A lot of college professors say that one of the toughest subjects to teach is marketing. Why? It changes too rapidly. By the time a textbook is published, the tactics it teaches are often out of date.
My degree is in marketing, but I learned quickly that to be a good marketer, you need a lot more than a one-time learning experience; you need to constantly be learning and adapting as the landscape changes.
This is as true for home care marketing as anything. At Home Care Pulse, we talk to dozens or hundreds of providers on a daily basis, and we’re realizing that many home care professionals aren’t fully aware—or haven’t fully realized the gravity of—several massive shifts in the landscape of home care marketing.
Consumers trust each other more than businesses
First, consumers are less convinced than ever by what a business’ advertising says about itself. According to a major study, 70% of consumers say they trust the word of other consumers more than they trust brands.
And thanks to the prevalence of social media and online reviews, it takes a matter of seconds for someone looking for home care services to check what other consumers like themselves have said about the business. They don’t need to take your word for it that you provide great care. They can ask your clients.
The idea of word of mouth obviously isn’t new, but it’s taken on a whole new life as social media networks and online review platforms have matured in the last few years. According to BrightLocal, 86% of consumers now look at online reviews before they use a local business.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, said it best: “It used to be that if a customer liked—or didn’t like—your business, they might tell six friends about it. Now, with the Internet, they might tell 6,000.”
The bottom line? There’s a greater need than before to choose tactics that let your clients do the talking for you. These include client referral campaigns, online reviews, testimonials, and anything else that figuratively hands the microphone to your clients for them to tell everyone how great your agency is.
Most agencies are using these tactics, but they’re not taking full advantage of them. If you’re not getting consistent online reviews and monitoring/responding to them daily, for instance, you’re most likely leaving money on the table.
Double Down on Client Experience
Giving your clients the microphone can be daunting. What if they don’t say good things? You probably have a lot of loyal clients, but everyone is familiar with the impossible-to-please client or the client who lets one small bad experience sour their opinion of your agency.
These concerns are real—and the answer is to double down on client experience. As Steve Schildwachter, head of marketing at BrightStar Care, has said: “Customer experience and marketing are the same thing now.”
What are you doing to ensure that the experience and care you provide to your clients is above and beyond? Ultimately, your goal should be that any of your clients at any given time could be made the unofficial spokesperson for your agency and you could trust that what they say would make people want to use your agency over others.
It’s a lot easier said than done—but what you need to realize is that your clients are already talking to people about your business whether you’re part of the conversation or not. In effect, every client already is an unofficial spokesperson for your business. It’s up to you to decide whether you’re going to do everything in your power to amplify the voices of the clients who love your business, and to understand and help the clients who don’t speak as favorably about it.
Referral partners want hard data
There’s a similar trend happening with professional referral partners; however, their focus appears to be less on what consumers are saying (though it’s still important) and more about what quantifiable data you have to back up your claims that you provide great care.
This is no surprise; most referral partners, especially those in healthcare, are already used to systems that use scores, stars, or similar rating systems to prove quality. They’re looking for that same assurance with their private-duty partners—they want quantifiable evidence of quality, client satisfaction, and health outcomes.
This effect has taken on new life in the last year with the advent of Medicare Advantage for home care and value-based purchasing. Private-duty home care agencies have an opportunity to take their place in the care continuum, but to pursue this growth opportunity they’ll need to be able to produce quantifiable results similar to what other healthcare providers deliver.
Here’s what Guy Tommasi, a successful home care owner, board member of the Connecticut Home Care Association, and all-round forward thinker, recently told me:
“Hospitals and other partners look for consistency. We in the home care industry have done a lousy job in presenting ourselves to the [rest of the care continuum]. As home care evolves into value-based vs. fee-for-service, we need to be able to show them our value. You can’t just say ‘We’re a great agency that gives high-quality care.’ That doesn’t work anymore. . .
I think one of the issues that plague the private duty industry is the lack of data collected by agencies. When I spoke at last year’s Decision Health conference on the importance of this, it boggled my mind of how many agencies didn’t understand why readmission rates, client and caregiver satisfaction results, etc. are so critical.
[Agencies underestimate] the importance of collecting this data in order to justify being invited to the table – especially the Medicare Advantage table! They will be assembling their provider networks from agencies who can show they have measurable data outcomes.
The days of “personal friendships” accounting for referrals are going away. Compare it to the home health industry in how they strive for 5 Star Ratings – using readmission data and patient satisfaction scores.
If private duty agencies want to compete in the new health and home care world, they will need to collect data or be left out.”
It’s time to adapt
What worked yesterday may not work today. . . and it certainly won’t work tomorrow. While there will likely always be a place for traditional marketing methods, the typical agency needs to allocate far more resources to:
- Gathering and monitoring online reviews
- Facilitating word of mouth from their clients
- Understanding and pinpointing the areas where they can provide better experiences for clients
- Gathering data points (particularly reduced hospital readmission rates and consistent client satisfaction) that can be used to quantify their quality
The good news is that there’s immense room for growth. This year’s Benchmarking Study showed that the average agency grew revenue by 14%–more growth than the industry has seen in years. For agencies that are willing to learn, adapt, and improve, there’s a bright future. The time to adapt is now.
About the author: Connor Kunz is a project manager at Home Care Pulse, the nation’s leading data and satisfaction research firm for home care. Prior to working at Home Care Pulse, Connor managed multiple businesses in the service industry and helped them achieve seven-figure growth within three years. He also worked as a marketing manager and a training director. On any given Saturday, you can find him skiing, hiking, or rock climbing with his wife, Claire.