One the big mistakes I see new assisted living home owners make is subscribing to the “if you build it, they will come” marketing, or non-marketing philosophy. If only it were that easy. It simply doesn’t work that way. You will have to execute a marketing plan for your assisted living home to be successful.
But what is marketing? There are literally dozens of definitions. People spend years studying and obtaining degrees in marketing. For assisted living home businesses, I use the following as my definition-
Marketing is the process of getting potential clients or customers interested in your home and services.
Let’s tackle “potential clients or customers” really quickly as this is an easy one for our industry. Who are they? Well, anyone who has an elderly friend, family member, or client who needs assisted living home services. Literally anyone can be a potential customer!
I remember I was once at the cable company store to discuss my services and rates for my assisted living home. The gentleman who was helping me told me about his father who had just recently fallen in his home. His father had laid on the floor for several hours before someone checking on him was able to get the help he needed. He needed to move to a supervised care environment. I described our home and assisted living services to him and gave him a business card. He was our new resident a few days later.
Make sure you are always prepared with marketing tools that provide needed information about your business to potential clients. Here are what I feel are the basic marketing elements that every assisted living business needs.
Ok this is not really a marketing tool compared to everything else I’m going to talk about, but I felt it merited discussion. The very first step in marketing is going to be identifying your business with a name. Your business name will immediately create an image about your business in your potential client’s mind. We want this image to be positive and spark interest in your home.
I sometimes see people select a name that has strong connections with a religion or ethnicity. I recommend choosing a name that has very broad appeal and doesn’t alienate any populations. Try creating a list of several potential names that capture one or more important elements of your business for your residents and their families. These might include your location, care philosophy, etc. Review this candidate name list with people you know and get some honest feedback on which names generate a positive reaction for your assisted living home.
Make sure your name is unique and does not overlap or allow you to be confused with any other existing assisted living business.
Logo and Branding
Next, you will want to create a graphic that will identify your business visually. This is called a logo. People are visual creatures and a logo allows potential customers to make a positive visual connection to your assisted living home. It’s important to do this first. You will incorporate your logo in all of your print and digital media marketing to establish a brand identity for your assisted living home business. A logo doesn’t have to be complex, as a matter of fact, I find that a simple logo is more appealing logo.
After you’ve finalized your logo, you can now move on to designing your business card. Your business card should represent your assisted living home and its brand, along with all methods of contact. Your location, phone numbers, email address, website, etc. Providing contact information is the business card’s most basic function.
Word of mouth advertising is your most effective advertising, and you should take advantage of this yourself by introducing people you contact to your assisted living home. The business card complements this and makes it much more effective. When you, your employees or peers are introducing your business, offering the business card provides your contact information as well as invoking professionalism and establishing legitimacy of your business.
Always carry your business cards and be aware of opportunities place your cards to increase awareness about your business. Examples are posting boards at coffee shops, church bulletin board, etc.
Printing service websites like Vistaprint will allow you to design your business card online, or you can also engage a designer to make a custom designed business card for you.
Brochures are one those things that people may think they need but maybe don’t understand why they need one. First let’s talk about what a brochure is.
A brochure communicates the key aspects of your business to potential clients. This includes contact information, beautiful pictures of your home, descriptions of available amenities, and your home’s resources and services. It should also include what sets your home apart from your competitors. In essence, why they should choose your home. Think of it as your “elevator pitch” on paper. And, like your business card, it strengthens your image of legitimacy and professionalism.
You may be thinking- “They were here and toured my home, why do I need to have brochures available?” Well, often there is more than one decision maker involved in placing someone in an assisted living. One family member may tour, but multiple people may be involved in the decision making process. A brochure gives you the opportunity to communicate with them as well.
You can also get an idea of how interested the client may be in your you facility. If they request a brochure, then it’s likely you are strongly being considered for their loved one. Brochures are also useful when networking. Many people will attach their business care to their brochure and hand them out together.
You may think that a website is not effective or necessary for an assisted living business, and you would be wrong. Let me explain.
It greatly increases conversions from initial inquiries to touring clients. Even when guided by a placement agent, clients are flooded with choices. You will have competition. One the most common ways that clients screen possible assisted living home options is by requesting to review the home’s website. This provides them with a couple of things, an opportunity to evaluate how professional and well-established your business is and to take a peek inside your group home via pictures. This will often be the deciding factor on whether a potential client visits and considers your home. No website, no further consideration.
You don’t need to establish internet dominance and outrank competitors in Google search. This is generally cost prohibitive. You simply need to be able to provide a web address where clients can review your home and be compelled to visit and tour.
Website hosting and design has become ridiculously inexpensive. You can now get hosting and simple website design for a few hundred dollars. Don’t let this expense stop you from getting clients in your facility.
Google My Business
Map applications have now replaced the yellow pages, and Google My Business is one of the most popular. People research businesses for their needs every day on their computers, tablets and mobile devices. Today, top search engines and map listings are usually fully integrated. If your business is not listed, your missing out on digital traffic from clients looking for your services.
These services are free, so you have no reason not to take advantage having your assisted living home listed. You can read about how to list your business on Google My Business here.
There are also quite a few people who search using Microsoft Bing as well as Apple device users who search via the default Apple map product. So check out these links and add your business listing there as well.
Placement Agency Relationships
Typically the need for an assisted living home is never planned. It’s usually brought on a catastrophic event such as a fall, stroke or other rapid decline in ability to care for oneself. Families are usually overwhelmed with the various aspects of these events and enlist the help of professionals to assist them with locating an assisted living home. Enter the placement agent.
Good placement agents serve a valuable role as a resource for clients and families in need. We depend on them to connect their clients with our services. But like any, sector of industry, there are good ones, and maybe not so good. You need to do your research and identify reputable placement services for your area and engage them. They won’t bring you residents if they don’t know about you!
Be careful not to engage every placement agent that calls, there are some scammers out there. Also, in this instance more is not better. You want to work with qualified, experienced placement services.
I recommend being selective. After performing your due diligence on various agencies establish and cultivate professional relationships with those that have a proven track record. You will need to check in with them periodically and remind them that you have a vacancy.
Putting it All Together – Networking
Now that you the basic tools in place, start building relationships and grow your network. Talk to people. Go to meetups. Engage some networking groups. Join Facebook groups. Find local assisted living home organizations. And bring lots of business cards!