Grow Your Group Benefits Business – Even in a Tough Market

With the passage of Obamacare, 2010 was a very challenging year for brokers in the employee benefits market. For 2011 many insurance companies have slashed commission rates to meet new MLR requirements. Still, there are plenty of brokers in this market who are growing their business. We will explain what these brokers are doing to grow, and a simple approach that even the owner of a small agency can utilize.

NEW MARKET NICHE

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times* by Noam Levey reported that more small businesses are now offering health benefits to workers. How is this possible in the current market? Because Obamacare provides a new tax incentive for businesses with less than 25 employees to provide health care benefits. In 2011 the incentive is a 35% tax credit to companies with less than 25 employees with moderate to low pay scales.

This is a major growth opportunity for group benefit brokers because 99% of companies with more than 200 employees already offer health care benefits. But for firms with 10-24 employees only 75% provide employee benefits, even less for those with fewer than 10 employees.

Still need convincing? In the first 6-months since health care reform was enacted, United Health Care added 75,000 new customers from companies with fewer than 50 employees. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City reported a 58% jump in the number of small businesses buying insurance since April of 2010. Both insurance companies made a commitment to market to small businesses using the new tax incentive.

MORE FROM EXISTING CLIENTS

Over the years various studies have reported it can cost from three to six times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain a current one. Regardless of which study you believe, anyone who has been in business long enough to have clients knows the cost is significant. So keeping the clients you already have is critical to your success. The most important factor in retaining clients is your relationship with those clients because, all things being equal, people would prefer to buy from someone they know and trust.

In their monthly column in Benefits Selling* magazine, Gil Lowerre and Bonnie Brazzell of Eastbridge Consulting, a leading insurance marketing consulting firm, made a strong case for benefit brokers to increase their efforts in selling voluntary benefits. They point out that, of 28 insurance companies they surveyed who offer voluntary & worksite benefits, 13 offer only group voluntary benefits, two offer only individual, and 12 offer both group and individual voluntary & worksite benefits. They further point out that half of the companies in the survey get more than a third of their new sales from voluntary benefits.
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