The Marketing Oversight Every Adult Family Home Owner Should Avoid

This Marketing Pitfall Could Be Costing Your Adult Family Home Business

Back in 2005, I experienced the marketing oversight every Adult Family Home owner should avoid. This marketing pitfall is all too common among Adult Family Home (AFH) operators—a mistake that, unchecked, can lead to countless missed opportunities and exorbitant referral fees. If you’re running an AFH, there’s a chance you might be overlooking this critical aspect, too. But how do you identify it and, more importantly, navigate your way to safer grounds?

A Lesson from the Past

My journey in the AFH sector began in 1990, and for a good while, my strategy was foolproof. By forging strong relationships with medical professionals across King County, my business enjoyed a prosperous era. Yet, as the landscape evolved, especially from 2000 to 2005, with the influx of senior placement services, my once reliable referral stream began to dwindle.

Despite this shift, I remained complacent, reassured by my full occupancy and the stability of my residents. I mistakenly believed that being listed on major placement service websites and collaborating with a handful of referral agencies was a sufficient “marketing” effort. This mindset, however, was far from the reality and unwise.

Facing the Consequences

This oversight became painfully clear when I lost 70% of my 12 residents within 12 months. The reality hit hard: my dependency on a singular referral source (referral agencies) had left my business vulnerable, resulting in a strenuous two-year recovery period and referral fees that amounted to a staggering $67,300 (in today’s dollars).

I questioned if my business would survive, and my stress level was through the roof! Imagine what I could have done if I had spent even 20 percent of those referral fees on a marketing effort.

I ignored the signs and told myself:

  • I’m currently full, so there’s no need for me to worry about marketing.
  • I’ll start marketing when I have openings.
  • My residents are stable; they could be here for years.
  • I’m listed on [major placement service websites], and I will somehow get calls when I need them!
  • I work with referral agencies, and THEY are marketing me.
  • Besides, since I’m currently full, I can’t admit clients anyway.

Unfortunately, this mindset cost me dearly, both in terms of stress and financially. I was not marketing my business at all. Instead, I was passively waiting for and expecting others to market for me, and that was a grave mistake.

Adapting to the New Reality

The challenge became evident; direct referrals from medical professionals were increasingly rare, particularly in metropolitan areas, as placement services became the norm. Despite this, many AFH providers persist in pursuing these diminishing opportunities, facing fierce competition and, often, disappointment.

Working directly with medical professionals has become very difficult, if not impossible, at least in metropolitan areas. The vast majority of discharges go directly to senior placement services, which entirely bypasses you. Yet, many providers continue to pursue this mostly ineffective and unproductive approach.

Very High Competition

Today discharges from acute care account for about 70% of referrals, and the competition for those discharges is very high. If you hang out in rehab centers or nursing homes long enough, you will undoubtedly see one or more placement service reps handing out business cards and flyers!

Because of current discharge policies and practices, the chances of creating a reliable flow of leads just when you need them is slim at best.

What that means is that for you to get those residents and a piece of that action, meaning residents who need to be discharged in the very near term, when you have an opening, will require that you part with large amounts of your hard-earned money in the form of very expensive referral placement fees.

Embracing a New Approach

Over the past 20 years, my quest for effective marketing strategies has led to invaluable insights. Among them is the importance of proactive and consistent marketing efforts—even when occupancy is at capacity—to foster a perception of scarcity and exclusivity. Additionally, establishing direct connections with consumers not only circumvents costly middlemen but also cultivates trust and reliability, positioning your AFH as their first choice when the need arises.

The Ultimate Challenge

The question then becomes: How can you identify potential clients, engage with them effectively, and nurture these relationships to become the preferred provider? This is precisely what we delve into in the “Adult Family Home Marketing Roadmap” workshop. By diversifying your lead sources and enhancing your rapport with potential clients, you can transition from merely attracting prospects to actively converting them into committed residents without resorting to aggressive sales tactics.

How can I attract a more steady stream of leads?

In my marketing quest over the years, I’ve discovered much better ways to create a steady flow of calls and keep my beds filled with great private-pay clients at much lower costs.

  • Setting up a strong marketing foundation is crucial.
  • The best time to market and promote is when your beds are full.
  • Educating consumers about the problems and challenges they face elevates you and your business as an expert.
  • Building relationships directly with consumers allows you to bypass placement services and invest those savings better.
  • Consumers in the community need your help and want quality advice they can trust. They can get to know you, like you, and trust you so that when the time comes, they’ll reach out to you first.

The New Challenge Becomes: How Do You …

  • Find these prospects?
  • Get in front of them?
  • What do you say to them? and
  • How do you build relationships you become the go-to provider when they need it?

The Adult Family Home Marketing Roadmap Will Help You Embrace a New Paradigm.

The journey from recognizing a critical oversight to implementing a robust marketing strategy can be transformative for your AFH business. By attending the “Adult Family Home Marketing Roadmap” workshop, you’ll gain the tools and insights needed to secure a stable, flourishing future for your facility.


Joseph Spada
Joseph Spada

Adult Family Home Consultant, geriatric nurse, owner of Spada Care Homes, Ohana Hale Senior Living, and Savanna Healthcare; DSHS instructor of the AFH Administrator Training; speaker; author.

    1 Response to "The Marketing Oversight Every Adult Family Home Owner Should Avoid"

    • Simon Halpert

      I have 2 small Adult Homes in Long Island & I have a few vacancies: please contact me if I can use ur sevvices thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.