Exterior Rendering of Traditions of Mill Creek by Vitality Senior Living

Senior Living Marketing Leaps Into Digital Age With Innovations, Investments

Excerpt:

Before Covid-19, providers commonly treated their digital presences and social media channels almost as afterthoughts. Over the past six months, however, these platforms have become essential to operations. Much like demand for telehealth services has exploded during the Covid-19 outbreak and could have long-lasting effects on how clinical services are delivered in senior living, the pandemic may have finally ushered in the digital age of senior living sales and marketing.

Tours have gone virtual as providers restricted access to communities to non-essential personnel. Marketing campaigns are increasingly balancing selling the lifestyle that senior living offers with transparency regarding resident safety. Digital campaign spending is growing, and providers are using websites and social media channels to interact more with resident families and prospective residents, and capture information to generate new leads.

With that comes new challenges. The growing importance of digital marketing is resulting in higher provider spends, and digital advertising companies are beginning to charge higher rates for ad placements.

Some providers are now seeking a new balance between increasing digital spending and updating websites to capture visitor information, generate leads and convert those into move-ins.

“We’ve probably seen more innovation in the last six months than we have in the last 10 years of senior living marketing,” Senior Living SMART CEO Deborah Howard told SHN.

Full story from Senior Housing News →

What Can Sales People Do If They Cannot Sell?

Senior Living Sales Tips: What Can Sales Reps Do If They Can’t Sell?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Like everyone else around the globe, we’re struggling with this new reality due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Heartbreaking stories of loss and grief and a world economy inching towards recession are just some of the things keeping us up at night.

As a marketing agency focused solely on the senior living industry, we’ve been thinking about all our clients as they face these unprecedented times. It’s hard to see past this pandemic since we’re only in the early stages, but at some point, we know we’ll begin to adjust to this “new normal.” The articles we’ll be providing during this time are designed to offer senior living sales tips and marketing strategies that can help right now. 

Senior Living Sales Tips: Selling in the Age of COVID-19

COVID-19 has understandably restricted many senior living sales activities, such as tours, events, home visits, and move-ins, but there’s still plenty that sales teams can do to remain productive and helpful.

Here are some senior living sales strategies to consider.

Stay connected with prospective residents:

Remember, the goal isn’t to sell, but to connect. Be that reassuring voice people need in this time of uncertainty.

  • Work the phones in a compassionate way. This is the perfect time for senior living sales reps to call every prospective resident and see how they’re doing. (Your call-out connect rate should be very high with everyone being at home!) Really listen to people’s stories, their concerns, their fears, and how they’re navigating day to day. Again, there’s no need to sell. Let them know you’ll be there when they’re ready to move forward.
  • Give back to local businesses. Support local restaurants and have meals delivered to prospects who are isolated and/or purchase restaurant gift cards and send them out.
  • Put the CARE into care packages. Drop off care packages on prospects’ doorsteps with non-perishable foods, like canned soups, pasta, and rice; crossword puzzles/ game books; cleaning supplies (if you have them); and a good book to read.
  • Be a conduit of helpful info. Put together a list of local resources and mail this document to people (or include it in the care packages). To start, call local senior centers, area agencies on aging, Meals on Wheels, churches/synagogues, and so forth to learn how they are serving seniors. Get a list of delivery options for meals and pharmacies. In addition to sharing this info with prospects, post it on your website and social channels as well.
  • Post uplifting photos, stories, and testimonials. Include ones from residents and staff and post to places like Facebook. This will help show how your team is serving residents and staff during the pandemic.
  • Line up speakers who can provide virtual events. You can host these events via Facebook Live or Zoom to keep prospective residents informed and connected to your community.
  • Put together a “Daily Distraction” email. Include an uplifting message and things like links to fun activities to do at home, funny YouTube videos, zoo/aquarium cams, and so forth.
  • Continue to create virtual sales experiences. Check out this article with even more tips for creating positive virtual sales experiences.

More Senior Living Sales Tips: Help fellow staff members and current residents:

Sales teams can also offer a helping hand to overworked staff members. Some ways you can help:

  • Offer to lead activities or visit with residents to increase engagement. Ask your community’s activities director how you can help. They’ll have tasks for you, no doubt! (If you have a talent, interest, or hobby that you can share, go for it!)
  • Help residents remain in contact with their families. Set up Skype/ FaceTime for residents to connect with their families.
  • Roll up your sleeves. Assist with non-clinical tasks, such as delivering meals and cleaning common areas.

Attack that to-do list:

Have you ever said, “If only I had some extra time, I could get some of these things done”? Well, now you do. Start tackling some of those items that get pushed down the to-do list during busier times.

Some ideas:

  • Update online listings. This is the perfect time to update and optimize your Google My Business page and all your directory listings (we can help with this!). The more you can do today to improve search ranking, the better positioned you’ll be when your community is fully open for visits.
  • Crank out content. Write blogs about all the questions that prospects have in the sales process. Blogs will provide a much needed SEO boost for better search ranking when things return to normal.
  • Connect with the marketing team. Review analytics (pre-COVID-19) to better understand what marketing initiatives have been working and to brainstorm new ideas to try in the future. Sales and marketing teams should be working together regularly anyway, but this is a good excuse to re-engage with them.

As always, we’re here to help you market and sell more effectively during the pandemic. If you need other ideas regarding senior living sales tips and marketing strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Crisis Communication Tips for Senior Living Communities

Crisis Communication Tips for Senior Living Communities

EDITOR’S NOTE REGARDING CRISIS COMMUNICATION: Like everyone else around the globe, we’re struggling with this new reality due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Heartbreaking stories of loss and grief and a world economy inching towards recession are just some of the things keeping us up at night.

As a senior living marketing agency, we’ve been thinking about all our clients as they face these unprecedented times. It’s hard to see past this pandemic since we’re only in the early stages, but at some point, we know we’ll begin to adjust to this “new normal.” The articles we’ll be providing during this time are designed to help senior living sales and marketing teams when they’re ready to move forward.

Crisis Communication: Appropriate Messages during COVID-19

The messages your senior living community puts out during a crisis matters. You’ll need to halt salesy messaging like “Schedule a Tour” or “Join Us for Lunch” and focus on complete transparency. Yes, transparency should always be the foundational element of your sales and marketing messaging, but let’s face it: in normal times, messaging doesn’t always sound like that, does it?

But we’re not living in normal times. So things NEED to shift to 100% transparency.

The crisis communication messages you should be sharing:

Community-wide/General

Your leadership’s clear and direct response to COVID-19. You should have a call-out in the header area of your website with a clear link to your community’s full response. This response should include basics, like how your community is addressing the outbreak, visiting hours, important phone numbers, and how you’ll be delivering updates. Check out this blog post for more tips.

The various ways your community is supporting residents, staff, and their families. Social media is an excellent way to share real-time images of your community’s social distancing efforts, cleanliness efforts, and modified activities in the Age of COVID-19. People crave reassurance during this time. Visual images can go a long way in helping. (This goes without saying, but under no circumstances should you “stage” any photos. Be real. Be authentic.)

Unvarnished truths. No sugarcoating is allowed. Don’t try to convince people that they’re better off in a community when all credible news reports are constantly reminding us about social distancing. Instead, talk about how your community is helping everyone stay safe and adjust to new realities. At the same time, you can and should absolutely share solid truths. For example, if your community is indeed fully stocked with food, cleaning supplies, and medical supplies, that’s a reassuring message that people will want to hear.

Safe, actionable things that family members can do to support their loved ones. This is likely going to be one of the biggest things you need to focus on—the feeling of helplessness that so many family members are going to have when it comes to being able to connect with their loved ones. Some ideas:

Marketing and Sales: Changes to Messaging

 Update the messaging in paid advertising. Paid campaigns will need to have different calls-to-action for the time being. Again, halt the “schedule a tour” messages and focus on “virtual experience” items. See this previous blog post for ideas regarding that.

Pause lead nurturing OR update it to reflect the current situation. If you let your automated lead nurturing simply continue “as is” during this pandemic, your community will come across as out of touch and incredibly insensitive. So pause all campaigns OR update every email with a simple disclaimer at the top about COVID-19 (in italics, in a different font—something to make it clear there are humans behind these emails). Double check subject lines and revise any that are too cute/clever.

Review any scheduled social media posts. If you schedule out your social media posts, take a moment to review everything that’s scheduled and pause, delete, and revise, as needed. Remove any posts that are too self-promotional. Make sure you’re sharing a good mix of COVID-19 related messages (see first section above).Be mindful about third-party posts that you share. ONLY share from credible organizations like the CDC or your local department of public health.

Consider shifting some digital marketing dollars to more traditional direct mail efforts. Direct mail might have a better chance to stand out since more people are at home right now. Reminder that we have a turnkey solution for your direct mail efforts: SMARTbrand (including a basic free plan).

Update email signatures. Your marketing and sales teams should update email signatures with a link regarding your community’s response to COVID-19 and provide a way to “virtually” meet, like a link to an online scheduler.

With COVID-19, things are changing hourly, and recommendations will change.

What we recommend now could change tomorrow or a week from now. If you need help with your crisis communication plan and messaging, call us. We’ve worked in senior living communities for decades and know what it’s like during times of chaos. Let’s chat soon.

Tips for Creating Virtual Sales Experiences in Senior Living

Senior Living Sales Strategies During COVID: Create Virtual Experiences

EDITOR’S NOTE: Like everyone else around the globe, we’re struggling with this new reality due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Heartbreaking stories of loss and grief and a world economy inching towards recession are just some of the things keeping us up at night. As a senior living marketing agency, we’ve been thinking about all our clients as they face these unprecedented times. It’s hard to see past this pandemic since we’re only in the early stages, but at some point, we know we’ll begin to adjust to this “new normal.” The articles we’ll be providing during this time are designed to give senior living sales strategies and marketing tips that can help. 

Senior Living Sales Strategies: Think Virtual & Interactive  Experiences

The current “no touch” reality due to COVID-19 will require creative approaches for senior living sales teams. Several states have suspended move-ins and on-site visits. As a result, occupancy rates can only go down until these restrictions are lifted.

No doubt, the last thing on most people’s minds is marketing or sales, but it’s important to keep initiatives going—in a thoughtful and compassionate way, of course. For the foreseeable future, tours, events, and perhaps even home visits will not be options, so here are some ideas for creating effective (and, bottom line, SAFE) sales experience for prospective residents.

Your New Front Door

People might not be able to physically enter your community, but that doesn’t mean you can’t provide them a glimpse inside.  Remember, your website has always served as your virtual front door. And, for the time being anyway, it is THE entry point into all that your community offers. Everything that people would usually come into the community to experience must be available on your website.

Here’s a quick list of must-haves to create an interactive experience:

  • Live Chat. Real human chat “hosts” should personally welcome website visitors, answer questions, provide information, and generate leads. Your human “hosts” can work from the safety of their own homes.
  • Video Conferencing. Meeting “face-to-face” in this new reality is possible, thanks to virtual conferencing options. Skype is free and widely accessible. Paid options like Zoom are budget-friendly.
  • Downloadable brochures (gate this with a form so you can gather contact information and follow up). Here is an example.
  • Video Tours. If you don’t have professional video tours, invest in a technology such as HeartLegacy and have the sales team create videos to highlight the community. Here is a sample.
  • Interactive Surveys such as Roobrik allow prospects to find their best senior housing and care option.
  • Floor Plans and Interactive Room Planners. Here is an example.
  • Testimonials to show the experience of living in the community. Check out these examples.
  • Links to Facebook to highlight all the positive stories within each community.
  • A Robust Resources Section. Think blogs, guides, videos, links to COVID-19 articles, and guidelines to show that you are well prepared, caring, and reassuring.

Taking these steps won’t be in vain, either. Since most searches for senior living begin online, creating a strong virtual experience for people is something that will help your community for the long term.

As always, we’re here to help with your marketing and senior living sales strategies during COVID.

If you need assistance making any of the above happen during this chaotic time, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Changes to the Veterans Pension with Aid & Attendance Benefit

Changes to the Veterans Pension with Aid & Attendance Benefit

The Veterans Pension Aid & Attendance Benefit, commonly called Aid and Attendance, is for veterans and their surviving spouses. Some important changes and updates happened in October 2018.

We interviewed Patty Servaes, founder of Elder Resource Benefits Consulting, a VA accredited agent and expert on the VA Pension. Here’s what you need to know about the changes:

Q: What are the major changes to the qualification and approval process for the Aid & Attendance benefit for veterans and their surviving spouses?

A: The big change everyone is talking about is the three-year “look back” for assets transferred or annuities purchased after October 17, 2018. If a veteran purchases an annuity or transfers an asset and then applies for the benefit, the VA will add any transfer made after October 17, 2018, back to their assets when determining if total assets are less than $127,061.

This change is fantastic for those folks in their 80s and 90s who were failing the life expectancy test for assets. People who had in excess of $100,000 but less than the new asset limit (and who thought they needed to wait to have assets below $80,000) were able to file with confidence on October 18, 2018.

As of October 18, 2018, if veterans and their surviving spouses are living in independent or assisted living or a nursing home and they have a primary home they wish to rent, the VA will not count the house as an investment, but will keep it excluded as their primary home. While the rental income will count as income, the exclusion of the home as an asset will allow families to maximize the earning potential of the home to pay for care while retaining the home for later sale or inheritance by the veteran’s heirs. I think this will result in more veterans aging in place.

Unfortunately, with the addition of the three-year “look back,” the VA form that collected financial data has gone from 4-5 pages to 19 pages. When you add in the other forms and supporting documents, most of our applications are now in excess of 40 pages!

Q: How does this impact financial planning tools?

A: Because the VA is adopting the Medicaid Community Spouse Resource Allowance as the assets an applicant can have (which is $127,061 as of Dec. 1, 2018), many applicants will qualify earlier without having to transfer assets—this is a good thing.

For veterans and surviving spouses with assets in excess of $127,061, it’s important to understand how long it will take for their assets to be below the maximum and to realize that transferring assets may keep them out of the pension program longer than waiting for their assets to decline naturally.

Since the primary home doesn’t count, many of our clients qualify the day they contact us. Others pre-pay their funerals and qualify. And still others might just need to wait a few months. And you would be surprised at how many people have no desire to transfer assets in order to qualify for a government program!

Q: What are the most common misunderstandings of this benefit?

A: It’s hard to say what the new myths are going to be after these sweeping changes. I still hear that you can’t get the benefit in independent living—I imagine that myth will continue. Veterans and their surviving spouses rated Aid and Attendance (meaning they need regular supervision or assistance with two activities of daily living) are allowed to use independent living expenses.

I would think that a new myth would be that the look-back period works the same as the Medicaid look-back when in fact it is much more generous.

And of course, I am sure we will continue to see folks who were told they didn’t qualify and they assume that means they won’t ever qualify. The truth is that eligibility changes as medical conditions, income, and assets change over time. It’s not a “yes or no” award, but “if and when.”

Q: Are there any changes to the benefit amount for 2019?

A: Yes, Social Security increased by 2.8% for 2019, and we will see a similar increase for the VA Pension. The VA likes to round down, so these figures might be off a dollar or two, but we are looking at monthly maximum awards for Pension with Aid and Attendance of approximately $1,197 for a surviving spouse, $1,881 for a single veteran, and $2,230 for a married veteran.

Q: Does this benefit still work with independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing?

A: Yes, it does! In fact, it starts with home care and can stay with the veteran through their move to independent living and all the way through skilled nursing as long as they continue to meet the medical, income, and asset criteria. For skilled nursing providers, qualifying patients with a veteran status for the Aid & Attendance benefit may increase the time of private pay status.

Q: It is still possible to get a partial benefit?

A: Absolutely. If an applicant’s income minus home care and residential facility costs leave them with a positive number (known as “Income for VA Purposes”), but one less than the Maximum Pension Benefit, they can receive, approximately, the difference between the Maximum Pension and the calculated Income for VA Purposes figure.

Q: How difficult is it for older adults, families, and community teams to complete the application process?

A: Well, at over 40 pages long, it’s significantly harder than doing your taxes!

Q: How long is your time to award?

A: Our average time to award is fewer than four months, which is significantly less than the 12-18 months the VA tells you to expect.

Q: Why is this benefit so important to senior care and housing providers?

A: The Pension benefit has the ability to significantly increase the buying power of our senior veterans. This allows people to stay in assisted living longer and allows them the peace of mind they need to move into the senior care community of their choice.

Just last week, I was working with a family who thought their 89-year-old dad could never afford assisted living since his income was only $1,500 per month, and he only had $30,000 left in assets. He’s living in Florida and with an estimated assisted living fee of $3,000 a month, he would be out of funds in under two years.

We were able to show them that with the $1,830 in Aid & Attendance benefits per month, he would not have to access his assets to pay for his monthly fee. They could not believe it and called me on Saturday to tell me they had chosen the room with the pond view for him at $3,200, were going to buy him a new couch, and that they hadn’t realized how stressed they had been worrying about how he was going to pay for this care.

Q: How do you assist families and providers with the application, approval, and appeal process?

A: It all starts with a free no-obligation phone call where we assess the medical and financial situation of the veteran or surviving spouse. If the potential claimant resides in a community that advertises on Elder Resource Benefits Consulting website, we assist them pro bono with the analysis and application.

If a resident doesn’t reside in an advertising community, they can hire us privately for a one-time pre-application analysis fee of $800 ($700 for Senior Living SMART members!) and then we assist them pro bono with the VA benefit for the remainder of their life.

Interested in learning more?

Check out Elder Resource Benefits Consulting

Elder Resource Benefits Consulting

Elder Resource Benefits Consulting has been helping families understand the cost of Senior Care since 2005.

How Senior Living Can Build Better Referral Pipelines

Full story from Senior Housing News →

Excerpt:

Senior living providers tend to have complicated relationships with third-party referral agents. Some providers may see the choice as avoiding them altogether and running the risk of losing leads, or employing their services and incurring sometimes hefty referral fees. But the smartest approach may be a middle ground, in which third-party agents are one part of a more varied referral pipeline.

Other industry leaders have voiced similar sentiments, and they have been heard by companies such as Senior Living Smart, which is framing a new pay-per-tour offering as an alternative to third-party referrals.

As a solutions network aimed at curating resources to help operators improve occupancy, revenue and service delivery, Senior Living Smart has provided its approximately 400 members access to a free 24/7 live chat service on their websites as a means of generating more exclusive leads.

“People are looking to reduce reliance on third-party lead aggregators,” Senior Living Smart CEO Debbie Howard tells Senior Housing News. “Our members are interested in the model because it’s no risk. It doesn’t cost them anything unless we produce results.”

Full story from Senior Housing News →