We all love a good match-up. Teams that are evenly matched are a joy to watch compete, with both teams challenged to perform at a higher level. Uneven teams--on an uneven playing field--create big winners and big losers which no one except the winner finds amusing. Local care companies like independent funeral homes, therapeutic providers and assisted living facilities have to find ways to level the playing field with corporate providers.
There is more than one way to level the playing field.
The emergence of the large corporate care provider is creating big impacts across the senior and funeral care sector. For funeral homes, large corporate providers capture at least 25% of all profit in the United States funeral industry, even though they control only 12% of funeral homes. That scene is repeated in senior home care, and assisted living. This outsized influence can create stiff competition for local companies, so that finding ways to level the playing field is really not an option for the local care provider.
A David and Goliath Story
When you contrast the large service corporations with the ongoing tradition of the community care and independent ownership, it sounds like a David and Goliath story. The large corporate provider is heavily funded with investors and stock to back its investments. Like Goliath and his heavy armor, this influence and market reach is nothing to ignore. But David had advantages too, and if the local care provider can learn this lesson, it can build a competitive advantage. It just requires a little faith. That faith is linked to a commitment (even a calling) to care while helping both families and communities thrive and heal.
When it comes to care providers like assisted living, therapeutic providers, home care or funeral homes, building a competitive advantage that sustains local services is not just a business idea. It is a community imperative.
Three Ways for Care Companies to Build a Competitive Advantage
- Leverage the power of authenticity and engagement
While corporate may retain a local name, their corporate policies often creep into the pricing and family service experiences. It's similar to the shopping experience at a local hardware store versus a big box retailer, except what you purchase impacts a lot more than the color of your walls. Quality local services deliver something that corporate providers cannot.
The local character of a care company is one of its biggest assets.
A local business that is authentic and uses the right strategy can present itself with a brand that is more powerful than what corporate size alone can deliver. Consumers want to do business with a company whose reputation they can trust, more than they want a big-box version of the memorial service, or assisted living home.
What's more, the power of authenticity and local engagement is not diminishing, it is continuing to grow. As people grow tired of big-box everything, and digital social connections that are actually just bits and bytes of data, they become hungry for real relationships. This trend can be seen in the way that social media, when authentic, thrives, and the move to storytelling throughout all advertising.
You can see this in the 2019 Funeral Preferences Survey, conducted by Story Collaborative which shows the importance of reputation as it continues to stand strong as primary criteria for selecting a funeral provider. This same idea holds true across the care sector.
2. David's Secret--Agility
David took on the Goliath challenge based on his vibrant faith, but he also had something else in his favor. Unlike the unwieldy Goliath, who had to bear the weight of his immense armament, David was light on his feet. He could move quickly. This trait played out later in David's life as well. As he was chased by King Saul, who had a whole company of courtiers and servants to coordinate, David and his men maintained the ability to stay agile. They could skirt in and out of a battle while the larger force was much slower.
Local care providers have the opportunity to be agile too. They can adapt to changes more quickly, pay attention to service quality with greater detail, and follow-up with people more effectively. Agility is a proven way to build a competitive advantage.
To stay agile, local care providers have to embrace an entrepreneurial spirit. This requires a commitment to respond to trends and needs as they emerge. Without agility, the independent small business loses a significant edge and cannot maintain a competitive advantage.
3. Use enterprise-level technology and cutting edge strategy
The largest corporate providers have access to cost-saving technology and sophisticated strategies. In the past, this has always required massive budgets and long-term planning processes. While powerful, the challenge with these enterprise-level solutions has always been their "weight." These systems are hard to implement, costly to maintain and they resist change once put in place. Like Goliath's armor, they are powerful but not very portable.
A significant business change has occurred in the last decade. Because of the cloud, social media and machine learning in software development, the enterprise power to reach and serve people is now available to small businesses. All of this is now available without the heavy costs that used to be associated with them.
One example of a competitive advantage that is often missed is found in social media. In a recent analysis of 100 care companies, only 1% were found to be utilizing advanced Facebook connections. The powerful local connection provided by social media requires more than just “having a Facebook page," and is truly something that can level the playing field.
Smart Technology for Local Care Providers
Other powerful technologies allow locally-owned services to project their brand in the same ways that large corporate providers do.
- Imagine having your outreach or salesperson empowered with the same systems used by the most effective large sales organizations creating a massive reach by just one person.
- How about digital advertising that responds to people's interest by delivering more of what they are interested in learning about - automatically?
- What if your brand could be truly "omni-present" without the need to purchase billboards and endless radio?
Smart technology allows you to position yourself for a greater percentage of "first calls," create a sustainable pipeline of preneeds clients, stay competitive in the market and guarantee a higher level of customer service. It is truly a way to level the playing field.
If you're a David who is facing a Goliath, you can put your unique assets to work and build a competitive advantage. You'll get a list of smart technologies and engagement tips at the executive briefing.