The 2 Most Important Factors When Buying Digital Leads

By Justin Biggs

Author’s Note: If you are considering buying leads for your agency or are looking to learn more about lead buying, you may want to start with our post on Where Leads Come From as a primer before reading this post.

Buying digital leads can be a challenge.  Agencies that operate from the more traditional networking & referral approach can have an especially difficult time adapting to the digital mindset and process.  Buying leads, like most other advertising or promotions you may have attempted in the past, really boils down to getting a couple key things right.

There are 2 key things you have to get right when buying digital leads:

Risk & Intent


What is risk?  Risk is the ideal customer profile that matches your carrier’s underwriting guidelines.  Each carrier has a different appetite and “sweet spots” for rates for different kinds of customers.

Nailing the risk portion of the equation involves filtering the leads to match that appetite.  Getting filters correct is largely a process of trial and error.  Start out with your best guess of what filters will result in receiving your ideal prospects (i.e. 35+ homeowner with 2 cars and no major violations).  Then, begin to tweak that filter set and measure the results.

After a couple rounds of iteration, you should be narrowing in on what works for your agency.  Every seller offers a different set of available filters, so there is no “one size fits all” approach.  It is much more trial and error.  It should be noted that some sellers are able to provide filters that they may not publicly disclose.  These filters, such as the insured’s current carrier, have played an important part in some of our successful lead campaigns and are worth asking about.

A word of caution: If you “over filter” your account, you will receive very little lead flow.  The larger a geographic area you are able to buy equates to a larger amount of filters you can apply before cutting off the flow of leads.  As a quick example, someone who is buying the entire state of Ohio can filter for 35+ year old homeowners with no major violations and receive a significant amount of leads.  Someone with the same filters who is buying a small town (or a handful of zip codes) in Ohio will likely receive little to no lead flow.


What is intent?  Intent is the level of motivation a person has for obtaining a better insurance policy.  Better can be either price, coverages or a mix of both.  Here is a quick example contrasting different levels of buying intent:

Jeff: Just found out his carrier is implementing a major rate hike even though he has a perfect driving record.  Jeff gets on Google and searches for new insurance options in his area and clicks on an ad promising better rates.

Steve: Sees an advertisement on Facebook promising to save him money if he drives less than 50 miles per day.  Steve is perfectly happy with his current insurance but he clicks the ad anyway just to see what it is all about.

In the example above, Jeff’s level of intent is much higher than Steve’s.  Steve is curious about the offer but is not highly motivated to switch his insurance policy.  Jeff, on the other hand, is upset about his rate increase and ready to switch if a better option presents itself.

Now that we know what intent is, how do we use it to write more business?  We obviously want to buy high-intent leads and avoid low-intent ones.

Intent is much more difficult to get right than risk.  Level of intent is strongly correlated with the channel through which the person sees the initial advertisement.  Here is a brief rundown of those channels (highest intent at the top):

  1. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – Google, Bing & Yahoo
  2. Email
  3. Display Advertising (Banner Ads)
  4. Social Media (Facebook, Instagram)
  5. Co-Registration
  6. Incentivized
  7. Affiliates (can be comprised of any of the above but is usually characterized by more aggressive ads)

The list above is a broad generalization but holds true in our experience.  Someone who is searching for insurance related keywords on Google has much higher intent to obtain a new insurance policy than someone who is browsing Facebook and happens to see an insurance related ad.  That same Facebook user has higher intent than someone who see an incentivized offer (ex. Get an insurance quote and receive a $50 gift card).

Most lead sellers generate traffic in two ways: internally and through affiliate partners.  Internal teams might include search engine marketers and media buyers.  Internal traffic is normally higher quality because those teams have a higher compliance standard than affiliates.  Affiliates can still be a great source of leads but affiliate advertisements are normally characterized by more aggressive ad copy than internal media teams.

We highly recommend asking lead sellers to pass a “SubID” variable with each lead.  This SubID will anonymously identify which affiliate generated the lead and allows you to turn off SubID which are not converting as opposed to shutting off the seller as a whole.

Measuring SubID performance can get tricky.  Our Smart Workflow product, which is a CRM and lead distribution platform in one that can tell you exactly how well each seller and SubID is performing.  Click here to learn more or schedule a demo.