We have talked before about the importance of having people to serve if we are going to have a viable aging in place services business. Without having clients we can’t really call ourselves a business. We have looked at various types of marketing that we might want to employ to attract new business, from print media (trifolds or direct mail, for instance), electronic advertising (over the airwaves such as radio or TV or on the internet in many forms), and word of mouth (referrals).
We also mentioned direct referrals, and this is what we want to look into. Referrals can come from two sources – consumers and professionals. When we have served someone well enough that they are happy to mention us to friends, neighbors, or relatives of theirs and talk us up as being someone who can do what we promise and make their lives so much richer, we have pre-interested people we can work with.
Making a sale to a personal referral (someone identified for us by an existing client) is relatively easy. They have been presold on us, on our price point for the work that was done, and for the overall consumer experience. There’s not much to do except determine what they need or want to have done, put an estimate together, and have them approve it. Unless our proposal is well beyond the budget they had in mind (and it really shouldn’t be because of their advance knowledge of what we do and generally what we charge to do it), or they didn’t have the urgency that they are pretending to have, they should be ready to engage us.
Referrals that come to us because they have seen the work we do at their friend’s or relative’s home are coming to us with the knowledge of what we can do and are accepting of our ability and reputation. We don’t need to sell ourselves or our credibility. That’s been done.
The same holds true when we get a referral from a professional that we have established a relationship with, such as a case manager, occupational therapist, physical therapist, physician, discharge planner, insurance adjustor, real estate agent, attorney, lender, chiropractor, or similar professional who is advising their client on what they might need to have done or is looking out for their interests. They have chosen to refer them to us because we already have established ourselves with that professional through a series of meetings and phone calls. Possibly we already have done work for them and their clients.
Trust is the key part of this relatiosnhip. The referring professional trusts us and our ability to help their client. They don’t need to be involved in the project other than to be kept informed of what we are doing. They will not have any hands-on responsibility and will not participate in any of the revenue from the project. That’s not why they are turning over their client to us. They know we can help their client by modifying their home to serve their current needs. This is a handoff to us rather than remaining engaged as an active participant in the project. Again, the trust and confidence are already there for us to be able to serve their clients without them remaining connected to the project.
Whatever their clients need, from better access to their home, bathroom renovation (including roll-in shower), adding a bathroom, repair to the roof or structure, adding living quarters to the residence as attached or detached space, renovating the kitchen (including lower upper cabinets or increasing access to base cabinets, appliances, and eating surfaces), expanding the hallway width, addressing sensory issues (with more lighting or electronic alerting systems), adding vertical mobility devices (lifts or elevators), installing ramps or inclined walkways at the entrance to the home, or creating a first floor bedroom or master suite, they have confidence in our ability to make it happen.
We – along with our team of participating professionals – begin our assessments or confirm the assessment provided by the referring professional, determine what needs to be done, secure agreement from the client unless the referring professional is funding the project and needs to be involved in the decision, and begin the job. They continue their normal workload of working with other clients while keeping an eye on what we are doing for the people they have referred to us. The next time they have someone whom we can help, they will send that person to us.
After doing the initial work of finding the referring professionals (several of them) who might have clients we can serve, and establishing ourselves with them over a series of meetings and supporting materials over several weeks or months until they feel comfortable in having us work with their clients, we should have a continuous flow of business from them.