Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Marketing Aged and Community Care - Part 2

The power of social marketing in aged care

What value does content marketing as just one social marketing strategy bring to the industry?

In order to respond to these questions we need to explore what is content marketing. In simple terms it is the creation of stories that meet your customer’s needs. Marketing is best defined as the process of distributing and promoting the stories to your consumer group.

Before any attempt is made to commence a social media/content marketing campaign it is important to define what it is you want to achieve. This may sound easy but you need to define what it is you want and need to achieve or it could be a complete waste of time. If you don’t define your objective it could position you poorly in the eyes of your consumer if not done well. My guess is, for most aged care providers you want to be the provider of choice in your given area or region. You do not have to be a marketing guru author or world-leading journalist to write compelling material but you do need to know your industry. You also need to know who you are targeting and why and, you need to have an empathy for the resident/client and their family in order to prepare material that oozes your core business.

I will refer throughout this article to the consumer; in this context the consumer is the person or persons who would be seeking your services on behalf of the resident or client. A son, daughter, brother, sister, grandchild, friend, placement agent, social worker, hospital liaison, or any person that might seek support for a person requiring aged care, in home services or independent living options. It could also be the potential resident or client given more people aged 70 and over are using the Internet to access information and stay informed.

So let us think about three or four key reasons why you would want or need to market using social media and content marketing. In the book IMC, The Next Generation, Don and Heidi Schultz state, “For all the complexity of marketing and communication plans, firms want only four outcomes from them.” Most people in aged care will say but we are not like other companies we don’t have a product to sell. Not true, you do have a product, it is residential care, in home packages and or independent living options, they are simply service driven products.

To follow are the four outcomes and I have provided insight into why they might apply to aged care providers large and small.

1.   To acquire new customers – Yes all aged care providers need to be doing this with the changes about to land on your doorstep. No longer can you rely on being the site just around the corner. Unless of course you literally have no competition around you. In most metropolitan and town locations there is always a site just 20 minutes away and let face it, some of the newly built sites offer 5 star accommodation and facilities. If you are a 5 star facility and five minutes down the road is another 5 star facility, do you think you have got it in the bag? If you have a set bond range and your local competition doesn’t do you think you will always win out over them?

2.   To retain and maintain present customers – yes you need this. Better to keep your residents as long as possible and to have their siblings and family come to you first when they need help. This is one of the cheapest forms of marketing and builds your waiting list.

3.   To retain and grow sales volume or profit from existing customers – This is as critical in
4.    residential care as it is in community, in home services and independent living. It could be the difference between 10 bonds at $30,000 Vs 10 bonds at $300,000. Will your prospective consumer like what they learn about your organisation through your content marketing and social media strategy?

5.   To migrate existing customers through your product or service portfolio – absolutely you want this if you are providing a range of retirement, in home and residential services.

So if you consider these four outcomes at all times when preparing your content, tweeting your messages or asking people to “like” then you will be well on your way to positioning your site(s) as the one that your consumer wants to come to. Understanding this helps you to create content that touches your consumer, they want to relate to it, they need to understand what you are saying and, from what you are saying in your content they see clearly that you can solve their problem, give them a good life with choice and assist them to achieve their goals.

Think about whom you are targeting and provide content that touches that consumer group. You may post an article on “moving into residential care” to reach potential consumers or families on your waiting list but you would post a very different article if you were targeting a potential consumer for in home services. If you are providing both of these services be sure to link the services in some way in your content so those receiving your in home services now understand that this is what they can expect when they need you for the next stage of their care needs.

Ask your consumers to subscribe to your website, or to register on your waiting list. This provides you with a list of people you can continually reach out to for a range of purposes. You could use the list of subscribers to publish information on,
1.   How to get an ACAT
2.   What to do once you have your ACAT
3.   Join your fundraising activities
4.   Volunteer at your sites
5.   Receive your newsletters
6.   To provide information on your bequests program
7.   To survey so you are informed about your prospective consumers

However you link readers/visitors to you long-term know that it extends your reach into the wider community and that is a good thing. Ask them if they would like to receive information on each of the suggestions above or if you have more ideas just add them to the list and ask your consumers to subscribe and to let you know how much information they would like to get from you. They might only want a newsletter.

Make sure you use social marketing to get your content out there. It is no good posting it on your website if they don’t know how to find it. Set up a facebook page and post, set up a twitter and google+ page, post it on all of them and make sure you provide a link on these pages to your website where your consumers and potential consumers can find out more information on what you can do to help them and what they can do to help you. Don’t forget to link all of your social pages to each other as well as to your home site.

Create amazing content, get personal with it. You are working in an emotional industry where personal is all around you. If your current and future consumers can see that you are a caring organization then you bet your buttons they are going to want to come to you.

Don’t forget your headlines they are important – think about them. If you are writing about one of your current residents who is happy with your service and wants to share his/her story be sure you leverage your content to find a punchy headline. Use your content to educate about disease and impact as well as what you do to give meaningful life during the disease progression. People crave information about disease that impacts them.

I once wrote a story on a resident who transferred to one of my sites from a place that was in her eyes and that of her family not up to standard. Because she was quite young, just under sixty, nobody else would help her. So I headlined the story, “When nobody else cared, xxxxxx did”. Always, always get your corporate name in the body of the story and if you can in your headline. I should mention the other provider was never named or referred to other than the resident stating she was unhappy, instead it focused on the remarkable change in her physical and mental health subsequent to the move. What if you wanted to write a story on how your residents love your new internet program to stay in touch with their families? You could headline it as “Residents at xxxxx turn into facebook junkies” Have some fun with it!

You can write interesting articles/content about any part of your service, tell the world how good you are and how you add life to your residents/consumers lives. This is what your future consumers want to hear so start telling them now. Do not STOP! If you get a negative comment use it and turn it into a positive that supports your business.

It may take several articles or pieces of content to go up on your social marketing streams before you start to see an increase in website visits or subscribers. That is perfectly normal. Just do not stop. If you decide that you are going to publish two or three articles a week then do it (Don’t do less than this). Allocate resources, define a budget, and employ someone full time to manage this part of your business. This requires a full time position to plan, manage and prepare your content and ensure you are alive and highly responsive at all times. You need to be up front communicating with your consumers with quality information. Make a commitment not to miss one post. Make sure that you have someone on your staff that is your social marketing manager and is monitoring your social pages daily. Respond to tweets and posts quickly, keep your customers impressed that you are communicating with them in real time. State on your pages that you have a two-hour response time during normal business hours. Make sure your social media manager is proofreading all articles before they are posted even if they come from different authors and departments, consistency in presentation and style is important.

Make sure that all articles have a call to action – a few examples
Have you subscribed yet – click here,
Want to volunteer – click here
Upload your ACAT now – click here
Donate – click here
Please help us by joining our survey – click here

The information here is by no means exhaustive, it is a starting point, it’s what you can do and what you should be thinking about getting ready to do now. To get you started, don’t over think or complicate the process, keep it simple because that is what your consumer’s want, easy to read, simple help and fast response. Don’t be boring – your content needs to be real, emotional, inspiring and most of all it needs to tell your consumers that if they come to you they will be part of the family and you have the solution.

A great way to get started is to get your employees on side, tell them what you are going to do and invite them to be the first to subscribe. Invite your staff to comment but set some parameters around that so you know they understand the value of constructive comments. Engage them so they are your strongest advocates. They will be proud to join the group and support your corporate objective.

I hope you like what I have written here and once again I hope it gets you thinking and excited about how you can leverage social marketing to support your organization as we move at lightening speed into the dynamic social space.

Remember, you don’t need to be expert that will come with experience; you just need to get started. I look forward to discussion on this post and or to expanding sections if required. If you have questions that you would like answered off line just send me an email gailweyre@iinet.net.au.

Thank you Gail

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