Home care is a growing market both in terms of the number of people requesting service and the number of home health agencies popping up in every market in the country. What this will inevitably create is a certain amount of saturation whereby finding new patients will grow increasingly more difficult. Throw in the rapidly growing industry disruptors seeking to turn the industry on its head with new technology, and it becomes apparent that the need to effectively brand and market oneself has never been more paramount.
The following are a few branding and marketing best practices for home health agencies to help increase the number of leads they receive each month as part of their marketing efforts.
Define Your Brand:
As competition rises, home health agencies will need to define their brand in a way that will stand out from the fold. There are three main features of an effective brand: messaging, consistency, and memorability.
Messaging: the first thing most patients will see is your logo, your name, and your mission statement, if you have one (you should). The most effective brands often have names and logos that have little to do with their business. What makes them effective are the short mission statements that accompany them. For example, the name Viking is not exactly descriptive, but with the mission statement enterprise, adventure, and exploration in publishing, one soon realizes that the company is a book publisher. Their brand is extremely effective because it is both original, memorable, and it communicates its purpose effectively through its mission statement.
The second component to effective messaging is narrative. Human beings love stories, and the most effective brands are those with the most interesting narratives behind them. When you think of Apple, for example, you think of Steve Jobs and his rocky climb to fame and fortune. If you don’t have a long operating history, fret not. You can build a good narrative around the questions, “Who are you?” and “Why are you the best person to be doing what you’re doing?”
Consistency: nothing will kill a brand faster than inconsistency. Many small businesses struggle to find consistency due to a variety of reasons. It’s one of the major reasons why eight in ten businesses close within the first five years. As a business owner, you need to do what it takes to maintain brand consistency.
Memorability: there are myriads of companies out there with interesting back stories and effective brands. It’s a tough time to be a home care business because competition is fierce. Therefore, you need to find a way to make your brand stick in people’s minds. One of the most effective ways to help people remember your brand is through mnemonics.
Mnemonics have been used by marketers for decades to help people remember their brands. Brands most commonly use rhymes or songs (oh, I drink Dr. Pepper don’t you know!) to help consumers remember them. There are, of course, other ways to deploy mnemonics for your business. Among the most effective are custom phone numbers, and custom url’s.
Know your Audience:
Without knowing exactly what your intended patients are looking for, it will be nearly impossible to target them effectively. As a business owner, you need to understand the people you are wanting to attract or who will benefit from your services.
It’s a good idea to do some in-depth thinking about who is likely to solicit your services. The use of detailed buyer personas is a common marketing technique whereby companies put together a detailed fact sheet about their ideal customers.
A great way to get started with identifying your ideal patients is to speak with your current ones. Ask questions such as, what attracted them to your business in the first place? What are their pain points? How did they find out about you? After speaking to many of them you will begin to see patterns in how and why patients have chosen your services.
With your ideal patients identified, you may then begin to seek out strategies to target and attract them to your business.
Develop a Content Marketing Strategy:
Today is the age of Content Marketing. It is a powerful tool in the modern marketplace. It can help home health agencies gain recognition in their communities, help define a business owner as an industry expert, and garner attention from new patients previously unattainable through traditional marketing means. To stay competitive in today’s market, you need to devote resources to content.
Develop a genuine platform.
Who are you? Why are you the right person to have started this business? What is your experience? These are but a few questions which must be answered to develop an effective marketing platform as a small business. Small businesses often rely on the reputation and personae of the owner, and as such the owner must be a pivotal part of how that business markets itself. Developing a genuine platform—one which convinces patients of the business’ value—is a matter of creating and communicating a foundational narrative.
A necessary part of creating a genuine platform is to speak to your expertise and demonstrate that you are an expert in what you do. Speak to your strengths, and make sure your content relates to your business. Painting yourself (as a business or business owner) as an expert encourages readers to trust in your business. Be sure to heavily reference your experience and qualifications to add weight to your content.
Stay on message.
If you write historical fiction books about Vikings, as an example, your content should be focused on Viking history. If you recently launched a store selling Peruvian art, your content should revolve around Peruvian culture and art—of course. Sticking to your topic and establishing a consistent subject or theme will generate more readership for your content, and by extension better visibility online for your business. Be warned, however, that straying from your subject will alienate current readers, and will show that you lack consistency. Never write about a topic that is completely separate from what you do.
Share, share, share.
The number one best thing you can do to bolster your online presence is to share content. Whether you share links in your blog or share articles on social media, search engines are gluttons for sharing. Sharing also creates relationships with others in your field. As a home care business, don’t be shy about linking to and sharing content from others in the industry, and reaching out to form online partnerships.
Develop Content for Each Stage of Customer Intent:
Customer intent is defined as the stage in which a potential customer finds themselves in the decision making process for a certain product or service. There are four broadly defined stages of customer intent: awareness, research, decision, and purchase. Each intent leads to the next until the customer makes the final decision to purchase, or not.
With these in mind, it’s important to create online content for each stage of the decision making process. The reason for this is to funnel potential patients through content that addresses their specific needs and concerns at each stage until they decide on your services. To best illustrate how this works, we will walk you through what each stage looks like and give you content recommendations that address that stage.
Awareness: the consumer is both conscious of a need and conscious of a desire to address that need with a product.
At this stage, you will want to create content that loosely defines what they are looking for, such as “What is home health care?” or “Who pays for home health care?”. These topics should be included as cornerstone content, meaning they should be included as a resources page or an about page on your website. This is also a great stage to create more heartfelt content such as an anecdotal story about an inspirational client of yours, or the story of one of your clients’ great life accomplishments. These types of stories speak to people on a broad, emotional level, but they also tie back in to what your are trying to promote.
Research: the consumer engages in an information seeking process to address a need, including determining the correct product confined by context factors, such as affordability of the product, do they really need it, etc.
This is the stage where you will want to put your best foot forward. Patients at this stage are ready to begin evaluating a product or service and compare it to others. Case studies and white papers are a phenomenal way to communicate what you do, how well you do it, and at what cost. These types of content are tremendous resources that will help patients funnel further toward choosing your services.
Decision: the consumer defines a purchase set (i.e. limited options of possible products, services, or brands) and enters the decision making process among this purchase set.
At this stage, the information has been gathered and the customer is ready to make a choice. Content to cater to this stage must revolve around what makes YOU different. What sets you apart from the others? Are you cheaper? Better service? What is it about your company that sets you apart? Designing and curating content around these questions will help to encourage patients to lean in your direction. This type of content can be made explicit on a page on your website, and reiterated through multiple topics through a blog or newsletter.
Purchase: the consumer has made a decision to purchase (or not), with possible comparisons of price, convenience of purchase, etc.
Note the “convenience of purchase” part of the definition. It is no accident that it is there. The truth is, the harder it is for someone to sign up for a product or service, the less likely it is that they will choose that product or service. As a home health care agency, you undoubtedly have a fairly lengthy application process, which is why you need to create content that explains what the sign up process looks like, how long it will take, and what kind of support will be available to help things along. To fulfill this need, it’s a good idea to have a FAQ page on your website, as well as a page or article about your on-boarding process, and perhaps a piece on how that compares to others in your market.
Keep an Open Dialogue
Social media has fundamentally changed how consumers interact with home health agencies. They expect intimate access to you wherever, whenever, and you need to be able to keep them happy. If you’re new to marketing on the internet, you have undoubtedly scoured the web for content about how to best reach potential patients through social media. Yet most home health agencies treat social media marketing the same way they approach traditional marketing: coldly and calculatedly. Here’s what you need to do to make the most out of social media:
Any online marketer worth his salt will tell you that engagement is key to converting clients. But if your page has no engagement, what are you to do? Just like in real life, to receive engagement, you must give it. To increase your reach, you must first engage with others online, share their content, build a rapport, and hopefully they will reciprocate. Don’t go after the big dogs in town (those with massive followings). They don’t know you, and they don’t have time to know you. Do engage with others in your immediate field or sector, or other local businesses going after a similar client base.
Social media is…social. It requires companies to actually be approachable. Patients no longer want to interact with a brick-and-mortar corporation the way their parents did. Simply seeing a recognized brand is no longer good enough. Patients want to interact with vendors. To keep their attention, and to maximize the likelihood of converting them, respond to their questions, engage in their conversations, and most importantly, be personable.
Inevitably, someone will want to pick a fight with you. It’s a bit like how some kids like to pick fights with teachers. They want to draw you out into a public dispute, and no matter how well you defend yourself or refute their claim, they will win. Allowing yourself to engage in a fight online will only end in your public shaming, and it can hurt your following. Don’t sink to the level of the internet trolls. If someone tries to pick a fight, ignore them. If they continue to pry, block them. But never accept the challenge.