business treats

business

Is Your Small Business Using Internet Marketing Strategies to Attract Customers Like a Magnet?

Posted on May 27, 2019 in Uncategorized

Smart business people are leveraging the power of Internet marketing strategies to attract more qualified customers to their small business. Small Businesses that you would not expect to find on the Internet are now using online marketing to draw in customers like a magnet. Traditional small business marketing methods are expensive and the results are not measurable. Positioning yourself as the expert in your field and providing valuable information to your potential customers will magically attract qualified prospects to you. This article will provide valuable small business marketing ideas to help you develop marketing strategies for your small business.

My time is limited, and I have found that using the search engines is a great way to find products and services that meet my needs. The information available on the Internet lets me compare products and services and get reviews from other customers who have purchased the products I am looking for. 

Last week I purchased a generator for my home through the Internet, and I needed to find a local electrician to install it.   I hate calling people from the yellow pages, so I decided to search the Internet for someone who could help me. I found three different electricians. 

Electrician A had very good information on their website about some simple electrical jobs and things to watch out for when picking an electrician.   

Electricians B and C simply had a “yellow page” website with a phone number and address. 

Because Electrician A had shared valuable information with me first, I already trusted him more, but I wanted to get three bids to make sure I paid a reasonable amount of money for my job.

I sent all three electricians an email asking for a bid on my job. Then I spoke with each of them on the phone to answer their questions and give them directions to my property.

Electrician B bid on the job sight unseen. Electrician A and C both made time to come out to my property and look over the job before bidding.

Electrician A made a couple of good suggestions that actually saved me money and helped me avoid a costly mistake. Electrician C bid almost twice what the other two electricians did. 

After getting all of the bids, I chose Electrician A because he took the time to come out and look over my job, and actually helped me save money, even though he did not have the cheapest overall bid. Electrician B, who bid on my job sight unseen, had the lowest bid, but would have actually cost me more money because of the issues that Electrician A had pointed out when he took the time to come out to my property to see the job before bidding on it. Electrician C looked over the same job site as electrician A, but did not give me a lot of confidence when he did not point out the same issues that Electrician A had.  

The combination of a website with valuable information to help build my confidence coupled with free advice to help me save money actually won this electrician my business. This is an example of how effective marketing a small business using the Internet coupled with a consultative sales approach can help attract and win customers for your business. 

Because of their power to attract customers, I have implemented these Internet marketing strategies in my own small business. I have a website that has valuable information available to the prospective customers who search for my services. Because of this useful information, the customers who find me already trust what I have to say. They know something about me before we even speak with each other. This helps filter out the tire kickers and helps me leverage my time to work with only those customers who truly have an interest in my services as a small business Internet marketing coach.

By reading this article you’ll learn why it is important to market your small business on the Internet. You will learn small business marketing ideas that will attract more customers to you who are already interested in what you have to offer. You will learn how to gain the trust of these customers allowing you to win more business and make more money.

Why it is so important to market your small business on the Internet

More than ever, people start their search for information about products and services on the Internet. In fact, as a business medium, the Internet is growing while many other sectors of the economy are declining. Your customers are looking for you on the Internet…trust me I know this. The question is “are they going to find you when they search?” and if they do, “will they learn enough about you to trust you and contact you to do business?”  

Many people no longer think of the yellow pages when they are searching for information about a product or service. The major search engines are the most accessed websites on the Internet. Google has over 91 million searches per day, and Yahoo has over 60 million searches per day, together they represent 151 million searches per day. 

Now the population of the United States is just over 304 million and the population of the whole world is just over 6 billion (Wikipedia – Jul 2008). One out of every two people in the United States could be searching for something or one out of every 40 people in the world could be doing the same. This is a staggering number of searches every day, which reinforces the fact that people are relying on the Internet to search for and find quality information. 

You can see why, more than ever before, it is important to have an Internet marketing strategy for your small business.

How to attract more customers to you who are already interested in what you offer

Ok…so now we can agree that your business should be on the Internet, but how can you be sure that your business will be found out of all of the others out there? How can you effectively market your small business on the Internet? Probably not the way you would think. 

Hype-based or hard selling techniques no longer work. The way to attract customers to you is to offer valuable free information to the people who find you.   They will find you because you will use the same words that people are searching for when describing your products or services. This is called search engine optimization (SEO) and all it means is that when you write the content for your website or blog, you use the words that people are typing into the search engines so that they can find you when they search. If you are using a replicated website, it is very likely that it has not been optimized to be found by the search engines. Search engines hate replicated websites.

Your small business marketing strategy should include writing articles about topics that are interesting to your customers. To do this, you have to figure out who your target customer is, and what they are interested in. This is probably the hardest part of your small business marketing strategy. This is the essence of attraction marketing and is how you will build an audience for your information, which in turn will draw customers to you like magic. 

Then it is just a matter of placing your content all over the Internet so that it is found when your customers search. If you are a local business, there are ways to localize your content, so that customers in your geographic area can find you first before you competitors when they search.

How the value you provide helps you gain the trust of your customers

Once your customer types in the search words at the search engine and your content comes up, you have started building trust and credibility in their minds. The more valuable the content you offer for free, the more trust you will build. The more frequently your content comes up, the more credibility you will gain. Securing the trust of your customers is the hardest step in making the sale. Using these small business Internet marketing strategies does this hard step for you, so that when your customers come to you, they are ready to learn what you have to offer. 

If the valuable free content that you offer is perceived to be more valuable than that of your competitors, you will differentiate yourself in the eyes of your prospective customer. If your content comes up first on the search engines, you are guaranteed that your customer will see what you have to offer. If what you offer is of value, you have just won a customer.

You too can leverage these ideas for marketing your small business on the Internet

There are many tools that you can leverage today for your small business marketing strategies. Some of these include websites, blogs, articles, images, Google maps, videos, etc.  In addition to these, there are many social media options to help build your reputation with your customers. These include such things as Face book, MySpace, Squidoo, and Twitter.

For example, my small business has a website which I use as the hub of my business activities. I have written articles, such as the one you are reading, which are found by the search engines when my target customers type in certain search words. My articles then link back to my website for my customers to find more information about my services. In addition to my articles, I have Squidoo lenses, and a Face book page which also link back to my website. My offline marketing also has the link to my website. Again, the target of all of my marketing is to drive prospective customers to my website where they can prequalify themselves by learning more about my business and requesting more information if they are interested. Notice, I am not chasing customers, nor am I wasting my money on the yellow pages. Instead, I am attracting customers to me through the valuable information that I provide. 

You can easily implement these same marketing strategies for your small business also.

If winning more business and making more money is important to you…

If all of this information is a bit overwhelming to you, or you just don’t know how to get started, I suggest that you find someone who can guide you through developing and implementing the Internet marketing strategies for your small business. Find someone who can show you the ropes and teach you what you need to know to be self-sufficient.

Don’t just sign up with anyone who claims to build or host websites, though. Not everyone knows the secret of attraction marketing like I have described for you here. Find someone who understands these concepts and has demonstrated their ability to apply them the way that I have demonstrated it to you when you found this article. 

When you do find someone, the more they know the more costly their time will be.  Look for someone who knows just a little more than you but who isn’t so good at it they charge you a fortune. 

They can show you how to set up your small business marketing strategies on the Internet, or if you don’t have the time to do it, they can do it for you. 

Now you know how to easily win more business and make more money.

Leveraging an Internet marketing strategy will help you with the hardest part of establishing any business relationship. It will help you gain the trust of your potential customers before you have even spoken with them yet. You will be able to attract more customers to you, and the ones you attract are already interested in what you have to offer. After that, all you have to do is offer great service and close the sale. These great small business marketing ideas can give you a leg up on your competitors, and help you grow your small business.   Now you know why it is so important for you develop an Internet marketing strategy for your small business. 

As a customer, I have found that small businesses who provide valuable information to me when I am searching for products or services are much more likely to get my initial inquiry about their products or services.  Businesses who are not on the Internet or who have a replicated brochure website are usually not in the running at all. In fact, I usually forget to even look in the yellow pages. My first stop to search is now the search engines like Google or yahoo. I have implemented these small business marketing strategies in my own consulting business. Now I have customers calling me, instead of me trying to chase them or spending thousands of dollars on ads that don’t bring in anyone. 

Give me a call or shoot me an email and I’d be happy to spend 20 minutes on a free consultation with you to get you started on the right track.

Small Business Servers – A Need For Change

Posted on May 25, 2019 in Uncategorized

Many small businesses don’t have an IT department or anyone experienced enough to handle even basic IT tasks like backup, system restoration, patching or updates. In most cases, they rely on a local business partner (typically an IT consultant or local IT support company) to handle these tasks.

Unfortunately, many small business IT solutions on the market today exacerbate the situation. Their complexity…

  • requires the need for ever more powerful hardware
  • results in frequent system crashes and downtime for upgrades
  • compounds security problems
  • necessitates frequent system restorations
  • increases the investment in resource to upgrade systems and fix problems

Whats needed is a new generation of ‘small business servers’ that deliver all of the essential IT & technology services for smaller businesses but without the usual costs or hassle.

Challenges in supporting micro and small business customers

To stay in business small businesses need help with basic IT chores, which are becoming more mission critical than ever as they grow more time consuming to deliver.

Just look at business continuity and disaster recovery in small businesses. A study by Gartner found that only one third of small businesses surveyed said they were prepared for a disaster within the next 12 months.

In other words two thirds of all small businesses are not prepared for a disaster or protected. The reason, in most cases, is that small businesses don’t have the IT skills of solutions to perform common tasks like backing up critical data or developing a way to restore systems that crash or become damaged when a pipe breaks or there is a fire, flood or other disaster.

Small businesses also need help just backing up and restoring files when someone accidentally deletes them. Such deletions in small businesses are quite common.

Whilst everyone understands the need for data to be backed up, what many don’t realise is how expensive and difficult it actually is with traditional solutions. In fact, the traditional approach to backing up data is a time consuming and resource intensive task. The normal procedure requires tapes to be rotated, in the right order and taken off site for secure storage.

Plug In, Switch on & Start Working

Security within smaller businesses is also an issue. Hackers today are after confidential information about businesses and their clients to commit fraud and identify theft. They employ increasingly sophisticated attacks that may use socially engineered phishing email messages. These spam messages are designed to fool even savvy computer users in to thinking they are from legitimate sources. An unsuspecting user might click on malicious executable file or URL link to a poisoned web site and automatically download malicious software.

In their pursuits hackers increasingly exploit new vulnerabilities in applications and Windows operating systems as a means of infecting computers. To battle this problem, software vendors issue frequent system updates and security patches that must be installed quickly to minimize exposure to each new threat.

In 2008, Microsoft alone issues 43 critical, 24 important and two moderate fixes, according to security experts. The previous year saw a similar amount, including 49 critical, 23 important and five moderate updates. Other application and browser vendors had numerous updates as well.

Again, many small businesses don’t have the IT expertise to track all of these patches or the time to install them. Beyond security patches, there are typically many operating system updates that must also be applied. Such installations are often time consuming.

Unfortunately many of these fixes incur downtime, which no business likes. For example, in many situations, a business must first test a patch or upgrade to be sure it does not cause problems. If the test goes well, planning must take place to be sure the changes are made at a time that least inconveniences its workers. Again, many businesses are looking for help with these matters from their business partners. The challenge for the business partner is that all of these tasks (testing, planning, applying etc.) are all time and labour intensive.

Problems with traditional Small Business Server Solutions

Even the smallest business today requires certain basic capabilities. Workers need to share files and printers. Additionally, their data must be protected and their systems must be secure.

The burden on the business partner to provide these services typically requires the use of multiple solutions from different vendors. The mix often includes a server OS and file system from one vendor, backup software from another, and security products including firewall, anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-spam software etc from even more vendors.

Managing such a mix can add to a business partner’s workload. Each product must be managed with its own administrative system, and each must be updated on its own. There might also be conflicts when trying to get different vendors products to work together.

Additionally supporting such a mix of applications might introduce security issues. For example, if a firewall and anti-spam solution are not in sync with regard to the level of protection each affords, one might work in detriment of the other.

The end result when using multiple solutions is that the time investment per client grows as the complexity increases. It also increases the time investment a business partner must make in learning/training. Their staff must be knowledgeable about many discreet products in order to support their small business client’s workers.

Compounding matters, the traditional choices have had their problems. Solutions designed specifically for smaller businesses often could not scale to support a business growth. For this reason, many of the solutions commonly used are not designed specifically for small businesses. But this only adds to the management burden placed on the business partner because they must customize or scale down these solutions to meet the needs of small businesses.

Additionally, such solutions are often bloated with features not needed in smaller businesses. For instance, directory services might be overkill for a company with fewer than twenty people. Yet, its administration is as time consuming for twenty as it is for one hundred or more.

Similarly, an enterprise solution might be so narrow focused that it lacks key features for small business, thus requiring a patch work of solutions to meet a business’s basic needs. For instance, a firewall might need a third party anti-spam or anti-virus solution to provide more complete protection.

In either case, trying to force fit an enterprise solution into a small business environment can add to the management workload.

What’s needed: Desirable characteristics?

With these concerns in mind, there is obviously a need for an alternative to the enterprise patchwork solutions that are currently being cobbled together and used in small business today.

Any solution that addresses these pain points must be designed specifically for small businesses and the business partners who serve them. It must enable customers do email, create and share documents, centrally manage files, store and secure business data, control access to information, connect offices, employees and partners whilst protecting their network and systems from unwanted disruptions and intrusions.

It should be less complex so that it requires less IT support than traditional solutions. Additionally the solution should be Linux based. The reason: Linux is stable and reliable. This would simplify management and make solution subject to less downtime than some alternative solutions. Additionally being Linux based reduces many security problems, as far fewer attacks, generally speaking, are aimed at Linux than traditional operating systems.

Furthermore, most operating systems are packed with drivers, utilities and services that are seldom used. An ideal solution would only use the parts of the Linux Kernel that are needed to perform the desired functions. This would reduce potential vulnerabilities.

To simplify matters further, the solution should be very easy to deploy. For example, it should be offered as a simple plug and play solution in the form of an appliance. And the solution should support remote management to troubleshoot and correct small problems, as well as recover from a system crash.

A solution with these characteristics will save a business partner valuable time that would otherwise be needed to administer solutions at every client’s site. This saves time and money. It allows a business provider to provide services in a more economically efficient manner to existing customers. And it frees up time to solicit and support new businesses.

Enter: An affordable solution designed specifically for small businesses

Small Business Server Appliances are a new breed of Small Business Server Solution they are delivered delivered as a plug and play hardware appliance, everything is included. Its pricing structure is simple and straight forward. Business partners do not have to deal with multiple and complex licensing agreements as is the case with many alternative offerings where you are required to switch platforms (or upgrade hardware) above 75 and 100 users, or when email and data storage requirements reach a certain limit.

Small Business Server Appliances offers file and print sharing; firewall, anti-virus, anti-spam protection; email, calendaring, contacts, tasks; secure remote access; data backup and disaster recovery features; office productivity tools; and automated system updates.

Everything is included within the appliance as a single solution. And business partners can use the platform to deploy other applications that a client might need.

The high performance appliance hardware allows a powerful solution to be delivered in a small footprint. This also provides the ability to scale solutions as a clients business grows up to 500 users without artificial licensing barriers. Furthermore, the appliance format also makes the solution very easy to deploy, typically it can be up and running in about 20 minutes.

Setting the solution apart: Autonomic features and benefits

Small Business Server Appliances are designed to run on their own at a customer’s site with little intervention from the business partner. To accomplish this we make use of autonomic features that automatically handle many routine tasks and can correct many problems on its own as they arise. These autonomic features ensure that the small business stays up and running and its systems and data are protected, all while off loading time consuming IT tasks from business partners.

For example Small Business Server Appliances comes pre built and pre configured and can usually be implemented in around twenty minutes. There is no monitor or keyboard, the admin interface is accessed via an IP address securely through HTTPS which enables you to manage the appliance remotely. In contrast, alternative solutions often require the business partner to load 5 to 15 CD’s to get a system running initially.

Small Business Server Appliances also has the ability to self manage automated backups to a disc based storage device (on or off site), to a hosted backup service in addition to traditional tape or USB based storage devices. A few Small Business Server Appliances also provide the option for integrated hot swap backup discs to be used which enable data to be backed up continually throughout the day.

Summary

With Small Business Server Appliances, business partners get an easy to implement and easy to manage solution that has specifically been designed for smaller businesses.

Small Business Server Appliances come pre built and ready to be used this solution offers a rapid time to value.

All of the attributes of Small Business Server Appliances pay dividends twice over. First, the small business client is happy, because they can do their jobs without computer related interruptions. And second, a business partner can deliver a high level of service while dedicating minimal IT resources and staff to each client.

The autonomic features of the solution reduce the time and resources a business partner must invest to begin work with a new client and to support existing small business customers. For example very little training is required to become familiar with the solution, so business partners quickly leverage the solution and immediately become more profitable.

[Top]

Small Business Health Insurance – An Employer’s Guide to Getting Small Business Health Insurance

Posted on May 23, 2019 in Uncategorized

Saving on your small business health insurance can be a challenge. But there are ways to overcome the financial obstacles and get the coverage necessary for your business. There are two major benefits of employer-based coverage. First these plans, although expensive, usually carry the best all around protection for you and your employees. Second, providing benefits plays a key role in attracting and retaining quality employees.

Why is coverage for small businesses so much more than for large corporations?

Health insurance for small businesses cost so much because of the high quality coverage concentrated among a small group of people. Every individual within the group represents a different level of financial risk to an insurance company, and this risk is added up and spread out among the group. Large corporations pay considerably less because the risk is spread to such a large group, where small business owners can see unreasonably high increases in premiums due to one or two members. Small businesses also have to insure their employees under state mandates, which can require the policies to cover some specific health conditions and treatments. Large corporations’ policies are under federal law, usually self-insured, and with fewer mandated benefits. The Erisa Act of 1974 officially exempted self-funded insurance policies from state mandates, lessening the financial burdens of larger firms.

Isn’t the Health Care Reform Bill going to fix this?

This remains to be seen. There will be benefits for small business owners in the form of insurance exchanges, pools, tax credits, subsidies etc. But you can’t rely on a bill that is still in the works, and you can’t wait for a bill where the policies set forth won’t take effect until about 2013. Additionally, the bill will help you with costs, but still won’t prevent those costs from continually rising. You, as a business owner, will need to be fully aware of what you can do to maintain your bottom line.

What can I do?

First you need to understand the plan options out there. So here they are.

PPO

A preferred provider option (PPO) is a plan where your insurance provider uses a network of doctors and specialists. Whoever provides your care will file the claim with your insurance provider, and you pay the co-pay.

Who am I allowed to visit?

Your provider will cover any visit to a doctor or specialist within their network. Any care you seek outside the network will not be covered. Unlike an HMO, you don’t have to get your chosen doctor registered or approved by your PPO provider. To find out which doctors are in your network, simply ask your doctor’s office or visit your insurance company’s website.

Where Can I Get it?

Most providers offer it as an option in your plan. Your employees will have the option to get it when they sign their employment paperwork. They generally decide on their elections during the open enrollment period, because altering the plan after this time period won’t be easy.

And Finally, What Does It Cover?

Any basic office visit, within the network that is, will be covered under the PPO insurance. There will be the standard co-pay, and dependent upon your particular plan, other types of care may be covered. The reimbursement for emergency room visits generally range from sixty to seventy percent of the total costs. And if it is necessary for you to be hospitalized, there could be a change in the reimbursement. Visits to specialists will be covered, but you will need a referral from your doctor, and the specialist must be within the network.

A PPO is an expensive, yet flexible option for your small business health insurance. It provides great coverage though, and you should inquire with your provider to find out how you can reduce the costs.

HMO (Health Maintenance Organization)

Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) are the most popular small business health insurance plans. Under an HMO plan you will have to register your primary care physician, as well as any referred specialists and physicians. Plan participants are free to choose specialists and medical groups as long as they are covered under the plan. And because HMOs are geographically driven, the options may be limited outside of a specific area.

Health maintenance organizations help to contain employer’s costs by using a wide variety of prevention methods like wellness programs, nurse hotlines, physicals, and baby-care to name a few. Placing a heavy emphasis on prevention cuts costs by stopping unnecessary visits and medical procedures.

When someone does fall ill, however, the insurance provider manages care by working with health care providers to figure out what procedures are necessary. Usually a patient will be required to have pre-certification for surgical procedures that aren’t considered essential, or that may be harmful.

HMOs are less expensive than PPOs, and this preventative approach to health care theoretically does keep costs down. The downside, however, is that employees may not pursue help when it is needed for fear of denial. That aside, it is a popular and affordable plan for your small business health insurance.

POS (Point of Service)

A Point of Service plan is a managed care insurance similar to both an HMO and a PPO. POS plans require members to pick a primary health care provider. In order to get reimbursed for out-of-network visits, you will need to have a referral from the primary provider. If you don’t, however, your reimbursement for the visit could be substantially less. Out-of-network visits will also require you to handle the paperwork, meaning submit the claim to the insurance provider.

POSs provide more freedom and flexibility than HMOs. But this increased freedom results in higher premiums. Also, this type of plan can put a strain on employee finances when non-network visits start to pile up. Assess your needs and weigh all your options before making a decision.

EPO

An Exclusive Provider Organization Plan is another network-based managed care plan. Members of this plan must choose from a health care provider within the network, but exceptions can be made due to medical emergencies. Like HMOs, EPOs focus on preventative care and healthy living. And price wise, they fall between HMOs and PPOs.

The differences between an EPO and the other two organization plans are small, but important. While certain HMO and PPO plans offer reimbursement for out-of-network usage, an EPO does not allow its members to file a claim for doctor visits out its network. EPO plans are more restrictive in this respect, but are also able to negotiate lower fees by guaranteeing health care providers that it’s members will use in-network doctors. These plans are also negotiated on a fee-for-services basis, whereas HMOs are on a per-person basis.

HSA (Health Savings Account)

An HSA is a tax-advantaged account used to pay existing and future medical expenses. HSAs are used in conjunction with high-deductible health plans (HDHP), which will make some with pre-existing conditions ineligible. Also, HSAs must be funded with cash. Communicating the terms of this account to your employees is important, as a large number of HSAs are underfunded or improperly funded. The health savings accounts were signed into the law by George Bush in 2003, and have become an affordable alternative to a group health plan.

When inquiring about an HSA, there will be a few things you will want to clarify. While HSAs generally cover routine medical expenses and copays, some can provide dental and vision care as well. And since HSAs can be combined with certain compatible plans, it is important to understand how money from the account will be allocated. And finally, you will want to know about cashing out your HSA balance. The amount is taxable and could be subject to a ten percent excise tax.

HRA (Health Reimbursement Arrangement)

An HRA is exactly what it sounds like. The employer reimburses the employee for health care. As an employer, you will usually have the option to contribute to a reimbursement fund, or to pay fees as they are incurred. These reimbursements can be deducted from your taxes, and are tax-free for your employees, saving you both money.

Some providers empower employers by giving them more options. HRAs, unlike HSAs, don’t have to be funded with cash money, placing a book keeping entry on your balance sheet is enough. You can usually control aspects of your arrangement such as reimbursement limits, whether you or your employee pays first, and if the previous year’s funds roll over.

HRAs are becoming a more popular option because of the control it has given small businesses. Combined with a high deductible health plan (HDHP), an HRA could be the most cost-effective solution to your small business health insurance problems. It’s always best to compare these plans to PPOs, HMOs, and EPOs to know what works best.

Fee for Service (FFS) or Traditional Indemnity

A fee for service plan is the most flexible small business health insurance option. You choose your doctor, and your hospital. You can see a specialist without a referral. This flexibility, however, comes with more out-of-pocket expenses and higher insurance premiums.

The typical FFS plan has a deductible ranging anywhere from five to fifteen hundred dollars. After this amount is reached, the provider will pick up eighty percent of your medical bills, and require you to pay the remaining twenty percent. Because of the rising costs of health care, and the potential for a small number of doctor’s visits to cost thousands, these plans can become incredibly expensive.

Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

A flexible spending account is a savings account to be used for medical expenses, and is funded by pre-tax dollars. Using pre-tax dollars means that your employees will actually show that they have less income, and will therefore have less taxes withheld. As an employer, you set the limit on contributions to the account per year. In addition to the employee contribution, you can also credit the account, or fund it completely from your general assets.

An FSA, especially if combined with an HDHP, can significantly reduce the costs of small business health insurance.

You should be forewarned, money from FSA accounts cannot be rolled over. They are, however, available to use for two years and two and half months after the benefit year. A terminated employee won’t be able to use leftover funds, unless there is a positive remaining balance and COBRA is elected.

Small business health insurance providers have made significant improvements in their services to simplify the administration of your plan. With HRAs, FSAs, and HSAs, your employees can use debit cards for medical transactions. Be sure to research this thoroughly. You will want to be sure your debit card plan is IRS compliant, and that you can use a large number of pharmacies. You should also pick a plan that can verify eligibility on the spot. Talk with your agent about linking transit, parking fees, and prescriptions to the same card. When picking the debit card options, please be sure to clarify the details of the substantion process. This is IMPORTANT! With other plans, the provider may assign someone to manage your plan. Or you may have to hire someone. Still, you should be able to login to your account and print insurance cards, important papers etc.

The next thing you can do is thoroughly assess your needs. Being that every member of your small business plays a key role in its success, it is vital that their needs are met. And understanding these needs is crucial to finding the right plan. Find out about chronic illnesses, and additional information related to past health issues. Know what your employees think about health insurance, and get them involved in the process.

Hiring an agent or a broker

Finding and understanding small business health insurance can be a daunting task. While some choose to go it alone, others need some professional assistance. You need to understand the difference between an agent and a broker, and how you can get the most from either of them.

A broker

Brokers function independently and usually work for several different companies. Since they have a variety of resources, they can usually provide more options and a better overall view of the marketplace. Brokers will assist you by evaluating the costs and designs of plans from your local major carriers. The cost isn’t everything, you want to get the coverage that you need.

Ask the broker how he or she is getting paid for their services. They should readily divulge that information. Some brokers may charge you a flat free. Some receive a fee from an employer, while others receive a commission from the insurance provider. Any commissions could be reflected in your premiums, but not to the point that you should worry.

An agent

Agents typically provide services for one company. They have a closer relationship to the insurance company than a broker would, giving them more leverage to make alterations to your plan. In some cases they can offer a particular plan for less than a broker, and may have access to additional services like worker’s compensation. To find out what different providers have to offer, talk to more than one agent. It may be time-consuming, but it could bring you closer to the most cost-effective solution for your small business health insurance.

One of the common options presented by agents is the employee-elect option. This is an arrangement where employees pick the plan they prefer. Those who don’t need as much coverage won’t be forced to pay so much, and those who do need it can get it without increasing the financial burden of the company as a whole.

How to Save On Your Small Business Health Insurance Plan

What’s important to remember is that there really is no inexpensive solution to health care. Even if your initial premiums are reasonably low, they could rise significantly at your next renewal. So saving money on small business health insurance is about doing a combination of things simultaneously to get good rates, and to then maintain those rates.. And it will require a consistent effort from you, your employees, and your insurance provider.

First, you can save yourself money by reading the fine print. You need to know exactly what your plan does and DOESN’T cover. There are also state mandated coverages. For example, in states like Illinois, your insurance must cover mammograms. Also, understanding the ins and outs of your plan will give you and your employees a better idea of how to deal with your insurance.

Next, you should shave unnecessary benefits. After reading all about your plan, you will find coverage for things you may not need. Eliminating these benefits can significantly drop monthly small business health insurance premiums. For example, eliminating coverage for brand name medications can reduce costs by more than 25 percent.

Wellness program have worked wonders for small businesses. A wellness program is any program designed to promote healthy living within the organization. Weight loss competitions benefit every participant. Add a financial incentive for further motivation. Stock the work fridge with water, and leave literature about healthy living lying around. Search the internet for calorie counting charts. Raising awareness entice workers to make positive changes. Active, exercising, diet-conscious employees have stronger immune systems, more vitality, and more productive workplaces. They also don’t deal with as many health issues. Fewer doctor visits and hospitilizations will help maintain lower annual premiums, because it will prove to your insurance provider that your business is a low financial risk.

Increasing your co-pay and deductible can go a long way towards cutting costs. For instance, raising co-pays by just ten dollars has saved companies as much as thirteen percent on their premiums. A higher deductible will significantly reduce your monthly premium. To lessen the financial burden of high-deductible health plans (HDHPs), combine them with an HSA. Combinations like these have saved both business owners and employees bundles of cash.

Check into getting a nurse hotline. A nurse hotline is a toll free, 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week service. Employees can get medical advice from qualified, registered nurses. This method has deterred a large number of people from emergency visits, and it can also be used for preventative care as well. Insurers like Nationwide have them, or you may have to purchase from a third-party provider.

Increase the size of your group to reduce your monthly small business health insurance premiums. In a survey by America’s Health Insurance Plans, small businesses who employed ten people or less paid forty three more dollars on average than businesses with twenty six to fifty employees. Check around with other businesses owners, or fellow members of business organizations. Some states also have small business groups and pools for this purpose. Check with your state Chamber of Commerce and Department of Insurance.

Beware of heavily discounted plans. First, there are numerous scammers trying to get your money. They promise low rates, and usually cover little to nothing at all. The internet is notorious for swindlers trying to hustle you out of a buck. If you are going with a company you aren’t familiar with, please do your research. On another note, even reputable companies present problems. In an attempt to gain market share, Blue Cross offered small businesses discounted rates in 2008. For 2009, some of these same businesses were set to see increases of as much as 47% in their premiums. As the costs of medical care increases, the costs are shifted from the insurer to the insured, and discount plans become overpriced plans quickly.

Shop around. As mentioned before, talking to different agents will expose you to the best that insurance providers have to offer. Ask other small business owners about their providers. You can use trusted online resources like Netquote and Ehealthinsurance to shop around instantly. These services also let you compare plans side by side, and allow you to purchase your plan online. Even after you get your initial plan, it’s good to annually reevaluate your coverage. This will keep you on the up-and-up about what the market is offering. Keeping costs down is an ongoing effort, especially with rates and plans changing all the time from company to company.

Share some of the costs with your employees. Raising employee contributions isn’t a popular option, but it may be one of the only ways to absorb costs and maintain small business health insurance coverage. Communicate with your employees about how to keep costs down, and remind them that their increase is your increase as well.

The sad truth is that, no matter how many cost-cutting methods you apply, your insurance premiums are expected to continually rise. In addition to this, you can’t prevent every health problem with exercise and higher co-pays.

The Health Care Reform Bill won’t kick in until about 2013, so waiting on its benefits won’t do you any good. There is definitely a need for change, because the current system discourages competition and growth. With smaller businesses functioning as the backbone of this ailing economy, company medical insurance must BE affordable, and STAY affordable.

[Top]