Crisis Communication Tips for Senior Living Communities

Crisis Communication Tips for Senior Living Communities

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

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

Crisis Communication: Appropriate Messages during COVID-19

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

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

The crisis communication messages you should be sharing:

Community-wide/General

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

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

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

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

Marketing and Sales: Changes to Messaging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for Creating Virtual Sales Experiences in Senior Living

Senior Living Sales Strategies During COVID: Create Virtual Experiences

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

Senior Living Sales Strategies: Think Virtual & Interactive  Experiences

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

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

Your New Front Door

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Edition: COVID-19 Communication Tips

Senior Living Marketing Crisis Communication Tips for COVID-19

The World Health Organization has officially used the term “pandemic” in relation to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Senior living communities are especially vulnerable to this disease, so what your community does next matters. These crisis communication tips will help.

Effective and pro-active communication with residents, families, referral sources, and prospects should be a high priority.  If you have a crisis communication policy, dust it off and start executing. If you don’t have something in place, follow these crisis communication tips ASAP.

Crisis Communication Tips: Be Open, Honest, & Transparent

Everyone wants reassurance that you have a plan in place to minimize risk and exposure to your residents and staff. Plan to communicate at least daily through a dedicated hotline number with a regularly updated recording. Or make a live central contact available to answer questions. Provide specifics on your protocols. In addition, reference the CDC recommendations for reducing risk and exposure to residents and staff.

Here are some links to include in your communication:

Crisis Communication Tips: Address the Most Pressing Concerns

Some of the most pressing questions include the following. Make sure you have answers:

  • Is my loved one safe right now? How will you ensure their safety throughout this crisis?
  • Will you close the community to visitors? If so, how will you provide resident status updates?
  • Are you stopping admissions, cancelling events and trips, serving residents on paper or delivering meals to apartments?
  • Do you have enough staff and supplies?
  • Are you increasing inventory of medical, food, and service supplies?
  • Have you increased your cleaning/ disinfecting protocols?
  • Are you retraining staff and hosting Town Hall meetings with residents?
  • What will you do if the virus is detected in the community?

People want to know what steps you’re taking to minimize risk. In addition, they expect regular communication about it.

Crisis Communication Tips: Use Every Communication Channel

You don’t know how or where people will go to access info. So, use all communication channels to deliver a consistent message.

Website. Put a banner on your website with a link to your prepared statement.

Email. Send emails, as needed, to all residents, family members, and responsible parties. First, outline your resident safety protocols. Second, reassure fearful and anxious family members. Finally, provide the various ways people can get regular updates.

Phone. Have a dedicated hotline to provide regular communication. This can be a central person available at the corporate level, recordings at the community level, or a call center. The more proactively you push out information, the fewer burdens there will be in managing incoming calls.

Live Chat. Provide your live chat partner with your crisis communication plan and FAQs so they can engage appropriately with website visitors.

Automated messaging technologies. Communication platforms, such as Voicefriend, automate notifications to residents, families, and staff via recorded phone messages, text, and email.

SMS. Do a bulk text notification to all residents, family members, and responsible parties. Include links to your updated notification channels, such as your hotline and website.

Prepare a media statement. If reporters contact your community, your department heads need to have a prepared statement that they can provide. Here is an example from Brookdale.

Example to follow: Brookdale has done a great job communicating their plan. They even created a COVID-19 Toolkit. Check it out here.

As always, if you need help creating or setting up any of these items, we can help you effectively sell and market your community during the pandemic

How to Write a Great Senior Living Blog Post

How to Write a Great Senior Living Blog Post

Last week, we discussed why all senior living websites should have a blog. Now, let’s talk about the anatomy of a great senior living blog post.

1. Have a plan and a point of view for your senior living blog.

This is also known as “write regularly about compelling topics that your prospects care about.” Keep things organized and moving forward by creating an editorial calendar. It doesn’t need to be fancy, either. Add a working title (one that’s compelling and that includes a keyword phrase you’re targeting), any relevant notes, the due date, and the assigned writer.

Need ideas for topics? Turn to…

  • FAQs. Think about the common questions people ask your sales team and/or the questions you get on Live Chat.
  • Your competitors. Are they covering any topics you’ve overlooked? We’re not suggesting plagiarizing—the content you write should always be original—but you can certainly go to other sites for inspiration.
  • Senior-focused publications. Both online and in print. Again, think inspiration.
  • Your staff. And not just marketing and sales, either. Ask everyone—operations, dining, activities, and so forth—about topics they think would be important to cover. (Bonus: you might be able to use these folks as subject matter experts and/or as guest contributors.)
  • Analytics. Google Analytics and Good AdWords reveal keyword phrases that are bringing people to your site. Could any of those keyword phrases become additional blog content?
  • Keyword tools, such as SEMrush and BuzzSumo, can provide excellent insights—and ideas.

2. Focus on a keyword phrase (but don’t be spammy about it).

Again, always write for humans first, search engines second. You’ll find lots of advice online about where to place keyword phrases and how many times to use each phrase, but the truth is that no one knows what goes into Google’s algorithm.
Yes, it makes sense to use the keyword phrase in the title tag since that cues Google—and readers—what the blog post is about. And it makes sense to use it in your compelling headline. From there, just use the phrase—and various synonyms—naturally in your blog post.

Note: Google does tend to like an organized format, so if you can use the keyword phrase (naturally) in sub-headlines and bulleted/numbered lists, go for it.

3. Mind your grammar, spelling, and punctuation!

This matters to readers AND Google. (Google is wicked smart.) Nothing can torpedo a great topic like lousy mechanics. If the person writing the blog post isn’t a writer by trade, that’s OK—just make sure you have someone with writing/editing chops who can review the work before it goes live.

4. Watch your tone.

Your blog is a great place to be friendly and conversational. And yes, you can still be those two things while also being professional. Avoid “stiff” writing. It’s OK to use contractions, end sentences with prepositions, start sentences with “and” or “but,” and write fragments, all of which will help support a friendly, approachable, conversational style.

5. Write about those things that no one else wants to talk about.

OK, this tip isn’t for every senior living community, but if you truly want your community to stand out, then this could be a good differentiator.

Talk about hard things, but in a friendly, approachable way. Example: Tips to Prevent UTIs for Healthier Bladders.

Or how about this: Sex After 70 – It’s Good For You! You get the idea. These aren’t the sorts of topics you’ll see on many other senior living community blogs, but they ARE the types of topics that—if done right—can help your community stand out in a good way.

6. Consider hiring a professional writer.

So, here’s the thing: lots of people can write, even though they don’t wear the label “professional writer.” As long as the mechanics are sound (see point #3 above), it’s good to have a variety of voices and styles on your blog. So you might not need a professional writer, provided you have a solid marketing person who can lead the efforts and proofread/revise posts as needed.

That said, if you don’t have a person like this available on staff (and not all communities do), then yes—it does make sense to hire a professional writer. But hiring a pro doesn’t mean you should get lazy about having original content. You should make sure the writer has access to “people on the ground” (in other words, the subject matter experts in your community). Otherwise, you can expect generic content that readers can find anywhere (like “5 chair exercises for seniors”).

7. Tell people what they should do when they get to the end.

When people get to the end of the blog post, tell them what to do. This is called the call to action or CTA. It might be links to related content, an invitation to subscribe to the blog, or a download. Bottom line: Engage them further. They got to the end of your blog post, after all, so you have their attention.

You can also experiment with providing CTAs throughout the content. Just make sure these CTAs don’t distract people. You can determine this through your website and blog analytics by seeing how long people stay on the page or even if they get to the bottom of the page.

8. Measure results.

Speaking of blog analytics, you want to get a sense of topics that tend to be popular so you can develop more content like it. But you also want to pay attention to lower-performing blog posts so that you can give them some extra TLC and help them perform better.

It takes less time and money to fix/tweak existing content than it does to create new stuff, so you might as well spend the time getting ALL content to hum. Experiment with page titles, try tweaking/revising sections, re-format, add different CTAs, and so forth. If you substantially change a blog post, add a note somewhere that says “Updated on THIS DATE” and consider republishing it to gain some traction.

9. Lather, rinse, repeat (aka: do more of what works).

Blogging is a long-game. Do more of what works, tweak and improve what’s lagging, and keep an open mind when it comes to trying something new and different.

Need help with blogging?

We have writers, editors, and strategists available for short-term or longer-term contracts. Choose what works for your situation. Let’s chat about it.

Why All Senior Living Websites Need To Have a Blog & Premium Content

The Benefits of a Senior Living Blog & Premium Content

Even as we sit here in 2020, it still amazes us the resistance we occasionally encounter when we tell people they should have a senior living blog and offer premium content (e.g., free guides, infographics, checklists, ebooks, etc.).

So let’s explain our rationale once and for all.

1. Senior living blog posts and premium content provide additional opportunities to attract people to your site and engage them with helpful info.

The more paths you can give people to enter and explore your website, the better. And that’s precisely what premium content and senior living blog posts do.

Remember, most people begin their shopping online these days. A basic 10-page or 20-page senior living website isn’t enough to cover all the information people are searching for. But every blog post you write is considered a website page. Every landing page you have for a free download, like a guide or infographic, is considered a page. And ALL of these pages are excellent ways to help attract site visitors and convert them into leads.

Google also likes a deeper website with lots of helpful info: “If your pages contain useful information, their content will attract many visitors and entice webmasters to link to your site.”

2. Blog posts and premium content provide a great opportunity for long-tail keyword optimization.

A long-tail keyword is one that’s hyper specific, but doesn’t have a ton of monthly searches. That’s OK, because the specificity of the search term often indicates someone’s eagerness to buy sooner rather than later. For example, someone searching on “yellow sneakers women wide width size 8” indicates a certain level of interest beyond someone who simply googles “women’s sneakers.”

Armed with a solid list of long-tail keywords relevant to senior living, you can optimize your blog and premium content so that it helps capture the people conducting these long-tail searches.

3. Blog posts and premium content can speak to a specific point in the buyer’s journey—and to different buyers.

Some of your core pages—like your home page—need to speak to everyone. It’s the home page, after all. It needs to be welcoming to everyone who lands on it, regardless of who they are or where they are in their journey.

But a guide that that discusses the differences between independent living and assisted living is speaking to someone earlier in their journey. The one-sheet on your community’s pricing is speaking to buyer who is in the decision making stage.

Having different types of content that speak to different types of buyers at different points in their journey is not only helpful to your prospects, but also your marketing and sales teams. How? Well, marketing and sales will be able to score the leads appropriately based on the types of blog posts and premium content the prospects read and download.

In the example we used earlier, the person learning about independent living and memory care would be a marketing-qualified lead (MQL) since they’re still in the educational stages, while the person who requested pricing would be a sales-qualified lead (SQL).

4. Blogs and premium content allow you the space to dive deep into complex questions.

Think of the most common questions people ask about senior living. Do a quick answer on your FAQs page. But go into a deeper explanation in a blog post or guide.

5. Blogs and premium content give you a great place to show your community’s personality and unique point of view.

In a previous article, we mentioned that one of the challenges facing senior living communities is that most (if not all) are essentially selling the same thing—and your core web pages won’t differ too much from competitors’ web pages.

But with a blog and other premium content, you can begin to differentiate yourself simply by how you talk and the approach you take to common questions (or objections/challenges).

In fact, we’d argue that more and more senior living communities need to get into this “personality-driven” content. Write a blog post on a day in the life of your…activities director, nurse practitioner, head of dining, you get the idea. Include candid photos and real quotes. Or create a guide on “How 3 Real Families Helped Ease Their Parents’ Angst About Moving into Our Community.”

THAT’S the type of content people won’t see anywhere else because it’s unique to your community. It’s honest, and it tackles the stuff that’s in the back of so many people’s heads.

The communities that start producing truly original, heartfelt, honest content are the communities that will succeed the most this decade—and a blog and premium content are a great way to disseminate this sort of material.

Need fresh ideas for your blog or premium content?

Let’s brainstorm together for 30 minutes!

Senior Living Marketing: 8 SEO "Must Haves" for Better Google Ranking in 2020

Senior Living SEO: 8 “Must Haves” for Better Google Ranking in 2020

When it comes to senior living SEO, no one knows exactly how Google’s search algorithm works (except for a select number of folks inside Google). Attempting to game Google remains a pointless endeavor (though many continue to try). Instead, smart senior living marketing teams use search engine optimization (SEO) for better rankings. This involves building a site with excellent content that will come up naturally in various searches people do on Google. (That’s a very simple explanation, but you get the gist.)

Over the years, certain SEO “best practices” have emerged (practices that are endorsed by Google itself). Still, as technology and people continue to evolve, so does search—and the best practices that go along with it.

Below isn’t an exhaustive list of senior living SEO “must-haves” for 2020.

Rather, it’s a mash-up of the best practices that persist even in 2020 as well as reminders about SEO tactics that all senior living marketing teams should be paying attention to.

1. Compelling Content Written for Humans First.

Yes, folks: quality content is still king. Because at the end of the day, all Google really cares about is keeping searchers happy. And by happy that means serving up exactly what that searcher is truly looking for. Google has gotten quite adept at understanding context and even nuance, and, of course, searchers have gotten incredibly granular with their search queries.

The words you use (or “keywords,” as we say) still matter, but what’s more important is providing excellent content that’s written in a natural way—content that will help people who are looking for a solution to that particular problem, such as . . .

  • “How to pay for senior living communities”
  • “Tips for choosing assisted living”
  • “What’s the difference between assisted living and independent living”

2. Compelling Content that’s DIFFERENT from Your Competitors’ Sites.

You want to provide thorough, helpful content. But you also want to provide content no one can find anywhere else. The biggest mistake we see in our industry is this: too many senior living community websites sound exactly the same.

Here’s the thing: we are essentially selling the same product/service, right? There are just so many ways senior living marketing teams can talk about “exercise tips for people over 70” or “10 considerations when choosing a senior living community.” Still, if you want your site to stand out—to people AND Google—you need to write about things in a way that captures the essence and spirit of YOUR community.

So perhaps you have a Q&A blog post with your community’s sales director and you ask him/her to answer specific questions regarding paying for senior living. Or maybe you interview the community’s dining director about the five most popular meals at the community and why he or she thinks they’re great—and then you follow it up by interviewing some residents with their thoughts.

And regarding that topic about exercise tips for people over 70? Maybe you videotape the activities director performing five different chair exercises. You use the content on the blog, on social media, and YouTube. Over time, as more people come to the blog post and share it, Google will “understand” that this is worthwhile content about exercise tips for people over 70, which will bring in even more traffic and help build site authority.

The topics might be similar to topics your competitors are doing, but you’re covering them in a completely original and interesting way. THIS is the type of content that “wins” over Google in the long run.

3. Speed, Baby!

Bottom line, you want a site that loads quickly. Don’t make it easy for people to go to a competitor’s site simply because yours takes too long to load. A good web developer can test page speed and identify where and how to lighten the load.

4. Site Security.

It’s 2020. Your site must be secure. In other words, you need https, not http. This is important for humans (people are getting better at looking for https). But Google now uses https as a ranking signal.

5. Mobile Responsiveness.

Google also uses mobile responsiveness as a ranking signal. So you need to make sure your site is mobile-friendly, which it should be anyway, since more and more people conduct searches on tablets and phones.

6. Google My Business Listings.

If people search on “senior living communities near me,” what comes up? Often, Google My Business listings surface to the top, which means you need to not only claim these listings, but also treat them like mini-websites and make sure they’re on brand, up to date, and have the most important content that someone would be looking for.

7.  Listings on Other Sites with Authority.

Certain directory listings carry authority in Google’s eyes, so having listings on these sites can be helpful in building your own site’s authority. Don’t stress and worry that your senior living website will be doomed if you miss one or two listings, however. Do your best, keep it on your radar for review (so you can be aware of any new sites that become important), and keep going.

8. Oldies, But Goodies.

Yes, even in 2020, it still makes sense to follow these long-standing senior living SEO best practices for more effective senior living marketing online:

  • Keyword-rich title tags. Title tags are HTML elements that specify the title of a web page. They show up as the clickable headline on search engine result pages (SERPs). Try to keep your title tag under 65 characters. Ideally, it should include a keyword phrase that expressly indicates what the page is talking about.
  • Meta description: This is the snippet of text that typically shows up on SERPs under the title tag. Try to keep these under 150 characters and think of it as a little mini-ad for the page. Be clear what the page is about, but make it enticing so people will click.
  • Internal links: Pay attention to keyword phrases that you use naturally in the page that lead to other topics you’ve written about on your site. Hyperlink those words (called “anchor text) and link to the corresponding content.

Bullets and bolding. Google likes good formatting, and what this means for your content is naturally including bold keyword-rich sub-headlines and bulleted/numbered lists for easier skimming/reading.

BONUS: Get Help from Experts in SEO and Senior Living!

Here’s the thing: you will never be “done” with SEO. It’s an ongoing task. And sometimes you’re so busy doing marketing and sales that some of these SEO “must-haves” can fall by the wayside. That’s why it makes sense to work with an SEO expert from time to time, just to make sure your site is in tip-top shape. And bonus points if the SEO expert has experience in senior living.

Well, look at that. We just described . . . us! We’d love to chat with you about your SEO needs for 2020.

What is Marketing Automation & Do You Need It?

What is Marketing Automation & Do You Need It?

With marketing automation, you can easily schedule and duplicate various marketing tasks (typically connected with actions on your website) to happen without any further work on your part.

Marketing automation examples:

  • When someone downloads a piece of content from a site, they usually receive a thank you email. THAT’s marketing automation in action. This email can include additional information to engage them further.
  • Quality marketing automation software can automatically identify and label website leads as marketing qualified leads (MQLs) or sales qualified leads (SQLs) based on criteria you set. From there, the MQLs could be automatically entered into an email workflow for longtime nurturing.

The goal with marketing automation is to make everyone’s lives easier—think marketing, sales, and even your prospects.

How marketing automation helps senior living marketing teams

Your marketing team can “set it and forget it.” This frees up senior living marketing teams to do more important things like brainstorm and try out new ideas, create more of what works, efficiently move prospects through the sales funnel, and tweak existing campaigns based on results.

Remember, the majority of your website visitors are NOT ready to buy yet. They are researching and comparing. Marketing automation helps you capture these otherwise anonymous visitors (through forms) so that you can continue the conversation with them at their pace.

How it helps senior living sales teams

Sales can now spend more time focusing on true sales-qualified leads (SQLs). For example, if someone requests info on pricing, the automated system might label them as an SQL because of that action—and automatically notify sales to follow up with that particular lead.

Sales can focus on converting SQLs to tours and move-ins while the MQLs “marinate” in a lead nurturing program that readies them to become SQLs when the time is right. This means better close rates for sales teams.

How it helps prospects

Let’s say a prospective resident is browsing your site at midnight and is interested in reading your guide on “How to Finance Senior Living for Aging Parents.” Instead of requesting it and waiting for someone to manually email or snail mail it, the person will get it instantly—without anyone on your end having to lift a finger.

Does your senior living community need marketing automation?

If you’d asked this question a decade ago, the answer would have been “it depends.” As we enter this new decade, however, we’d argue that all senior living communities need some form of marketing automation in order to remain competitive.

The question you need to ask is what level you need.

Do you need the Cadillac version with all the bells and whistles or would basic software do? We’re huge fans of HubSpot (we’re a certified HubSpot agency). We’ve had a ton of success working with senior living communities who install HubSpot.

Marketing automation IS an investment.

But if your teams use it correctly, it will pay for itself over time by identifying sales-qualified leads when they’re truly “hot,” nurturing cool and warm leads over time, improving efficiencies, and providing deep insights in terms of analytics.

Still on the fence?

Or maybe you know you need some form of marketing automation but you don’t know what to do next? Don’t go it alone! The only thing worse than NO marketing automation is the wrong marketing automation for your needs—or setting it up incorrectly.

We LOVE helping our clients get the most out of their marketing automation. Let’s talk solutions.

The Magic of Higher Funnel Thinking Webinar

The Magic of Higher Funnel Thinking Webinar

Here’s what you’ll learn: 

  • Valuable insight into marketing resource and effort allocation
  • Actionable tips for engaging older adults and their families sooner with minimal effort
  • Information about how decision science can influence marketing content
  • Proven path to getting families “unstuck” in their senior living decision process
Evaluating Your Senior Living Website: Expert Tips

Evaluating Your Senior Living Website: Expert Tips

Why should you audit your senior living website? First, it’s easy to get too close to something and gloss over problems. Second, your senior living website isn’t static. In order for it to work hard for you, it needs to constantly evolve.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to auditing your site, broken down into relevant sections: the buyer’s journey, the senior living website design, technical stuff, content, and analytics/results.

THE BUYER’S JOURNEY

All of your marketing and sales efforts should begin and end with the buyer’s journey. If you truly understand your buyers—who they are, what they want, where they are in their process—then you’re already way ahead of the game.

So how can you tell if your website effectively serves your buyers during the various points of their journeys?

Many strategies exist from heat mapping (a tool that allows you to see where site visitors focus and click) to user studies to  website’s analytics.

But sometimes the best thing you can do is ask yourself to view the site from different perspectives.

For example, if I’m an adult child who is researching living arrangements for an aging parent with dementia, does the site make it clear what I need to do/where I should go next? Or if I’m a senior who is searching for a next step for my spouse and myself—and I need to make a move this year—does the site make it clear what I need to do/where I should go next?

Your site needs to clearly communicate the right message to different buyers. This includes the various stages the buyer might be in—awareness, consideration, decision. And your site needs to help people self-identify so they know where to click next.

LOOK AND FEEL

Does senior living website design say 2020 or 1999?

Your senior living website design needs to be modern and fresh. It’s surprising how quickly designs can look dated. Even a five-year-old design can feel old.

Does the site render well/correctly on various devices?

You absolutely need a website that’s “responsive.” In other words, it must automatically adjust itself to render properly on devices of various sizes—desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones.

Does the site design work for your audience?

Your site talks to an older demographic. But not all modern fonts were developed with aging eyes in mind. The good news is you don’t have to sacrifice a modern feel for excellent functionality in today’s design landscape. But you do need to be aware—and, more importantly, make sure your designer is aware—of this specific need.

Does the site design SPEAK to your audience?

More than just colors and font size, you need images that convey and capture your community. Avoid stock photography and invest in pictures depicting real places and real people. Got an awesome bar with a cozy fireplace that residents love using? Make sure you have a photo of that.

Is the website navigation simple and clear?

Organize the navigation in a way that makes sense to site visitors and to the all-mighty Google. Your navigation also needs to adjust for small devices (think hamburger menus on phones). In fact, the navigation in the desktop version of your site will and should look different from the way it displays on phones.

You also need to think beyond top navigation. Website footers are important, too. Why? Because people are used to doing the long scroll on their phones. They expect the information to be relevant from top to bottom. Your footer serves as a good place to call out important items in addition to other basic footer elements, such as privacy and terms of use.

TECHNICAL STUFF

Is your site optimized for search?

Essentially, you need to build your site in a way that’s easy for search engines like Google to find, crawl, and index the various pages on your site. Sounds simple on the surface, but there’s a lot that goes into effective search engine optimization (SEO).

Is the site fast?

Your site must load quickly. You’re already working in a crowded space. Don’t make it any easier for people to write off your community’s website.

Is the site secure?

A secure site is important for two reasons. First, it’s important to your prospective buyer. More and more people know to only click on secure websites (those that begin with https) even if they can’t articulate why. Second, Google now uses https as a ranking signal.

Do the techie add-ons/tools serve the site visitor?

Cool tools abound. But whatever plug-in you add to your site, it needs to help prospects on their journey. Live chat that’s operated by real humans (at least some of the time) is better than a bot you install and forget about.

Do you need to change hosting companies?

This is often an overlooked technical item, which is why we talk about seven signs it’s time to change hosting companies.

CONTENT

Is the messaging clear, concise, and consistent across the entire site?

Again, thinking of your buyers first, you need messaging that speaks directly to them in clear, concise, and consistent language. We wrote a post a few years ago about four important questions your site visitors want answered on senior living websites. These questions are still true today: can I afford it, where will I live, what will I do, and will I be cared for?

Demonstrate through words, images, and downloadable content how you answer these questions and perceived problems.

Does the site have compelling offers for people at various points in their journey?

By “offers,” we mean premium content that people get for free in exchange for giving up some information about themselves—particularly name, email, and where they are in their journey. You need to develop content for every stage of the infamous sales “funnel.”

Does the site have enticing calls-to-action (CTAs)?

CTAs essentially tell people what you want them to do next. That next step, in most cases, won’t be something like “Call now.” Think about the page you’re adding the CTA to. The next step might be reading a blog post with further information or it might be downloading a free guide. And yes, in some cases, it might be “Call now.”

Do you offer plenty of ungated content that demonstrates expertise?

Not everyone is ready to give their name, email, and phone number. Make sure your site has plenty of “ungated” content (meaning no form required) like a blog. And make sure the material isn’t fluffy and superficial.

ANALYTICS & RESULTS

A truly effective senior living website is one the delivers results. For most of us, the all-important benchmark is the lead-to-move-in conversion rate. Of course, other metrics along the way are important, such as page views and bounce rates.

Make sure you have someone on the marketing side and sales side tasked with regularly reviewing analytics and understanding 1) how to interpret them correctly and 2) how to respond to them appropriately.

For example, maybe site traffic has gone up and everyone is cheering. But unless your conversions have gone up as well, what does it matter, right? More traffic is simply that: more. You need targeted traffic that results in increased move-ins. Hint: Here are five marketing metrics everyone on the team should understand.

Remember, you don’t have to go it alone.

Your marketing and sales teams are busy as it is. At Senior Living SMART, we provide just the right amount of support your team needs.

Experience the difference. Let’s chat for 30 minutes → No obligation!

Digital Marketing for Senior Living

Digital Marketing for Senior Living

Digital marketing has become a catch-all phrase for a wide variety of marketing and even sales activities. We thought it would make sense to define what we mean by digital marketing for senior living.

The word “digital” is key.

Synonyms of digital marketing include online marketing or Internet marketing. Essentially, digital marketing is all the marketing stuff you do that isn’t tangible (in the physical sense). Think emails, blogs, social media, pay-per-click advertising, and—of course—websites. You get the idea. All of those things happen in cyberspace, as opposed to some of the more traditional marketing efforts senior living communities are used to doing, like giving tours or hosting events or sending direct mailers.

Digital marketing for senior living vs. inbound marketing – what’s the difference?

Some folks make the mistake of thinking senior living digital marketing is the same thing as inbound marketing. In our minds, the reverse is truer: all inbound marketing is digital marketing, but not all digital marketing is inbound.

Inbound marketing involves attracting the people who are already looking for your services/products through tactics like excellent website optimization, compelling offers, and sticky blogs and social media profiles. And where do people typically “look” for products or services these days? Online.

So, if you’ve got an optimized website and an awesome blog filled with keyword-rich terms your audience is searching on—and said audience is coming to your site organically to learn more about your senior living community, then that’s inbound marketing/digital marketing.

But what if you buy a list of email addresses and send “cold” emails to the entire list? Emails come under the umbrella of digital marketing, but, in this case, the emails wouldn’t qualify as inbound marketing. Rather, it’s outbound marketing with digital marketing flare.

Or think about ads you see online. Some hit the mark—the ads might actually be for something YOU are interested in, so you click. But often times, they don’t match your needs/wants, so you ignore them. Again, that’s outbound marketing with digital marketing flare. See the difference?

Yeah, we might be splitting hairs, and, no doubt, some people will disagree with our definitions. We always tell our clients that they shouldn’t get too hung up on definitions anyway. In order for everything to make sense, use common sense. It likely makes sense to most people that “digital” means “online.”

Why is digital marketing so important to the senior living industry?

You already know the answer. Think about it. Many of your current residents began their search online, right? And the majority of your future residents (and their families) will definitely begin their search online. So you need digital marketing to help attract these folks and keep them engaged and coming back for more.

You’ll accomplish this through digital marketing efforts, such as the following:

  • Having an optimized website that allows people searching for a senior living community like yours to pop up regularly in their searches
  • Offering excellent content that people can’t get anywhere else (e.g., download of floor plans, virtual tours, guides about things to do in the area)
  • Having an easy way to score prospects who visit your site (e.g., cold, warm, hot) – and to have the appropriate automated follow-ups for each type
  • Making sure other sources of information about your community—particularly review sites and business listings—are up to date and responsive to both positive and negative feedback
  • Creating thoughtful pay-per-click advertising strategies wherever you do them (Google AdWords, Facebook advertising, digital ads on third-party sites)

 Senior Living SMART "Why Digital Marketing?" eBook

Senior living digital marketing is more than simply a necessity.

Digital marketing isn’t just something you need to do in this competitive online world. Yes, you need to play, but digital marketing also offers several benefits.

When done right, it takes a heavy load off marketing and sales.

You can’t have a sales person working 24/7, but your digital marketing efforts can work 24/7. For example, when you build a wonderfully optimized website with excellent info, it doesn’t matter if someone enters at 2PM or 2AM, as long as they can find the info they need and you can engage with them (e.g., via a form submission, newsletter sign-up, request for more info, even a helpful bot-chat).

When done right, it’s easy to duplicate/replicate.

Some of the sweetest words in a marketer’s ears: “Lather, rinse, repeat.” In the old days of direct snail mail, marketing and sales teams were at the mercy of designers, printers, and budgets. Today’s digital marketing is all about turnkey customization, like email templates you can make your own with a few clicks, clone with another click, and schedule as far out as you want. Take “winning” campaigns (email, social, PPC) and duplicate them to run again and again.

When done right, it’s easy to measure success.

The ultimate metric in senior living marketing is move-ins. But the great thing about digital marketing is you can measure all the other benchmarks that lead to the move-in, such as first contact, tour requests, and so forth.

How much of your senior living marketing budget should you spend on digital marketing?

The bulk of your marketing budget today will be spent on digital marketing efforts (welcome to 2020!). We’re talking a powerful, high-converting website and all that goes with it (e.g., hosting, maintenance, basic updates, content creation, and any special elements like live chat); email marketing (newsletters, lead-nurturing/drip campaigns); social media; reputation management (review sites); and, most likely, some form of online advertising.

Sure, you’ll likely still have some outbound efforts/needs as well (e.g., snail mail, billboards, traditional advertising), but we’re definitely seeing more and more of a shift in budgets. Depending on your goals and your community’s size, your split might be 60% digital marketing and 40% more “traditional” marketing, or you might be seeing more of an 80/20 split. Our point: more and more of your marketing dollars will be going towards digital marketing efforts this decade.

Digital marketing in the senior living space is a lot to take in. Don’t go it alone.

In fact, why not work with digital marketing experts who are ALSO experts in the senior living industry? That would be us. :)  We can guide your digital marketing efforts, making sure they follow industry best practices (and we mean both industries: senior living and marketing!).

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