Emails: an Effective, Low Cost Tool to Engage Potential and Current Customers plus Build Sales

November 11, 2017

Learning profitable customer insights are an added bonus to any effective email program. Sometimes what doesn’t happen can speak volumes while forging profitable connections with your customers.

Here are some tips for making your Email campaign work:

Manage and grow your subscriber list properly and legally: The list quality is more important than its quantity; it is better to have 500 loyal subscribers than a 5,000 cold email list.  Today, most email providers require each person on your list to have a demonstrable relationship with your brand.  To ensure list success: review and clean your list(s) consistently; and ensure that every email sent has a clear option to ‘unsubscribe’ and is adhering to CAN-SPAM and other legal requirements.

Segment your list(s): Email marketing has become about personalization.  A personalization strategy known as segmentation is when large email lists are chopped up into small lists based upon common characteristics. To stick out from the crowd, create emails that are tailored, as much as possible, to each customer’s specific needs. To segment your list: develop 2-5 archetypical customer personas; map out what unique value your brand provides to each; place each subscriber into smaller lists based on your archetypical customer personas; create unique campaigns for each segmented group, and cater towards each segment with a message addressing their specific needs.  Each campaign doesn’t need to be entirely unique; often segmented campaigns re-use 80% of the email and simply adjust subject lines and sections of body copy.

Mix promotion with high value content: The hard sell doesn’t sell. Try to infuse each email with free value on top of your promotional purpose. This technique improves subscriber retention and is an opportunity to reinforce your brand’s values.

Automate: Email marketing can be labor intensive, requiring creativity, time and meticulous review. Take full advantage of all the automation capabilities that your email service provides, such as: trigger emails, or an email which automatically fires when a user completes a certain action such as abandoning an eCommerce cart; automated scheduling, or the ability to pre-load and schedule campaigns far in advance or when it is statistically the best time to send; and personalized messages, or the ability to automatically send personalized emails such as long-term prospect follow-up, product recommendations based on prior purchases, greetings, etc.

Monitor analytics and continuously improve: track what numbers matter most to your business (click-thru-rates, conversions, sales, etc.) and try to improve with each campaign.  Learn what messages different segments are responding to, and then use actionable data to enhance each campaign and your business.

Best email marketing campaigns:

Email marketing is one of the most effective tools for strengthen your relationship with prospects and customers to increase retention, repeat sales and referrals.  Through using your own list of prospects and customers, you will build rapport with your target audience.  Other benefits include: with your prospects pre-sold on doing business with you results in a reduced sales cycle, less cost per sale, which leads to more profit; generation of leads and sales on demand by running email promotions to any segment of your list whenever you want; and you will build a strong relationship with your customers to fend off competitors.

Here are 5 email types of email promotions for your business to use:

Warm-up Campaign: sent to your list of prospects and customers that you have never formally sent an email newsletter to stay in touch.  The Warm-up campaign is geared toward warming up your “cold” list.  It is essential to do this campaign before you try to use one of the other campaigns, unless you’ve continually stayed in touch with your list.  The goal is to reintroduce your business, not to sell anything at this time.  In the email, provide context as to why you’re reaching out, and explain how you will be following up with even more valuable emails in the future.  To engage your audience, a tactic is to run a survey to gain feedback from your audience.

It is critically important to build your relationship with your contacts and customers. If you do not first have a relationship, then none of the following campaigns will work for you.

Tee-up Campaign: is to ready leads for your sales team.  At any given time there are contacts on your email list who are ready to buy and you want to make it as easy as possible for them to self-identify. The Tee-up campaign doesn’t directly ask for the sale.  Instead, the email is positioned to help anyone who is in need for your product or service. A tactic is to email out the question, “Are you still looking for help with [your product or service]?”  ‘’Yes’ responses are a reengaged lead in your sales pipleline.

Flash Sale:  is an email touting a limited-time sale; it is familiar and popular with most people.  Again, you can literally generate sales on demand with the click of a button.  Just type up the terms of your sale, select the segment of your list you want to email, click send, and sit back as the orders come in.

Referral: is creating sales through non-competitive partnerships with local businesses.  Every contact on your email list needs additional products and services that your business does not provide.  For example, a fancy dress shop could form partnerships with an upscale shoe and jewelry stores, plus hair salon.  Once you establish your partnerships, then you can run a referral campaign to generate leads and sales for your partner.  This should be benefit everyone: you are helping your contacts get what they need, and your partners get a new marketing channel; plus depending on your partnership you could earn commissions or reciprocal promotions where your partners promote your business.

Launch: is a campaign for a new product or service launch.  The purpose is to build up excitement and anticipation for your offering in advance of the launch date.  To prepare, study marketing campaign of big movie releases and high-profile technology products, think of how best to build anticipation for your product of service.  Before launch day, send emails in waves to build up the value, explain the benefits, and lay out the details for exactly how and when to buy.  May this result in a line outside your door the day your sale starts.

 

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Holiday Marketing and Email Content Mistakes to Avoid

October 5, 2017

October is almost too late to start Holiday promotions but there are ways of ensuring added profits and reduce mistakes.

 Here are 8 Steps To Creating An Effective Holiday Marketing Campaign 

  1. Start early: Advance planning allows you to make sure that all the elements of your promotion are well-thought through and tested and that you have the resources in place to execute.
  2. Identify your segments: Understanding your audience is critical to any successful marketing strategy, and holiday marketing is no different.  You can segment your audience by customer lifecycle stage or behaviors, persona, and/or specific demographic attributes— like age, geography, and gender.
  3. Choose the right holidays for your customer base: Holiday marketing, especially once fall begins, focus is primarily around Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s.
  4. Create thoughtful offers for your holiday marketing campaign: Start by asking yourself “What is my goal?”  Sometimes what you offer can be an idea (like what to buy someone), a curated experience (like a Pinterest board), educational (like a reminder to make healthy choices), or a limited-time offer.
  5. Create a personal experience for today’s savvy consumer, who expects more than ever before: Marketing automation can help marketers deliver this personal experience from web, to social media, to email, and even across your different ad platforms.
  6. Create a multi-channel plan: Make sure that your campaign is everywhere that your customer is, and if you can understand how your customer is using that channel, you will be able to target your marketing even better.
  7. Reward loyalty: Loyal customers are the bread and butter of any business, plus your best advocates. Use your holiday marketing campaign as a way to reward them by offering exclusives, sneak peeks, and special offers, and then ask them to share.
  8. Have fun: Capture the energy of the season or holiday with your marketing and don’t let the constraints of “what’s been done” define your campaign. The more creative, fun, and innovative you are, the more you will stand out from the rest.

 

Side-Step These Two Common Holiday Email Content Mistakes

 

Sales and discounts, all day every day: During the holidays, strong sales and promotions can help brands stay competitive. But sales offers in every subject line for weeks on end get as stale as last year’s fruitcake.  By diversifying the messaging stream and offering value beyond just promotions, brands can let their merchandising, editorial content and featured collections draw subscribers down the browsing and purchasing path.

 

Putting the pressure on … turning subscribers off: The holidays can be stressful, both for marketers and consumers. The last thing subscribers want is for a brand to guilt them into creating a perfect holiday or rushing into a purchase. This can put them off of that particular campaign and can even impact their perception of the brand.

Rather than adding to the stress and noise in the inbox, consider a strategy that positions the brand as an ally. Highlight ease, simplicity and convenience to help take the pressure down a notch and reduce subscriber hesitation.

 

Protect Your Website from Digital Pirates

September 3, 2017

By being proactive, you can improve your chances of not being a Cyber Attack victim.

Don’t let your company become the next victim of a Cyber Attack

Among the most deadly to small businesses is Ransomware.

As a source of danger, disruption, and money drain, Ransomware is climbing as a source of woe to more and more companies each month.

By holding a company’s online assets hostage, Cyber Pirates use Ransomware to extort payments from large and small enterprises.  It also locks the company’s computers, preventing them from continuing as part of day-to-day activities.  More even than the funds demanded, this aspect of the problem is more dangerous to small business and other companies.

Before a Ransomware attack disrupts your company there are things you can do to reduce your vulnerability.

The first thing is to learn what Ransomware is.

RANSOMEWARE IS A MALICIOUS SOFTWARE PROGRAM

THAT HOLDS BUSINESS COMPUTER ACTIVITIES HOSTAGE OR THREATENS TO RELEASE SENSITIVE DATA TO THE PUBLIC FOR A HANDSOME FEE.

Cyber Pirates use many ways (emails, network traffic, user behavior, application traffic, and more) to insert Ransomware.  Usually attacks are made using a “Trojan” that is disguised as a legitimate file, such as an innocent looking email from someone you know and trust instructing you to check out pertinent information.  Unknowingly you click the link, which activates the download of the malware and the hacker can encrypt your files until you supply the payoff.

“A Ransomware variant will infect between 30,000 to 35,000 devices a month, with some variants reaching up to 150,000 infections,” according to Barracuda.com.  But, most these attacks can be prevented. Don’t become a statistic.

To keep your website running well and guard against potential threats as well as cyber attacks, follow these Tips:

  1. Be aware of suspicious emails, websites, and apps. In order for Ransomware to work someone has to unknowingly download malware onto their device.
  2. Run daily, weekly or minimally monthly backups of all of your files. If a cyber-attack occurs, having back-up from your most recent version will help you recover your website.
  3. Host your website on a secure server. Dedicated servers with a variety of weapons (Firewall Protection, Anti-Spam and Anti-Virus Protection, HTTP Intrusion Protection, Daily security audits and more) help monitor threats, prevent website attacks, and fight cyber security attacks when they do happen.
  4. Have an SSL certificate for your website to initiate a secure session with browsers. Look at your URL, if it has HTTP (or even better HTTPS) in it you have the “Secure” stamp of approval.
  5. Update your plugins to patch bugs and potential vulnerable areas. No website is self-sustainable, so keep your website backend up to date to guard against possible threats.
  6. Use Strong Passwords and 2-Factor Authentication: make sure that your website password is complex (an eight-character password with numbers, symbols and mixed-case letters is harder to guess) and updated bi-monthly and you have dual authentication for website access is crucial.
  7. List good and bad IP addresses: Whitelist all trustworthy IPs, and Blacklist all bad or suspicious IPs.
  8. Monitor for attacks on a daily basis. Sign up with a hosting and support company that offers Daily Attack Monitoring so that you know quickly when an attack happens and respond to it.

 

In summary, always try to prevent threats before they happen.  But, that is not always possible.

Many resources are available to help you protect your company, its data and reputation; here are a few:

Additional Tip: Never pay a fee for the return of your data.  Why?  You may not get your data back.  A copy could be retained for further fee(s) and/or the data could be used against your business.  And, you will probably be put on a ‘payer list’ that is distributed in the digital pirate world marking you as an easy target that pays a fee when threatened or held hostage.

The time to act against Ransomware is now, before it infects your computers.

Making Social Media Work For Your Small Business

July 2, 2017

Social media can be an effective promotional tool for any small business.

The secret is finding the right combination of internal resources and external talent.

Few companies are equipped to drive social media efforts alone.  Those that try often run up against a wall of mounting experience required and limited internal resources available.  That is not to say having an internal leader driving the social media efforts can’t work.

Take for example MuscleEgg, a Utah company offering consumers an enriched and flavored egg white product.  The company was not satisfied with its social media partner and hired Joe Gonzalez to come in-house and direct their efforts.

In three years, Gonzalez has totally revamped MuscleEgg’s social media effort delivering robust returns to their promotional efforts.

But for every MuscleEgg success story, there are numerous failures in this rapidly changing social media landscape.

Experts say small companies need to concentrate on their products and let the full-time devotees of the craft pound away at the social media landscape.

For those small businesses contemplating hiring or replacing their social media agency, here are some things to consider:

  1. Who is your audience? In short, what group of people or businesses are most likely want or need your product or service.
  2. What social media avenues does this audience most use? Identifying the one or two or three top social media tracks is important to choosing how to reach them.
  3. What are the best ways of reaching this audience through these channels? Some agencies or groups are better than others and identifying them can lead to superior results.
  4. How much money can you devote to this effort? Having the resources to wage a skillful return often requires a commitment higher than originally contemplated.
  5. When is the timetable for results? Remember despite what others might say social media takes time to develop and deliver results.
  6. What are the deliverables you want and the agency can provide? Without clear, mutually agreed upon measureable goals, no effort can truly succeed.
  7. Are you comfortable with the people you will work with? Without mutual trust and comfort nothing will happen.
  8. Is the social media campaign compatible with other parts of the marketing effort? Social media is one component of the marketing effort.  Insure it adds to the over marketing effort and not distract from it.
  9. Is the company building on the information social media provides? Social media is an interactive channel providing much information management needs to absorb, digest, and act upon in real time.  Good agencies provide feedback to improve the product/service and the social media campaign.

Social media is one of the most effective promotional tools ever handed small businesses.  It is up to management to make the most of it.

Small Business Hiring in Today’s Changing World

June 11, 2017

The latest employment data once again demonstrates small businesses hiring is greater than that of large corporations.

At the same time, surveys of small business leaders indicate they expect to hire more and more workers as the year progresses.

While good news, it also highlights a growing problem for smaller firms: finding qualified employees.

As the nation’s unemployment rate ticks under 5% the number of unfilled jobs is increasing.

This is occurring despite the nation having an estimated 94 million people who have dropped out of the job seeking sector who are just now starting to return to the labor force.

Many of these individuals had skills and experience in older, less technical functions or in declining industries.

Concurrently, the rise of cloud-based services eliminates the need for many in-house functions such as accounting, payroll, invoicing, and social media.  This outsourcing means remaining employees must be more and more specialized.

With specialized talents needed and despite this apparent large pool of candidates, many small businesses still say they can’t find individuals capable of doing many tasks important to their company.

Experts say there are several reasons for this but the major factor is many individuals are unprepared for today’s marketplace.

One reason is many corporations no longer provide training programs for young talent.  According to some experts, the evolution of technology is replacing repetitive entry level positions such as data entry, order taking, and distribution assembly with robotic tools or artificial intelligence.

Even in-person sales training programs have been curtailed replaced with auto-generated phone call marketing and customer service programs with scripted messages.

This was particularly true during the past eight years, leaving a void in the 28-35 year old age group of talent capable of first- and second- level management roles.

But that explanation is too simple.  For many small businesses, identifying good candidates requires time and the use of a wide number of possible sources.  Many job boards such as indeed, simplyhired, ziprecruiter among others have sprung up offering a multitude of possible sources.  Often, they generate hundreds of candidates which must be sorted and evaluated, including background checks on all hires to ensure you are getting what you expect.

And herein lies the opportunity for small business leaders.

Finding the best “fit” for a potential employee can mean extra dividends for the employer.  But this requires some flexibility on the part of the employer.

For instance, the employer should look for the passions of possible employees rather than just their experience or education.

Many moms returning to the workforce are equipped with the experience of multi-tasking which can be valuable in a smaller organization.  Veterans are another pool of candidates to consider; their disciplined training makes them reliable.

Asking to test a future employee with a paid project is another way of learning if he or she could become a valuable employee.  This approach is gaining acceptance with so many people opting for a “gig” type of working arrangement, where they prefer moving from project to project rather than full time employment.  A paid project can be an effective tool to finding the right person and filling your business need.

The world is changing enabling small businesses to expand their sales territory to the world.  So too, they should expand their employment horizon.  The results may be a positive surprise.

Recalculating Book Wins Award; Spurs Next Volume On Work-Life

May 25, 2017

In the just completed Independent Press Awards competition, our book, Recalculating, 97+ Experts On Driving Small Business Growth, was named best Entrepreneur Small Business offering.

It is a high honor and we appreciate the award.  As you may be aware, we asked more than 97 company presidents, consultants, academic leaders, and experts to write about important drivers to small business growth.  Many thanks to our contributors for their insights and advice.

As a result of this book’s success, we are beginning the laborious but rewarding process of putting together the next book in the Recalculating series, work-life balance.

Why is work / life balance important?

So many of the people I interview are considering leaving their company solely because of exhaustive work and travel schedules that negatively affect their personal life.  The numbers of those looking to leave their current company has increased with the changing economy.  It is important to be aware of this topic both from an internal and external perspective.

It is crucial for employers to take the time to create a means for employees to have a healthy balance between the workplace and their personal lives.  Equally as important, small business leaders need to also create an effective work-life balance for themselves.

Our newest book, slated for a Winter 2017 release, asks advisors, academics, organizational and religious leaders to contribute their thoughts on achieving a better work-life balance.

Whether a small business leader or employee, balancing work efforts with life experiences is difficult if not impossible.

Many pundits say small business leaders need to devote all of their time and efforts towards making their businesses a success.

This has been true in the past but often at a cost of family and friends, as well as the leader’s own well-being.

In fact, surveys have shown children of small business owners are refusing to take-over the business as their parents reach retirement age. As a result, reports show there are more mature businesses available for sale today than at any time in the past 20 years.

In our surveys and interviews here at Information Strategies, Inc. (ISI) we find more and more small business leaders indicating they are seeking better work-life balance.

Unfortunately, many also report this equilibrium is difficult or impossible to obtain.  One heavy fact or mitigating reason against separation of work-life is the ubiquitous mobile device.

At the same time, many employees seeking work-life balance are often defeated by their mobile devices.

Not being able to turn-off their anytime, anywhere connection with others is just one example of the dilemma facing small business leaders.

In our book, we hope to help them and others create a more balanced work-life experience.

If you think you have ideas on how to better balance work-life, please email me at editor@recalculating.biz.

Small Businesses With Low-Wage Immigrant Workers Need To Change

February 20, 2017

Ironically, the recent attempted nationwide boycott of restaurants and other businesses by lower-wage workers to demonstrate their importance to the economy actually highlighted vulnerability of many smaller businesses.

As one expert recently told an audience of small business leaders: “If your business can’t survive without low paying immigrant labor, your business model is wrong.”

His challenge came as the nascent stirrings of a fundamental change in American business practices starts to gain steam.

For the first time, business leaders are facing the possibility that cheap labor provided by illegal immigrants may be eroding.

Two factors are lending themselves to this trend: President Donald Trump’s attacks on illegal immigration and labor unions’ efforts to codify into law the $15-an-hour minimum wage.

To be sure, many business leaders say they can’t survive as profitable entities without being subsidized by immigrants, who are in most cases are paid less than American counterparts.

Perhaps this new trend is a good thing for America.

Technology has radically changed the face of America’s economy.  From a nation of manufacturing it has become one of service.  At the same time, the nation’s education system has not provided the tools for young people to compete in many new science and tech areas.

The socialization of America’s young people for the past 50 years has also not educated them to the tenets of hard work, sacrifice, and attention to detail ingrained into immigrants.  For a variety of reasons, taking menial jobs to begin a career is no longer acceptable in today’s world. Horatio Alger is a long forgotten hero to Americans. Yet in the 19th and early 20th centuries his stories were a must read and inspiration to generations of youths.

With the dearth of applicants for entry level or menial positions, employers have turned to immigrants who entered America in unprecedented numbers during past decades.

Immigrants often take the lowest paying, menial jobs such as bus boys, cleaners, janitors, retail clerks, and construction. They are also exploited with lower pay, withheld wages, brutal working conditions, and no benefits.

Economists tell us for the past 50 years these immigrant workers, particularly from Central America and the Caribbean islands, often undocumented and illegal, have fostered a separate economic sector which enabled many companies to enjoy profits.

As illegal workers, they do not pay taxes, contribute to healthcare programs, their employers do not pay wage-based taxes, and much of the monies earned is sent out of the country.

While many of these immigrants have been productive, useful, and welcomed citizens, others have remained outside the regulatory net.  As the need, use, and availability of illegal workers grew, they became a national issue that is now dividing the country.

Given the hue and cry their numbers have elicited, changes in the free flow of immigrants are imminent.  Foreign-born labor as an economic crutch for many enterprises may not survive the Trump administration.  Already, border crossings from Mexico of illegal immigrants are down.  Farmers in western states report shortages of workers to pick crops.  The Immigration Department’s efforts to deport illegal immigrants are expected to increase under President Trump.

It is said, immigrants from impoverished nations are often the most talented and ambitious citizens.  To take up roots and move requires great effort, emotional investment, and courage. Therefore, the host nation often benefits from immigration.  Clearly over the centuries, America has been blessed with its immigrants.

While it is also well-documented these immigrant workers take low paying jobs that many Americans will not fill, they manage to save.  The saved earnings from these positions are often used as resources to ownership of other businesses.

In some cases, American businesses have found themselves facing competition from other enterprises owned by immigrants who worked for them short years ago.  While the number of small businesses founded by immigrants have not been fully counted, some initial surveys by Information Strategies, Inc. put the number at 10% for the period 2010-2015.

Starting with the ordering counters at fast food restaurants to cleaning services to car washing units, many entry or menial jobs are being replaced by robots or other automated systems.

According to Ed Hess and Katherine Ludwig in their new book, Humility Is the New Smart, citing Oxford University research, 47 percent of all jobs in the United States have a high probability of being taken over by technology in the next five to fifteen years.

The workers displaced by these technological changes could well threaten American democratic institutions.

It is time small business owners who depend on low-wage immigrant workers in order to make a profit began to think of alternative business models.

Higher Mandated Labor Costs Next Food Industry Challenge

January 20, 2017

As more and more consumers purchase prepared food rather than cook at home, the currently attractive margins for such offerings face mounting challenges.

Not the least are labor costs, which are under pressure from economic and regulatory trends.  Integrating higher labor costs into the pricing algorithm represents the next major challenge for food sector leaders.

Whether a neighborhood deli, central food kitchen, gourmet restaurant, or fast casual franchise the need to find ways of doing more with the same or fewer employees is expected to become more important in 2017.

At all employee levels from mixer, baker, decorator, sales person, many food industry establishments are facing increased labor costs due to higher demand for workers and regulators intent on raising salaries.  While most news stories focus on the situation as one involving fast food outlets or restaurants, the trend also impacts centralized food preparation centers as well.

These latter establishments will also need to deal with not only competition for workers but higher minimum wage floors in many states.  Already some fallout from this trend is being experienced.  Higher salaries were one of the factors for Whole Foods to close three of its key central kitchens in January.

The increased salary cost trend first noted in 2016 is expected to accelerate as the hoped-for economic recovery picks up steam.  With the greater availability of job openings, food purveyors will need to create more attractive industry opportunities.  Pressure from this trend is expected to ramp up towards the end of 2017.

More immediate and with higher personnel costs are new city and state minimum wage floors that are driving hourly rates to $15.  While popular with some voters, these initiatives directly impact the bottom-line of labor intensive sectors like food preparation and delivery.

For the past eight years, labor costs have been held down by the availability of workers in a less than robust economy.  At the same time, this has been occurring when more and more families have opted to bring home prepared meals and pop them in a microwave or convection oven.  The sale prices of these offerings have provided food and supermarket retail outlets with hefty margins.  Some economists now estimate a majority of American families now rely on outside kitchens for their meals.

However, in many cases the higher labor costs will be difficult to pass on to customers.  According to Dr. Kenneth E. Lehrer, a Houston, TX based economist, higher labor costs will eat away at 2-4% of margins when average required minimum wages hit $14 as expected in 2018. The full effect of $15 minimum wage requirements will hit in 2020 and beyond.

Given these trends, what can food establishments do to protect margins in 2017?

  • Develop more efficient operations holding the line on employee growth.
  • Introduce strategic distribution programs to reduce costs.
  • Add robotic functions where possible.
  • Install fuel-efficient machinery.
  • Reduce costs of raw materials by using better sourcing strategies.
  • Locate is regulatory friendly municipalities.
  • Better utilize facilities.

As the prepared food industry matures, there will be greater opportunities for expansion.  The key is doing it more efficiently.

Smaller Companies Want More Certainty, Less Affordable Care Act Regulation

January 4, 2017

For many small businesses no matter what size, corporate healthcare plans are tinged with uncertainties entering Donald J. Trump’s presidency.

However, Information Strategies, Inc. (ISI) focus groups and other surveys indicate for smaller companies, $10 to $30 million dollars in sales, there are several provisions that would appear to be most needful of change or repeal.

In the six years since passage of the contentious Accountable Care Act (ACA) executives and consumers alike have wrestled not only with its provisions but also the strong employer, individual opposition to many of its mandates.  This has led to a feeling the law would at the least be amended and perhaps even repealed.  As many company leaders pointed out in the run-up to the last Presidential election, this perception restricted implementing longer term business solutions. With a President and Congress controlled by Republicans, in 2017 changes if not outright repeal of ACA provisions are expected. Most of the most sought after changes are also primed to have more bipartisan support.  With this bipartisan support evident, they are expected to be perceived as more permanent than the law itself.

Already, there seems to a more positive attitude toward employer sponsored healthcare solutions.  For instance, despite significant increases in healthcare insurance premiums (9% in 2016 vs. 6% in 2015), a new study from Transamerica Center for Health Studies (TCHS) conducted by Harris Poll found that employers are optimistic about the ability to provide robust benefit packages to employees.

In fact, the number of smaller employers offering health benefits to part-time employees has nearly doubled since 2013 (26% in 2016 vs. 13% in 2013).

In ISI’s focus groups and other polling respondents indicated the following changes small businesses would like to see happen:

  • Eliminate all state-mandated requirements so companies can offer one policy to all employees regardless of work location.
  • Reduce the number of mandated requirements in healthcare policies to decrease overall costs.
  • Permit the purchase of gap healthcare insurance policies with Consumer Directed Healthcare (CDH) funds to better protect employees against catastrophic illnesses or accidents.
  • Simplify the regulations to ease need for outside counsel, consultants to interpret.
  • Through additional Congressional regulation, greater reliance, encourage CDH offerings, particularly high deductible plans coupled with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).
  • Waive/get rid of penalties for any companies that do not comply with ACA requirements, making them voluntary.
  • Increase the HSA limit of families from the current level to a minimum of $10,000 and allow the increase of contributions the match the increase of annual premiums. Meaning if annual premiums are increasing by 10-15%, the contributions should be able to increase the same rate, keeping their HSA fully funded.
  • Reduce or eliminate luxury tax on healthcare benefit packages and replace ability to vary plans by categories or salaries.
  • Allow for different levels of healthcare insurance for part-time workers. Make identification of these workers more employer friendly.
  • Encourage more competition from healthcare insurance providers in the form of new competitors, differing healthcare options.
  • Create more flexible methods to provide stipends in lieu of healthcare programs for employees allowing them to purchase individual or supplement insurance.
  • Accept or deny elimination of prior health conditions as acceptance criteria.

What does come through from numerous soundings is the desire for many companies to have lower healthcare costs without reduction in the quality of care.  Under the ACA, CDH plans were not encouraged but for a growing group of companies in this sector HSAs are becoming more appealing.

“There is no doubt CDH efforts and most particularly HSAs have a positive effect for employers and employees,” said former White House advisor Roy Ramthun, President of HSA Consulting Services. “What we are seeing is a need for the employee to be more involved in the financial side of the healthcare services area. For companies in the $10 to $30 million range it can make a significant difference in their healthcare costs.”

Many small business leaders are looking for improving the benefits of providing employee healthcare; they are just unhappy with the many mandates, rules, and regulations of the ACA.  They hope for changes in 2017.

Key Words:  smaller companies, small business, health care, healthcare plans, Affordable Care Act, ACA requirements, Trump,  Transamerica Center for Health Studies, Harris Poll,  gap healthcare insurance policies,  regulations, Health Savings Accounts, HSAs, CHD plans, healthcare insurance providers,  Roy Ramthun, employee healthcare, 2017