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

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

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

Episode Summary:

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

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

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

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

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

Resources Mentioned:

Solving the Occupancy Puzzle

Julie Podewitz on LinkedIn

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Business, Sales and Marketing Advice with Doug Davidoff

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • How businesses can communicate with their target market to design better services
  • Creating an environment that makes prospects stay comfortable while in the pipeline
  • Tried-and-true advice for all sales professionals
  • The ever-evolving relationship between sales and marketing
  • Considerations around “high-tech, high-touch”
  • Identifying the touches that matter and ignoring those that do not matter
  • How letting go of (your feeling of) control gives you more control as a company
  • Creating a solid structure for your business to spark more creativity among your team
  • The truth about friction in the sales process and how to use friction to your advantage
  • The difference between a “challenger” and a “provoker” in sales

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Doug Davidoff, Founder and CEO at Imagine Business Development, a management consulting firm that has worked with over 1500 small and mid-market businesses. Doug describes his career as being about “eliminating or mitigating the conflict between buyers and sellers,” an approach that is applied at Imagine.

Imagine has discovered that most organizations already have the raw material to achieve what they want to achieve. What they need is the correct recipe to make their vision a reality. Doug says that the problem usually lies more in what organizations are already doing and have to unlearn as opposed to what they are not doing. Imagine ensures that their clients maintain the structure of their respective businesses “to enable them to achieve predictable, sustainable, and scalable growth, however they define ‘scalable’.”

Imagine has worked with countless businesses in many different verticals, and the number one issue that Doug found is a lack of empathy. Instead of creating a product or service from assumption alone, companies need to see the world through their customers’ eyes. In addition, companies have a tendency to “try too hard” or overestimate what they can do. Sales professionals simply need to solve for x. They need to map their customer’s journey to make their subsequent decisions more informed.

Historically, salespeople were responsible for communicating the value proposition. Today, that has become marketing’s job. Sales professionals now “facilitate the decision using the resources that marketing has created to reduce the effort involved to make a high-risk decision.” Sales and marketing, previously siloed departments, now work parallel to each other.

“Your job is not to sell the community,” says Doug. “Your job is to help somebody make a good decision about where they should spend their senior years.” With sales and marketing working in tandem, operating by the principles of empathy, the entire process becomes smoother. As Doug says: “The single best thing a company can do to increase sales is to make it easier for someone to buy.”


Imagine Business Development

Doug Davidoff on LinkedIn

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Adopting New Technology to Promote Well-Being with Sagely

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • How Sagely’s platform adds convenience for everyone in a senior care facility
  • The importance Sagely places on personal, one-on-one connection
  • How operators can take advantage of Sagely’s technology to reduce prospect friction
  • Helping residents adopt new technologies
  • Activities that have the highest engagement and preparing for the next generation
  • Customizing Sagely’s platform to different groups
  • Sagely’s remote learning capabilities and future on-demand initiatives

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Hollie Kemp, Chief Operating Officer at Sagely, a Honolulu-based IT company that “marries the power of software, data, and the human element to empower caregivers, elders, and their families to improve elders’ well-being.” Sagely is a platform to document, manage, and navigate the tracking and delivery of engagement and care programs” that can be used by both residents and their families.

Hollie started out in the senior housing space over 20 years ago as a unit assistant. Through the years, she took on various roles, from caregiver all the way up to Chief Experience Officer. With a primary focus on memory care and engagement, her passion is quality of life and designing stellar lifestyles for the seniors in her care.

Hollie agrees with Debbie that the pandemic has served as an “accelerator” that has forced operators in the industry to focus on making their systems and processes more effective and efficient. Sagely in particular has had to fall back and reflect on their core mission to “keep elders happy, healthy, independent, and connected”.

This required them to create a two-pronged approach for 2020 and beyond: develop technology that is simple to use for residents who may not be tech-savvy, and “free up more time and also provide more efficient tools for that engagement director to meet their residents’ needs at all times.”

Hollie has noticed that, amid the pandemic, “people are less focused on limitations and more focused on possibilities”. The adoption of new technologies today should not actually be as difficult as many make it out to be, even in the senior living space. What makes the difference are the goals you have going into a project, how you hold your team accountable to those goals, and why those goals matter.

“In my opinion,” says Hollie, “in senior housing, technology is never replacing human touch. I do not believe that’s possible. I still think we’re a human business. Technology just enables the human to do their job better.” And this outlook should extend to those initiatives that technology aims to make possible. “A program,” continues Hollie, “can be wonderful on paper, but if it’s not alive in the community, it doesn’t matter.”



Hollie Kemp on LinkedIn

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: The Science of Conversions and Optimization with Brian Massey

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • Looking at the science of conversion and not just the art
  • Using behavioral science to understand the thought process of prospects
  • What data we should be looking at that informs strategic conversations with prospects
  • Tools to help track engagement metrics
  • Updating your website and communication tools to adapt to social distancing limitations
  • Designing a website that gradually educates cold prospects to warm them up over time
  • Creating content and designing web pages for different segments
  • Designing your website as a draftsman rather than as an artist
  • Optimizing your website for the mobile experience

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Brian Massey, Managing Partner at Conversion Sciences, a data-driven conversion optimization agency which seeks to “find those impulses to act that are hidden in your site.”

If you are counting on the internet to drive your business, you cannot manage it without having access to behavioral data. Brian says that his role is not just the scientific complement to the art of marketing, but one that allows the marketer to “expand their art to be more creative”.

Most businesses today do not need more leads, but more conversion. If they are aware of the data indicating the number of visitors, conversions, and the bounce rate (many companies do not even track these numbers), the first step is to look at the primary call to action that you want a particular page to make. Look at the amount of leads you are driving and how many engagements you are getting. Understanding the data helps you manage your relationship with visitors intelligently.

Bounce rate is a great measure of the quality of the traffic on your website. There is a constant tension between getting more traffic and making the landing experiences better, and there is not necessarily a correlation between the two. Troubleshooting the experience to get more conversions requires an analysis of the visitor’s behavior as they navigate your site or landing page.

Your website should always be updated to adapt to changes in the market. On the most practical level, this means looking at engagement metrics not just to know that data, but to know how to take action based on those changes.

Conversion optimization is “an assembling of segments”, starting with the largest segment in the early stages of your business. Personas are a great tool for understanding what those segments are so that you can keep track of the types of visitors on your website. As you scale and become more sophisticated with your site, you can have more offers targeted toward specific segments. In the senior living space, some of those segments could include the adult children, seniors who would rather live in their home, and seniors who prefer a community.

You should have a variety of content that caters to these different segments, and have pages on your website specially designed for these different kinds of content. Analytics will show how different segments behave differently on the pages you designed specifically for them.


Conversion Strategies

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Evaluating your Digital Presence with Andy Crestodina

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • How the senior care space has transformed in 2020
  • Managing your online reputation
  • When and how to update your website
  • Differentiating yourself with intentional copy
  • Pushing sales messaging into the marketing funnel
  • Creating content in 2021
  • Maximizing the conversion experience by incorporating flow
  • When to automate your processes
  • What tools operators should consider for their 2021 marketing budget 

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Andy Crestodina, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer at Orbit Media, an award-winning 38-person digital agency in Chicago.

The challenges we have seen in 2020 accelerated the trend toward the empowered prospect. There is more content than ever before for potential clients or customers to go through, which allows them to make a decision on a product or service even before meeting a representative of the company. Before, to learn what a business offered, you had to talk to people. Today, for many businesses that is no longer the case. The responsibility of a marketer, therefore, is to help prospects make a great decision by considering their product as an option.

The foundation of your marketing efforts is evaluating your digital presence (and those of your competitors). From being present on most of the major social channels (depending on your demographic) to making sure you show up at the top of Google results, having both quality and quantity in your content marketing efforts should be one of the first major goals of your business.

When it comes to designing and updating your website, always think about the perspective of the visitor. The site does not have to sell; but it has to give sufficient information to the visitor. The job of the website is to answer questions. What are their questions? What are their concerns? Which of those questions and concerns are among their top priorities? What are our best answers for those questions, and what evidence can we add to support those answers? When you know these things, you are ready to build a high-converting website. The job of the website is to give visitors sufficient clarity and trust (i.e. answers and evidence) to get them just over the psychological threshold toward contacting you.

Asked about producing the right kind of content in 2021, particularly for the senior living space, Andy encourages operators to focus on the bottom of the funnel. Take care of your current prospects first: those who are already brand-aware. Many cold prospects may continue to have low intent going into the new year and might not be ready for anything—not even the initial call.

Bottom-of-funnel content that answers sales questions should be prioritized; but also use this strategy to grow your email list. Work hard on the call to action to subscribe to your newsletter, because growing your email list puts you in control of your marketing destiny, unlike your social media platforms. Keep your subscribers in flow by keeping them engaged with a tailored content experience that regularly gives them value while keeping you top-of-mind until they are ready to take the next step.


Orbit Media

Orbit Media Studios on YouTube

Andy Crestodina on LinkedIn

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Uncovering New Insights in the Senior Living Industry with Alex Fisher from Sherpa

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • Insights uncovered about the senior living industry in March, April, and May
  • Making the best out of fewer leads
  • Adapting sales training and hiring practices to the new normal
  • Confronting fears by tapping into your motivations

 Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Alex Fisher, Co-Founder of Sherpa CRM. As the impact of COVID-19 continues to influence all major business decisions, Debbie and Alex discuss data insights for March, April, and May, released recently by Sherpa.

This data provides a qualitative indication of the sales and outcomes of a sample size of about 82,000 units of independent living, assisted living, and memory care facilities. In making sense of the information, Alex stresses that “the sales process should not be predicated on the level of care, but on the person.”

While leads have been down across the board, Alex says that sales and marketing professionals have always tended to “underwork” prospective buyers anyway. With the pandemic causing everybody to pay better attention to the leads that they do continue to generate, there is now an opportunity to put more focus and care into each individual prospect. Says Alex, “Our philosophy is that the new lead is not necessarily going to be better than the old lead. As a matter of fact, there is gold in your existing leads. Some of them may have been resistant to your efforts for a while, but they still exist.”

With fewer leads to work with, Alex emphasizes the importance of really getting inside the heads and the hearts of both the potential residents and their families. Specifically, what is going on in their world as they prepare to make the life-altering decision of whether or not to move into a new community, especially in the face of these challenging times? Making the effort to be truly empathetic to your potential customers’ desires always leads to more sales. As Alex eloquently puts it, “Shallow engagement leads to lower conversions.”

Even before COVID-19, Alex says that much can be done to improve sales training and what to look for when hiring salespeople. For one, there tends to be an overreliance on product. In an industry full of “glorified tour givers”, she calls for refocusing the focus of sales training onto the prospect by letting go of the outcome. This requires emotional intelligence through self-awareness and embracing the fact that salespeople are “facilitators of change” who help break down emotional barriers so that prospects can have the confidence to make adjustments in their lives.


Sherpa CRM

Email: [email protected]

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Talking Elder Resource Benefits Consulting with Patty Servaes

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • A primer on the VA’s Pension Benefit
  • Potential amounts that veterans and/or their spouses can avail of with the VA Benefit
  • Assets and other factors that count toward eligibility for the VA Benefit
  • The time it takes to receive the VA Benefit
  • The role of annuities
  • How senior living operators are leveraging the Benefit and where they can improve

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Patty Servaes, a VA accredited agent and the founder of Elder Resource Benefits Consulting. ERBC was founded in 2005 to help seniors navigate different benefits that are available to them. Their specialty is the VA’s Basic Pension with Aid and Attendance Benefits. The company focuses on veterans getting the VA’s Pension Benefit as quickly as possible as soon as they are eligible for it.

“This is not a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ Benefit,” says Patty. “It’s ‘if’ and ‘when’.” She explains the VA Benefit through the image of a staircase, having three main criteria that build on each other: “Did you serve in a period of war?”; “Do you meet the medical criteria?”; and “Do you meet the financial criteria?

It is critical for a U.S. veteran—Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard—to know the “if” and the “when” so that they do not miss even a month’s worth of the Benefit. In 2020, a surviving spouse can get up to $1228 per month, tax free. A single veteran can get up to $1911 per month. A well veteran with an ill spouse can get up to $1500 per month. A married veteran where the veteran himself needs care can get up to $2266 per month. Patty goes into detail about which assets and other factors count toward eligibility for the Benefit.

In evaluating a veteran’s eligibility for the VA Benefit, ERBC looks at their income and assets to be able to tell exactly when they would be able to qualify. They also give advice on what they can legally do with the money, such as paying down a car loan or prepaying their funeral. Patty, however, does not recommend the latter. Rather, she suggests having the VA reimburse the funeral costs after the funeral itself. “I really like holding the VA’s feet to the fire and making sure that, if at all possible, we get that VA money to the claimant or, in the event of their death, to the assisted living or to the family.”


Elder Resource Benefits Consulting

Phone: (508) 485-0039

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Welcome Home- A CRM Platform Designed Specifically for Senior Housing and Care

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • How John came to develop a CRM platform specifically for the senior living space
  • Welcome Home’s five, non-negotiable pillars for an industry-friendly CRM
  • Giving operators greater freedom of choice through integration
  • The impact of Welcome Home’s CRM on a community’s bottom-line

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with John Lariccia, founder of Welcome Home, which provides a CRM platform designed specifically for senior housing and care.

John identified the gap in the market upon understanding that the sales process is particularly difficult within the senior living space. He points to the fact that “there are so many constituencies that you have to interact with”. The emotional layer of the process is also particularly unique due to the nature of the industry. John realized that traditional CRM technologies did not adequately account for the complexities of the human element of closing sales that is especially important in senior living.

John had to solve for a solution that covered all the considerations of an operator in the senior living space. Being a newcomer to the industry, John took the time to dissect traditional CRM platforms to identify missing features which can be highly useful to a senior living operator. He spent over a year speaking to experts in the industry and honed in on five, non-negotiable pillars for their technology: automation, customization, reporting, mobility, and simplicity.

Asked how adopting Welcome Home’s CRM makes sense from a business standpoint, John says that his team tracks engagement and adoption, time savings, time allocation, results from that allocated time, and other expenses. 93% of users, his team found, are using the entire functionality of the CRM within the first month, and this jumps to over 99% by the second month. Operators are also saving thousands of dollars in training budgets due to the CRM’s simple and intuitive interface. Finally, rote tasks are being successfully automated, allowing sales directors to reinvest that saved time into outreach. All of these factors, among others, are resulting in better conversion ratios. “The CRM is working for them,” says John. “They are not working for the CRM.”



Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: How the Pandemic has affected the Senior Living Industry

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • How Scott’s passion for senior living led to the founding of Senior Living Growth Advisors and his podcast
  • The impact of COVID-19 on Senior Living Growth Advisors
  • How the pandemic affected design in the senior living communities, both existing and in development
  • Adapting to restrictions and other lifestyle changes brought about by social distancing measures
  • Emerging technologies operators are using to redefine the senior living experience

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Scott McCorvie, President of Senior Living Growth Advisors, and host of The Inner Circle of Senior Living podcast. With 15 years of experience in the senior care space under their belt, Senior Living Growth Advisors assists everyone from owners to developers to investors to operators in optimizing their platform and achieving their desired growth success. Scott’s podcast is dedicated to providing value to the senior living investment industry by hosting discussions and interviews with experts and thought leaders in the field.

Scott believes that the senior living industry has remained resilient in the face of the pandemic and the impact it has had to the economy for the past several months. Investment and development projects have been put on hold and due diligence for acquisitions are delayed. On the other hand, Scott has seen more action in the asset management department as organizations adapt and even innovate amid the various challenges.

To remain competitive, independent living facilities had to have over 50% of their space dedicated to common usage or amenities. This can include anything from movie theaters, libraries, exercise rooms and yoga studies, to even woodworking. But it is those communities whose facilities are expertly designed who have the greatest edge over others who have activity rooms in place but receive little engagement from residents.

Scott recommends, particularly for those communities still in development, to establish centrally located, multipurpose common areas that, on the same day, can be reorganized from a lecture hall into an exercise studio. Marketing a senior living community, after all, is showing off a potential “lifestyle upgrade”, and that impression is sold if prospects can see a thriving, activity-filled space.

In addition to adding infrastructure to bolster the health and safety of residents, especially during the pandemic, Scott says that Innovating the senior living experience also relies on improving engagements between caregivers and residents. This can be accomplished through such implementations as voice-activated technologies which make communication more efficient, or TV screens which display the day’s activities or messages from staff and fellow residents. There are many ways to improve the senior living experience, but Scott encourages operators to be particularly bullish on leveraging as much technology as possible to increase resident engagement.


Email: [email protected]

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Mom’s House- Connecting Families Selling their Senior Parent’s Homes with Buyers

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • The motivation to create Mom’s House
  • How Mom’s House’s certified home buyers save families’ time and money
  • Growing the Mom’s House network of home buyers and senior living communities

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Ben Rao, Co-Founder of Mom’s House, a platform which connects certified home buyers with families who are in the process of selling their senior parent’s house. Mom’s House is known today as “the nation’s largest senior home buyer network”.

At some point during Ben’s career as a real estate investor, he got connected to the founders of Family Solutions for Care, which “indoctrinated” him into the senior space. He realized through this partnership that it is a common problem among families to not have the support of an insurance company as they look to enter a care community. It so happened that Ben was also connected with a real estate investor focused on the senior space, who did over 50 transactions a year through referrals alone. The two teamed up to discuss how to fill this gap in the market, leading to the founding of Mom’s House.

Many families lack the resources and knowledge to get a house listed when it is time for their senior members to move into a care community. Hiring a real estate agent is often their only option, and even in this case it takes around four to six months to finally sell the house. That is, if the family is able to shoulder unexpected expenses and prepare for potential delays throughout those months. Mom’s House changes the game by connecting home buyers certified by the company around the country to these families. Buyers then make an offer to buy the house for cash and close the deal in less than 30 days.


Mom’s House