Skilled Nursing Facility

Focus on emails, digital newsletters for a successful online marketing program

Ask existing and former clients for their email addresses as a way to strengthen your digital marketing efforts and increase your referrals.

But that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Agencies need to provide consistent, valuable online content to really make the effort worthwhile, says Connie Parsons, COO with IlluminAge Communication Partners in Seattle.

AMR Care Group, based in New York, has used a digital marketing program to help grow the agency’s census 25% per year over the past few years. The agency typically has between 30 and 40 clients at a time.

“We’ve had some of our biggest cases come through the internet, so that’s telling in and of itself,” says Anne Markowitz Recht, CEO and founder of AMR Care Group.

AMR Care Group is not alone. Many agencies have recognized the growing importance of digital marketing, and even strong agencies “will face the threat of newcomers overshining their brand if they do not adopt modern marketing practices,” Parsons says.

Existing and former clients made up the top referral source for private duty home care agencies in 2016, according the most recent Private Duty Benchmarking Study by Home Care Pulse in Rexburg, Idaho.

Double your email lists in one year

A strong digital marketing program should include a solid website, a blog, email newsletters and social media. Email marketing is a key piece of this type of program and may be one of the most impactful elements.

“You can touch your network of customers and referral sources once a month with email marketing, making it the perfect complement to your local marketing and outreach efforts,” Parsons says.

Start the process by getting proactive with gathering emails. Home care agencies have contact with new people on a regular basis, but may not always request email addresses.

It’s possible to double email lists within a year by getting email addresses from every source available, Parsons says.

Agencies also should consider offering people something of value for their emails. Recht suggests providing a digital brochure or white paper in exchange for email addresses, especially those gathered online through the company website.

To grow that email list, agencies can even consider running raffles or contests that require an email address.

Consider email pace and content

Efforts to collect email addresses go to waste if the list isn’t used in a concentrated email marketing and branding effort, Parsons explains.

Once a month is a good pace for email marketing, and those emails are easily supported with blog posts. Agencies also should include in those monthly emails any local marketing events agency staff plan to attend and additional news about the agency.

In fact, email may be more effective than social media, because it lands in the inbox regularly and goes directly to people you know or those who have some connection or interest in what you do, Parsons says.

“It’s unlikely that a busy professional is spending his or her time on Facebook seeking out your agency,” Parsons says.

That doesn’t mean social media has no place in a strong online marketing program, however. When it comes to social media, local content tends to gain the most attention. Work on making local connections by sharing photos from events or pictures of staff with permission. Volunteer and fundraising occasions are ideal for this.

Do this for successful online marketing

Give your website a hard look.

  • If your agency’s website appears outdated or unprofessional, it can hurt the online marketing program overall.
  • Scout out your local competition online to help identify areas for improvement on your own website, Recht suggests. Focus on design and consider hiring someone to write or at least copy edit the website for grammatical errors, Parsons says.
  • Invest in making your agency’s website mobile friendly. Doing so will stop your agency from plummeting in Google’s search rankings on mobile devices, and it also will keep visitors on your website longer.
Get the most out of blog posts.
  • Include a blog on your website and update it regularly. It’s crucial to get away from directly promoting the company in those posts, and instead focus on information potential clients, former clients and fellow professionals would find helpful, Recht says.
  • AMR Care Group usually produces two to four blog posts a month, with topics ranging from weather safety tips to best practices when caring for someone with dementia. It’s important when posting to position your agency as an expert in the field — “and we’re the expert on aging and our content revolves around that,” Recht says.
  • Keep blog posts light, active and full of personality when appropriate, Recht says. Agencies should include a call to action in blogs, such as, “Let us know if we can help you,” Recht says.
Consider using a freelancer to write content.
  • Recht recommends online freelance site Upwork.com, headquartered in Mountain View, Calif. — formerly Elance.com — where agencies can search for people to write content for anywhere from $200 to $1,200 a month.
  • “I would say $500 a month would be a very good jumping point to get something done,” Recht says.
Upwork.com recommends creating a job post that outlines what you need done, when you need it and start and end dates for your project. The site also recommends including a “vague” request in the job post such as “please reference ‘clouds’ in your reply” in order to weed out less detail-oriented candidates.
The site also suggests eliminating proposals with any grammatical issues, looking at speed of response from the writer, conducting interviews and testing applicants’ work with an initial, paid assignment. — Kirsten Dize (kdize@decisionhealth.com)