User Experience Improvements To A Flawed Purchase Process

Our team at NGI spends a ton of time thinking about customer experience, usability, and frictionless ecommerce.

Soon after we created the Upromise Life suite of insurance products with our partners at Securian and Sallie Mae, we were faced with a common marketing challenge: our purchase process was dragging down our customer growth significantly.

We were asking our prospects to jump through too many hoops in order to purchase. The mobile experience wasn’t strong enough. The clustering of form fields wasn’t as logical and intuitive as it could be. Payment was too difficult. The friction caused during the purchase was enormous and essentially wasted what were quite strong response rates to our marketing.

We set out not to solve all these problems to perfection, but to push out a new version of the site that addresses as many of these issues as possible in order to quickly improve the customer experience on We’ll continue to push incremental changes in the future once we can learn more from data we get back from this round of changes.

Some things to look out for:

  • Quote start on the landing page.
  • Quote availability without providing any personal info.
  • Responsive design for purchase path, better-enabling mobile purchases.
  • Consolidation of questions onto fewer pages.
  • Completely stream-lined and integrated purchase process for those consumers who choose ACH as their form of payment.


Your Pitch: As Important As The Shirt You’re Wearing

Note: An older, more verbose (worse) version of this post originally appeared on 

Recently, I was in a conversation with an entrepreneur who was asked to give a brief description of his company. He had sunk his time, money, and passion into this business for many years. It was as much a part of his life as his family, as is the case for most entrepreneurs.

Yet, when it came time to explain his company, this massive part of his life, his description fell flat.

How could this be? His pitch was factually accurate and explained what his company did, what markets it operated in, and all the great things that his team was working on. In doing so, the pitch rambled, contained too many details, never struck upon on the bigger picture, and left his listeners with a vague grasp of his company.

In short, his pitch did his otherwise great business a big disservice.

This story is common. Too often, entrepreneurs don’t utilize the time, thought, and discipline necessary to craft a pitch that feels like second nature to them when they need it the most.

The fact is, your business’s pitch is as intrinsic to your business as the shirt you’re wearing is to you.

Here is a four-step process that has worked for me:

1. Write it down.

You can’t expect yourself to be able to organize your thoughts without the methodical benefit of the written word. You’ll be able to lay out turns-of-phrase, adjectives, and markers you want to hit during your pitch. Keep it simple. Make it broad enough to inspire imagination and possibility in the listener, but not so broad that that you’ll be pegged in the “we’re making the world a better place” hole. Not the place you want to be in. Make it short, between one and three sentences.

2. Memorize it.

You are good at speaking off-the-cuff? That’s great. It’s a very valuable skill. Your pitch is not the time to exercise that skill. Speaking without preparation leads to variances in your message; this can cause unintentional confusion between two different parties. It’s best avoided, which is why you should take the time to memorize your pitch, as if they’re lines in a script or notes in a presentation. Read your lines aloud. Practice them for your business partner or marketing lead. Practice with your partner at home; whoever is available. You want to demonstrate fluency and mastery of your material, as if the words are second nature to you.

3. Communicate it consistently.

This is the hard part. Your pitch should be precise and accurate to the word and desired intonation, every time, if possible. This is tedious, frustrating, and boring, and seems like an unnecessary exercise in discipline. But, once you go through this process enough times, not only will the difficulty of that precision lessen, but you’ll sense in the response you get back that the listener is gaining comprehension and understands your business.

4. Tweak it, then go back to the beginning.

This is another beautiful by-product of writing something down. As your business evolves, as trends changes, as milestones are reached, you must go back to your written pitch and tweak to reflect your current state. Your pitch should be a living thing that evolves over time, just as your business does.

Next time you’re online shopping for a new shirt, open up Google Docs and spruce-up your business’s pitch. You’ll look crisper for having done both.

Identifying Digital Marketing Opportunities For Key Consumer Segments

Note: this post originally appeared on the Next Generation Insurance Group Blog

In an ever-changing and customer centric age, digital marketing for a legacy industry like insurance presents unique challenges. I returned from the Professional Insurance Marketing Association MidYear Meeting in Stowe, VT earlier this week, where the theme was “Key Consumer Segments (And How They Buy).”  The content of the event aimed to cover several critical consumer segments that are historically tough to reach for marketers. (Full disclosure: I was a co-chair for this meeting; co-chairs are heavily involved in selecting speakers for the event, but do not have editorial control over content presented by speakers.)The take-aways were many, but here are four that resonated most for me:

Don’t sell stuff to consumers, solve problems for them.

In many product categories, insurance included, marketers and businesses get too wrapped up in the value proposition of products and in hammering that message to prospects. Sean Sullivan, CEO of health insurance exchange company, spoke on how his company uses media and digital utilities – two things not typically related to health insurance – to solve problems for his prospects. Sullivan’s argument is that once a business has solved a problem for a prospect, it gives that business “permission” to continue a conversation with the prospect, in the form of pitching product. It’s an indirect road for marketers, but when executed well can lead to cheap acquisition costs on a large scale.

Assume your prospects prioritize the same values at your own peril. 

In the opening keynote, Marti Barletta made a strong case for how the values of women differ greatly from those of men. Put differently, you’re likely wasting time and resources if you’re targeting women and not using creative built specifically for that segment. The challenge is a great opportunity for digital marketers, who have easy and cheap tools at their disposal to employ multivariate creative elements that ensure male and female segments get exposed to different product messaging upon response. (Bonus for insurance marketers: Barletta pointed out that in theory, women are the ideal prospect for insurance despite how infrequently they are targeted by insurance marketers; women value safety and security dramatically more than men, both of which have a strong correlation to insurance buying.)

Know what your business stands for before talking to your customers.

Customer centricity expert Hank Brigman delivered the closing keynote and with it, critical reminders for digital and traditional marketers alike. Brigman reminded me that every touchpoint a business has with a customer is an opportunity to tell that customer what it stands for as a business. More importantly, a business has to do the hard work of defining its mission in order to be viewed as authentic and consistent in its interactions with customers. As digital marketers, it’s hard not to get excited about how much influence we have in this process. We have opportunities via site front-ends, mobile apps and experiences, dynamic sales content, social media, and post-sale customer communication to create a disciplined and impactful customer experience that enhances the value of our businesses and lower customer attrition.

Millennials continue to be tough to reach, they’re underinsured, and they’re not compensating for that.

This is another key segment covered deeply at the PIMA MidYear and one we know a lot about at NGI Group; we created college insurance portal, which is endorsed by over 150 colleges and universities. Jill Fecher of SKM Group shared research her firm completed on millennial buying habits and her numbers confirmed something we’ve learned over the years working on GradGuard: if you’re in financial services and you want to reach millennials, you need to get to parents. According to SKM’s data, 59% of millennials trust their parents’ direct guidance above all others (and by a significant margin) when purchasing financial services products. (Bonus for insurance marketers: despite the fact that a shocking 26% of millennials have literally no insurance coverage of any kind, 59% do not have additional money set aside for emergencies, according to SKM’s data.)  Also on this topic, Stacey Vogler of Protect Your Bubble USA shared some helpful product and digital marketing tactics for millennial marketing. Her company’s success is rooted in its focus solely on protection products most relevant to millennials and by demanding extremely simple and easy digital usability on its website,

For more on the content covered at the PIMA MidYear, check out or shoot me a tweet @paulpennelli and I can connect you with more information.