Let’s face it: the days of letting our fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages to find the services we need are long gone, replaced by the wonderful World Wide Web. In the blink of an eye, we can now access hundreds of millions of helpful resources online by simply typing what we’re looking for into a search bar and hitting the Enter key. Pretty astounding if we stop and think about it! And, that instant access to information is a game changer.
If your home care agency has not yet embraced Internet marketing to the fullest, you’re likely losing both potential clients and high quality caregivers to the competitors in your area who are. A recent Pew Internet & American Life Project study revealed that as many as 80% of all Internet users – 93 million Americans – are searching online for health-related information, which includes in-home senior care. Armed with the education they’ve discovered online, consumers are able to make a decision about the type of home care services they want, and the type of agency they want to provide them, before ever picking up the phone to formally inquire.
If you’ve has crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s in your Internet marketing efforts (including an informative, easy-to-navigate website, active social media presence, SEO services, and regularly adding fresh, relevant content such as through blog postings), you earn a gold star! And yet, once consumers find you and all of that helpful information, there still remains the need for basic, foundational good sales techniques. These tips can help bridge the gap from inquiry to client:
- Make sure you’re interacting with a sense of urgency towards the inquirer’s needs. While Caring.com offers pre-screened leads for in-home care agencies, Internet referrals will not typically come vetted, as the consumer has, in most cases, taken a do-it-yourself approach and will be faced with information that may be confusing, such as home health vs. private pay services; medical needs vs. safety needs; and who pays for what? Your agency’s inquiry process needs to be at its sharpest and best to successfully assist families who, although armed with education, need clarification. What this requires is patience, time, and savvy handling. Anyone who may potentially answer a call needs to be equipped to help the caller sort through the myriad of choices to arrive at what will be best for his or her senior loved one. In this sense, the sales process becomes more of a shepherding approach.
- Use solid methods of tracking the information you’re gathering. Although Internet referrals can certainly be in need of immediate home care services, in many cases, online inquirers are in the beginning stages of facing changing family dynamics and are in the process of educating themselves and shopping for options. Good sales techniques require “owners” in your agency who dedicate time each day for follow-up with Internet referrals. Brush up on how your team handles the tough questions, particularly those that focus on cost of services. A good CRM program is crucial for diligent follow-up, note taking, and tracking. Be aware also that it’s very common for community agencies and referral sources to find you and engage your agency through the Internet, particularly if they’re calling for a patient who may be in a hospital away from home. These referral sources can become new targets for your community salesperson to follow up on, so tracking these interactions is very important in the sales process.
- Follow up, follow up, follow up. Consumers are going to want to partner with agencies that have taken the time to make their situation a priority. Follow-up is as simple as calling and/or emailing (if preferred by the inquirer) to ask how the family is doing and if they’re ready for next steps in the care of their loved one. Genuine concern and persistence pays off in our industry, making follow-up especially critical.
In a nutshell, keep in mind that the process is twofold: optimize your Internet presence through SEO and online marketing, in tandem with good old-fashioned handholding and problem solving. A quick, knowledgeable, and timely response, solid method of tracking conversations and sending out additional value-added information to the inquirer, with a precise commitment to follow up, enhances your ability to win over Internet referrals.