According to the U.S. Census Bureau report, “Statistics of U.S. Businesses Employment and Payroll Summary: 2012,” (released February 2015), small businesses employ more than 39 million people. Based on MetLife estimates, about half of today’s 4 million small business employers in the U.S. offer employee benefits.
Like their larger counterparts, businesses with 100 employees or less struggle to attract and keep employees. The challenge of balancing cost concerns with employee needs falls on companies of all sizes, but is much more daunting to small business owners.
Small business owners also have limited resources, making it challenging to identify and manage affordable benefits options and packages. Plus, they tend to be more focused on their business and have neither the time nor the inclination to become experts in benefits options and regulations. Still, small business owners should be providing the most attractive, useful benefits possible to their employees. These employer clients need help understanding which products are best for their employees — and where to find them.
“Small business owners don’t have a staff of people whose job it is to shop for benefits — they’re doing it themselves,” says Jessica Moser VP, Regional & Small Business Strategy at MetLife. “They need simplicity and choices.”
Here’s what brokers need to succeed
The needs of today’s employers are elevating the broker’s role. More than just finding the best price, brokers are being called upon for their knowledge and expert guidance. Yet it’s not always easy for brokers to maintain long-lasting connections with their small business clients. The small business market tends to be transactional, with brokers needing to accumulate a larger quantity of accounts than if they were dealing with larger companies, Moser says.
“In order to succeed, brokers need a way to conduct a high volume of business and still create a personalized, consultative experience for their small business clients,” she says.
If brokers can get in front of the small business owner, that is.
Time is a commodity that small business owners protect, Moser warns. Employers may be reluctant to share business information without first establishing a relationship. In order to honestly divulge their business struggles and needs, they must trust their broker, she adds.
In the end, brokers need to set themselves apart. Brokers who want to differentiate themselves within the small business space should connect with small businesses by demonstrating an understanding of their challenges and the ways that benefits can help the company’s bottom line, says Moser.
“Small businesses want cost-effective benefits packages and solutions that make administration simple, yet many business owners don’t believe that’s possible,” she says.
Many brokers are just as doubtful. While technology can certainly help manage accounts, brokers still have to do the legwork of sourcing right-sized benefits options tailored to each employer’s needs.
That’s where working with the right carrier can make a difference, Moser says.
“A carrier that’s dedicated to the small business space can create value for brokers in a number of ways,” she says. “Along with a range of product options, brokers can access tools and technology that can help them more easily serve the small business market.”