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Why Group Insurance May Be Best for Your Business, Even If It’s Just You

It’s easier to get than you think.

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RECENTLY, I HEARD a business owner tell a frustrating story about how she was forced to spend a surprisingly large sum of money for the treatment of a health condition. She was angry because her individual health insurance plan, bought through the Marketplace in 2014, had just increased in premium for the fourth time. She expected more from her insurance!

Video: To Improve Your Email Marketing, Read This Book
Jim Ackerman

Video: To Improve Your Email Marketing, Read This Book

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Gene the Jeweler

Gene the Jeweler’s Rule: Never Buy the Same Piece Twice

How to Turn Your Gift Cards Into Something People Actually Buy
Jim Ackerman

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There has been a growing rift between group and individual insurance since 2015 — most business owners have not been able to keep up on all of the details. I have heard, erroneously, from many business owners that they believe:

  • They couldn’t do group insurance.
  • They would have to pay for all of their employees.
  • Individual insurance would be cheaper.

Not true.

Individual insurance contracts (i.e., Obamacare plans) are no longer the same as group insurance plans. Differences include deductibles, max out-of-pocket financial exposures and pricing. In most cases, individual insurance is less advantageous for the consumer.

Many small business owners are not aware of the increased availability of group insurance.
In 2014, the Affordable Care Act changed many of the regulations affecting small businesses and insurance. States have also been tweaking rules applicable to groups employing between two and 50 people (small groups). In most states, businesses with two or more people are eligible to purchase group insurance. Why is this important? Because, in many states, group insurance may be less expensive per person, have lower financial exposures and have access to larger PPO networks.

How does it work? There is a little known aspect of the Affordable Care Act that makes group insurance very accessible for small businesses. If you have an inception/renewal date of Jan. 1, then the business is not required to contribute to the employees’ premiums. Further, there are no participation requirements (i.e. how many people must participate of the employed population), so the business owner could be the only one participating — a “group” of one. Some states do not allow groups of one. In these states you must have two participants. And note that husband-wife groups are treated differently and may not be eligible.

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If the group insurance plan renews on any other date of the year, then the group is subject to contribution and participation requirements. These requirements are set by the insurance companies and are typically less stringent than most business owners believe. In most cases, the employer is asked to contribute only 25 percent of the cost of individual coverage on the lowest cost plan.
Here is how this plays out in the real world: Most small businesses offer two or three plans for the employees to choose from, one of which will be the “lowest cost.” The employer then calculates 25 percent of what it costs for that single person and the employee is responsible for the remaining premium. How much money are we talking about? Typically an employer is asked to contribute between $75 and $225 per month per person depending on the age of the employee — only for the people who choose to contribute.

As for the participation requirement, it’s typically 70 percent of eligible full-time staff after qualified waivers. A qualified waiver is someone who has an insurance plan from a spouse, the government or an individual plan. Let’s say we have a group of 10 full time employees, four of whom have coverage through their spouse and one who is on Medicare. Here is how we determine the participation requirement:

  • 10 eligible-5 qualified waivers = 5 employees

In this case, to attain 70 percent participation, only four people must participate!

Marcus Newman is vice-president of small business sales with GCG, a full-service financial, employee benefits and risk management firm, as well as a public speaker and educator.

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Jimmy DeGroot

Be Ready for ‘What Do You Have for $100?’ and Other Holiday Questions

As Christmas approaches, the queries you’ll hear from customers are actually pretty predictable, says jewelry store training expert Jimmy DeGroot. Here's how to make sure your team is prepared for the more common ones.

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Commentary: The Business

Hear Those Jingle Bells? They’re Also Wedding Bells

Hiding among the holiday crowds is a key customer who doesn’t want to be rushed.

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This story was originally published in the December 2011 edition of INSTORE.

THAT RINGING in your ears is jingle bells! Jewelers around the country are in the midst of the most important selling season of the year. According to J. Walter Thompson, the holiday selling season accounts for nearly 22 percent of annual diamond sales in the United States, meaning it’s still crucial to a successful year for retail jewelers.

Retailers invest months preparing for the season, not to mention dollars! Marketing, merchandising, packaging, special events, and sales training must all be in place.

The other ringing you hear is wedding bells! There is a vital statistic lurking inside that 22 percent number of which you should be aware: various studies show that about 25 percent of engagements occur during the fourth quarter in the U.S., making your diamond bridal business a key part of holiday sales.

Here’s the critical point: amid all the busy-ness of the season, don’t overlook this essential category. Make a list and check it twice. Focus on two important areas: Diamond inventory and the particular temperament of the engagement-ring shopper.

From an inventory/merchandise perspective, jewelers should be over-prepared and ready to present a wealth of options and styles to the engagementring customer. The adage that one can’t sell from an empty wagon applies! Savvy consumers will have scoured the Internet and other retail stores and seen hundreds of ring styles. Their jeweler of choice will have to provide options!

Engagement-ring customers are not the typical Christmas shopper. They are often walking into your store for the first time after, on average, three months of shopping (according to The Knot 2011 Engagement and Jewelry Study). This consumer is not preoccupied with getting a package under the tree, but rather with making one of the most important purchases of their lifetime. They require your full attention and will not respond well to being rushed just because it’s Christmas and you’re busy. Sales associates must be prepared to give the engagement-ring shopper the time and attention they require.

When making your “list,” be sure to include a training session or two to ready your sales staff to effectively engage the wedding-ring customer during the holiday season. Train them to change gears for this consumer so they don’t feel rushed or under-served. Use all the resources at your disposal to ensure an impressive engagement-ring inventory that will excite your customer. Make sure your collection of loose diamonds includes a good number of 1-carat diamonds, and if possible, have a 2 to 3 carat on hand. Overnight and “in time” inventory is great, but sometimes you can’t make the sale if you don’t have the goods!

That ringing in your ears is jingle bells and wedding bells playing two distinctly different but profitable tunes during this Christmas selling season!

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Dave Richardson

Why Attitude Is More Important Than Experience When Hiring

Hire for attitude rather than just experience.

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WHY IT IS TRUE: The key question in hiring a new sales associate is, can this person sell? The second question is, does this person have any jewelry sales experience?

PLAN OF ACTION: Be careful hiring someone with jewelry experience, particularly if that experience comes from different stores over a number of years.

My philosophy has always been this: it is easier to train a good salesperson to sell jewelry than to train someone who knows jewelry how to sell.

Most importantly though, look at the person’s attitude toward selling, enthusiasm for working with customers, and results during their sales career. Chances are you will score a real winner.

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The Digital Doc: Answers to Your Questions About Digital Marketing

Smart Age Solutions takes reader questions about a topic that many jewelers find intimidating.

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IN THIS NEW COLUMN, Smart Age Solutions answers jewelers’ questions about how to use digital marketing on the local level to bring in more customers and make more sales. As the company notes, many jewelers do not yet understand just how much power they have to create a dynamic brand in the digital space.

Do you have a question for the Digital Doc? Send it to digitaldoc@smartagesolutions.com.

Q: I’m really hesitant about putting money into digital ads. I don’t know too much about it and I’m worried I’ll just be wasting money.

A: You are certainly not alone! First, it’s best to do some general research to educate yourself on the basics of digital marketing at the local level. You do not need to become an expert, but it’s important do some preliminary information-gathering before you make a decision. There are many resources online that can give you a basic overview of what you can achieve with different marketing channels (Google, Facebook, Instagram, etc.). Once you’ve done this, start a few conversations with reputable marketing agencies in the industry. These companies can provide you with different packages based on your budget. They can also give you an idea of what activity your marketing dollars will create.

Video: To Improve Your Email Marketing, Read This Book
Jim Ackerman

Video: To Improve Your Email Marketing, Read This Book

Gene the Jeweler’s Rule: Never Buy the Same Piece Twice
Gene the Jeweler

Gene the Jeweler’s Rule: Never Buy the Same Piece Twice

How to Turn Your Gift Cards Into Something People Actually Buy
Jim Ackerman

How to Turn Your Gift Cards Into Something People Actually Buy

Q: How do I know if digital marketing is working? When should I expect a sale?

A: The first step in a digital marketing campaign is to declare your goals. The next step is to get as many qualified online shoppers in your community to visit your website so they can explore your products and services. The easiest things to measure are website traffic and telephone calls. If both increase, great! The sales will follow.

Q: I try to get my team to ask our customers for a review or feedback. I know they make us feel all warm and fuzzy, but how do online reviews help my marketing strategy?

A: There are many advantages a great online review provides. Besides the obvious notion that people trust other people’s opinions of products and services,your online reviews can have a significant impact on how you are treated as an advertiser by platforms like Google and Facebook. Google’s logic is simple: The more that consumers interact with a business online, the more legitimate and relevant they are to their community. The rewards that jewelers can expect for great online reviews are better ad placement, more consistent impressions, and lower costs per click to their website. What this means is that Jeweler A with 200 online reviews spending $1,000 can achieve better results for a lower budget than Jeweler B down the street with 10 reviews spending $10,000.

Pro tip: The big advantage to digital marketing is the ability to change your advertisements on the fly. If something about the advertisement isn’t working, you change the message, branding or event details. If you have ever had to pay to re-skin a billboard, print new catalogs or re-record a radio spot, you will know just how valuable it is to have the power to edit advertisements for little to no cost.

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