Home Care Marketing 101: How to Get More Clients and Grow Your Home Care Agency
If you’re reading this, you’re probably trying to get more home care clients.
Most home care agencies make a key mistake when they start trying to get clients: they jump right into random tactics without taking the time to develop an overall strategy.
This guide will help you avoid that. We’ll share plenty of marketing ideas—but first, we’ll help you think through the who, why, and how of your marketing strategy so that your efforts are focused and deliberate.
Here's what you can expect in this guide:
- 1. Market research for dummies - how to identify needs in your market
- 2. How to create a differentiation strategy so your agency stands out
- 3. Overview of the two types of home care marketing
- 4. Creating a consumer marketing strategy for your home care agency
- 5. Creating a referral marketing strategy for your home care agency
- 6. A huge list of potential referral marketing sources
- 7. A couple final pieces of advice you probably haven't heard before
Let's get started!
Caveat: The Recruitment Challenge
A quick thought before we dive in: for most agencies, the biggest challenge to growth right now isn’t getting clients—it’s finding and retaining enough caregivers to take care of them.
If this is your challenge, we’ve got you covered: see our Home Care FAQ page for expert answers to recruitment and other challenges.
Market Research For Dummies
The first step in creating your marketing strategy is understanding the gaps and opportunities ahead of you through some basic market research. A lot of home care agency owners do up-front market research when they launch their agency, but it’s easy to neglect it or base strategy off too many assumptions.
The fundamental purpose of your market research is to answer one question: where in my local market is there demand that isn’t being served?
That demand can take a variety of forms, such as:
- People willing to pay a lot of money for high-quality or specialized services that aren’t currently available
- A population of people with a specific health condition that don’t currently have access to daily care designed with their needs in mind
- A geographic area near you with less access to care
- People in need of a specific type or length of visit
While you can certainly launch an agency and take a “spray and pray” approach by trying to market to anyone and everyone, your life will be a lot easier if you take a focused approach that zeroes in on a specific opportunity.
4 Ways to Do Market Research
There are a few ways you can go about this. Here’s where I’d start.
Secret shop competitors. See if they have types of clients or care that they focus on, how much they charge, whether they’re taking new cases or trying to meet existing demand, and if there are types of clients they don’t serve.
Use the internet to understand the overall competitive landscape. What’s the population of the area and how many competitors are there? Map it out if you can.
Reach out on community Facebook groups and ask people about getting care. (Also, search in the group’s history.) Are there frustrations? Are there people who aren’t able to get care for some reason, and is it a reason you can address?
Talk to referral sources in the area, like home health staff and hospital discharge planners. Are there things they’re missing in a partner currently? Are there types of clients that they don’t have an agency to take? Are there unfilled needs or frustrations with their current roster of partners?
All of these should help you form a picture of what your agency’s focus and differentiator should be.
Why You Need to Create A Differentiation Strategy
Your market research should give you an idea of where there might be existing gaps in the market. The next step is to decide how you’ll market your home care agency in a way that appeals directly to that group. Ultimately, this means choosing a differentiator—something that sets your home care agency apart from others.
It might not always seem necessary to find a way to standout—especially in times of caregiver shortages when there are more than enough clients to go around. Having a differentiator will always make it easier for you to stand out to your most ideal clients—for instance, those who are easiest to work with and/or willing to pay the most—while maximizing your profits.
Simply stated: the more you stand out, the more you’ll succeed.
The Three Tests Your Strategy Needs To Pass
A differentiator can also be called a value proposition:what is the value you bring that your competitors don’t?
Your differentiator should meet three tests:
- It needs to bring value to your potential clients or your potential referral sources, ideally both
- It needs to not be widespread in your local market
- It needs to be relatively tough for competitors to replicate
Hit all three, and you’ve got a winning strategy.
Examples of Differentiation Strategies For Home Care Agencies
Here are some different approaches agencies take:
1. The premium care provider: charge the most, give the best care. This is the most common differentiator, but most agencies take a watered-down approach because they don’t have the ability to prove that they’re the best. If you’re going to take this approach, you need overwhelmingly positive client testimonials, extremely high reviews, and/or quantitative client satisfaction scores to back it up. Otherwise, you’re no different than every other agency who says they give great care.
2. The low-cost leader: the Walmart of home care agencies. Charge the least, attract the most clients. Be careful with this one.While there are times where it can be successful, it obviously sets you up for low margins and a lot of stress. This is essentially the strategy of most Medicaid agencies, and there’s. . . *ahem*. . . a rea$on why most of them want to get into private pay.
3. The specialty care provider. This is often ideal path as there are many options based on the needs of your market. Is there demand for caregivers with more specialized training in caring for clients withAlzheimer’s or dementia, for instance? Invest in quality training and become known as the agency to go to in the area if your loved one has these conditions.
4. Some kind of special guarantee or other unique selling point.
Can you staff all cases within 24 hours? Is there something unique or appealing about your caregivers? (“All of our caregivers are veterans” or “We have a 12-point screening process to ensure we hire only the best caregivers”)
Or do you have a compelling story as to why you started your agency? This may not lend itself to figuring out a pricing strategy, but it can still help build a compelling brand.
At the end of the day, remember: choosing a differentiator is as much about deciding what you’re not going to do as what you are going to do. Be prepared to make sacrifices; you may make the deliberate choice not to serve particular types of clients because you’re not able to meet their needs as well. Focusing who you serve will empower you to give more focus to the clients that are your ideal fit.
Like what you’re reading? Check out our Home Care FAQ page, where we provide quick but meaty answers to every burning question you can think of.
The Two Categories of Home Care Marketing
Now that we’ve gone over how to create your initial marketing strategy for your home care agency, let’s get into the actual marketing, advertising, and sales.
You can think about home care marketing in two categories: consumer marketing and referral marketing.
Consumer marketing is marketing directly to the community; it includes channels like Google Ads, TV ads, or community events.
Referral marketing is working with potential partners to build relationships where they’ll send you client referrals.
Consumer marketing is basically what we typically think of as advertising, while referral marketing is more similar to what we typically think of as sales.
We’ll go into consumer marketing first.
Creating a Consumer Marketing Strategy For Your Home CareAgency
Consumer marketing is a game of balance: where can you get the most attention with the right people for the lowest cost?
There are hundreds or thousands of potential consumer marketing sources for home care agencies. Here are some of them:
- SEO (getting your listing/website found onGoogle, Bing, and other search engines)
- Google or Bing Ads
- Local newspaper or magazine ads
- Sponsoring local community events like charity5k races
- Putting up flyers and leaving brochures around the community, especially in places like senior centers or libraries
- TV and radio ads
- Ads on social media platforms, especially Facebook
- Running interesting, useful accounts for your business on social media
- Starting a blog or podcast for family caregivers in your area, setting yourself up as the trusted expert on good care
How do you choose which ones to go with? I like to use a framework of awareness channels versus intent channels.
Awareness channels are places you go to build your brand and make people think about you. It’s hard to track the return on investment you’re getting from them because someone may see multiple advertisements over time and then eventually contact your agency later as a result. This category includes most advertising channels, since people see them passively at any time and may not be looking for home care services when they see them.
Intent channels are channels where people go to buy. They’re generally easier to track the return on investment from because they lead people to make a buying decision immediately. These include channels like SEO and Google search; people are making these searches with the intent to find an agency.
Ultimately, you should choose a strategy that makes deliberate use of both types of channels. Intent channels are where business comes from directly but awareness channels are where you build a brand in people’s minds and earn their trust. If you haven’t invested in any advertising and someone searches for home care agencies on Google, they’re much more likely to go with the agency that they’ve heard of before.
To choose awareness channels, you should look for opportunities to reach the greatest number of people who fit your ideal market.
To choose intent channels, you should use as many as you can find (since there are fewer of them) but analyze which ones are most successful for you and double down on them.
Before we talk about how to get the most out of these channels, here's a quick shameless plug: I work for Careswitch—a new home care software built for small but growing home care agencies. It’s built by a team of crazy talented designers and engineers with initials like MIT, IBM, and PhD on their resumes, and customers are loving the simplicity and ease of use. We even have dedicated engineers who take your feedback and use it to add the features that are most important to you. If you want to try it out for free without talking to a salesperson, you can get started here.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Getting Found First
Getting found first on Google is generally the single most important consumer marketing channel you can invest in. According to a study by Brightlocal, 88% of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase—and you better believe that a hugely important purchase like home care is bringing up the average.
A few quick tips to ensure your Google SEO presence is working in your favor:
1. In case you haven’t done it yet: Claim your listing on Google My Business.
2. Provide as much information as possible. Make it clean, easy to read, and complete.
3. Make it easy for people to connect with you.Include a good phone number. It sounds obvious, but I’ve seen a surprising number of home care agencies that don’t list a number or list one that’s no longer working.
4. Include pictures and hours of office availability.
5. Select the right categories. Typically the closest Google comes to having a category for a home care business is “homehealth care service.”
6. Get reviews.
A question I hear a lot is whether quantity or quality of reviews does more to help your business show up at the top of searches. The answer is quantity. Google’s algorithm favors businesses with more reviews, not better reviews. That said, consumers obviously prefer to choose businesses with better reviews, so both are important.
Guidelines For Getting Online Reviews
Some guidelines to getting as many reviews as possible, getting the best reviews possible, and maximizing the benefit you’re getting from reviews:
Don’t be shy about asking for reviews. People are usually happy to do it because they understand it’s an easy way to support a small business, especially one they love—but they usually need a reminder.
Build asking for reviews into your processes:after a good check-in call with a client’s family, in your company newsletter, in your email signature, and when a client mentions how much they love their caregiver, for example. Always thank them for the review and always respond to every review, positive or negative. This demonstrates that you’re actively looking for ways to improve and are responsive to clients’ feedback, which is typically more impressive to people than perfect scores anyway.
I’ve heard from many, many home care owners who afraid to ask for reviews because they’ll get a bad review. Here’s a little secret: the people who leave bad reviews will almost always leave a bad review whether you ask or not. The more you ask for reviews proactively, the more positive reviews you’re adding into the mix that you might not have gotten otherwise.
Google Search Ads
Google Search Ads are the ads you see above search results that look very similar to search results. They’re not as important as your organic presence (Google My Business profile) because many people skip ads and go to the organic results, but they’re still very helpful.
Along with your website, I strongly recommend outsourcing your Google Ads management to professionals who can handle it for what is usually a low monthly cost. Your time is best spent focusing directly on your business.
Google Display Ads
A lot of small business owners are tempted to run Google display ads, which are the rectangular image ads that follow you around the internet after you visit a website or take a similar action online that might be seen as interest in a company.
If you’re considering using display ads, here’s what I recommend to get the best bang for your buck:
1. Take the money you were going to spend on display ads. Get it in dollar bills.
2. Set the dollar bills on fire one at a time.
3. Go ask your clients for referrals instead.
There’s no easy way to say this: display ads are almost always a massive waste of money these ways due to changes in Google’s pricing, algorithm, and data privacy. You’re better off putting your money elsewhere.
Internet Lead Sites
These sites can be strong sources of new clients but can also get very expensive for a small return. They also vary in quality depending on the area. Test them out carefully, track the return you’re getting, and zero in on the sources that are most valuable.
Note: Personally, I’d start with Caring.com. I’ve typically heard the best things about them from agencies in terms of both quality of referrals and value for the money.
A Huge List of Potential Referral Marketing Sources
While we can talk endlessly about the options for consumer marketing, it’s important not to ignore referral marketing. Let’s get into some of the fundamentals.
Like I mentioned before: referral marketing is any form of networking where the goal is to establish a relationship where someone will give you referrals now or in the future. It’s a huge chunk of revenue: for some agencies it’s not uncommon for 70-80% of revenue to come from referrals.
The most common referral partners are other healthcare providers, like home health agencies, doctors’ offices, skilled nursing facilities, or hospitals. However, there’s a much wider world of potential professionals when you consider anyone that might have reason to refer their own clients to a home care agency, like financial advisors, insurance agents, and social workers.
Here’s a list of potential referral sources. Which ones might you be able to build relationships with in your area?
- Your own past and current clients
- Home health agencies
- Skilled nursing facilities
- Assisted living facilities
- Area Agency Aging Case Managers
- Veterans Affairs and Veterans AdministrationPrograms
- Care Managers
- Local Church Communities
- Workers’ Comp Case Managers
- Legal Advisors
- Financial Managers
- Senior centers
- Community resource centers
- Social service organizations
- Your caregivers
- Bank Trust Advisors
- Certified Senior Advisors
- Adult Day Care Centers
- Occupational Therapists
- Senior Communities
- Chamber of Commerce
- Rehabilitation Centers
- Auto Accident Case Managers
- Geriatric Care Managers
- Local Alzheimer’s Support
Creating A Referral Marketing Strategy
Like any aspect of marketing, there are endless choices—so you need to be strategic and consider which ones to focus on, given your overall differentiation strategy.
Here’s what I would do:
1. Identify whether any of them immediately standout as opportunities – do you know someone there, or have you chosen a differentiator that’s right up their alley?
2. Recognize which sources are likely to be more competitive and higher-volume (i.e. hospitals) versus less competitive but lower-volume (i.e. legal advisors) and consciously choose a mix of both types of sources to focus on.
3. Identify what your value proposition is to these potential partners. What can you offer them that no one else can? You’re selling your business to them as much as you’re selling it to any clients.
4. Create a plan of how to contact them and how often.
5. While visiting in person often produces best results, this isn’t always feasible or necessary. If I were a marketer for an agency, I’d make heavy use of tools like BombBomb, which allow you to easily make and send videos over email.
6. Consider occasionally bringing donuts or buying lunch. Nobody says no to free food, and it’ll especially help to get you an in with the gatekeepers.
7. Ensure that they can expect a rapid response when they send you a referral. Nothing damages a referral partnership faster than being sluggish to respond when they do send you referrals.
8. Get creative in what you can leave them. Is there branded swag you can give them that they’ll use every day, keeping you top of mind?
9. Provide education. Establish yourself as a helpful resource to help them navigate questions that may not be their area of specialty.
10. Always provide value of some kind when you visit. According to Steve “The Hurricane” Weiss of Home Care Evolution, it typically takes 8-12 visits to a referral source before you start to see results. So be patient and give time for results to surface.
11. Be organized. Use a CRM to track your visits, and over time track the results you’re getting from them. Zero in on the relationships that are driving the most value.
There’s always the question of how many referral partners to work with, and there’s no firm answer. I’ve heard ballparks of anywhere from 20 to over 100. Ultimately, my answer is that you plan to work with as many as it takes to drive at least 50% of your revenue after 3-6 months of warming up the accounts.
Your Clients Can Be Your Best Source of Referrals
Ultimately, your own clients can be a great referral source. You’re already working with them, they’re the most familiar with your agency and the value you provide, and hopefully many of them love the are they’re getting and will happily tell friends and family about you.
On top of all that, clients referred from other clients typically stay with an agency longer, are less price-sensitive, and are in turn more likely to refer other friends and family.
In order to turn random word of mouth into a focused strategy, you need to:
1. Provide a consistent, easy way for them to submit referrals.
2. Create an incentive (typically a discount off a week of services) for each referral they submit who ends up starting services.
3. Treat invites the same way as you approach invites to ask for reviews: build the ask into your processes to make sure you’re asking regularly and at the right times.
A quick aside about people vs. profits
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room real quick: it feels a little weird sometimes to talk about “finding right-fit clients” and “maximizing profits” in a business where your goal is to help as many people as possible.
Home care owners are compassionate people. Discussions of pricing strategy can often sound callous or unfeeling because of the way we casually talk about managing prices for the care people are receiving.
It’s my firm belief you can care for your clients and care for your livelihood—by which I mean unapologetically work to maximize the profit your business produces.
People and profits aren’t diametrically opposed. You can put the people first and still pursue profits.
In fact, doing what’s best for your business will often put you in a position to provide better care to the clients that you’re focused on.
Growing your business financially and providing for the needs of yourself and your family, will better equip you to provide higher-quality care to more people.
One More Word of Advice: Don’t Be Afraid to Fire Clients
It feels counterintuitive to your business growth and often personally difficult, but there will come times when a client simply isn’t a fit for your business. Often this takes the form of clients who are so particular or difficult to work with that they burn through caregivers while causing constant headaches for you and your office staff.
If and when you encounter one of these clients, do your due diligence to understand if there are ways you can help them—but don’t be afraid to cut ties if necessary. Your time, attention, and sanity are too valuable to sacrifice for one or two difficult clients.
Let me say that one more time for the people in the back: Your time, attention, and sanity are too valuable to sacrifice for one or two difficult clients.
Water the Bamboo
Let’s close with one of my favorite analogies.
There’s a species of bamboo called giant timber bamboo that takes more than two years of consistent care and watering to break the surface of the ground. During that time, not so much as a stem is visible.
Once the giant timber bamboo breaks the surface of the ground, it can grow up to 60 feet in two months—but only if you’ve been consistently watering it all along.
Marketing works the same way. While it shouldn’t take two years to see results from your efforts, effort compounds over time.
Start watering that bamboo. :)
I hope this was helpful. By the way, I work for Careswitch—a new home care software built for small but growing home care agencies. It’s built by a team of crazy talented designers and engineers with initials like MIT, IBM, and PhD on their resumes, and customers are loving the simplicity and ease of use. We even have dedicated engineers who take your feedback and use it to add the features that are most important to you. If you want to try it out for free without talking to a sales person, you can get started here.