The Obstacles To Your Success
Stone Hill is eager to see you succeed as a small-business owner in a business environment that gets tougher every year. Your success is what gives us our sense of fulfillment, and it’s how we measure our own success. We can help you to succeed by empowering and supporting you in building a strong and sustainable business in the face of online competition and increasing regulatory hurdles. Both of those factors are impairing the well being and finances of your Medicare prospects and clients. Those aging in cannot ask questions of online agents or webpages, at least, not in a way that allows them to peer into the eyes of those giving the answers and to feel confident that the nuances of their questions were understood and addressed. Further, many Medicare beneficiaries are reluctant to sign scopes of appointment for agents whom they do not already know and trust, fearing that they are making undisclosed commitments. Meanwhile, you as a Medicare agent can feel as if your hands are tied by regulators who do not care about your good intentions to help the people who are eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. You cannot initiate an offer to help those eligible for help because of the way that regulations are written and enforced. As a consequence, Medicare agents—hopefully not you—often wind up feeling limited to hoping that Medicare prospects will initiate a conversation and that, eventually, word of mouth will create a wave of demand for their expertise and service. At Stone Hill, we have never seen that approach work! (Every successful agent invests thought, time, and money into marketing.)
Further, changes in the way that CMS allows insurance carriers to pay agents during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) are creating cashflow challenges, the type that threaten the existence of small businesses, the type that require changes to the way a small business operates. In fact, we know Medicare agents who were and are making a good living yet who struggled to meet the challenges occasioned by the changes to compensation in the fall of 2014.
These are the kinds of professional challenges that Stone Hill wants to help you to conquer. It seems to us that the most valuable thing that we can do for you is to help you to nurture and grow your small business, to improve its marketing, its services, and its operations, to become more professional as the industry is requiring. We see an opportunity for you and us together to strengthen your business. We want to share with you the lessons that we have learned at Stone Hill. Bringing our expertise to your business is one of the new values that we offer you.
We also offer you a way to communicate with other agents, ones who are not your competitors but who are wrestling with same issues that you are. Stone Hill social media will enable you identify them and open up a dialog. Further, we are going to make it easier for you to find up-to-date answers to questions that you have on just about any topic that interests or concerns an insurance agent. If you need research done, let us know. We will find the information and post it.
We want to enable you to differentiate yourself and to have confidence that you are moving in a good direction.
Stone Hill Offers Enhanced Value to its Boomer Agents
There are several components in our new value proposition—the services that we offer you in exchange for your placing and keeping your appointment contracts with Stone Hill National. We still offer the services of a traditional broker, services like appointment contracts, meetings with insurance-carrier representatives, and the resolution of commission disputes, but these traditional services are now bolstered by our new advisory services on how to run a business. We want to provide you with conversations that discover options for you as you face the challenges associated with a small business. We hope that you can benefit from our advice in the same way that your clients benefit from your advice. (By the way, these advisory services do not cost you a dime.)
Confidential, Small-Business, Advisory Services
The people in the Senior Department here at Stone Hill are willing to discuss any aspect of your business: accounting, customer-relationship management, workflow, marketing, sales, technology, and so on. We will provide you with advice and information tailored to your business, so that you do not have to engage in drawn-out projects like deciding which customer-relationship-management software will work best for you. We can help you understand your advantages and disadvantages with respect to online competitors. We also are willing to brainstorm with you on how to market and sell better—the bread-and-butter of every insurance business. All of these conversations are kept confidential. Our ultimate goal is to help you make your business more stable and its cash flows more predictable.
The Special Confidentiality of Your Marketing Plans
Since marketing is the crucial aspect of your business, we want to assure you of two things on this topic:
- Stone Hill is willing to spend time with you by phone, in person, by email, and so forth, to help you create a viable marketing plan. If you are like most of your competitors, you find yourself adjusting if not replacing your marketing plans every year or two. Reading, brain-storming, pondering, and consulting are the ways that you can devote the brain time necessary to obtain insight and find a way forward.
- Stone Hill understands that you want to ensure that your marketing and selling insights and advantages are kept confidential. So we commit to safeguarding your marketing and selling strategies, recognizing that it is the heart of your business. By the way, we have safeguarded such information for years.
To protect other agents’ confidential plans, Stone Hill employees start such marketing conversations at a high level, talking in generalities until you say something promising that allows us to follow and encourage your ideas.
Resource Center (A Dedicated Online Library for You and Your Clients)
We are going to reinforce these advisory and consultative services with a new agent library or blog. The library, which may be found at http://blog.stonehill.net/, offers articles, videos, tables, and other information that employees here at Stone Hill believe will be informative or entertaining or both. You can also request that specific information be placed there, whether it be information that you want to ensure constant access to or information for your clients to see, perhaps information that you authored. With your help, we hope to create a resource that will help you market, sell, and serve your clients better. Let us know what you would like to see there!
There are three steps that an agents may take to manage the new cashflow challenges faced by Medicare agents:
- Stay in the business long enough to have residual income that enables you to live and work in the 4th quarter of each year without worrying about meeting your obligations.
- Save money from the first quarter when your AEP payout may give you a cash surplus; if you market and have a surplus from the second and third quarters, they can be put into savings as well.
- Cross-sell products that are not susceptible to CMS regulations and seasonality.
The first and second steps depend on good business management. The third step depends on product expertise and good sales and marketing practices. We can advise you on all three steps.
Become a Boomer Agent!
Stone Hill believes that the changing marketplace demands a new approach to marketing, a new way to perceive the market, a way to think differently about your prospects and clients, a way to set yourself apart from other agents, especially online agents.
A productive way to change how you look at your business is to change your target market. If you have considered the Senior market to be yours in the past, it is time to reconsider. Studies show that people 65 and older do not like to be referred to as “seniors.” It is time to change from thinking about senior to thinking about Baby-Boomers. They are your opportunity until 2029. By believing that your market includes anyone born between 1946 and 1964, you start to see new possibilities. You will find marketing opportunities that are less regulated. You will find new products to offer. You will find that new marketing plans come to mind. You will also find that you have more time to develop the trust that will facilitate enrolling your clients in Medicare plans. (By the way, your clients will still pay more attention to you the closer they get to 65, so this type of marketing, as always, is a balancing act.)
Stone Hill believes that flesh-and-blood agents who are experts in Boomer products and who are professional in their business operations are well positioned to address both the online competition and the regulatory obstacles. Such flesh-and-blood agents offer greater value than online agents, and they do so in the way that Boomers will prefer if given a clear choice. If you are properly prepared, if you have product expertise, back-office operations and support, and a commitment to compliance, you will provide better help and guidance to your clients and prospects than any online competitor. We can help you with developing product expertise and with streamlining your back-office activities, consulting one-on-one with you regarding your marketing, operations, and compliance. Those are the purposes of the revamped agent-development services that Stone Hill is rolling out in 2015 and beyond.
If you already work with Stone Hill, contact us about our new offerings. We would like to be part of the team that helps to address your business challenges. If you are new to Stone Hill, contact us about all of our offerings. We would like to give an opportunity to check out the Stone Hill difference.