Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Learn about SMASH- The Senior Marketing and Sales Summit

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • The origin of the SMASH conference
  • How SMASH has evolved over the years
  • Topics to expect at SMASH 2020
  • Lead generation, conversion, and management during and after COVID-19
  • Reimagining sales and marketing in the new normal
  • Interacting with prospects with virtual tools

 Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Bailey Beeken, President of Senior Care Events and the Founder of SMASH—the Senior Care Marketing and Sales Summit.

Bailey discusses the concept behind SMASH, which was established in 2013. This series of conferences brings together C-level executives in the senior living industry, “curat[ing] the best of the best in leading edge marketing and sales.”

In its first year, the conversation was around social media and other branding platforms such as websites and how they can be used to market the company. In the following year, the focus shifted towards content creation and digital advertising for driving leads to these platforms. A couple of years ago, the primary topic became data management and how to create budgets and strategies around it. This year’s conference set for October 19-21 will go into considerations and best practices in a post-COVID-19 world.

With fewer leads coming in and heavy criticism from the media during these uncertain times, Bailey acknowledges that it is time for the senior living industry to “throw out the old playbook” and lead with purpose by “spending 80% of the time nurturing the 20%”. Communities must tailor their messaging around concerns regarding health, safety, and family by producing content at a cadence that is appropriate to the current climate. “We really have to reimagine the entire prospect journey and recreate all of those in-person activities [online],” agrees Debbie.

It is important for organizations to take advantage of virtual tools to connect and strengthen their relationships with families. “People are going to have to act with urgency. It is not just about getting revenue. The first movers will win here. They will not have all the answers, but they are willing to experiment. […] We have a lot of work to do to counter the message that has been told this past year and everybody has to get onboard with that.”


SMASH 2020

Phone: (917) 572-1118

Email: [email protected]

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Jennifer Hastings Connects Families with Residents Through Engaging Marketing Campaigns

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • How putting a pause on move-ins affected Northbridge
  • The “Northbridge Good Vibes” campaign
  • Platforms that Northbridge is using to connect with families
  • Northbridge’s creative magazine ad that focused on the people rather than the facility
  • What prospects will look for in a senior living community going forward
  • The “Behind the Mask” campaign

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Jennifer Hastings, Vice President of Marketing at Northbridge Companies.

In March 2020, Northbridge made the decision to shut down move-ins as other assisted living communities have done in the wake of COVID-19. From a marketing standpoint, Jennifer knows that the process will have changed in one way or another once the day comes when facilities can start accepting new residents again. However, a few key things will remain the same, such as leveraging social channels to be able to engage regularly with existing and future families.

Jennifer talks about the Northbridge Good Vibes program that she and her team launched not long after the outbreak. This is a cross-platform campaign where families can contribute to an encouraging and uplifting atmosphere throughout the community by leaving well-wishes across different forums and social media platforms. She relates how Northbridge’s Good Vibes page received an unexpected 75 “vibes” in the first night alone.

Aside from the Good Vibes initiative, Jennifer talks about the other out-of-the-box ways that Northbridge has adapted to the challenges brought on by the pandemic. From taking advantage of the industry-tailored features of the HeartLegacy app, to a magazine ad that highlights people and families over facilities, to the creative “Behind the Mask” campaign, Northbridge has skillfully focused its marketing efforts toward people and community. This type of messaging, Jennifer believes, is what will resonate the most with future residents post-COVID-19.

“Choosing a senior living community means that you have peace of mind around care, safety, and well-being,” says Jennifer. “It is what people have always inherently been looking for, but today they are looking through a new lens because of what we have all been through.”


Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Dan Tyre Unleashes a Treasure Trove of Inbound Marketing Best Practices

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • How the internet and social media changed the lead generation game
  • Why marketing is more important than sales
  • Qualities of an inbound organization
  • The basic philosophy and foundational principles of inbound marketing
  • What touchpoints to put in place to qualify leads as reliably and efficiently as possible
  • Why having happy customers is more important today than ever before
  • The difference between marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads and how to advance each
  • A primer on lead scoring
  • Best practices around workflows and marketing automation
  • Why use HubSpot?

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Dan Tyre on inbound marketing and marketing automation. Dan is the author of Inbound Organization: How to Build and Strengthen Your Company’s Future Using Inbound Principles (2018). He is a speaker, blogger, mentor, and coach for those who want to harness the power of inbound marketing to improve their bottom line. Dan joined HubSpot as a member of the original team in 2007, and today serves as the company’s Sales Director.

Potential buyers, both B2B and B2C, like to consider their options anonymously if possible, and oftentimes do their research well in advance of making their final decision (sometimes up to a year or so) depending on the size of the investment. What they see, in the absence of a salesperson (who they wish to avoid at all costs) is paramount to making the sale. This is why, according to Dan, marketing is more important than sales.

As opposed to focusing purely on sales, “the attributes of an inbound organization is they like to help people,” says Dan. “They do things out of the goodness of their heart.” In fact, in 2014, Dan published an article titled “Always Be Closing Is Dead: How to Always Be Helping”.

As little as ten years ago, there were more gatekeepers and other such hurdles to reach prospects. You had to pick up the phone and make calls. Today, the amount of online tools and platforms you have at your disposal makes inbound marketing an available option even for smaller companies. On the other hand, the average company has 44 competitors today. As Dan stresses, it is important to “add value before you extract value” if you want to stand out.

Listen in as Dan unleashes a treasure trove of best practices for today’s inbound marketer, including how to define your persona, qualifying (and disqualifying) prospects, creating an effective sales funnel, and HubSpot’s competitive advantage over other growth platforms.

Reach out to Dan at or [email protected], and order a copy of his book at

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Today’s Senior Living Prospects Have a Greater Sense of Urgency About Their Senior Living Options

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • Roobrik’s purpose and unique approach to gathering data
  • Gathering data and building trust via anonymous “conversational assessments”
  • What senior living operators can learn from data gathered by Roobrik
  • How COVID-19 has impacted prospect behaviors and uncertainties
  • Other potential uses for Roobrik’s decision science technology

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Nate O’Keefe, Founder and CEO of Roobrik, “a survey or decision tool that helps older adults and families get unstuck [and] activate that audience that is right on the cusp. How can we help them understand their needs; their options?” Roobrik’s solution? Decision science. Their goal is not to market senior living as a prospect’s only choice, but to better inform them so that they can make that choice themselves.

The typical senior living company website is, unfortunately, little more than an online brochure filled with impersonal stock images. “Nobody searches for senior living for fun,” says Debbie. Marketers have to make that extra effort to not only lead prospects to their website, but also to create comfort in order to help these prospects make life-altering decisions about their future.

Roobrik gathers relevant information that helps prospects see if they are a fit for a community. They also put together resources that engage and build trust for those who are looking for options. Data is gathered through anonymous “conversational assessment” with the prospects which take their mindset into account, particularly with regards to their fears and worries. The assessment is anonymous because fears and worries, which prospects tend to minimize during the initial call, are the biggest challenges that operators need to tackle when promoting a new lifestyle as a possible solution.

Prospects need to feel empowered and informed. Roobrik’s tool helps potential residents “overcome uncertainty and inertia” which, again, is why data is gathered anonymously. COVID-19 has obviously had a profound effect on the gravity of prospects’ doubts around senior living spaces.

Nate acknowledges that perspectives will continue to evolve in the new normal. To gain a foothold over these ever-changing uncertainties, Roobrik asks, “What can we do that is additive and not noise?” The key is in gathering data, which serve as the foundation for any strategy. To this end, Roobrik has released “COVID impact reports”, which reveal that more people are looking—that prospects have developed a greater sense of urgency about their future options and are more willing to engage in conversations that will help them get unstuck.

Learn more about Roobrik at

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: What the Most Successful Senior Living Companies During the Pandemic are Doing Differently

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • The new channels Leading Response is leveraging to continue introducing people to their clients
  • Is direct mail still a useful marketing tool today?
  • What types of content are prospects looking for in the new normal?
  • How to nurture and advance leads who are already in the pipeline
  • Measuring ROI
  • An easy way to double your click-through rate
  • What the most successful senior living companies during the pandemic are doing differently

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Val Whitman, VP of Senior Living at LeadingResponse, on marketing, thought leadership, and innovation. LeadingResponse is a client acquisition firm with a focus on connecting qualified leads—adults, children, seniors—with the senior living client to nurture their relationship. This is best done is face-to-face, preferably onsite; but in the new normal, the company was forced to adjust its primary strategy.

Fortunately, along with organizing in-person events, LeadingResponse has solutions for connecting people to their clients using online campaigns. Today, these campaigns have taken center-stage.

LeadingResponse has a webinar platform that has proven to be their most popular tool for educating and building relationships with existing consumers. Using white-labeling capabilities available on the platform, clients can customize this visual experience to navigate the new normal with their prospects with ease.

Prospects today are still looking for the basic information they have always wanted and needed; i.e. the differences between care levels, how costs are covered, how to have tough conversations with loved ones, etc. But now they also want to know how a company, as a brand and as a representative of their industry, can keep their loved one safe. The client needs to take this opportunity to showcase the benefits of staying at a senior living community during the pandemic.

During these uncertain times, labor costs have generally gone up, as well as budgets for supplies, which could include test kits. Organizations need to learn how to do more with fewer dollars. It is important for a business to look at the tools and platforms that they currently employ, including webinars, direct mail, and virtual tours, and measure the ROI on each. If there is a problem in the execution of these tools, consider small solutions first. Sometimes, it is just a matter of changing the content or call to action.

In some cases, improving ROI is also about sales execution. Are people following up with prospects? Are they even reaching out to new leads on time in the first place?

Reach out to Val at or on LinkedIn at

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Capturing the Essence of Your Residents to Market Lifestyle

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • The lackluster quality of most stock photos depicting seniors
  • What it is like to work with 80+-year-old models, including those with cognitive disabilities
  • Why Tom incorporates stories into his photos
  • How senior living facilities can improve their marketing by showcasing quality photos
  • Justifying the cost of quality photoshoots for marketing purposes
  • Rebuilding trust in senior living communities post-COVID 19 through photography

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Tom Sanders, a professor of photography at Savannah College of Art and Design and the founder of Senior Living Photography and Senior Stock Photos. He is the author of the coffee table books The Last Good War: The Faces and Voices of WWII (2010) and Vietnam War Portraits: The Faces and Voices (2020).

Debbie considers Tom to be the best in the senior photography niche which, she laments, is severely lacking. She notes the oftentimes routine, inaccurate, and sometimes even silly representations of seniors in traditional stock photographs. One reason for this, addresses Tom, is that many senior living companies are unwilling to invest in high-quality photoshoots.

Debbie also criticizes run of the mill photos as idealized images of prospects that lack relatability (i.e. models are often a decade or two younger than the usual senior living demographic). Tom, on the other hand, is unafraid to literally get up close and personal with the people he is trying to represent. Debbie points out that many of Tom’s photos clearly display the wrinkles of his 80+-year-old models. They are posed simply, their humanity, personalities, and vulnerabilities all laid bare.

Tom encourages more photography companies to take advantage of the stories that seniors have to share, so as to bring out the individuality of every single model. It is this level of care and openness that helped The Last Good War to earn the title of “Non-Fiction Book of the Year, Editor’s Choice” by the Forewords Review Magazine.

Companies should be willing to invest in better quality photos of their seniors the same way they are already used to spending on photos of their facility. After all, a marketer’s job is to sell lifestyle, not real estate.

Check out Tom’s portfolio at and

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Reimagining the Prospect Journey

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • Key impacts of COVID-19 on the senior living industry in China
  • The importance of building relationships with prospects amid COVID-19
  • Useful technologies and other strategies to engage with prospects during quarantine
  • How to “check the temperature” of your lead base during these turbulent times
  • Training salespeople that can effectively navigate the current climate

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Jeff Gronemyer, Director of International Census Development with Meridian Senior Living. He gives a global perspective on the impact of COVID-19 on the industry. Overseeing sales efforts for Meridian in China, Jeff is essentially a couple of months ahead in terms of best practices for interacting with prospects during the pandemic.

In China, Meridian has completely shut down their buildings. The question prospects lead with is no longer, “When can we move in?” but, “What can you do to keep my mom and dad safe?” Meridian has shifted its marketing and sales to cover common concerns brought about by the new normal. This includes helping seniors gain easier access to produce and other basic necessities. There have also been a number of changes to protocols for moving in particularly with regard to making sure that health and sanitation take precedence over all else, while of course keeping the process comfortable and fear-free for seniors.

During a time when communication is more important than ever for closing prospects in the senior living industry, Jeff says that there is now more focus put into the relationship aspect of things. Building a relationship with the prospect while leading them through the sales process has always been a tricky balance. The difference today is that prospects will not be moving into facilities until further notice, and so the pressure to close in advance is no longer there. This simply means taking the time to have meaningful conversations with prospects. One way that Meridian encourages its sales staff to adopt this focus is through sending information on relevant topics to chat about with seniors, such as historical events ranging from 1960 to 1976.

This is a time to experiment and innovate with different technologies and other strategies to engage with prospects. It is also important to discover the changing attitudes, mindsets, and goals of your client base. Reach out—whether through surveys or focus groups—and soak in the different hopes, worries, and fears that prospects are currently experiencing. This is especially important since senior living communities are being dubbed as dangerous “petri-dishes” by certain media institutions. In order to respond to these messages, there is no better strategy than to communicate on a more intimate level with those you are looking to serve.

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: The Secret Sauce for Successful Live Chat

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • SiteStaff Chat’s edge over other conversion services
  • The two types of prospects that chat support representatives typically engage with
  • How SiteStaff’s engagement specialists conduct conversations with prospects
  • The importance of earning the right to ask for a prospect’s personal information
  • Why Bill is passionate about empathy and culture

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with SiteStaff Chat Founder Bill Jennings on how prospects for senior living facilities engage with Chat’s online support staff. Bill founded his company as a response to the many other support services that have the unfortunate tendency to offer generic, information-laden responses to website visitors. Instead, SiteStaff Chat’s approach is that of “an emotional selling process; making people feel comfortable.” This approach turned out to be the perfect fit for the senior living industry, of which the emotional component is naturally higher among prospects.

SiteStaff Chat typically sees two types of customers. The first type are family members looking for a place for their aging parents, but have little to no idea what to expect from or how to go about the process of moving them into a senior living facility. The second type are those looking to move themselves into a facility simply because they are looking for community and, of course, assistance. In both of these cases, support staff need to be both empathetic and understanding as they work to dispel prospects’ common fears while guiding them towards a decision.

Chat’s engagement specialists are looking to provide real answers to prospect queries, as opposed to canned ones. Bill laments the “copy-paste” tactics of traditional services, where answers are scripted and superficial. Chat aims to qualify the prospect, not by attempting to methodically close them, but by “humanizing the experience”, first by establishing whether there’s even a fit for them in the first place, followed by diving into specifics around the prospect’s particular circumstances and goals.

Today, Chat’s representatives spend an average of eight and a half minutes chatting with prospects. These eight and a half minutes are not spent giving an elevator pitch, but on having real, human-to-human conversations that aim to earn the right to ask the prospect if they are ready for the next step of the transaction.

When much of the modern marketing world focuses on vanity metrics such as views, impressions, clicks, or website traffic, it is crucial for a company (and refreshing for prospects) to create personal experiences that give visitors real value. After all, senior living communities deal with high-intent prospects. By empowering these prospects to make informed decisions through meaningful conversations, any business can achieve more of the metric that truly matters: conversions.

Try SiteStaff Chat for 30 Days Free of Charge by visiting or give Bill a call at (303) 349-4282

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Creating an Effective Sales Culture in Senior Living during Covid-19

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • The importance of creating an effective sales culture
  • How to develop a sales training process
  • Practical advice on empathetic selling to maximize your existing database when COVID-19 has slowed down the flow of new leads
  • Lessons learned by Mike after having done over 150,000 mystery shops

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Mike Miller, President and CEO of Primo Solutions, LLC, and the author of Selling at Combat Speed (2008) and Stop Selling & Start Caring (2011). They discuss the core message of Mike’s newest book which, while always relevant, is many times more so today amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The inspiration behind Stop Selling & Start Caring came when a colleague discussed the uncomfortable experience of looking for a senior living community for his mother. After visiting several communities, his colleague found that none of them even bothered to ask him how he, as the adult child, was feeling about the process. Instead, it seemed like all these communities cared about was making the transaction.

Many institutions lack a clearly-defined sales training process which, by extension, results in a lack of a cohesive sales culture. Debbie and Mike agree that it is key to have a great sales trainer that regularly conducts sessions to help instill and maintain this culture. But more importantly, the company has to have leadership in place that, once training is done, can efficiently and effectively delegate in order to ensure the healthy growth of its culture.

“You can have a great strategy,” says Mike. “But if you do not have the culture in place and the buy-in where people really believe in the process and what they are doing, then it is not going to work.”

COVID-19 has forced many businesses to focus on their existing database as the pandemic has led to fewer new leads coming in. Mike believes that senior living communities tend to spend too much money on incoming leads, and that many can actually fill their communities by investing in their current database. Additionally, the problem with a constant stream of leads is that communities will eventually have a difficult time to work with and nurture those leads already in the CRM.

With regards to the current situation, Mike says that we have no choice but to “make a difference on the phone.” Even today, it is possible to increase your conversion rate via deliberate, creative, and empathetic selling. It starts with reducing your marketing spend and putting more focus on training your staff to work with existing leads.

Ask Mike for a free PDF of Stop Selling & Start Caring at [email protected]

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Best Practices around Marketing and Communication Strategy Used by Various Industries Amid the Covid-19 Pandemic

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • What direction should marketing and communications take amid COVID-19?
  • The power of “sharing, not selling” as a long-term approach to business development
  • Why your organization should shift from crisis communication to resource communication
  • How to get people comfortable about potentially moving into a senior living community during a pandemic
  • What can we learn from this situation, marketing and communications-wise, to become better prepared should another crisis hit?

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Dan Hutson, Marketing and Communications consultant. The pair discuss best practices around marketing and communication strategy used by various industries amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and how these practices can be implemented by the senior housing industry.

Today, organizations have to choose between quietly waiting out the crisis, and looking for opportunities to innovate. Much of the senior living world has chosen the former strategy. Worse than that, some even chose to do “tone-deaf” marketing that completely ignores the new normal. Consumers and clients are more forgiving towards vulnerability and more “raw” messaging, as long as the company can assure them, with a level head, that they are willing and able to consistently follow through in spite of current challenges.

“This situation has freed up your time from doing a lot of the business-as-usual marketing work,” says Dan. “Take this time to really think about interesting ways of connecting with your audience—communicating and creating ongoing conversations with them.” If more organizations adopt this paradigm, there may endure, long after the end of this crisis, a “sharing, not selling” approach to business.

It helps greatly to put yourself in the shoes of those you’re trying to serve. Imagine what a typical member of your target audience is thinking, feeling, and doing at this very moment. One thing’s for sure: there’s so much uncertainty in the world today that people in general are just looking for leaders to help make their struggles more bearable. This, says Dan, becomes the perfect opportunity to serve as your customer’s go-between—to position your company as an incredible resource which provides useful services outside the usual scope of your business.

At a time when social distancing is the norm, ask yourself how you’re adopting technology to support your sales and marketing effort. If you want more people to become comfortable with the idea of potentially moving into a senior living community, particularly during this pandemic, digital and inbound marketing should be your priorities. Many people are uninformed about the different types of available communities, not to mention their concerns about sanitation in these spaces.

If relevance is what you’re after, there’s no better time than this moment to put out regular content that tells your customers exactly what services they should be expecting from your organization. This content should illustrate the reality of your senior living space as a “living, breathing community of people who are engaged in interesting, purposeful lives.”