4 marketing strategies long-term care gets wrong (and how to fix them)

They say caregivers spend so much time caring for others that they neglect themselves. The same can be said about long-term care (LTC) providers.

Most of you are too focused on the health and well-being of your residents—not to mention managing your budget and your staff—to think much about your marketing.

But a marketing plan is necessary to ensure the health and well-being of your business. It will keep leads coming in and beds occupied so you can keep your focus on your residents.

Here’s the good news: It doesn’t have to be complicated, time-consuming or cost-prohibitive. Here are four common pitfalls to avoid so you get the most out of your LTC marketing.

1. Differentiate from the competition

You aren’t differentiating yourself from the competition, so you need to create a unique selling proposition (USP). Also called a value proposition, a USP tells people what sets you apart.

Response Rate vs. Return on Investment

Helping Hands of America, based in Raleigh, N.C., is a home-based senior care agency. For founder and owner Gavin Densmore, direct mail is the marketing channel of choice.

"Direct mail has always worked for us," he says. "I can be pretty pleased with that as a return on investment."

Direct mail allows senior care and long-term care (LTC) providers to deliver their message to as broad or as narrow a demographic as they’d like to reach that target market.

Mailing lists can be tailored by age, interest, zip code, income, gender, homeowner status or investable assets.

"We’re not selling to the population at large but specific segments of the population," he says. With direct mail, "if you’re getting a 3 percent response, you’re hitting the ball out of the park."

Even a lower response rate can be incredibly lucrative for LTC providers, as they only need a small number of new residents to generate a huge return on their marketing investment.

Helping Hands of America spent $1,400 to send 12,000 postcards to their database of 4,000 records, meaning they sent postcards to their mailing list three times. That generated two new clients, or a .017 percent response rate, which doesn’t sound very impressive.

But each client brings in an average revenue of $13,000, Densmore says. That means those two clients brought in $26,000 in revenue—a 1,757 percent return on investment.

With upwards of 60,000 long-term care providers in the United States, why should prospects choose you?

Do you have enormous guest rooms? Do you have personal trainers or nutritionists on staff? Do you serve only organic food or offer vegan meals?

Your USP can be one sentence that tells prospects why you are the best choice. Here are some examples of what other companies could write about their brand:

  • Domino’s Pizza: The only pizza company that guarantees delivery within 30 minutes.
  • TOMS Shoes: The only shoe company that donates a pair of shoes to a needy child for every pair purchased.

If you’re having trouble coming up with a USP for your facility, ask your residents and their families why they chose you. An informal survey will teach you wonders about your business. You’ll also need to do some research on your competition.

Once you have established your USP, include it on all of your marketing materials—website, direct mail and TV ads.

2. Commit to a strategy

You aren’t marketing consistently, so it’s time to establish a marketing strategy and commit to it. As a business owner, do you want to expand and care for new residents, or do you want your business to stay just as it is now?

If you want to grow your facility and business, how are you going to do it? Most successful business owners grow by establishing goals and creating a plan to achieve it. Enter your strategic marketing plan.

A strategic marketing plan is a series of marketing actions you intend to take over a set period of time to accomplish your business goals.

For example, you could have a goal to maintain at least 90 percent occupancy for the next 12 months.

The plan:

  • Get some promotion out every month to ensure you have a steady flow of leads coming in by sending out postcards weekly, running targeted Facebook ads and setting a weekly budget for Google search ads (pay per click).
  • Collect contact information from every lead.
  • Add all leads to a database to be followed up with regularly. Publish a monthly email newsletter for prospects, residents and their families.
  • Send out weekly email blasts with helpful information or special offers to your database of prospects.

And stick with it. A single commercial, postcard or other marketing blast might get you one spike in leads, but it’s not going to help the long-term health of your business. If you consistently promote your marketing message every month, you’re more likely to get consistent leads, too.

Track your leads diligently—this can be as simple having your receptionist ask callers how they heard about you. After a year, evaluate what marketing efforts have been most successful, so you know which ones to strengthen and which to scale back or eliminate.

3. Target your market

LTC providers tend to lump all of their prospects into the same category: seniors. This is problematic because your marketing often speaks to one or more audiences. The message you should be using to appeal to the children of prospective residents is different from the message you should be sending to prospective residents themselves. Try targeting specific audiences instead.

If you’re targeting the children of aging parents, keep in mind that baby boomers (ages 51-70) have very different concerns from previous generations. They are more interested in exercise and nutrition, for example, and they are not afraid of technology. Every month, 45- to 64-year-olds spend an average of 29 hours on the Internet, making them the second heaviest Web users, according to Nielsen.

So what does that mean for your marketing? It means you need separate campaigns for potential residents and their children using the appropriate media platform. You might buy newspaper ads for potential residents and pay per click or social media ads for their children.

4. Follow up

Many LTC providers don’t have a follow-up system in place. Be the one facility that does. You’ll impress prospects and win more and more of them over.

Repetition and follow up are the keys to marketing success. That’s especially true for LTC providers because your buying cycle is so long, meaning prospective residents explore several options before selecting a care provider.

Even if you make a great first impression on a prospect, unless you follow up with them, you risk losing them to a competitor.

Make sure you get the contact information of every lead and add it to your database—and contact them with repeated mailings, emails, phone calls, Google follow-up ads or all of the above.

For every new contact, set up an email funnel, a series of emails written in advance and scheduled to be sent once prospective residents give you their contact information. That will make follow-up automatic. Space out the emails over the course of a few weeks. With each note, provide more information about the facility, such as what you offer and upcoming events. Then ask if you can contact them to discuss their long-term care needs.

You might think more marketing means more cost, but it means a better return on investment (ROI).

More than 8 million people currently receive long-term care in the United States. There will be 12 million by 2020. Follow these tips to make sure your long-term care business gets a share of the growing market.

Joy Gendusa is the founder and CEO of PostcardMania, a direct mail postcard marketing company that specializes in lead generation for small to large-sized businesses. She can be reached at joy.gendusa@postcardmania.com.

Topics: Articles , Executive Leadership