Today we’ll be hearing from the fabulous Merrily Orsini. Merrily’s currently the founder and CEO at corecubed. She started her first aging care business back in 1981 and has been in the industry ever since in 1998, she sold her agency and founded corecubed, a marketing firm dedicated exclusively to helping aging care providers grow their business. She was recently the chair of the Private Duty Home Care Association while on the board of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC). Merrily’s personal motto is ‘onward and upward’. All right, so let’s begin talking about home care sales. Corecubed is an industry thought leader in all things, home care sales and home care marketing, but I want to start more on the sales front. I want to talk about the role of a sales person right now. What Merrily are the tools that a sales person should be taking advantage of right now?
Well, this is probably the best time ever to hone skills. So I’m a sales person who might need some assistance or some training and you know, upping their game in several different areas. This would be the time to do it. So they’re, you know, using CRMs using the internet having the inquiry process be the very best it can be. There are a lot of those kinds of things that this would be the time to really review the processes and review the skills that the sales person has and, and, and make those better if at all possible,
Well, of course I would recommend Shelly Womble, who is our sales and operational coach, because she’s the very best imaginable. I would also suggest that a sales person familiar as themselves with some type of customer relationship management tool or some type of a tracking tool that integrates with their client base and the referral sources. So they could maximize their usage of contacts with people. So they make certain that they are getting the best results they can
Definitely. Yeah, we’ll hit on CRMs a little bit more when we dive into the marketing, but, but I completely agree. Honing in on skills right now is so important to just optimize their time and their energy. So moving into the next question, how, how should salespeople be reaching out right now? What’s the method to connect and reach out to these referral sources currently?
Well, the phone is going to be the very best but not cold calling because people really are not receptive to cold calling right now. However they are very receptive if they have a relationship with you already, they’re very receptive to building that relationship. Some of the facilities are opening up again to allow people to make in person calls, but that’s not a general statement, but when those calls are, and when those, those meetings are being held, they are generally in a parking lot with masks and social distancing. We’ve also seen some very creative usage of a couple of things. One is people in networks of referral sources offering to sponsor a zoom meeting for those people and then covering something that would be helpful to everyone that will keep you in front of those referral sources. And then some other creative things. We’ve seen people painting the fronts of nursing homes with chalk gradings and having, you know, drive by celebrations, those kinds of things. I mean, there, there are some creative things happening just to get people to remember you and to be kept top of mind in this weird time we’re in right now.
Definitely. And I wanted to yeah. Ask that you’ve kind of mentioned, you know, focusing on existing relationships. Would you recommend exploring new relationships at this time or is it better just to hold off?
Do you know if you were that’s really a Shelly Womble question, not a Merrily Orsini question, but you using social media right now, specifically, LinkedIn is a really good place to start a relationship and to start the conversation. But I think the better tactic right now is to really look at who you already have as a contact and to really dive deep into how can you make that relationship better. And what kinds of things can you do with those people to build those relationships? So when we come out of this, you would have a stronger relationship than we had going into it.
Definitely. And what, what could that message look like? You know, we’ve talked about some of the creative ways that people are, you know, initiating contact, but then when it comes down to the actual conversation, what, what should their, you know, compelling message be to stand out from some of their competitors,
The whole issue of how the agency deals with COVID each agency should, and hopefully has by now, because we’ve been in this long enough has specific protocols and specific precautions that they are taking. So w what is the agency doing to keep their staff safe, to keep the clients safe? Those are such important messages right now. And and you know, that changes as the information about coverage changes, how we are approaching, staying safe changes. So it’s an ongoing and changing environment, but that’s what people are, are interested in. And are you, where are you on the spectrum of taking clients with COVID? Are you taking recuperating clients, you’re taking active clients? What are you doing about that? What is your plan for now, and what is your plan for the future?
That’s honestly a perfectly, a perfect segue, right? Into almost the marketing side of things. We talk a lot about website optimization, you know, agencies need to have the right message or relevant message on their website. So what would be some tips for optimizing a website right now?
Well, the, your suggestion of having something about COVID is definitely what, excuse me, what someone wants to see when they go to the website, they want to know that you’re taking this seriously. The people, when they go to a website, really want to make certain that the first thing they see is what are you doing about COVID. And that is very important for people to see first, but from a search engine optimization strategy specifically, it really is when you are selling home care about how much how much helpful information can you provide to someone who is, who is seeking care. So, and then there’s, do you want me to go onto some specific SEO strategy? Like, yeah, I’d love to hear that, you know, we’re fond of saying marketing home care is different than marketing, any other product and service. So and we have been doing digital marketing and search engine optimization for a long time.
So making certain that your keywords are correct, and those do change all the time, that means what are people searching for? And over time that changes actually sometimes it changes month to month, but making certain that you are every page that you want to have optimized, that you really are looking at what keywords are you using? And you’re doing an ongoing analysis to make certain that you were still in the right place for those keywords. You really do need to research your competitors. And you are also going to look for what words are they using and what messages are they using to get clients? So a good competitor analysis is something that, that we do and that we always recommend your site, your website itself, actually I’m going to drop back just a little bit because it has to be visually pleasing.
It has be branded to your agency and it has to be compelling. So, but you also have to have everything working on the website. So anytime that you have links that don’t work, or you’ve got old information on, or you haven’t made changes to your website, that’s going to drop your capacity to be found. So we recommend auditing your site and monitoring it and making certain that it is meeting standards that search engines are looking for. Cause those changes. Well, we do heat mapping here. And by that, what we’re doing is we’re looking at how does the user, what’s the user’s experience when they come into the website? What is their journey? What are they clicking on? Where are they going? Are they converting from just looking into actually making an inquiry about services? And then obviously you need to keep that website up to date and improve based on what you’re learning.
So it’s a websites are not static in the days when we used to just do print brochures or advertisements and phone books, everything was static, but the website is definitely not a static environment at all. How people perceive you and that is backlinks to your site, how people perceive you as in the industry and are people referring back to you, is there information on your website that is of good enough quality that people are linking to it and telling people you should go here for to get information. And of course we always recommend educating because when people are looking for services, for someone who has a home care need, oftentimes they don’t know the information they need to know. So and there isn’t a one size fits all. So if you need information about a lot of different types of issues that might affect people who would need home care, I’m also integrating social media. So using Google, my business, using Facebook, using other social platforms, I mentioned LinkedIn for a salesperson, but everything really needs to be coordinated. And
Is something that is seriously just information about what types of things do people know when they want to choose home care. So linking out to something like that, and then having that link on your website, those kinds of things are helpful, the search engine optimization. And then of course there’s always directories and you would need to make certain, you are included in those directories that your information is correct. And it all, if you think about it at all, ties back in together,
Definitely. And when you speak with home care agencies are most agencies you work with, are they contracting out their websites to local agencies or contracting out, you know, SEO, all of these things, or at what point maybe do should an agency, you know, contracted versus take it in house. What are you seeing in that regard?
As complicated as it is to actually understand and keep up with everything in search engine optimization, I think it would be a waste of an agency’s time to take that in house. The only people I’ve ever seen successful at that are people who are really geeky walks and they happened to own a home care business. So but other than that, it is it’s too much minutia and too much information I think to do in house and it’s not expensive to outsource it. Of course, I’m going to pitch outsourcing to someone who actually has experience in home care because we started this saying that marketing home care is different from marketing other products and services. And it truly is. So I would think for search engine optimization for, I mean, even for writing content and managing social media and understanding how, how it all works together. I can’t imagine that you could do as good a job as a home care agency owner, as someone who did it, does it professionally and understands the industry?
Definitely, definitely. And one of the channels we didn’t talk a whole lot about is email, you know, we hit on CRMs a little bit. Most agencies will see pushing out a weekly or monthly newsletter. What else, you know, what other email content would you recommend agencies be pushing out to their network?
Well we use a CRM actually. It’s funny because we use infusion soft and we got that from Aaron Markham, which was when he first started home care pulse years ago. And and it is it, and he just was so excited about it, that we looked into it and, and we have also been using it since then, but it isn’t, that is not an easy CRM. There are much easier CRMs to use. But I think if you are, to me you don’t want email to be invasive. You only want to get it an email if you’re actually interested in whatever that email is. So I think a CRM allows you to do that. But the newsletters, we always make newsletters full of helpful content because people really want to be educated. They want to know how to solve problems and a lot of information about who the agency is or you know, internal kind of information is usually not that interesting to the public, but you’re looking for is if you’re communicating with someone through an email newsletter, you want that email newsletter to be worthy enough of sharing.
So the content should be very educational should be compelling, should be visually pleasing. And you want it to, you want people to share it and then you also want it to make people think about other ways they could use your services.
Frequency internal communication, if you mean to staff, I think needs to be done frequently because anytime you’re communicating something externally your internal staff needs to know what you have communicated. Because if someone happens to get that communication, ask staff about it, you don’t want them to be blindsided and not know what it is you’re doing. From an external marketing standpoint, at least quarterly, but we really recommend monthly. And that month is a recommendation every other month. Obviously the next quarterly would be our, you know, Lee, the, the least frequency you could do, it would be quarterly to be effective. It really needs to be something people get used to seeing and oftentimes at the same time every month. So the middle of the month, first of the month, last of the month, whatever you choose, that should be consistent.
Okay. Yeah. Great information there. I want to dive into budgets. You know, we hear this question a lot, you know, how much should I be spending on marketing? Where should I be allocating funds? I know all agencies and our listeners, you know, are varied in their size and their, you know, revenue, but what is a good way to estimate how much you should be spending on your marketing efforts?
I think rather than putting a dollar amount on it, I would say you should make certain you’re getting results. It is amazing to me sometimes when we pick up a client, what they’re spending but they’re spending it with a larger entity that is not a specialist in home care. And so they’re not getting the results they need. When they actually look at starting to measure for results, then that makes the expenditures easier because you know, it doesn’t take private pay business. Specifically, if you get a new client, that’s a nice revenue stream. If that client stays for a long time. So if you’re, if what you’re doing is actually converting inquiries into clients, then you’re going to feel much better about whatever it is that that you’re budgeting. And I said this earlier, but you, the first step before you start thinking about how are you going to do outrage? You have to take a hard look at what do you look like? What does your agency look like? What does your website look like? What does your logo look like? You know, what are you competing with other people? So you can do all the SEO in the world and draft people to your website. But if they get there and there’s not good information there, and it doesn’t look good and it’s not easy to navigate, then they’re going to have a hard time choosing your agency.
Definitely. I love that. It’s a basic principle, but you’re exactly right in that. You’ve got to take an inside look and make sure what you look like visually. And as far as content goes, is appealing so that, you know, there is when there is a call to action, people are ready to take action. So as far as allocating, you know, say, say an agency does have, you know, their presence, their visual, their website, optimized and ready to go. What, you know, we’ve talked about SEO, email newsletter, social media, where, you know, an agency that maybe has a smaller budget or is concerned, you know, with their marketing spend, where do you think they can generate the most ROI? Initially?
I would not have said this Miriam a year ago, but it is right now today. It’s PPC pay-per-click okay. If you know how to do pay-per-click and I certainly don’t, but my SEO team is absolutely fabulous at it. And if you know how to do it, it really does make the biggest return on investment and it is not. And you get to choose the budget so you can, you know, choose the budget of whatever you want, you know, a hundred dollars a month, a thousand dollars a month, whatever you want to allocate to it. And, and you can see results and you could even choose different amounts, different months, you know, to see if I’m spending a hundred dollars. What, how many clients am I going to get out of that hundred dollars? And, and, you know, if I’m upset to 200, how’s that gonna affect me? So that would, I would start there.
Great. And, you know, without diving in too deep, could you give us maybe a high level overview of PPC? I think most people are familiar with it, but I know there are people that you say PPC and they pay per click and they might not even know just, you know, just briefly, what, what does that entail?
Well, it simply means that you are paying for the clicks that someone someone finds your ad and they click through to your website, and then you’re going to pay for that. And those clicks cost different amounts of money, depending on what words you’re using. And they do change over time. So it’s, it’s different search engine optimization, search engine optimization is people finding, you know, though, I’ve got a mother with Alzheimer’s disease, I need care in Coeur d’Alene Idaho, you know? And so that’s what you’re searching for. Paper clicker, those little ads that come up on the top and it’ll say ad or S so it’s someone that has paid to be on that page. Not someone who gets there organically. Is that enough of an answer?
I would do content next because having good content by that, I mean, having a blog having good content that when someone gets to your site and I’ll go back to my mother with Alzheimer’s and Cortaline if, if I’m looking for care for that for my mother, who has Alzheimer’s I want to know, does this agency actually know what to do about someone with Alzheimer’s are they used to caring for the people like that? Do they have information about it? So blogs are a great way on many different levels. But the, you know, the, the biggest thing is with anything on the web or anything, digital you’re really reaching people. So the blog allows you to have a place to write information that someone can read and relate to. And it also helps with the search engine optimization. And you can use blog content in lots of different ways.
You can take snippets of your blog and post them on social media. You can put them in your newsletter and link back to them. So I would say writing good blogs would, would be the next thing and by good blogs, I mean, really blogs that are helpful information, and that are written by someone who understands what they’re writing about. Not just putting a lot of words together. I’ve seen, I don’t know what they call it, but people who write there’s like farms have a bloggers that write information. And, but you can tell it wasn’t written by someone who speaks English as their native language. And and oftentimes they don’t understand what they’re talking about. So it’s, it’s, the keywords are right, but the, but the user experience is not good and I’m a good well-written educational blog. It would be my second, my second choice.
Yeah. I love it. I echo everything that you say, you know, of course you’ve told care polls, you know, we are huge content advocates and free content. You know, we see across the industry, people that are charging for resources and content, and it’s not, you know, it’s not the worst thing. And we all have different, you know, different, you know, business models, but free content, really the way to go, to reach your audience and to just build that credibility of your agency. So I love that. I’ve loved everything that you’ve said. Honestly, I think it’s valuable information. We get so many questions about, you know, what is, and isn’t working in sales and marketing right now. And I think we’ve done a really good job of providing a high level overview of what that looks like. So just to, to kind of wrap up the conversation, any additional thoughts or advice that you’d give agencies right now in regards to sales and marketing?
Well, I would say that if you have a really good sales person on staff and they are not keeping busy, that you find ways to keep that person busy and they can do client comfort calls, they can they can assist with other things in the office. You can have, you know, brainstorming sessions about how, what other kinds of things could they be doing during a situation when they really can’t go in and make cold calls or, or visit new people. And I would really have everyone work on that inquiry process because right now, when you get the call and someone’s inquiring, and you’ve got that opportunity to turn someone from an inquiry into an in home assessment and a client I would, I would really think that you want everyone in the office to understand that
Awesome. Awesome. Well, thanks for taking the time today, Merrily. Like I said, we’re huge fans of corecubed and we love what you stand for, and we love what you’re doing for the industry and for agencies at the agency level. So thanks for taking the time. We really appreciate it.