I just got off the phone with a hospice client who was calling to ask if we could delay the launch of their new TV campaign. I asked (with a bit of ‘Oh No!’ ???) what the issue was. She said in a very rushed voice that they had record census – thanks to our rebranding success, new messaging and strategy. “But that’s good, right?” I asked.  She laughed and agreed.

“We actually hired when we partnered with you. We knew we’d grow with your support. But we’ve actually picked up more patients then we can handle. I’ve been with this hospice for 17 years and this has never happened.”

A lot of the time in our industry we try and help clients navigate expectations. I remember cautioning them not to over hire because our strategies take time to work. We have had record gains in census in less than 6 months, but it all depends on several factors. I explained in our early meetings that success really depended on our client’s committing (100%) to our sales tactics, the team they had in place adopting and supporting our strategies and trusting where we needed to take their branding and messaging. It also took making hard decisions about those who would not commit. It took 5 months for this hospice to reach record census. And we’re now introducing strategies to manage growth and help maintain the market share they’ve gained.

This hospice committed 100% to change. Strategies including a top to bottom rebrand with new messaging, logo, website, collateral – all focused on not what they do but their value proposition – what they give those they serve – from patients, and in-home caregivers to each unique referral source. The rebranding was empowered by an outdoor campaign, radio ads, social media campaign and print ads in the local newspaper. They adopted our strategy to change their approach to sales and the conversations they had with referral sources. Their sales teams were active participants in monthly calls adding their insight and sharing the obstacles they encounter and focusing on new ways to position against the competition. They help form and then deliver our strategies. Their top level CEOs embraced change. When we initially asked what were their sacred cows, what things could we not change. The response was “Nothing. You are the experts and we will go where you lead us.”  They also worked to engage their entire team in our efforts bringing them in early on in the process.

I think we were even surprised about this one – their quick success. We knew we had a great team. But hospice is not like marketing anything else, it’s not easy. It takes a consistent effort. It takes changing the conversation and embracing new ways to grow.

Does this always happen this quickly? No. Will they yet experience drops in census? Yes. But when you have the right messaging, empowered to reach the right people, delivered by a team committed to the effort, remarkable things happen. You preserve market share. You grow. Then you adapt again to maintain what you gained and face competitive repositioning. Maybe for this hospice it was more than the teaming, remessaging and embracing of new ideas. A bit of magic, perhaps. But success comes from hard work and from being – always – fully committed to where you want to go.

Look for our next in the series A Tale of Two Hospices when we talk about another hospice that just gained record census through a rebrand followed by a tactical sales effort that changed conversations with referral sources.