Self-funded Plans and Podcasting

Season 3 Episode 26

Self-funded Plans and Podcasting with Spencer Smith

Season 3 Episode 26


Intro/Outro: Welcome to the Insurance Leadership Podcast, the podcast designed to bring you perspectives and principles from leaders in the life and health insurance industry. We trust you'll enjoy today's episode.

Ryan Eaton: Welcome to another episode of the Insurance Leadership Podcast. I'm Ryan Eaton and thankful to have you listening in with us today. Today we have a fun episode. We're gonna be talking about how your company can create your own podcast, how you may wanna build your brand and make yourself an advisor to the people that you work with.

And also talking a little bit about self-funded plans and kind of some of the differences in the market. So we have Spencer Smith on the show today. Spencer has his own podcast, he's got over 20,000 downloads now on an insurance podcast, which is pretty special, and so we are excited and fired up to have him on the show.

With that, let's go ahead and get started. Well, Spencer, welcome to the show, buddy.

Spencer Smith: Well, thanks for having me, Ryan. It's nice to be here, man, and I love the studio.

Ryan Eaton: Man, I appreciate it. Well look, I love getting everyone started with kind of giving a little background about who they are, their family, and maybe even what brought you into the insurance business. You mind kicking us off with that this morning?

Spencer Smith: Yeah, so I grew up born and raised in Texas. I have a southern drawl with you and sometimes when I'm talking to somebody else that's in the south, it comes out a little bit more. I'll really embellish it for the podcast. But born and raised in Texas with the exception of a five years for college in Missouri, where I played soccer at a school called Drury University.

That's the only time I've really spent outta state or lived outta state and came back with my wife. She followed me down to Texas about 12 years ago. You know, we built a life here, stumbled into insurance like most of us had or have done where I was just looking for a job outta college and the only person that would hire me was Liberty Mutual at the time, and was willing to train somebody with no experience how to be a claims adjuster.

So I did that for about a year and realized I got tired of arguing with lawyers about slip and fall claims that were probably fairly sketchy in nature and doubt, doubtful were legitimate. So I moved over to Benefit Mall and, and cut my teeth in the finance world for Benefit Mall for about six years.

Ventured out in the broker world, then got into sales with Sun Life sold stop loss for about five years, and then eventually found myself at Plan Sight now doing RFP software for insurance brokers.

Ryan Eaton: Oh man, that's awesome. I didn't realize you were a Benefit Mall. Did you say you were with them for six years?

Spencer Smith: I was in my, yeah, in my twenties I was at the home office where I guess their old home office here in, in Dallas. But mostly in finance though. I was paying the sales guys my last job, and then I realized how much they were making and how little I was making, you know, in comparison. And that's what, that's what took me into the sales world.

Ryan Eaton: No, that's awesome. Well, tell us a little bit about what you guys are doing over at Plan Sight, kinda. You said you're working with RFP and the technology side of it. Kind of give us a little more in depth into what you're doing.

Spencer Smith: Yeah, so it started as an idea about six years ago with our co-founders who are both ex brokers themselves in the Salt Lake City, Utah market.

We're getting together and lamenting over the fact that the process for an RFP, if anybody's ever done an RFP in the insurance world where you're sending out emails and you're getting PDFs back and you're transcribing into Excel and trying to turn that into a presentation. It's kind of an unknown broken process in the industry.

So our co-founders, one day just finally, I don't know if it was over a few drinks or what, but decided that, hey, let's bet our money on this and let's go sell our practices and build software that improves that process for everyone. So I joined about four years ago, bringing my knowledge and skills of the self-funded industry and stop loss and things like that, but it's a complete solution.

Ryan Eaton: Yeah.

Spencer Smith: So it's everything from gap insurance we have on now to small group ACA to Dental, vision, life, disability. It's designed to be a single system of record for employee benefits brokers to handle the entirety of their marketing process for RFPs.

Ryan Eaton: So it's handling everything, not just self-funded, but it's even handling it on the fully insured side as well then? Is that correct?

Spencer Smith: That is correct. Yeah. I talk a lot about self-funding and obviously the podcast that I do we'll talk about later is called Self-Funded with Spencer. But you know, I have to be very quick to make sure when I am presenting the software to a prospect that that is not all that we do.

Ryan Eaton: Okay.

Spencer Smith: That is a small component of the big picture of what we do and our, our job is to make sure that whether you're a mom and pop brokers that has 25 clients or a large alphabet shop that we've designed a system that can accommodate everybody's needs now.

I think that's great what you're doing there. We built something for our brokers internally years ago because we do a lot of small group administration.

Ryan Eaton: You know how it is, most people don't want to running to get a, a quote on a three man group. Right. And really being able to shop it and running with the dental, the vision, the life, the disability, all the different product lines.

Spencer Smith: Yeah.

Ryan Eaton: Trying to do that. It's a lot of work. And so we built something internally with kind of shelf plans where it's really not a rfp, but it's kind of a built in Raider system that kind of works for all 50 states.

And we saw the need of it. We saw within our first, I guess our first 12 months, the number of groups that came in, but it was a huge time saver for us as well. And I'm sure that's what you're seeing as well from the broker side, not just dealing with the three man groups, but 2,500 life. There's some big opportunities there if you can cut down the time on quoting.

Spencer Smith: Well, and yeah, we've got preliminary numbers. I mean, we've been doing this in the open market. This is now our fifth year, but some of our longest standing brokers have shared with us that about three to five hours on average per RFP per year is what they're saving. We think that's conservative.

But we'd rather air on the side of conservatism when we when we point that out. But if we can extrapolate that over the. The course of hundreds of thousands of RFPs a year, we're talking about untold number of hours that would be saved for agencies every single year.

Ryan Eaton: So let me ask you this, just because with what we do, self-funded is kind of the, the area I'm least associated with when it comes to life and health centers and space.

When you're getting all the quotes put together, are there any other. Systems, technology vendors out there that are doing this on the self-funded. I know when you get to fully insured, there's some that are doing it out there, some that have more complicated processes than other, but when it comes to self-funded, Is there a lot of different options out there for this?

Or is it all still a manual process right now?

Spencer Smith: So there aren't a ton.

Ryan Eaton: Okay.

Spencer Smith: There are a few competitors that have some specialty in self-funding and stop loss for sure. You know, you were asking earlier about perhaps how we differentiate ourselves and those, those systems are good. Like, I don't come on a show or even in, you know, having a private conversation.

Disparage competitors, but we've taken a different approach. Okay. We want to be best in class for each individual line of coverage, but in combination, especially when you get into building the story through a presentation that we, we have the availability to do in our system, that's where we are able to draw lines of distinction.

So there's people that specialize in life and disability and do an incredible job in that, and there's people that specialize in stop. Our job is to be great at all of those things combined. That way somebody's not having to choose a system that's a partial solution rather than a complete solution.

Ryan Eaton: Ah, I love it. How many states are you guys doing this in?

Spencer Smith: I think we are, last I checked was 15 states.

Ryan Eaton: Okay.

Spencer Smith: Growing. We've got some pretty significant things that I'm not at leisure or I guess that what, what is the and liberty to say is the word I was looking for right now? That should change that significantly.

But it's been a very methodical growth process for us because the importance is making sure the software itself that's right is bulletproof. So when you flip that switch, people aren't scrambling and, and complaining about that, that scaling process.

Ryan Eaton: All right. Now where's y'all's home office? Where y'all located? In Texas?

Spencer Smith: Salt Lake city area, Utah.

Ryan Eaton: Salt Lake City.

Spencer Smith: I'm. I'm not the sole employee in Texas. I'm one of two employees, but I'm the sole salesperson in Texas.

Ryan Eaton: Okay, gotcha. No, that's fantastic. Well, look, one of the things y'all have done to be able to kind of drive new business, and this is kind of how I first saw you and kind of heard about you, one of our guys was, was on your show and I was like, man, he nailed that podcast and we were laughing about it afterwards.

Josh Sullivan, who was on your show, he said, yeah. He said, man, Spencer could be like really a full-time podcaster. He's that good. I was like, man, that's great. We gotta get him on the show. But with that said, I'm trying to figure out, we wanted to get someone on the show for a while.

Right? That was in insurance. Then also kind of understood the the technology podcast side cuz for us, where it's brought value is not as much necessarily the likes, the shares, the, you know, the different things like that, that are all numerical, which we're so used to looking at when it comes to the insurance side.

But the relationship aspect, the relational equity that's kind of built some of the leads and, and outside carrier connections and gA connections and TPA connections that have come through it have been way more than we ever expected at the beginning. So absolutely. I say all that to be able to say what kind of got you guys to decide that you finally wanted to be able to start a podcast.

Spencer Smith: Well, so I would say my experience or transition into podcasting was probably fairly unique. Before I did the podcast, I did a whiteboard series called Stop Loss with Spencer. So taking my knowledge from the stop loss world, this was July of 2020, which many people know it was going on in the summer of 2020.

That's right. And I was sitting there as a salesperson going, well, all of a sudden I'm not allowed to go meet with people anymore. Zoom hadn't really proliferated to like it is in our daily lives today, and so I was sort of scrambling for how do I create awareness about myself and what I do and ultimately draw attention to the company.

So somewhat on a whim, I had this idea. I've seen Dr. Bricker do those whiteboard videos. If anybody knows Dr. Eric Bricker, he's a. And I thought, well, maybe I could do that, but I'll do that in my own niche, which is stop loss insurance. Yep. The crazy thing is, Ryan, I had no idea what was gonna happen, but I released that first video, which was literally stop loss 1 0 1, and it trended three times on like the top 1% of LinkedIn.

I don't know if I just caught fire accidentally, I'm not really sure. But that was my first video I'd ever created and loaded to to LinkedIn. Oh, that's awesome. So I thought, oh, maybe this is like how it goes, or. Figure out what to do from here. So anyways, a long-winded backstory to say I did 25 of those videos.

I exhausted everything I knew about stop loss and felt I'd just be like beating a dead horse at that point. Mm-hmm. So the podcast. Seemed like a natural offshoot where you could expand upon the idea of self-insurance. But just like you invite people on, let them be the expert for 30 minutes or 45 minutes or an hour.

That's right. Talk about their subject matter. Own it. And I, I really just gonna be part of the conversation, but I no longer have to lead it. I no longer have to come up with all the content necessarily. And That's right. It just expands your, your potential for podcasts to nearly an infinite level of, of episodes that you could do.

And so it was just, I know the continual sort of growth of that original offshoot, which was those whiteboard videos.

Ryan Eaton: Well, you know, it's funny you mentioned kind of bringing people onto your show gives you more topics, more information. That was one of the things for us at the beginning where, you know, when you've got only two episodes on your show, it's like everything's a topic.

When, when you start hitting that 20 to 24 episodes, it. Hey, wait, what's our topic gonna be on this day? You know, cuz you're going to kind of mix it up. And now you have over 20,000 downloads, 80 something episodes, which when you're talking about insurance, that's huge. And you've done a fantastic job there.

You know, my brother we were laughing about it the other day. He said, does anyone actually download podcasts about insurance? Like, yeah. I was like, I promise they, they do.

Spencer Smith: They do. That's weird, but, It's so funny. You, you were talking about numbers and I'm sure we'll get into that a little bit, just like kind of quantifying the, the value of it.

But, you know, I have my Spotify for podcasters on my phone and it'll give you some metrics and it's crazy. I'll look on a Saturday morning or a Sunday morning and, you know, 10 or 15 more people have listened to it. I'm like, who's listening to my podcast at midnight on a Saturday night? But somebody is you know, I don't know if they're masochistic about insurance or what, but there, there's definitely an audience for it.

And I think it, it speaks to the power of finding your niche and really nicheing downward to something that you do specialize in. And you'd be surprised how many people are interested in that subject.

Ryan Eaton: Spencer, what would you say to the guy who's, who's listening right now? Maybe it's, they got a single man shop.

Maybe it's a big, big, large thousand man brokerage, but if they're looking to maybe build something that's out there for their brokers, for their clients, for their costume, What would be something that you would kind of suggest to them when kind of getting started and what to, what to kind of be thinking of and keep it in the back of their mind?

Spencer Smith: Yeah, I mean, there's a couple of different answers to your question, Ryan. I think, you know, setting aside podcasting for a second, any one of those people that you just described should be leveraging social media. Whether that's a LinkedIn, whether that's simply just posting articles, writing articles, you know, interacting with folks.

The lowest barrier to entry is, is LinkedIn for, for folks like ourselves. And if you're not at least using that as a baseline, I think there's a really big missed opportunity. From there, you can expand in, in whatever channel you want. So plenty of people I know make 30, 62nd videos. Talking about one small subjects or highlighting some new, you know, legislation that's come down since we all have one of these in our hands, right?

We have the power of recording video and uploading it to the internet and one fell swoop. To me, it's the more of that excuse or the. Fear of, of doing it. I really, I think that's more than, more than anything, just an excuse. So that that's one component. To answer your question, the other component, if they are interested in podcasting, I can say that it's created an exponential effect on visibility for me.

Relationships that have grown from it. I was actually tabulating the other day. I've had people fly in from 16 states to be on the show, and I could have never, and never, literally, never imagined that the first time I sat down and did my first episode. So that's correct. You don't know. But you don't know until you try.

And so I would say the downsides are only if you can't control what you say and you might occasionally slip up or you know, adventure into the territory of being controversial, which I don't do. Yep. But I, other than that, I really don't see a downside for anybody's career, especially if they're in sales.

Ryan Eaton: How long did it take you to get the technical side of it set up for you at the beginning? Yeah. We had Casey Combest here who kind of helped us with kind of the whole process. But for someone who doesn't maybe have a IT or someone technical, or someone who's done podcasting, What would you kind of recommend there on getting started and how did, how long did it take you on your original kind of whiteboard series?

Spencer Smith: Yeah, so I, I figured out the whiteboard videos fairly quickly, although I was dealing with sound issues. Anybody that's ever recorded a podcast will, will quickly discover that audio is like your nu number one friend and enemy, depending on how good your audio is. So I had to start investigating things like buying a, you know, a lapel mic or buying.

I bought a blue Yeti that sits on my desk if I want to use a microphone like that. And there. You know, this thing was 20 bucks, the blue Yetis a hundred, 120 bucks. I mean, you can spend a crazy amount of money, but it's not really necessary unless you're doing professional level audio recordings themselves.

But other than an iPhone, I mean, I think most people should just use their iPhone to start. I wouldn't go out and spend $5,000 on a camera if I did that. I wouldn't know the first place to start or how to operate it. I've been fortunate, like you to. A production team that I can trust to shoot, set up, execute on the video, monitor the sound, do the editing afterwards, create the clips.

That's right. There's an economic expense to that. But for me, that was the way that I was able to sort of differentiate myself as a podcast versus, you know, the guy or gal that just said, Hey, one day I wanna start a podcast and just start doing it. So you have to obviously weigh what the, the cost benefit analysis is for you in, in.

And equipment. What was one of

Ryan Eaton: your biggest struggles when you first got started compared to, to now? And for us, one of the thing is, you know, finding the quality guests with finding the quality topics and trying to think along those lines. Some stuff gets easier as it goes. Some stuff gets a little bit harder as it goes.

What have you found from the beginning to kind of where you are now? 80 episodes deep. What have you found being the differences?

Spencer Smith: Well, so the first episode, and I, I've been very fortunate Ryan, I'll say this. I joined a coworking space at the time that had a turnkey podcast studio that they invested about $20,000 in building a studio, getting a great setup.

They used iPhones still, but they had really good quality microphones. And literally my first episode, I was able to take advantage of that, and it was only about a hundred dollars an episode that they charged to produce it. That's right. So I never. Started on my own. So I probably, other than the whiteboard videos, wouldn't be the best person that's to consult around how to set it up on your own.

I've made a choice, though. I've made a choice to go down the path of spending a little more money so that again, that I know my production value is as high as it possibly can, can be. You don't have to do that though, and I, I would definitely caution people to overspend too early until, you know. That this is actually something you're committed to doing.

Otherwise you'll be like 90% of the other people in the world that quit after like three or four episodes and just simply realize it's too much work and it's too hard. No, that's

Ryan Eaton: very fair. Very fair. What advice would you give. To someone maybe who they can record great topics, build great things, but they're looking at about from advertising on social media, maybe not even advertising, but just posting content.

I've noticed one of the things I've seen since I kind of picked you up with seeing Josh's videos, you come out with some great images and the funny stuff that you put out there on a consistent basis. That's, that's really good. What would you suggest from the marketing side to someone trying to get their, get their

Spencer Smith: content out there to the general public?

Yeah, so I mean, this will kind of go to your back to your last question, which I didn't fully answer. Kind of what have I seen in terms of the evolution of the podcast, but the growth of my podcast. There's a clear trajectory that's come along with the amount of effort I've put into the social media marketing component.

So what I mean by that is consistently posting an episode on every Tuesday morning, releasing a newsletter on LinkedIn that supports that episode and announces it to the subscribers, posting clips three to four times a week to market that particular episode, to just push and push and try to continue to attract.

Viewers to the the show itself. I have seen how that has improved not only the download quality, but also the interest of people coming in to say, Hey, I would like to be on your show. What do I have to do? Or, I would like to sponsor your show. What does that look like? By continuing to be visible, like you were describing, where it's every single day.

Something's out there, whether it's a personal post or whether it's a clip or whether it's announcing the episode, it's just an ever presence where it looks like you're everywhere, but I'm really only spending five or 10 minutes a day of the actual posts themselves. And so you can create this, this appearance that you're constantly out there when it really isn't that much effort if you just make it a part of your day.

Ryan Eaton: Oh, that's great. What, what other advice would you give along those same lines to someone kinda. Again, looking to pick a topic that they want to hit on. You know, like, yeah. So you, you had stop-loss insurance and we, we liked insurance and leadership because we felt like we were dealing with a lot of brokerages and carriers and TPAs, and we were an insurance company ourself too.

And so it's kind of like, hey. We don't wanna segment that, but let's kind of hit the, the, the leadership side of it. What would you say from someone who's really trying to specialize or niche out to a specific topic?

Spencer Smith: Yeah, I would say you're, you're better off doing that for sure, unless you don't really want to talk about what you do on a daily basis and you simply want a podcast where you talk to friends or, you know, business associates or something where there isn't really a subject.

I think that what I would caution somebody that goes that route is, that may be. But then your audience is not really gonna know what your show is about, especially if you're doing this for professional purposes like you and I are doing. Yep. You're better off picking a topic that supports your business.

You were mentioning earlier that we think about metrics, we think about downloads. I would say there's an outsized or disproportionate. Impact that. Talking about the subjects I talk about I've had on the industry, or people coming to be on the show or lead generation for myself or for my guests, that don't really translate into the normal economics of a podcast where they're thinking about how much money and advertising can I make per thousand downloads.

It's weird because if I focus on delivering, In delivering value in a certain segment of our marketplace, I've been able to garner sponsorships that don't really make sense on paper. Oh, I'll be perfectly honest. A pure download perspective, right? But it's because I can prove the value through the guest interactions, through referrals, through business that comes into my guest, through business that comes into me, that there's an outsized level of impact that the, the episodes have, because I'm talking about a very specific thing,

Ryan Eaton: bring value.

Niche out. Basically trying to figure out something that you can continue to bring quality content on or bring other people in to bring quality content. What would you say has been your biggest mistake or one of the funniest things you had happen to you while doing this? Cause I know

Spencer Smith: everyone's got several different things.

We were laughing about some earlier. Yeah, I would say the biggest mistake, I actually kind of got my biggest mistake outta the way, or at least I hope it'll be my biggest mistake. But the very first episode we shot, I was telling you about that studio, and we did have, when you paid that a hundred dollars to enter that studio and have them record it, it comes with somebody monitoring the sound, right?

The person that was monitoring the sound was fairly new to the job, and so I get my episode afterwards, we're recorded for like an hour with my buddy Dennis. And Dennis and I had a great time, great conversation. We leave, I get the episode a couple days later and I. Well, that sounds like crap. Like I'm like, did I just pay it for a hundred dollars for somebody to record it on their iPhone?

And what happened is they did actually record the audio on the iPhone. He forgot to plug in the, the actual audio cord so that it was going through the soundboard. So the only audio that was recorded was from the iPhone. So I had this beautiful looking podcast where we're switching cameras and everything's in 4k, and then audio that sounded like I recorded it, you know, you know, in my bathroom.

And I'm like, what the. So he told me he, he fessed up and he is like, dude, I forgot to plug the thing in. Fortunately, Dennis was a good sport and he actually left the podcast saying, man, I wish I could come back and do that again. Quite frankly, I would've changed some of my answers. And he was also local, so it was just a matter of rescheduling and, and now not only did I learn a valuable lesson, but my podcast guy who to this day is the guy that I now hire to do my podcast, he learned the valuable lesson as well of redundancy of checking the chords every single time that.

Ryan Eaton: We actually run with a backup here for the same time.

Same time. Yeah. Well look, Spencer kind of, I know we're getting close to kind of our 20, 30 minute mark. We're about halfway through. Yeah. What would you like to say? Kind of open forum. Anything else you'd like to hit? Maybe on the insurance side or podcast side?

Something I didn't ask you that you'd like to, you'd like to spend a minute on?

Spencer Smith: Well, I think the thing that we didn't really touch on is how it's been booned to my sales career. You mentioned how you were getting leads that come in, strategic partners that come in, these relationships that form as a result of the episodes that you put out.

I've experienced the same thing myself about two and a half years ago before it ever made a video. I was sort of this anonymous sales rep that my brokers knew because I called on them or I emailed them or I had meetings with them. But in terms of like a public identity or recognition, I really had, I had.

But from that, from the, the efforts that have put into those videos and put into the podcast every single week as I release an episode and market that episode, somebody eventually lands on my profile and follows me and connects at least one or two, also end up on the Plan Sight website, request a demo, and end up becoming prospects.

But the beautiful thing about that, Not only is it an inbound prospecting tool, but they've already probably listened to five or 10 or 15 episodes. So they've formed a relationship with myself, with my guests, kind of, you know, the things I stand for, my value system. So I've done a lot of the legwork, if you will, on the initials parts of a sales process, and by the time they come and listen to a demo about Plan Sight.

They're already effectively sold. That's right. And it's just making sure that it's a right fit for them. That has been this really weird phenomenon that I wouldn't say is weird now in hindsight, but it wasn't something I expected going in that I had a lead generation tool that was out there working for me on a daily basis.

Ryan Eaton: So you basically found, at the end of the day, it puts you at the advisor level with the advisors, right? It kind of didn't put you, it kind of reaching out to them. It puts you either there or the expert level basically, where they were coming to you for advice instead of, hey, just coming to you to get a quote. Right. Am I correct in that?

Spencer Smith: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And when I, I talk to a lot of consultants too, and I do treat the podcast as almost like a consultant sitting there and validating a solution or listening to somebody you know, not necessarily present their pitch, but talk about what they know.

I try to ask questions as if I was an advisor sitting down for the first time and going through the subject matter with them. So naturally that's also attracted consultants to be listeners of the show. And so they view me somewhat on a, a peer-to-peer basis for consulting advice as well.

Ryan Eaton: Well, you, you have an excellent show and I, I've listened to it, not just the, the one episode I mentioned earlier, but a few other ones just to kinda get a gist for how you're doing.

Spencer Smith: Thank you.

Ryan Eaton: You do an excellent job running that. And, and Spencer, I can tell you, thank you so much for being on the show today, man, and, and spending 20, 30 minutes with us. You did a fantastic job.

Spencer Smith: You too, sir. Thank you.

Ryan Eaton: Well, that wraps up another episode of the Insurance Leadership Podcast. We thank you for listening in and remember a good plan today is better than a great plan months from now.

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