When Dull is Divine: B-File Brings the Bucks in Insuretech
Over the last several years, the SaaS Revolution has sparked the release of literally thousands of new applications and apps, with the current trend being to release a flood of new programs with chirpy names such as Tinkersynth, Upvoty, Toky, (ending names with the diminutive “y” is currently all the range, Culrs (vowel dropping is also popular), YoRemote, colorful, flat interfaces, all aimed at Millennials and Gen-Z’rs. But as Softletter readers know, SaaS grew by creating new product niches and transforming existing processes into SaaS systems. And while many of these markets aren’t sexy and product names aren’t catchy, they can significant provide opportunities for high growth and major revenues, as SaaS startup PersistEplan case study illustrates. We spoke with company CTO Blake George about the company’s origin and growth.
|Company HQ:||Detroit, Michigan|
|Product Name/Positioning:||PersistEplan’s flagship product is B-File, a powerful, cloud-based, InsurTech SaaS system that allows licensed insurance sales producers to focus on making property and casualty insurance sales while simultaneously gathering information essential to the successful marketing of financial products and services. B-File strengthens the relationship between agency owners, sales producers and financial specialists. It turns prospects into long term customers. To date, B-File is credited for uncovering more than $7 billion in under-insured household assets for Allstate customers nationwide.
Product highlights include:
|Company Principals:||Jim Bologna, Chairman and Director of Sales
Blake George, CTO
Damian Kassab, CEO
|Founded/Years in Business:||Three years, founded 2016|
|Company Development Type:||Private Limited Company|
|Number of Employees:||11|
|% of Revenue Growth Over Last Years:||120% over last year|
Jeff Babisz Agency, Top 1% Allstate agency in the country
“In 2017 my Allstate agency did over 130,000 of production credit and issued over 100 IPS’s simply because of B-File. I could not run my agency without it.” – Jeff Babisz
|Technology Infrastructure:||Python backend
Softletter: George, let’s dig a bit deeper into B-File. First, what’s origin of the name?
George: The profile the system creates is called a “B-File,” which led us to the B-File process. It was a play off the idea of obtaining “The Best Customer Profiles” from his agents—“B-File.”
Tell me more about what B-File does. Who are the primary customers and what does the product do for them?
B-File assists insurance companies and agents to properly identify the liability needs of their customers and increase sales by helping existing and prospective customers to purchase the proper levels of protection to ensure their financial security. B-File works by providing
an agent with a guided script that steps them through the process of asking in-depth questions that uncover a person or family’s needs. The script covers homes, stock, children, 401Ks, boats and related marine equipment and all other relevant assets.
Yes, children. A surprisingly high number of people don’t realize that while they are minors, parents are responsible for their children’s actions.
Once the policy comes up for renewal, the agent can call up the original document, use a specialized script to uncover everything about the customer’s financial profile that has changed, and then work with the customer to update their policy if needed. Most families are under insured, and as their lives changes, their policies usually don’t. Our system will follow the customer through their renewal cycle and ensures the right questions are asked by automatically red flagging areas that need particular attention; this is a tremendous opportunity for cross- and up-sells.
Then seems to be a very straightforward process. Aren’t companies already doing this?
They are, but they’re doing it with paper and that doesn’t work well. Many agents ask the right questions, but don’t properly document the answers, or lose the forms. There’s a great deal of agent turnover in the insurance business, and firms lose track of their customer information.
The original concept for B-File was developed by one of our early founders, Jim Bologna. He executed the process on paper, but realized the process was crying out for automation. He came to me four years ago to discuss how to iterate the B-File process as a SaaS system.
Have some of the major CRM companies such as Salesforce tried to move into your space?
No. This industry works under a very complex regulatory regimen that varies significantly from state to state. It takes a great deal of time and expertise to manage and update the underlying processes and ensure you meet state regulations.
Well, today you’re the CTO. What made you decide to move ahead and build it?
I went down to one of the state’s top five insurance agency and watched agents try to use the B-File process manually. I saw the coffee stains painted on forms by coffee cups placed on important paperwork by distracted personnel riffling through old files and folders. I observed how agents would take short cuts in the process in an attempt to do the bare minimum of work. I saw the frustration over customer information that had been lost because it had been misfiled by agents who since had left the firm.
When I was done observing, I was convinced that B-File had a future. I was so convinced that I joined the firm and invested in it.
What’s your pricing model?
On subscription per seat. We have a tiered pricing schedule with the lowest package costing $500 a month for up to five seats.
What is your average sale size?
$16,000 annually for independent agents, $4,000/annually for Allstate agents.
In SaaS Entrepreneur, we document how an HR company called Unicorn HRO had built up a powerful ancillary revenue stream by selling related products to their customers such as insurance, travel packages, even hard goods. Have you found any similar opportunities?
Yes. We currently offers two services that allow customers to “outsource” key functions of the B-File system to our team of in-house experts:
- Review Scheduler is a service we offer to help agents run their agencies at a fraction of the cost of hiring full-time staff. First, our in-house professionals call an agency’s customers and schedule a 15-minute review appointment. Next, we send the agency and its customers a calendar invitation for the day and time the appointment was made through our system. Finally, we pre-populate the B-File for the agency.
- B-On Board provides a 15-day follow-up “thank you” call to all agency new business and renewal customers. During the call, our in-house team will address any questions the customers may have about their policies, ask the customers to rate the agency and sales staff, and invite the customers to provide friends and family referrals. Finally, the customers are introduced to the agency’s life and retirement offerings with the ultimate goal of scheduling an appointment with the agency’s financial specialist.
Both of these services are very popular, with about 80% of our subscribers signing up for one or both of them.
What percentage of a typical sale do these services comprise?
The System is $500/ month, B-On Board is an additional $500 a month and Review Schedule is $400 per month.
How do you market B-File?
We began by working with Allstate. They’re organized in each state into regional units of about 50 agents. We’d hold on-site presentations at a local venue and demonstrate and explain B-File. We typically close 30% of the attendees at these events.
We also make heavy use of email marketing, attend insurance industry (InsureTech) tradeshows, particularly the LIMRA conference series, and webinars. Because of the nature of this product and the industry, prospective subscribers want to see it in action and that’s where the webinars come in. In terms of social marketing, we’re dabbling with LinkedIn, but social marketing is not that focused. We need to reach and talk to the right market.
We’ve also entered into a joint venture with Harry Hoopis, CEO of the Hoopis Performance Network. His company has a very strong reputation in the financial services sector and we feel it’s an excellent fit to our market. We’re going to be building a learning management system built around B-File to help train and improve our subscriber service and support.
What are your sales conversion rates from your webinars?
What do you see as your next path to growth?
We’re targeting the insurance industry at the enterprise level. With Allstate, the organization of the company dictates the regional program. But many large companies will purchase B-File seats for applications they feel will benefit their field agent’s business. We think this is a huge opportunity for us.
At the beginning of the article, we make the point that your company doesn’t have the “buzz” and “coolness” factor many current startups are working very hard to create. What’s your take on this?
Damian Kassab, our CEO, believes the best opportunities in SaaS today can be found in the oldest, stodgiest industries. And we can’t argue with our success thus far.
Speaking of “cool,” are you planning to release an app version of B-File?
Yes, for iPhone and iPad, but we’ve not had much demand for it yet.