10 Tips for Holding a Successful Community Event
As a senior living marketing and sales professional for more than 15 years, I’m still amazed that my colleagues are still struggling with holding community events that consistently generate tours and move-ins. I’m even more surprised that so many sales and marketing teams continue to hold onsite “luau” or some other themed “event” – despite the fact that the numbers of RSVPs and actual attendees continue to steadily decline.
Over the past few years, I’ve been helping IL, AL, Memory Care, and Life Planning communities meet and exceed their need for new residents. I’ve brought back the offsite community event model – and it’s out-performing the onsite model by a 4-to-1 margin!
Here are some tips that can help drive attendance, tours, and move-ins.
- Hold your community event offsite: Community events held offsite (at a local American cuisine restaurant, for example) outperform onsite events by 4-to-1.
- Serve food: The act of “breaking bread” with friends, neighbors, and strangers is a powerful dynamic. It allows you to answer individual questions during meal time and gives you time to book more tours. Now you may be thinking these guests just want a free meal. Well, in fact, these people can afford to dine there on their own without listening to an educational seminar on senior living. These guests have a true interest and need for your services.
- Use the right list: If you are still using “shallow” lists—address, age, household income, homeowner—to create a mailing list, you’re wasting your money. There are many more list options available than you might think. Work with a marketing partner who has experience and access to the right data for your invitation list.
- Choose the right days to hold your events: The data we’ve gathered from promoting more than 500,000 events is clear: Tuesday and Thursday evenings are the best days to hold events.
- Choose the right time: Having tracked the data from more than 19 million baby boomer seminar attendees, we have found that 6:30 p.m. is the best time to hold an event.
- Make it easy for people to RSVP: Just posting your community’s general phone number will doom your event. You need to have a unique RSVP phone number answered by a live person 24/7. It is also a good idea to use an online RSVP service to enable caregivers and adult children to respond.
- Drive time matters: Believe it or not, consumers prefer their drive time from their home to your event location to be 20 minutes or less. (Note: if your mailing list is going out to folks who will have a drive time longer than that, not only won’t they respond, but even if they do, there’s a 65% chance they will change their minds the day of the event due to the driving distance.)
- Use the right messaging: Twenty-two years of event responder data show that consumers avoid community-specific seminars (i.e. learning about your specific community). They much prefer messaging that promotes education and information. Don’t make it a sales pitch.
- Make reminder calls: Be sure to make confirmation calls at least 48 hours before your event. Not only does this allow you to adjust for the number of meals needed, but it’s also another chance to start building that relationship with your potential resident.
- Event Day Prep: At least two hours before your event, you should be at your location, setting up the room (round tables, NOT classroom style), and testing your PowerPoint, audio (yes, you will need a PA system – remember the age of your attendees). Expect some attendees to arrive at least 30 minutes early. Be prepared with a sign-in sheet and staff to welcome your guests. Have a soft drink or beverage at each seat and a video or music playing while folks are gathering and being seated.
Logged-in Members may access Leading Responses‘ white paper ‘Seminar Success: A Proven, Offsite, Live Event, Resident Acquisition Solution for the Senior Living Industry‘ now, while non-members can grab the resource by clicking button below.
If you’d like to know more about the offsite community event marketing system and the results I’m generating for every type of community in any state and market, feel free to drop me a line or click here to visit my personal website »
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Valerie Whitman
Valerie is a senior care executive with more than a dozen years of experience in the senior living industry. She has worked as a regional director with Benchmark Senior Living and a national senior care operations director at Care.com. Valerie helps senior care providers maximize their customer acquisition and retention strategies using proven lead generation solutions.