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I met with an assisted living home owner recently who was trying to fill beds in her 6-resident home. The home is beautiful, in a lovely neighborhood, with all of the attention to detail and safety that any family would expect for their loved one.
It became immediately clear that this lovely owner/administrator - although passionate about caregiving and helping seniors, had very little business or marketing sense.
She would spend what I would consider insane amounts of money on small, quarter page print ads in the back of a monthly mailer or local magazine. Who knows who will see it, or act on it, as those types of marketing efforts can be very expensive, hard to track, and questionably effective at best.
I know magazine salespeople will say they have a ‘reach’ of so many thousands of copies per timeframe, but if you’re like me, you’ll zip through a magazine on a treadmill, and then toss it aside.
This residential facility owner, as it turns out, had almost no presence online, and no clue about all of the other ‘offshoots’ of non-paper marketing that I believe is essential in today's world.
I know a thing or two about marketing, search, and being "digitally visible."
After all, I am a guy who has built Assisted Living Directory out of the basement of my home (I know, it's sort of cliche), and in many ways, my site goes head-to-head (and at times outranks) with some of the large, national companies that employ hundreds of people.
So what's important?
Here are three essential things any Residential Assisted Living Homeowner should be doing to compete with the big boys and girls (I don’t target this article towards the large, national companies, since they have the capital and resources to do just fine, in most cases).
The first two are longer term necessities, and keep in mind, there are an infinite number of marketing ideas and strategies out there. Here, I’ll focus on 3.
1) Establish Yourself As An Expert Through Your Website
Many of you, as I have discovered, and mentioned above, spend a lot of money on print ads every month.
Many of you also have a website for your facility that is likely not doing you much good, and is collecting ‘digital dust.’
Imagine if you spent half of your print budget and hired a very good content writer for your website. Someone who could hopefully manage your social presence, pages, and website's blog (yes, you need one of these too).
Keep at this every month for a year.
You’ll likely notice, all of a sudden, that your inbox is getting more action, and your phone is ringing more. Your site is now organically ranking better, if not the best for your local market, and niche (assisted living).
Your articles are relevant to your industry, your site has grown, and you’ve gained google's trust.
In short, you have established yourself as an expert. Living people, and search engines are very good at finding experts.
Be the expert in your city and market, and funnel that through your website and social pages.
Above all, stay clean, and don’t ever be talked into doing anything questionable, or spammy.
2) Get a professionally-quality video of your facility, and put it on YouTube.
I cannot stress enough how important YouTube is for any facility's short and long-term marketing effor (see Assisted Living Directory's YouTube channel).
A well done video put on a legitimate YouTube channel (if you have a gmail account, you automatically have a YouTube channel) can do wonders for your facility.
People love a video (a picture is worth a thousand…) and will often share, embed and bookmark videos. Additionally, once your video has been seen and is established on YouTube, it will likely rank above most other results, along with an eye-catching video thumbnail to draw people's attention in the search results.
Additionally, if you embed your video on your website, that adds to "time on site" which is a ‘ranking signal’ for most of the search algorithms. The more time people spend on your site, the better it is likely to do.
If you think this might be expensive, compare that to a print-ad that ceases to exist after a short period of time. YouTube videos become more powerful as time goes on, and believe it or not, there are people who will do them very reasonably, or free. I've actually done several video tours for facilities, some of them I did at no charge, just so I could get out and meet facility owners, and network.
3) Google Local, or Google My Business
You must, must must make sure your facility and home is on "Google Local" or as it is called now, Google My Business, with accurate information, a website address, and any other information that they will allow.
These results, if you type in a search such as "assisted living facilities" or "assisted living facilities my town/city" will come up on top of all of the other organic search results.
You can’t ask for better exposure on the world's most popular search engine (by far).
To ice the cake on this one, have any residents of your home that have positive things to say write a review within your google business page.
Note: Anyone wanting to make inroads with google in any way, shape or form needs to have a gmail e-mail address. It's required, and to me, a gmail address looks much more professional than something like aol or yahoo.
I’ll even throw in a fourth, for shorter (and longer) term purposes.
Don’t underestimate using Google Adwords to get your facility some attention immediately.
It's expensive from some points of view (you can spend 4,5 10 or more dollars per click). But, if you set your budget at an affordable rate per month, and the results are producing phone calls and ultimately residents, that thousand-dollar expenditure to get a bed filled is not so expensive after all.
We all know, an empty bed(s) in a small residential assisted living facility can cause severe financial distress, and can ultimately lead to bad decisions based on fear of going under.
People also ask me about all of those social media pages and how important they are, or aren’t.
In my experience, the most important one to focus on is Google+. After all, this is google's ‘bat and ball’ and I am sure they pay more attention to the signals happening on that than they do on Facebook, Twitter and all the rest.
For my site, Assisted Living Directory, I all-but-ignore Facebook and Twitter. G+ has served my site, and it's users well, and has led to innumerable contacts, networking opportunities, and professional introductions.
The only other outlier that I am starting to warm up to is LinkedIn. I think it's worthwhile having a robust profile here, tagged with the proper words "assisted living," your website, photos and all the rest.
If you think the any or all of the ideas presented here are stating the obvious - most facility owners have neglected to act on any of them.