A- A+

Rocket Referrals is Shaping the Insurance Industry Through Innovation from Downtown DSM

Rocket Referrals Innovation in Downtown DSM

July 20, 2018

It’s been five years since my brother Torey and I co-founded Rocket Referrals. Today, seventeen awesome people — and the cutest Cavalier King Charles Spaniel — make up our team, operating from a 10,000 square foot office in Downtown Des Moines. You could say this journey began in Afghanistan in the fall of 2012, when I received an email from Torey suggesting that we start a company together. It was good timing, as my commitment as an officer was about up and I was ready to begin a new chapter. Starting a company was an attractive idea, but there was a slight problem — we didn’t know what kind of business we should build. A few ideas were floated back and forth — some we’ve had for years — but ultimately, we decided to start fresh by probing an industry for potential problems and then build technology to address a known issue.

Finding a Problem to Fix

Living in Greater Des Moines (DSM) — “the Hartford of the Midwest” — it made sense to look into ways we could solve problems inside the insurance industry. Torey began by calling insurance agents because, as it happens, they were willing to talk with him (looking back, maybe they saw an opportunity to sell a policy). When he asked agents how they went about getting new business three words kept coming up: Referrals, referrals and referrals. “Okay,” Torey replied, “so then how do you go about getting more referrals?” He was met with blank stares, stammers, gurgles, you name it.

A couple agents mentioned giving away gas cards. Others said their strategy was offering great service, so referrals just trickle in naturally. Bingo. We saw an opportunity to develop software. Insurance agents like referrals, so let’s give them referrals. Rocket Referrals was founded to help agents automate and better implement a consistent strategy to obtain more word-of-mouth referrals. Technology for a known problem. Piece of cake.

Creating a Solution

But, over the years something interesting happened. Our software evolved as we learned more about the challenges facing insurance agents and how they could make better use of their competitive advantages. We expanded our focus from just personal recommendations to include testimonials and online reviews. We created technology to send handwritten cards and emails aimed at strengthening client relationships. We perfected surveys so agents would always know what their clients thought about them. It turned out getting more referrals meant committing to a long-term strategy focused on strengthening relationships with existing clients.

By automating personalized communication and surveying clients, our software not only increases referrals, it also improves client retention, cross sales and provide a wealth of data that could make insurance agents and their carriers a whole lot more profitable. We learned — by analyzing tens-of-thousands of survey responses — the exact reasons clients are happy or upset with their insurance agent, why they refer them and what steps to take to capture the referral. We found that, for a referral strategy to be effective, it must encompass inbound recommendations, testimonials and online reviews. Each type of referral has its own nuances when it comes to collecting them, but the underlying strategy is the same: A comprehensive strategy founded on gathering (and analyzing) client feedback and improving communication. From here we can weave in language that inspires recommendations and call-to-actions for testimonials, online reviews and personal recommendations.

Our growth from Downtown DSM has been both exciting and humbling. We’ve had the opportunity to build an outstanding team of professionals that have a passion for helping others. I’m most proud of the culture we’ve established here in the office. We promote health, well-being, professionalism and a work-life balance. We are a startup that meshes Midwestern humility and work ethic with some really high-tech software. If you visit the office you won’t see Nerf arrows whizzing by, or the clatter of ping-pong tables. But we do have fun. What you would find is a fantastic group of professionals working together and helping turn Rocket Referrals into a success story for Greater Des Moines (DSM).

When we founded Rocket Referrals our goal was to create software that gets insurance agents more of the referrals they love. But, as time went on, we accepted the challenge of moving an industry forward, while also cultivating a wonderful place to work for our growing team.

Hear the stories of other small business and startup business owners in the community in The Partnership’s Small Business Resources Hub or sign up for the Small Business Resources newsletter to stay connected for information about upcoming events, other resources and the latest announcements in the small business community in DSM.

Carl Maerz

Carl Maerz is the co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a Downtown Des Moines (DSM) based software company devoted to helping insurance agents and their carriers get more value out of their existing client base.