After going through all the normal marketing steps for his firm - direct mail, email and referral promotions, among others - benefits broker Jim Edholm has added another: videos.
Edholm, president of Andover, Mass.-based Business Benefits Insurance, has created "Business Benefits TV," a twice-monthly video show on topics of interest to employers. He hopes it will be help his current clients as well as lead to increased referrals. EBArecently cornered Edholm to talk more about this effort.
What does your company do?
I'm a group insurance employee benefits broker handling health, life, dental, disability, long-term care, voluntary, etc. My target market is 20 to 200 employees, but in reality, it's more like 10 to 150 employees.
We're independent so that we are representing the employer to the insurance company, rather than an insurance company to the employer. We help employers sort through the jungle of options and find that set of products and carriers that best meet their needs from a cost and benefits standpoint.
What's the idea behind your video series?
I heard about this at a meeting in Baltimore in November 2010 and decided it made sense to me, so I signed up and went down and got some training on it in February. The whole idea was particularly attractive for the younger set, people under 50. A lot of them really don't like to read. They'd rather get a video.
I recorded a video on my website that's an intro, "welcome to my site," kind of thing. Then we worked on developing a TV show logo. This is going to be a regular TV program, out on the second and fourth Monday of every month.
What are your plans for the show?
I will be having guests on the show. I think I have to be very careful with any of my 401(k) people. That's the primary source [of referrals] and I don't want to offend Harry because I put Ralph on the show. I have to tip-toe around that carefully as I don't want to seem to be showing favoritism toward one [certified financial planner] over another.
But I do a lot of work with a payroll company, and I'm going to interview them and talk about the problems payroll presents HR. It has nothing to do with benefits, but it can help HR and CFOs on that aspect of dealing with their employees. Who brings it to them? [Business Benefits Insurance]. Hopefully I'll get some broader readership.
A woman I work with is an HR consultant, so I plan to talk to her about compliance issues and will have her on the show fairly frequently. I have accounts that I can bring on that can talk about reporting requirements under 5500 Series and so forth and so on. I plan to promote their business by having them on.
How long did it take to put the show series together?
I farm the whole thing out to a guy in Philadelphia. It's a whole package. I film it in my little studio. He told me what equipment to get, where to buy it, how to do the lighting. I'm an amateur at this. I shoot it off to him, he edits it, produces it, and he does all the promotion for it. And I pay him a flat fee.
Has it paid off?
It's probably too early to tell. I have gotten at least one referral from it and that will end up paying about half of the initial cost. My gut feeling is that it will be very worthwhile.
I have a very large employer with 120 to 130 employees; I used to be on their Board of Directors. I've been trying since the 1990s to have them think about using my services, but they've never let me in the door.
I sent [the video] out. They sent an email that said "Jim, I looked at video, we're happy with our benefits guy, but [let's talk.]" It's an opening, an opportunity."
I've been trying for 20 years to get these people to sit down with me. All of a sudden, they are calling me and saying let's talk. I've had another couple small leads. I think it's going to build momentum. Like anything, it's a marathon, not a sprint.
Will the videos be educational, funny or both?
A mixture of both. I'm going to talk about things that are practical. I have a photo of a client mounted in a picture frame on my desk. The bottom of the picture has written on it "WIIFM," what's in it for me.
I write to that client. I don't use his name, but I act as if I was writing a letter to him. I try to make everything I'm doing useful to him. He wants it to be interesting, of course. But primarily he wants to tune in and see something that's going on in the benefit arena that he ought to be considering or ought to know about or should be trying or should ask about. So what I'm gonna try to do is focus on that sort of problem solving.
Is this a good thing for other brokers to do?
It's a major undertaking and certainly for any of [EBA's readers], this isn't the first thing I would recommend. I would make sure I have a strong newsletter first. I would make sure I had a good referral program established with my clients. I would make sure I was doing the networking I ought to be doing.
I would do those things before I went to TV. This is a kind of final add-on. I spend almost $100,000 on marketing annually; I've just added this as a last little thing.
Why did you set up the show?
The first reason is: I try to do anything to support my existing clients. I want to keep them up to date in terms of what's happening in benefits, things they may not know of.
Secondly, of course, I try to search engine optimize and maybe pick up people searching on the Web. I think Web sales are probably secondary or tertiary when it comes to HR managers, CEOs and CFOs, and that's really who I'm looking to attract. I don't think they go looking for a benefit broker on the Internet so I might find one.
Third, I do this for existing clients who maybe want to refer me, but perhaps feel giving me the name of their business owner friends that I might be pushy. I'm not, but they can't be sure of that. So this is a simpler way to give this link to their buddy and say, "I use this company, why don't you go over there, take a look at it. What you see, that is Jim, that's the way he is. If that seems like somebody you can work with, let me know and I'll have get in touch with you." It's an easier way for clients to give referrals.
What went in to setting it up?
To make it like a television show, I had to come up with an introductory piece on reduced benefit cost, improving employee moral and reducing turnover. I had to get appropriate camera equipment and things we needed for the set.
What has been the reaction to it?
My current clients were intrigued and very interested. I went to my larger clients and asked them what they wanted to see. I sent the e-mail to probably 40 to 50 people and got a 25% to 35% response. [Initially] my staff members said, "Here goes Jim again," and now they are kind of excited about it. When I first signed up for this, I did take my operations person to the training . . . she was on board right from the beginning.
Where is the set?
It's filmed in a little dark area of my office, and it's a green screen. We looked a lot of photoshots and wanted to get one that had the right prospective. We finally felt that one looked good. I've had people compliment me on what a nice headquarters I have. If only they knew the truth.
View the videos for yourself at businessbenefitstv.com.
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