Young Agent Spotlight: Matt Naimoli, Co-Founder of G&N Insurance and BobbleOn

How did you get into the insurance industry?

I went to the University of VT where I interned for Liberty Mutual. Once I graduated, I started in personal lines sales with Liberty Mutual in Framingham, Massachusetts. My now-business partner Zack Gould was a sales rep for Liberty Mutual in Boston. We got to know each other when we competed for the top sales spot in the country for three consecutive years. We decided to start our own agency in January 2010. Networking had been our key to success at Liberty, along with working hard and having decent sales skills. Those were important transferable skills for a start-up and allowed us to grow quickly in the first 2-3 years, adding clients, employees, and expanding our carrier base.

What lessons did you learn in those early days?

We realized a couple things. The first was that, although we knew how to market and sell, we had no clue how to run a business. We had no systems, processes, or structure in place. We hired consultants and took business courses and implemented a system that eventually increased accountability and boosted revenue. The hardest thing for us to learn was to shift from being insurance producers focused on sales to being business owners focused on the vision, strategy, and culture that the business needed to be sustainable over the long term.

The second thing we realized was that we needed to shift from being generalists to being specialists to compete in personal lines. We decided to concentrate on the best segment of our business: the home-buying moment in life. It has the highest closing ratios, a lot of “stickiness,” and a nice, short sales pipeline. We’ve built our entire business, from marketing and sales to the service process and claims, around the home-buying moment and scaled through that. We now write more homebuyers in Massachusetts than anyone else. We have 26 full-time employees in MA and 11 full-time in the Philippines covering 20,000 clients and around $30 million in premium.

Along the way, we’ve won multiple awards, including BBJ’s best place to work in Boston, National Underwriter’s “Agency of the Year,” and made Inc Magazine’s list of the fastest growing private companies in America three times. We went deep into social media, hired a full-time marketer, and got into blogging and podcasting. This has given us a national platform to speak to other agencies.

How do your producers differentiate between products when presenting them to your customers?

We focus on the customer experience and simplify the buying process for our customers. When we come with a solution, we’ve already determined the carrier and just talk about options like deductibles and liabilities. There isn’t much variation in price and product in personal lines, so the carriers that are easier, faster, and ask fewer questions are the ones we do business with. We can’t be held up by process delays. A few hundred dollars here or there don’t matter.

What sorts of technology would help your business most?

Agents need to move to a fully proactive model for servicing and renewing and only focus on actual client interaction, spending the rest of the time on marketing, branding, and networking. Technology that can enable that will win big—and quickly. An agency probably spends 60 to 90 minutes per client to do backend processing and following up, updating, etc. Carriers and solution providers that can remove the manual work around client processes will win. Speed and convenience have replaced every other value proposition.

Where we have failed in implementing technology is when we’ve seen something we thought was cool and would work but wasn’t related to anything we were already doing. Solutions that automate something we already do manually today are priceless, but if it’s an offering to move from a B- solution to a B+ solution, it’s just not worth it. There has to be more value in creating efficiencies and allowing us to spend more time on client interactions, sales, and marketing.

Is there any technology you’re excited about?

Tools are becoming smarter when it comes to enhancing the client experience. Growth can be found in retention as well as sales, so access to and analysis of data can give us information on when people are the most likely to leave, complain, shop around, or stay. Software that can tie in closely and prompt us about flight risks, a good opportunity for referral, or an opportunity to ensure a good claims experience would be a game-changer. It would affect 16-20,000 clients of ours.

What are your concerns about the future?

Relationships, marketing, and branding for the top of the funnel is where we should be focusing and less on sales and renewals processes. That said, I’m worried about the point of sale being disrupted. Insurance companies are partnering with businesses that come in at those sales stages and that will disrupt our model. There aren’t a lot of agencies that are equipped and prepared to act quickly and partner with carriers or apply upward pressure.

For a more in-depth look at the Novarica 400under40 council and becoming a member, please go to https://www.400under40.com/.

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