Did you know Coca-Cola merchandise is among the most collected memorabilia in the world? It’s really no surprise when one looks at the company’s history. They essentially pioneered modern “branding” strategy, and their marketing principles are still embraced to this very day!
But why was Coca-Cola so effective in their outreach? Basically, they utilized ALL available marketing channels effectively—passive and active. In particular, the company gained fame by providing neighborhood markets with Coca-Cola-branded coolers and store-front signs.
Home care agencies and organizations that sell retail commodities obviously have very different business models. However, wise senior-care industry leaders can still take a page from the Coca-Cola playbook. And of all untapped home care marketing channels, caregivers may be the lowest-hanging fruit!
Here are 7 easy ways to turn your existing caregiver staff into an army of marketing ambassadors!
1. Train for Excellence (Caregivers are Your “Product”)
Too many home care agencies invest heavily into sales, marketing and leadership development only to neglect their most important asset—the caregivers! A company’s website and marketing materials are certainly important. But without having a quality product (caregivers), referral sources and clients ultimately see through the veneer.
Well-trained and professional home care aides serve as wonderful marketing ambassadors. Make no mistake… hospital case managers, social workers and other referral sources take mental notes on the quality of an agency’s caregivers. Every dollar invested in employee development is certain to pay in spades.
Basic training should always include topics of etiquette, professionalism and communication. However, agencies are also wise to enlist healthcare experts who can lead more technical classes. Helpful subjects include: “Safe Transfers,” “Prevention of Communicable Diseases” and “Working with Dementia Clients.”
2. A Star is Born (“Faces” of the Company)
Many of us probably assume that people portrayed in advertisements are always actors or models. While that’s often the case, there are certain industries in which a using “real-life” workers is beneficial. Home care is one of these exceptions.
Some savvy agencies have learned to leverage their own caregivers as “models” for print and web images. When you think about it, this tactic really makes a lot of sense for multiple reasons. First, the sheer volume of home care agencies has resulted in a situation in which many companies are using the same “stock photos” on brochures and advertising materials.
Second, most people are honored to have the opportunity to serve as a model or commercial actor. Caregivers will likely jump at the opportunity and will probably work for a reasonable rate.
Third, actors and models usually can’t convey the genuine look and feel of a “real” caregiver. Legitimate home care aides can demonstrate realistic poses and movements that are hard to mimic. Even Julia Roberts can’t compete with the natural feel of an experienced caregiver acting-out her daily job activities!
3. Hundreds of Free Billboards (Company-Branded Scrubs)
Coca-Cola shows us that some marketing ideas are simple but effective. Company branded scrubs are one such example within the home care industry. Just think about the value in this small investment.
First, issuing company scrubs to caregivers ensures they present professionally to referral sources and clients. Agency managers need not worry if the new caregiver will dress “appropriately” for her sitter shift at the local hospital. Caregivers are also likely to appreciate the company’s modest gift.
Second, company-branded scrubs present an opportunity for passive advertisement. Not only do hospital referral sources see the agency’s name, but they may begin to associate it with positive caregiver interactions. In other words, this simple strategy goes beyond name recognition and actually promotes agency credibility.
4. Your Free Social Media Army (Online Marketing Campaigns)
Most home care agencies these days engage in social media marketing. Some forward-thinking companies even utilize office employees to promote online campaigns via “likes” and “shares.” But are they also leveraging their vast caregiver teams?
There’s often an unspoken division between “internal” employees and caregivers who work in the field, but this mentality is a mistake. An agency’s aides may rarely stop by the office given direct-deposit pay and busy schedules. However, there are still ways to activate their collective power.
Agencies should announce social media campaigns in email newsletters that are sent to all caregivers. They can use the communications as an opportunity to ask for assistance in the efforts. Home care leaders may even go so far as to reward the most effective participants with bonuses or prizes.
5. Community & Charity Engagement (Triple Participation Numbers)
New agencies continue to saturate the home care market, so many industry leaders are looking for company distinctions. Some have found that charity partnerships help to achieve this goal while also benefiting the larger community. And there’s nothing wrong with a win-win!
But are these agencies also tapping into their caregiver networks to further the causes while also promoting their brand? Company leaders should always ensure they include home care aides in every community outreach and charity endeavor.
Is your agency sponsoring a local Alzheimer’s walk? Great! Include the event in your next newsletter to the caregiver team, and offer Starbucks gift cards to participants. Some may even bring family and friends!
6. Sales Call & In-Service Contributors (Add Substance to “Sales”)
Many home care agencies have teams of representatives who canvas the community for referrals and build relationships with area hospitals and facilities. Some even schedule in-service presentations. But are they also utilizing great caregivers as spokespeople?
Think about it… Who better reflects an agency’s commitment to service than a proven caregiver? While most aren’t stand-alone salespeople, they’re certainly helpful additions to any meeting. Some agencies may even consider designating select caregivers as official representatives who receive bonuses for participation in sales calls.
7. Referral Bonuses (Huge ROI)
Some home care agencies have already implemented “referral bonus” policies for employees—including caregivers—who provide leads that result in start-of-care. In fact, data suggests these referrals can be significant contributors to company revenue and often boast very high conversion rates.
But there are ways to take the strategy to an entirely new level. What if your agency provides caregivers with brochures that are directly tracked via a code? So, the caregiver is credited with any referrals that result from the brochures she’s handed out. Might that provide further incentive to market your company’s services?
Or, what if an agency creates specific buck slips or fliers that target different referral sources at a hospital? It’s no secret caregivers spend a lot of time training with prospective clients and their therapists at hospital rehabilitation units. Perhaps the caregivers can hand out therapy-specific marketing collateral to the therapy teams since they’re onsite anyhow.
In the end, it’s narrow-minded to suggest there’s only one way to execute effective home care marketing strategy. If we look back at the Coca-Cola example, it’s clear their innovations worked. But that doesn’t mean other large corporations haven’t achieved success using different techniques.
With that said, it’s also fair to say caregivers are an untapped marketing resource for many home care agencies. It’s easy to lose track of them with the day-to-day operations. But companies that do find ways to deputize aides as “marketing ambassadors” are sure to reap tremendous ROI!