This week’s #50startup isn’t a startup in the traditional sense of the word; in fact, the business is nearly 20 years old. But stick with me because Bend-based Agency Revolution has recently transformed into marketing automation software company. It’s a dramatic shift from the insurance marketing training firm that founder Michael Jans began in 1995. BendTECH caught up with CEO Jans and President Maggie Hubbell to hear more how Agency Revolution made that transition, what they’ve learned and wide opportunity for their product in the insurance industry.
Startup spotlight: Agency Revolution
Started: 1995; First software product launched in 1999
Leadership: Michael Jans, founder and CEO; Maggie Hubbell, president; Lucas Jans, vice president of product development
What does Agency Revolution do? We started as a training and coaching company, providing marketing and business strategy training to the retail side of the property and casualty insurance industry. Though we still have a strong training component, we’ve since transformed into a software company. We developed a marketing automation platform specifically for property and casualty insurance agents and brokers.
What prompted your shift to software? There’s been some significant change in the industry, and especially in how consumers research and buy insurance. As they have everywhere, consumers have moved online. Insurance agents and brokers are worried about keeping up with all the change. At the same time, we saw a growing interest in marketing automation in general as a solution for acquiring clients and maintaining and deepening relationships with current ones.
Do you have a lot of competition? There’s a lot of tech companies that offer marketing automation software, but they don’t know our industry. That’s the challenge of the vertical market. You need killer technology, a profound understanding of the industry and a mastery of marketing. We’ve got all those, and that we believe we’re far ahead of curve.
What were the challenges in becoming a SaaS company? We had to completely reorganize the company to look and feel like a software company. That meant changing everything from our client onboarding and support to our marketing and sales departments to even switching to a SaaS accounting model. Then, of course, we had to learn how to run a software company.
What’d you learn during that process? I think we learned that when you’re creating and introducing a software product, you have to get really close to your customers; you have to be willing to engage them about what works and what doesn’t. I also realized how important it was that I establish myself an (insurance) industry leader in order to cultivate a brand of trust. There’s a lot of customer/industry education happening when you’re one of the first providing a product. But I put myself on the speaking circuit and made myself available. Now we have a lot of the industry approaching us.
How have your customers responded? We grandfathered in our former training customers. But our software product has really opened a whole new portion of the industry to us. We’ve already received some industry endorsements. And we have a 100% renewal rate.
Have you raised any money? We’re largely self-funded. I don’t think you need to or should raise money until it fits into your strategic plan.
What’s next for Agency Revolution? Scale. We need to scale. There are 40,000 independent insurance agents in the U.S alone. Plus, we’re deep into the Canadian market. That’s a lot of potential for growth.
Next week in #50startups … You may have seen Molly Scofield pitch The Handsel at BVC. We’ll tell you more about her startup and its potential to vastly improve how you buy and sell things via Facebook Groups.
You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].