When I began selling life insurance for John Hancock in 1993, I didn’t like the job. Insurance companies expect you to ask every person you know to buy a policy – an approach that no one in their right mind would feel comfortable with. While at Hancock, several clients asked me about health insurance. Although the commissions for selling health insurance weren’t as good as for life insurance, I felt that I was helping people, and slowly I began to develop relationships with the various health insurance carriers. After two years I had had enough of the life insurance game and left Hancock to focus on health insurance. When most people leave a company, they have another job waiting, but few insurance brokerages hired agents to sell health insurance. My best option was to start my own business – not the greatest idea when your wife is pregnant with your first child.
It would be an understatement to say that launching my brokerage was difficult. I began by approaching small and medium-sized businesses that already had brokers wanting to sell them health insurance. What I learned: the truly small business owner, the sole proprietor, could not easily tap into health insurance. Insurers typically consider solo practitioners a poor choice because there is no way to spread risk among a larger pool of insured’s. Also most agents feel speaking with one small business owner at a time is too time consuming.
During the 1990s contacting sole proprietors regarding health insurance was mostly done through snail mail, local advertising and word of mouth. I did well with referrals, but the profit margins were minimal. With the advent of the Internet, the cost of advertising fell and I was able to increase my exposure.
Still, the sole proprietor health insurance options were not being appropriately addressed in New York State. The few Companies that offered health coverage to self-employed individuals remained overpriced. The small number of Websites devoted to health insurance in New York required individuals to submit detailed private information and wait for representatives to contact them with quotes. Frankly, most people who go online want instant gratification. Further, they don’t want to be sold to – they want to comparison shop. The need for cost-effective health insurance for solo practitioners was as great as ever.
Due to the ever-increasing costs of health insurance, the New York State legislature rolled out Healthy New York, a program that gives small businesses not covered under group insurance plans an option to purchase affordable health insurance. The idea is commendable, but implementation has been slow because the brokerage community remains ill-informed regarding the program. (Also, commissions for are considerably lower than with traditional insurance plans, which decreases the incentive of brokers to sell Healthy NY health plans.) Now a majority of my new business is derived directly from the Healthy New York insurance plans.
With all of this in mind I created a health insurance Website that would focus entirely on self-employed individuals in New York State. My Website doesn’t require any personal information and provides online rates and quotes. I decided to take it one step further by allowing visitors to apply online for the health insurance they desired. As indicated on my homepage health insurance in 3 easy steps, the goal has always been to simplify the buying process & have the buyer feel secure and confident in the process.
Regardless of website traffic, statistics and benchmarks that internet marketing companies use to measure online success, my benchmark has always been in the form of testimonials, referrals and customer appreciation.