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Navigating the Marketing Maze

July 1, 2009
by Mark Willaman
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Tips to Optimize Working with Senior Care Suppliers

The senior care marketplace is booming, and so is the demand for products and services relating to the care of older Americans. Like a modern-day gold rush, more and more companies are entering the senior care market, ranging from medical supply firms to home care services. And yet many senior care suppliers are unprepared for the competition they will face.

As a result, buyers that used to deal solely with locally owned companies are suddenly faced with a horde of new companies and franchises based out of state. Equally varied are the approaches they take to promoting their services and goods; some have significant marketing budgets, while smaller vendors struggle to get their message out with fewer resources.

Ideal time

Ironically, a recession can be an ideal time to invest in your business. Vendors are frequently willing to negotiate contracts that can reduce your investment costs. But considering the tight budgets of many long-term care facilities, administrators need to determine whether large purchases will have a measurable and direct impact on new sales and resident retention. The bottom-line goals are to grow your business, help reduce costs, and improve efficiencies.

The key is to seek out vendors who are aware of your business needs and challenges. However, traditional marketing vehicles such as print advertising, direct mail, and trade shows are not always as effective in reaching the sprawling senior care market. Enter the Internet, which has revolutionized how people research senior care products and services. In recent decades, a little advertising and a Yellow Pages listing were all a buyer needed to locate the right vendor. But today, second only to word of mouth, the Web is the primary resource where consumers go to find and research senior care services. Even if you initially learn about a supplier company offline, the odds are high you'll go online to get more information.

Because of this shift, savvy marketers have realized they need the following to reach long-term care providers:

  • A strong online presence that points you to their Web site.

  • A rich “marketing” Web site with content that clearly and quickly tells you who the company is and why its product or service is unique.

This is not to abandon proven tactics such as advertising (print, cable, TV, or radio), sponsorships, trade show exhibiting, and direct print marketing. In researching the preferred marketing and public relations activities, senior care suppliers have typically cited these methods as well as speaking appearances, search engine optimization campaigns, and content offerings such as bylined articles, white papers, Webinars, and more. Yet in today's world, a Web site is a window to not only a company's products and services, but also its culture, service standards, and expertise.

Seeking information

When seeking product information, long-term care administrators should always start with their peers-contact other facilities in the area that cater to seniors. If you are a member of a trade association, contact it for ideas. Also review trade publications that feature vendors, both in editorial copy and advertising. Online buyer guides are available as well as trade shows. The latter is especially desirable for those in an active search-there's no better way to evaluate vendors than meeting them face to face in a conference environment.

For those who locate potential vendors online, call or e-mail them for more information; and pay attention to how quickly and professionally they respond. Make sure they have an actual office and are not operating out of a garage. Depending on the type of product or service they offer, you may want to suggest a site visit-as a rule of thumb, the more money you're spending, the more likely you should meet in-person, especially when purchasing an ongoing service. Be consistent in how you request more information, so you can make consistent comparisons between vendors. Send each supplier a list of questions, ask for references, and give a deadline. Their responses will reveal a great deal about each company's quality and attention to service.

Many vendors view marketing as a luxury-something that, when there are a few extra dollars, they spend on sporadic marketing campaigns. Inevitably, the results are inconsistent and ineffective. But for those who develop a search-optimized Web site and a strong online visibility campaign, the above strategies can help vendors and buyers achieve a greater understanding of each other and develop a better collaboration.

Mark Willaman, a marketing veteran of nearly 20 years, is the Founder and President of SeniorCareMarketer.com, which helps senior care companies generate publicity through media relations and search engine optimization marketing campaigns. SeniorCareMarketer.com helps suppliers generate publicity, increase Web site traffic and sales leads. For information, visit

http://www.SeniorCareMarketer.com.

To send your comments to the editor, e-mail mhrehocik@vendomegrp.com.

Sidebar

At a glance…

The key for owners, administrators, and purchasing agents hoping to optimize their purchasing strength is to seek out vendors who are aware of your business needs and challenges. Vendors are frequently willing to negotiate contracts that can reduce your investment costs, especially in recessionary times. The bottom-line goals are to grow your business, help reduce costs, and improve efficiencies.

Long-Term Living 2009 July;58(7):18-21

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