How to market a hospice program

The market for hospice services in the United States is set to grow over the next few years. In fact, the market had a value of $32.1 billion in 2021, and researchers expect it to grow at a compound annual rate of 8.2 percent until 2030. This steep increase is due to a growing elderly population as well as an increase in chronic and age-related illnesses.

If you’re thinking about opening a hospice or you currently run a hospice program,  it’s crucial to understand how to continuously attract patients and families to your business. Be aware, too, that marketing a hospice program can be challenging because it requires you to engage in emotional and difficult conversations with your target market. In this article, we’ll help you navigate these challenges and market your hospice program to grow your business.

How to market a hospice program: 7 essential tasks

1. Know your audience

In thehospice industry, there are two main audiences you’ll need to consider in your marketing: patients and their families and the medical professionals who provide care for them.

Hospice patients are terminally ill, and their medical team believes their illness will lead to death in six months or less. Understandably, this is an incredibly difficult time for patients with this prognosis — as well as for their families. They’ll be looking for physical, emotional, and spiritual support. A hospice business can provide much-needed guidance and assistance.

One way hospice businesses can narrow down their target patient and family audience is by looking at the demographics in their area. For example, how many seniors live within a certain radius of the hospice center?

The second target audience for hospice programs is medical professionals. In the United States, Medicare, Medicaid, or insurance cover most hospice services. In order for a patient to qualify for this coverage, a medical professional must refer the patient to a hospice based on their diagnosis. In many cases, a patient’s family physician makes this referral, though nurses, social workers, and others in the healthcare field sometimes do as well.

2. Have clear marketing goals

Before you start working on marketing activities for your hospice business, it’s important to clearly outline your goals. What do you want to achieve through your marketing efforts? While growing your hospice business is an overarching goal, it’s not specific enough to help you create a marketing strategy.

For example, a specific goal would be to increase your physician referrals by 10 percent. Once you’ve articulated this precise goal, it will be easier to focus your marketing efforts — in this case, you could focus on physician outreach, attending medical conferences, and creating print collateral to leave at physicians’ offices, for example.

It’s vital to tie your marketing actions back to your goals. For example, if you selected increasing physician referrals by 10 percent as your goal and your marketing actions involved building up your social media following, you won’t likely reach your goal with that approach alone. A better tactic would be to increase your networking resources and reach out to local referring physicians.

When you align your marketing to your specific goals, you make better use of your marketing budget and get results that help you grow your business.

3. Refine your messaging

Given the sensitive circumstances surrounding someone’s need for hospice services, a hospice program needs to carefully think through the messaging it uses in any type of marketing campaign.

Hospice businesses provide services to those nearing the end of their lives, which means that the patients and their families are likely emotional, overwhelmed, and stressed. First, consider how they must be feeling about making the decision to use hospice services — and how your program can assist them. Then you can include those details in your messaging, along with a clear outline of the services your hospice program offers.

Similarly, when you’re developing marketing materials for medical professionals, it’s important to present a comprehensive list of the services you provide as well as the expertise of the team members involved. A hospice business will need to collaborate with medical professionals should their patients require hospice services, so be sure to discuss your methods for facilitating collaboration to ensure everyone involved can provide a high quality of care.

4. Use a mix of marketing strategies

As you consider how to market a hospice program, it’s important not to limit yourself to just one tactic. There are different ways to reach the target audiences for a hospice program, and it’s likely your business will have more success if you use a multi-pronged strategy.

For example, attending networking events for medical professionals in your area is a good way to build rapport with those who may be sending referrals to hospice programs. Having a presence at local community centers and senior centers can help hospice businesses take part in their communities and build trust with potential patients and their families.

While in-person marketing is critical in the hospice industry, digital marketing is equally important. Your hospice program must have a comprehensive and engaging website where you can effectively describe your services, showcase your facility, and share the expertise of the hospice team. To help draw interested people to your site, you could also publish blog posts regularly and employ search engine optimization techniques that will help your site rank higher in search results. Some hospice programs also have a social media presence that helps them build relationships online.

5. Test new approaches

As with marketing in any industry, it’s important to test the waters before you launch any major campaigns or make big changes.  Testing your messaging, visual elements, and distribution media with a small segment of the target audience will give you insight into what works, what doesn’t, and what you’ll need to adjust in order to be successful.

For example, if you want to try search engine marketing (running paid ads on search results pages), first test the content and images first on a small group of people to ensure your marketing is effective and delivers the kind of response you’re looking for. This way, you could use just a small portion of your ad budget to figure out the most effective way to engage people, as opposed to using the entire budget from the outset.

6. Track key performance indicators

Gathering the right data is essential to successfully marketing a hospice program. If you set and measure key performance indicators (KPIs), you’ll be able to see which marketing campaigns are working and which ones aren’t.

The KPIs you track will depend on the type of marketing media you use. For example, if you primarily focus on digital ad campaigns, your KPIs may include unique site visitors and site engagements. If you do a lot of community outreach, your KPIs may include the referrals you’ve gathered. It’s important to set up a tracking frequency for key performance indicators, such as weekly, monthly, or quarterly.

Once you’ve gathered several cycles of data, you’ll be able to see trends in the numbers and correlate them to your marketing activities. For example, you might see that every time you publish a new blog post on your website, the number of unique visitors to your site gets a bump.

Use the data to make decisions about the direction of the marketing strategy. If the number of unique site visitors is trending downward even though you’re publishing new blog posts each week, it could mean you’re using the wrong keywords in your content.

7. Rework the strategy as needed

Times change, markets change, and people change. So don’t be surprised if the things that worked in a marketing strategy last year aren’t very relevant this year. That’s the nature of marketing, and that’s why it’s important to continually refine your strategies to ensure they’re still working to attract and engage your target audience.

Rely on key performance indicators to see how your marketing campaigns are faring. Then be sure to pivot and adjust the messaging, visuals, or tactics as necessary when performance starts to falter. Using KPI data to refine the marketing strategy ensures that you’re making changes based on evidence and not just on gut feelings.

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