In the UK, there are approximately 9,000 home care agencies registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC). With the steadily ageing population and many people’s desire to stay in their own homes as they grow old, the domiciliary care industry is set to boom.
If you’re running a successful, but small, agency and want to expand your business to stand out from the crowd, then this article is for you.
Here we detail six tips to effectively grow your home care agency.
1. Get Planning
You’re no doubt passionate about caring for the elderly in their own homes, and have followed your dream to open your own home care agency. However, the idea of growing your agency might fill you with dread. There is much to consider and, if you’re already busy servicing your existing clients, it can feel overwhelming.
However, with dedicated planning, you’ll be able to set out a clear plan of action.
This will have achievable goals, plus a task list so you can progress activity in the right order and at the right time.
Before you started your domiciliary agency, you probably wrote a business plan. Now is the time to dig out that document, as it can help you to plan your expansion. What were your original goals and how have these evolved? Can you build on your launch strategy to help you develop now?
Next, brainstorm your ideas for business growth. Write down everything that comes to mind and don’t discount any thoughts at this stage. Conduct desk research into how other home care agencies have flourished and read advice from the leading business experts.Next, focus all your thoughts and ideas into a detailed, well-considered, and achievable plan. This plan should include:
- business strategy
- SMART goals
- who you plan to target
- what services you plan to offer
- how you plan to provide the services e.g. staffing
- financial overview e.g. budget required
- task list
By allocating time to plan your agency’s growth, you’re setting your business up to skyrocket.
2. Organise Finances
Finances should form a big part of your planning. You’ll need to know the amount required to grow your business, as well as how much you’ll need to make in sales to cover your costs.
Create a launch strategy budget.
This should include all the costs associated with your business expansion. For example, marketing activity or hiring staff. This final cost might be out of your budget, in which case you can remove or scale down some activity. The final cost, however, could be much less than you’re prepared to spend. If this is the case, then you can brainstorm more ideas or go bigger on some items.
Next, look at your existing cashflow and forecasts. Can you afford to pay for your expansion with the cash already in your business bank account? Or do you need to secure additional funding? This could take the shape of a business loan from a bank or specialist provider. Alternatively, you could seek private investment or apply for a Government small business loan.
Ensuring your finances are in order will help you to grow your home care agency.
3. Ramp Up Networking
It may feel counterintuitive, but getting out of the office and stepping away from the day-to-day operations will help to ramp up your business.
Building a name for yourself in the community that you operate in will help to drive new business. Raising awareness of your company and your services at every opportunity helps with brand recall. Therefore, when a potential new customer is considering home care services, you’re front of mind. Get a t-shirt branded with your logo, phone number and website. Then wear it to volunteer at local events, such as summer fairs, or take part in charitable activities, for example fun runs.
You can also join your local Chamber of Commerce, as well as other relevant business groups. It is also beneficial to network with those in the wider industry.
Attend nearby industry events where you can meet other local individuals or visit bigger, national conferences.
Set up regular meetings with local health care providers and local authorities that outsource contracts to home care providers. This will help ensure your agency is on the next contract tender list. You can also form connections and establish referral schemes with other individuals and organisations that target the same audience as you do.
Regularly networking helps to form lasting, and often fruitful, relationships.
4. Build Your Digital Presence
Many people use the internet to search for services, as well as research reviews and testimonials for specific companies.
If you don’t have a website, or if your website is very basic, then it’s worth investing in improving your digital presence to help grow your home care agency.
A detailed website that includes relevant information, is search engine optimised and looks professional will attract new clients. Make a list of a few home care agencies that are slightly larger than yours and which you admire. Then scrutinise their websites. Note aspects that you like and dislike about each, what the design looks like, how easy the websites are to navigate.
Then compare to your own website – you’ll soon identify areas you can improve.
A strong digital presence also includes customer reviews. People search and read testimonials before they buy products and services. Consider including a testimonial page on your website and ask your happy customers to write a short paragraph or two about your service. Alternatively, encourage customers to leave reviews on relevant third-party websites such as Trustpilot and Homecare.
If you don’t have a presence on social media site Facebook, then you could be missing out on digital advertising opportunities. Setting up a Facebook profile does require you to manage the page and keep it updated, however it also allows you to use Facebook’s highly targeted advertising platform.
Your primary audience might not be using Facebook, however their children and grandchildren might be. You can target them with advertising about home care for their elderly parents and relatives.
5. Diversify Marketing
If you have run the same marketing activity since day one, then now is the time to look at diversifying your tactics to grow your home care agency.
As noted above, you could consider advertising to the children and grandchildren of your target audience through social media and search engine pay per click (PPC) campaigns.
You could run print advertising in local media including newspapers, magazines and community newsletters. Or, if you have been running print ads for a while, consider branching out to another location nearby with different newspapers and magazines. Alternatively, you could advertise on local news or listings websites.
Leaflet drops are also effective. Get a professional, eye-catching leaflet designed and printed and then post these by hand through the letterboxes of homes in your target area. If you know your community well, then you’ll know which cluster of roads or areas are heavily populated by elderly residents. If not, then do some research. Leaflets can also be left in appropriate shops, on community noticeboards as well as in waiting rooms of GP surgeries or local hospitals.
If you have a vehicle that you use for work, or even a private one, then consider getting it branded with your company logo and contact details.
This is essentially a mobile billboard. It will get your brand known throughout the community and seen at busy places, such as parked in the local supermarket while you get your weekly groceries.
6. Utilise Existing Clients
Don’t underestimate your existing clients when it comes to growing your business. Word of mouth is a powerful tool to increase referrals and boost awareness about your company.
Incentivise your clients to tell their friends, relatives and personal network about your services. This can take the form of discounts for both the existing client and the new client, when the new client signs up.
You can also ask new clients if they were referred to your business by anyone in particular. Then send that client a thank you note with flowers or chocolates to show your appreciation for their recommendation.
If you know that one of your clients has an active social life and is involved in numerous hobby groups, then you could ask them to distribute leaflets to their friends on your behalf.
Also encourage clients, or client family members, to leave rating and reviews online to help enhance your digital presence.
You can also look at the services and packages that you offer your clients. There could be ways to boost loyalty and retention by offering discounts if a client signs up for another six months instead of three, for example.
Grow Your Home Care Agency
Growing a business involves a lot of careful planning. Having a strategy and a plan of action in place will help you to focus your attention and avoid feeling overwhelmed.