How to Attract Self-funders in a Digital Age

Autumna is the largest directory of social care providers for over 55’s in the UK with an evolving and innovative approach.

Q: “Could you tell us about Autumna’s beginnings and its vision for the care home sector?”

A: Debbie Harris: “Autumna has been live for over 3 years and its platform has been built with a digital age very much in mind, with a particular focus on the self-funding market.  Over 90% of the enquiries we receive are from self-funding clients and these clients have a person centred choice when choosing a care home.

“Our care support team confirmed an additional 287 families have placed in May, with many more still to be confirmed.”

Q:  Ownacarehome asked Debbie: “What are four tips that care home providers can takeaway from you to differentiate themselves and stand out, attracting more self-funding clients?”

Tip 1

A: Debbie commented: “In turn I will start with the current shopping habits of the self-funding care seeker looking at how they have changed in the last 3 years.”

“I think it’s fair to say that social care was caught on the hop at the beginning of March 2020 when Covid locked down the country and I don’t mean by Covid itself, that caught everybody out, I mean by the way care homes marketed themselves and how they presented themselves to potential clients.”

“Pre-covid the way most families chose a care home was to get a recommendation from a friend or neighbour, turn up unannounced on the driveaway and ask for a show round.  Very often that would be the limit of their investigation, very often they didn’t realise there may be other choices.  To visit as many as 3 care homes would be regarded as a very comprehensive search.”

“In those days care home services put just enough information online to encourage an enquiry, but not too much more.  They wanted the care seeker to visit their care home or make contact.”

“All that stopped on March 16th 2020.”

“Within a matter of weeks care providers were looking at alternative marketing methods to promote their services.  The offline marketing methods of leaflet drops and local advertising weren’t working.”

“Marketing budgets were fundamentally altered, one national care home provider told me that their marketing focus had moved from 80% off line to 80% online by May of that year.”

“Care seekers can use the Autumna care home search directory or the shortlisting tool.  This tool provides the Autumna team with enough information to send the care seeker a shortlist of services that match their preferred location, type of care service and budget.”

“We are supporting 3,000 families a month using this service, it saves them time and anxiety and provides the support they need whenever they need it.  The Autumna enquiry line for care seekers is automated and runs 24/7, with approximately 40% of enquiries submitted between 6pm at night and 9am in the morning.  This is a significant change in care seeker behaviour post covid.”

“Care seekers are used to using a search directory now with the result that they have the opportunity to ‘see inside’ a much greater number of care homes before they make their care placement decision.  Over 90% of that decision making process takes place on line followed up with what tends to be one physical visit whether this is the care seeker themselves or their family or a third party.”

“Thus the way that care homes present themselves on line is vitally important and starts with their website and profile setting within the Autumna directory.  With the right online presence, a care provider can present their care service consistently backed up by real time data, including videos and open and transparent information, allowing the personality of the care provision to shine through the website and Autumna profile page.”

Tip 2

“How a care home can appear more frequently on a self-funders shortlist”

“Quality and quantity of information is critical to attract self-funding clients and providing as much information as possible helps the care seeker make that all important care placement decision.”

“Autumna’s advice to a care home provider is also to have an open and transparent pricing criteria.  On Autumna we give the care seeker a ‘prices from’ figure but also the opportunity to look further into the nursing, residential dementia, residential, respite price and so on.  Prospective self-funding families want to know the price.  On countless occasions families have told the Autumna team that there was no visible price ‘so we didn’t think we could afford it.’”

“The personality of a care home is key and evidencing this online is important.  People buy from people and generally from people they like.  Your Registered Manager is the key person, thus an image and maybe a video will reassure prospective clients that your care home is the right setting for them.”

“Include profiles and images of the rest of the care home team, even the resident dog or cat.”

“Another successful way to get a care home’s personality across is through FaceBook.  At the beginning of covid Autumna introduced a live FaceBook feed into the premium profile.  Our analytics show us that it is one of the most visited tabs and it shows the care seekers and their families everything a care home has been doing over the previous days, weeks, months.  It’s an exceptionally powerful tool.  To demonstrate we’ve had a number of instances when a 50:50 decision has come down to the difference in the FaceBook feeds.  The live feed has the ability to show on a daily basis what life is like in the care home.” 

Tip 3

“So you have all of your information online, you are being shortlisted……………”

“How to convert more leads into more placements”

“Success falls into two categories, tone of the response and speed.”

“Over 75% of the leads we send to care home providers place.  We know because the Autumna team follows up with the families.”

“Having an enquiry champion taking ownership of the enquiries is recommended, logging the enquiry and following up same day with an action plan.  The care enquiry leads that we send are pre-qualified, so we know that they are going to the right care providers and the care seekers anticipate a quick same day response since in most cases the care urgency is an immediate need.”

“Sometimes the client doesn’t give the Autumna team permission to hand over their contact details, however, these clients still place and with these care seekers and their families a care home’s online profile becomes even more relevant.”

“In our experience the best way to get a response is to call the care seeker or their family, be friendly and supportive, backed up by an email if you are unable to make contact.  If you don’t do this until the next day our experience at Autumna shows that the enquiry falters.”

As an example: a few weeks ago a provider emailed me at 9.30am to say:

                ‘You sent us a lead at 8.45am this morning, we called the client at 9.20am and she told us that she has found a care home.  Did you delay sending us the lead?’

At Autumna we are able to track all of our leads to care home providers online so I was able to confirm:

                ‘Four homes as requested by the client were shortlisted and sent at the same time to the providers.  One of the providers had responded within a matter of minutes, had spoken to the client and she was visiting the home that morning.’

This example highlights that the speed of a care home provider’s response to a care service enquiry is critical.  The client moved into the care home the following day.

Autumna continues to evolve its service and now also works with hospital discharge teams, providing an automated solution to the way discharge teams communicate with providers.  This service is known as D.A.D (Dashboard for Accelerated Discharge).”

“To convert self-funding leads our recommendation is for a care provider to have a dedicated team member(s), to focus on response time.  Also consider a CRM, Autumna has an API to integrate with this.


 Tip 4

“My last tip looks at How to Gain a Competitive advantage through smarter data collection and analysis”

“Understanding what your competitors are doing and how the care home market is changing are key alongside understanding the needs of the demographic in your area.”

“Autumna has partnered with a geo spatial mapping organisation that helps the Autumna team to track, analyse and display these components enabling us to share them with you at a local level."

"As online competition increases, and digital engagement evolves across the care home sector, it will become even more imperative to understand your business environment."

Autumna’s key takeaways for care home owners can be summed up as follows:

  • The Autumna care seeker data analyses the current and evolving ‘shopping habits’ of self-funding care seekers
  • Have a discussion with Autumna to ascertain how your care home can appear more frequently on a self-funders short list
  • Contact Autumna to see how your care home can convert more enquiries into care placements
  • Discuss with Autumna how your care home can gain competitive advantage through smarter data collection and analysis

Debbie Harris    

For more information about the UK’s largest Directory of Care Homes, Home Care, Live-in-Care and Retirement Living, and how to claim your Premium Care Provider Profile to increase care enquiries...

Contact Autumna today