How Focus, Discipline and Consistency Yielded a Major Hospice Success Story

 In Competing in a Crowded Market

Twenty years ago, Transcend helped Hospice of Northwest Ohio (HNWO) launch their groundbreaking marketing campaign focused on families. Through diligent, consistent branding and marketing work, the agency has continued to focus on this audience through the years and is a major success story in the power of such sustained efforts.

Yet, as our recent report on 20 years of data on the family healthcare decision maker shows, HNWO remains one of the exceptions to the rule. Unfortunately, in most markets, community-focused marketing still has not received the attention it deserves, and the family healthcare decision maker remains a significant untapped opportunity for most. As a result, most families have not been effectively educated on the options they have.

Our research has shown that communities typically have a very generic view of hospice. Many decision makers don’t even realize that more than one hospice provider serves their community, let alone that all hospices are not the same. HNWO’s decades of success with this audience gives a glimpse into the results that are possible when agencies choose to invest in educating their community. It’s a story that contrasts dramatically against the national status quo.

One key lesson to take away: While it doesn’t take 20 years to achieve significant results, it does take sustained commitment. The first integrated marketing and public relations campaign Transcend worked with HNWO on had the theme of, “Answers for Living the Last Months of Life.” The campaign’s centerpiece was a series of TV spots featuring heartfelt interviews from family members helped by HNWO, as well as their staff members explaining their approach to end-of-life care. A series of informative pieces, advertising and media releases rounded out the campaign. After three years of the campaign, HNWO increased family directed admissions by 47%, increased the average length of stay by 64% and increased patient days by 84%. Their $1 million investment yielded more than $10 million in revenue. Much of that success has been attributed to educating patients and families about hospice and reducing the stigma about care in the months prior to death.

Working with Transcend throughout most of the 2000s and 2010s, HNWO has reached as high as an unprecedented 75% in unaided brand awareness levels, meaning community survey respondents are able to name the agency without being provided a list of names or any other prompts. Unaided awareness is one of the strongest indicators of how much mindshare a provider has with consumers in their market, and one of the clearest gauges of whether they will be top-of-mind when the time comes to choose who will care for their loved one. In contrast, HNWO’s closest competitors struggled to exceed 10% in unaided awareness. In fact, agencies across the nation rarely break above 10% without a robust family and patient audience strategy.

Most agencies face a dual-pronged battle of both educating their community on the existence, purpose and values of hospice overall, while simultaneously needing to differentiate their organization from other area agencies. In order to truly protect and grow market share, it’s critical to have a strategy that accomplishes both. However, many fall into the trap of defining services generally at the expense of zeroing in on what makes their organization unique. HNWO’s strategy has remained focused on educating the community on important differences they provide that separate their care from other options. The robust brand presence they have established has helped secure their position as northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan’s leading hospice provider, even as the area’s largest health system began entering the senior care space.

Through the years, the agency’s marketing has evolved to bring its differentiators into even sharper focus. One of the more recent marketing initiatives includes an integrated campaign that continued to educate the community on the important differences HNWO provides that separate their care from other options. With the theme, “Experience More from the Most Experienced,” the campaign’s elements explained that while many regard hospice as settling for less, the right provider can actually help patients and families experience more during life’s final months. Combining emotional and factual appeals, data points were included to highlight the organization’s measurable differences, including years of specialized hospice care and high family satisfaction rates.

Through a Strong Brand, Transcend Helped Hospice of Northwest Ohio Maintain and Grow Its Position as the Area’s Leading Provider

During the first six months after this campaign launched in 2018, census increased 14%, ALOS gained 10 days and MLOS grew by 11 days.

While HNWO’s success is rare, it’s certainly not singular. Our clients commonly see a 100% to 400% growth in topline revenue by incorporating the family healthcare decision maker into their strategy. You can learn more directly from senior care leaders who have grown their agencies with this strategy by joining our panel discussion webinar on March 15.