Brothers Mack and Sean Dudayev incorporated a never-give-up attitude and a forward-thinking approach to digital marketing to build a successful life insurance business. (Photo: Mack Dudayev)

I met Mack in 2012. He was a young kid who found my name in a magazine and reached out to me asking questions about how I had managed to grow my life insurance business into a digital model.

Mack Dudayev and his brother, Sean, who were 26 and 23 at the time, were selling health insurance over the phone and were looking to transition into life insurance products. Mack’s enthusiasm was contagious, and I offered to mentor them throughout the process.

In the past three years since that initial call, Mack and Sean have gone from working aged leads to generating their own leads with search engine marketing efforts. Their firm, InsureChance in Boca Raton, Florida, is an independent online life insurance agency that focuses on combining techology with personal expertise and unique branding strategies to simplify life insurance for clients. The company sells life insurance in all 50 states and offers products from more than 50 companies.

The Dudayev brothers specialize in no-exam policies and high-risk cases. The brothers have divided responsibility within the firm with Sean focusing on marketing to reach and educate consumers, while Mack works on the sales front, insuring clients with an emphasis on service and ethics. Their site attracts 100,000 visitors annually and has more than 100 keywords on the irst page of Google.

I sat down with Mack and Sean to find out what has helped make them them successful and what other agents can learn from their experience.

How did you get started?

Mack: At first we were focused on health insurance and selling it over the phone with life insurance being a secondary product. But the more we talked with customers the more we realized that people were having a hard time getting coverage. After doing a little research we decided it was the perfect opportunity to try to do things different in the outdated industry. In the beginning we didn’t have the know-how to go digital so we were just working aged leads over the phone like we did in health.

Sean: After getting into the business with aged leads, we noticed we weren’t making the kind of money that would make this a business. It was income, but it wasn’t going to help us grow. So we decided one of us was going to do marketing while one remained focused on sales. I picked up a couple books on web design and SEO and got to learning.

What drew you to the life insurance industry?

Mack: It was definitely more than one thing. We heard a lot of horror stories from our health and travel insurance clients about being sold the wrong life insurance policies and we didn’t like what we heard. We felt like we could make a difference. We also felt that the industry was due for a more modern way of doing business, and we wanted to be part of that change.

Sean: It was definitely a combination of things, but the biggest reason of all is something we noticed once we already started: We have a passion for this business. Most agents sell life insurance to make a good living, but for us its more than that. It’s a product that carries with it a lot of responsibility and we make sure people are getting the right products to protect themselves.

How did you get capital?

Sean: It helped that we were willing to work for food. We kept our costs down and bootstrapped our way to our first lead. Outsourcing your marketing can run up your overhead costs, so creating our own content in house and optimizing our website saved us a ton. It also helped that our personal salaries were practically nonexistent in the beginning.

Mack: True, we kept our costs to a bare minimum. The rest was sweat equity. We worked our behinds off. I did what I could to help Sean with the marketing in the beginning, but most of my time was spent keeping us afloat by focusing on cash flow.

What has been the biggest success you’ve had?

Mack: In hindsight it’s not a big deal but at the time it was phenomenal. It was that first call in where the client said “I was on your website…” That was gold to me.

Sean: For me it was when we got our first, first page ranking on Google. That’s where I knew I was headed in the right direction with my marketing efforts.

What would you attribute your success to?

Sean: I would say long-term thinking. We were able to forgo instant results because we had a long-term vision for our efforts and it paid off. A great example of it is that we have benefited from every Google update, whereas some websites usually take a hit. We always focus on sustainable growth. If it’s not sustainable, we don’t do it.

Mack: Definitely, along with passion-backed persistence. When focusing on the long-term vision, it’s easy to second guess yourself and start questioning your efforts in the present. We’ve always tweaked little things along the way if they didn’t work but we never quit. We have the passion and tough skin to keep this company growing. Quitting is never an option. We’re also not afraid to work. There were many days, weeks and months where we worked from breakfast to well past dinner, seven days a week.

Where do you think most agents fail? What advice would you give them?

Sean: Most agents are hesitant about learning something new. Whether you have start-up capital or not, you’re going to have to learn new things to grow your business. You have two options, either do it yourself or outsource. Either way, you’ll have to know about the work that needs to be done. Just being an insurance guy isn’t an option. In the internet age knowledge is easy to acquire. Most agents fail because they don’t. So whether you’re bootstrapping or looking to hire, you should learn about content creation, viral marketing, SEO, conversion optimization and everything marketing related. Or at least have a partner that you trust to do it so that you can hire appropriately because marketing is easy to screw up.  

Mack: They quit, way too soon. I’ve personally known many guys who started at the same time as me but kept jumping ship because things get a little hard or a little confusing. Had they stuck around things would’ve eventually clicked. Just keep at it and learn from your mistakes. We’ve made a lot of mistakes and often put our energy into the wrong efforts, but we earned and grew from it.

Any personal philosophies you want to share with other agents?

Mack: Being a digital agent, mine has always been the same: Meet the client where they are. If they want to call you, let them call you. If they want to chat, have an ability to chat with them. If they want to text, then text! What’s worked for me is taking customer service to the next level. In today’s business landscape, that’s the only way to survive.

Sean: I agree, the internet caused a lot of change in the way business is done and the life insurance industry is no exception. What’s in today may not be tomorrow so don’t become a dinosaur. Do your best to keep up with the modern day consumer. Your competition is no longer your next guy selling life insurance, but the standard all the other companies have set by providing customers with a unique and simple user experience. But my personal philosophy has always been this: If you educate your consumers, you will earn their trust, and their business.

Know a great young advisor who is making a difference in the industry? Nominate them to be featured in The Succession Initative or LifeHealthPro’s 30 under 30 feature by emailing kbeckman@alm.com.

Related: 30 under 30: Meet the millennials who are transforming the insurance industry