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Valerie V: Hey guys, this is Valerie Vanbooven. I am back from my lovely bout with the flu, and I’m here to talk to you today about some of the questions that you guys have been asking.
In our Elder Care Entrepreneurs group on Facebook, which you are more than welcome to join, I put a question out yesterday and I said, “Ask me anything. Ask me anything you want to know about elder care, senior care, home care, marketing, and I’ll go through the questions and answer some of them.” What I decided to do is take a few of those today and answer those questions.
Now, most of the ones that we received are about direct referral marketing. As you all probably know, our forte and our expertise is in online marketing, which of course I could talk about all day, but I’ve learned a few things from our friends, like Melanie Stover and a few others out there who are in the direct referral marketing consulting business for home care.
A lot of the questions that you all are asking stem from building relationships with referral sources and how to best reach out to referral sources. Should I just stop by? Should I send them a card? Should I send them an email? What should I be doing to build those relationships? I’m going to give you my takeaway from all of the things I’ve learned, and then we’ll also ask some of our experts to answer this kind of generalized question for you.
Let’s talk about just referral relationships in general, whether it’s assisted living or physicians or elder law attorneys. The first thing you need to do is of course make sure you schedule who you’re going to go see. Getting organized is one of the most important things you could do when you start out on this adventure. If you have a marketing person, they need to be organized and held accountable for all the people they see, and if they’re a good marketer of home care of they have experience, they already know this. Make a list of all of the different facilities, physicians, elder law attorneys, your top 10 list that you want to hit, and then anybody else on that list, too, because there’s only so many hours in the day, right? Make your top 10 list.
Developing relationships with these folks is just like you’d develop a relationship with anybody. You have to make sure that you provide great information, first of all, about who you are and make it quick. Don’t waste a bunch of their time. You can send an email in advance. You don’t need to schedule an appointment to go see them necessarily. I know some do, some don’t.
If you listen to Steve Weiss and you follow him, you know that if you’re at a meeting, let’s say you’re at a social workers meeting or, I don’t know, here they used to call it the Breakthrough Coalition or it’s a meeting of all the senior care people in town. If you’re at a meeting or you’re chamber for a meeting and you meet someone else from an assisted living facility or a non-competing senior care provider that you want to have a referral relationship with, you need to book a meeting from a meeting, and that’s exactly what Steve Weiss would tell you. Book a meeting from a meeting. While you’re there, you’re shaking their hands, you’re giving them your business card. You’re going to say, “Hey, when I can come by and see you? Does Tuesday work better for you or Thursday?”
If you’re not in that working meetings, then stopping by and leaving your information is fine. I know that some of the clients that we have have a different flier or information packet every month. It’s not a huge amount of printing that you need to do. February’s coming up. February’s National Heart Month. It’s Valentine’s Day, things like that. For National Heart Month, they put together sort of a packet or a flier of information about how their home care agency can help with heart issues, stroke, whatever it is, and some things to remember about National Heart Month, or fun facts, or whatever it is.
Most of all, you want to make sure that that referral source knows you can handle people who have CHF or who are post-MI. You want to have it all be applicable to what you can do for their clients, or how you can help them. For physicians and for hospitals and skilled facilities, you want to make sure that you’re talking about decreasing hospital readmissions. The big deal is you want to make sure that if someone is in your care and they’re at home, that they’re not readmitting for the same diagnosis within 30 days of discharge from the hospital.
That means as a home care agency, you need to make sure … Let’s clarify. Whether you are medical or non-medical, this is important. You need to keep track of it in your own agency. If you’re medical, you have to keep track of it anyway. If you are keeping track of your readmission rates and you’re helping physicians and you’re helping rehabs and you’re helping hospitals decrease those readmission rates, you want to make sure you talk about that. If you don’t know what decreasing readmission rates are, it’s definitely a little piece of information that can go a long way in your marketing. You should definitely address it.
Once a month, have a different flier that you’re going to hand out and make sure that you hit all of your potential referral sources with that new piece of information. That gives you a good reason to go by and say hello. Sending emails is fine, but going by, making sure they see your face, they acknowledge that you’ve been there, if you have to set an appointment up with them, go ahead and do it if you just know that’s how they prefer to see you. Don’t be too buggy, but make sure you have a new piece of information all the time that you can go hand out.
Let’s see. What was the other thing that I thought was really great? Don’t be afraid to get crazy. Don’t be afraid to be funny. Lots of people will dress up for these different occasions and they’ll go by. Halloween’s a big one, so if you can be fun and make a big impact on them as far as who you are and how much fun you are, that’s great.
The last thing I want to say about direct referral marketing is this. If you really want that person’s business, and I can say this. Having been a discharge planner in a former life, I can say this. Friday at 5:00 when I’m trying to discharge someone and none of the home care agencies are returning my call, the one that does return my call and the one that does take the case and the one that is successful over the weekend, that is the person I’m going to call next time and the next time and the next time, because they saved my butt, and I got to go home and have dinner with my family.
Keep in mind that the evening stuff, the emergency stuff, the weekend stuff, if you can spend some time absorbing those difficult cases or those at least difficult with regard to timing, if you can do that, then those social workers and those discharge planners are much more likely to look to you the next time around.
Finally, working with VA aid and attendance pension benefit. There are many ways that you can do this, and there are services you can use. There’s the do-it-yourself version. I’m not going to get into that today because it’s a long conversation and we probably need to have an expert on with us, but it is a viable means of having more flow come in. I will tell you that home care is a tough business as far as margins go. You’re already in a low margin business, so taking Medicaid and taking VA aid and attendance pension benefit clients is kind of about the same. You’re going to be in a very low margin business.
It’s great when you’re first starting out if you need that kind of cash flow, but again, if you’re looking for high-end clients and you’re looking to make more money or have a better margin, Medicaid and VA aid and attendance pension benefit probably aren’t going to give you those kinds of clients. Just having said that, just wanted you to know that, but it’s absolutely a viable way to grow your business.
Let’s see. Last thing is February 1st, we have our quarter one power hour. We’re going to do that, I don’t know if we’re going to do it live or via webinar. I haven’t decided yet, but please look at the Elder Care Entrepreneurs group. Get signed up. Of course, I’ll send out emails about it, and also please go to our website at LTCSocialMark.com. Scroll to the bottom and sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss any of our videos and you don’t miss any of our quarterly power hours. I invite you to come live, participate, and have a lot of fun with that. Thanks everybody. I’m slowly rising from the ashes of the flu. Anyway, have a really great weekend. Thanks. Bye.
Valerie’s motto and favorite saying is: “Impact is not created by big budgets, impact is created by innovative marketing ideas!”
Valerie is a Registered Nurse and the author of three books, Aging Answers (2003), The Senior Solution (2007) and Priceless Caregiving (2009). Her adventure in internet marketing began as a self-promotion experiment and ended up becoming a full time marketing consulting business for the elder care market.
Valerie has appeared on national television (Today Show), has hosted her own local radio show, and has been interviewed for dozens of publications and radio shows across the country regarding her business and the business of elder care.
She fast became the foremost authority in driving sales via the internet, seminars, and e-mail for senior service providers and elder care entrepreneurs.While Valerie’s best known for her expertise in marketing, her students share that her biggest impact comes from her ability to make things happen quickly, even on a small budget.
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