Senior Living Marketing Firms vs. Consultants: Which Do You Need?

When it comes to senior living marketing firms vs senior living marketing consultants, is one better than the other? Like so many things in life, it depends on things like your community’s goals and budget. Let’s take a deeper look.

Senior Living Marketing Consultants: Pros & Cons

A senior living marketing consultant is usually a one-person shop. (Otherwise, they’d refer to themselves as a marketing firm or agency.)

Outsourcing to a senior living marketing consultant can have many benefits:

  • Fees are typically lower (at least at first) than engaging with a marketing agency. An agency offers numerous service providers under its umbrella—think designers, writers, PPC specialists—resulting in a higher fee.
  • Working directly with one person might feel less overwhelming and more efficient. You have one go-to person rather than an account team with several different players.
  • Starting and stopping your engagement might be easier with a consultant. Again, since you’re only dealing with one person, you can more easily monitor what they’re doing. Hitting pause is easier—it’s akin to slowing down a small car rather than a long train.

Some of the downsides to working with a senior living marketing consultant:

  • They’re only one person, meaning they can’t be your everything. Consultants typically shine in one broad area—like marketing—but they need to bring in others (web developers and writers, for example) to complete projects. 
  • Other fees can add up quickly. Since the consultant will need to bring in other folks, additional fees can add up fast. Not to mention paying for everything separately isn’t as efficient from a monetary standpoint.
  • If the consultant disappears, work can come to a grinding halt. If something happens to the consultant—illness, family emergency—their work for you might stall indefinitely.

Senior Living Marketing Firms: Pros & Cons

Marketing firms or agencies, on the other hand, typically have a full-time staff as well as a stable of dependable freelancers.

Benefits of working with a senior living marketing firm:

  • You get a whole marketing department at your disposal, usually for one price. Whether you need a writer, a designer, or a PPC specialist, a reputable firm will already have a stable of expert resources in place.
  • If one person on your account team goes down, the work still goes on. Listen, life happens. People get sick. Family emergencies come up. But when you have a team of people working on your behalf, the team itself won’t miss a beat—which means your marketing campaigns won’t either.
  • More heads are better than one. The adage holds true here, especially given the topic. Senior living marketing is incredibly complex, given all the different channels, tactics, and personas. The good news is that a marketing firm is often built on the shoulders of specialists rather than generalists. So, for example, the social media person REALLY understands all aspects of social. The SEO writer knows all the best optimization practices. And so forth. Check out our talented team of specialists.

Some of the downsides to working with senior living marketing firms:

  • You’ll probably pay more up front. But the good news is you get a much better overall value, especially if you keep the agency on retainer. And reputable firms often have various retainer price points—and even budget-friendly products to help you sample their work. (To wit: See our total online presence audit, which you can buy for $995.)
  • Recommendations can pile up quickly—and overwhelm. The recommendations can also lead to friction between marketing and sales teams if everyone hasn’t bought into working with an agency. It’s important to get everyone on board before proceeding.
  • Price points might put some agencies outside the reach of smaller owner-operators. The fact that pricing and scale go hand-in-hand means smaller operators are at a bit of disadvantage in that they do not have the ability to allocate their marketing investment across a larger portfolio; the financial impact per community can therefore be higher. In this case, working with a good marketing consultant might make more sense.

When in doubt, interview both senior living marketing firms and consultants.

Interview a few options in each category. Make sure you understand their fee structure, what’s included, and what they can—and can’t—do. Talk to a couple of their clients as well. (Clients with a similar portfolio as yours.) You’ll get a sense of which one will likely be a better fit for your needs and budget. 

And, of course, if you’re considering a senior living marketing agency, we’d love to be in the running. Reach out and let’s discuss how our approach can help your community boost occupancy.

Marketing Ideas

Senior Living Marketing Ideas We Wish More Clients Would Try

We’re making a list (and checking it twice!) of senior living marketing ideas that we wish more clients would consider implementing in their marketing plans for 2022.

  1. Use marketing automation.

Out of all the senior living marketing ideas floating around out there, this is the one you need to seriously consider following (if you’re not already). Why? Simple. You can’t have a successful marketing strategy without marketing automation. Full stop.

First, it’s impossible for one or two humans to manage all the different moving parts in today’s digital marketing landscape. Think scoring senior living leads, segmenting leads, and making sure the right lead gets the right follow-up email at exactly the right time. Marketing automation removes the manual labor so that your marketing and sales teams can focus on more relevant tasks. 

Second, good automation gives you real-time insights into important metrics, like engagement and conversions. You can make better decisions (and invest your marketing budget more strategically) based on this intelligence.

  1. Use edgier copy.

We know, we know. The word edgy can set people’s teeth on edge. But edgy doesn’t necessarily mean unprofessional. To us, edgy simply means more playful—and more personal and honest. 

Keep in mind that senior living communities are essentially selling the same thing. Sure, some differences exist from one community to the next. But in reality, differentiating your community can prove challenging. Don’t use the same tired marketing speak to describe your community. Be surprising with your copy—in a good way. 

Interested in trying out this idea? Ask us about our turnkey senior living marketing campaigns. We’ve created gorgeously designed pieces for direct mail, website pages, social media posts, email marketing, and more—all with fun, playful, authentic copy. All you need to do is add your branding and you’re good to go.

  1. Continue to offer virtual tours.

Sure, we’re all excited about 2022 since (we hope, at least) it’s going to feel more like the world that we all knew pre-pandemic. But not everything that happened as a result of the pandemic was bad. The pandemic forced many businesses to reevaluate strategies that had been in place forever. In senior living, we’ve always assumed in-person tours were necessary to close a sale. But thanks to the pandemic, we learned this wasn’t the case. Senior living sales teams still found effective ways to sell—virtually.

Now, we’re not suggesting that you abandon in-person tours. They’re still relevant, popular, and effective. But giving prospects more control about how they experience your community? That’s important as well, especially as you start catering to younger demographics like Baby Boomers—demographics who expect to have plenty of choices and control. Give them those choices and control by offering in-person tours, virtual tours, 3D-walkthroughs, and the like.

  1. Don’t be afraid to try new things.

We get it. It’s much safer to follow the “well, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy. The problem with that mindset? Eventually, things will break, simply because people evolve. Their needs evolve. And trends evolve, too. What worked in 2010 isn’t necessarily going to work in 2022. (Think of everything that’s entered the marketing stratosphere since 2010 like Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, and wide adoption of smartphones.)

As we mentioned earlier, the demographic for senior living is starting to shift—and the shift is only going to speed up. Older Boomers (those born around 1964) are entering 55+ communities and even senior living, like independent living and active adult living (or they will be soon). Those on the older side of Gen X are right behind them. 

These demos are going to turn the concept of senior living on its head. These folks expect cappuccino machines, sushi bars, trips to Italy, yoga classes, spas, and whatever else is trending. They love the idea of meeting new people, doing new things, and going to new places. They’re not quiet, stoic, or uncomplaining, like their parents. Bottom line: You’ll need fresh approaches for engaging, nurturing, and converting the people in these demographics.

All that said, we know trying out new senior living marketing ideas can be intimidating. For example, if you haven’t spent any time on TikTok and have no clue how to make a TikTok video, you might think it’s easier to simply stay with tried-and-true tactics like Facebook. The problem? You will fall behind the curve. And there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to catch up.

  1. Don’t just seek expert advice about marketing senior living—follow it!

We get it: Just because you’ve sought advice from an expert, it doesn’t mean you must follow it. But we encourage everyone to reconsider that stance, especially if you’re spending money with reputable senior living consultants or marketing agencies (like ours). 

We want to see you succeed! And we’re not suggesting things “just because.” Sound reasoning and analytics always guide our recommendations. So if you’re going to invest in getting the advice, you might as well accept—and implement—the advice.

Interested in taking any of these senior living marketing ideas for a spin?

Now’s an excellent time to discuss your marketing plans for 2022. Reach out and let’s chat!

Senior Living Web Design

Senior Living Website Design: Does Yours Need a Refresh?

As we approach the end of the year, now’s a good time to take stock and plan for 2022. So here’s a question to ponder: Does your senior living website design need a refresh?

To help you decide, ask yourself the following questions:

Is the site older than five years? 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for senior living website designs to look dated. (This is true for any design.) While there’s no rule saying that you must redesign, you should take a hard look at the site if it’s older than five years. 

If the site is still delivering solid results, you could leave it alone or simply do some cosmetic refreshes here and there. If you go this route, however, you might want to start thinking about a redesign in a year or so—and start planning (and budgeting) for it now.

Was the site professionally designed with search in mind?

Plenty of web designers care primarily about making things look pretty. And while your site’s look-and-feel is important, what’s the point in having an attractive site if it doesn’t come up in organic searches?

Does the site render well across all devices?

And when we say all devices, we mean all: desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones (all of which have various screen sizes). If you’re not sure, run some tests. Look at the site on different devices. Does the site remain easy to navigate and read (a must, especially for your target audience)? 

If the answer is no, seriously consider a redesign. A good web developer will create a senior living website design that renders properly across all devices. This will keep users happy as well as Google, which is important from a search perspective. Reminder: Google has publicly said, “We’re boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results.”

Is your site accessible to everyone?

Have you heard of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)? Its goal is to provide “a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.”

We’ve always advocated making senior living websites accessible to everyone, especially since our target audience is an older demographic, many of whom have aging eyes. Over the years, we’ve taught many clients about the value of adjustable text sizing, strong color contrast with fonts and backgrounds, avoiding layering text over images, and using alt tags to describe images. (Just to name a few best practices.) 

So ask yourself: Is your site accessible to all people? If the answer is no, you need to address this. The solution might not involve a complete gutting of the website. (We can help you with this step, thanks to our collaboration with UserWay, our accessibility compliance partner.)

Is the site delivering results?

Your website serves as your 24/7 sales counselor and as your virtual welcome center. It should absolutely be making you money by attracting the right visitors, turning those visitors into leads, and converting those leads into move-ins

To achieve these results, your site needs to deliver a fabulous experience at every point in the buyer’s journey. Between the analytics and your own gut, you probably already know the answer to this question. If your site isn’t delivering strong ROI, it’s time to revisit what’s going on—and to make plans for a redesign, if necessary.

Still not sure? Maybe it’s time to perform an audit of your online presence.

Remember, your website is the primary hub of your overall online presence, but all those other online hubs—think social media platforms, Google My Business, and directory listings—need to work in concert with the main hub, your senior living website. So if you haven’t performed an audit of your overall online presence in the last couple of years (or ever), then that’s a good first step. 

The audit will automatically answer all of the above questions. You can do the audit yourself. Or you can order a budget-friendly audit from us. We provide a fresh set of eyes and objective assessment—along with a concrete plan for making fixes that your team can run with. Learn more about our Total Online Presence Audit here. And, as always, reach out if you have questions.

Email Marketing Tips

Effective Email Marketing Tips for Senior Living

It’s long been rumored that email is dead or dying, but nothing could be further from the truth. HubSpot has compiled a list of eye-popping email marketing stats that include nuggets like email “generates $42 for every $1 spent” and “74% of Baby Boomers think email is the most personal channel to communicate with brands.” 

Bottom line: If you’re not including email in your senior living marketing plan, you’re missing out on an effective way to communicate with prospects.

All that said, there’s a big difference between simply doing email marketing and doing email marketing well. We’re here to provide effective email marketing tips for senior living.

Don’t buy email lists. Ever. Not even once.

Seriously, we can’t believe in 2021 that we still have to say this, yet here we are. DO NOT BUY EMAIL LISTS. The only thing we can guarantee about purchased email lists is their low quality. These folks have NOT agreed to receive emails from you. And many of the folks on the lists have NO NEED for senior living, so why on earth would you email them? Not to mention that spamming people violates state regulations and various privacy laws.

Again, we repeat: DO NOT PURCHASE LISTS. This practice never was and never will be an effective email marketing strategy. Only email people who’ve given you permission to do so.

Make sure your emails provide value

Sure, value is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s still possible to predict. Start with the moment you captured a prospect’s email address and let that guide you. For example . . .

  • If someone gave you their email address at a senior living marketing event about financing senior living, it’s safe to assume that the person would welcome receiving emails with additional info regarding relevant financial topics.
  • If someone provided their email address when they requested a tour of your community, it’s safe to assume that emails filled with info about your community—amenities, floor plans, menus—would be of great value.
  • If someone provided their email address because they downloaded a specific piece of content from your website, it’s safe to assume that emails filled with similar content on related topics would likely be deemed valuable by the recipient.

Good marketing automation software can simplify the process of matching valuable content to the right recipient since it will keep track of things like information people provide on website forms, site pages they visit, and content they interact with. Based on this intelligence, you can have the software enter people into appropriate email campaigns where they will receive the content they’ve been looking for.

Make ’em personal.

People respond positively to their first names—that’s a fact. So using a person’s first name in the subject line and in the body of the email is a smart strategy. But making your email communications truly personal involves more than simply calling folks by their first name. 

Consider things like:

  • Tone. A warm, friendly tone feels much more personal than a message filled with corporate speak.
  • Sentence length. Using short and punchy sentences, like you’re having a conversation with someone, will create a more personal feel.
  • The overall length of paragraphs—and the emails themselves. Short paragraphs are key. And don’t have too many. There aren’t many reasons why you’d ever need to have more than three paragraphs in a marketing email. 

Be mindful of the big picture.

When it comes to effective email marketing, you need to consider the macro and the micro. The micro is what we discussed above—how to create compelling content in any given email and how to use personalization to make the email pop.

The macro is something that many marketers overlook. You need to monitor your email marketing from the infamous 30,000-foot view. 

Remember, all email marketing campaigns have a common goal—to move the person reading the email to the next step in their buying journey. For some prospects, this might mean more educational content. For others, it might mean scheduling a tour. 

But as a person moves through their journey, they will likely move through various email campaigns. This is precisely why you need to be aware of the big picture—the macro—as well as the content of each individual email.

Why? When you pay attention to the larger email marketing picture, you can: 

  • Reduce the chance of sending redundant messages.
  • Improve personalization efforts.
  • See content gaps within email campaigns.
  • Spot neglected campaigns (or opportunities for new campaigns).

Bottom line: You need to have an overarching email marketing strategy that gives you the ability to monitor all campaigns while also being able to drill down into any one specific campaign, as needed.

We’re not going to lie: Effective email marketing does take work—and coordinated efforts. And the work is never done. There will always be a campaign to tweak, a new campaign to write, an older campaign to pause or retire. But if you put in the effort, it will pay off over time since you’ll have designed email campaigns that work in harmony with one another.

Experiment with layouts and length. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Some folks like short text-based emails. Others prefer nicely designed emails. Some respond to gifs. Others to emojis in the subject line. Don’t be scared to try different things until you land on a combination that works. 

You won’t know the sweet spot for your various personas until you experiment and test different elements. Luckily, it’s much easier (and economical) to experiment with your email strategy than it is to experiment with other media, like print ads or direct mail. 

Don’t allow things to grow stale.

The one caveat regarding experimentation: Once you hit on a winning combination (for example, a subject line, message, and layout that delivers fabulous conversions), it’s easy to ride that email forever. But what worked for an email two years ago might not today, which is why you must pay attention to your email marketing metrics. 

Keep in mind that tech companies (like Apple) and email providers (like Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, etc.) are always changing things on their end to give their users better experiences. For marketers, this means it’s getting harder and harder to get emails into primary inboxes. Not to mention, more and more tech companies are limiting the metrics that marketers can see. 

In fact, Apple is rolling out a new privacy policy update that will significantly impact how your marketing and sales teams engage with email metrics in your marketing automation, like HubSpot. For example, if you have lead scoring, workflow automation, or reporting based on email opens, you’ll be impacted by this update and what you’re seeing in the results. You and your team always need to remain flexible and ready to adjust. 

Bottom line: Effective email marketing is never static. So your strategy shouldn’t be, either.

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t overthink it.

Remember, email marketing is simply an online communication between two people. You’re sending the person an email to help them with something they’ve essentially raised their hand and said they need help with. 

Don’t know where to start? Or maybe you don’t have the budget for highly visual emails and tons of campaigns? Don’t overthink it. 

Out of all the effective email marketing tips we can give you, here are the three most important elements you should focus on creating:

  • An engaging subject line
  • Compelling copy (that’s warm and conversational)
  • An offer that the person will find valuable

Get those things right across three to five campaigns, and you’ll be well on your way to email marketing nirvana.

Ask for email marketing help when you need it.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your email marketing strategy is to ask for help from a senior living marketing agency like ours. We love helping our clients create winning strategies and compelling content that wows. Get in touch and let’s chat.

Senior Living Lead Generation: 4 Tips for Better Outcomes

Many of our clients come to us because they need help with senior living lead generation. Our initial work usually involves resetting expectations with marketing and sales teams regarding what good lead generation even is. 

To that end, we’ve taken the best of this expectations-setting exercise and compiled everything into the tips below. 

Tip #1 for better senior living lead generation tip: Make it personal.

Keep in mind that personalization goes beyond simply using a person’s first name in email subject lines (although that is a smart strategy).

When we say “personalization,” we mean providing content that is relevant to a specific person. This means you need to know the person—their hopes, their pain points, their questions. And then you need to provide helpful content that matches those hopes, solves their problems, and answers those questions.

The good news? If you take the time to develop buyer personas, you’ve done most of the heavy lifting since most prospects visiting your site will fall into one of your personas. Good marketing automation can take it from there by serving up the right content to the right person at the right time.

By the way, if you don’t think personalization is important for your senior living lead generation efforts, think again:

  • The majority of U.S. consumers (90%) consider marketing personalization very or somewhat appealing. [Source: Martech Alliance]
  • Marketers using advanced personalization (such as real-time data) can see up to a $20 return on every $1. [Source: ClickZ]
  • Personalization can deliver 5 to 8 times the ROI on marketing spend and lift sales by 10% or more. [Source: Harvard Business Review]

Tip #2 for better senior living lead generation: Don’t expect everyone to be the same.

This goes along with our previous point about buyer personas, but we’re taking it a step further. Even if you have your personas figured out, you need to keep in mind that not everyone is ready to buy now. Some leads will be interested in moving into a senior living community right away while others might be looking six months, twelve months, or even two years out

That’s why you need to think of prospects as either sales-qualified leads (SQLs) or marketing-qualified leads (MQLs). Your sales team should work the SQLs. Your marketing automation, on the other hand, will deliver personalized content to the MQLs—content that will nurture MQLs until they’re ready to shift to SQL status.

Bottom line: If you treat all leads the same, you’ll end up wasting time and valuable dollars. 

Tip #3 for better senior living lead generation: More doesn’t always mean better.

Honestly, this tip should be good news. Because the point of inbound marketing isn’t to simply bring in more traffic, the goal is to bring in more targeted traffic. Oftentimes, after implementing inbound marketing best practices, your overall website traffic might go down. But the number of quality leads will go up. That’s the metric that matters.

Attracting more quality leads goes back to the point we made in the first tip: Start by knowing your target persona and what they’re searching for in Google. Then, create compelling content based on those searches. This will help lead ideal prospects to your site via organic search (and pay-per-click advertising as well).

Then (provided you have good marketing automation in place), you can automatically score and segment your senior living leads according to whether they’re SQLs or MQLs. SQLs will go onto the sales team. And MQLs will continue to be nurtured. 

Tip #4 for better senior living lead generation: Don’t put all your dollars into third-party lead aggregators.

Third-party lead aggregators are problematic for many reasons. First issue? Third-party leads are shared leads. Second, the overall lead quality tends to be low. Third, being the first person to interact with a third-party lead is the only way to improve conversions with these leads—and that’s a lot harder than it sounds. And finally, you likely already have many of these leads in your database already. Which means you’re essentially paying for them twice.

A better approach is to put your marketing budget towards the following:

Again, focusing on organic lead gen will likely result in fewer overall leads than a third-party lead generator would deliver. But the quality will be much higher, and the leads will be 100% yours.

Bonus tip for better senior living lead generation: Work with us!

We love showing senior living sales and marketing teams how to attract better leads that actually convert into move-ins. Get in touch so we can chat about your needs. Or check out our case studies.


Senior Living Marketing Software: 4 Mistakes to Avoid

If you’re a regular reader of our blog, then you already know that you need senior living marketing software to remain competitive. The challenge? Not all marketing automation software is created equal. And simply having software doesn’t solve all your problems either.

So let’s dig a little deeper. Avoid these mistakes so that you can get the biggest bang out of your marketing bucks.

Mistake #1: Not thoroughly evaluating your options when selecting senior living marketing software.

If you invest in the wrong product, you could be setting everyone up for failure right out of the gate. Here’s how to avoid that fate:

  • Check out dependable review sites like Capterra and G2. Pay close attention to the three- and two-star reviews since those tend to be the most revealing.
  • Buy what you need. Sure, all those bells and whistles sound nice, but each of your individual senior living communities doesn’t need an enterprise product. In fact, buying something overly complex could result in frustration and resentment among your staff. 
  • Take advantage of free trials. Free thirty-day trials offer an excellent way to test drive different software products before making a big investment. 
  • Turn to a knowledgeable partner. A marketing agency that caters to the senior living industry will usually know the best products on the market. (True story: We negotiated a HubSpot license for a client and saved them thousands of dollars.) 

Read more tips for evaluating marketing automation software.

Mistake #2: Not having a solid plan for using your senior living marketing software.

Don’t let your marketing software gather virtual dust like that pricey treadmill that sits in the basement. Here’s what to keep in mind once you’ve made the purchase.

  • Onboard your team. Onboarding your marketing and sales teams won’t be a one-off meeting, either. While the goal is to buy an intuitive product, your people will still need to learn how to navigate the software.
  • Encourage ongoing training. The initial onboarding helps get everyone’s feet wet. But longer-term training will help people become marketing automation gurus. If available, require staff to take relevant courses and certifications. (For example, see HubSpot Academy.) 
  • Make sure everyone understands how ROI is being measured. While lead-to-customer conversions tend to be the gold standard, many other types of conversion points can influence ROI (such as visitor-to-lead conversion). 
  • Be realistic with your goals. You won’t see results overnight. A good rule of thumb: Focus on ninety-day plans. 

Read why you shouldn’t treat all senior living leads the same way.

Mistake #3: Not following existing best practices for your senior living marketing software.

Remember, the software is supposed to make your life easier, not harder. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, especially when you’re just getting started. 

The best marketing automation software will have . . .

  • Best practices for using all of its features.
  • Solid support for technical issues.
  • Online communities where you can get answers.
  • Robust help centers with tutorials and guides.
  • Outside experts/consultants you can collaborate with.

Marketing software like HubSpot offers a solutions directory where you can get help from partners/providers with expertise in all things HubSpot. (We’ve achieved the Platinum Tier in HubSpot’s Solutions Partner Program.)

Mistake #4: Not allowing your senior living marketing software to grow with you.

Over time, you’ll likely need more capabilities and/or features, especially if you started with a “basic” plan. Many software products offer different levels as your needs change (such as the size of your contact list or the number of emails you send per day/month). The worst thing you can do is try to muddle along with a product that no longer serves you.

What to do when you need to upgrade:

  • Talk to your rep. The best marketing software will usually assign you your own account representative. Reach out to them and let them know your current challenges and/or limitations with the product and see what they suggest. 
  • Talk to a knowledgeable partner. If you work with a senior living marketing agency that uses your software, discuss your options with them. They should be able to guide you.
  • Make a move, if necessary. If you’ve chosen wisely, you should be able to simply upgrade to a tier that can offer you the capabilities you need. However, if the software can’t do the things you need it to do, make a switch. Yes, it will be a temporary hassle, but that’s better than a long-term problem.

Need help with your senior living marketing software? Talk to us!

The senior living industry has been notoriously behind other industries when it comes to adopting marketing automation. But we’ve successfully helped our clients make the shift. (Read this marketing automation case study.) Reach out and let us help your community.

Senior Living Referral Sources: Outreach & Engagement Strategies

While we spend a lot of time in our blog talking about digital marketing strategies for attracting quality prospects, we should never underestimate the power of loyal referral sources. Think of them as your “boots on the ground” who can help supplement your online efforts. Wondering how to reach and engage with senior living referral sources? We got you covered.

Types of senior living referral sources to go after:

1. Healthcare referrals.

Referrals that originate from healthcare providers offer a couple of key benefits. First, the sales cycle is usually much shorter since these tend to be needs-based referrals. And because a high level of trust usually exists between provider and patient, the sale is often much easier to make on your end. It’s not unlike asking a trusted friend for a referral for a general contractor—the same concept applies here. If a person’s doctor recommends your senior living community, that referral will hold a lot of sway.

Bottom line: Actively engaging with people in healthcare will be time well spent. Think beyond primary care physicians, too. Anyone who works with older adults (or adult children) can be a focus of your outreach: rehab providers, geriatric specialists, cardiac/pulmonary specialists, social workers, discharge planners/coordinators, and providers of home care services, just to name a few.

2. Friend and family referrals.

There’s nothing more compelling than a personal referral from a happy resident living in your community. If you don’t already offer an incentive, like a rent credit for referrals that result in a move-in, start one ASAP. “Make Your Friends Your Neighbors” campaigns work well, provided they are well executed. (We can help with that.)

3. Trusted advisors (non-healthcare).

Families often consult with financial advisors, elder-law attorneys, and/or private geriatric care managers (like a private college advisor to guide everyone through the decision process). These trusted relationships are highly valued.

4. Competitors. (Yes, really!)

Sometimes “competitors” can be “complements” as long as they offer a different niche. For example, active adult and independent living communities can refer to assisted living and memory care communities when residents need more support than they can provide (and vice versa!). Another example: a Kosher community will be able to refer prospects that are not aligned with that lifestyle/affiliation.

Even with direct competitors, situations exist where a prospect’s “non-negotiable” will be a barrier to moving in. In this case, it’s in everyone’s best interest to recommend the family to another community. (We’re firm believers in what goes around, comes around. So if your community refers prospects to other communities, eventually the favor will be returned.)

5. Grassroots groups.

Ultimately, senior living communities are very local, so building solid relationships with local organizations will always be a wise move. Think first responders, like EMTs (since they know who is unsafe at home), the Chamber of Commerce, houses of worship, and so forth.

Tips for engaging your senior living referral sources

Senior Living Referral Sources: Healthcare

Find ways to make their jobs easier. For example, create a “Rapid Referral” program to simplify steps. Clearly outline your admission criteria so they are not frustrated with denials, guarantee a response timeframe (e.g., “We will do an assessment within X hours of your referral”), make a decision quickly, and if you have to deny a move-in, explain why.

Recognize their contributions. Celebrate them on special healthcare-related days, like National Nurses Appreciation Day in May or Social Work Month in March. (And that’s just the beginning—check out this resource for other ideas.) Let them know that they make a difference.

Add value to their day-to-day lives and careers. Bring CEU programs/speakers to them (and pay for their credits) or offer space/use of your community for a team event.

Offer them something fun. Bring an ice cream truck around to referral sources on a hot summer’s day. Dress up on Halloween and hand out treats, bring chocolate-covered strawberries on Valentine’s Day, and if you can find out when their annual state survey is, bring a Stress Buster Basket with treats and a big bottle of Advil!

Say thank you on the regular. Get some branded latte cups with coffee samples and imprint them with your logo and “Thanks a Latte!” to acknowledge a referral. Also, provide a follow-up note to let them know how great a referred resident is doing—your referral sources care!

Senior Living Referral Sources: Friends & Family

Make it worth their while. Provide an exciting incentive for referring friends or family, like a rent credit for the loved one currently living in your community.

Make it easy for people to participate in your referral program. Offer a variety of ways for people to make the referral (e.g., phone, email, landing page on your website). Don’t make people jump through hoops—the only info you need is the current resident making the referral and the contact info for the person they’re referring to your community. Make sure you have a good backend system for keeping track of this info so that you can award rental credits in a timely manner.

Promote your referral program regularly. You always have new people moving in. Not to mention longer-term residents and their families need the occasional reminder. Go beyond the basic flyer. Instead, order door hangers and tent cards for the dining room and common areas. Have a vibrant pull-up banner in the lobby and create eye-catching inserts that can go into monthly billing statements. In addition, promote the program by email and link to a landing page that outlines the program basics and allows people to refer someone right then and there.

Host monthly/quarterly family nights and talk up the program and the incentive. Some communities make a presentation of a giant check for referrals. Take pictures of your senior living events and share them on social media and in newsletters to reach a larger audience.

Senior Living Referral Sources: Trusted Advisors

Build a referral network. Elder law attorneys, real estate professionals, downsizing experts, geriatric care managers, life insurance agents, accountants/CPAs, financial planners, and the like work directly with your target audience and their families. All of these service providers can be excellent sources of referrals. And remember, the best way to get referrals is to give referrals. This is exactly what networking groups like Business Networking International (BNI) promote with their “givers gain” philosophy.

Offer opportunities for trusted advisors to speak, educate, participate on a panel in your community. Cross-promoting your services is an excellent way to support trusted advisors and for them to support you.If you help them grow their business, they will return the favor. This strategy is also a smart and easy way to find topics for your monthly in-person or virtual events, newsletter, guest blog posts, podcasts—you get the idea.

Senior Living Referral Sources: Competitors

Foster trust and build relationships with competitors. This can be tricky since not everyone plays well together, but you should still make the attempt. Tour their communities and invite them to tour yours. Talk about your differentiators, your ideal prospects, and those you can’t accommodate. Regarding the latter, this could be based on services offered, price point, religious affiliation, and/or special needs, such as special diets.

Senior Living Referral Sources: Grassroots Groups

Get out and attend all community events. This is a great activity for sales teams. Attend health fairs, fundraisers, and school booster programs. Sponsor a local sports team—and bring residents with you! Have your community’s bus in the parade and at outdoor concerts. Become part of the community and have the community see that your residents are out and about and having fun! Participate in back-to-school backpack drives, food drives, clothing drives, and the like. And, of course, make sure you have plenty of branded material at the ready.

Offer community spaces for meetings, clubs, groups, piano recitals, art shows. This can be another great way to support local organizations and give locals a bird’s-eye view of your community.

Bottom line: Treat potential referral sources as people first, sources second.

Get out there and talk to them in person (again and again) and make it about them. Don’t feel like you’re being a pest. Remember, you’re a professional resource for them, too. Demonstrate this through goodwill gestures, like referrals, and thank-yous like a coffee gift card. And, of course, get in touch with us if you need any help engaging with senior living referral sources.
Full length shot of a senior man reading a newspaper on a bench isolated on white background

Senior Living Advertising: Digital vs. Print

Digital and print can play nicely together in the same senior living advertising sandbox. But like anything else, there are pros and cons to each, which we discuss below.

Senior Living Advertising: Digital

What it is: When we say “digital” advertising, we’re referring to any paid advertising that happens online. This includes, but isn’t limited to the following:

  • Google AdWords. Typically, people refer to AdWords as pay-per-click (PPC).
  • Social media advertising. Particularly Facebook, but also Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
  • Online banner ads. You tend to see banner ads on sites you browse, like media sites. Sometimes you buy these banner ads directly from the site itself; other times, your ads might rotate in via the Google Display Network.
  • Google Display Network. As Google says, the Google Display Network is “a collection of over two million websites that reach over 90% of Internet users across the globe.”
  • Remarketing. Have you ever browsed a site for a product, and then ads for that product followed you around on other sites? That’s remarketing at work.
  • SMS marketing. In other words, text-based ads. The jury is still out on whether SMS marketing is a smart way to go, especially for our industry. We tend to think it can work better, at least right now, as a way for senior living communities to communicate with current residents and families (rather than as a way to advertise to prospects). But our position could change in the future.

Digital advertising can be considered inbound or outbound, depending on the medium. For example, PPC ads fall under the inbound marketing umbrella since you’re attracting people who are already doing searches for the product/service you’re selling. Same with remarketing ads.

The Display Network, however, falls under outbound. There’s no guarantee that the ads served up to you will be something you’re even remotely interested in or need. (Granted, your browsing habits will inform what ads get served, but some will most definitely be misses.)

Senior Living Advertising: Digital Pros

  • Online advertising can often let you get incredibly granular. For example, you could focus your Facebook advertising on certain zip codes around your senior living community and only serve ads to women over 70 who still live in their own homes.
  • You can get started with smaller budgets. Buying full-page color print ads can be incredibly pricey. With PPC, you can get a lot out of smaller budgets.
  • You can change messaging/creative on the fly. Want to test a new message and see how it performs? Maybe switch up the images (“creative”) used in a campaign? No problem.
  • You tend to have much deeper insights into an ad campaign’s effectiveness. Important analytics, like impressions, clicks, and conversions, are baked into the robust reporting.

Senior Living Advertising: Digital Cons

  • It’s noisy out there, and people say they hate ads. In fact, according to this article, click-through rates are declining, more and more people are blocking ads through browser extensions, and for many, the ads have become a sort of background noise.

Senior Living Advertising: Print

What it is: Print advertising is just that—advertisements for your community that appear in printed formats like newspapers (local, regional, national); magazines (local, regional, national); directory listings; phone books; and billboards. We’re also going to include direct mail and brochures in this category as well. The difference between the two groupings is this: You pay a third party (like a newspaper) to run an ad inside its pages. With direct mail and brochures, you’re usually managing the creation and distribution of that collateral in-house.

Senior Living Advertising: Print Pros

  • Your target market still reads print. Yes, older adults are big consumers of online media, but they’re still big consumers of print. According to this research, “25% of US adults aged 65 and over get their news from print publications.”
  • Older adults think print is easier to read. According to the American Press Institute, “71 percent of those 65 and older like the ease of print.” Print-oriented readers also feel they get more news in print formats.
  • Print could help boost word-of-mouth initiatives. Older adults like to share what they read in print, more so than their younger counterparts. “Sixty-three percent of print subscribers aged 65 and older share content compared with 58 percent of those aged 50-64, 49 percent of those aged 30-49, and 38 percent of those aged 18-34.” (Again, this is from the American Press Institute.)

Senior Living Advertising: Print Cons

  • Ad buys tend to be pricier. If you want to run a full-page print ad, even in your smaller daily, it can add up. Plus, it’s a once-and-done sort of thing.
  • Mistakes can’t be fixed. Oy! Print pieces are extremely unforgiving. If there’s an error, there’s not much you can do about it once it’s out in the world.
  • You can’t easily experiment with messaging and creative. Once you sign off, it’s a done deal.
  • Results can be harder to track. Sure, you can include an ad-specific URL or phone number to your print ad to help you track. But digital ad conversions tend to be more reliable.

Senior Living Advertising: Digital or Print? (Or Both?)

Earlier in this article, we shared stats about older adults and print formats, like newspapers. But older adults also spend time on digital devices. They own smartphones. They text. They’re on social media. They buy things off Amazon. They watch Netflix. They know how to use Google.

The American Press Institute backs this up with behaviors it sees between digital and print media subscribers: “Remember, 4 in 10 print subscribers still go to the website; 2 in 10 follow it on social media.”

This is precisely why we recommend to our clients that they use a mix of approaches when it comes to senior living advertising (while keeping in mind that these recommendations will evolve—we might be suggesting different strategies in 2030).

Tips for Successful Senior Living Advertising

  • Know your budget. Make sure you’re not spending too much on any one advertising vehicle. A balanced approach is a smart approach, especially when you’re just getting started. Over time, as you see which ads deliver the biggest ROI, you can adjust your ad spend accordingly.
  • Keep in mind all the “other” costs. The cost to run the ads themselves is just one cost. You also need to keep costs in mind for the creative (copywriting/design) and the cost you might pay to an outside vendor to manage your digital ad campaigns and/or your print media buys.
  • Be honest about what your team can do—and what it can’t. We recommend using an outside consultant or agency (like ours) to manage your paid advertising. Unless you have someone on your team who is skilled (and ideally certified) in using Google’s ads program, it makes sense to hand the reins over to a professional.
  • Track results as much as possible. Review analytics for digital campaigns and make adjustments accordingly. For print ads, offer ad-specific landing page URLs or ad-specific phone numbers with call-tracking software and monitor the results.
  • Be prepared to let go and try new things. If you’ve been in this business a long time, it can be hard to let go of strategies that worked in the past. Trust the analytics and make decisions based on what the numbers are telling you.

Senior Living Advertising: Can Radio Work?

We’ve been covering a lot of ground with senior living advertising lately, including the following:

Now, let’s address a common question we receive from clients: Is there still a place for radio in senior living advertising?

Let’s dig in.

First, do people still listen to AM/FM radio?

Short answer: YES. Given all the ways for people to while away their hours online, it might be surprising to learn that more Americans tune to AM/FM radio each week than any other format, but it’s true, according to Nielsen. News/talk radio tends to be the most listened to format (followed by adult contemporary and country).

Statista reports, “In the first quarter of 2019, 92 percent of adults listened to the radio at least once a week” and that the “reach was highest among 35- to 49-year-olds and those aged between 50 and 64 years.” In fact, according to News Generation, 91% of adults 50+ are reached monthly by radio.

But it’s not just terrestrial radio that people are listening to. Internet radio and podcasts are growing in popularity as well.

OK, so Internet radio is a thing, too?

Yep. Marketing Charts reports that “In 2020, a majority (52%) of adults in the US reported listening to Internet radio at least weekly, up from 47.7% a year earlier.”

Marketing Charts goes on to note that “Although the bulk of internet radio listeners are younger, with those ages 18-24 being 17% more likely than average to listen to this form of media, the share of older people listening has grown. Cumulatively, adults ages 45 and older make up 48.6% of the total weekly internet radio listening audience.”

So you’re saying that it makes sense to advertise on the radio?

Not so fast! The above simply provides some insight regarding listenership. Yes, people are still listening to the radio, both AM/FM and online versions. But does that mean radio advertising works?

Like so many things in life, it depends. It depends on the stations you run ads on, the ads themselves, your goals, and your budget. For example, you can’t run a radio spot once and expect it to instantly convert listeners into buyers.

Effective radio advertising tends to be a marathon, not a sprint. And the adage about people needing to see or hear an advertisement at least seven times before it starts registering still holds true.

That’s why radio advertisers buy “flights” of radio spots that run in a concentrated period (like six to eight weeks) over various times of day. The repetition is critical to getting your message to sink in. Bigger brands might buy several flights throughout the year. (Some brands with deeper wallets might advertise year-round.) In these cases, radio is often used to increase name recognition/brand exposure.

All that said, for small businesses, radio can deliver a good bang for your marketing buck. The U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) notes, “Radio advertising is less expensive than cable television advertising but often has the same reach. Because repetition is important to radio advertising, the low cost enables you to run multiple ads, which gets better results.”

The SBA also notes that it’s easier to get granular when it comes to targeting certain listeners: “Radio stations are constantly examining their listener profiles to see which demographic groups listen to specific shows, personalities and times of day.”

Speaking of money, how much does radio advertising cost?

This can vary widely depending on things like . . .

  • Location of the station (a Boston radio station will cost more than a Cape Cod station)
  • The daypart you advertise in (morning drive costs more than the middle of the night)
  • Spot length (30-second vs. 60-second spots)
  • Production costs (some stations include this, but if you hire a voice-over talent, this will be an additional amount)
  • Bundled-in elements (for example, if you add in digital ads on the radio station’s website or some other sponsorship)

Here’s an excellent article that takes a deep dive into radio advertising pricing. For a ballpark figure, it says, “Radio advertising costs range from $200 to $5,000 per week, on average, depending on location and the size of the listening audience.”

How should a senior living community approach radio advertising?

Follow these tips to help you get the most out of senior living advertising on the radio.

Choose stations wisely. You’re not going to advertise your senior living community on a hip-hop station. Stick to formats that cater to older demographics, like news/talk, adult contemporary, and country. Pay attention to where your competitors are advertising.

Keep your main buyer personas in mind. We’re talking about the two “main” buckets: seniors choosing for themselves (or a partner/spouse) or adult children helping their parents. If you want to reach both personas, you might end up running ads on different stations—and the ads themselves should be different since you’re talking to two very different audiences with different needs/goals.

Use website URLs rather than phone numbers in the ad copy. The benefit of using a URL rather than a phone number is two-fold: First, a URL is easier to remember. Second, a website URL will likely have your community’s name in it, which helps reinforce your brand name.

Provide the station with a creative brief. We can’t stress this enough. Radio station producers can quickly put together a radio spot based on your senior living website. And it will probably be OK. But you know your audience and goals better than anyone. So it makes sense for you to provide a creative brief that outlines the following:

  • A basic snapshot of your community: Where it is, who it services, what makes it special/different.
  • The most important copy points you want to convey in the spot. Think no more than five (and even that might be pushing it, depending on the length of the spot). Think in terms of themes. For example, maybe you have a spot that highlights the amenities that make you special.
  • The vibe you’re trying to get across. The ad that speaks to an adult child moving mom into assisted living should have a different feel from the ad geared toward the active senior you want to welcome into your independent living community.
  • The goal of the spot. Is your goal to get people to book a tour? Download a specific piece of content, like a guide? Increase name recognition? Create distance between a competitor? Invite people to attend an info session or some other senior living marketing event?

Make sure the copy is ultra-conversational. Make it sound warm and friendly. Radio stations will usually take care of the copywriting for you, but you should approve all scripts. If you’re not happy with the copy, you could always hire a freelance radio ad writer to draft some scripts (this will be an additional cost). Or if you work with a marketing agency like Senior Living SMART, you can have one of our writers draft a script.

Encourage people to mention your ad. Radio spots can be a little trickier to measure. Within the ad itself, consider adding in a line like “Mention this ad when you book a tour.” Or you could create an ad-specific landing page. The key is making sure the URL doesn’t become cumbersome. Something like “” could work.

  • On your website forms, add a drop-down that says, “How’d you hear about us?” The choices should include all the various ways people might learn about your community: social media, search engines, word of mouth, radio advertising, direct mail, online ad, or other.

Take advantage of value-added offers. Many radio stations bundle in other advertising options with your buy, such as running ads on the station’s website, running ads/features in email newsletters, social media marketing, and mobile marketing. Take advantage! This could be a great way to experiment with vehicles you don’t normally use, like text messaging. Pay attention to the copy/creative of these additional items. And remember to use unique tracking URLs in all digital ads so you can measure their effectiveness.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Over-the-air ad revenue took a big hit during the pandemic. Digital ad revenue took less of a hit. And while ad spending is most definitely picking up, the bottom line is this: There is a lot of room for negotiation. So don’t be afraid to negotiate or to ask for added value.

Monitor results. In order to gauge whether you’re getting a good return on investment (ROI), you must know the lifetime value of your customer. For example, let’s say the lifetime value of a customer is $100,000. If your $30,000 radio campaign results in twenty leads and two customers, you can do the math. This would be money well spent. But your mileage can and will vary. Let the numbers guide your decision-making.

Need more help with your senior living advertising? You’re in the right place.

Our team is passionate about senior living, and our team members have expertise in all areas of marketing, including advertising (both traditional and pay-per-click). Request a meeting and let’s discuss your community’s specific needs.

BONUS TIP: Work with us to manage your senior living advertising.

Our team members have expertise in all areas of marketing, including advertising (both traditional and pay-per-click). Request a meeting and let’s discuss your community’s specific needs.

Senior living lead eggs hatching with footprints towards sale sign

5 Things You Shouldn’t Do with Your Senior Living Leads

If we could share one article with every senior living marketing and sales team, this would be it. Why? Because it has to do with everyone’s favorite topic: senior living leads. Specifically, mistakes to avoid. Let’s get to it.

1. Don’t treat all senior living leads the same.

If you’re a Senior Living SMART client and/or a regular reader of our blog, you’ve likely heard us say that not all leads are created equal. Some leads are ready to buy now. Others might be ready two years from now.

How should you handle the very different needs of various leads? To start, you should divide your leads into two buckets—sales-qualified leads (SQLs) and marketing-qualified leads (MQLs). SQLs want to buy sooner rather than later, so they will be served up to the sales team. MQLs aren’t ready yet, so they will enter longer-term nurturing campaigns.

For all of this to happen efficiently, you’ll need marketing automation software and website forms that capture meaningful info to help segment and score your leads. You can choose to get more granular with your lead segmentation if you wish. For example, within your MQLs, you might segment leads according to buyer persona (e.g., senior vs. adult child).

Bottom line: Meet your leads according to where they are on their journey. Don’t treat them all as if they’re ready to buy today or tomorrow.

2. Don’t ignore leads just because they’re in the very early stages.

This goes along with the previous point, but it’s worth repeating. Too often, we see marketing and sales teams ignore leads that are in the earliest stages of their journey (think leads that don’t plan to buy for at least a year). This is short-sighted. Remember, today’s researchers are tomorrow’s buyers—even if that “tomorrow” is eighteen months from now.

While you might not market as aggressively to early-stage leads, you should still provide regular, helpful communications. The goal? For the lead to think well of your community so that when they are ready to buy, your community will be top of mind.

3. Don’t bombard your leads with the same marketing messages.

Since you have a variety of leads coming in, you need to have a variety of marketing messages at the ready as you nurture MQLs to SQLs. Because that’s precisely what good nurturing is—delivering the right message to the right person at the right time.

Getting to know your leads is an excellent way to develop engaging content for them. But how do you get to “know” your leads? Simple. Through your website forms.

Earlier, we mentioned having website forms that capture meaningful info. But if you want to take it to the next level, consider implementing progressive profiling. With progressive form fields, you can control which questions appear on which website forms. Not only that, but once a person has filled out one set of questions, they’ll be asked a different set the next time they fill out a form on your site. The answers will give you valuable insights into your prospects. As a result, you can serve up nurturing campaigns that make sense to them.

For example, maybe your website forms capture people’s favorite hobbies. For those who love food and cooking, you can serve up emails that discuss all the fabulous activities in your community centered around cooking: breadmaking class, sushi night, wine-tasting every Thursday afternoon, pot-luck dinner parties, etc. For those who cited sports as a favorite hobby, you can serve up a similar set of emails that talk about your fitness center, tennis and pickleball courts, golf league, football get-togethers, and the like.

The basic email campaign can be the same, but you will customize the messaging so that it speaks directly to your leads. Custom messaging is the secret sauce to effective lead nurturing.

4. Don’t “set and forget” your marketing automation.

With marketing automation, it’s easy to set up email nurturing campaigns and forget all about them. While automation is supposed to make your life easier, you still need to monitor results—and make adjustments based on what the numbers tell you.

What you should pay attention to:

  • Engagement. Are people opening the emails? Are they clicking through to your offers? Are they converting on those offers? Don’t send emails just to say you’ve sent them. You want your emails to work, meaning they should motivate the recipient to take a specific action—even if that action is something as simple as reading a blog post.
  • Conversions. Over time, provided your email nurturing is effective, you should see increased conversions: MQLs to SQLs and SQLs to customers.
  • Messaging. Even if engagement/conversions look good, revisit messaging to make sure everything you say is accurate. For example, you might have promoted virtual tours due to COVID. Now, you might have options for both in-person and virtual tours. We recommend looking at all messaging at least twice a year.

Don’t be afraid to adjust messaging that isn’t working. Trust what the numbers are telling you. You could throw a whole campaign out the window and start over. Or you can A/B test smaller changes. For example, if people aren’t opening your emails, test different subject lines. Haven’t tried personalization yet? Maybe you experiment with that and see how the results look.

Effective marketing automation is part science, part art—and it absolutely requires the human touch.

5. Don’t assume you’re in control. (Because you’re not.)

This is the hardest pill for sales and marketing teams to swallow. Twenty years ago, before everyone was online and before every senior living community had its own website, each community’s sales and marketing team was very much in control of the sales process. If someone was interested in learning about your community, they had no choice but to call or come in for a tour, which put them (the buyer) at the mercy of the sales team.

Things have changed. Thanks to senior living websites, review sites, and social media, buyers can now research to their heart’s content before ever talking to a salesperson. And they’ll only do the latter on their terms when they’re ready for a sales interaction.

If senior living sales and marketing teams want to succeed today, they must embrace this shift and focus on enabling buyers to get the info they need, when they need it. This means marketing and sales must remove any friction from the process and make it as easy and straightforward as possible for the buyer to purchase from you. Say hello to your new top priority!

Want more helpful strategies for increasing senior living leads? Download our guide.

Even though we bill ourselves as a marketing agency, we also have expertise in the senior living sales process, as this free guide demonstrates. Enjoy it with our compliments!

And, of course, if you need assistance, get in touch and let’s chat about your senior living sales challenges.

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