All of our member home care agencies provide similar services and have great staff, so why refer to you?
Getting referrals and then getting and keeping them as clients is, by far, the most effective way to spend your marketing time and money. As an agency, the potential referral sources do need to see you. Getting in the door is a first step in creating the relationships needed to secure the referral. You’re going to need more than a snack tray to get through the physicians’ doors. John Miller of Dimedius Associates developed this template called Tools for the Trade, a Call Planning Template. Collecting your data and analyzing it to see what worked is essential! So now you’re knocking on doors, you’re dropping off business cards, it’s all good, but it’s still not working…
You might be neglecting your single greatest source of referrals. Don’t.
There are two main areas you will need to concentrate on to build your business: Patient Referrals and Discharge Planners. Discharge Planners and Physicians will refer to you because they believe you provide a quick response (TO THEM!), great care and excellent outcomes to their patients. Current and past patients, on the other hand, will be motivated by customer service and responsiveness to their needs and concerns as clients. To truly build your brand, you will need to give both of these referral sources a reason to prefer your agency.
57% of the inquiries generated via patient referrals became patients
While most inquiries come from other sources, more patients come from patient referrals. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that most patients (by volume) come from patient referrals. LiveseySolar Practice Builders, a Healthcare Marketing company, took data from several clinics with widely different marketing strategies (some advertised 10 times more than others in the same group) and measured where their patients actually came from. The study compared the conversion rates of different inquiry sources of over 5,881 inquiries across several clinics. They found that, in general, 57% of referral inquiries become patients. This is a huge number, and you probably see a similar statistic in your agency.
It’s not about the pens, calendars, or pads of paper with your phone number or logo. It actually doesn’t matter how many times you stop by the office with cookies (but the receptionist does prefer chocolate chip). Those are great to build relationships, but not referrals. To actually see more patients than your competitors you have to position yourself as different– and actually BE different– than your competitors.
BE DIFFERENT– POSITION YOURSELF ACCORDINGLY
A home health agency in Louisiana was struggling to grow but couldn’t give reasons why referrals should be sent to them: Their marketing staff was making frequent sales calls to their referrals sources, handing out pens, and stopping by, but was not able to close the deal.
Research conducted with competitors and the referral sources identified that the agency was not calling on the right target audience and their sales & marketing message was not motivating customers. Basically, the agency was perceived to be the same as all the others! A common problem with home health and hospice agencies. A needs-analysis was conducted with referral sources and the agency’s clinical and marketing teams to determine what made them different in the market.
A clinical and communications plan was developed that included the following elements:
1. A clinical development plan that included specialized cardiac, pulmonary and low-vision disease management programs
2. New clinical technology was purchased to differentiate their agency with surgeons
3. A psych nurse was hired to develop a dementia program
4. A marketing and communications plan to re-launch their agency
The results were significant: admissions doubled for the agency within a year and the marketing staff was focused on working with the right referral sources, delivering messages that differentiate the agency and motivate them to refer to this agency.
If your agency finds itself in this position it is time to act!
- Review your strengths and weaknesses
- Learn about your competitors and customers
- Develop a plan to improve your services and communicate those differences to your customers
Of course, having good referral rates depends on you level of customer care and how active you are in pursuing referrals.
THE NEXT STEP
The Home Care Association of New Hampshire would like to help our member agencies build our unified brand. We’d like to help you identify your agency’s strengths, set achievable branding goals and set yourself apart from the crowd. Join Us! Meet as part of our Affinity Group for Marketing, Public Relations and Communications as we map out how we can develop our individual marketing plans to build home care as a recognizable health care option statewide.