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Connecting with the Next Generation of Consumers is Product Management

Michelle Dornfeld, Head of Business Development at Toggle Insurance, shares how a traditional insurance brand identified a need in the marketplace and created a new product tailored for today’s modern consumers.

Michelle Dornfeld had been at Farmers Insurance for 12 years when she and the team she was part of were presented with an opportunity by the CEO to develop an insurance product for younger consumers.

The team, dubbed the new ventures unit, was small and scrappy. Despite the close connection to Farmers, the parent company’s resources were intentionally kept separate.

"What we were asked to do was develop products and services for this next generation consumer, but without any connection to the core business," says Michelle. "And the reason for that, beyond to not be a distraction to the core business, was to really allow us to not be influenced."

The new ventures team had complete autonomy over product, partnership, marketing, and distribution choices, among other go-to-market strategies. After seven short weeks, they designed Toggle, renter’s insurance for young people who crave simple, affordable, and customizable plans. In five months, they had a successful product launch.

Having the freedom to intentionally design a solution like that was both exciting and challenging, Michelle notes. How did the team approach design, iteration, ideation, and launch -- in such an impressive time frame and in a heavily regulated industry like insurance?

Product development started with several weeks of gathering and studying customer research, using a combination of market research studies and platforms like Alpha’s. "In the early days, we were looking at a blank slate. With no clue where we would start, we naturally turned to the consumers themselves to really understand what their need was," she says.

Michelle credits early and often consumer research as the reason why they launched an insurance product that consumers loved in such a short time frame. When ideating and creating products, she says it’s important to remember that you’re solving for a customer need, not a business need.

"Pretty early on the idea of renter’s insurance jumped right off the page," she says. "We designed that from the ground up, new policy contract, new coverages, new designs. Everything was done in seven weeks, and it was largely due to the learnings that we had from the consumer research, and the fact that we started with that. And we were relentless about focusing on consumers first."

The Toggle team made sure to test concepts with consumers during the entire process, and they applied what they learned along the way, constantly finding ways to optimize the product’s messaging, positioning, and marketing to meet their target consumer’s needs.

In this episode, you’ll learn a lot about customer research, product discovery, and starting a new business unit.

Here are the highlights: 

  • How to make decisions and prioritize ideas when designing a solution from scratch (7:59)
  • Go-to-market strategies and tips when launching a new product under tight deadlines (15:33)
  • What to consider when selecting partners and onboarding vendors (18:16)
  • Michelle’s key marketing and messaging lessons for a successful product launch (22:00)

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