Mark Twain said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” This applies even more to a body of knowledge that changes rapidly. In the voluntary business, the wisdom generally accepted 10 years ago now has become the myths that limit our ability to take full advantage of the voluntary opportunity.
One key to success is the ability to adapt. And that means staying abreast of change, dropping old (but no longer true) beliefs and embracing new realities. Consider the following statements, still repeated on occasion by brokers.
These products appeal primarily to blue-collar workers. This might have been true at once, but that time is gone. Today, 43 percent of blue-collar employees own at least one voluntary product. But catching up to them, 31 percent of professional and managerial employees own at least one voluntary product.
Voluntary products aren’t purchased by higher-income workers. This one might never have been true, and yet, you hear brokers making comments like this. Twenty-three percent of workers earning $25,000 or less own at least one voluntary product. But 30 percent of those earning over $100,000 also own at least one product. Voluntary products appeal to all income brackets.
Voluntary doesn’t work with an older work force. Wrong again. A greater percentage of those age 50 and older own at least one voluntary product as compared to any other age group.
Voluntary is much more prevalent among smaller employers. Not only is that not true, it hasn’t been true for a long time: 87 percent of employers with 2,001 or more employees offer at least one voluntary product, more than any other size group.
Penetration of voluntary sales is lowest in the Northwest and in New England. Brokers believing this get half credit. The Eastbridge Sales Index measures the voluntary sales premium per employed adult in each state. Based on the latest data, the Northwest is dramatically underpenetrated from a sales point of view. All five states in the Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming) are in the lowest sales penetration category in our study. But New England is much further along with Maine and Connecticut in the mid-range on sales penetration, and Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire, a notch below, but coming along nicely.
Simply, voluntary product buyers now reflect the American work force. There are still some tendencies among buyers (but different ones than in years past), but it’s safer to plan on voluntary appealing across the board than it is to narrow your marketing to certain employees, accounts, or geographic areas.
The products offered, and the support and enrollment structures required, have to be tailored to the account characteristics (existing benefits, etc.) and to the demographics of the work force, but it’s dangerous to prejudge which accounts and which employees would be interested and which wouldn’t. Voluntary products appeal across the board, to all age groups, income levels, job classes and account sizes. In other words, they appeal to all of your accounts. Don’t let things that “just ain’t so” get in the way of acting on today’s data and maximizing your voluntary potential.