Where would you go for money and for marketing assistance?
TEAM America gets both from its bank.
In January 1998, TEAM America Corp. arranged a deal with National City Bank whereby some of the banks employees refer small business clients to TEAM America.
At National City, we look at ourselves as relationship managers for our clients. We try to match them with services that will assist them in growing their businesses, says Anne Jennings, vice president of the banks business services group.
For example, Jennings had two clients, a husband and wife running a local business, whose time spent on employment issues could have been used in sales and operations. Jennings recommended they use the professional employer organization services of TEAM America to handle personnel matters, and the two have repeatedly thanked her for the suggestion.
Theyve commented to me that through the benefits TEAM America offered, theyve been able to enhance benefits offered to their employees at a reduced price to what they were paying themselves, she says. They felt the money they were paying TEAM America to process payroll and other things was literally paying for itself.
While National City gets kudos from its clients, TEAM America gets an additional marketing outlet key at a time when the industry is just starting to make its mark, says Shankar Ramachandran, TEAM Americas assistant vice president of sales and marketing for the Midwest region.
What we find is the PEO industry, especially in the Ohio market, has fairly low penetration, Ramachandran says, adding that hes seen figures showing 3 percent or less of those businesses employing fewer than 75 use professional employer organizations. So theres a huge potential market out there. A lot of the reason the industry penetration is so small is there isnt that much awareness of these services as you would expect. People often dont understand what PEOs do and think of them as temporary agencies.
Through National City, however, TEAM America gets a referral from someone the potential client already trusts and a more promising prospect than a simple cold call can yield.
The thing that works best is if the relationship between the referring person and the client is a good relationship, Ramachandran says, so that when we call to set an appointment, the client is very interested in what we have to say.
Ramachandran and Jennings, citing competition and proprietary reasons, declined to say how many referrals have resulted from the partnership, which is still in a test phase. Ramachandran, however, points out that of those referrals that have become clients, all so far have stayed with TEAM America, and Jennings says National City has heard positive comments from its clients.
To make the partnership more successful, National City invited TEAM America to make a presentation at a breakfast of bank clients. In addition, National City employees have attended training sessions to better understand TEAM Americas services.
About 12 people are actively involved in the referral partnership; 10 others are learning about it.
The idea is not that theyre going to become experts on TEAM America services and go sell the product to their client, Ramachandran says. Its just so they can see how this might benefit their client and who would be a good candidate and who would not so they could effectively refer.