You might have used Google, Yelp or other online review sites to read reviews about restaurants and other local businesses. But have you used the review sites to see how your agency compares? What about your website – do you have one and is it up to date?
Each type of site has two purposes – one is to inform and market. The other purpose is a recruiting tool. Understanding this is very important as they have a direct impact on your agency’s growth capabilities, and the ability to recruit qualified staff.
Marketing face to face is great, but as the population has grown more adept to technology and the use of mobile devices, your online marketing profile must have huge value. Your website and reviews online will have a direct influence on whether or not patients choose your agency.
If a patient’s family receives a list of agencies to choose from and actually has the option to choose, (I know it’s a long shot, but sometimes this happens!) your online presence is going to help make that decision.
When someone Googles Home Health Agency, Inc. and all that comes up is links to other health sites and your NPI, it doesn’t look good. But if someone Googles Home Health Agency, Inc. and a professional looking website with content is available, the likelihood of being chosen increases dramatically.
Your website is your around the clock marketer. When you or your marketing staff can’t market, your website will. If you have a website already, make sure that is refreshed every year or two. You don’t have to recreate the entire site or content, but make changes that keep it active and alive.
A blog is a great way to keep your site alive. Posting once or twice a week on your blog helps keep you fresh in Google searches. This means when someone in your area is looking for an agency, you will pop up near the top under the paid advertisements.
Google paid advertisements are called Google AdWords. This type of online marketing can be expensive and do very little for most businesses. The boxes you see at the top of search results and the right side bars you see on your screen are Google AdWords,
Anyone familiar with searching for information online usually ignores them and moves on to the space below these ads. By having a good website, consumers and potential patients you will rank higher than other pages and get more clicks.
The same is true for review sites. If your agency has no reviews or only negative reviews, you must change that. Being honest about it and asking satisfied patients to leave comments on your services will go a long way to build your online reputation. If old reviews are still there, the new reviews (hopefully positive) will show improvement and the bad reviews are not consistent with your agency that is operating today. Claiming your online review site administrator profile is simple and usually requires you to verify ownership by phone or email.
What about Facebook, Twitter and Google+? These are all feeder sites that will only help your presence grow. Facebook is largely used by people over 25 now and their sphere of influence has greatly moved to online reviews when a firsthand recommendation is not made. In fact many people have even taken that first hand recommendation and then correlated the information with online reviews. Think about this – when you shop on Amazon and look at a product, don’t you usually checkout the reviews of other buyers? Likely you do. This is the same type of comparison and research consumers do for home health services.
Google+ and Twitter are making inroads in healthcare marketing. Google+ is very similar to Facebook. Users are allowed to read reviews and you are able to post content. Twitter is a great source for promoting new changes but getting good followers is difficult. Creating a Twitter account is recommended and linking it to your Facebook account will achieve maximum results.
Now, Google your competition and see what their web presence looks like. Make note of how Google ranks them and if they have a website at all. If a website isn’t available, and you don’t have one, this is a sign that you need to start putting one together. If your most immediate competition does have a website, what do you think is good about? What don’t you like? Is it easy to read, navigate and laid out well? Google some others and take a look at their websites.
Look at about 10 different home health agency websites. You will notice one common theme: 50-75% of home health agencies use the SAME pictures. The other 25% use their own pictures of staff and patients (with proper consent). If you use any of the images below – then your website and likely your print marketing materials are not standing out. Nothing makes your agency stand out from the others when using these pictures. The images below are the most popular home health images used for marketing purposes. The woman in 5 of the pictures is the most commonly featured across the US.
To succeed and make your marketing efforts work well, you need original content. This includes strong and effective copy (text) that gets your point across and original pictures that can be featured in your online and printed marketing materials. Cut through the noise of other agencies and put in what makes your agency special. If you work with an outside group to help you with marketing, either online or in print, and the marketers use any of these images, fire them. They are charging you for ‘original’ content that you think your agency is the only one using when in fact, that isn’t true.
One important marketing and communication tool that must also not be forgotten is this: professional email addresses. If you have a website, you should have an email address that matches your web URL (firstname.lastname@example.org – homehealthagency.com is your URL). A formal email address attached to your agency makes you look more professional and doesn’t make anyone contacting you weary of who and where their information is going.
With free email addresses, the chance for security breaches and HIPAA violations are very real. In fact, any email address that is not your own – @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, @msn.com, @aol.com – is not HIPAA compliant. Any patient protected health information (PHI) transmitted through these types of email addresses is not secure and could result in a violation under the now active HIPAA HITECH standards.
Besides patients and families who use the internet to find out which agency to choose, prospective employees do the same with a Google search. Candidates want to see your website, your agency’s services offered, your service area and what your philosophy for care is. An agency website is also a great way to get resumes and information from perspective candidates to build your own internal job bank.
In the digital world, your online presence can make or break your agency. Your website is viewed by not just patients and their families, but the staff you try to recruit for positions and many others in the healthcare community. If you would like a review of your website with no cost to your agency, please let me know. We can schedule a time to discuss how to make your agency stand out against the competition.