By Rob Love, President & CEO
I admit it: I’ve loved the continuing care at home (CCaH) product since I first learned about it more than 20 years ago. With Life Plan Communities only capturing a fairly small proportion of the age- and income-qualified market nationwide, CCaH has always seemed to me to be both a great value for those who want to stay at home, as well as a strong additional mission extension and revenue source for Life Plan Communities.
Yet in many (and I’m tempted to say most) markets, CCaH has failed to meet the growth potential that was envisioned for it.
Over these past few years, Love & Company has explored the CCaH consumer and his or her purchase rationale in more detail, as well as established the first marketing benchmarks for the field. As we have delved further into the field, I’ve identified five things I believe CCaH providers should come together to do to support the overall growth of the product category.
1. Create a national product category
When consumers hear the names of product categories like “fast food,” “light beer,” “athletic shoes” or even “long-term care insurance,” they immediately have a clear picture of the category. But ask the typical 75-year-old what “continuing care at home” is and he or she has no idea.
One of the most important things the CCaH field can do is to create an overall product category for itself—one that both defines the category clearly and communicates a clear meaning to the market—and then build awareness of that category. Not unlike the effort to transform the “continuing care retirement community” product category to “Life Plan Community,” the product category name should ideally offer a positive connotation.
Why not do this with CCaH? A significant proportion of providers do not even use it as a consistent description of what they offer. Many programs have developed their own terminology for the product, a practice that—while understandable the way the field has grown—actually works to the detriment of growing the field.
Developing a product category name—like all of the steps I will touch on—requires existing providers to work together. They need to identify a name for the category, and then agree to use it consistently so that it gains widespread market awareness. Adopting the name is imperative, even if not every provider is fully in love with the new name (which won’t happen, of course, regardless of the new name). It is only through consistent exposure to the name that the product category will gradually build acceptance and meaning.
With the product category in place, the field can then move to Step 2.
2. Launch a shared digital marketing campaign
One of the challenges of the CCaH field is that, with slightly more than 30 organizations nationwide and most of them small (fewer than 250 members), each one creates its own operational and marketing structure, with little opportunity for economies of scale. This structure results in individual programs having fairly limited marketing budgets, and thus limited ability to build significant individual program or product category awareness in their markets.
A shared digital marketing campaign—one that includes both digital advertising and content marketing (social media)—could significantly increase each organization’s exposure in its individual market at a fraction of the cost of doing such a campaign on its own. And the shared campaign (with unique calls to action and landing pages for each program) would significantly boost product category awareness in all markets.
Why digital? The internet is already the greatest source of leads for Life Plan Communities and the primary driver of leads and sales for assisted living and memory care. With the typical CCaH prospect being younger than the typical new resident of a Life Plan Community—not to mention more affluent—he or she is even more digitally savvy than a Life Plan Community prospect. Digital media is the most cost-effective way to reach and communicate with CCaH prospects.
3. Pool operational resources and create a shared call center
I believe the CCaH field has an even greater opportunity to achieve economies of scale in operations than it does in marketing. As each new program launches, it hires and trains its own staff of personal care coordinators. For a new, small program, the coordinators become the face and personality of the program…until they leave, causing consternation among members until a replacement is found and brought up to speed.
I believe the field could—and should—invest in a shared call center of personal care coordinators, accompanied by a shared customer relationship management (CRM) program, in which each member’s history, needs and preferences are stored so that critical information is readily available at the fingertips of each coordinator. Such a center could minimize, if not eliminate, concerns with turnover and program consistency.
Would it be hard for coordinators to understand all the nuances and contractual differences of each program? Yes, very…the way the field is structured now. But that’s jumping ahead a step.
4. Determine the contract model(s) most accepted by consumers
CCaH program contracts come in many flavors, shapes and colors…meaning providers offer many variations of programs and contracts. Although many have a common base—the equivalent of a life care contract for a stay-at-home member—programs often offer several additional options (many of which have few takers) that may lead more to consumer confusion rather than consumer choice.
When one program has successfully sold 300+ contracts and another struggles to reach 50, what is the difference? Is it marketing? Or is it the contract offered, and how it is priced?
I would love the field to share data on the contracts members actually selected. What are the common characteristics of the most successful contracts of the most successful programs, and how are they priced? What can be learned to help new and existing programs fine-tune their contract options and grow their programs? By pooling this data, the field could determine the contract parameters that can be most successful across markets.
Evaluating the most popular contracts is essential, but it is only half of the picture. The other half? Understand the consumer.
5. Better understand the consumer
When Love & Company does a market study, marketing assessment or marketing plan for a Life Plan Community, one of the key steps is to conduct a resident demographic analysis. This paints a clear picture of the community’s target audience (i.e., age, income, home value, net worth, marital status) and how the demographic profile changes by residence type and size (i.e., one-bedroom apartments versus two-bedroom cottages with a den and sunroom). It also tells us the demographic profile of residents that select each contract option.
To truly understand which contracts are most successful in marketing CCaH programs, we also need to know who is buying each type of contract. How does income or net worth play into contract selection? Does age or marital status make a difference?
Love & Company has offered to do this analysis for a few communities. Preliminary data shows CCaH members are somewhat younger and more affluent than those that move into a Life Plan Community. But we’ve not seen anywhere near enough data to begin to draw conclusions about how demographic criteria of a market affect contract selection. Such a definition of the “ideal” CCaH prospect, along with the ideal contract options, would help all programs better focus their marketing and sales efforts.
Conclusion: The CCaH field must join together for the benefit of all.
As noted at the beginning, the common theme of all of these steps is that existing programs need to collaborate, share information and learn from each other to grow the field overall. Today, few CCaH programs are competitive with another program, so there is little competitive risk in sharing information and so much to gain. This includes:
- Better contracts
- More focused marketing
- Lower cost marketing
- Operational efficiencies
- A nationally recognized product category
I would love to hear your thoughts on these ideas. Let me know what you think by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on this post.
For more insights into the CCaH market, we invite you to read our CCaH report by clicking here. And to discuss the potential of beginning or marketing a CCaH program for your organization, give Tim a call at 410-207-0013 or click here to book an appointment on his calendar.