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Advantages of Offering a Dental Benefits Plan to Employees (Part 1 of 3)

dentistA Dental insurance or dental benefit plan is viewed upon as a much sought after employee benefit. So financially it makes sense to have a dental benefit plan in place to recruit and retain employees. Moreover, dental health is a very important part of overall employee health and man days lost due to dental problems or dental discomfort of an employee equates to financial loss for the employer.

Unlike most medical conditions, dental maladies and treatments are low risk, predictable and low cost. These factors contribute to offering dental insurance to employees a good option financially. Dental diseases are preventable by maintenance and often involve only maintenance costs like x-rays and examinations. Treatment is rendered cheap due to diagnosis in early stages of the disease. Keeping these financial factors in mind, dental insurance options can also be self funded. History does not show any extremes in costs or utilization of this form of employee benefit.

 Selecting the right Dental Insurance Plan

Selecting the right dental plan involves a lot of factors which have to be considered with due care.

Dental insurance plans are basically agreements between the employer and the insurance company. Most plans offered by dental insurance companies allow for part reimbursement of dental treatment expenses. Many plans also discourage certain kind of treatments or allow access to certain of dentists. To consider these points one has to go through the plan very carefully with a toothcomb. For example choosing a dentist is not same as choosing a dentist from “the list”, or if the plan does not cover one kind of treatment, it is wrong to infer that your regular dentist is incompetent.

Many plans do not cover pre existing conditions. Some may not cover implants and so on. Due to these preconditions, the final treatment may be paid for in part only or in insurance parlance you might be reimbursed for LEAT (Lease Expensive Alternative Treatment). Dental insurance plans vary in fixing the UCR (usual, customary, and reasonable) in a certain geographical area. UCR may vary from plan to plan and company to company despite operating in the same area. Therefore fixation of this UCR level would define the liability of the patient. In some plans the patient may have to pay more and in some he may have to pay less depends upon the plan the employer has offered.                                          ……..(Part 2 Next Week )

3 High-Impact Fixes For Your Marketing Woes

The businessman makes the important decisionHow many times has your competitor gotten one over on you? The feeling of being left behind just eats away, until you do something about. The problem is that we often feel that we’ve got to come up with some grand plan in order to get our business skyrocketing again. Don’t be fooled! Getting back on top of the market isn’t as tough as it seems with these high-impact, easy-to-use fixes.

1. The Magic Number – 1
Implement a “advertise 1 item at a time” motto for your advertising strategy. Does that mean you can’t SELL more than one item at a time? No… but wait until AFTER the sale.

When a customer sees more than one of a product offered at unbelievably low prices, he’s confused. Which one is the better deal? Which one does he prefer? These questions encourage procrastination – one of marketing’s greatest thieves. Instead, offer the consumer a product that compliments his purchase in a nearby display… or even at the register. You’ll make extra profits instead of losing a sale.

2. Outsmart Your Competitors
Your competition is looking for you in all of the usual places. Don’t go there. Quietly look for new methods of advertising and new markets to target.

Niche markets provide the perfect sneak tactic for reaching new clients. Here’s they key… sub-divide your current market into smaller, more specific niche markets. Familiarize yourself with the needs and concerns of the niche, then present yourself as the pro in their corner. Leave your competition in the dust with the intensity of new prospects that will come your way.

Modernize an old marketing technique that still carries a wallop – postcards. Yeah, these small, inexpensive marketing tools still carry a personal message that is quick and easy to read, but with new high-impact colors and designs that capture the attention of readers. Your competition won’t even know that you’re using them!

3. Encourage Communication
Communication is crucial to understanding your consumers. Encourage questions before the sale, during the sale and after the sale. Make it easy and comfortable.

Provide convenient contact information on all of your sales materials, including Websites. If you find yourself overloaded with questions, create a frequently asked question page where clients can get the answers they need without claiming as much of your time.

Confused customers, tough competitors and communication mishaps won’t steal profits from your account when you fix things up with the 3 quick tips.

 

Marketing: Your Brand Is About More Than Just Good Looks

Your #1 BrandFirst let’s clear up a common misconception of what a “Brand” really is. A brand is more than just your company’s name or logo. It’s more than just a particular type of product you offer such as Q-tips brand of cotton swabs. It’s more than just the look of the packaging of your product. In a nutshell your ”Brand” is the culmination of everything your prospect’s 5 senses can pick up on about you.

It’s the image you present at all times. From the company’s logo and color scheme all the way to the manner in which your employees dress.

It’s what your prospect hears from and about you. From what they hear about you in the media to how your customer service team handles incoming complaints.

It’s the feeling your prospect gets in all their dealings with you. From their satisfied or unsatisfied interaction with you to the relationship building activities you carry out.

It’s the pleasant or unpleasant scents that get associated with you covering everywhere from the scent of your product or facility, to even your employees.

And lastly it’s also the tastes that get associated with you. From the taste of your product (if it’s a product meant to be tasted) to the quality of coffee or tea you serve.

As you are probably beginning to see the picture I am painting for you, your brand encompasses everything about you. Hence you can see why it’s important to always put your best foot forward.

Let’s take this one step further. Even more important than being perfect in your eyes, is being consistent in the prospect’s eyes.

Consistency is the key to branding. It is terrible branding practice and just plain unacceptable to offer great service one day, and bad service the next. You are better off being consistently mediocre. Then at least the customer knows what to expect and is generally more satisfied. Another example of bad branding is having a different look and feel for your website as compared to your other marketing collateral (e.g. business cards, brochures, etc.). Ultimately, your prospect should be able to recognize you at a quick glance – just by colors, design style, logo, etc.

For instance, let’s take the fast food retailer McDonalds. They have done a spectacular job at branding. Their food tastes consistently the same no matter which location you eat at – essentially around the world. What you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste are pretty much consistent and acceptable across the board.

Bottom line, branding is essential to establishing your identity in the marketplace and consistency is the key to effective doing that.

Hang On To Top Employees

businesswoman running awayThe best way to keep your top employees is to know them better than they know themselves.  Use this knowledge to create the career of their dreams, and they’ll stick to your company like glue.  The “biz-speak” for this is called Job Sculpting. 

The concept of Job Sculpting as defined by career experts, Timothy Butler and James Waldroop, in the Harvard Business Review, is that good people will stay only in jobs that “fit their deeply embedded life interests—that is their long-held emotionally driven passions.” 

To adopt this strategy, spend a lot of effort listening to your company stars.  For each one of them, try to identify what life interests are dominant with them, and then offer them the assignments that satisfy this interest.  It may mean simply adding another assignment to the existing responsibilities, or it may mean switching one set of tasks to another employee.  It may even require moving your “star” employee to a different position altogether. 

To learn what kind of interests you’re looking and listening for, use these 8 identifiable areas:

  1. Application of technology.
  2. Quantitative analysis ability.
  3. Theory development and conceptual thinking.
  4. Creative production.
  5. Counseling and mentoring.
  6. Managing people and relationships.
  7. Enterprise control.
  8. Influence through language and ideas.

 If you have a top employee who has been working in the area of customer service, but lately seems dissatisfied, after talking with him/her you might learn they would rather be dealing with the vendors.  Your star might be just the answer you’re looking for to find that latest innovative product that could be added to your stock (conceptual thinking), and employee B would rather interact with the customers.  By a simple switch of responsibilities, you have two happy employees that feel they’re now contributing to your business and not just putting in time for a paycheck. 

It’s always more cost effective for the business, and better for employee morale to keep your existing employees happy with their careers.  It takes a toll on your business when you have to fill an empty employee spot with a newcomer who has to be trained in the way your company functions. 

Time is money, and time used to train a brand new employee is the highest cost of doing business.  However, the time spent by you to find out what will keep your top producers happy to be working for you – is the best investment you can make in your business.

 

Rules of Thumb for Marketing to Your Past Customers

happy customersKeeping in touch can dramatically increase business, when done properly.

It’s a fact that your customers are your best leads. This means that the most likely people to purchase your products and/or services are the ones who have paid for them before. It’s also a fact that it costs far less money to keep a customer than it does to go out and get a new one. These are the two reasons that using direct mail to keep in touch with your customer database is a must. There are a few principles to follow when marketing to contacts in your company database that can maximize your bottom line.

Rule #1 – Collect all of their information. It sounds like a no-brainer but you would be surprised. The more information that you have on your customers, the more likely it is that you will be able to get in touch with them to let them know about specials or to remind them it’s time for their next service. Also, don’t neglect to ask for your customers’ email addresses, most everyone has one and most will give it up pretty easily.

Rule #2 – Don’t treat your customers like prospects. Make sure when you collect the information in your database you differentiate between people who have placed an order in the past and people who have not. Customers want to feel like you are paying attention to them and when they have placed a few orders with you and are still getting your “10% for First Time Buyers” postcards they tend to feel unappreciated. Bottom line, if they don’t qualify for an offer you are sending out, don’t send it to them.

Rule #3 – Don’t let your designs get stagnant. When you are mailing to databases of people that you have never spoken to before, it is OK to send them the same postcard multiple times. It helps to increase recognition and will eventually increase your response rate. Dealing with customers and prospects that you have already spoken to (meaning they already know most or all of the details of your business) you need to mix things up a bit. Your mailings should be attention getting and informative. If you have started offering a new service recently, a piece designed to let your database know about it would be a smart move. The main point is to keep your company in the front of their mind and to keep them reading your promotion.

Being great at what you do is not always enough to keep the customers that you have earned. With all of the competition out there today you need to be constantly reminding your customers that you are the best at what you do. Direct mail is the best way to give them that reminder.

Always remember to keep mailings that you send to your database informative, attractive and most of all current. Personalize everything that you can and make sure that what you are sending to a past client actually pertains to them or their company. Anything less and your customer may start to drift, and the only people that are going to be happy when that happens are your competitors.

Your Business Checkup

business check upWhether you’re thinking it’s Spring Cleaning Time or time for an annual checkup, your business needs to undergo a checkup each year.  No matter how large or small your business is, you cannot gauge the effectiveness of any changes you’ve made without analyzing the benefits and bottom line.

Here are 10 questions to get you started:

  • How do your year-to-date sales compare to the last couple of years? Don’t be satisfied if you managed to match them because if sales stayed the same then you’ve achieved zero growth.  With inflation, this flat growth line is a warning sign for more trouble down the road.
  • What percentage of your business is from repeat customers? This is important to know because if it’s too low, then it needs to be improved.  The estimated cost of getting a new customer versus retaining an existing one can be as much as five to one in terms of dollars spent.  Keeping customers is more cost-effective than constantly seeking new ones.
  • How long has it been since you offered a new product or service?  Loyal customers like to see you changing and progressing with the times.  If you’re stuck for an idea, ask your customers what they need.
  • Do you consider marketing and advertising expenses or investments?  How you look at the money spent in these areas affects your willingness to spend money at all.  Would you look at prescriptions as a waste of money?  Marketing is really investing in you, your vision, and your company.  The old adage that you must spend money to make money is true, but you must spend it wisely.  Spend it on ads that are pulling responses and orders, and if they’re not maybe you need to change publications.
  • Do you know what PR is and how to use it to positively position your business in the media?  I’ll bet that at least one of your competitors does.  Nearly every mention of a company or business in the newspapers and magazines is a direct result of publicity efforts.  Being quoted or featured in an article speaks volumes to your clients and readers who are your potential prospects.  A good PR consultant can do that for you and show you ways to extend the shelf life of that article beyond its publication.

 

  • Is your business listed on the local directories of Google, Bing, and Yahoo? Your listing in the local directories of the “Big 3” search engines will increase your visibility with local customer and will pay you dividends throughout the year.
  • Do you treat your regular customers better than your drop-ins?  You should.  If your customers don’t feel special when coming to you for products of services, why should they remain loyal to you?  Have a customer appreciation day or a special invitation only sale for your regulars.  Create a mailing list of your regulars.  Send occasional post cards or greeting cards for special events or just to keep in touch.  Learn to recognize them on sight and greet them by name when they visit you.
  • How long has it been since you really talked to one of your customers?  Just as you appreciate when your doctor takes time to talk to you, your customers will appreciate you if you take an interest in their needs.  If you have a service business, have lunch or coffee periodically with some regulars – even if they only contact you once or twice a year.  The personal touch in an impersonal world will be remembered.
  • How is your business doing compared to your competition?  Every company, no matter what the size, has competition – even home-based businesses.  Is their business growing or downsizing? Is their pricing or service better than yours?  If so, what can you tell potential customers about the price difference?  Think about how you can improve your service to meet or exceed your customer’s expectations.
  • Are your employees happy?  Don’t ask them directly, but observe them throughout the day.  Watch, listen and learn. Employees who like their jobs don’t watch the clock for quitting time, aren’t habitually late, don’t have poor body language, don’t spend time on personal phone calls, and don’t look like they never smiled.  Observe how they interact with customers.  Not everyone is a match for direct contact with the public, so make sure you don’t have an employee who is driving business away.

I can remember when I was working at my very first job out of school.  It was a service business with just the owner and me at work.  There was direct contact with the clients, and there was never a problem with smiling when talking face to face with them.  I was given the best business tip of my life by that employer, when he pointed out to me that when talking to clients on the telephone I should smile too.  For some unexplainable reason, when you smile as you talk on the phone, the exchange with the client becomes more pleasant and more productive.  It’s as if that smile went right through the phone wires to the person to whom you’re talking.

Using Social Media For Business

social mediaSocial Media can be very profitable for your business, but before you can profit with it you need to understand exactly which social media channels work best for your business. This has everything to do with knowing your target market and how to effectively engage them. As you well know, social media is the most popular online activity in the U.S. Over 91% of the population are sharing, liking, tweeting, and connecting on a daily basis. I’m sure you would have heard of popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but do you know which ones are best for your business? Continue reading

Corporate Gift Buying Essentials

The man holds a gift in handsBuying a corporate gift can become a daunting task. Giving it is worse since you have the intention to gain business ties, connect with clients, and send your message of giving thanks. Knowing the following corporate gift buying essentials will increase your chances of attaining these goals.

Know the company policy – Some companies prohibit gift giving; some have dollar limits on the gift item; while other don’t have limits at all. Check on this particular detail so that you will know how much you have to spend on a particular item to avoid your gift being sent back to you.

First impression lasts – Packaging is important. This will give the first impression to the receiver. A good packaging will send a message to the recipient that he or she is important to you. A poor packaging on the other hand will tell the recipient that the item inside is not that important, or worse, the recipient may think that he is not important. So regardless of the price of the gift inside the package, it is inevitable that a corporate gift is packed appropriately.

Handwritten cards is much appreciated – Yes, it is easier to buy a Hallmark card and put your signature on it together with your gift, but it will leave a more lasting effect if you prefer having your message handwritten. This would mean that you personally made the massage to the person and not use a ready-made one.

Deliver the gift personally – If your gift does not require a crane or more than one person to carry, make it a point to personally deliver the gift to the intended party. This will create a better and lasting impression of you once he opened the gift.

Know the cultural differences – For Germans, red roses mean romantic intentions. For Chinese, a white gift wrapping symbolizes death. For Japanese, a gift in sets of 4 means death. These are some of the cultural differences or you can say symbolisms that you need to take note of when considering giving a corporate gift to someone of another culture. You may have a clean intention but it is safe to follow and respect who they are and what they believe in.

Know the recipient’s wants – Knowing what kind of corporate gift to buy is very challenging and is often very risky. Sometimes, if you have no idea on what to give, you often end up giving the wrong kind of gift. This will ruin you as well as your company image. To lessen the difficulty and reduce the risk, know the person who will receive the gift what his wants, his hobbies, interest, etc. What is the best way to do it? Make a call and ask him such information.

Go for quality – The corporate gift often reflects to your company’s image. It is hard to build up reputation and good image, do not ruin it by giving something of a low quality. Choose a corporate gift that is of high quality but does not destroy your budget.

Check the IRS deductions – The IRS Publication 463 is something you should know of since business gifts in America are tax deductible (as much as $25/person in a tax year). This excludes shipping the gift and packaging. Other rules may apply to other types of business structure.