Senior Living Marketing Tips to Kick Start January 2019

How to Create an Effect Senior Living Marketing Plan

It’s that special time of year. Dreams of sugar plum fairies and winter wonderlands are interrupted with the seasonal realities of Q4. A blizzard of demands grows our To Do list. And all of a sudden, it’s next year. Still a bit hazy from some holiday cheer, you might rush to cobble together a senior living marketing plan for Q1.

It’s fine, you think. After all, look at all those online and aggregator leads coming in!

But is it really OK?

Maybe not, especially when you consider the following…

  • Online leads tend to have a lower quality score than other lead sources, such as referrals.
  • Move-outs tend to increase this time of year, meaning you’ll need even more move-ins.
  • In some regions, weather can wreak havoc with promotional efforts.
  • Not to mention, as we update this article, a pandemic has changed senior living marketing (possibly for good).

So what can you do to make sure you’re not panicking on January 1?

Here are some strategies to follow NOW so that you can hit the ground running with an effective senior living marketing plan for the upcoming year, quarter, or month…

1. Set goals based on real numbers.

Number-driven goals are best, since it’s easier to measure their success. Move-in volume is a typical, measurable sales number (or, at least, it used to be pre-COVID). Set a realistic move-in goal for each month. If you’re not sure, look at the last 12-24 months. (You’ll want to consider 2018 and 2019 numbers to get a realistic sense of what the numbers look like during “normal” times. Then, you’ll want to consider 2020 numbers, too.) And set a monthly marketing budget. You need these numbers to plan.

Once you have a move-in number and a budget number for the month ahead (or better yet, the upcoming quarter or even the whole year), planning becomes easier.

For this exercise, let’s say the move-in number for January is 4.

Based on a budgeted 4 move-ins, how many leads do you need? Leads will equal the number of move-ins divided by your community’s lead-to-move-in conversion rate.

So let’s say your average lead-to-move-in conversion rate over the past 12 months is 12.8%. The math: 4 move-ins divided by .128 = 31 leads. So, in general, you’ll need 31 leads to produce 4 move-ins.

But is that really the number? Probably not for January.

Why? Well, what do we know about Januarys?

  • Online and lead aggregator volume typically spikes.
  • Move-outs often increase.
  • The weather stinks in ¾ of the country. Think ice, snow, rain, wind, and cold. And even if you’re working in a community that’s welcoming snowbirds, you’re thinking how you can keep them with you year-round.

Now, what do we know in general?

  • Not all lead sources are equal.
  • So many variables impact an average annual conversion rate.
  • Leads produced in the current month will most likely convert next month depending on several factors both in and out of your control.

So, most likely, you will need more than 31 leads.
All that said, 31 leads is a good starting point. From there, you can develop a senior living marketing plan that will generate these leads. Then, you can let lead aggregators produce gravy for you.

2. Identify target personas.

How do you bucket the various types of people contacting you and sitting in your CRM? Keep your various buyer personas in mind, including where they might be on their journey:

  • Some know they have problems, but don’t know what will solve them.
  • Others are researching their options on the internet (perhaps prompted by a postcard or a newspaper ad they saw).
  • Some are now calling you, touring communities, talking with lead aggregators, and actively weighing all the options (meaning your direct and indirect competition).
  • Meanwhile, a few are ready to buy, but they may have some concerns.
  • Others may move back up the funnel because of a bad tour, guidance from a friend, a change in financial situation, or other reasons.

You’ll want to bucket your targets.

  • On the lead generation side, you’re looking at seniors, their adult children, professional influencers, and residents with friends they can refer to you.
  • On the consumer side, you’ll look at demographic and socio-economic sweet spots based on an analysis of your CRM data with a data insights company.
  • On the lead nurture side, you most likely are bucketing by time frame to moving in – hot, warm, and cold.

Some of you may have more sophisticated lead scoring in place. Your hot and warm leads should be a enjoying a very personalized sales approach based on your discovery.

3. Select the right marketing campaign to get the job done.

Now that you’ve bucketed your targets, what will you do to generate new leads, nurture your various lead types, and influence professionals and residents to refer to you?

Consider three types of senior living marketing campaigns:

  • Event promotions
  • Product/brand promotions
  • Price promotions

Event promotions are designed to work hard to encourage someone to visit your community and experience the lifestyle you offer. If you are promising an event, you need to ensure you can pull it off successfully. Events are valuable for lead generation and lead nurturing. However, you can also leverage daily resident activities, clubs, and outings as lead nurturing events once you better understand the various interests of people in your CRM.

We recommend one event a month for lead generation. Yes, they are time consuming, but if executed well, you really drive home the value of what you offer to residents. (Psst. Need help creating collateral to promote your events? Check out SMARTbrand.)

Product/brand promotions focus on people on the early side of the buyer’s journey. So your message should focus on things like what you do and what makes your community different/better than your competitors. In essence, you’re making the local market aware of your community. This might involve placing advertisements in places that reach your target audience, both online and off.

Price promotions. We don’t recommend price promotions for lead generation. It cheapens your product and really confuses potential leads about how pricing works at your community. Price promotions are good sales closing tools for a part of your lead base already aware of all you do to offer value, quality, and peace of mind.

What are good ways to come up with promotions?

First, get a calendar of all the holidays during the year. Second, bring your community leadership team together to discuss promotions, especially event promotions. You’ll need their help to pull off successful events for lead generation purposes. Third, you can look at all the promotional options in a “brand-on-demand” system. These systems typically have a catalog of postcards and flyers, and you simply add your branding, event details, and community details. From there, you get them printed and distributed. (A great option is SMARTbrand.)

Select the right media.

Once you’ve figured out your promotions each month for your various targets, you’ll need to determine how you’ll get the promotions to them. This is where budgets are necessary. Some things you can do very inexpensively. For example, with SMARTbrand, you can easily customize digital banners, download them, and place them on social media or your website. But for lead generation, typically you’ll want to look at direct mail, advertising, and online services, too. You’ll also want some materials to hand out to residents and professional referral sources.

Measure a job well done.

How will you measure success? Remember, it’s import to record every inquiry. You may have criteria on what determines who goes into your senior living CRM, but knowing a postcard, print ad, or web page works to generate an inquiry is critical, even if the person ultimately isn’t interested or doesn’t qualify for your services.

You can use things like call-tracking numbers and special website landing pages for direct mail (there are seemingly countless ways to measure—we’re just mentioning a couple).

Bottom line: over time, this information will help you identify media and promotions that give you the biggest bang for your marketing buck.

Need help creating an effective senior living marketing plan?

You’ve come to the right place! We have decades of experience in the senior living industry. Let us help you create a strategic marketing roadmap that achieves the goals you’ve identified. GET IN TOUCH NOW!

The Five Most Important Resident Marketing Trends

The Five Most Important Resident Marketing Trends

In 2017, LeadingResponse marketed to, and surveyed, more than 250,000 prospective residents, their adult children and caregivers to gain insights, and generate new move-ins for their senior living community clients.  During this hot topic webinar, you’ll learn more about the amazing data and results that were born out of this initiative and how to use that information to dramatically improve your occupancy.

What You Will Learn:

  1. Provide the latest resident marketing trends
  2. Discuss best practices based on data to generate new move-ins
  3. Gain consumer behavior details that increase your conversion rate
  4. Learn more about very targeted efforts to yield the strongest qualified leads
  5. Discuss the difference in behaviors between face to face leads vs digital leads
Making It Stick - Healthcare CRM Adoption

Making It Stick – Healthcare CRM Adoption

Let’s face it: one of the least favorite tasks of senior living sales and marketing professionals is updating their lead management database or healthcare CRM.

They prefer building relationships with seniors, families, and professionals. Or maybe they gain energy from personal interactions rather than administrative tasks. Entering data, updating notes, and documenting activities . . . not so much. However, for sales managers, this documentation is crucial to identifying trends, barriers, and opportunities. Not to mention creating effective strategies.

Reduce resistance and improve healthcare CRM adoption:

1. Create a User Advisory Board

Include all user groups and stakeholders in the vetting and decision-making process. Create focus groups comprised of community, regional, and corporate sales and operations team members.

  • Assess. Make a list of everything that the team likes and dislikes about what they are using. Ask each group to make a list of their “hopes and dreams.” Sometimes teams are more comfortable using a terrible system that they know and despise rather than making a change to a better solution. Why? Fear of change. Or concerns about losing their job.
  • Brainstorm. Create a wish list of features and functions that would make their jobs easier. Ideas include intuitive user experience to simplify data entry, automated lead integration with website, live chat,  goal setting, quick links to social media, integration with training resources, and document libraries. Dream big. This is an important decision!
  • Test. When you get to the testing stage with vendors, select a representative sampling from the advisory board to have them test and provide feedback. Always include your lowest-tech community user. Because if it is too complex at that level, then none of the fancy reports, dashboards, or bells and whistles will matter.  Provide each tester with prospect info to enter. Test the steps throughout the sales process. Think documenting advances, adding notes, scheduling tours, and so forth.

Be Mindful Regarding Your Healthcare CRM Selection

  • Compare. Take the feedback from the focus groups and look for commonalities. Select a CRM that meets everyone’s needs. Each user group needs to get a win—something that saves them time, makes documentation easy, integrates systems etc.
  • Alignment. One of the most important considerations is to align your new CRM with your sales culture. For example, if your goal is to motivate your sales team to spend time developing relationships with prospects and referral sources, the CRM should have the ability to measure and reward for that behavior. If your sales culture is more task, activity, and conversion ratio-driven, select a CRM that provides that data in real time. Your CRM won’t stick if your sales culture and training says one thing, and your CRM measures something else. Your sales team will always behave according to the structure of the CRM rather than the culture and training.

Selecting the Healthcare CRM Isn’t Enough

Once you’ve made your selection, you need to prepare your team for implementation. Here’s what to do.

  • Training & Reinforcement. Budget generously for the rollout! If possible, use a training center to train small groups outside of the community setting to limit distractions and interruptions. It usually takes two to three days for the initial training. Day one is a reinforcement of your sales culture and training to create alignment with the new CRM. This can be done in a community setting. You’ll then need a full day of classroom training using a test site to practice entering leads and explore all the features and functions. Day 3 can be either a half day or whole day training to demonstrate report functions, dashboards, and more sophisticated features, such as marketing automation. Users should leave this initial training feeling competent and confident. Schedule ongoing training sessions using remote screen sharing as well as open hours and help desks for questions.
  • Data Migration. This is a great opportunity to clean up your data. Work with your CRM vendor to “de-dupe” or merge your duplicate records for leads and referral accounts. Decide if you want to migrate all of your data or move only those within a specific timeframe (for example over two years old) or with specific stages (e.g., leads labeled as “lost”). Providing a clean data set will go a long way in getting users onboard.

Want to learn more about senior living CRM adoption? Watch for our FREE WEBINAR

SENior living marketing

Get the Most from Your Paid Advertising Budget: Consider Call Analytics

Marketers in the senior living space face a challenge: They often can’t tie their marketing spend directly to its impact on their organization’s bottom line. The thin amount of data they receive shows their online campaigns are generating calls. But how many are from actual prospects? And how many calls are being properly serviced? This is where call analytics can help.

Baseline data—the number of clicks, calls, or visits—isn’t enough to run a thoroughly optimized campaign. Worse, baseline data can be misleading and costly. Senior living marketers need to identify, understand, and, perhaps most importantly, communicate to company stakeholders how their campaigns support the company’s bottom line.

Not All Call Analytics are Created Equal

Basic conversion analytics, such as click-through rates, form fills, email response rates, and call duration, may not tell the whole story. For example, when you run a Google Ads campaign, you’ll know exactly how many calls you received from the ads. What you won’t know is why the calls were made.

Take this real-world example, which illustrates our point: When family members want to reach a resident at a senior living property, they typically search online for the property name. Often, a paid search or display ad renders first. So, the searcher clicks to call the facility. In short, the ad did its job and delivered a call; it’s just not a new customer call as intended.

How prevalent is this? One Marchex senior living client found that over 20 percent of their paid search budget was consumed this way. In other words, one out of every five calls was from residents’ extended families. The calls were not driving new business, as intended. At a few bucks a click, this wasted spend can add up quickly and consume a budget.

Another contributing factor in wasted ad spend can come from inside the residence. A Marchex property management client found that 40 percent of their $100,000 monthly budget went to residents calling for maintenance. Call analytics helped the client improve their bid strategy, resulting in thousands of calls that actually drove new leases.

Call Analytics Help Align Marketing, Sales, and Operations

Adding call analytics into a senior living company’s marketing mix also delivers benefits to sales and operations. Marchex solutions facilitate reporting by surfacing call data by individual location. Once operations has visibility across multiple locations, they can identify opportunities to fix breakage in the customer journey, enable targeted agent training, and address other operational improvements.

Sales can gain insights into how agents perform. For instance, they can determine how closely agents follow sales scripts. Or they can learn how agents respond to callers (or whether they answer the phone at all). In fact, Marchex analyzed millions of senior living industry calls over a twelve-month period and found that 23 percent of calls to senior living companies go unanswered.

Finally, call analytics deliver insights that help marketers take an active leadership role in the company. With call analytics, you can prove value more effectively than basic analytics and help justify marketing and ad budgets. You can also provide value to operations and sales. Best of all, at the next annual budget meeting, you’ll able to offer data-driven results that demonstrate how your marketing is positively impacting the bottom line.

To learn how your marketing, sales, and operations can benefit from call analytics, download our one-sheet for senior living marketers and Call Conversation datasheet →

Marchex is the leading provider of end-to-end call analytics solutions, with the deepest and broadest set of applications for mid-market and enterprise businesses on the market today. The best customers are those who call your business. Marchex helps you understand who called and why, so you can turn more of these callers into customers. Learn more →

NEED HELP TRYING NEW IDEAS? WE’RE THE APP FOR THAT! 🙂

Seriously, we’ve been in your shoes, and we can help. We keep our eyes on the latest and greatest technology, including call analytics, and get a sense of if and how it could work for the senior living industry before we recommend it to our clients. Get in touch and let’s talk about how we can help.

Blogging Basics: Three “Must Do” Tasks & One DO NOT!

Blogging Basics for a Killer Senior Living Blog That Gets Results

Having a senior living blog is a popular strategy to generate organic traffic, enhance search results, and keep prospects on websites longer.

That said, blogging does take careful planning. So before you start typing, check out these best practices.

Develop Buyer Personas for your Senior Living Blog

There’s no point in writing anything if you don’t know who you’re writing for. That’s where buyer personas come in.

Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal prospect. The persona encompasses background, demographics, motivators, and other types of information regarding how the prospect goes through the sales cycle.

Building strong personas will help you better understand your prospects. In addition, it will make it easier to tailor content to them, no matter where they are in the sales cycle.

For example, prospects who are trying to decide whether senior living is right for them are in a much different place than prospects who need to move within 30 days. You might create a downloadable checklist for the former. For the latter, a moving guide might make sense. You get the idea.

Make sure you don’t create buyer personas in a vacuum. While the personas are fiction, you need to base them on real people. Interview current customers, prospective customers, and lost customers so you can create an accurate persona.

Invest in Keyword Analysis for Your Senior Living Blog

Keyword research will tell you how prospects are searching in your local market. The analysis provides a list of the most common and popular keywords, the number of searches initiated monthly, the difficulty in ranking for each keyword, and where your community and your competitors currently rank.

For example, “assisted living” will be extremely difficult to rank for, but “assisted living Boca Raton” will be easier and more targeted to the type of prospects you want to attract (assuming your community is actually located in Boca Raton!). Remember, the goal isn’t simply to generate more traffic to your senior living blog. The goal is to generate more targeted traffic.

Create an Editorial Calendar for Your Senior Living Blog

With your keyword research in hand, select keywords with the highest monthly search results and moderate or low “ranking difficulty.” From there, you can create your editorial calendar.

  • The first step is to integrate these keywords into your blog titles.
  • Assign each blog to one of your personas. For example, adult children and older adults are going to be interested in different topics, so it’s important to map your content to the right persona.
  • Align your content with various stages of the buyer’s journey. Some prospects are in the early research stage, some are in planning mode, and others are in crisis and have to make a quick decision. Each stage requires different content based on where they are in their journey.
  • Schedule two to four blogs per month for best results. Remember, you want to deliver fresh original content on your senior living blog.

Don’t blog about your residents, employees, or daily happenings.

Prospects are not searching for your internal news and events. Blogs are not about you – they are for and about your prospects. You can use your social channels, such as Facebook, to promote content about your residents and employees, or you can create a News section on your website for these updates.

Need more help with your senior living blog? Let’s chat!

11 Strategies for Promoting Content & Measuring Results

11 Strategies for Promoting Content & Measuring Results

So, you’ve got your content teed up, whether it’s a guest post, a hot take, or a summary of a survey you conducted. You’re done, right? Not so fast!

Producing quality content is the first step. But now it’s time to share your content and to understand which pieces help bring leads—and ultimately customers—to your senior living community.

Here are 11 strategies that will help you promote and measure your content like a pro.

1. Write irresistible headlines.
Your content could be the best in the world, but it’s worthless unless you’re grabbing people’s attention and getting them to read it. Headlines are crucial for this very reason, and there are several rules for creating good ones:

  • Make them explicit and concise.
  • Don’t give away the whole article, but don’t hide what it’s about, either.
  • Trigger curiosity. Appeal to emotions.
  • Use numbers or percentages when possible.

2. Put your content in front of targeted eyeballs.
Share your content in an email to targeted prospects(hint:segment your database according to buyer personas, and only share content that will interest that particular persona). Share your content on social media as well. Putting your content directly in someone’s inbox is a simple way to reach them, while posting content on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn makes it easy for people to share.

3. Add tools to your promotions arsenal.
Use tools like Buffer to share content efficiently. Buffer allows you to queue up content you want to share on social media and then spaces out when that content is released throughout the day.

Want to learn more?

Get our FREE eBook

A blog is a long-term marketing asset that will bring traffic and new leads to your senior living website. In this eBook, we will walk you step-by-step through the blogging fundamentals and show you how to start reaping the benefits of this valuable marketing and awareness channel.

 

4. Embrace being a big fish in a small pond.
Don’t view the fractionalized senior living market as a threat. View it as a marketing opportunity to specialize in a niche.

5. Don’t date yourself.
When publishing articles that aren’t news-oriented,don’t include the date. With information that’s useful no matter when it’s posted, including the date may discourage someone from reading it as time passes.

6. Connect with everyone on social media.
Create a separate account if necessary on Facebook or Instagram for consumer-facing marketing and make sure to do the same on LinkedIn for referral contacts. It’s a content sharing platform—treat it as such. Content marketers benefit from connecting with each other.

7. Be a fount of information.
Content marketing is a test of generosity. It costs nothing to give away your best advice and knowledge, and that’s how you’ll win the relationships that give you the links, the authority, the rank—all leading to getting qualified visitors on your website.

8. Use data to your advantage.
How much authority does your page have? Find out with tools like Google Analytics. Make use of available data and adjust your content accordingly.

9. Focus on what matters.
There’s a very long road between getting a “like” and making money. A very low number of social media interactions convert into leads. Your website is much more likely to get a visit from a Google search, so put the bulk of your energy into where you get the best results.

10. Share content that people want to see.
Look at what’s getting shared and clicked the most. Use Google Analytics to find the articles that will get people to subscribe to your newsletter. Put these items on your sharing list.

11. Know when to share.
Track your web traffic and email click-through performance to find out when people click on your content. So if you find your Facebook audience engages around noon on Fridays, but LinkedIn folks seem to get into your stuff on Wednesdays between one and four, schedule your posts accordingly. For further insights, check out this industry research regarding the best times to post on social media.

What tips do you have for promoting content and measuring results? Share in the comments!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andy Crestodina

Andy Crestodina is the author of Content Chemistry: The Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing. Andy will be sharing his wisdom in two presentations at the 2018 Senior Care Marketing Sales(SMASH)Summit taking place Oct 1 – 3 in Chicago: Content Marketing Micro-moments: Turning Traffic into Leads and Leads into Conversions and Content Marketing 2.0. Drive your Content Engine in 2019.

Sign up for our free webinarContent, Conversions and Lead Generation” on Thursday September 6th at 1:30PM EST.

What Should Go On Your 2019 Marketing Wish List?

What Should Go On Your 2019 Marketing Wish List?

It’s budget season and a time to dream BIG. That is, until you realize your budget hasn’t increased from last year, even though expectations have.

Not to mention there are so many choices: digital, paid search, social media, direct mail, marketing automation, advertising, radio—the list is seemingly endless. And each of these broad categories requires more decisions (for example, Instagram vs. Pinterest or Google AdWords vs. Facebook ads).

So how should you go about creating a reasonable marketing wish list for the 2019 fiscal year? Ask yourself the following questions to get started—they cover the most important areas that we recommend to our clients. Then, build your list accordingly.

1. Is your website on its last legs?

If your website is more than two to three years old, it’s time for a new one—or a solid refresh at the very least, one that includes enhancements to improve traffic and conversions.

If your communities are on separate URLs, consider integrating them into one domain so you don’t compete against yourself for SEO and so that you create a better experience for your site visitors.

Where to begin? Start by developing buyer personas to attract your ideal prospect, investing in a keyword analysis of your rankings compared with your competitors, and building a content strategy that combines the interests of your personas with relevant topics.

Oh, and make sure your site is secure, meaning your site should be using HTTPS and not HTTP. You could see your site traffic drop considerably otherwise. Learn why here.

2. Is your content getting results?

If you blog regularly with quality content, you should expect to see three times more visitors and 3.5 times more leads per month and a 79% increase in sales revenue from website leads within one year.

Is your content struggling to give you these results? Remember: consistency and quality are the essential elements—and harder to achieve than you might think. That’s why content should always make it onto your marketing wish list. You can always improve it and make it better.

At the very least—and especially if your content is currently underperforming—invest in an editorial calendar that is keyword enriched to improve your search ranking and use professional writers to create educational content.

Also, you should budget for at least one piece of premium content per quarter (think guides, e-books, toolkits). “Gate” this content in order to convert anonymous website visitors into prospects. Invest in quality landing pages to collect contact information.

3. Would automating your marketing help convert prospects to customers?

Ninety percent of the leads on your website are not ready to buy right away. Marketing automation technology nurtures the “not yet ready” leads by providing relevant content based on their expressed interests and creates workflows to keep them engaged until they are ready for a sales interaction—and once it’s set up, it’s completely turnkey.

Marketing automation completes follow-up in a way that is dependable, timely, and consistent with brand standards. It’s like having a 24/7 virtual sales person available at all times to ensure that leads are nurtured and advanced.

But good automation technology, like HubSpot, is an added expense—but one that will pay for itself over time—which is why you should add it to your marketing wish list.

4. How’s your CRM? (You have one,right?)

Customer relationship management (CRM) technology has come a long way in the last five years. You should not settle for an old, outdated, clumsy system that is a pain for your sales team and does little more than track tasks and activities.

Good CRMs help sales teams stay focused, build stronger relationships, and leverage excellent data to inform decisions. Choose a CRM that is in alignment with your sales culture, budget, and users’ technological skillsets. Make sure it offers training and onboarding to support adoption and success.

5. Is your data easy to digest and access?

It’s not that there is a lack of data available. It’s just that it is fragmented and un-integrated.

You should be able to track every marketing channel and every touch point in the customer journey and calculate ROI to inform strategy and spending, both online and offline. You should be able to access all this info in one dashboard, in real time, and analyze it by location, portfolio, service line, or investor – any way you need it.

If you currently can’t do this, make sure you add it to the wish list. Hint: often times you can get analytics and marketing automation software in one package, so look for products that can solve both problems.

Can you think of any other smart questions to ask as people prepare their 2019 marketing wish lists? Share in the comments.

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The Power of Storytelling in Marketing: Use Real Images

You’ve probably heard about the power of storytelling in marketing. Resident photography and videos can be excellent ways to tell the “story” behind your brand. These images and stories can also help prospects overcome fears and stereotypes typically associated with senior living communities.

In our quest to better understand the benefits of telling stories in marketing materials, we interviewed Tom Sanders, founder of Senior Living Visuals. Tom does an excellent job of creating powerful stories through visuals. He’s created films and photo shoots seen by millions of prospects. Many of these images include residents who are veterans, artists, painters, centenarians, and long-married couples. Many have truly unique stories, such as working under John F. Kennedy or playing baseball with Jackie Robinson.

Below is our interview with Tom about the power of storytelling in marketing. Specifically, we talk about the importance of using real images.

SLS: Tell us about a compelling story that you brought to life for a senior living community.

TS: I made a three-minute film with MBK Senior Living on a painter who is going blind and has an optimistic outlook on life to keep discovering and evolving as an artist. The film titled “Lynn the Painter” was picked up by the positive news website Upworthy. To date, the film has received over a million views worldwide. Lynn chose to live at an MBK community up in northern California because it matched her personality.

SLS: What strategy or process should people follow to create a positive emotional response?

TS: In most cases, every story generally needs some sort of a story arc where there is a struggle. The “Hero’s Journey” by Joseph Conrad is a universal book that explains the struggle and overcoming of a challenge you want in every story (the book is not an easy read; you can watch this documentary on “The Hero’s Journey” here if you have limited time).

SLS: So once you’ve created these compelling themes, how do you integrate them into marketing strategies and tactics?

TS: You need to know which resident portraits are applicable to print, digital, direct mail, display ads, events, and on-site at the community. In most cases, if a photo series is photographed on a certain subject matter, such as couples who have been married for over fifty years, the photos can be used at the community level and all the way up to the corporate level for any kind of marketing.

A series shot on 80-year-old-plus athletes might only function for a calendar and the wellness/fitness section on a senior living community’s website. Films, in most cases, can live on the community’s main websites and social media platforms for two years. After two years, the wardrobe begins to look out dated and reflects poorly on your branding.

SLS: Is there any particular project that has touched you most personally?

TS: Yes, my ongoing veteran photo series with Belmont Village. Each community proudly displays a permanent exhibition of the veteran portraits of their residents. This resulted in my book from Random House, The Last Good War: The Faces and Voices of WWII.

SLS: We so often see the same stock photography used repetitively in digital and print campaigns. Most of the time, we see images that are completely unrealistic or silly, such as seniors taking rides in wheelbarrows. Do you have any thoughts on that?

TS: Please try hard not to buy stock photography and films. Your competitors are using the same stock imagery that your company is using. Photograph and create films on your residents for your marketing materials. This way, the stuff you use will be truly unique to your company, you can build a library of your own films and photos, and the marketing materials will match the real heart and soul of the characters that live within your communities.

More info on Senior Living Visuals and Tom Sanders: Senior Living Visuals was founded by Tom Sanders, a photographer, author, and filmmaker. Tom has been creating films and photography for the senior living industry nationwide for over 13 years. His book, The Last Good War: The Faces and Voices of WWII, was published with Random House in 2010. In addition, the book was named the non-fiction book of the year by Foreword Magazine.

Sanders traveled the country photographing and interviewing WWII veterans at retirement communities, launching him into the aging industry right out of college. Sanders has been interviewed on TV news over one hundred times. His short commercial films have received millions of views worldwide.

Interested in learning more strategies for exceeding prospects’ expectations?

Let’s chat! We’ll spend 30 minutes brainstorming with you.

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Senior Living Website Tips for Better Resident Photos

Your senior living website is your virtual storefront. Ideally, it should accurately reflect your community. This means using REAL photos, not stock images.

Here are seven tips for taking better resident photos.

Today, we have a guest post from Tom Sanders of Senior Living Visuals. Tom is going to provide seven tips for taking better photos. Follow these and you’ll soon have a distinctive senior living website that truly reflects your community.

1) You’re a Storyteller First and Foremost

You need to ask yourself, “What is the story I’m trying to tell in this portrait?” When I taught digital photography at San Jose State, I was always happier with the students who had a stronger story and technically weak photograph (rather than the other way around) because your goal is to emotionally touch your audience.

In my opinion, it is easier to pose people and have them not look at the camera than it is to “capture” a random moment. Why? When you pose people, you have total control and the viewer will not know you posed the photograph if you do a good job. For example, if you are asking two friends to raise their wine glasses, just ask them to look at each other and they can keep toasting their wine until you have the photo that expresses the candid feeling you want.

2) Less is More

You want to simplify your portraits and keep clear of distractions. If a resident couple is celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary in the dining area, place them at a table near a window or wall so when you take their photo there will be fewer distractions in the background. The benefit of being near a window is light. You can always shoot a low angle and isolate the subjects against the sky to have a natural backdrop.

3) Color vs. Black and White

In my ongoing series on WWII veterans and in my book, I have both color and black and white portraits. People often ask me, “How do you know when to make a photograph black and white or leave it in color?” The objects, expressions, and clothing in the portrait will determine changing a photograph to black and white.

For example, I photographed a portrait calendar on centenarians, and as a side project, I also photographed details of their wrinkled hands. Since it was only skin tone and a black backdrop with dramatic lighting, changing the centenarian hand portraits to black and white made the wrinkles dramatic and the hand iconic.

On the other hand…Just like babies, as we get older we become androgynous looking again, and so I tend to always leave my female portraits in color so the women are not mistaken as men (I’ve had this happen; the viewer has mistaken some of my black and white veteran female portraits as men). So if the viewer can see the pop of red lipstick, for example, the viewer knows that the subject is a woman.

4) Using a Prop

Have your residents hold a prop to help tell the story for your senior living website. So ask yourself the following: What scenario is the resident in and what prop would help tell the story? Having your subject hold an object gives them something to focus on and makes them feel more comfortable. Having the gentleman hold a simple cup of coffee conveys that he is having his daily cup while subtly highlighting the nice landscaping of the senior living community.

5) Lighting Outside

A good rule of thumb: Take portraits in the morning or at the end of the day because the lighting is more manageable. Many think that you want to have people face the sun. In some cases, this works, but it is usually better to have the sun behind the person. Photographing people with their back to the sun makes for more even and complementary lighting. The harsh sun can bring out wrinkles and blemishes.

But again, remember to ask yourself this: What is the story you’re trying to tell and how does the lighting play into your story? You typically want to stay away from noon lighting because it adds big dark shadows in the eyes, which look horrible on a person. Then again, depending on the story, you might want those big dark shadows in the eyes to add to the mood of your portrait (see the famous Depression-era portraits from Dorothea Lange).

6) Lighting Inside

Usually, the lighting in senior living communities is from overhead lights, which don’t tend to work well in portraits. Still, you do have a couple options for inside lighting. First, you can use the flash setting on your camera/smartphone to create a poppy energetic feeling. Second, or you can place the residents near a window that offers different lighting possibilities. In a room with many windows surrounding the subject, you can usually get a nice even lighting that will look good at most any angle.

7) Critique

Ask several of your fellow associates which photos they like best before posting your photos to your senior living website. Usually, you can get a consensus from people on what they like and you can narrow down the best photographs from there. If someone does not like your photos, do not take it personally. We all have our own unique upbringings and backgrounds; we are entitled to our opinions. Ask 5-10 people what their favorite photos are and you will figure out what photographs to use.

About Senior Living Visuals. Senior Living Visuals will create photography and films that will elevate your marketing and increases your online presence. Senior Living Visuals is based in the San Francisco Bay area and works with companies nationwide. They have been creating films, photography for advertising, and artistic portraits series for the aging industry for over thirteen years.

senior living marketing

Senior Living Websites: 6 Questions to Ask Digital Agencies

Almost anyone can “build” senior living websites, thanks to YouTube tutorials and free website templates. But that doesn’t mean the website will work from a sales and marketing perspective. Why? Because an effective website needs a strong strategy that shows an understanding of the senior living industry.

Here are six strategy questions to ask agencies before choosing one to build your senior living website.

1. How will you drive the right prospects to my website?

Not all traffic is good traffic. The right digital agency will ask YOU about your ideal prospect: who they are, what they care about, how they search. If the agency doesn’t demonstrate a keen interest in your senior living community’s buyer personas, walk away. Otherwise, you might end up with a generic “one size fits all” website that doesn’t attract targeted traffic.

2. How will you attract ideal prospects to my senior living website?

Your digital partner should conduct keyword research. In addition, the agency should have experience with search engine optimization (SEO) for senior living. This involves understanding…

  • The search terms that prospects use when looking for senior living options
  • How often each term is searched monthly
  • How difficult it is to rank for these prized terms
  • Where you and your competitors currently stack up

Note: Senior living SEO is also a skill. Don’t be shy about asking the agency to show results that they can quantify.

3. What is your strategy to turn anonymous website visitors into contacts and leads?

Driving qualified prospects to your senior living website is just the beginning. The website also has to convert visitors into tours and move-ins. Ask the agency how they plan to accomplish this.

4. How will you nurture the early stage leads to keep them engaged?

If you generate 100 form requests, you might have 10 that will make a decision in the next 30 to 60 days. The other 90% of these contacts are “not ready.” But if you put all 100 into your senior living sales CRM, your sales team will get frustrated. They will disqualify most of the leads and move them to cold since the leads are not ready. The chances of the sales team ever returning to those “not ready” leads are slim as well.

What a good agency partner will do is make sure you have a good lead scoring plan in place. The urgent leads will go to sales. The not-ready leads will be nurtured until they are ready.

5. How will you get the right information to the right prospect at the right time?

Prospects are in different stages within their journey. Again, your digital partner should be able to identify where each prospect is and provide relevant content for each stage. Having high quality blogs and premium content (e.g., guides, checklists, and e-books) aligned with your keyword strategy is incredibly important.

6. How well does your digital partner understand your sales process?

A strategic partner will be able to articulate your prospect’s journey from the point they begin their research online through their path to conversion and move-in. Marketing strategy must be aligned with sales strategy. Most digital agencies only understand marketing, but that is not enough. Understanding the discovery, advancing, and closing process is critical in designing the right experience for prospects and for the sales team.

Bottom line: Don’t hand over the keys to your senior living website to just any ol’ agency.

Remember, building a new senior living website is going to require an investment of scarce resources: time and marketing budget. Operators expect to see results, which is why you need to make a good decision when choosing the right strategic partner.

The Senior Living SMART team has years of experience on the operator side of the industry. We understand buyer personas. Not only that, we’re experts in digital marketing. Let’s chat about your website project.

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