Timing is Right for an EAP and Work-Life Consumer Play

Prior to founding Fisher Vista, LLC and HRmarketer, I spent seven years in the employee benefits space so I can't help but to follow the industry - especially the employee assistance (EAP) and work-life sector which is where I spent much of my time. Recently, I have been truly perplexed as to why no EAP or work-life company has launched a consumer product/service line. In fact, I'm shocked. The time is perfect given the aging of America, the growing need for "elder care" services and something else (we'll get to that in just a bit). Selling to both consumers (B2C) and employers (B2B) is more common in the employee benefit space than other HR verticals - lets face it, few consumers will ever need HRIS or Talent Management software. The best example of HR suppliers going direct to consumers is heath insurance companies, but there are many others (e.g., legal services) who have successful B2B and B2C sales channels.

Historically, the argument against EAP and work-life companies going direct to consumers was that it did not make financial sense and was not a scalable business. Both valid reasons if your delivering the services via the traditional call-center or face-to-face model. But not a valid reason if you're delivering the services via the Internet. So what's changed? After all, EAP and work-life companies have been using the Internet to deliver services since 1997.

What's different today is three things:

1. More households are connected to the Internet. More than 75% of U.S. households have access to the Internet. That's about 204 million people!

2. The masses have high-speed connectivity and are accustomed to using "Web 2.0" type features.

3. Google AdSense and similar technologies make it easy to achieve a sustainable revenue stream from a highly visited B2C web site that was not possible just a few years ago. In 2005, more money was spent on online advertising than on the top four television networks combined.

I'm willing to bet that most EAP and work-life companies can make more money from selling advertising on a public version of their EAP and work-life web sites than they make from charging a few cents per employee per year to access a password protected site - like they do today - with little or no impact on their B2B revenue streams.

There are a few more very compelling reasons why a consumer play makes so much sense at the moment but I'm not saying anything more. After all, if nobody else does it soon, I may jump back into the space and do it myself.