Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Solving the Occupancy Puzzle with Julie Podewitz

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • Why Julie decided to write a book specifically about the Regional Director role
  • How Regional Directors can develop productive relationships with different departments
  • How Regional Directors can plan their site visits in a way that is appropriate and adds value to all parties
  • How Regional Directors can create a system for higher conversions and set expectations with their team
  • Julie’s three-person coaching model for effectiveness
  • Why the senior housing lost/mismanaged lead statistic has not improved since 2007

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Julie Podewitz, Chief Sales Officer at Vitality Senior Living and author of the 2021 book Solving the Occupancy Puzzle: A Senior Living Regional Director Sales Playbook.

Asked why she chose to make the Regional Director the focus of her book, Julie says that this is “the role that has the most impact and the role we give the least attention to.” Julie has observed through the course of her career that “Regionals fail because of the lack of systems, the lack of specific expectations, and the lack of training and coaching.”

Julie speaks on the importance not only of communicating, but also of accountability between the Regional Directors of different departments, from sales and marketing to community relations. She also reminds Regionals to make it a point to “maintain their advisor status” in their interactions with prospects, taking care not to cross the line into friendship.

The value of connection extends to one’s strategy for converting prospects. “We’ve got to go back to those basics to build value and connect.” Similarly, Julie emphasizes that Regionals focus on one strategy at a time and double-down on it instead of spreading themselves too thin.

“The quality of your questions will determine the quality of the information you’ll receive.” Practicing these conversations is key, and the best way to practice is through regular roleplay. Julie describes her three-person coaching model for more effective roleplays, in which each of the three take turns (one permutation per training session) assuming the role of customer, sales counselor, or coach.

Resources Mentioned:

Solving the Occupancy Puzzle

Julie Podewitz on LinkedIn

Concept of business men and women evaluating senior living marketing services

How to Evaluate Senior Living Marketing Services

If you’re thinking of changing marketing agencies or maybe using one for the first time, this article is for you. As you evaluate different agencies and the senior living marketing services they offer, keep the following questions in mind.

1. Does that agency have experience in the senior living industry?

The senior living industry is special. We don’t have to tell you that, right? After all, it’s real estate, healthcare, and lifestyle all rolled into one. An agency with senior living industry experience will have a much shorter learning curve. This saves time—and money.

2. Does the agency offer comprehensive senior living marketing services?

Are you OK juggling multiple agencies? Perhaps one that can handle your website, another for advertising, and still another for print materials? Or would you prefer to have a streamlined experience with one agency that handles everything soup to nuts? If you’d prefer the latter, then make sure you investigate all the services the agency offers. (A good place to start is the agency’s website.)

3. Does the agency only offer marketing services a la carte? Or does it provide strategy as well?

You don’t want to approach senior living marketing services like you do ordering from a fast-food menu. “I’ll take two website pages, a round of lead nurturing emails, and a PPC ad campaign to go.” Before you can think about marketing services, you need a marketing strategy. A good marketing agency will devise a strategy based on your community’s challenges and goals.

Marketing agency business men and women working together in a streamlined fashion to meet project goals

4. Does the agency demonstrate a deep understanding of each marketing service it offers—particularly how it relates to the senior living industry?

Anyone can provide a laundry list of marketing services on their website. You want to work with an agency that has expertise in the services it offers. How to tell? Look for examples of thought leadership.

Does the agency regularly blog about marketing topics? Are the blog posts well written and informative? Does the agency participate in industry webinars and podcasts? Does it offer guides about various marketing topics? Does the agency get quoted by relevant publications, like Senior Housing News?

5. Does the agency outsource any of its senior living marketing services? Or does it handle most stuff in-house?

This is a trick question. It’s not unusual for marketing agencies to outsource some work to contractors or to trusted partners. (For example, some marketing agencies might have a trusted PPC vendor they work with.) But if the agency outsources most work to third parties, this raises red flags.

First, it might cost you more in the long run since the agency is essentially serving as the middleman. Second, this approach can dilute the strategy since one of the positives a good marketing agency brings to the table is overseeing the BIG marketing picture. It’s easier to manage and oversee the various senior living marketing services when everything happens under the same roof.

6. Does the agency deliver real, quantifiable results?

Unless the agency can provide you with real, tangible results—think increased conversions and more tours and move-ins—what’s the point? To evaluate, ask the agency to share the results of three recent campaigns. Read case studies on their website. Ask to speak to several of their current clients. (And ask the clients the same questions about real, measurable results). Finally, read the agency’s reviews for more insight into not only deliverables, but also how the agency works with clients.

Marketing ideas leading to results you can see

7. Is the agency named Senior Living SMART? :)

All kidding aside, we pride ourselves on devising strong marketing roadmaps and delivering real, measurable results to our clients. Plus, we only focus on the senior living industry. It’s our passion! Interested in learning more about our senior living marketing services? Let’s chat!

Creating a marketing plan for 2021

Your Senior Living Marketing Plan for 2021

Too often, marketing and sales teams stress out when creating their yearly senior living marketing plan. At the end of December or beginning of January, they will create complex, color-coded spreadsheets with endless tasks and dates and “ownership.” (Often, no one ever looks at the plan again!)

Don’t get us wrong: Planning is important. But it’s impossible to plan a whole years’ worth of marketing tasks in one fell swoop. Instead, it makes more sense to develop an overarching plan for the year—that famous 30,000-foot view. From there, you can create tasks per quarter. (And you don’t need to create the quarterly tasks all at once, either.)

Talk about a much easier approach, right?

The purpose of this post is to help you with that 30,000-foot view.

We recommend getting your team together and talking through the following four main buckets. An important note: You will need to think about them in conjunction with each other. But to start, devote four separate afternoons. Spend each one on a different bucket. On the fifth day, bring it all together and develop your broad-stroke senior living marketing plan to guide you for the year.

What comes out of your discussions will vary depending on your community. It will also depend on the type of year you had, your goals for next year, and your budget. Below, we’re including some questions to get the ball rolling.

CAVEAT: If you’re reading this in 2020, you can’t go into 2021 without thinking about the pandemic. So your 30,000-foot view needs to include the reality of COVID-19. Hopefully, it will be a different story when we enter 2022. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to get instant access to our COVID-19 marketing assets.

1. Senior living marketing plan: Think search.

Let’s face it: Almost everyone begins their searches online. This is certainly true for older adults, which is why the foundation of every senior living marketing plan needs to be search and SEO.

Some questions to ponder or to kick-start your discussion:

  • How often did you conduct keyword research last year? Be honest! If you’re reading this in 2020, we wouldn’t be surprised if the answer is “not much” since everyone was dealing with COVID. If that’s the case, make it a priority going into 2021.
  • When’s the last time you did a site optimization audit? Your website is a machine. Like any machine, it requires maintenance.
  • If you’ve been running paid search campaigns, how have they been working? Review metrics, including the most important one: move-ins. Have your PPC campaigns performed well? Do you want to increase the budget? If they haven’t performed, is it because they’re not the right campaigns? Or is PPC not right for your particular community at this time? Meaning you might want to put the budget towards something else for part of next year and revisit?

No doubt, you’ll come up with plenty of other discussion points around search. Keep track of the big items and themes. For example, maybe you come out of this meeting with something like the following:

  • Perform fresh keyword research in Q2.
  • Re-optimize site, as needed, in early Q3.
  • Increase budget on Facebook ads, decrease budget in Google AdWords.

2. Senior living marketing plan: Think content.

As we like to say around here, content isn’t king—it’s emperor. People crave content at every stage of their journey. Your job is to make sure what they need is available to them when they need it.

At the very least, your content strategy will involve discussions around:

  • Blogging. You should enter January with a three-month editorial calendar in place. The calendar should include keyword-rich topics, blog writing assignments, and due dates. In fact, when you enter January, you should already have the completed January content in hand. Your team should be working on February content.
  • Premium content. Aim for a good mix of gated pieces that will entice people to provide their email address so you can continue nurturing them.
  • Social media. We don’t have to tell you how personal senior living is. Your community should have an active and engaging presence on places like Facebook and Instagram. From a business standpoint, maintain a good LinkedIn page so you can continue to attract great employees. (Make sure you’ve claimed listings on places like Glassdoor and LinkedIn as well.)
  • Email marketing associated with automaton. We’ll dig into this more in the automation section below. Bottom line, though: Don’t simply set it and forget it.

Again, the above will get you started, but it isn’t an exhaustive list of items to think about. Always look at content holistically. For example, is there a “theme” you’d like to focus on for the first half of 2021? Maybe it’s around “choosing senior living during uncertain times.” How can different channels—blog, email, social, premium content, and so forth—support that theme?

Try to walk away from this brainstorming session with a couple of larger themes for next year that will drive your month-to-month content creation.

3. Senior living marketing plan: Think automation.

We’ve written A LOT about marketing automation. If there’s one thing ALL senior living communities can do better, it’s in this area.

If you have marketing automation…

  • When’s the last time you looked at analytics? Review the last two quarters. What surprised you? What made you excited? What worried you? Bottom line: you’ll want to do more of what’s working. And you’ll want to reassess what isn’t.
  • When’s the last time you reviewed the content of your lead nurturing campaigns? Too often, we see communities set up their lead nurturing email campaigns and never look at them again. Some messages will be evergreen. But others will need tweaking. For example, what you said in May of 2020 will (thankfully) sound different from emails sent during May of 2021.
  • Consider your leads. Not just the number of overall leads, but conversions to move-ins. What’s the quality of SQLs? What’s the breakdown of MQLs to SQLs in the database? Etc.

If you don’t have marketing automation . . .

While your marketing team will be involved in all of these discussions, you should absolutely include sales in any discussion pertaining to lead gen. They know the leads. They can speak to their quality—or their perceived quality.

4. Senior living marketing plan: Think outsourced marketing agency.

Are you currently working with a marketing agency? If yes, are you happy with the engagement? If not, why not? Can you communicate your concerns with the agency and discuss strategies for moving forward together? Or is it time to make a change? If it’s time to make a change, what will be the process for making a switch? (Who will own it?)

  • Hint: What’s the sign of a truly good agency? They’re actively involved in planning next year’s marketing. In fact, they’re likely driving the discussion.

If you’re not working with an outsourced marketing agency, discuss whether it would make sense to do so. What sort of budget do you have? What are your expectations?

And on the fifth day of planning your senior living marketing . . .

Now, you’ll bring it all together: Your themes. Your goals. Your plans around search (organic and paid). Your content strategy. Your marketing automation tasks. Your budget. Make sure everyone is on the same page regarding these things. Then, create your Q1 marketing calendar. Use your tool of choice—Asana, Trello, Google docs, Basecamp.

Think of your senior living marketing plan as the roadmap. Think of the month-to-month calendar as the actual driving directions and milestones (tasks) along the way.

Feeling overwhelmed? Don't have time to plan?

Hey, we get it! Its been a tough year. Here’s the good news, though: We can do ALL the leg work for you (with your input, of course). We can distill everything you tell us—your goals, your budget, what’s working, what isn’t—and put together a strategic marketing roadmap for your community. Your team can execute it, or we can. (Or a combination!)

Let’s talk about your marketing plan!

5 Key Insights: Employee Engagement in Senior Living Communities

A panel of senior living marketing professionals will share strategies and tactics for lead generation, nurturing and conversions given current restrictions regarding tours, events and community visits.

Inbound Marketing: Your Best Employee Recruitment Tool

Inbound Marketing: Your Best Employee Recruitment Tool

In today’s job market, the candidates have the upper hand. We know that 95 percent of the people that companies want to hire for critical roles are not actually looking for a job. As a result, companies are competing for the best candidates. In order to effectively vie for great talent, you need the right tools.

As part of their recruitment strategy, many companies are using outbound marketing. This involves reaching out to potential candidates through job postings, paid advertising, or a third-party recruiter.

But today’s recruitment efforts need a more advanced strategy—one that you’re likely already using to attract residents: inbound marketing.

With inbound marketing, you create content that attracts new prospects to your company. From there, you can engage with them and determine if they’re the right fit. It’s an opportunity to establish a dialogue with passive and active job seekers, create a unique candidate experience, and build relationships with top talent.

Here are five quick ways to get started with inbound marketing as a recruitment tool:

1. Define Your Objectives

Before you start, decide on which positions you are trying to attract. Do you want to focus on executive level and above? Or do you also want to also use inbound marketing to source your nursing and care staff?

2. Define the Candidate “Persona”

Once you know which roles you want to recruit for, you also have to determine the characteristics that you are looking for in your ideal candidate. You should start with educational background, previous experience, and any technical requirements (licensure, software knowledge, etc.) that you may want in a candidate. Then dig a little deeper. Look at employees who are successful in their roles and identify traits and skills that help them prosper.

3. Define Your Culture

Think about your company culture. How do you define success in your company? What are the company non-negotiables when it comes to character and performance? What are the top 10 words you would use to define your culture?

4. Create “Hooks”

According to Career Builder, 75% of job seekers start their search on Google. So you should create search-friendly content that will attract the ideal candidates to your site (which is one of the reasons you develop the candidate personas).

Content can include why you are the best company to work for, associate testimonial videos, and educational info. Find the best channels to connect with your prospective candidate. This could be Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, You Tube, as well as industry sites.

Get creative where you share this content. Based on chats with your current successful employees, is there anything that most have in common? For example, maybe most are members of the local YMCA. If that’s the case, see if you can conduct an informal job fair there or post some info about open positions on the Y’s bulletin boards.

5. Create Opportunities to Build Relationships

Applying for a job is an investment. Today’s candidates want to know more about the company culture and role before they commit to the process. If a candidate isn’t ready to apply, create opportunities to engage them and develop a relationship. Give them opportunities to learn more about your company. This can be done with additional educational content, blog content, company resources, or signing up for a “keep in touch” newsletter.

It often takes many touch points to influence a decision, so invest the time in these relationships now to reap future rewards.

Learn more in this webinar: Inbound Marketing: Your Secret Weapon In Winning the Recruitment Game →

Senior Living Employee Recruitment: Tips for Attracting Great People

Senior Living Employee Recruitment: Tips for Attracting Great People

Question: Do you know the top five reasons a candidate would want to work for your senior living community?

If you don’t know the answer, start thinking about it. Because understanding why your company is a great place to work will help you attract great staff.

It’s no secret that it’s a competitive hiring market in senior living. Many companies are vying for the same candidates, from care staff to executive directors. So when you find a candidate you like, how do you convince them that they should work for you? You have to market your community to potential job candidates with the same intensity you market to prospects.

Which is why knowing the top five reasons candidates would want to work at your community is a great way to engage prospective employees and stand out from the crowd.

How do you come up with your list? Start by asking your current employees why they work for you and what they like about their job, the community, their co-workers, their managers, and even the residents. You’ll probably get some valuable feedback and great insights into why staff members stay with your community.

When you’re talking to job candidates, share these insights with them and ask which one is most important. Then, talk about that particular topic in more depth. For example, if a collaborative workplace culture is important, show them the ways your community and team foster this sort of environment.

What Baseball Can Teach Us About Leadership

What Baseball Can Teach Us About Leadership

Opening Day is right around the corner. As you settle in to watch your home team with your hot dog and beer, think about what you can take away to improve your leadership skills.

SUPERSTARS WIN GAMES, BUT TEAMS WIN CHAMPIONSHIPS

Each baseball team has its All Stars, like the dominant pitcher or the homerun hitter. These are critical talents for a winning team. But they alone can’t carry the team to the World Series. Strong leaders realize that it takes the whole team working together to be successful, not just strong talent.

YOU GOTTA GET DIRTY

Baseball is played on a grass and dirt field. In my opinion, if a player doesn’t get dirty, they are not trying hard enough. It’s the same with a strong leader. Sometimes they have to get dirty by having difficult conversations or making tough decisions. Also, when a leader gets a little dirt on their uniform, it can inspire team members to power through the challenges they face.

MEASURE THINGS THAT MATTER

Great leaders use all of the data and analysis they can get their hands on to make smart, informed decisions. This includes the strength of their team members. If a batter is in a slump, he may be taken out of the game. You have to regularly evaluate and adjust your game plan based on data and observations.

BE PREPARED FOR CURVE BALLS

You won’t make it in the big leagues if you can’t hit a curve ball. Successful leaders know that there are change-ups, sliders, and curve balls that come up unexpectedly. Being responsive and flexible can help you respond to those unanticipated events.

KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL

Major league players learned this lesson very early. To hit a pitch going 95 miles per hour, you have to be laser focused. Leaders must also be continuously focused on the vision and priorities for the community’s success.

YOU CAN’T HIT THE BALL IF YOU DON’T SWING

There’s a great quote by Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” How much time do you spend worrying about whether something will work or how you will look if you don’t succeed? Everyone makes mistakes. No one is right 100% of the time. Even Babe Ruth only had.314 lifetime ERA. Wait for your pitch. Then, swing away.

 

Need more help developing your leadership skills? Check out some of our previously recorded Leadership webinars →

How to Get Your Team Rowing in the Same Direction

Get Your Senior Living Sales and Marketing Team Rowing in the Same Direction

When it comes to improving senior living sales and marketing, I like to use analogies. In college, I was a coxswain on our crew team for the eight-man barge. As a coxswain, I was responsible for steering the boat and coordinating the power and rhythm of the rowers. It was mostly about rhythm—making sure that all the crew was rowing together. (Think of the VP of senior living marketing and/or VP of senior living sales as the coxswain.)

When the crew wasn’t in synch, there was a risk of “catching a crab.” This means to put one’s oar in the water at the wrong time, which results in the oar flipping parallel to the boat. When this happens, the oar handle forcibly flies backwards, going over the rower’s head or striking the rower’s chest. In extreme cases, the rower may be thrown overboard. This is bad—especially during a race.

Our first trips on the river were fraught with “crabs” as we figured out everyone’s best position on the boat. But eventually, we went from eight single rowers to one coordinated team gliding on the river.

So how can you get your senior living sales and marketing teams rowing in the same direction – without catching a crab?

1. Know Where You Are Going

As the leader, you are responsible for steering the boat. If you don’t know what direction you are going in, you won’t get very far.

2. Share Your Direction – A Lot

Once you know where you’re headed, you want to get everyone on board. Share your vision with your senior living marketing and sales team. Let them know your goals and what you want to accomplish. Sharing your vision is not a “one and done” event, meaning you shared your vision, your team is excited, but then they just move on to their next activity (and before you know it, they’re headed in the wrong direction). You need to reinforce your vision constantly.

3. Keep Everyone Focused on the Goal Line

Come up with a short list of metrics that you want to measure your progress towards the goal. Keep the list to no more than five metrics and don’t forget to review with your team regularly.

4. Hold People Accountable to be in Alignment

Getting your team into the boat and showing them where they are going is only half the battle. You have to get them to row together at the same speed and direction. If you let one person do his or her own thing, you’ll go nowhere.

The coxswain is the leader of the boat in rowing. They set the tempo, and they keep the boat going in the right direction. They encourage the team, telling them how far they have to go until they reach the goal line, and they correct any rowers who are going too fast or too slow.

In your senior living community, picture yourself as the coxswain: set the pace, encourage senior living sales and marketing staff, communicate constantly, and course correct as needed.

Need help steering your senior living sales and marketing teams? Let us help!

We’re the only agency with real industry experience. Let’s talk about senior living and your community’s specific needs!

Interested in further insights?

Download our Leadership Self-Assessment Tool (45 downloads)

Download Leadership Assessment Tool - Senior Living SMART
8 Questions that Determine a Great Leader

8 Questions that Determine a Great Leader

Are you a good leader? How do you know? Review this quick leadership checklist to see how you measure up against characteristics of great leaders.

8 Questions for a Great Leader

  1. Is your door open more than it is closed? Does your team feel comfortable coming to you with questions, ideas and concerns?
  2. Do you have favorites or are you fair with all your staff? This can be tough – it’s part of human nature to develop close bonds.
  3. Do you have a culture of safety? People make mistakes. Do you punish or provide an environment that creates learning opportunities?
  4. How are you in managing your team’s work/life balance issues? It never fails – on the day of your yearly strategic planning meeting your key team member is out with a sick child. Are you empathetic or frustrated?
  5. Are you even- tempered and consistent with your emotions? Are you predictable in your reactions in times of change and crisis? Keep calm and carry on!
  6. Have you set expectations with your team? Does your staff know clearly what is expected of them and are they given the support to reach their goals?
  7. Do you micromanage your staff? Or do you empower them to make changes and decisions with the end goal in mind?
  8. Are you having fun? Are you creating an environment where people enjoy coming to work regardless of the external stressors?

The best way to assess your leadership skills is to look at your team:

Are they having fun?

Are they feeling successful?

Is the team reaching goals?

What other questions could you ask someone to determine if their characteristics are ones of great leaders?