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Direct-to-consumer marketing in long term care

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing is all the rage in industries from fashion to pharmaceuticals. Why?  Consumers increasingly want to engage with the brands they are buying from. And fortunately for businesses of all sizes, engaging directly with potential customers can be considerably cheaper than traditional paid advertising.

The first and most important step in your DTC marketing plan (and any successful marketing plan, really) is to define your brand, which sounds easier than it is. Your brand is more than your logo and company name. Your brand is a promise of the meaningful benefit you will deliver to your consumers.

In a discussion with Ascription Medical Consultants, which specializes in direct-to-patient marketing, co-owner CJ Brock emphasized the importance of the intangible aspects of branding. Disney’s brand, for example, has nothing to with cartoons and theme parks, but rather “keeping the magic of childhood alive,” said Brock.

In the same vein, a nursing home’s brand will not be “a 100-bed facility located in Chicago,” even if the home is a 100-bed facility in Chicago. Its brand could be something like, “Trust our family to take care of yours,” or “Caring with compassion.” See the difference? Your product, or in this case, service, is your facility, your staff, the amenities that make your home better than another home. Your brand is what you promise those services will provide to your patients and their families.

Notice that your consumers are not just potential residents, but also their families. If you are targeting seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other cognitive impairments, their families are actually going to be the primary consumers of your marketing.

Once your team has defined a clear target market and brand, it’s time to introduce yourself to your audience. The great thing about promoting a brand that has inherent values and not just facts is that you’re giving potential consumers a wealth of material to engage with. There is only so far a conversation about your location or size can go, but when your brand centers on compassion or expertise, for example, you can engage your audience with stories of warm provider-patient interactions, of how a specialty service you offer saved a patient’s life, and so much more. These are stories that will engage the public and that can encourage potential consumers to want to associate with your brand.

Now on to the cost side. Establishing and sharing your brand does not need to be expensive. If your business is just starting out with new media marketing, prioritize creating and maintaining a consistent message across whatever platforms you choose rather than spending heavily on one ad or idea. There is no need to start out with big expenditures when all social media platforms themselves are free.

What you will want to spend money on right from the start is your website. According to Brock, “Your website is your number one salesperson.” Is your website a clear representation of your brand? If it’s not, now is the time to address it.

Your website needs to do more than give people who stumble upon it a few facts. It needs to show them who you are as a company (your brand) and why they should engage with you. This is why more and more companies in the healthcare sector and beyond have their own blogs on their websites. Is writing a blog post crucial to patient or resident care? No. But it does show potential patients and families why they should want to associate with you and your brand.

A blog is just one way to bring your brand alive on your website, and there are countless others. You can feature different staff members and residents, post pictures of social events, highlight your community engagement, and so on. The key to using these features to generate leads is to make it easy for your audience to engage with you. Make sure all of your social media profiles are easily accessible from your website, and make sure your website is featured on your social media profiles.

The bottom line of direct-to-consumer marketing is this: you are providing as many ways for your audience to engage with you and your brand as possible, and you are facilitating two-way interactions that can lead to positive business relationships. In long term care, fostering relationships like this can be the first step in creating your own resident referral pipeline.