How can providers increase their revenue via the internet? The most successful, who are using an inbound marketing strategy, are experiencing nearly 35 percent of their new move-ins coming from the web, according to the Senior Housing Forum, published in November 2014. That’s impressive and encouraging.
With that in mind, leaders might ask these questions:
1. How will providers grow their business using the internet and social media marketing within their budgets, using their existing staff?
2. How might providers capture their own leads rather than buying them from national or regional referral companies?
3. What is different for providers in closing internet leads?
These three questions aside, providers that are tenacious and embrace the internet as a source of new business and income can turn their websites into lead-generating workhorses. This article contains information about how to simplify the complicated and create a road map to drive customers to provider websites and capture them as new business.
The Inbound Marketing Strategy
As it relates to providers, inbound marketing is about promoting their communities through blogs, videos, eBooks, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and social media. Inbound marketing refers to marketing efforts that bring visitors in, rather than traditional outbound marketing. Inbound marketing draws customers to provider websites because it has value for them; skilled nursing, rehabilitation, and assisted living centers can help them.
It all happens, of course, when provider sites are sensitive to SEO words or phrases that customers enter to find them. The most important part of inbound marketing is “call to action” (CTA) banners, buttons, or graphics that provoke an immediate response—click to schedule a tour, watch this video, or receive a free guide. Clever CTA prompts give customers something free in return for information—name, email, phone number. Once providers receive that information, an immediate reply is required.
Customer Relations Plays Major Role
Nowadays, immediate response to an email captured on the internet can be followed up on automatically with preprogrammed customer relations management (CRM) programs. These programs capture the lead from the provider website, add it to the database, send an immediate message to the customer, and offer help if needed.
The CRM program continues to communicate with that lead by sending periodic preprogrammed messages, inviting the prospect to lunch and a free tour or inviting them to a social event. The program keeps the conversation current, even when the sales associate is busy with other families. When the sales associate is working the lead, he or she can document conversations about the customer’s needs in the CRM program. Then, whoever works that lead has real-time data for seamless customer support.
Shift From Selling To Helping
It is imperative that providers shift their thinking from “What can I sell you?” to “How can I help you?” Providers that do this will be more successful and by providing prospective customers something of value, they can require something of value back. This shift in thinking will move the company’s website from outbound marketing to inbound marketing.
For example, when running a blog on how to prevent falls, many customers caring for a loved one at home will find that blog useful, versus a story and statistical information about the company’s successful falls prevention program. Helpful information creates bonds with the customer.
Generally, it takes about six months for a family to choose a provider. That creates a six-month sales cycle for a provider to establish trust and close the sale. With inbound marketing, a company can create that bond because it doesn’t have to rely on the customer making contact; providers can contact prospects because they have contact information.
Don’t Miss Important SEO Words
The No. 1 SEO word customers use to find providers is “nursing home(s),” and yet that is a word providers have
all removed from their vocabularies and certainly their websites. Most nursing homes call themselves post-acute or health and rehabilitation centers.
Assisted living communities certainly don’t promote themselves as nursing homes. Yet, customers are shopping using “nursing home(s).”
It’s possible to quickly search “tools to check a website for KEY words” and learn more. Check out all the valuable programs to assess the number of SEO words on the company’s website and if they are relevant to its customers.
Moving Up The Rankings
A company’s ranking is where it pops up after a potential customer has entered a SEO word or word phrase. The top links that pop up after a search are usually advertisements. If the company has the financial resources, a simple way to get to the top of the page is to advertise.
Outside of advertising, though, providers can move up the rankings by frequently adding fresh content to their websites—inbound marketing content. Remember, internet search engines favor websites that update content often.
One test to try right now is to type in the company’s name. If it doesn’t pop up on the top of the list below paid ads, then it is time to review current SEO words the company is using or enlist the help of an SEO expert. There is also a test to put the company through relevant SEO words and phrases in the white paper, http://goo.gl/4uMY3L
Who’ll Write The Content?
The most challenging work for providers is content. To be successful and turn the company’s website into an asset—a lead-generating workhorse, it will need to add content to its website weekly, at a minimum.
For the sake of making this point, consider blogs. Blogs provide an excellent format to accomplish this goal and reach external markets with helpful information that will endear customers.
Blogs are generally about 500 words in length, with catchy headlines, graphics, and bullet points. Blogs are enjoyable to read and, again, uniquely helpful to customers. Blog content needs to be SEO-sensitive, with links to other valuable resources, usually government or nonprofit organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association and the American Heart Association.
Again, this point is about blogs because they are one of the most conceivable call-to-action strategies for providers. Here are some options, starting with the most costly:
Hire a custom blog writer. Blog writers generally get about $100 a blog, or $5,200 a year. Factor in time for oversight. If the decision is to go this route, find a blog writer with knowledge of the long term care industry. That will minimize the investment of time explaining things.
Another option is content curation. Content curation is the act of finding, organizing, annotating, and sharing relevant content on a specific target. In other words, it involves finding information that has value for potential customers and then recycles it on the company’s website. The curator could come from existing staff, or the company can hire an individual or organization to do the job.
Consider an innovative, affordable new service developed just for senior service providers. Subscribe to downloadable content, eBlog Posts, or eBooklets, specifically written for senior service providers. Informational and emotional, this content helps families with their current needs, bonding families to providers as experts who they can turn to for care.
If the company has the time and talent on staff, staff writers could write their own blogs. Be sure the designated writers are educated on SEO words and how to add valuable resource links to their copy. Always be sure the blog has social media share buttons for readers to share with others.
Not In The Budget? Compare With National Referral Costs
Providers have always had to be judicial with their marketing dollars. The good news is that now, marketing investments can be tracked and evaluated with analytics and metrics. They can see how many hits they’re getting on the company’s site. They can measure if a browser is a first-time visitor or if they came through a link or social media. Providers can measure return on investment.
For providers paying referral fees to regional and national companies, think about taking the business in-house. Capturing and closing just one lead saves the company an average of $3,500, as reported by the Seattle Times in reference to King County, Wash., http://goo.gl/4uMY3L
Now is the time to evaluate reallo-cating some of the money spent on referrals to fund an inbound marketing program. Another benefit of developing leads in-house is that 60 percent of the sale can be done on the company’s website before the client even meets a company associate. Move toward that goal.
Factor In Staffing Assignments
It is doable to change to inbound marketing with existing staff and within existing budgets, with some caveats. It will require leadership to sit down with marketing staff and complete a list of current tasks. That list will have to be combined with inbound marketing tasks such as checking social media each day, putting up new content as frequently as possible, searching and responding to reviews, and following up on internet leads.
These lists will have to be combined to create a new job description and identify necessary training. The internet provides infinite possibilities for success well worth the effort. The bottom line is, there are many families, many people, who need help finding a long term/post-acute care provider. More and more of them are looking for help on the internet. Make it easy for them, and establish the company as the provider of choice.
Debbie Van Straten is founder of Age Speaks Company, Tacoma, Wash. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (414) 375-9172.