Recognizing that benefit brokers play a key role in the marketing of voluntary benefits, insurers are beginning to offer them more flexibility in the marketing process.

Some insurers are even allowing benefit advisers to customize marketing materials now, a new survey by Eastbridge Consulting Group shows.

“It used to be very rigid in terms of compliance review. It seems to have broadened,” says Ginger Bates, director of research at Eastbridge, a consulting firm based in Avon, Conn. “They’re working toward being more flexible for the brokers, but also managing the content process.”

Insurers typically market their voluntary benefits to brokers, employers and employees, but many are increasing their focus on brokers, recognizing the importance benefit advisers and agents play as a channel to reach employers and employees.

See related: 4 best practices for successful voluntary benefit participation

“You’re only able to market as well as you understand your customers, and the broker is a key element in that understanding and gathering of information,” Bates explains. “Carriers are paying more attention to employers and employees, but brokers are still their primary customer.”

Insurers have also increased their use of social media and internet marketing since 2008, the last time Eastbridge did the survey. Just like companies in other industries, insurance carriers are using social media to increase brand awareness and drive people to their web sites.

“Regardless of that, there’s a need for that human element of contact and someone to ask questions to. Those multilayered programs and opportunities are the most successful,” says Bates.

In recent years, many employers have shifted their plan designs to voluntary benefits in order to contain overall benefit costs. Some employers have added voluntary benefits to soften the blow of raising employee contributions in the health plan.

In fact, a recent MetLife survey found that 43% of large companies (more than 500 workers) intend to increase the number of voluntary benefits they offer to employees in the next two years.

Likewise, 60% of brokers say the Affordable Care Act has caused them to sell more voluntary benefits, and 18% say they are selling “significantly more,” according to another Eastbridge survey. 

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