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The idea for this blog came from a personal experience I had with my Grandpa, who recently had to go into hospital. Sadly, he was not well enough to go home so it was decided that discharge to assess was the best option for him, with the possibility of needing to stay longer, perhaps permanently.
We were given 3 care homes to choose from and, as many other family members looking for care homes would, I instantly started looking at their websites, CQC scores, and reviews on care home comparison websites.
We very quickly realised that this process was going to be particularly difficult because not one of our options had good information online about their service – their websites were out-of-date, and none had any social media presence.
It was weird to think that he could be spending the rest of his life in one of these homes when we had so little go on. With no way to go and visit the home in person, we felt totally in the dark. Whilst ‘marketing’ can feel like an optional extra to a provider, for us as prospective customers it was a critical gap in essential information to help us make a life-changing choice.
These care homes are prime examples of those who claim, ‘all our business is word of mouth’ or ‘most of our beds are filled by local authorities, so we don’t need/want marketing’.
In the digital age, regardless of your size, budget, or team, you are letting your potential residents and their families down by relying on word-of-mouth and neglecting your marketing. Even if you're lucky enough to get lots of word-of-mouth recommendations, you still need your online presence to be strong enough to convert those recommendations into actual Enquirers.
Your care home’s online impression is very likely to be your customer’s first impression. Make it one you are genuinely proud of. If you owned a shop, would you have flaky paint on the front window?
And don’t forget that a successful website will result in more people making Enquiries online and by telephone. Have a good (and quick) process for responding to people who make contact (see our super practical guide to an Effective Enquiry Management – otherwise all that hard work on your online presence will go to waste.
And for my Grandpa? The choice we made was a difficult one and I can’t help but feel like it might have been the wrong choice. Having worked with hundreds of different homes over the last 6 years, I truly think that the vast majority of care homes in the UK (big and small, old and new) are absolutely fantastic in their own ways. I’m just not sure the home we picked was the perfect fit for my Grandpa.
If you rely on word-of-mouth and local authorities to fill your beds, don’t think that Marketing is an optional extra. Improving your online presence will improve your occupancy rate – and help families make some of the most difficult choices they ever must make.