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Why Home Care Marketing Will Fail Without a Post-COVID Strategy

The whirlwind called COVID-19 has not only impacted how home care operates, but is reshaping home care marketing and recruiting. Even as we continue to cope with the direct impacts of COVID-19, we are already in a post-COVID era because of the dramatic changes it has created. Not only has it shifted core messaging, the experience has made the entire population easier to reach with digital tools. One positive shift has been the growing preference for home care over residential care, opening new growth opportunities. As a result of COVID all home care companies are now marketing and recruiting with audiences who are more digitally savvy, who are also more anxious and wary. Here are the critical areas you'll need to navigate to ensure that you don't miss the opportunities ahead.   

by David Mills / October 15, 2020


Post-COVID Home Care Marketing: Where to Start

Keeping pace with change starts by understanding how the customer has changed. You can sum up the change in one word: virtual. The entire population, including seniors and their families, have become much more comfortable with digital resources and virtual interactions. The events of 2020 accelerated this trend in a big way. But how will that impact home care marketing and recruiting?
Virtual meetings are just the tip of the iceberg. The digital online experience is now the way people discover, consider & make decisions about home care. How does yours match up?




Video meetings tend to fall at the end of the user experience. They happen as sales meetings, educational seminars for things we're serious about, or appointments with a professional (like a physician). The rest of the virtual journey normally happens before we meet virtually. 

The virtual journey includes:
  • how people look for and find home care resources by searching online (and whether they can even find you)
  • the methods they use to download, share or save important information
  • the amount of time poeple spend viewing information before they "bounce" off to another website
  • whether our info is worthy of friends sharing it as a link or forwarded email
These are all types of virtual encounters that provide for a connection, answer questions, and give people their first "experiences" with your company.

UX3 is the New Requirement for all Home Care Marketing

The big move to virtual is creating changes that are here to stay. Everyone -- seniors, their families, referral partners, and prospective employees -- is increasing how much they reply upon your website. This shift places a big demand on how well your website engages and converts all the different kinds of visitors who land there.

Post-COVID marketing requires that we pay attention to the user experience of our three critical target audiences online: clients, referrals, and recruiting. UX3 is crafting a user experience for each of those three audiences.

The success - or failure - of home care marketing beyond COVID-19 will largely result from how well your website or microsite system can serve the unique needs and interests of these very different groups.

Clients, referral partners, and employees all have a different way of looking at your agency. Each one requires a different user experience (UX3). 

What is UX?

Great UX is simply the commitment to creating an online experience that is useful, easy-to-navigate, and includes elements that bring delight and engagement. 

When we consider that this experience is not simply for prospective clients, but also for the unique needs of both future employees and the development of referral partners, it should change how we approach marketing.

Developing a carefully crafted experience that keeps each type of online visitor engaged and moves them to the next level of interest or commitment will require a much greater focus, and an approach to web development that is more than just "pretty" or "informative." Even great aesthetics won't replace effectiveness in the world of heightened web utilization.


How is Home Care Doing with User Experience?

If you analyze hundreds of websites and marketing systems like the Story Collaborative team does, one thing becomes apparent: they're missing the boat. The websites and marketing tools currently at work are delivering a mixed bag when it comes to user experience, and that user experience is (at best), focused only on prospective clients. Sites tend to ignore referral partners or future employees.

A User Experience Experiment

To get a quick sampling of the typical user experience we completed a quick test. From where our office is located, we simply completed a Google Search for  "Home Care." As you can imagine this brought up a variety of companies and service portfolios that included home health, national franchise locations and locally owned home care providers.

We took the first ten that appeared in the local listings and used one of our analytics tools to grade their web performance. Web performance refers to the speed with which a website responds to a visitor. Loading speed is a major factor in user experience because people who search online are pretty impatient. If they have to wait very long (like, more than 3 seconds), they will leave and look somewhere else. 

While these are not randomized or controlled,  these results provide a pretty good snapshot of what we see whenever we are evaluating user experiences. The average for web performance was only 35%.  This group of ten home care agencies are leaving about 65% of their chance to make a good impression on the table, and starting the relationship with prospects in a way that puts them in a negative light. 


 This measurement of user experience is important enough that Google makes it one of the ranking factors for whether a web page should be placed in the top search listings.

If you are like the average home care provider, you are losing out on the benefits of user experience.


What kind of impact is this creating on your business?

And why has this been missed? Often we focus the content of our website on our own business and benefits, not the customer. The website then fails to address the core needs and concerns of the visitor and what results is essentially a digital brochure about us, instead of about them.

Given the demands of running a home care business -- keeping both client and employee queues aligned and full --  it's no wonder that we've missed the need for engaging the user based upon their needs and concerns.

The COVID disruption has increased everyone's online search activity, while at the same time making people keenly aware of critical needs of their own. One obvious example is the fact that prospective clients, referral partners and employees are thinking about their health and safety, and if they don't see that reflected in our online presence in a major way then we will fail to engage them effectively. 

It's important to note that this was already true before COVID. Everyone is listening to that favorite personal radio station: WIFM (What's in it for me?). User experience always means providing people with a valuable and even delightful experience, to the point of not only providing information, but having a positive emotional impact.

Without an intentional user experience, we're asking the wrong questions about marketing.

Website redesigns are a good case in point. We are normally asked to identify "what websites we like," or "what kind of look and feel we want," when in fact, the website wasn't for us at all. And pretty or even fashionable designs are not the primary criteria for a website that will engage the user. 

If most people (clients, referral relationships and employees) use our website as their key touch-point, then we've got to revisit the way we see that experience.

Here are some questions you should be asking:
  1. Does your website engage the visitor on the basis of their unique need or challenge?
  2. Does your website provide a path for each type of visitor to get from where they started to where we want them to go?
  3. Does your website touch on more than just information, and speak to the emotional and social parts of the journey?
  4. Does your website engage people deeply so they stick around and return?

Post-COVID marketing has to make the change from being focused only on your business, to becoming more customer-focused, AND, putting that to work in the digital space. Because the post-COVID reality has moved people online through their entire discovery process, even if you have great in-house customer service, and knowledgeable sales, it won't matter if you can't translate that to your website and marketing.

How Much has My Target Audience Really Changed?

If your critical audiences are seniors (and their families), employees, and referral partners, then the answer is that they've changed dramatically. Their needs as a user are being driven by both practical realities of health and hygiene demands, and the personal impact of these changes on a broad scale.

One big change that you can bank on is that all of your audiences have become more digitally savvy and demanding. No matter how low on the technology user scale you think they were before COVID, they've taken big steps up the technology use ladder. Those steps have included more online searching, more online buying, video meetings, and the use of entertainment, online shopping and financial management systems.

More digital use makes for a more discerning digital visitor. 

They have opinions now about what they like and don't like online. They've been frustrated by some experiences and have a lower tolerance for digital encounters that aren't smooth.

Personal safety and security have become a much greater concern. The combined effect of rioting, contagion, and constant cyber-security warnings, are creating a much more anxious customer.  

While building marketing personas only has limited value (Story has opted for a much deeper look at target audiences), it is helpful to review some of these shifts as "Pandemic Personas"

The increased digital savvy, skepticism, anxiety, and general wariness means that crafting an effective user experience has to include all of the things that might cause someone to hesitate or take longer to decide. As a result of our recent experiences, this list is now much longer.

A user experience is more than simply a drop-down on your website that links to your COVID-19 procedures.

You've got to address all of the changes that have resulted, such as:
  • Changes in psyche
  • Changes in anxious vs. rational behavior
  • Involvement of more decision-makers
  • Heightened concern about health and safety
  • Digital quality preferences

Stronger Caregiver Recruiting (Yep, that's a user experience, too)

If you believe that future employees are just as digitally engaged (if not more) than your senior clients, then their digital experience is just as critical. How is it done today? Most home care marketing provides just a single page on a website for the employee experience. That page is dominated by a listing of job openings with a few benefits included.

2020 Benchmarketing Insight: There is a good reason why larger companies recruit almost 2Xs as many employees through their own website: it's more effective. 

The current approach ensures that most home care agencies are presented to employees as commodities -- to be compared based upon price or schedule. They don't have a user experience that meets their unique needs or interests.  

What's more is that the single focus on job listings also sends another message to prospective employees: you are suggesting that they should treat your job like a commodity to be shopped, and that they themselves are commodities too, since the only engagement that you offer is through a transactional job listing.

If the only experience of a candidate is through a job listing, they have no way to experience the value of becoming part of your team.

Employees have hopes and dreams just like clients. Failing to provide them with a user experience that speaks to those desires sends entirely the wrong message. And even if your hiring process is very people-centered, the damage is already done by the online experience. 

In Post-COVID Marketing, Employee and Referral User Experience is a Marketing Role

The job of marketing is to create trust and align beliefs with your prospective buyers. That includes future employees and referral partners, since both of them, along with prospective clients, are most likely to have their first experiences -- and make their decisions -- based upon what they encounter on your website.

At the local home care level, it is usually the same team members that are involved in client sales, employee recruiting, and referral development. The silo between HR, Referral Management and Sales simply doesn't exist.  But that shared-role reality hasn't found its way into the relationship between sales, referrals, recruiting and marketing.

When marketing takes charge of building effective user experiences for all of your key target audiences, then sales, recruiting and referral development all get a higher quality of leads.  

Is Your Marketing System Able to Adapt to Post-COVID Realities?

For most home care agencies, marketing, recruiting and referral development systems (if they exist) operate in a fragmented way. The systems don't share a CRM and don't track the activity of these three audiences on their digital properties. But if the website is a central place where all three groups are finding, comparing and deciding, that attribution and engagement data is crucial. Yet the systems still mirror internal silos. 

Like people, software companies like to claim their turf. Most of the management software is not integrated with marketing or advertising, and so tracking the whole experience of a new employee or valuable new referral relationship is impossible, not to mention having the ability to track the experience of a new client. 

The financial and time cost of working with separate and disconnected systems is substantial, but the impacts on user experience are even larger. 

In the Post-COVID world, the ability to improve all three user experiences depends on the ability to track and measure those experiences. When the systems are fragmented, that is nearly impossible. 

One positive example is the integration between Clearcare and HubSpot. This data connection demonstrates that software can and should acknowledge what they are good at and not so good at delivering.  Learn more about how to integrate your systems.

Marketing in the Post-COVID era means taking a look at the marketing systems you use and need in order to optimize user experiences. 

The Pain of Being Completely Forgettable

Ever have that experience of meeting someone for the second time, and while you remember vividly, they obviously don't remember? For some reason, they found your encounter unmemorable. Being utterly forgettable is painful.

That's what's happening to the majority of people who encounter your business online: they forget you.

How do we know it's true?

Research tells us that when people leave your website without doing anything, 50% will forget your brand within 24 hours. And if they are exposed to other companies immediately after they see yours, as we expect when someone is searching online for a solution, their memory of your company fails even faster.


Do you remember all the websites you visit when you are searching? 

If we don't engage people effectively on their first visit, we move to the end of the memory line and become very forgettable. An immediate and engaging user experience helps make your memorable, ensuring that they not only remember, but visit again.

If they engage online for a longer period of time, as they interact with your website, the memory imprint is much stronger - and so are the sales outcomes.

The increase in online search is making your brand more forgettable.

Does User Experience have to be a mysterious process that only digital Jedi masters can achieve?

Demystifying User Experiences

The practical way to put user experience to work is by viewing it through the lens of the buyer's journey. Each of your audiences is on a "buyer's journey" of a difference type: toward becoming a client, a referral provider or an employee.

Creating a powerful buyer's journey is the best way to make the user experience practical and to extend a positive user experience throughout the visitor experience. But, how can you create and implement a buyer's journey for each of your target audiences?

Build Your Buyer's Journey

  • Treat each target audience as a unique buyer's journey
  • Define the complete journey
  • Incorporate the buyer's journey into your digital footprint
  • Use data to measure each step of the journey and commit to consistent improvements

Take a few minutes to improve your buyer's journey

Here's a great way to improve the user experience in your marketing. Take a few minutes to meet with us by finding a convenient date on the calendar. When we meet we will help evaluate your current buyer's journeys', and share some specific ways that you can improve the buyer's journey for your business.