They're shoppers, Jim, but not as we know them!

The way people decide on elderly care homes or other types of social care is changing. You could be forgiven for thinking that today’s consumers have just been beamed down from another planet.

People don’t act the way they did 10 or even 5 years ago and the elderly care market needs to catch up. Since the advent of the internet everyone has information at their fingertips and they are used to researching anything and everything. They are happy to educate themselves. Google and Wikipedia will teach you everything you need to know, and there’s even a demonstration video on Youtube for whatever it is you want to find out about.

The skills people learn researching and shopping online has transferred into the way they choose a care home.  Consumers demand choice and they flit all over the internet grabbing snippets of information left by other consumers on forums, review sites, directories and blogs.

Your customers will engage with you on their terms, and through channels of their choosing. You need to understand your customers and deliver information to them at these touch points. They are seeking out content, advice and reviews of your product or service and that of your competitors.

The average care home business is in danger of thinking that the internet is a panacea solving all their marketing woes at a fraction of the cost they used to spend when placing ads in print. That is not the case and if anything, marketing has become a lot more complicated. Nothing much in the marketing world had changed since the printing press, but the internet has re-written the rulebook and lots of care companies are struggling to keep up.

Trends are in the making and a new hangout for your customer appears on the internet every day. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube, endless websites, forums and niche blogs. Today’s customers expect you to have a presence in all of these places, and if you are not there looking after them, your competition will be.

The customer’s experience begins the minute they search for your “Brand”, and when they do there will be paid ads on Google, Yahoo or Bing placed by your competitors, grabbing the attention of what you thought was ‘your’ customer.

Mixing metaphors for a moment, sales and marketing is a cutthroat bun fight at a jumble sale. The rules are constantly changing, perhaps the biggest challenge is keeping up?

People live in broader communities these days. You might argue that society is breaking down and that we don’t communicate with each other anymore but the internet and websites like facebook and twitter have made communication far easier than it ever has been. When we were researching a product or service 50 years ago, we would have asked our friends and family.  Today, our “friends and family” have grown to include anyone with access to the internet.

The last act or final buying signal of the customer is to actively seek out bad reviews. People demand balance and honesty – they are suspicious if they find endless glowing reviews and will be quick to dismiss them as filtered testimonials.  Research has shown that consumers trust independent reviews and opinions three times more than if they’re provided by a retailer or brand.

Marketing your care home is a lot more complicated than it once was and if you are going to keep up with the buying habits of your customers, you will need a diverse and intricate plan of attack involving advertising, reviews and social media. Having a website is no longer enough. Engage with your customers in as many places as possible but don’t look at the internet as a quick and cheap fix - it will take time, effort and investment if you are to beat off the competition.

Visit  www.yourcarehome.co.uk

Already a well established directory website listing around 2,000 care homes for the elderly and boasting many of the largest names in care in our membership, yourcarehome.co.uk are branching out!

From the 1st of April, we will are expanding our website to include all social care providers. We are partnered with Reevoo who provide a customer review service which is highlighted as an example of best practise by the OFT.

If you would like to advertise your homes or promote your business on our site, or to find out more about our plans, please contact us on info@yourcarehome.co.uk

 

Mark Sadler

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