It’s never been a more challenging time for care home marketing, with the coronavirus pandemic creating a social stigma that will inevitably make people think twice when choosing a care home for their loved one.
Hundreds of care homes have been caught in the maelstrom, very sadly losing many elderly residents to this terrible virus, while staff have been forced to struggle on, many catching the virus themselves and self-isolating.
If your care home is in this situation, it is understandably tempting to stop all marketing, to retreat into yourself and reduce costs until everything settles down. You many have had to furlough marketing or administrative staff, or even make them redundant. You may have stopped your Google ads or blog posts or putting photos of people enjoying themselves on social media, for fear of offending families.
As an integrated marketing agency working with many care homes, we wanted to share our professional thoughts on steps you can take while you wait for your equilibrium to return.
1. Care home marketing strategy review
First, have you reviewed your marketing strategy in light of the coronavirus pandemic? Are your aims and objectives the same as they were before the outbreak? Or have you revised your goals and set new measurable marketing targets that are achievable in the current climate?
No-one wants to see reduced occupancy rates – but it’s an inevitable consequence of what’s happening in the world, with research suggesting it could take two years to return to pre-Covid levels. https://www.carterwood.co.uk/latest-covid-19-research-care-home-occupancy-to-recover-in-2-years/. As beds empty, will they be filled? Will public trust return – or will people choose home care or a live-in carer for their loved ones instead?
There will be many aspects that come into play over the coming months, including whether your home has had Covid-related deaths or not. It would be a bold home that publicly declares they are Covid-free – that’s tempting fate. But have you explained on your website how you will respond if you do have a case, or how you intend to keep residents and staff virus-free?
We are now starting to see care home closures– with owners citing financial and operational reasons because of the pandemic. It’s never been a more critical time to put more effort into your marketing and showcase the excellent care and support your residents are receiving at this challenging time.
2. Search engine marketing for care homes
Often overlooked, your website needs constant housekeeping to keep it in order. Where do you sit in the search engine rankings on key search phrases for care homes in your area? Can people find you on all the permutations for elderly care, residential care, nursing, dementia, early-onset dementia, Alzheimers, Lewy Body, Huntington’s Disease or any other support you provide? Are these words built into the meta data in the coding of your website, and within the page headings and text? Have you optimised your blog and news posts – something we often see forgotten in the rush that people have to upload their content?
3. Business directories for care homes
Often the best source of enquiries for many businesses comes not from their search engine listing but from the box that sits to the right of it, known as the knowledge panel. If you haven’t already done so, you can register for free with the following directories:
- Google My Business https://www.google.co.uk/business/
- Bing Places for Business https://www.bingplaces.com/.
Google has 85.5% of the UK search engine market share, Bing 9% and Yahoo 3% https://www.statista.com/statistics/280269/market-share-held-by-search-engines-in-the-united-kingdom/
You can add your business address, contact details and opening hours – and use photographs that showcase your facilities in the best possible light.
4. Ratings, reviews and recommendations for care homes
An important part of the business directory listings are the reviews and testimonials so encourage as many people as possible to give you glowing Google Reviews, which show on your Google business listing, while Bing pulls in the recommendations from your Facebook account.
People are very seduced by what they read about you and will use this information, along with your most recent CQC inspection results, to narrow down their search when choosing a care home for themselves or a relative. Let’s face it, we do the same when checking out holidays or restaurants, or if we are buying electrical items online.
If you have any negative reviews from families or disgruntled former employees, be sure to respond (if appropriate). Use them to help improve what you do, or report them if malicious. Obtain lots of positive reviews to drown them out.
5. Care home directories
Have you got links from other websites coming into your own site, from the various care home and local authority directories plus support groups? Do a Google search and you will see numerous free listings for care homes. It’s worth paying for enhanced listings on the ones that are the most prominent, such as www.carehome.co.uk
6. Google ads for care homes
There are lots of ways people will find out about the care homes in their area. They’ll ask friends for recommendations or seek advice from medical professionals. Or they may do a search, most likely on Google. We advise you implement a Google Adwords campaign so you appear at the top of the search engine listings. It’s not easy to set up correctly so we recommend you ask our in-house search engine expert to help you with this.
7. Social media and Facebook ads for care homes
Facebook is a very effective way of reaching your local community, whether placing job ads for care staff or being part of a Facebook group. But be aware you’re unlikely to get many people seeing your content, even if they’ve liked and followed your page, unless you’re prepared to pay for it. Facebook ads aren’t expensive – and you can either pay to boost a post or use the more advanced Facebook Ads Manager – but it’s pretty daunting if you’ve never done it before. However, if you are looking to target your services to a certain age group living in a particular area, it can be very effective, especially if used in association with a wider integrated marketing programme. Some homes find Twitter effective in promoting their views and activities – but it’s probably less likely to drive enquiries to fill those all-important places.
8. Website content: Photos, illustrations, graphics and blogs
If you’ve done your keyword research, you’ll find there are many opportunities to reach out to your target audiences by writing blogs full of relevant key phrases on the topics they are most interested in reading. For example, if you are specialists in providing dementia care, you can give more detail around this topic, including any research or links to relevant websites, plus link back to your service page where you give more information around the support that you provide. When writing a blog, think about your headings and sub-headings – are your keywords included? Are they in the body of the text in different permutations, so you can make the most of the phrases people will key in? It’s also important to illustrate your points and break up the text with imagery, such as an infographic or photo. If you can’t use an image of your residents, then there are plenty of stock shot libraries, such as Shutterstock https://www.shutterstock.com/, Dreamstime https://www.dreamstime.com/, iStock photo https://www.istockphoto.com/gb or Getty Images https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/.
9. Videos for care homes
My favourite recommendation of all is to use more video to showcase your facilities and fun activities, such as socially distanced garden parties or visiting entertainers. Video gets a lot more engagement, especially on social media, than the printed word and people are more likely to share a short video and tag other organisations. You can create really fantastic video now on a good quality smartphone, upload it to YouTube and embed it back into your website, and share it across your social media channels, encouraging your staff and families to do the same.
If you would like help with any aspect of your care home marketing or training in any of the above aspects, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Mosaic.