While hospice care is a priceless service to patients and families, the hospice industry is hyper-competitive. Our hospice & palliative experts provide advice & insights on how small & mid-size agencies can get more referrals even in our new normal of Covid-19.
While many of the principles of service sales are the same regardless of the current crisis (check out our previous article on tips to generate hospice referrals), Small and mid-size agencies thrive on the relationship with independent referral sources. This referral structure is especially important during a health care crisis when competing against national enterprise level agencies and large vertically integrated health care networks.
Hospice marketing has typically been a face to face encounter. As a business built on relationships, these in-person meetings are the surest, most effective method to carve out a space in your referral sources’ minds. However, COVID has taken away the ability for hospice marketers to enter into referral sources facilities. And for the facilities your marketers can enter, marketers simply don’t have the same access; staff are busy and tense, and group lunches, CEUs, other events have virtually vanished.
While this new reality presents challenges, for those agencies who can realign sales & marketing, these challenges can create new opportunities.
Small and midsize local agencies have a massive advantage over large corporate hospices. Local agencies are nimble, flexible, and on the ground in the community. While corporate hospices may have greater resources, they are rigid, risk-averse, slow to adapt to change, often with non-local executives generating new guidelines and then finally implementing them across a range of disparate geographic regions.
5 Tips to Get Hospice Referrals During Covid
The 1st step in the assessment is checking where most of your referrals come from.
Assuming that approximately 80% of your referrals come from 20% of the facilities in your CRM (the 80/20 Pareto Principle), what this means in practical terms is that 20% of your efforts are generating 80% of your activity.
The best option for local service agencies to maintain and grow is organically through your existing sources.
What to do:
A. Examine which facilities generate the 80% of your business.
- What do these facilities have in common and what are their differences?
- Why do these facilities refer to you?
- What is the trend line with these facilities over time? Which direction has your relationship, as expressed by referrals, been trending?
B. Compare the parameters of your high-performing clients to the rest of your CRM.
- Where are the remainders of your referrals coming from.
- How many leads do not match the parameters of your performing clients?
C. Thin down your CRM
It’s time to adjust from the scattershot net-fishing approach of sending marketers out into the world to knock on every door of every health facility in their area. Give your team the tools they need to succeed which starts with a thoughtful and thin collated list of facilities that are perfect or near perfect based on your defined metrics such as: independently owned, takes Medicaid, etc.
Importantly, listen to your team! The team members on the ground is one of your greatest assets. Get their feedback: it will prove useful in gauging how customers are feeling and how daily interactions are changing. Most employees feel that their ideas for improving the client experience are not implemented. Use their on-the-ground insights to refine your list.
You can’t afford to waste time and resources in this environment, A focused and refined list will maximize your marketers time and energies on the 20% and find referral sources that match the 20%.
While the natural instinct in unsettling times is to conserve resources, the opportunity here is to have your marketing dollars go further. Corporate hospices are happy to ‘turtle up’ and conserve every resource. Corporate hospices can take this approach comfortable in the knowledge that their integrated clientele of corporate nursing homes, hospitals with their own impatient units will continue to feed them referrals. Local agencies do not have these built-in feeder sources.
Spend while they are saving.
Spend wisely though. Now is the time to enhance your brand, your messaging, your digital and physical marketing reach and the tools you use.
A. Digital Marketing
- When was the last time your website was refreshed? Your brand image should help inspire referral sources and consumers to choose your agency.
- Social media:
- Review your social media strategy. Are you on the right platforms? Are you posting interesting valuable content that’s getting seen by the right people?
- Review your advertising spend. This is an area that can easily become a money pit sucking in resources with little to show for it if your messaging and brand are not updated. Reassess your advertising dollars to focus on new messaging and channels that show direct ROI or redirect those dollars to more effective use of capital.
- Digital Tools:
- Create Webinars and other digital opportunities for in-services and CEUs. Create video libraries with tests and certificates for self-serve continuing education. These will both deliver valuable content to referral sources as well as generate refined leads for organic and new growth.
- Invest in remote tools for functionality: Docusign type product for eConsents, online referral capabilities, enhanced remote meeting capabilities, and other communication tools.
B. Physical Marketing
While marketeers may not be able to enter or spend much time in facilities, delivery people can still get your brand in front of the right people.
Get creative. Lawn signs are nice, but they’re already becoming transparent. Delivering lunch is also nice, but is it sticky? Will it make your agency stand out in the facility staffs’ mind? Wearable, like branded face masks might sound good, but for better or worse, many facilities don’t want their staff walking around with gear that prominently says hospice.
Here are some examples of stand-out physical marketing:
- Cakes that look like things are all the rage: A cake in the shape of a phone with your referral phone number in the screen and a call us message obviously accompanied with cards, brochures, and a personal note.
- Branded notebooks with pages of useful information built-in as well as branding and contact details.
- Arrange with facility administration and hire a performer to entertain patients from outside a facility – a musician or other entertainers who perform outside but can be seen/heard by patients and staff, like an in-person music memory program but socially distanced,
Be the hospice that goes deep on Covid.
While other hospice agencies may not avoid Covid patient referrals, many are not pushing for these patients. There are a number of reasons to not actively market for Covid patients referrals such as fear, logistics, and because they often are not on hospice long. However, just like spending when others are saving, your opportunity is to lean in while others run away.
What to do:
Push for Covid patients. Make that category your priority.
- Make sure all your staff, clinical and non-clinical take online Covid-19 care training. There are many courses free online that provide valuable information as well as certifications. Promote your agency as the team that knows Covid.
- Promote Covid Specific Care at home. Market to your referral sources that you will provide PPE to family members when a pt is in home care. Your agency will educate family members specifically about Covid. Create a system where your agency helps space setup to arrange in-home social distancing.
- Promote the benefits: preventing outbreaks in a facility, emotional & mental health of patient and family, greater bed space in a facility by moving patient home, and more.
- Promote your telehealth capabilities
By becoming the go-to for the facilities Covid patients your agency will become the valuable resource and partner to your referral sources, keeping you at the top of their m ind and who they will also call for their non-Covid referrals.
This is an area where your agency can shine.
- Provide flexible scheduling: Corporate hospices do not have the flexibility to turn on a dime. If, for example, a marketer can’t work regularly because their children have no school, a local agency can adapt to that much easier than a corporation. Work with team members to find ways they can stay productive, whether that’s cutting down their client list to something more manageable for part time availability or shifting some of their responsibilities, your flexibility is your superpower.
- Team members getting frazzled? Your agency has great internal resources. Direct your social workers and chaplains to check in on team members.
- Develop mentors: While face to face sales calls can generate high performing marketers, those same success stories may feel lost without the personal interaction and the loss of their normal schedule and routine. Pair up your marketers with mentors who can work with them to develop remote selling skills and plans.
A. Remember! Your agency is not doing the referral source a favor by taking the referral. They have options. When you get a referral acknowledge the referral was received. Update the source as to the progress of the referral and your plan with the patient.
B. Continue to update the referral source through the life and discharge/death of the patient.
C. Say thank you. While normally you can do this in the course of business operations, or once a year as a special batch mailing, in this reality, do it more. Say thank you as loud and often and in as many ways as you can.
D. Share patient and family feedback with your referral source. When a patient or family compliment your team, or let you know how grateful they were/are for your care, share that with the referral source, and thank them, again!
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