Even if you build it, they may not come

Marketing is essential to success in business

It’s not just enough to be a terrific case manager. To become a solo practitioner, you also need to be able to market yourself.

If you expect others just to knock on your door as soon as you start a solo practice, your business is doomed before you start.

“Case managers need to be able to tell the story of what they do, what they provide, and how they may be different from the competition,” says Catherine M. Mullahy, RN, BS, CRRN, CCM, president and founder of Mullahy and Associates, a Huntington, NY case management consulting firm.

In some business areas that are beyond their expertise, some case managers may seek professional assistance. “One strategically important area may be marketing but it comes with a price tag. There are more cost-effective ways to market yourself,” she says.

Joining community organizations and serving on task forces and committees are other ways to market yourself, Mullahy adds.

Volunteer to author a column for a newsletter or your local newspaper and network with colleagues, business leaders, and those you have known in other settings, such as the PTA, church groups, and volunteer organizations, Mullahy suggests.

Offer yourself as a free speaker and share your expertise with potential clients, BK Kizziar, RN, CCM, CLCP, owner of BK & Associates, a case management consulting firm based in Southlake, TX, suggests. “When you offer free advice, there’s often a reward on the other end,” she says.

Kizziar offers a free presentation on managing the maze of healthcare to civic clubs and companies. She recently was asked by a bank to make the presentation to a group of retirees and has gotten calls asking about her services from members of the audience.

Case managers need to figure out where their niche can be, based on their area of specialty and their interests, Kizziar says.

Then, research the opportunities in your area, and contact the decision-makers in the segment you want to contract with and explain how your services can enhance their lives, Kizziar says.

A friend of Kizziar’s put advertisements in community magazines in the northern states and offered to check on parents who live in the South. “She started an entire practice contracting with adult children to make sure their parents who retire to the South get the care and services they need,” she says.

Nancy Polites, LCSW, C-ASWC, a partner in Elder Care Service, a case management firm for seniors, says that many of her South Florida clients find her on her Internet site.

“I highly recommend the Internet as a source for referrals, particularly if you’re hired by the children of senior people who live in another state,” she says.

In addition to consulting with hospitals, Kizziar also has a private case load, primarily of older adults, whom she works with over the telephone when they have questions about their insurance coverage and what it should pay. All come to her by word-of-mouth referrals.

She worked with one client’s husband 10 years ago when she was under contract with a long-term care insurance company to develop a care coordination program and was mentoring the care coordinator who was working with him. “A year later after her husband died, the woman contacted me and asked me to perform the same services for her. She’s gone from being totally independent to living independently in a retirement home to assisted living and now is in a nursing center,” Kizziar says.

In the beginning, case managers need to be able to market their services, says LuRae Ahrendt, RN, CRRN, CCM, nurse consultant at Ahrendt Rehabilitation in Norcross, GA. “Once an independent case manager becomes known for his or her expertise and high standards, the individual and their name speaks for itself,” she says.