So, in our agency, because we’re all virtually distributed, the brokers we use, we work with, are all not local to me. Some of them are 500 miles away. And they need to interact with our admin person and the insurance companies and all that sort of stuff, so we have a CRM. That is, we maintain here that our advisors used to [inaudible 00:31:48] the leads into it, and the leads get distributed out to the brokers, they work that through their calendar, also in the CRM, and then they coordinate with sales and stuff, with our admin person also through the CRN.
So I’m using an open-source, off-the-shelf package currently, and I bought a module that lets us use our phone system in a much more effective manner. It just gets our brokers all aligned and focused in making calls in a much easier fashion than if you didn’t have this module. So I’ve paid for that, and it’s not a custom module. I pay the company, they sell just the module to integrate into the CRM system. And I needed to make some changes. One of the changes was as dead-obvious as the system sorts from oldest task to be done to newest, so if I’ve got a task in 2016, that’s the task that I see first. Every time I pull up the system, I have to resort it, hit a button, so it gives me the stuff I want to do today. I called the company; they’re not really interested in making this change.
So we’re moving towards our own CRM where we’re going to take our knowledge and build a system that gives us all of the phone capabilities, where it keeps our brokers online, it just says “Okay, here’s your first phone call for today. Start calling. Start calling these leads.” That’ll all be done custom. We’re also going to have a custom email drip system in there that the broker will be able to say “Okay, I want to drip on them by phone. Call them by phone, put it in my calendar, start calling.” Or shovel them over to the email drip system.
And the third thing we’re doing that I’m expecting to have a lot of success is we want to drip on them by SMS text. Lot of people under the age of 40, everybody knows this, they just don’t answer their phones. We get a lead in, we pound the heck out of it, we call, we call, we call, they never pick up because they’re 38 years old, and they’re just never going to pick up the phone when they see a phone number they don’t know. If you text them, you can increase the volume of conversions from leads to sales because some younger folks will respond to texts. Not everybody, but again, it’s a numbers game. So we ran a text where we texted ten leads that we’d tried to reach by phone and couldn’t. We texted ten of them. Two of them responded.
Jeff Root: Wow.
Glenn Cooke: So we took ten dead leads and we gave ourself two free leads. So this is all the kind of stuff we’re integrating into our client management system that we use in-house, and that’s all got to be done custom. Again, developing time, this is a fairly large task, probably a bit bigger than most independent agents would do. But it’s not outside the realm of a small agency to build this, because that’s all we are. And it’s going to cost me low, low thousands of dollars. I’m expecting a budget of about 2,000 dollars to build a complete CRM system using a developer. It’s not that expensive to do, and I have full control.
My advisors say “Hey, I would like this sorted. I would like this report. I want this. I want that.” Very, very easy to do. I just pay the developer 50 bucks an hour and an hour later, for 50 dollars, I’ve got the change made.
Jeff Root: Awesome. Awesome. It makes you so flexible with anything that you have going on, because you don’t know what your market is going to bring you tomorrow. You don’t know, you know, the challenges and the bottlenecks in your business that you can kind of create by automating it with software. And that makes you so much more flexible than any other agency out there because you have the skills and the knowledge, and you know, willing to take the risk to build the stuff out yourself.
Glenn Cooke: I absolutely think at the agency level, absolutely. Right now, from what I’ve seen, the software that’s out there … Just because we’re a smaller niche market, there’s not a lot of players building out this kind of custom stuff that we use in our day-to-day practice. We’re stuck using more general software from Microsoft or whoever, which isn’t targeted at the insurance industry. So absolutely. It’s very inexpensive these days. It’s not that complex as long as the advisor spends a bit of time defining. That is probably the biggest hurdle you’re going to go over, and the easiest thing to fix all your problems is define what you want as specifically as you can before you have it handed over to the developer. The more you define it in clearer terms, exactly what happens every time a button’s pushed or what you want to see, the cheaper it will be, and the less bugs you will have.
Jeff Root: Great. Great advice there. All right, I think we’re going to cut it up here. We’re running out of time. Glenn, thanks so much for being so generous with all the information you’ve given us. I mean, you’ve given us a lot of actionable advice. I know a lot of agents are going to see a lot of value in this episode. Hopefully we can have you back in the future, and I appreciate you coming on the show.
Glenn Cooke: Thanks for your time, Jeff. I appreciate it.
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