We believe that benefits vendors should be trusted partners that are as committed to the wellbeing of your employees as you are. So how do you select a trusted partner? We sat down with CEO of The Granite List, Sally Pace, to discuss how finding a qualified vendor can be done simply and efficiently.
The pandemic changed so much about the way businesses operate. Can you explain how it impacted the way employees and brokers source benefit solutions?
In the Fall of 2020, we sent a survey to 1600 advisors as well as solution providers to ask how things had changed and how they were being impacted by the pandemic. What we found was that 50% of vendors relied on in-person events to advertise, and 46% relied on in-person events for lead generation. Brokers conversely said that 58% of them used referrals to find new solutions.
These numbers were coming largely from face-to-face events, and that was yanked out of our hands very early into the pandemic. A lot of people pivoted and began to offer virtual events as a way to facilitate meetings. There were some very creative and very clever ways to do that, but it definitely put a blip on the radar of how brokers and vendors find one another.
Your new platform, The Granite List, emerged during this time of transition. Can you explain your vision for this new generation of benefit sourcing?
We officially launched July 1st! For those on the solutions side that have been in the industry for a long time, and certainly for the broker community, it is not surprising that the benefits space, while there are innovative solutions, still has a lot of archaic practices. For example, you might have a payer requiring information to be faxed in when the vast majority of Americans no longer have a fax machine. We knew even before the pandemic that there was an opportunity to take some of the most popular methods that people use to make purchasing decisions and think about how those could be transferred into the benefits arena.
What is the story behind the name “The Granite List”?
In 1877, the Granite Cutters’ Union was the first group to offer sick benefits to members who were doing, as we can all imagine, very gruesome work. But it wasn’t just sick benefits: they had a newsletter to allow those in their community to really rally around their members that needed additional attention besides just the medical support. We love that story because at the end of the day, The Granite List is powered by Connect Healthcare Collaboration, and we hold so true to the ability to serve as connectors across all of our business lines. It’s a neat way to take something that is weighty and solid yet has such a great story behind it focused on a sense of community, and weave that into a tangible product.
What are the similarities and differences between how people make purchasing decisions on the direct-to-consumer side and how they make them for benefits solutions? How did you make an “online shopping” experience applicable to the benefits space?
Overnight [during the pandemic], everyone was buying stuff from Amazon, and you were able to sort by star rating, availability, and even when it would arrive to your home.
We thought that was exactly what people need to know about benefit solutions:
Does it match the right size group that we have?
How long does it take to implement?
Is it good for the particular population that I’m serving?
Is it going to be a good fit for the people that I’m trying to serve?
That was a lot of the vision that we had. The same way that we make purchasing decisions in other areas of our life easily transfers to how benefit brokers or advisors seek out solutions. They can compare them to one another and look at what they’re good for in their groups.
Since we’re talking to the creator of the VRBO of benefits solutions, we have to ask: what’s your number one tip for evaluating benefits vendors and deciding which one is the right partner?
To go beyond what their website says. Look at what the people that sold the product into the employer group have to say, and what the end users have to say, because their story may enhance your purchasing experience. We like to call them cheerleader clients: the clients that you serve have a very personal and passionate story about why they chose the solution that they chose, and you don’t always get that viewpoint from just a corporate website.
That’s number one, but I’m going to give two tips. One is to take advantage of the reviews, and the second is that being able to search at the point of interest is very different than receiving inbound inquiries. If you’re walking the halls of a conference expo and you meet a solution provider and you think they’re wonderful, that’s great. But what cues do you have in place to remember who they are three months later when you really need them? That’s what The Granite List allows you to do: find solutions at point of search, at point of inquiry.
What role does marketing play in the vendor evaluation process?
Marketing is incredibly important. Where we see an opportunity is in not just marketing for branding’s sake, but marketing for education’s sake. It’s important to those of us on The Granite List’s Customer Success Teams to use this platform as a way to market new services to the broker and employer community in a way that they understand what the value is: answering questions like “what’s in it for me?” or “why do I need this?”
It’s so much more than just branding and brand awareness; that’s why the keyword search is so important. When you type something into Google, if you don’t know what you’re specifically looking for, being able to think in terms of keywords is so helpful. That is part of the marketing behind The Granite List.
Now that the technology is in place to source remotely, but conferences are coming back in session, what do you think the future of vendor sourcing will look like?
There is a large contingent of the American population that is desperate for interaction, and I’m certainly one of them. I can’t wait to be back among people and seeing them face to face, hearing their stories, and learning about what they have to offer.
Although The Granite List was born out of necessity for what has happened this past year, we don’t see it replacing in-person vendor sourcing but see it as a compliment.
Conferences are great for brand recognition and seeing the logos, but if I don’t need your solution at the time I meet you, I’ve got to have a way to find you again when I do need you. That’s why The Granite List fits so hand-in-glove with conferences and events, because it allows employers and advisors at the point of interest, at the point of purchase, to once again find the solutions they need.