One great idea for marketing our advocacy services and acquiring new clients is to reach out to employers to encourage them to hire us on behalf of their employees.
When done well, and right, it can be a win-win-win situation for all involved, and in the end, the patient-client-employee feels extremely well served.
Seems pretty simple, right?
Well, maybe not so…
Many independent advocates have attempted such outreach in the past, only to be met with brick walls and great frustration. I think they just didn’t have enough knowledge about the HOW and the WHY. So that’s a bit of what we’ll tackle here.
We’ll begin with one of the MOST important basics in marketing. That is: know, and focus on, the needs of your audience.
Employers are influencers; probably not the people who will hire you to help them personally with their own health challenges. Rather, they will look at the benefits to them of bringing you in to help their employees. Marketing to influencers requires we determine the benefits to THEM, not directly to the patient-client. So we have to figure out what those benefits are. From there, you need to be able to articulate those benefits to any employer you reach out to.
Here are three biggest benefits for employers – with a caveat for one of them:
• First – is the concept of “presenteeism.” Unlike absenteeism, when the employee doesn’t come to work (whether that’s showing up at the office, or working remotely), presenteeism is when they are working, and being paid for their work, but they are actually doing something else – like looking online for medical help, or trying to monitor elderly mom in the skilled nursing center, or making appointments for their kids. Presenteeism is very costly to an employer, especially these days with so many people working from home.
If you explain to an employer that you can reduce the cost of presenteeism… THAT is a huge benefit! (And they will be impressed that you know the term 🙂 )
• The second big benefit is the concept of employee retention. When employers have to replace an employee, it’s a huge money loss because they have to recruit, then train that new person. By making an advocate available to their employees to help with health system challenges, including review and reduction of medical bills for that individual, an employee may choose to stick with that employer and stay in that position. It may even mean they return from sick-leave sooner. Again – a big cost saver for the employer.
• The third big benefit (and this is the one with the caveat) is the idea of saving the employer’s money on the cost of a patient-employee-client’s medical care. For example, the employee needs an MRI or a CT scan which ordinarily would take place at an expensive facility. Instead you can save the client / employer money by arranging for it to be done at a free-standing, independent imaging center.
Now – here’s the caveat: Many employers, those with, say, 100 employees or more, turn to Third Party Administrators (TPAs) to handle their healthcare benefits. You’ll recognize TPAs by the other things they do, too, like managing Employee Assistance Programs, or “cafeteria” style benefits packages. Those employers have agreements with TPAs that turn over all management of health and medical benefits, so they can just write a check and leave it to someone else.
The problem is that most TPAs (at least all the ones I’ve heard of) get paid for their services based on the medical spend of the employees. In other words, they take a commission for every penny of health-related services run through their program (which, by contract, is all of them.) And so, if you promise to save the employer money on the medical dollars spent, the TPA will get less money. That will not make them happy! And they will do everything in their power to be sure the employer won’t work with you.
So how can you get around that? When you reach out to an employer to explain about your services and the benefits to working with you, you ask them very early in the conversation whether they work with a TPA. If they do, ask a few more questions to see if its worth your time and theirs, and if not, move on to another employer.
There are two cautions to mention about reaching out, then engaging with employers.
Pricing is the first caution. Most advocates who work through employers reduce their rates, or offer discounts to employees, or in some way make it favorable for employers to recommend that the employee work with you. My caution is to be careful not to lower your pricing too much or it won’t be worth your while. (Learn more about pricing your services here.)
The second caution is to not let yourself get overwhelmed. Either limit the number of people you promise to work with at one time, or have your cadre of subcontractors ready to roll should you have too much business all at once. Preparing yourself for those very busy times will mean you can always keep up your highest level of excellence in your work.
If you’re interested in learning more about working with employers, including who to approach, how to approach them, how to describe the benefits of working with you, and more, APHA offers several resources (you must be a member and logged in to see these*)
- Approaching Employers as Target Audiences
- Marketing to Employers, Helping Their Employees
- Marketing to Unions (a similar approach but with a few differences)
- Plus a variety of conversations in the APHA Discussion Forum with some great advice.
Working with employers can help you stay as busy as you’d like to be, no matter whether you find those employees in the workplace, or working from home.
It’s a great way to grow your practice.
*Not yet a member of APHA? Join us!
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