Archive for September, 2005


Remember the discussion we had in February regarding the million dollar agent portal that was “panned” by agents? and the subsequent post They Shoulda Used IdeaStar! Here’s another tasty morsel I heard through the grapevine today: The site was orginally projected to cost $500,000 (IdeaStar would have been $80-100k). Final pricetag? Not 1 million — “It cost between $2-3 million and they’re upset because it doesn’t do what it needed to do.” 2-3 MILLION!?!?! And it doesn’t even WORK!?!? Good grief…

That just really pushes my launch code. How could you even let that much money be spent without turning off the faucet??? Where’s the accountability? Where’s the project management? I guess this is another example of a bureaucracy-driven solution — 20 to 30 times more costly and it doesn’t do what you want.

AM Best has an EFusion Award for the best insurance e-commerce sites of the year. I wish they had a Not Top 10 at the cocktail party after — just so we could all laugh our brains out!


Continuing from the last post, a few more notes from the recent Web site usability presentation.

Realtime chat, where a Web site user can instant-message with a knowledgeable company representative, is proving to have a positive return on investment (ROI) in some industries. For instance, Penske Truck Rentals had a 10-day positive ROI on live chat. Chat agents sold twice as much as call center agents, and their conversion rate was 3-times better. I imagine, if applied properly, realtime chat would have a positive impact in the online insurance sales industry as well.

Another thing: “wordy” Web sites are out. Content should be brief and to the point. A good rule of thumb is this: take other marketing material, such as a brochure, and cut the content by 50 percent. Then cut another 25 percent of what’s left.

Content should also be organized into categories, placed under headings, and highlighted with bullets. A good book on this subject is Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, by Steve Krug.

And each public Web page needs to be able to stand alone with a strong call to action. People make a “bail, no-bail” decision within eight seconds of landing on a Web page. So make sure your navigation, site information, and architecture are up to snuff or you’ll be left wondering why your site is getting hits but no sales.

IdeaStar Insurance Technologies is always ready to help. Give me a call or post a comment….


I recently attended a Web Association meeting on the topic of usability and conversion. What a confirmation! Here are some statistics.

Five primary factors associated with Web site usability:

  • Learnability
  • Efficiency
  • Memorability
  • Errors
  • Satisfaction

And then there are the top Internet pet-peeves:

  • Pop-up ads
  • Additional software required to view pages
  • Dead links
  • Requiring registration
  • Slow speed
  • Out-of-date
  • Confusing navigation
  • Inefficient site search


  • 77 percent of people who encounter one of the above issues will refuse to visit the site again
  • 71 percent will refuse to purchase.
  • 55 percent will complain to someone else.
  • Beware: only 25 percent will complain to the company.

So, using those metrics, if you receive five complaints per week about your site, and you’re thinking, “That’s not so bad…” — if you crunch the numbers, 5 complaints/week equals 5,000 lost business opportunities per year, along with an additional 4,000 potential prospects at risk because somebody else gave them a bad impression. Yikes!

Consider usability when designing a Web site. Here’s one good spot to look for more information. Oh, one more thing…don’t let the programmer write the content for the error message when something gets entered incorrectly. I saw some doozies?!?!


Wow! What a week. There’s been a lot going on here at IdeaStar Insurance Technologies. Here are some of the high-points.

Hurricane Katrina: I’m happy to say that IdeaStar is “ponying up” some funds for relief through the Red Cross. Personally, I went through my stuff at home and ended up with nine big leaf-bags of clothes, bedding, and stuff to ship down there. The problem with submerged flooding is EVERYTHING gets ruined, so they need it all. I find it puzzling that you don’t see the same public reaction to this that we saw for 9/11 and wars, etc. Where are the “God Bless America” window stickers and such? Hmmm.

From an insurance standpoint, it’s great to read that the State of Louisiana is requiring insurers to honor their commitments for all insurance claims, whether they be health, casualty, real estate, etc. — even though the policy holders have moved, are out of work, and/or may be out of network. Those insurance companies that are Web-enabled are having an easier time serving their customers. Disasters like this reinforce the value of the easy access to policy holder information when paper documentation is lost.

Other items of note that kind of reinforce previously mentioned trends:

A promising customer: I had a great conversation with the representative of a medium-sized life insurance company out of Kansas City. The company is “revamping its Web strategy” with an eye toward e-signature processes. They have a senior marketing official leading the charge with Web Dev in his title – part of a growing trend in Insurance marketing.

Another prospect: A newer company wants to take on the Progressive’s and Geico’s in the direct-to-consumer auto insurance industry with aggressive Search Engine Marketing. This company is really fortunate to have an Internet marketing manager that not only knows insurance and sales, but also the Search Engines. She is one of the first people I’ve met with that mix of competencies, and that bodes well for her company…

Good news: IdeaStar has entered the PIMA Marketing Methods Competition 2005 in the Web Site Category. Our entry is a joint venture between Hartford Life, Union Labor Live, Union Privilege and AGIA as the third party administrator. We’re up against some very worthy competitors, but we are very proud of the success of the site and the future potential it represents.

The judging takes place the week after next and the winners will be announced at the MarkeTTech Symposium, Nov. 13 through 15 in Pittsburgh. As I mentioned earlier, I will be a speaker at the conference, and will be discussing the ins-and-outs of I encourage all insurance marketers to attend.

Plus, the Browns are playing the Steelers the opening night. I can get you a ticket, but you have to wear a Browns shirt (and sign a waiver on potential dismemberment)!!!

Blogs DO work: Just in case anybody wonders, blogs do work to help create awareness of whatever you are promoting. As testimony to that, I received two calls this week from promising targeted prospects who found my blog through a Google keyword search using a keyword I’m optimizing on. They will be coming out to IdeaStar to see how we might partner with them on Medicare Part D projects.

Take-aways: Rethink your Web strategy, crank-up your Web development — new players are coming, get your blog in place, and go through your closets looking for things to donate to Katrina victims. They need EVERYTHING.


I remember when I first got into e-business in 2000. It was for an e-learning company, and I went to a New Jersey company on a sales call. New Jersey people can be very direct. The guy I was talking to said, “Now Mike, how long are you guys going to be around? Last year it was e-everything. This year it’s g-everything — yeah G… Gone.”

Well, that about sums up what people believed about Internet business. But it hasn’t disappeared. It’s continued to evolve and grow stronger — even in the insurance industry. Mark Seghers of ASK Consulting, a rising star in insurance e-business consulting made the following comment:

“E-business” is a term that has been a bit ballyhooed in recent years, due to the hype and eventual bubble-burst of the Internet in its early days. The Internet was going to eliminate insurance agents, make insurance less expensive, and revolutionize the industry in a matter of a few years. As we all know, that did not happen.

“However, just because the Internet did not redefine the industry overnight, we must not lose site of the real and exciting benefits a well thought-out and systematically deployed Internet solution can provide to help agents and policyholders do business. The Internet, because of its ubiquity and ease of use, can help reduce expenses, eliminate paperwork, and increase the speed with which we do business. These benefits in turn drive agent loyalty, help customers find your loyal agents, and in turn can drive steadily increasing sales and retention of business.

“These days, it’s less about “just do it” and more about doing it right. Doing it right these days means considering the outside-in perspective — serving the needs of your most valuable constituents — and leveraging the help of valuable outside partners who are in touch with the industry and are familiar with the best of what is available to improve your business.”

Mark knows what he is talking about. He did most of the heavy lifting when then-Fortis, now Assurant, launched its e-business initiative…. as well as with American Medical Security when they launched eAMS. So he knows what he is writing about. His comments are on target when he states the need to “do it right,” “leveraging the help of outside partners,” and the value of a “systematically deployed Internet solution.”

It seems the marketing aspect of insurance e-business is starting to crystallize. If they haven’t already done so, it’s time for insurance industry representatives to take a look at their long-term marketing plans, and see how incorporating e-business functions can help their company, customers and agents.

Archives to 2005