Do you drive? Then you are required by law to buy car insurance. Do you have a mortgage on your home? If so, you must have homeowners insurance. Do you breath? Then you’re supposed to have health insurance. Are you reading insurance reviews from people bribed to say good things about big companies? Yes, that was a trick question. And yes, there’s a good chance you are.
This is a personal story about being offered millions of dollars (getting bribed) to sell out on the ValChoice mission. The potential business partner expected ValChoice to give up on delivering insurance transparency to consumers in exchange for money. I passed on the opportunity. Now I want to pass the story along to you, ValChoice followers.
Use the ValChoice car insurance calculator and homeowners insurance calculator to find what a fair price is for your insurance. Just click the buttons below.
Setting the Scene
Nearly everyone is required to buy multiple types of insurance. In total, some families (self-employed) will spend over 20% of income on insurance. Nevertheless, there’s virtually no insurance transparency. How’s that possible? It’s a travesty.
At ValChoice, we’ve spent the years building a sophisticated analytics engine. The analytics we deliver provides transparency into how insurance companies operate. Consumers, like you, deserve transparency when mandated to spend your money on insurance.
A primary function of our analytics engine is to enable consumers to know which insurance companies will stand behind them in a time of need. Unfortunately, not all insurance is equal. Yes, some companies resist paying claims while others are truly in business to support their customers. We know which companies perform which way. We share that information with anyone who wants to know.
The Startup Challenge: How to market insurance transparency
The billions of dollars spent each year on advertising by insurance companies focuses on price. This is because the big companies believe they can win the price war. After driving smaller companies out of the market, they will have less competition. Once there’s less competition they will be able to raise prices and achieve much higher levels of profit.
Countering this barrage of advertising is almost impossible for a startup. Hence, most insurance startups are built on one of the three following business models:
- Use technology to operate more efficiently and disrupt the industry with a lower cost structure.
- Sell insurance in order to participate in the lucrative commission programs insurance companies offer.
- Pretend to be independent review sites in order to cash in on the lucrative lead generation business.
ValChoice is different from all of these business models. Our number one objective is sharing true, easy-to-understand analysis with consumers. At ValChoice, our objective is that you are well protected. Being well protected is different than simply being insured. For the background on why we believe so strongly in this, read the background on our founder (me) and why I founded this business.
Knowing many insurance companies rely heavily on affiliate marketing, we thought maybe there’s a way we could use affiliate marketing to share our information. This was easy enough to checkout. We found a conference on affiliate marketing and signed up.
The Conclusion of the Conference
Like most conferences, the energy was high and optimism prevailed. Numerous knowledgeable people made comments about how insurance is a very lucrative market for affiliates. It seemed as if aligning with the right partners had potential for getting the ValChoice transparency message in front of the public.
Following the conference I had several follow-up calls to discuss opportunities to work together. Most of my contacts quickly went silent. I suppose they realized there was no opportunity to work with ValChoice. One contact was thoughtful enough to share what the others were thinking, but not saying.
The Follow-up Conversation
The following is a paraphrased conversation that was both disappointing and shocking.
Potential Partner: Company Xxx will pay up to $65 when you get them a lead that stays on the phone with their agent for three minutes.
Me: I can’t get them any leads. Our data analytics grades Company Xxx horribly.
Potential Partner: You need to change your system to make company Xxx score better. You can make nearly $100,000 per month, just from Company Xxx. There are several other companies that will also pay that much if you show them as also being a good provider.
Me: I can’t do that. My mission is to help consumers get real information.
…After a long silence, the person on the other end of the phone finally responded.
Potential Partner: I commend you for your integrity, but I don’t see an opportunity for us to work together.
ValChoice Can’t be Bribed
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This person had tried to bribe me. I tell everyone we’re a mission oriented business. Nevertheless, they still that we will forego our mission for money?
For me, this was a bit like reliving the nightmare of insurance companies refusing to pay my medical bills. From my perspective, there needs to be a moral compass in American business that prevents companies from engaging in misleading behavior. Sometimes it feels like I live in an idealistic world. Yes, it can be a bit of a lonely world.
The Lesson for ValChoice
We passed on working with the online marketing company that could have made us a lot of money. At ValChoice, being bribed isn’t how we roll. We did not, and will not, change our grading system to make more money. Instead, we will maintain our moral compass and fulfill our mission to help consumers.
For the Consumer
Don’t believe anything you hear from marketing or advertisements. Instead, know who gets paid and the conditions under which they get paid. Only then can you make an assessment of who you can trust. Here’s a link to a page on how we get paid.
Also, get a free rating on your auto and home insurance companies. If your insurance company scores well, tell a friend.
If your insurance company doesn’t score well, change companies. Here’s an easy way to find a great insurance company. ValChoice publishes the best insurance companies in every state. Just click the buttons below to find the best companies in your state.
To the Insurance Industry
There are many great people in the insurance industry. Most would never consider a bribe as a way of building a business. However, the marketing channels established are lucrative. They are lucrative because they pay large dollar amounts and there is a high volume of transactions. This combination tends to draw people passionate about making money. Being too passionate about making money can cause the moral compass to go haywire.
The industry should take action. Don’t use paid for reviews in the sales process. Yes, they say great things about your company. However, when reviewers are compensated (bribed) the reviews aren’t valid. It’s easy to tell when this is the case. Here’s how. Consumers don’t want to review insurance companies. Unless they’re mad. If there are a large number of positive reviews, they were paid for. The same applies to user surveys. Don’t use user surveys with directed questions. Alternatively, excellent performance for customers will achieve an even better result.
Note: ValChoice does not receive any form of compensation from insurance companies for presenting them as a good option in our car insurance and home insurance ratings.