For many families across America, the winter holiday season is celebratory and joyous — with a wide range of festivities and gatherings from Thanksgiving through the New Year. For thousands of adult children, though, these annual visits with aging parents raise concerns or reveal that mom and/or dad need more help than previously realized.
That’s when they turn to the Internet for information and resources. In fact, according to a 2014 survey by Google, 75% of Baby Boomers (the adult children of today’s seniors) are using search engines to find information on senior living. Using the Google Trends tool, you can visually see this spike in searches for “senior care” every January in the United States (same for “nursing home” and “assisted living”).
Here are five things your organization needs to know about these senior care searchers online — if you want to be among those they turn to for help:
- In most cases, it’s the middle-aged adult daughter or daughter-in-law doing the research.
Of the estimated 43 million unpaid/family caregivers in America, 60% are female and about half are caring for a parent or parent-in-law (per data from the National Alliance for Caregiving). The percentages are the same or higher if you look at just those individuals searching online for senior care: in such a study with 2,512 respondents last summer, Caring.com found that 74% are female, age 50-70 (58%), 43% are caring for a parent, most of those parents are age 80+ (61%) and have some form of memory loss (88%). Be sure to keep her in mind as you develop the content and imagery of your website, social media profiles, and marketing materials.
- It’s likely that she’s not familiar with the local senior care options near her parent(s).
BrightLocal, a search marketing firm that analyzes consumers’ online behavior, found that only 5% hadn’t used a search engine to research a local business in the last 12 months. Looking exclusively at senior living research: Caring.com found that only 41% had existing knowledge of local senior living communities before going online to find nearby options for an aging parent or loved one.
- She’s using online reviews to narrow her search.
The BrightLocal study found that 91% of consumers are now reading online reviews about local businesses, and 63% used a search engine to find those reviews. This means that even if they already know of your business via a referral from a doctor or hospital discharge planner, they’re still going online to see what other consumers just like them have said about the quality of your services.
And they’re noticing if you’re responding to that online feedback: in Caring.com’s survey, 32% said that your response to consumer reviews online, “lets me know that the business cares and is listening,” with an additional 22% that said they’d be influenced by what you specifically say in your response to consumer reviews online.
- Speed to lead is critical.
When she finds your senior living community or skilled nursing facility via a search engine or online directory and submits an inquiry, respond within minutes (not hours) to keep her attention and build that relationship. With so many options only clicks away, she can easily and rapidly find other senior care providers who will leap on the opportunity and answer her questions immediately. Sales software company, Velocify measured this phenomenon: they found that calling an Internet lead within 1 minute made a 391% positive difference on conversion of that prospect to customer, while calling within 24 hours reduced that conversion improvement to 17%.
- She may not call you back right away — and you may need to keep trying for weeks (or months).
While speed to lead is critical for converting Internet leads, there will also be some of these senior care searchers you simply can’t reach immediately. It’s possible the adult daughter is researching options for her parents while on her lunch break at work (in Caring.com’s study: more than a third of the online senior care searchers were employed full-time or part-time, and 66% reported caregiving distractions while on the job). Perhaps she’s squeezing in the research while still at Mom’s house for the Christmas holiday — and doesn’t want to take your call within earshot of Mom. She may even be up doing her research at 3:00 a.m. — the Internet doesn’t sleep and while worried about her parent’s situation, neither does she. Or it could be that she perceives her parents’ needs aren’t urgent, and they’ll be among the 31% who take 6 months or longer to make their senior living community selection.
Stay focused on reaching her without inundating or repelling her: after you leave that initial (brief) voicemail, follow up with a helpful, personalized email. Share a recent blog post (or two) matched to the questions or needs she shared in her online inquiry. Make sure you have online reviews she can read to persuade her to call you back. Invite her to connect to your Facebook page, or subscribe to your blog, to learn more about the value of your senior care services and connect with others who’ve faced similar challenges with their parents or loved ones. Try to reach her again by phone in a few days, and then again in 10 days — after she’s had a chance to discuss the situation with her parents and siblings and get everyone’s buy-in on moving forward. Establish your organization as a trustworthy, knowledgeable senior care expert with services matched to her needs, and eventually, she’ll connect with you.