Imperfect Marketing

Episode 22: How a senior placement services business has marketed itself

July 28, 2022 Kendra Corman Episode 22
Imperfect Marketing
Episode 22: How a senior placement services business has marketed itself
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this week's episode, I speak with Charlotte Balluff, founder of A Place for You. She is a senior care consultant who helps people during tough times. This is the second successful business that she has built and follows the sale of the first one.

She is a very impressive woman with an amazing network in the senior living space. It was fantastic to talk to her and learn about how she is working to build another company, not just a job for herself. 

In this episode:
00:02:20 What surprised you about owning a business with employees?
00:07:28 You seem to really understand your target audience. How have you identified them?
00:12:30 How do you stay top of mind in a situation with a ton of urgency?
00:16:27 How else do you market your business?
00:22:11 What's your biggest marketing lesson learned?

Related Links and Resources:
A Place for You: https://findaplaceforyou.com/


To learn more and sign up for my List Building 101 Course visit kendracorman.com/email

Kendra Corman:

Hello, and welcome back. Thanks so much for tuning in to another episode of Imperfect Marketing. Today, I am joined by Charlotte Balluff, an entrepreneur who has built a successful business, sold it, and started off on her own yet again. Now she manages and owns A Place For You. It is a no-cost senior living placement and care consulting business that helps caregivers and others find the right place for their loved ones. Thank you so much for joining me today, Charlotte.

Charlotte Balluff:

Well, thanks for having me, Kendra.

Kendra Corman:

Let's go back to that original business that you built really successfully. It was a private duty caregiving service, and it grew to the point where you were able to sell it. You really developed a business. And many small businesses and solopreneurs, we built jobs for ourselves, not always businesses. So tell us a little bit about how you grew that business.

Charlotte Balluff:

So Home Aide LLC was a company that I started. When I started the business, there weren't that many caregiving services around. I thought it was a great idea. I never really found my niche as a nurse, but I knew I loved working with seniors. We grew the business slowly. I did everything on my own the first year or two. Then I started hiring a part-time caregiver here and there. And when we got to a certain point, my eldest daughter, Jackie, joined the company. She is a business major. She handled all the HR, the payroll, the bookkeeping, and I was the care part of that business. So we wrote all our own policies and procedures ourselves, our logo, our marketing, our absolute everything needed to be started from scratch. So that was a really big learning curve for us because I had never owned and operated a business with employees in all that entailed.

Kendra Corman:

Was there anything that's... What surprised you the most out of owning a business with employees?

Charlotte Balluff:

I think what surprised me the most was the whole culture of the caregiving industry. I just learned so much about people and the struggles of those that are caregivers or certified nursing assistance. A lot of them were single mothers. Maybe this was their second or even third job, or they were in school. And we all, being women in the business, it was a family-owned and operated company, we really related to our caregivers and we always tried to help in ways that maybe other companies wouldn't have.

Kendra Corman:

That's great. Now, I am a big fan of A Place For You. And again, A Place For You is no-cost senior living placement. I know that so many of us look to take care of our aging parents. There's a lot of struggles with decisions, understanding our options because if you haven't been through it, you don't know what your options are. There's so many things that the questions... I helped assist it a little bit, taking care of my grandfather. And let's just say, I made a few mistakes that my parents and in-laws will benefit from, but it's so easy to make mistakes with care and finding the right place.

Kendra Corman:

What made you interested in starting this business? Because you started it originally as part of your home care or your private duty caregiving service. Right?

Charlotte Balluff:

Prior to 2015, I planned on becoming a certified senior advisor. And I wanted to add placement services to our suite of services along with owning the AFC Home, which is an adult foster care home in a residential setting that seniors lived in, and care was provided 24/7. So we wanted to be that full service senior resources agency. And in 2015, we were having our best year ever. When my then fiance now husband suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm and a stroke.

Charlotte Balluff:

At the time this happened to him, we weren't married. I was not his next of kin. I didn't have a legal say in what happened. Luckily, Dave's only daughter and I were on the same page. We worked together as a team, and we made all decisions jointly, but we had our challenges. My husband was not walking, talking, eating, or able to care for himself at first. I didn't have access to his banking, his employment records, his credit cards, his bills passwords. It was a literal nightmare. So that prompted me to really think about the services and what I could offer families to help them prepare for the future. Not only to make a plan, but to share that plan with loved ones. So that's part of what I do with my care consulting. I help families with, what's next, and how do we get there? And what does everyone involved need to know?

Kendra Corman:

It's terrible and horrible that you went through all of that with your husband. So much learning happened. And he was definitely blessed to have you with all of your experience and knowledge because even starting out with everything that he was going through, it was definitely a much better starting point than a lot of us would start off at. So I think that that's just amazing.

Charlotte Balluff:

That's really true. However, even with my experience and education, I was terrified when he came home. I wasn't sure what to expect. I never really worked with brain injury or traumatic brain injuries, stroke patients. And it was a whole new world. And I think one of the biggest lessons I've learned out of that is the emotionality. This is someone that you love, something tragic happened to. So it's really hard to be the professional caregiver and the family caregiver.

Kendra Corman:

Yeah. You get a little close to it. I mean, that's why a friend of mine, her dad has been in the hospital, in ICU, and long term care facilities now for a handful of months now. But she's so close to it, sometimes you can't see what's needs to be done next. Again, you're just trying to deal next step, next doctor that comes in the room, and next milestone. So I definitely understand the value that someone in your position adds for sure.

Kendra Corman:

Now, one of the things that I love about you and your business, and we've talked numerous times in a bunch of different situations, I find that it's really rare that people truly understand their target audience and who they need to stay in front of. But I know you do understand your audience really well and who you need to stay in front of. So can you talk to us a little bit about how you identified your target audience and who they are?

Charlotte Balluff:

Sure, sure. I think I identify with my audience because I'm there. I have an aging mother who lives alone in her home. She needs support, but no care yet, looking to the future. I'm trying to make a plan with her, but she's not really open to my ideas yet. So everyone struggles with how to approach their loved ones or parents with that initial conversation, and how to have those difficult discussions. I also have been there when, what happened to my husband, there's been a sudden or traumatic illness that was life changing. Then there's my personal professional career as a caregiver. I feel this gives me a unique perspective. My clients know they're being guided by someone who has been in their shoes. My clients are the sandwich generation, those caring for an aging or ill loved one who are still raising a family of their own, maybe have college students and they're working, or they're the double-decker, which is, you're a grandparent with an aging parent and still working, and that would be me.

Kendra Corman:

Yeah. Wow. I mean, you really understand. Your audience is mostly female, right? I mean, it's daughters, daughters in-laws, moms, grandmas. It seems to be the female part of the family takes the leaded on a lot of that. Right?

Charlotte Balluff:

Yeah. A lot of times. There's a lot of very caring sons. I just talked with a new client this week. And after he works full time, he goes to the long term care setting where his mother is, and helps his mom, and provides that companionship and care.

Kendra Corman:

When you were identifying them, it was it through your experience or... Because again, you identified several different groups. You're a part of some of those, but not necessarily all of them. Was it trial and error? Was it experienced having dealt with your other business?

Charlotte Balluff:

Definitely. We're owning the caregiving service. I saw the struggles of, when home was no longer an option any longer, what do families do? I would see sister A and sister B get together and they say, "Okay, you go to these five communities, and I'll go to these five communities. And then next weekend, we'll come back and compare notes." And it was like thrown darts at a board, and driving around to different communities, and Googling, and really there's a better way. And that's what I wanted to provide.

Kendra Corman:

Okay. That's great. One of the things that I do love about you too is that you personally lead people, and that personal service I think is really important because there are online resources, but really all they are are just mass emailers that email out leads to all of these different facilities. I had a friend who had put her name into one of the largest ones, that I won't name, and she was still getting calls. Her dad had passed. It had been 15 years since she filled out the form, and she was still getting phone calls, seeing if they were interested or looking for a new place for her dad.

Charlotte Balluff:

I'm still working on how to stay top of mind. I think my marketing is a process and it's evolving the longer I'm in this business. I don't think it's something that I've mastered yet, but it is very important for some of the reasons you've explained to call me first, because how this works is I partner with senior living communities, like independent living-assisted memory care, and they partner with me so I can offer my services to my clients for free.

Kendra Corman:

Again, this is coming down to a timing thing, right? I mean, this is... And usually, it's a very short timeline. I mean, dad or mom fell, has been in the hospital, was moved either inpatient rehab or maybe subacute rehab. And the people at the hospital or at the rehab facility are telling you, "Okay, she's really not good enough. She or he's really not good enough to go home on their own. We're releasing them in two days." That's the urgency, right?

Charlotte Balluff:

Right.

Kendra Corman:

I mean, I don't know about anybody else listening, but I would be panicked, me having a heart palpitations going, "Oh, my gosh, what do I do next?" I think that that's a real struggle for you and your business because I go into panic mode, thinking of calling Charlotte might not be the first thing that pops into my mind because there's so much going on, right?

Charlotte Balluff:

Right.

Kendra Corman:

So how have you managed to do that so far? You do a lot of in-person networking with other senior care-related businesses. So these are people that are finding others along the way, or may have access to people that can't go home, and things like that. They're in a situation where they're actually able to refer you to your prospects. What other things are you doing to help stay top of mind? Do you have other referral partners or are you just out there doing ads or...

Charlotte Balluff:

It's a little of both, I think, from the situation that you were describing, building relationships with discharge planners and social workers, those who are telling you, "We're sending mom or dad home in two days," is a great place for me to have a relationship with those disciplines because they do, at the time of discharge or before discharge, give them a list of resources. And I'm a part of that resource list sometimes, depending on which hospital or nursing home or rehab center it is. But a lot of placements in assisted living or memory care or nursing homes are as a result of an accident or an incident that happened in the home, maybe a medication error, a slip in the shower. So, you're right. Someone goes to the hospital, they go to rehab. And I think, at that point, when you have a loved one that goes to rehab, that's a good time to say, "Okay, what is our plan A and what is our plan B, and who can help us navigate our options?

Kendra Corman:

Yeah, no, I think that that's great. And I love how you have identified those roles in facilities so that they can help put your name in front of people so that they have those resources because fear can paralyze as we saw through COVID. I mean, some people froze and were like, "What do I do next"? There was too much uncertainty. And having those resources, I think is really important. So I think that's really good.

Charlotte Balluff:

And you want to make a good choice, right? You want to make the best choice possible. So it is important to work with someone that can guide you and help you navigate all avenues of senior care and senior living.

Kendra Corman:

Now, when marketing your business, again, we talked a little bit about referrals and being in touch with the people on discharge, is there any other tactics that you use? I mean, I know you have a good website and...

Charlotte Balluff:

I think that focusing my marketing on educating the consumer on the different types of care communities, their amenities, what services are offered there, it's a great way to keep in touch with my clients or potential clients. And that way, I am at top of mind, and they will think of me when it's time to make decisions. It's a delicate balance between being helpful and not too salesy. No one likes the me, me, me approach either. I try to approach my marketing from the, what is it that you need, perspective. What is it you are struggling with? How can I help you from being overwhelmed?

Kendra Corman:

I think that's great. And I think you having been in their shoes before really helps with that because you understand some of the emotions that they're going through, and are able to talk to those emotions right from the start. You're not really finding out where they're at. I mean, you are to a point, but pretty much one of a few things that they're going to be feeling, right?

Charlotte Balluff:

Absolutely. Yeah.

Kendra Corman:

So when you talk about education, what tools are you using to help educate? Is this presentations? Is it social media, email marketing?

Charlotte Balluff:

All of that, actually. I am working on adding some things to my website. I do have tools that I can physically hand my clients. I have guides for veterans benefits, and I have a information for life kit that is a kit that a person or a family can put their critical personal, legal, medical, financial information, pet care, like who their attorneys are, medications and medical conditions, physicians, just everything about them in one place. And they would keep it in a safe place, but should something happen, family members will have a guide, and have the resources, and know what your wishes are. That's very important.

Kendra Corman:

Yeah, no, it is very important to know the wishes of those who you're going to be taken care of because you don't want to be in a place where, "Well, what do they want here?" You don't want to be asking that question, right? You definitely don't want to have regrets. I love that. How do people get a hold of some of those pieces from you? Some of them are on your website. Some of them after a meeting.

Charlotte Balluff:

Best thing to do is just reach out. And I can help my clients with many different resources. So there's really three lakes to what I do, right? So I'm a senior living consultant and I am a care consultant. So not only do I help families find those senior living communities that would be a good fit for their loved one, but as a care consultant, I help families who want to keep their aging or ill loved ones at home and help them maintain their independence, but keep them safe with resources and support services to manage their care on their own. And I'm also a referral service. So that referral service is for all things aging. If I don't have the resource or connection, I have someone I know and trust who does. So I call it the Charlotte's list, the Angie's list of senior resources. And I've been in this community for a long time. And I have built a lot of relationships with care providers, and attorneys, and someone who can help them with a ramp or grab bars or make adaptations to their home.

Kendra Corman:

That's great. I mean, having those resources is fantastic. And probably some of those resources refer back and forth because they know how good you are at what you do too. So that's great. Yeah. Again, I think the perspective of using referral-based marketing is key, especially in a very specific situation like yours because it really does come to being in the right place at the right time so that you stay top of mind, and referral partners can really do a lot of that work for you, which is great.

Charlotte Balluff:

Right. You can't be an expert at everything, right? So I would never want to give someone legal or financial advice. And I need those trusted referral partners that I have relationships with and know and trust to refer to my clients. And that's a big part of what I do.

Kendra Corman:

Yeah, that's great. So this show's called Imperfect Marketing because marketing is not perfect. What would you say is your biggest marketing lesson learned?

Charlotte Balluff:

I think my biggest marketing lesson learned would be when the situation happened with my husband, and I had 60, 70 employees, and I couldn't be there. So I did build a business where I was able to sell the business. But during that difficult time in my life, my business did decline, and it declined because I wasn't the one out there marketing, and networking, and doing all of those things. So you cannot have your business operate solely around you. And that was a big lesson.

Kendra Corman:

That is a huge lesson. Again, at the beginning of this podcast, this episode, I was talking to you a little bit about how you had really built a business, not just created a job for yourself. And so many solopreneurs and small business owners, that's what we've done, is we've created jobs for ourselves. And you built a business, and it was still even a little bit tied directly to you and didn't necessarily have 100% of the systems in place where it could function with you on a longer term departure. So I think that's really key. So anybody looking to build a business that can scale and things like that, you need to take a look and see what you're building, and can it operate without you?

Charlotte Balluff:

And those are some things I'm honestly working on right now, systematizing, and automation, and plan for growth. So I'm excited for the future. I think that I see...

Kendra Corman:

What are some of the things that you're looking to automate or that you're starting to automate or have automated?

Charlotte Balluff:

Social media is automated, like my Facebook, LinkedIn. I, of course, approve everything that goes out, but I work closely with an agency who knows my business and knows me, and understands what it is that I'm doing, and knows that I want to come from an educational point of view. So I also am building those email automations and keep in touch systems. So I'm in the process. I'm not there yet. I think it is important, though, to still do that face-to-face, in-person marketing because senior care is such a delicate subject. It's personal. It's emotional. It's challenging and overwhelming for families. And I feel that having a team of referral partners that no one trusts you and you them is super important.

Kendra Corman:

Yeah, no, I think that that's great. And I love how you're thinking ahead to the automation. I think one of the things that scares people on automation is that they view that there's so many different situations and they see so many different paths that people can go down, but I still think that there's opportunity to automate certain things, especially in the world of email, and staying top of mind, and maybe anniversaries for people that had gone to a facility, or checking in at a three-month mark and having them do a review. But when you think through your process, and I think that's one thing that you're really good at, Charlotte, is thinking through your process, and thinking about where people are in that process, mapping it out, investing a little bit more time ahead of time than you would, than you would if you were just doing one offs, but that time investment's going to save you time in the long run. And that's why it does. I mean, it does. It takes time to build that and build those automations because you want to get them right.

Charlotte Balluff:

That's right. That's right. And there's a lot of great resources, like you, and the CRMs, and depending on the software that you have, can help provide some of that, but definitely looking for guidance in that area. So I think that you and I should probably talk about that. I need to build my email marketing lists. And the keep in touch system is very important, and it's something that I'm working on.

Kendra Corman:

Yeah, no, I think that that's great. I think being aware of that and what you need is a big key component for all of this. So thank you so much for sharing that with us and talking about your biggest marketing lesson learned because I do think that a lot of us make that mistake, where you can't take a day off because the business is you. And that makes things a lot harder, for sure.

Charlotte Balluff:

At first you're going to have to work hard, work a lot the first couple years, but then it tapers off. This is just you and me. We don't have to put this in here, but I just feel like that's important too, get it done, get it organized, get it systematized, get some automation, and just get things in place so you are not sitting at your computer all day long.

Kendra Corman:

Yeah, no, I think that that's good. And I think that that's great for everybody to hear because there's a lot of people that want to start businesses for more flexibility. And I tell them, "If that's what you're looking for, I don't know if I would start a business because it's going to be a couple years of not a lot of flexibility and a lot of hard work."

Charlotte Balluff:

Absolutely.

Kendra Corman:

It's an investment. All right. So a question that I always ask just to get us wrapped up a little bit is, what superpower would you choose for yourself if you could?

Charlotte Balluff:

Something really strange happened yesterday, but I had already thought about this question, and my superpower would be that of the hummingbird. So they possess superpowers that enable them to fly backwards, upside down, float in midair. Their wings beat faster than the eyes can see. And the speed that they travel, makes you think like, "What did I just see? " So they're the smallest bird in the world, but what they lack in size make up for their speed and ability to adapt. As I age, this is a superpower that I hope to possess. So being adaptable is very important. Being able to roll with the transitions to whatever life throws at you, right? This is why the hummingbird is my logo.

Charlotte Balluff:

And yesterday, I was preparing for your podcast. And all of a sudden, I felt a whoosh right in front of my face. I felt the wind near my nos, and it was a hummingbird so close to me that I could almost look into its eyes. I felt the wind from its wings on my nose. And, to me, that was a sign that I'm right where I'm supposed to be and doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

Kendra Corman:

That's great. I love that. And I love the story of the hummingbird and how it ties into your logo. And I think that that is fantastic. And I think all of us need to be a little bit more adaptable as we deal with life's challenges.

Kendra Corman:

So thank you again so much, Charlotte, for joining me on another episode of Imperfect Marketing. I really appreciate it. I hope all of our listeners got some lessons learned out of this. Charlotte has run couple successful businesses now and done a great job. And I think she has a lot that we can learn from. And so thank you again for being here, and I hope you guys tune into another episode of Imperfect Marketing. I'll see you next week. Same time, same place.

 

What surprised you about owning a business with employees?
You seem to really understand your target audience. How have you identified them?
How do you stay top of mind in a situation with a ton of urgency?
How else do you market your business?
What's your biggest marketing lesson learned?