Igor and Sacha Loutkovsky have always approached advice a little differently, operating a business model that means they rarely ever meet their clients in person. In this case study, they share how new technology and the ‘social advice’ movement have enabled them to take their risk business to the next level.
At a glance
Submitted by: Igor and Sasha Loutkovsky
Business name: Loufin Pty Ltd
Years in advice: 30
Number of clients: 1800+
For nearly 30 years, Igor Loutkovsky has been providing risk advice to clients he hasn’t met in person. His business model is based on bulk referrals, the majority of which are generated through strategic alliances with seminar providers. Igor presents at these client events, alongside other professionals such as accountants and lawyers, on the importance of insurance and wealth protection. After the event, clients who request assistance with their insurance needs are passed on to Igor and his team to follow up, and clients who wish to take out cover have their applications processed over the phone.
“The first batch of referrals I got was 250 potential new clients,” Igor recalls. “I had a stack of papers with all these prospects’ contact details on them. And it was the same after each seminar: I’d get all these contacts, from all around Australia, which I had to follow-up.”
As the leads continued to flow in, Igor’s daughter, Sacha, joined the business (about seven years ago). “The business started off well and, with Igor’s energy and planning, gained a lot of momentum very quickly,” says Sacha. “But it was very time consuming. A lot of leads were burnt because we just couldn’t get to them. Our follow-up process was very hit and miss.”
Ongoing client engagement was also an issue: “We ended up spending so much time servicing our clients that we didn’t have time to really engage with them.”
Igor and Sacha realised they needed to maximise the value from their referral sources, as well as engage more effectively with their clients, to avoid losing them to other providers who may have a presence in the clients’ local area operating a traditional, face-to-face business.
“That’s why social media and technology is now playing such an important part in our business,” says Sacha.
Looking around the industry, at what other advisers were doing in their practices, led Igor and Sacha to Baz Gardner’s ‘social advice’ model. Essentially, ‘social advice’ is about using digital communication, social media, technology and client psychology to exponentially improve the quality, efficiency and profitability of an advice business. For Igor and Sacha, employing this approach has meant they can touch a greater number of people, in a very personalised way, very quickly.
They started by revisiting their business model. “We have two advisers doing renewals, and servicing the existing book. This leaves Dad and I to concentrate on engagement and new business,” explains Sacha.
They also invested in updated Client Relationship Management (CRM) software, and linked this to an email marketing system. Now, when new leads are received, they are immediately entered into the client database. An automatic introduction email is then generated, which includes a link to an online pre-interview questionnaire, as well as to the company’s FSG, Facebook, Youtube and website links.
As well as saving the business time and money, this process has the added advantage of putting the next step back on the client. “Before we had this system, I had to contact each lead, sorting out the ‘tyre kickers’,” recalls Igor. “Now, we can see if they’re really interested by asking them to fill out the online form. And because we’ve saved so much time for the business, we can promise that if they do submit the form we’ll get in contact with them within 24 hours to discuss the next steps.”
The application follow-up process is also systemised, utilising the CRM database’s inbuilt task manager. “We can create reminders and tasks that need to be done in the future. So when you come in each morning you don’t have to worry about what you’re doing, because you have a systemised task list right in front of you,” says Igor.
The CRM database also features an integrated SMS process, so the practice can back-up its email messages with a text to the client.
“With bulk emails, you can never be 100% sure they will reach their intended target,” says Sacha. “They might end up as spam, or go to the wrong address because of a mis-spelled entry on the form. So a couple of hours after we send the email, the client will get a text message saying: ‘Hi, it’s Igor from Loufin. We’ve sent you an email. Please let me know if you haven’t received it.’”
Video plays a significant part in Loufin’s engagement strategy. Not only does it allow clients to ‘put a face to a name’, but it also provides the business with significant time savings.
“We started out by doing a simple Christmas greeting in 2012,” Sacha says. “It was so basic – just the team in funny hats, taken on a single camera in our office, with Dad wishing all our clients a ‘Merry Christmas’. We emailed that out to our client base, instead of sending Christmas cards, and we got a terrific response. So we followed it up with a Happy Birthday video, which is automatically emailed out on the client’s birthday.”
Sacha and Igor now use video to follow-up their initial discussions with clients, using a webcam to record a short wrap of what has been agreed with the client. This is sent via email to the client, along with any paperwork, or additional information that is required.
For clients who have questions about their cover, Loufin has engaged animated video specialist, Doodler, to produce six short educational videos, which explain the different types of cover in a simple, client friendly way.
“Instead of spending 20 minutes talking to them on the phone, explaining about the different types of cover, which I’ve found tends to go in one ear and out the other anyway, we now just send off a link to one of these videos,” says Igor.
It’s made us a very profitable business, because we don’t waste a lot of time
“The animations are so powerful that they could even be a source of referrals for us. Because when we send it to our clients, we say ‘Please feel free to forward this on to your friends’.”
Sacha agrees, saying the new, social approach has allowed the business to position itself, and the value it can deliver to clients, more effectively. “We are getting in contact and engaging with our clients; we’re opening up that dialogue. Since June, I’ve already had more of my own clients referring back to me. And while it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what led them to do that, I checked their records and all of them had received the Christmas and Birthday video emails.”
This ‘customer centric’ thinking is also influencing the non-technological elements of Igor and Sacha’s business. In February this year, they rebranded the practice from Loutkovsky Insurance to Loufin. Why? Because no-one could pronounce Loutkovsky!
They similarly changed some of the language they use when speaking to customers. Igor gives the following example: “Previously, when we were going through the leads, we’d ask the prospect if they wanted a ‘fact find’. If they said ‘No’, we’d simply move to the next person on our list. But how is a person who’s never worked with a financial adviser going to know what a ‘fact find’ is? Now we say, ‘Let’s book in a chat to find out what’s important to you’.”
Despite having only operated under their new model for six months, Loufin is already seeing significant results.
Says Igor: “It’s made us a very profitable business, because we don’t waste a lot of time. We don’t have the same overheads that other advice offices may have. Some of my peers spend half an hour/45 minutes in Sydney traffic to go talk to someone for half an hour, and then another 45 minutes getting back to their office – in that time we could have engaged 25 clients.”
Sacha says the approach is also giving the practice credibility: “Social media, especially the use of the email marketing system, makes us look really professional. It gives us credibility straight off the bat, by saying: we know what we’re doing, we’re a professional outfit, and we’re really here to help you and provide value that others may not be able to. I don’t think we were coming across that way ten years ago.”
Both Igor and Sacha believe their business is now well placed to remain competitive over the next ten years, in the face of what they predict will be an increasingly competitive market.
“Things are changing,” says Sacha. “All you have to do is hop online and you can see what’s emerging, what new competitors are out there. Everyone’s converting to risk because it’s fairly lucrative in the landscape of financial products and it’s viewed as easy to write. Accountants are getting into it, financial planners have fallen back on risk because of the GFC and FoFA. And we’re getting hit by online businesses like iSelect, and the direct insurers. On top of that potential clients now have access to all the information they could ever want or need about insurance online, so you have to be able to provide value that they can’t get themselves.
“Within three years it’s going to be really tough. There’s enough business to go around in Australia – we always see those stats about underinsurance – but it’s not going to be as easy as it was. If people don’t prepare by taking on whatever they need to upgrade and streamline their business, and in most cases it is social media and technology, they’re going to get pushed out.”