DIY Marketing Part 3: Strategic marketing plans for growth

Editor’s note: For the prior segments of this blog, please see:
DIY Marketing Part 1: Assess thyself
DIY Marketing Part 2: The 4 elements of the Marketing Improvement Plan

When I talk with organizations and individuals in long-term care about marketing plans, the reactions range from blank stares, to eye-rolling, to comments that strategic marketing plans are a waste of time. I have had similar feelings throughout my career, because in many organizations marketing plans are busy work designed to demonstrate to someone (usually above us in the pecking order) that “we’re doing something” about our census challenges. But strategic marketing plans (SMP) can have tremendous value to a facility or community if created and executed in the right way.

If you’ve followed the previous parts of this series on DIY marketing, you’ve already completed your analysis of your situation. Be sure to have the analysis, metrics and other information available during your SMP brain-storming session. I like to involve key department heads with SMP brain-storming sessions because their input can lead to crucial buy-in from the facility’s leadership team.

The 4 Elements of a Successful SMP

Every successful SMP should have these elements: Goal(s), Objectives, Strategies and Tactics.

1. Goal(s): Usually a facility or community has one primary goal—its budgeted census. In some cases a skilled nursing facility might have budgeted overall census and budgeted skilled census as their goals. Census defines top-line success for an organization and it is very difficult for a facility to achieve budgeted profitability without achieving budgeted census. Your goal should be a specific round number such as 120 overall average daily census or 40 skilled average daily census. Don’t use percentages, since they are too hard to convert to your objectives. (More on this is a moment.)

2. Objectives: These are specific and measurable milestones that indicate progress toward the goal. For example, referrals serve as an objective that helps a facility reach budgeted census. But that’s not the entire story when it comes to objectives. Typically for any facility we are looking to the community’s marketing metrics we described earlier in this series: admissions, discharges, conversion ratio and referrals. As a real-life example, here are a client’s actual metrics and marketing plan goals:

Skilled average daily census:

   Actual: 29.5

   Goal/budgeted census: 25

   Difference: -5.5


Details                                Actual      Objective

Admissions per month:        11.5          17

Discharges per month:        11.0          11

Length of Stay:                        30            30

Conversion Rate:                  .34           .34

Referrals per month:             34            50


How to calculate the objectives:

Admissions per month is determined by taking the difference between budgeted and actual census and adding that to the current average admissions per month. Discharges is an average per month, and the client doesn’t expect that to change too much. Length of stay is healthy at 30. The conversion ratio is low and while we have strategies and tactics designed to improve it for this client we’re not going to set a higher objective because these will take time to achieve. To determine the referrals per month, divide the admissions number by the conversion ratio: 17/.34 = 50.

Improving conversion ratios will change this equation. If we increased conversion ratio to 45 percent (.45) then the number of referrals we would need to achieve 17 admissions would be 38; 17/.45 = 37.8. In this client’s case, we are evaluating the denials by the nursing department and the reasons why the client is losing referrals to competitors to identify ways to increase conversion ratio.

On a side note, if this client was at budgeted census without the opportunity for significant growth, then our SMP would reflect strategies and tactics designed to maintain their current average metrics because admissions are keeping pace with discharges which maintains their census.

3. Strategies: Strategies are broad statements in your marketing plan which described how your facility is going to achieve its objectives.

4. Tactics: Tactics are the individual action items completed by your team members which realize the strategies you have identified for your facility. Successful tactics have three elements: the action item (i.e., cold-call hospitalists to schedule a meeting), the person responsible for completion of the action item, and the time frame for completion.

Successful Marketing Strategies and Tactics 

Increase referrals from existing referral sources. Identify your professional referral sources and opportunities to further develop your relationship through the following tactics:

  • CEO tactic: Meet with CEO to identify opportunities to develop a strategic relationship with their organization
  • Education tactic: In-service referral source on your services and provide regular updates of information including managed care contracts and changes in your program or service
  • Contact tactic: Follow up on referrals in person
  • Update tactic: Update referral sources on patients/clients referred to you.
  • MD tactic: Target hospitalists and other specialists in hospital systems to educate them about your services or develop strategic relationships
  • Join the Chamber of Commerce

Develop and execute special events to draw potential consumers (caregivers and residents/patients) into the community.

  • HostcChamber after-hours events or chamber breakfast meetings
  • Breakfast or dinner on the go: Invite professionals, local businesses and others to stop in, take a tour and get a small meal
  • Community events: Fun events which combine food and entertainment where you invite the public to participate with residents and their families in the culture of your facility.
  • Educational events: Invite prospective residents and caregivers to learn more about challenges they have. One of my clients hosted an event by an orthopedic surgeon who spoke on the latest surgical techniques for hip replacements.      
  • Health screenings: Provide blood pressure, blood sugar and other health screenings either at your facility or at senior centers and other places where seniors live or congregate.
  • VA benefits: Assisted living communities should host educational events for veterans who need assistance so they can learn about aide and attendant programs.

Develop and execute advertising and public relations campaign to build awareness of our product with potential consumers.

  • Support Special Events: Use advertising to support the events listed above.
  • Need-Based Advertising: Use advertising to education prospective residents and their caregivers that you have services which will meet their needs.

Develop new programs and services to attract new types of patients/residents, such as:

  • Advanced Respiratory Program
  • Vent Program
  • Cardiac Programs
  • Wound Care Programs
  • Transitional Behavioral Programs

Our consultancy typically suggests plans that are executed over a quarter and revised at the beginning of the next quarter. Once you have completed your marketing plan we encourage you to meet with your team weekly and monthly to review their progress towards executing the plan, review metrics and results and make adjustments to your plan. At the beginning of the next quarter get your entire team together to create a plan for the next quarter.

Next: DIY marketing Part 4: MIP/SMP execution

Topics: Executive Leadership , Facility management , Finance , Leadership