First Care Home Services Featured in the Miami Herald

First Care Gets Marketing Tips From Students

March 24, 2008 SMALL BUSINESS MAKEOVER: First Care gets marketing tips from students. Johnson and Wales students offer their marketing ideas to First Care, a family-owned healthcare business.

Author: JIM WYSS, jwyss@MiamiHerald.com Edition: F1BM
Page: G10

For the past five years, First Care Home Services has prided itself on helping those who couldn't help themselves. But when it comes to marketing, it's First Care that needs the help.

The family-owned business provides registered nurses, certified nurses aides and healthcare professionals to hospitals, nursing homes and individuals who need an extra hand. Working from a nondescript office tucked in a North Miami building, the company has relied on Yellow Page ads, word of mouth and networking to win new clients.

The company does 50-70 visits per week, but "we know there are a lot of people out there who might get ill and need our help on a temporary or permanent basis," said First Care Finance Director Lisia McLean. But figuring out just how to reach those customers -- and stand out in the competitive and crowded field -- has been a tricky proposition.

Enter Joanne Leoni.

A professor of marketing at Johnson and Wales University, Leoni was intrigued by the First Care story and wanted to let her marketing students take a stab at coming up with a television and print advertising campaign for First Care.

STRONG BASE

After ! reviewing the company's existing brochures and meeting its executives, the students concluded that First Care did a good job of explaining the nuts and bolts of what it did but could do a better job of going after consumers' hearts. What was needed, they decided, was a message aimed not at the elderly who need the service, but their children -- the ones who are likely to be paying for it.

"This wasn't like designing a campaign for Target or something, where it's about making sales; this is about someone's life," said Chelsy Regan, 20. Regan and her partners came up with a campaign underscoring the message that First Care provides quality service delivered in the comfort of patients' homes. Featured prominently in their PowerPoint presentation: chairs. It's an important part of the message, said Regan.

"Elderly people have their spot in the house that's theirs," she said. "My grandfather has his chair. But everyone has that spot where they are comfortable. ! The idea is you can be home and be happy where you want to be, and still have that comfort and security."

CAPTURING THE STORY

Another campaign -- this one telling the story of "Rose," who was confined to a wheelchair shortly after her 80th birthday -- struck a chord with First Care Marketing Director Kerryann McLean.

"The story line was perfect," she said. "You are looking at Rose before and after. And she still likes her life [even though she's lost her ability to walk] because she is being well taken care of."

While it might be some time before First Care can find the budget to produce a 30- or 60-second commercial, the company hopes to soon launch a direct-mail campaign aimed at condo dwellers in the vicinity of its North Miami office.

While the students are still putting the finishing touches on brochures that will mirror the direct-mail material, Kerryann McLean said she has already seen some good ideas. The mailers will include testimonials as well as a stamped postcard that prospective clients drop in the m! ail if they want more information. "We've been looking for a way of branding ourselves and getting our name out there, without going door-to-door," said McLean.

"This is all very useful." While the students were quick to admit that First Care might not have the sexiest of products to promote, they said the experience of working with a real company, as opposed to a case study, made a difference.

"We were dealing with a real client, so we had to take it seriously. It had to be something the client found worthwhile," said Gary Vaughn, 20. "We weren't just trying to get an A."

Copyright (c) 2008 The Miami Herald