Interview with Jill McGowan: How to Use Your Niche Market to Grow Your Business

Making the decision to branch out and start a business from the ground up is a leap into the abyss. This is something that insurance agent Jill McGowan knows all too well. Within the last year, she has built a successful virtual agency that only has room to grow.

In this episode of Stay Paid, Josh and Luke sit down with special guest McGowan as she discusses the motives behind her entrepreneurship, her daily struggles, and her hopes for the future.

Key Points

  • Finding your niche is important for any industry
  • Utilizing a CRM can help to automate your processes
  • Handwritten notes can leave a powerful lasting impression

Who is Jill McGowan?

McGowan grew up with sales in her blood. From the time she was little, she was always drawn to the notion of selling. This interest led to multiple sales jobs, helping her to expand her skillset. After ten years in the insurance and financial industries, she decided it was time to break away and start her own virtual agency, Apex Insurance, from the comfort of her home.

Within the last year she has been able to acquire a large book of business. Her agency sells vehicle, home, and commercial policies throughout multiple states. She focuses on a niche market to generate leads and set herself apart from the competition.

Q: How long were you in insurance before you decided to branch out?

A: I’ve been in the insurance industry for ten years. I started my career with State Farm, and developed a close relationship with a mentor. From there, I moved to Delaware, and continued to work for State Farm. I then transitioned to the motorcycle dealership life, where I worked in both the finance and insurance departments.

Q: What made you want to start your own business?

A: When I moved from Delaware to Georgia, I had four different jobs. I assumed since I had a Bachelor’s degree in finance and ten years of experience, finding a job within my field would be extremely easy—I was wrong. At my last job, I ended up reaching my personal goal of hitting the six-figure mark, but I still wasn’t happy. After continuing to crush my sales goals month after month, my employer cut my pay by over 25 percent. Needless to say, I was devastated. But ultimately, it was the best thing to happen to me. Because of that, I was inspired to take a leap of faith and start my virtual agency.

Q: How do you generate new business for your agency?

A: It’s going to sound cliché, but I rely heavily on my niche. I’ve developed quite a few longstanding relationships with salespeople from dealerships over the years, who have paved the way for me to generate leads. I’m leveraging these relationships to write policies for their customers who have just purchased a vehicle.

In addition, I work past 5:00 p.m. every night. While every other insurance agent has gone home for the night, I’m still in my kitchen writing policies. My flexible hours allow me set my services apart from my competition.

Q: Are you using social media to grow your business?

A: Yes, I do see leads that come from social media. But I don’t rely on social media as a whole. Although my business is primarily virtual, I still like to add a personal approach. Every time I make a sale, I follow up by sending a handwritten note. It gives a personal touch to a rather electronic business, and is a great way to produce referrals.

Q: What else are you doing to connect with your niche market?

A: I utilize my CRM. I believe that if you’re going to have a business and deal with customers, you must utilize a CRM to help automate the process. My CRM also enables me to reach out to my previous clients to see if they’re in need of additional policies.

Q: What has been your biggest struggle with starting your own business?

A: My biggest struggle is that I don’t have a brick and mortar. This causes certain vendors to restrict me from writing out-of-state insurance policies.

Q: What happened when you were hospitalized?

A: For starters, being hospitalized for stomach issues was one of the hardest things that I’ve been through. It was three months after I started my business, and I was in the hospital for a total of four days. But while I was there, I still wrote insurance policies. I brought my laptop, worked from the bed, and got it done.

Q: How are you measuring success today in your business?

A: By how happy I feel. For me, the biggest measure of success is how I feel on the inside. Being happy is a key indicator of whether I’m reaching my full potential or not.

Q: How do you balance your personal and professional lives?   

A: I try to be as focused as possible. I recently started meditating using a smartphone app, and have found that it helps me achieve the balance that I need to get through my day. I take a few moments every morning to sit in the dark and relax. After I’m done focusing my thoughts, I dive headfirst into work.

Q: Do you have a set routine every day?

A: I have a few things that are non-negotiable. Meditation, working out, and listening to entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk are all on that list. If I do those three things, I know that I’m going to have a good day.

 Q: Looking back, what would you do differently when you started your business?  

A: There’s a lot of things that you’re going to do wrong—it’s life. You can’t take these things back, and you can’t change them. However, I do wish that I understood the direction that I wanted to go in with my business. In the beginning, I self-branded and that was the worst decision that I could have made. Because of this, I’m now in the midst of re-branding my company.

Q: How can people connect with you?

A: Instagram: @apexprotects

Action Items

Following this podcast, our goal is to provide you with as many actionable tips as possible. This episode includes…

  • Take a look at your book of business, and determine how you can build a business with your vendors so that they can be a source of leads for you.

As always, take action on these tips!