In a world that is becoming increasingly global, local connections are more coveted than ever before. Consumers want to shop local. They want to eat local. They want to invest in products and services that are part of their local community.
If you’re shopping for produce, that’s not all that hard to do. But if you’re shopping for insurance, especially if you start that shopping process online, it can be very difficult. The competition for online real estate is fierce, with most of the top search results going to large financial firms that have the money and resources to invest heavily in SEO. If you run a small, independent advisory firm, you’re facing a number of obstacles simply to give consumers what they want — a trusted, local agent.
Enter Agent Review. Based in Bellevue, Wash., the company was founded to give clients a better buying experience and to give agents the increased visibility and credibility they need to compete in today’s marketplace. The Agent Review platform — a Yelp-style directory that allows consumers to search for agents in their zip code, and view biographical information and client testimonials — is a virtual matchmaker, designed to let consumers find an agent that meets their own unique criteria.
After a soft launch last summer, Agent Review currently claims 276,000 enrolled agents and is actively growing their database. We spoke with co-founder and CEO Jonas Roeser to get his thoughts on the state of the industry, the opportunity ahead and the one thing consumers really want.
LifeHealthPro: Tell me about the vision behind Agent Review.
Jonas Roeser: Yelp is a great comparison for Agent Review. What we’ve created is a dedicated platform that’s forward-facing to consumers. As the Internet has obviously grown — you have Care.com, you have Houzz, you have 1-800-DENTIST — many industries outside of the restaurant industry have resources that allow consumers to find trusted professionals. We wanted to bring that same type of platform to the insurance consumer.
We know that consumers have buying challenges right now, and so we wanted to be an educational resource first, as well as a credibility-building service for agents. We have a whole education section for the consumer; we do this to a) give them an education and b) create a non-carrier focused place where consumers can find agents they want to buy from.
On the agent side, there are a few different membership options. The free membership level is very basic. An agent enters his or her name, state, phone number, one state where he is licensed, and one insurance type listing. The next level up, the basic level, is a fairly substantial profile that looks very much like a LinkedIn profile. The basic profile allows agents to include three listings. So, if they’re licensed to sell life insurance, health insurance and LTCI, all of this will show up on their profile. With the basic membership level, you also have the ability to include client testimonials, a photo and video gallery and social media links.
The next level up is a verified subscription. The big difference between basic and verified is that verified agents are independently vetted by a third party. There’s a level of authority with a verified subscription; it shows, for example, that the agent is licensed in the states they say they are. It also gives a good deal of information about the person’s backgrounds and interests. We have come to find that people want to work with those they have things in common with. We all want to have that extra layer of credibility.
Another thing our platform offers is that it can be translated into 72 different languages, a great resource for consumers.
We truly believe that insurance isn’t simple and that agents do matter. Agents are our customers. We’re looking to showcase everything that makes up their professional credibility. It’s hard for an independent agent to compete with the SEO power of a traditional finance firm. Our goal is to get our platform large enough that our site will be pulling up at the top of a search results page, even before an agent’s LinkedIn profile. There’s real prospecting power in that.