Senior Living Marketing Events

Senior Living Marketing Events: Focus on the Three Ws

We don’t need to tell you that one of the most effective ways to engage with prospects and convert them into move-ins is through senior living marketing events. But not all events are created equal.

In fact, we see many communities make mistakes with their event management. And yet, the secret sauce is quite simple: For ultimate success, align your senior living marketing events with the stages most prospects journey through.

We call these stages the three Ws: Whether, Where, When.

Senior living marketing events for the “Whether” stage.

Prospects usually spend the most time trying to answer the “whether” questions. Examples include whether they can afford senior living or whether they should choose independent living or assisted living.

Off-campus and virtual events work well for prospects who are trying to answer these “whether” questions. At this point, prospects are only thinking about their questions. They’re not thinking about your brand or your community. Instead, they are spending a lot of time inside their own heads, thinking, researching, and coming to terms with reality.

That’s why they might not be ready to come into a community setting. So an offsite location—like a restaurant, library, or country club—will be much more comfortable for them. (As would a virtual option.)

Educational events that align with general awareness and research topics are perfect. Some ideas:

  • Senior Living Lifestyle Options
  • Funding and Finance Fundamentals
  • How to Plan for the Transition

Senior living marketing events for the “Where” stage.

Once prospects figure out the answers to all of their “whether” questions, they are ready to move into the “where” stage.

In the “where” stage, the prospect is finally interested in (or, at least, aware of) your brand, your differentiators, and your value proposition. Their decision-making moves from their head to their heart as they try to picture their loved one (or themselves) living in your community.

On-site marketing events work well in this stage. As prospects evaluate where to move, they need to see resident and staff interactions, experience the lifestyle and amenities, try the food, and maybe speak with family members who have chosen your community for a parent.

Social events work well at this stage, especially ones where prospective family members can interact with residents and team members. Educational events are also effective. Consider topics like downsizing, transitioning, choosing the right community, and the like.

Senior living marketing events for the “When” stage.

The final stage is deciding when to make the transition to senior living. Prospects may have picked an apartment and left a deposit. Your biggest challenge at this point: making sure they don’t get cold feet!

Remember, moving to a senior living community can be overwhelming for families. They have to think about selling the family home, sorting through decades of belongings and memories, packing up, and moving.

They sometimes get stuck wondering “Should we make the move now or wait until . . .?” On-site events that offer the two Rs—Resources and Reassurance—can be extremely helpful at this stage.

Consider topics like . . .

  • Downsize Your Space to Upsize Your Life
  • 10 Tips to Sell Your Home Quickly—and Get Top Dollar
  • Moving 101: Tips for Packing, Donating, and Dumping
  • How to Make Your New Senior Living Apartment a True Home: Decoration Strategies

This is the only stage that we recommend offering any incentives. A great one to consider is this: “Move in by this date, and we’ll pay your moving expenses.”

BONUS: Download our handy “The Game of 3 W’s in Senior Living Event Marketing.” Share it with your team to help them fully understand and appreciate what goes into creating effective senior living marketing events.

Senior living marketing events: It takes a village. Let us help!

We’re experts at the 3 W’s of senior living event marketing. We can help you develop, design, and deploy awesome events for each stage while following marketing event best practices. Get in touch and let’s talk!

senior living marketing strategy

Senior Living Marketing Strategy: What Is an Advertorial?

A client recently asked us about an advertorial opportunity that a newspaper was offering their community. Their first question to us was “What is an advertorial anyway?” Their second question was “Should we do it? Does it make sense for our senior living marketing strategy?”

We figured our answer would make a great blog post, so here you go!

What is an advertorial?

The word itself is known as a portmanteau. With a portmanteau, you combine two common words to create a new word. Common portmanteaus include “blog” (web + log) and “brunch” (breakfast + lunch). In this case, we’re combining the word “advertising” and “editorial” to get “advertorial.”

At its simplest, an advertorial is an advertisement. But instead of the advertisement being displayed in typical ad format, it takes the form of a newspaper editorial.

Here’s the thing, though: Not everyone understands what a newspaper editorial is.

An editorial is essentially an argument—it takes a position on something and expresses the editor’s opinion. (Think of political candidate endorsements, for example). A newspaper’s editorial section is separate from the journalistic side of things, where reporters remain objective and report only the facts.

An advertorial has the same “look and feel” as other editorials or articles in the publication. In other words, it’s a lot less obvious that you’re looking at an ad because of the format. The advertorial might even read like an article. But underneath, it’s still very much an advertisement promoting a product, service, or cause.

And advertorials aren’t just found in print publications, either. You’ll find them online as well, where they’re more commonly referred to as “native advertising.” The TV equivalent is the infomercial (another portmanteau). Same concept. It’s a sponsored advertisement, but it takes on a different format, like a talk show or news feature.

Hmm. Advertorials sound a little shady. Are they?

There’s nothing shady about advertorials that are done right. When we say “done right,” we mean advertorials that present accurate information from reliable sources, science, and the like—and the publication makes it super obvious that the advertorial is indeed a paid advertisement.

In fact, the Federal Trade Commission requires transparency and clear disclaimers/disclosures around advertorials and native advertising. Unfortunately, however, not everyone plays by the rules. And even when they do, sometimes words like “Sponsored Ad” might not necessarily communicate to the reader that the big article they’re reading is actually a long-form paid advertisement.

And this, of course, is where things can get tricky.

If the advertorial has been put together in a thoughtful and ethical way—with accurate information, reputable sources, quotes from real people, and even consideration for “the other side”—then the advertorial wouldn’t pose a problem. It will simply read like a longer advertisement, one where the reader would need to assess the claims, just as they would if they were to carefully read a digital display ad or a traditional print ad.

But if the advertorial is put together in a haphazard way (remember, no one is fact-checking the advertorial) and the reader misses the disclaimer about it being a paid ad, things can get dicey since the reader could walk away with skewed information—or downright false information.

When it comes to advertising, we all bear responsibility. If we’re involved with advertising, we must endeavor to create ethical ads. As consumers, we must use critical thinking skills when assessing claims made in ads.

Bottom line: If you decide to run an advertorial or native advertisement for your community and you focus on data and facts, rather than spin, you’ll be fine. In fact, you might be more than fine. Because advertorials can be an extremely effective marketing vehicle.

Why are advertorials so effective?

For the same reason they can also be problematic—the format. We humans are much more likely to pay attention to something that’s in an article format than something that screams “ad,” even if we see the disclaimer and we know it’s an ad.

Where the advertorial is published can also influence us. For example, some folks might pay more attention to an advertorial in an advertising supplement in The New York Times because it’s The New York Times.

Advertorials also provide more space to mount a compelling “argument”—much more than a typical print ad or display ad. With a print advertorial, you can go much deeper into whatever it is you’re selling, like a product, a service, or—in this case—a senior living community (or the concept of senior living in general).

And digital advertorials (native advertisements) tend to have much more engagement than traditional online ads. Think about native ads that have come across your social media feeds—and all the likes, comments, and shares the ad got. Banner ads and display ads don’t have that sort of activity!

But advertorials probably cost more than typical ads, right?

It really depends on the publication. Running an advertorial in a supplement to The New York Times will be much more expensive than an advertorial in your town’s weekly paper.

But yes—price points for advertorials that run in premier publications like the Times will cost you a pretty marketing penny.

So should communities run advertorials and native advertising as part of their senior living marketing strategy?

It depends. Long-form ads / native advertising can be effective marketing vehicles, provided the advertorial aligns with your overall marketing strategy and is executed well.

OK, so what are some tips for producing awesome advertorials?

Our suggestions are the same for any senior living advertising campaign. You need to start by carefully answering the following questions:

  • What’s your goal? Building brand awareness, getting people to book a visit, something else?
  • Can the publication that you want to run the advertorial in help you achieve this goal? For example, do demographics align with your buyer personas?
  • Would running an advertorial integrate with your overall marketing strategy? For example, would the advertorial work with your other paid campaigns? Or did a random publication message you with a “great deal” for an advertorial and you want to try it—even though you haven’t been running a ton of advertising?
  • What metrics do you have in place to measure the advertorial’s effectiveness? How will you define success?
  • Do you have people who understand how to write and design effective advertorials? Don’t skimp on the writing. Consider using a professional writer with experience in advertorial creation.

Can Senior Living SMART help my community with advertorials and native advertising?

Absolutely! We can help you evaluate any advertising offers that cross your desk to ensure they make sense for your goals, that they align with your larger senior living marketing strategy, and that the ad buy works for your budget. Our team can also write and design effective advertorials and native advertisements as well. Get in touch and let’s talk it through.

10 interesting facts

Senior Living SMART: 10 Interesting Facts About Our Marketing Journey

Senior Living SMART is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year! Through the end of the year, we’re going off script each month and sharing a bonus blog post in addition to our regular marketing-related content. (Check out last month’s installment: 10 Ways Senior Living Marketing Has Changed in 10 Years.)

Since September is our actual anniversary month, we thought it would be fun to share 10 interesting facts about our marketing journey.

1. The “SMART” in our name “Senior Living SMART” isn’t us shouting about how intelligent we are.

It’s an acronym, and it stands for the following:

Strategy. Marketing. Analytics. Resources. Technology.

All five elements are at the core of what we do every day for our clients. (More on this below.)

2. We haven’t always focused on senior living marketing.

In fact, during our initial launch in 2012, we were focused on being a go-to resource for all the various departments within senior living communities. To accomplish this, we curated a marketplace filled with vendors that we carefully vetted. We also offered tons of free and paid resources.

From the beginning, our resources always reflected and reinforced the SMART acronym. And while our founders—Deborah Howard and Andréa Catizone—have excellent insights into every department, their true expertise is in senior living marketing and sales since that’s where they’ve spent the bulk of their careers.

So back in 2012, it was no surprise that so many of the requests that Debbie and Andréa fielded from customers revolved around marketing and sales topics: Can you help us build a senior living website? How do we generate leads from our website? Can you help us create downloadable content? How can we improve conversions?

It quickly became clear that Senior Living SMART should sharpen its focus instead of trying to be everything to everybody. And so, we evolved into the Senior Living SMART we are today: a nimble digital marketing agency that focuses on helping senior living communities attract the right prospects and convert those prospects into move-ins, all while following industry best practices.

3. But we didn’t adjust our name because we didn’t have to.

The SMART acronym was even more apt once we focused only on senior living marketing and sales:

  • Strategy. Strategy is at the heart and soul of what we do. Everything starts with a sound marketing strategy.
  • Marketing. Marketing has evolved dramatically over the last two decades. And even more so for senior living communities over the last 10 years since our industry tends to be a late adopter. Digital marketing has created a major shift, and not all community marketing and sales teams have been prepared.
  • Analytics. As the saying goes, you can’t improve what you don’t measure. You must have built-in metrics for measuring every marketing campaign.
  • Resources. We remain a popular go-to destination among senior living marketing and sales teams because of all the free content we make available. And we still have a Marketplace with approved vendors, too.
  • Technology. We couldn’t call ourselves digital marketing experts if we didn’t embrace all things digital—and all the technology that supports our digital marketing endeavors. We love teaching senior living marketing and sales teams about different technology, whether it’s HubSpot, a keyword tool, or on-site functionality, like live chat.

4. We’ve doubled in size every year since we started. (Even during the pandemic.)

We have an amazing team and amazing clients, and we’ve consistently grown both since the very beginning.

When the pandemic hit, we didn’t skip a beat, either. Since we’ve always been a virtual agency, our team was already adept at navigating a world that could only happen in virtual spaces like Zoom. So we were able to continue servicing clients. But we also taught senior living communities how to leverage their own virtual technologies during this stressful and chaotic time as well.

5. But despite our success, we are still very much the “shoemaker’s children.” And we’re OK with that!

You’ve probably heard the adage that the shoemaker’s kids are running around barefoot or in old shoes because the shoemaker is too busy taking care of their own customers.

That definitely sounds like us! We don’t have any print brochures. We’ve never run a paid ad. And we don’t have a sales team. What we do have is a great digital presence (which further proves our expertise in all things digital marketing) and excellent relationships with people in the industry.

6. Despite being a digital agency, we still do lots of print work for our clients.

Other digital marketing agencies eschew traditional marketing methods like direct mailers. We say NOT SO FAST. Traditional methods are still effective with older audiences (like Boomers) provided you properly integrate these methods with your overall marketing efforts, including digital.

To date, we have printed 10 million pieces of sales collateral materials, direct mail, and flyers through our Smartstores.

7. But just in case you’re suddenly questioning our digital acumen . . .

We LOVE digital marketing—and all things digital in general. We’re geeks at heart. To wit: Our senior living marketing podcast has over 6500 downloads.

8. There’s one thing that our team members all have in common.

Everyone has pets! We don’t know about you, but we think animal lovers are special people—fun, compassionate, and creative.

9. Our founder and CEO, Deborah Howard, has a fun little-known fact about her below.

Debbie says, “I had a children’s band called KidRock (I wish I had registered/ trademarked the name). We recorded an album and had a cable TV show: Circle Time Singalong.”

10. And our president and COO, Andréa Catizone, has a fun fact in the same vein.

Andréa says, “I was in a made-for-TV movie for PBS when I was 6.”

By the way, all of our team members share similar fun facts about themselves in their bios. Get to know them here.

Bonus fun fact: The success we’ve had over the last decade wouldn’t have been possible without our clients.

A special thank you to all of our clients, current and past, for making us who we are today! And to those who aren’t clients (yet!), but who’d like to be part of the Senior Living SMART family, let’s chat!

secret to better senior living direct mail

The Secret to Better Senior Living Direct Mail Marketing

Looking for the secret sauce to better senior living direct mail marketing? Well, the secret involves a mix of several key ingredients rather than one magical spice. Below, we share the recipe.

Make sure your branding is consistent across all media.

You don’t want someone to experience a disconnect when they go from your direct mailer to your website to your community itself. The brand you present on the direct mailer must align with the brand you’re portraying everywhere else.

Keep in mind, however, that your senior living brand is so much more than a logo and color palette. Yes, those things inform your brand identity, but so do the words you use, the messages you share, and the way you want people to feel whenever they engage with your brand.

Make it easy for someone to take the next step.

Your direct mailer should have one goal—and this goal should be clearly conveyed in the call to action (CTA).

What’s your reason for sending the direct mailer in the first place? Some examples:

  • Are you driving people to a specific landing page to download a free guide on how to finance senior living?
  • Maybe you’re inviting people to a “lunch & learn” event or to take a tour.
  • Or maybe you want people to call a phone number to request a brochure.

The “ask” should be clear, direct, and easy for someone to do.

Connect your senior living direct mail marketing to your larger marketing plan and ongoing campaigns.

Effective marketing doesn’t happen in silos. Your various campaigns should work in harmony as part of a strategic marketing plan or initiative.

So, for example, if you’re sending a direct mailer inviting people to have “Lunch on Us,” it should be part of a larger “Lunch on Us” campaign that has a strategic plan for promoting the event (print, web, social), executing the event (swag, brochures), and following up on the event (lead nurturing, tour invites).

Be hyper-focused when developing your mailing lists.

You might think it’s always better to cast a wide net. Wouldn’t mailing 10,000 people be better than mailing 2,000? Not necessarily. There’s a reason why direct mail response rates have historically been on the low side. Direct mail companies would often cast a super huge net, knowing that the response rate might be only 1% or 2%. They’d have to cast that big net in order to have the ROI they were looking for.

But marketing has become a lot more sophisticated over the last twenty years. Even though direct mail marketing is still considered an outbound marketing method (meaning you’re sending materials to people who haven’t self-identified a need for your services), that doesn’t mean you can’t take an inbound approach to the development of your targeted mailing list.

It all starts with understanding your ideal buyers and creating a persona for each buyer that includes detailed demographic info—info that a reputable mailing house can use to create a targeted list.

This means you’ll likely be mailing a much smaller number of direct mailers (and we realize printing and postage aren’t inexpensive). But the chances of converting people will be greater, provided you have the right messaging and the right call-to-action, which brings us to our next point.

Match the message to the audience.

There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all messaging. For example, one of your personas will likely be an adult child. And if you’re really good with your persona development, you’ll break that down into adult daughter and adult son.

The messages that resonate with the adult daughter will likely be different than the messages that resonate with the adult son. That’s basic Psychology 101. While you might think you can use the daughter message for both audiences (or the other way around), resist the temptation. You WILL get better results if you customize the messaging to each audience you send direct mailers to.

And remember: Your senior living direct mail marketing isn’t happening in a vacuum, right? The messaging you develop should be used elsewhere, like website pages, blog posts, paid online ads, social media, and email marketing, for consistency’s sake.

Don’t skimp on design and layout.

If you’ve invested in custom messaging, but you turn to DIY tools when it comes to graphic design, well . . . you’ve just wasted your investment. Sure, if you have legit graphic design skills, have at it. But if you don’t, you’re better off working with someone who does. Or you can use our SMART Brand product suite where we have ready-made templates created by professional designers, including direct mailers—templates that allow you to easily add in your logo, colors, and custom messaging.

Need help rocking your senior living direct mail marketing?

That’s what we’re here for! We can help you navigate inbound and outbound marketing methods so that they’re always working in harmony. Get in touch and let’s chat.

leveraging traditional marketing methods

Leveraging Traditional Marketing Methods in Senior Living

Ever since the concept of inbound marketing took off in the late 2000s, people have been wondering if “traditional” marketing methods still have a place in a modern marketing environment.

Like so many things in life, the answer is “it depends.” It depends on the brand, the audience, and the goals. Sure, print ads in physical newspapers won’t reach Gen Z or younger Millennials, but that doesn’t mean those same ads won’t reach other audiences—like Baby Boomers.

In fact, traditional marketing methods—think direct mailers, print ads, and radio/TV—can be very effective with the Silent Generation, Boomers, and even Gen X. The challenge is getting your traditional marketing methods in senior living to play nice with your inbound methods. And that’s precisely what this blog post is all about.

Make sure your inbound and traditional marketing methods are part of a larger plan.

Slapping together a print ad here or a direct mailer there along with an ebook and social media posts is an example of how NOT to approach your senior living marketing. To be successful, you need a plan—a marketing strategy—for meeting your goals.

In senior living, the ultimate goal is move-ins. But you need to meet many goals along the way to achieve that ultimate goal. You need to understand who your ideal buyer is. You need to attract more of these folks to your website, invite these folks to attend meaningful events in your community, run advertising that will reach them (online and off), and maintain an active presence in the virtual spaces where they hang out.

There are many moving parts, which is why you need a plan for managing everything—and for successfully aligning your inbound and traditional marketing methods.

Think in terms of different marketing channels—and how they can work together to serve a specific campaign.

Don’t turn marketing channels, like your website or social media, into marketing silos. Silo mentalities never work—especially within marketing. Instead, your various marketing channels need to work in harmony toward whatever goal you’ve set.

For example, let’s say you’re inviting people to “have lunch on us.” The goal is to get people to the community to experience the delicious food and the wonderful community.

This is a perfect example of a goal that would benefit from both inbound and traditional marketing methods. You’ll likely use a combination of digital marketing channels—email, website, social media posts, maybe even pay-per-click ads—to promote the event. But you might also use direct mailers to invite people to attend as well.

If this “lunch on us” becomes a regular monthly event, you might even invest in other traditional methods, such as radio or TV, especially if you discover the conversion rate among attendees is excellent and a good return on your investment.

But this brings us to an important caveat about traditional marketing methods . . .

Keep in mind that traditional marketing methods can be pricy and that not all campaigns will benefit from these methods.

Let’s demonstrate with another example. Instead of an in-person event, maybe you create a free guide on this topic: “Is senior living right for you?” You want to promote this guide so that people will come to your website and download it. When they fill out the website form, they will provide enough info to indicate whether they match your buyer persona—and, if yes, where they are in their journey. From there, you can nurture them through an email workflow.

To promote the guide, you’ll use similar digital marketing methods that you used for the lunch & learn: email, website, social media, and PPC ads. But it wouldn’t make sense to run direct mailers to promote the guide. That would be cost-prohibitive.

Why? Well, a guide on whether senior living is a suitable lifestyle is most definitely a top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) offer. Meaning someone who downloads it is likely in the early stages of their research. They’re not poised for a sales pitch like someone who shows up for a free lunch so that they can check out your community first-hand.

Keep in mind that traditional marketing methods can be quite pricy—anyone who’s gotten quotes for print ads or radio spots can attest to that! So running a print ad or sending direct mailers about a TOFU offer wouldn’t necessarily deliver the best ROI.

That’s why we’re always clear when it comes to marketing that it’s never a one-size-fits-all scenario. Sure, there’s still a place for traditional marketing methods, but you need to be thoughtful in your approach.

This leads us to yet another caveat.

Conduct regular audience research and surveys to see if people are still responding to traditional marketing methods.

Here’s the thing: we’re not suggesting all traditional marketing methods will continue to work—even for older audiences—forever. If the last two decades have taught us anything, it’s how quickly things can change, especially in marketing land. At some point, we do predict that traditional marketing methods, like running ads in newspapers and magazines, will no longer be effective.

Your job as a senior living marketer is to keep tabs on your prospective buyers, including where they hang out (both online and off) and how they consume media—and how this can and will change. Remember, the buyer controls the sales process now, not the other way around. Your job is to enable them to easily buy from you by removing any friction between them and the information they need to make their decision.

Need help? Work with a marketing agency that understands how to align inbound and traditional marketing methods.

Our talented team knows the ins and outs of inbound and outbound marketing—including how to make both work for senior living communities. Get in touch and let’s chat.

10-Ways-Senior-Living-Marketing-Has-Changed-in-10-Years

10 Ways Senior Living Marketing Has Changed in 10 Years

This year marks our 10th anniversary. For many industries, a decade isn’t a long time. But in the world of marketing where technology can have a major influence on how we do things, ten years is a lot.

Don’t believe us? Check out our list below of 10 ways senior living marketing has changed since 2012.

1. The top senior living referral sources have undergone a dramatic makeover.

In 2012, the top referral sources for senior living included the Yellow Pages, signage (like billboards), and church bulletins. Today, the top referral sources are all digital—think websites, emails, online ads, and social media.

This isn’t surprising given that “everyone” is online these days. And yes, that most certainly includes older adults. The Pew Research Center says that 75% of those 65 and older report being internet users, and 61% of people over 65 own a smartphone.

Most people looking for a product or service—whether it’s a new car or a new home in a senior living community—begin their search online, visiting websites, asking for referrals on social media, and reading online reviews.

2. Senior living marketing teams have embraced inbound marketing.

The concept of inbound marketing was coined in 2005 by HubSpot, but it only started to really take off in 2012. Of course, not all industries adopted it right away. (Cough, senior living marketers, cough.)

Our industry has been notoriously slow to adopt the latest trends. But as we write this blog post in 2022, we can say—with confidence—that the industry, as a whole, now recognizes and values the importance of inbound marketing and having a strong digital presence. (Whether all communities are executing these things properly is another story!)

3. Senior living websites have become interactive experiences.

In 2012, many senior living websites simply served as virtual brochures. Not much thought was put into the buyer’s journey, like how or where they might enter the site or how to motivate them to dig deeper with calls-to-action.

Today’s senior living websites have flipped the script. (Well, the ones built right have!) Websites are now built thoughtfully—and with purpose—using carefully researched keyword phrases and optimized content. Much emphasis is placed on the layout—colors, fonts, font size—and how everything renders across various devices from smartphones to tablets to desktops.

On each website page, the visitor is encouraged to take a meaningful next step—whether that’s reading a different article, downloading a piece of relevant content, or requesting a tour. The user experience is enriched further through other elements like live chat, interactive surveys, and videos.

Bottom line: Today’s senior living websites are built to not only attract the right prospects, but to also keep them coming back thanks to engaging content that aligns with their journey.

4. Senior living sales teams have moved to CRMs.

If you’ve worked in senior living sales long enough, you might remember the days of paper files or Excel spreadsheets. Looking back now, it seems so quaint, doesn’t it?

Change did NOT come easily in this arena—we’re creatures of habit after all. But once sales teams had a chance to get comfortable with the technology, they realized what they’d been missing and how much easier a good senior living CRM could make their lives.

5. Marketing automation is no longer optional.

We’re not going to lie: The biggest challenge we’ve encountered this last decade has been getting senior living marketing and sales teams to use marketing automation. For the most part, this is no longer an issue. Most communities get that it’s impossible to successfully compete in 2022 without some form of automation.

The next challenge—for us—is getting marketing and sales teams to leverage ALL that their marketing automation can do. But that’s a story for another blog post.

6. The social media landscape has expanded—both in terms of platforms and users.

In 2012, Facebook was only eight, Twitter was only six, and Instagram was in its infancy. TikTok wasn’t even a twinkle in anyone’s eye. In 2012, social media was still a young person’s playground, too.

Now, in 2022, many older adults regularly use social media. In fact, the Pew Research Center says that “presence on social media among Americans 65 and older grew about fourfold since 2010” and “the gap between adults under 30 and adults 65 and older shrank from 71 points to 39 points.” And according to Statista, 82 percent of the population in the United States had a social networking profile in 2021.

The most successful senior living communities today are using platforms like YouTube and Facebook to great effect as well as other platforms like Instagram and Pinterest.

7. Traditional marketing has taken a backseat (but still has a place).

Traditional marketing methods—think direct mailers, billboards, flyers, print advertising, radio advertising, and the like—have most definitely taken a backseat to digital marketing methods across all industries.

But many of these methods still have a place in senior living marketing (for now anyway). How’s that? Well, even though we’re starting to market more to Boomers (see #10 below), communities are still attracting people from the Greatest Generation, too. And these folks love their snail mail, newspapers, and radio stations.

It will be interesting to see what happens over the next decade. Will direct mail still be a thing in any industry? What about newspapers and magazines? Only time will tell, but we suspect we’ll rely less and less on many of these so-called traditional methods.

8. The senior living sales team is no longer in control of the sales process—the buyer is.

Ten years ago, the community sales team was the “expert.” They had all the answers and resources. They were the “secret keepers,” and prospects had to talk to them or meet with them in person at the community to get all the information they needed to make an informed decision.

Now, prospects expect to get all of the information (like pricing, floor plans, brochures, and so forth) independently without speaking to a salesperson until they are ready to do so. The job of the senior living sales and marketing teams is to enable buyers to get to this point without any friction.

The good news is that by the time prospects are ready for a sales interaction, they have most of the information they need to make a decision. The bad news is that if a community doesn’t provide this information on its website, a competitor or third-party lead aggregator will have the advantage if they do offer this level of transparency.

9. Um, did someone say “pandemic”? (Do we really need to point out the obvious?)

We don’t have to remind you about what happened in 2020 and is still dragging on. The pandemic dramatically changed everyone’s lives, and it had a profound effect on every industry under the sun.

The senior living industry was no exception. The pandemic forced every community to rethink its marketing strategy and tactics. The sales cycle became much longer in most categories (only crisis-driven memory care remained exempt).

Providers that didn’t have a solid digital presence had the most trouble since most in-person sales channels (tours, lunch, events) became useless, quite literally overnight. Everyone had to reimagine the sales process and develop virtual sales experiences (for example, taking static brochures and turning them into digital flipbooks, creating virtual tours, and doing live-streamed events).

Luckily, the industry as a whole responded with aplomb, and sales teams learned that they could still sell despite a pandemic.

10. Boomers have come of age.

Today, we’re on the cusp of one of the biggest shifts. While 2012 was still all about those from the Greatest Generation and the Silent Generation, this next decade will be focused on Boomers.

And let’s just say that their wants are quite different from what their grandparents and parents wanted. Boomers demand independence, transparency, and plenty of choices. They want what they want when they want it. This means senior living communities will need to rethink what it means to have someone available 24/7/365 to field questions.

Luckily, we’re living in the age of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. AI and automation have created an opportunity for prospects to engage with chatbots, surveys, quizzes, and premium content at their convenience—and we suspect this trend will continue to grow over the next decade.

BONUS: We’ve changed too!

In our earliest iteration in 2012, we served as a resource hub for all the various departments within a senior living community. But we quickly realized, based on our founders’ experience, that marketing and sales were our specialties.

Over the last decade, we’ve grown into the virtual marketing agency we are today—one that’s powered by our industry expertise, our team’s passion, and our supportive partners like HubSpot (we’re a Platinum Solutions Partner). Learn more about us. Or better yet—let’s chat!

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Senior Living Marketing: Why You Should Highlight New Residents

Your new resident has just moved in, which means the senior living marketing and sales teams can breathe easy since their work with that former prospect is done, right? Not so fast! Your new residents can provide ongoing help with your senior living marketing materials.

How’s that?

Well, think about it. Your newest residents aren’t that far removed from your current prospects. After all, your newest residents were prospects themselves only 30 or 60 days ago. Hearing about new residents’ experiences can help current prospects self-identify more easily.

Bottom line? Don’t forget to highlight NEW residents in your senior living marketing materials. Below, you’ll find three ways. An important caveat, however: In order for this to work, you must truly create an awesome experience for new residents. We’re talking about a red carpet welcome, which we talk about in this blog post.

So make sure your welcome program for new residents is in tip-top shape. Then, move on to these strategies . . .

1. Social media posts.

If you regularly share pics and stories on social media about new residents, you’ll reinforce that your community is thriving and the choice for many older adults. Not a bad message to convey in a low-pressure way, right?

Ideas on what to post:

Share a collage of pics featuring your newest resident—how they’ve decorated their home, how they’re enjoying the food, activities they’re involved in, and so forth.

Share a quote from the resident (along with a pic) on why they chose your community.

Share a before-and-after type of post. “Before Mary moved into The Elmwood, she thought this. After living in her new home for two months, she now thinks this.” The “this” doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, either. It could be something simple, like thinking she’d miss cooking, but discovering she loves being waited on.

BONUS CONTENT: Your new resident likely has family members who are thrilled that their loved one is so happy. Featuring THEM in social media content would also be smart.

How can you learn about which new residents are happiest? Collaborate with the activities team and resident director to get a good sense of the happiest new residents and their family members. (And, of course, make sure you get permission before taking pics and posting quotes.)

2. Videos, videos, videos.

Creating quick videos of residents talking about why they chose your community and their experience so far can be marketing GOLD.

And you don’t need to professionally shoot these videos, either. Use a ring light, your phone, and a lavalier mic along with a great editing app for your phone (we love InShot). Create short videos (30 to 90 seconds) where the new resident answers a question.

Some questions to play around with . . .

⚞ Why’d you choose our community?

⚞ What’s the biggest thing that surprised you—in a good way—about our community after you moved in?

⚞ What’s exceeded your expectations?

⚞ How long did it take you to adjust to your new home?

⚞ What are some of your favorite activities?

⚞ If you could go back in time and talk to yourself about the decision to move into the community, what would you say?

⚞ What advice/thoughts do you have for people who are thinking about moving into our community—but maybe they’re not sure?

If each new resident answers these questions, you can get seven quick videos out of it—videos you can use on social media, your website, and in important bottom-of-the-funnel interactions from sales people. Nothing can motivate a hot prospect more than seeing a new resident talk about how happy they are with their decision.

3. Pay-per-click advertising.

Remember what we said earlier about how prospects have more in common with your newest residents? And how these prospects can much more easily self-identify with new residents and see themselves living in your community as a result?

Capitalize on that!

Create pay-per-click advertising campaigns that are built around a new resident’s happy experience in your community. You could create a specific landing page that highlights the new resident’s story (and includes some of the other pieces you’ve already put together, like pictures and videos).

The call-to-action (CTA) would be “Join us for lunch and see for yourself.”

An even better CTA (provided everyone agrees) would be this: “Stop by for lunch with some of our newest residents to get an honest take on their move into our community.”

Note: Everyone should pay attention to residents who aren’t acclimating well.

Find out the source of their dissatisfaction or frustration. Did something not meet their expectations? This will happen from time to time, but if it’s a consistent refrain, you should revisit marketing and sales materials to see if something is misleading or needs clarification.

On the flip side, did someone take a little longer to acclimate than usual, but NOW they’re happy? That can be a compelling story, too, because of its authenticity and transparency.

Need help developing senior living marketing materials that adequately capture new resident stories?

That’s where we come in! We can help you find the most persuasive nuggets and turn those nuggets into social media posts, videos, PPC ads, and more. Get in touch and let’s brainstorm!

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Senior Living Tips: How to Create a New Resident Welcome Program

When I moved my mom into an assisted living community in 2021, I was disappointed with the experience. This was a big life change for her, and yet the community failed in those early days at making her feel truly welcome.

Some things that jumped out at me . . .

  • On the day of her move-in, no one from the community had been assigned to help us unload the car (we’d moved in all the large furniture in advance).
  • Her name hadn’t been logged into the resident portal, so she could not “sign in.” This impacted her sense of belonging.
  • No one had put a sign on her door or anything else, like a wreath or balloons, which would have helped create a sense of excitement.

Sadly, my experience isn’t uncommon. Too often, there’s a big gap when senior living sales reps “hand off” the family to operations.

And this gap isn’t going to magically fill itself.

Make move-in day special, like the first day of college.

I always use the analogy of first-year students moving into college. During move-in day and the early days after move-in, resident assistants and resident directors are likely popping in to say hello. Plenty of orientation and welcome events are planned in those first few weeks, including family weekend. Welcome packets with helpful info are left on students’ beds (or, in today’s age, sent as a digital packet on people’s phones).

Colleges are invested in keeping students engaged, safe, and happy because it’s not only in students’ best interest—it’s in the school’s best interest as well.

Your community has to make the same effort. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.

Remember, every move-in is a win. But a move-out can be a bigger loss.

I remember hearing a stat from the Massachusetts Assisted Living Association, and it has always stuck with me: Approximately 17% of move-outs happen within the first 30 days.

Think about that. Think of all the effort and money that goes into turning prospects into residents. And poof! Just like that, 17% move out within a month. (I wouldn’t be surprised if that number increases over the next decade as more Boomers enter the fray. Boomers will have even less patience for lackluster experiences!)

So what’s a senior living community to do? I bet a lot of those move-outs could have been avoided if the community took the time to extend a sincere, warm welcome to each new resident (along with a little extra TLC).

Here are some strategies for creating a true “red carpet” welcome for new residents.

Have move-in day checklists.

Give each department in your senior living community an internal checklist for making sure they are ready for the new resident. For example, apartment readiness checklist, dining/meal plan checklist, activities checklist.

Prior to move-in, provide the family/ future resident a list of helpful resources to reduce stress.

Consider things like a list of local movers, a packing list, downsizing tips, downsizing resources (e.g., junk removal and donation pick-up services), and a paperwork checklist (e.g., what to bring to the lease signing).

Develop move-in day protocols, such as . . .

  • Leaving a welcome basket on the kitchen counter
  • Providing a welcome packet in people’s apartments with helpful info
  • Issuing a senior living resident handbook
  • Assigning a staff member to greet the new resident and their family—and to check on them a few times throughout move-in day
  • Assigning a resident from the Welcome Committee (more on this below) to be the new resident’s go-to person during the first few weeks

Create a formal Welcome Committee.

Remember the first day of school or camp when you walked in feeling scared and overwhelmed because you didn’t know anyone? But once you made that “first friend,” you knew everything would be OK? The same feelings happen whether you’re eight or eighty.

Remember, new residents have to navigate a new physical space, figure out meal times, make friends/ find someone to have meals with, know where all the activities are taking place, know how to sign up for transportation or salon services, and so forth. It’s a lot of change and a lot to keep track of and remember. Other residents are often the best source to help a new resident fit in and to create a real sense of belonging.

Having an active Welcome Committee in your community is an excellent way to connect warm, friendly residents with the newbies. My mother joined her community’s Welcome Committee so that others would have a better experience than she had. (She said that she wanted to show new residents how things really worked around here.)

Be intentional about creating a positive sentiment in the first 30 days.

  • Week 1: Deliver a gift card for salon services.
  • Week 2: Deliver guest passes for meals to invite family & friends.
  • Week 3: Provide a voucher for something special (for example, offer free private transportation to go shopping or pet service for Fido).
  • Week 4: Host a housewarming event for the new resident’s friends and family. Give the resident a choice of a nice private lunch, cocktails and appetizers, or coffee and donuts. Let them know this won’t cost them a dime.
  • Week 5: Send flowers to mark the first month with a heartfelt note that expresses how happy you are that they’re part of your community.

Keep in mind that there is a compelling business value to creating a positive move-in experience.

When you foster a wonderful, welcoming environment where people can easily become raving fans, well guess what? Raving fans will more likely . . .

  • Write a positive review.
  • Refer their friends and neighbors and/or participate in your referral program (you’ll enjoy very high conversion rates on those referrals!).
  • Not move out! Don’t forget that stat I quoted earlier about 17% of all move-outs happen in the first 30 days.

Getting all of these different moving parts and programs to work in harmony takes work, but I’ve seen it done successfully before.

Need help? Guess what? We’ve got a special program.

I believe so strongly in creating a warm welcome for new residents that my team and I have created a turnkey “red carpet welcome program” that’s waiting for your branding and customization. Get in touch today and we’ll show you how it works!

How to Shorten the Sales Cycle

How to Shorten the Sales Cycle: Tips for Marketing & Sales Teams

In a previous blog post, we discussed how senior living leads require many “touches” before buying—and that the sales cycle can be quite lengthy.

In fact, according to a white paper by Enquire Solutions, the sales cycle can range from 107 days (for memory care) to a whopping 400 days (for life plan communities). Assisted living and independent living fall in the middle at 145 days and 203 days, respectively.

Wondering how to shorten the sales cycle—or whether it’s even possible? Here’s our take.

Accept that the sales cycle is long, but don’t use it as an excuse.

Acceptance doesn’t mean giving in. What it does mean is having realistic expectations about your sales forecasts, conversions, and pipeline.

Yes, the sales cycle is long, especially for certain types of senior living, as noted above. But keep in mind that these numbers are averages. Benchmarking is good since it gives everyone a starting point, but that doesn’t mean you and your teams can’t beat the numbers.

Experiment and measure results. Encourage your teams to experiment—with content, with emails, with in-person events, and with different senior living sales strategies. Keep close track of the results. If your team comes up with a marketing program or campaign that shortens the sales cycle, excellent! Do more of that.

Always be ready (and willing) to pivot. Lots of things can influence the sales cycle—many of which are out of your control like inflation, a recession, or a pandemic (or all three at once). Even if you come up with a “winning” program that dramatically shortens the sales cycle, this program might not produce winning results forever (which is precisely why you need to measure and monitor results). Remain nimble.

Remind prospects that “seeing is believing.” We have so many clients who say that the best way to convert people is by having them attend an in-person event that truly demonstrates what it would be like to live in the community. And the most successful in-person events usually involve food, like lunch. Offer those free lunches and see if that helps shorten the sales cycle.

Use lead scoring to segment leads.

Not every lead is ready to buy TODAY. Your job is to differentiate between marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs). Serve up the SQLs to the sales team since those leads have indicated sales-readiness. MQLs have future sales potential—someday. For now, however, they need nurturing, not pestering.

Segmenting and scoring leads will shorten the sales cycle since the sales team will only be focusing on SQLs rather than every lead that comes across the wire—and they’ll be converting more as a result.

Embrace progressive form fields.

Your website forms can be a treasure trove of information. The more you know about a lead, the better equipped you are to determine where the person is in their buying journey. The challenge, of course, is that no one likes answering a lengthy list of questions on a form.

What’s the solution? Progressive form fields.

As people engage with the content on your site, you can serve up different questions based on the answers they provided on other forms. This will help you better identify true SQLs—and the various subsets in each. For example, an adult child searching on behalf of her mom vs. an older adult searching for herself.

Have a smart strategy for managing third-party leads.

We’ve discussed the problems with third-party leads and lead aggregators. In short, third-party leads are shared among many communities, these leads historically have low conversion rates, and they’re expensive (just to name a few issues).

But we get it: Some sales teams might not be able to let these leads go. If that’s the case, you’re going to need a smart strategy to convert these leads faster using marketing automation technology.

Luckily for you, we’ve created a solution that can help. We call it Speed to the Lead. Thanks to an automated five-step lead nurturing workflow, this solution will help your community respond quickly to third-party leads, deliver brochures immediately, and encourage tour requests.

Always try to connect on a personal level.

People enjoy doing business with people that they like and trust—and that they feel gets them. Yes, it might require a little more effort on the sales rep’s part, but when trying to figure out how to shorten the sales cycle, getting personal could help shave off some days. “Oh, everyone there is so nice and really has gotten to know me . . . maybe this really would be a good move.”

Connecting on a personal level is just that—it’s personal. One-size-fits-all approaches won’t work. Some ways to develop your skills in this area . . .

Get in the habit of offering meaningful tokens/gifts based on what you learned about the prospect during an inquiry. Did you learn they’re religious? Give them a small book of devotionals. Did you discover they’re a Green Bay Packers fan? Give them a pair of Packers socks. Did you discover they love gardening? Gather some clippings from the gardens within your community and deliver the bouquet to their home with a nice note that you’re thinking of them.

Practice active listening. With passive listening, you’re simply going through the motions. Active listening, on the other hand, is just that—it’s active. This essential sales skill shows you’re demonstrating through your own nonverbal gestures and your thoughtful follow-up questions that you’re really paying attention to what the prospect is saying. You take notes—and you revisit those notes. You use those notes to guide and inform the next steps and subsequent interactions. Active listening shows your interest in the prospect as a person first rather than simply a potential sale.

Make sure you connect with all decision-makers—and influencers. This is especially important if adult children are involved. Keep in mind that their worries and concerns will be different from their parents’ concerns.

Need help converting more leads to move-ins?

Get in touch if you’d like fresh eyes on your senior living marketing and sales strategies. We know the industry and what works to attract the right leads, nurture them over time, and convert them to move-ins faster.

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3 Tips for Overcoming Senior Living Sales Objections

In a perfect world, all senior living sales interactions would end with prospects saying, “YES! I want in.” But life is far from perfect, right? This is why sales reps must learn how to adeptly handle common sales objections. Here are three strategies to embrace.

1. Shift the conversation from negative to positive.

If a prospect is rattling off all the reasons they’re hesitant, shift the conversation to the things they do like about your community.

The goal is to reduce the anxious feelings that have bubbled up and help the prospect visualize their life in your community. (Remember, this anxiety-inducing stuff exists for most people moving into senior living. As the saying goes, the only way to get over it is by getting through it.)

For example, maybe a prospect has been lamenting about moving away from the only home they’ve known for the last several decades. Here’s how you could help shift the conversation . . .

“I know you love the home you’ve raised your children in. I can’t imagine how hard it will be to leave it. But I’m wondering if you can picture yourself living in our community. What are some of the exciting things that jumped out at you during the tour? Tell me some of the things that you could see yourself really enjoying if you lived here.”

Now, here’s a tip for taking things to the next level. Keep specific notes on what the person says they liked about your community. Is it the gorgeous gardens? The delicious meals they don’t have to cook? All the activities, like the thriving book club?

Use these things to entice people back to the table if they go cold on you. Playing off the above example:

  • If they love the gardens, hand deliver a vase filled with flowers that are currently blooming on the property. Include a note that says, “I thought you’d like to see what’s currently in bloom! You’d have a bird’s eye view of these gorgeous flowers from your apartment home.”
  • If they love the food, drop off a boxed lunch one day as a surprise. Include a note that says, “Here’s what people are enjoying for lunch today at The Elmwood. We had extra, so I thought I’d share. :) We’d love to have you by for lunch in person so that you can check out the dining room firsthand.”
  • If they love book club, drop off a copy of the new book that the club will be discussing . . . and invite them to attend the meeting, no strings attached. “We can’t wait to discuss this month’s book! Care to join us?”

Gestures like these can be extremely effective because of personalization. Everything comes across as thoughtful rather than pushy or salesy.

Yes, doing this requires a little extra work. And no, not every prospect will convert to a move-in. But look at it this way: If you deliver five lunches to various prospects over a two-month period and one of those converts to a move-in . . . well, suddenly that extra effort has a big pay-off, right?

2. Sound sincere in every interaction you have—and even more so with hesitant prospects.

One of the biggest mistakes we hear with senior living salespeople is the lack of sincerity in their voices. Sure, we understand how this happens. You might be encountering lots of sales objections any given day, week, or month, and it’s easy to sound like you’re mailing it in when you say something like “I understand” or “I hear what you’re saying.”

The trick is demonstrating that you truly do understand and that you are hearing what your prospects are saying.

We’re not going to lie: This requires practice and dedication. Yes, you need to learn the substance of various sales scripts inside and out. But then you need to practice various ways to deliver the substance of those scripts. HOW you say something matters just as much (if not more) than what you say.

Let’s pretend one of the objections you’re hearing is that the prospect is resisting moving out of their home. That’s a common objection, right? In the back of their minds, the prospects know they need to move. Or maybe you’re working with a couple, and one person is more hesitant than the other. Or maybe you’re working with an adult child and the adult child’s parents, but it’s clear the parents are NOT on board with the thought of moving . . . even if it’s truly time for them to do so.

Don’t simply say you get it. Demonstrate that you truly get it. Then, follow up with an actionable next step for the prospect to take that will help them overcome the objection organically. Or, at the very least, ask an open-ended follow-up question that creates deeper communication, trust, and empathy between yourself and the prospect.

Let’s see this in action . . .

“I get that you don’t want to move out of your home. You know what? I bet I’ll feel the same way when the time comes for me. But this also reminds me of something. I recently worked with a couple who’d been in the same home for over fifty years. They raised five kids in that house. So many memories. I’m not going to lie . . . they shed some tears the day they moved out and into their home here at The Elmwood. But they’ve transitioned nicely . . . certainly much better than either of them had expected. Hey, would you be interested in chatting with them about their experience?”

Here’s another approach:

“Oh, I hear you. They say moving is one of the most stressful life events—if not THE most stressful. Is it the stress of moving that’s giving you pause? Or is it something else?”

And yet another:

“I hear you. You’ve been so happy in your home . . . I can only imagine how tough that must feel at the thought of walking away after so many years. Let me ask you this: What would help make you feel better about making the move here?”

3. Anticipate common objections and react accordingly (and appropriately).

No doubt, if you’ve worked in senior living sales long enough, you’ll encounter the occasional sales objection you’ve never heard before.

But plenty of common objections exist. And guess what? You can prepare for those!

Some tips in overcoming those common sales objections. . .

Keep in mind that one size doesn’t fit all.

Price is often a big objection, but “price” is also broad. What is it about the price that’s giving them pause?

  • Can they afford to move in, but are they worried about what happens if they outlive their savings?
  • Are they confused about costs involved if they require more care over time (moving from an IL campus to AL, for example)?
  • Are they unaware of the financial resources they can tap into, like the Veterans Aid & Attendance Benefit?
  • Is it just plain sticker shock (which is common), but they actually are in a good position to buy—they just don’t know it?

Those are all very different scenarios. And yes, you need to prepare accordingly for each one. So do just that. Come up with a list of common objections. Then, think of all the various sub-sets for each objection. From there, practice role-playing how you’d respond to each objection. (Hint: We have a ton of free senior living sales resources you can download.)

For example . . . if your prospect is a veteran, introduce them to an outside consultant who specializes in the Veterans Aid & Attendance benefit. If the prospect is in your office, call the consultant and make the introduction right then and there.

Another example: If your prospect is struggling to understand what’s included in the number you quoted, offer a chart that provides context and is easy to skim. It’s easy for people to fixate on the big number, and yet they miss the value—the fact that number often includes two meals a day, utilities, housekeeping, maintenance, etc. The prospect needs to remember that even if the mortgage for their home is paid off, they still have monthly expenses—and that this BIG number you just shared covers stuff like that.

Pay attention to what isn’t being said.

The best sales reps are experts in nonverbal behaviors and reading between the lines. If someone says, “We can’t afford that,” but you have a good sense that they can afford to buy based on the asset info they shared, it’s possible the prospect is using price as an excuse.

An observant senior living salesperson will recognize that the prospect has other things on her mind and probe further. Asking some open-ended questions (gently) could help. “Gosh, I know. The pricing always causes a little sticker shock when people first see it. Let’s put that away and talk about how you feel about the community. If money weren’t an issue, how would you feel about our community? What do you like? How is it lacking—or what could I provide more info on?”

Work with your marketing team on materials that can address common objections.

Sending prospects home with the right collateral can make all the difference. This is why senior living sales and marketing alignment is so critical. You need to communicate common sales objections to the marketing team so that they can create content—guides, white papers, articles, case studies—that will help dismantle those sales objections one by one.

Go off script.

Magic happens during improv, right? Scripts should never be straightjackets. If you have an idea—even if it’s a little unconventional—that you think might work with a prospect, give it a whirl. Obviously, when we say unconventional, that doesn’t mean unprofessional. But don’t be afraid to experiment a little—and to share what you’ve learned with your colleagues.

Does your senior living sales team need some fresh inspiration?

If you need assistance aligning your sales and marketing initiatives, we can help. Get in touch and let’s brainstorm together.