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Health Services Marketing Isn’t One Size Fits All

Marketing of health services, including Assisted Living, Memory Support, and Skilled Nursing, is no longer a one-size-fits-all proposition. Gone are the days when a community’s Independent Living was the key strategy to support occupancy in higher levels of care.

What has changed?

  • People are waiting longer to move, and often want to age in place if they elect to move to a Life Plan Community or other senior living provider. Emergence of catered living options and continuing care at home gives people more choices.
  • Consumer preferences and avenues to communicate with the Adult Child Influencer (ACI) are changing.
  • CMS is expanding value-based payment models that now impact skilled care and home care providers, and determine the types of referrals you get from hospitals for skilled care and rehab.
  • Competition among senior living providers is growing throughout the country.

The key to success under the new market conditions is understanding your target audience and what they care about. These factors are critical when deciding what to include in your communications and when/how to contact your audience.

Who is your target audience and what do they care about?  

Health services marketing has to speak to two key target audiences, and you need strategies and messaging that appeal to both: Adult Child Influencers (ACIs) and Professional Influencers (PIs).

An Adult Child Influencer (ACI) is usually a child or relative of the prospect, and often influences the coordination of care of the aging relative, sometimes serving as the caregiver. Research shows that ACIs are typically female between the ages of 50 and 65. Typically an ACI will begin a digital search for Health Services and often is confused about the right level of care needed for the parent. Based on internet search patterns, Assisted Living is the number one searched topic related to senior living, followed by Retirement Communities, Senior Living, and Skilled Nursing.

Professional Influencers (PI) no longer respond to doughnuts and goodie bags to get referrals. Because of changes with CMS and its focus on value-based payment models driven by patient outcomes, you must be prepared to speak to its outcomes and know what differentiates you from your competition. How can you get ahead of the competition? Market research can help inform you of PIs in your market that can increase referrals and impact census.

So what do you need in your marketing arsenal?

  1. Information. Discharge data is available that will allow you to know where hospitals are referring patients for long-term care and rehabilitation. How many referrals are coming to you? How many are going to competitors? Are there specific kinds of referrals coming to you? (Example: Does the hospital see you has the best in hip rehabilitation, as evidenced by the referrals?) What kinds of referrals are going to others? Also, are you wasting your time on a doctor who really only refers a small number of patients? Information will help you prioritize your efforts, emphasize your strengths, improve on your weaknesses (or perceived weaknesses), and identify opportunities to gain market share.
  2. The printed word. Your data, presented accurately and professionally in written form, means something to referral sources. What sets you apart? How did you do on your quality measures? Mention your CMS star rating. Can you boast about your outcomes data (readmission rates or average length of stay, for instance)?  Referral sources may not have time to meet with your outreach coordinator over lunch, but they read emails and other collaterals that report specific data about your community
  3. A comprehensive website. As mentioned, ACIs are much more likely to check out a community on the internet long before they call or come by. They need to find the information they want easily — be sure to include photos and educational links or educational blog posts.
  4. Updated community space. Make no mistake; ACIs will judge the community by how clean it is, how freshly painted it is, the age of the furniture in common areas, and the activities and amenities offered. They expect to spend time there, and the community should appeal to their more modern standards.

And finally, while ACIs are very tech-savvy, it’s still important to use a multimedia approach to reaching them. TV, radio, digital ads and quality printed materials are valuable. True or not true, the marketing materials reflect the quality of the care in their eyes.  Messaging should focus on exceptional care and healthier living, activities, amenities and the value of socialization. While the senior is still the ultimate decision-maker, the Adult Child is a strong influencer. To gain their support, you must assure them that whichever level of living is appropriate, their loved one will achieve their highest quality of living in your community.

Overall, both ACIs and PIs bring unique tastes, wants and needs to the market, which will vary based on level of care. This requires you to adjust your strategy based on who is being targeted, know how you’re going to target them, and understand what your specific market area wants. This will be critical to future success and growth, and can only be achieved through research and depth of understanding about your primary market.

Want to learn more? We created this downloadable chart that breaks down the 3 key factors for reaching both ACIs and PIs.

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