May-2020-2-blog-1-772x340-1_d23f3974ccff838272ca42a495b13497

Senior Living Marketing & Sales: It’s a Great Time to Experiment

[Editor’s note: The following senior living marketing & sales content was inspired by discussions during our COVID-19 Webinar, which you can access for free here.

So many businesses, including those in the senior living industry, have had to throw their marketing and sales playbooks out the window due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While many people are mourning the loss of the “old ways,” we’d like to take a more optimistic view. Now is a good time to experiment and get creative, especially when it comes to senior living marketing and sales.

No, not everything you try will work for your community. But you might uncover some fresh approaches that you’ll want to adopt for the long term.

1. Virtual Tours for Effective Senior Living Sales

One of the challenges right now is figuring out how to replace or augment some of the more traditional high-touch tactics, like tours and marketing events, with other kinds of tech-supported and virtual tactics.

As an industry, we tend to rely A LOT on the personal tour and other in-person events. How often do you say things like “Schedule a tour, come to an event, join us for lunch”? It’s easy to make those offers, because senior living sales reps see them as easy ways to engage with people. But have you ever considered if these things are what perspectives want to do? Now is a great time to test whether virtual tours (and other virtual events) can be just as effective as in-person tours and events.

Note: when we say virtual tours, we don’t simply mean those slick, professionally shot videos, either. You probably already have some sort of virtual tour on your site (if you don’t, you should, regardless of  COVID-19). We’re talking about taking virtual tours to the next level.

For example, maybe the director of dining services uses his/her phone to record a message and a walk through the kitchen as the team is preparing dinner. Show that well-stocked pantry, introduce people to the sous chef, show the staff plating the food. You get the idea.

Don’t worry about an occasional shaky video—people know the difference between slick and highly produced videos and off-the-cuff authentic ones. Which ones are going to be more believable or have the biggest impact?

Lather, rinse, repeat. Do the same sort of video tours with activities, with the facilities team, with the director of nursing, etc.

  • PRO TIP: We recommend Heart Legacy to create these sorts of brand experiences. Note: if you have a library of compelling pictures from your community—for example, all of the architecture/buildings—you can create a video tour out of the photography.

2. Facebook Live.

People are glued to their devices right now and incredibly active on social media, Facebook in particular (Facebook has seen its already-high usage soar since the start of the pandemic).

Facebook Live events are great ways to create “must-see” TV. The best part? You can repurpose this content and share via other social channels, embed on your website, and share in emails.

3. Video conferencing check-in calls with prospects.

Doing video calls right now isn’t a hard sell, either. People around the globe are using these modes of communication to keep in touch with family and friends, so they are poised to accept this sort of communication from businesses as well.

Encourage the sales team to do these sorts of calls with prospects and to focus on helping, not selling.

  • PRO TIP: Zoom is a popular and budget-friendly app. Skype works, too, as does Facetime.

4. Live chats hosted by real humans, not a bot.

If someone comes to your website with a question or concern, but they’re NOT ready for a phone call, a true “live chat” with a real human, not a bot, can be a great option.

Why not use a bot? Well, a bot can answer a question, but they can’t empathize. They can’t offer the all-important human touch.

  • PRO TIP: SiteStaff is our very favorite chat company hosted by college educated Americans who were hired for their empathy. We train them on senior living discovery skills.

5. Interactive tools/surveys.

Sales reps love engaging with people in person during tours or lunches, but that’s not necessarily what all prospects want or need. Interactive tools and surveys (and other apps) provide a way to engage while delivering what a prospect might need in that moment.

So a senior living sales rep could send an email to a prospect saying, “I’ve really been thinking about you, and I know that you’re struggling to know if senior living is right for you or if it’s the right time to make the move. Here’s a link to an insightful interactive survey that really dives deep and helps people understand what’s best for them and their situation. There’s no obligation and it’s free to use. Give it a try and see what it says. Happy to discuss your results with you if that helps.”

The other nice thing about interactive tools/surveys is that they help create a “sticky” website (meaning people hang out on the site longer), and they provide another opportunity to convert anonymous website visitors into leads you can nurture.

  • PRO TIP: Roobrik is our go-to for awesome, insightful surveys.

6. Senior Living Marketing Automation

Marketing automation will allow you to nurture leads in a way that’s meaningful to the prospect.

For example, let’s say the prospect has been interacting with a tool/survey on the memory care page. You can automatically follow up with helpful info, such as an article, related to memory care. On the other hand, if they download a financial guide, they’re going to get very different nurturing. In this case, the message should reassure and provide information regarding how affordable senior living can be.

And when we use the word “automated,” we mean exactly that: the system will automatically trigger a series of emails based on the actions a person takes on the site.

Give prospects lots of opportunities to choose how they want to engage with you (so a mix of chat, guides, surveys, etc.). And once they submit a form—meaning once they “opt in” based on their comfort level and where they are in their journey—then marketing automation takes over and nurtures them, encourages them, builds trust, and gives them more resources that are relevant to what they’ve expressed interest in. Over time, the nurturing will move them into a sales qualified interaction of a phone call or a tour or a virtual tour.

  • Pro Tip: We highly recommend HubSpot (we’re a HubSpot certified partner) for marketing automation.

Need help trying new ideas? We’re the app for that! :)

Seriously, we’ve been in your shoes, and we can help. We keep our eyes on the latest and greatest technology. This gives us a sense of if and how it could work for the senior living industry. Get in touch and let’s talk about how we can help.

Hands holding globe isolated on black background. COVID 19 or ecological disaster concept

Marketing During a Pandemic: How to Adjust Your Community’s Messaging

[Editor’s note: The following content was inspired by discussions during our senior living marketing webinar about the pandemic, which you can access for free here.]

Due to COVID-19 and the 24/7 news cycle, all eyes are on senior living communities, for better or worse.

In a recent article, we talked about how your community can use Facebook Live to help combat negative perceptions. Now, let’s have a deeper conversation about marketing during a pandemic.

In particular, let’s discuss how the senior living marketing team should re-frame your messaging during these unprecedented times.

1. Go longer and deeper with your messaging when marketing during a pandemic.

When it comes to effective content marketing for senior living communities, we usually advocate succinct, punchy copy. Right now, however, most people are stuck at home (whether they’re working or not), so you’re going to have a captive audience like never before. This means you can go longer and more in depth because people 1) are craving detailed info and 2) they have the time to read, watch, listen.

So what do we mean by going deeper? Don’t forget, you live and breathe the senior living industry every day, so everything is second nature to you, right? But for those on the outside looking in, they don’t know all the details. And thanks to the current media spotlight, people are curious. So educate them. Get into the fine details, the inner workings, the “inside baseball” stories, as we like to say.

Inside baseball is a metaphor for the minutiae—the detailed inner workings of a system that are usually only interesting to insiders and aficionados. Right now, many people are interested in the inner workings of senior living communities, such as how cleaning/disinfecting is done and who determines the daily menus.

Your content could be a series of “How We Do X” blog posts:

  • How We Clean During a Pandemic
  • How We Handle Social Distancing in Our Community
  • What Goes Into Creating a Daily Menu
  • How We Source Local Ingredients

You get the idea.

2. Talk about those “boring” topics you never would normally discuss in senior living marketing materials.

For example, who ever thought a topic like “senior living community supply chains” would be a must-read topic, yet here we are!

Right now, everybody’s focused on their own personal supply chain management. If you can show the differences between institutional supply chain management and your personal household management around toilet paper, eggs, and sanitizer, that will be a GREAT service to people.

How to accomplish this? Well, do something educational and reassuring by taking people “behind the scenes” via a Facebook Live video and bring them into the kitchen and supply closets and show an abundance of food and supplies like toilet paper—it’s not a direct sales message, but it certainly is a comforting one. People can “see” for themselves and think, “Mom will be OK. They have supplies, they have folks who are cleaning, and they have the infrastructure already built right in.”

No, this isn’t something that you would ever put in a marketing brochure—”Hey, when you choose our senior living community, you’ll always have toilet paper!” But right now, this is something that’s top of mind for people.

Bottom line: there are some interesting opportunities for creative storytelling around things that you never thought you would tell a story about.

3. Show your community’s commitment to—and expertise with—supporting older adults.

One example would be instead of simply saying you provide a safe environment, walk people through the exact procedures and protocols that you put in place to ensure safety every day.

And not just from a health perspective—yes, that’s the main concern on everyone’s mind right now, thanks to COVID-19—but also physical safety. For instance, how many lay people understand what the term “elopement” means when it comes to older adults? This is a great opportunity to educate about an industry-specific topic and to demonstrate your community’s specific approach.

4. Share the spotlight.

Again, this is a great opportunity to take people deep inside your daily operations. People love to understand how things work, so take advantage of that. You have talented people working in your communities. Make them the stars of these stories.

For example, bring forward your dining room supervisor, your chef, the person who’s running activities, or your head of healthcare. Make them the focus of your content and let them talk about what it is that goes into delivering the kinds of services that make up your community.

Hint: these make great topics for Facebook Live events (and then you can repurpose the content into blog posts and other written content).

5. Show your city/town spirit.

So many people are hunkering down right now and taking a keen interest in their local communities, particularly small businesses. Demonstrate how your senior living community supports and celebrates the businesses in your local town/city.

For example, talk about local businesses that you buy from/rely on. Keep a section of your COVID-19 website page dedicated to information that older adults (and their families) would find helpful, such as grocery store hours for older adults, pharmacy drive-thrus/deliveries, restaurants still offering takeout, and so forth.

Again, you’re celebrating your local town and city while also making your senior living community website a destination for responsible and accurate information as it pertains to seniors.

6. Continue to create responsible COVID-19 resources.

No one wants to be creating this content, but here’s the thing: YOU are uniquely positioned to discuss COVID-19 from a senior living perspective because YOU WORK IN THE INDUSTRY. Don’t let the uninformed or misinformed take control of your community’s story or narrative.

Instead, continue to create responsible COVID-19 resources that will truly help your residents, their families, prospects, staff, and the media.

Some ideas:

  • X Underreported Things Everyone Over 60 Should Know About COVID-19
  • Step-by-Step Guide to Skype and Facetime
  • X Ways to Keep in Touch with Your Senior Loved Ones During Lockdowns
  • Keep the Body Moving: X Great Alternatives to Daily Group Walks
  • X SMART Strategies for Helping Seniors Stay Safe during a Pandemic

Need more topics? People are searching on topics in Google all the time. Conduct a search on your own, such as “keeping seniors safe during COVID,” and scroll to the bottom for “People Also Search On” for additional ideas.

7. Share positive stories and messages, too.

People are rightly concerned about this pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you should forget to share happy news. Perhaps it’s a picture of a resident celebrating a birthday with their family members looking on through the window. Or it could be something as simple as sharing a pic of daffodils blooming in front of your building or outside a resident’s window.

8. Reconsider print advertising and direct mail.

With so many people stuck at home, now might be a great time to run some local newspaper ads and/or do some direct mail campaigns. You don’t need to “sell” either—it could simply be an alert regarding some strategies about how you’re keeping seniors in your communities safe. The call to action could be to set up a virtual tour or to join the next Facebook Live event. Psst: we make designing print pieces extremely turnkey—check out SMARTbrand.

Need help marketing during a pandemic?

We’re always happy to help senior living communities with their marketing during a pandemic or other crisis. Don’t hesitate to get in touch. And be sure to check out our COVID-19 resource library—everything is free to download.

How Facebook Live Can Change COVID-19 Perception Issues in Your Senior Living Community

How Facebook Live Can Change COVID-19 Perception Issues in Your Senior Living Community

[Editor’s note: The following content was inspired by discussions during our COVID-19 Webinar, which you can access for free here.]

COVID-19 has forced everyone to rethink how they communicate with their customers and prospects—and this is especially true for senior living communities.

Anyone who’s worked for any length of time in our industry has had to face troubling perception issues, such as “old folks’ homes” and the like. Given the recent pandemic, however, these problematic perceptions have increased exponentially, thanks in large part to the media breathlessly reminding viewers/readers that senior living communities serve as ground zero for the coronavirus.

How’s a community supposed to combat THAT sort of image?

Here’s one idea: Facebook Live.

What is Facebook Live?

HubSpot shares this solid definition: “Facebook Live is a feature of the Facebook social network that uses the camera on a computer or mobile device to broadcast real-time video to Facebook. Live broadcasters can decide who on Facebook can see their video and use this content to engage their audience during the moments and events that are important to them.”

You’ve likely encountered Facebook Live videos and not even realized it. Reporters use them in the field all the time. And even “regular” people will use Facebook Live to chronicle aspects of their day-to-day lives.

Could Facebook Live really make a difference when it comes to challenging people’s perceptions of senior living communities during this pandemic?

We think so. Regular, reasonable communication can have a huge—and positive—effect on people.

Consider this current example: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s midday news conferences have become legendary the last few weeks. His briefings are highly anticipated (they occur at roughly the same time each day). They’re also highly informative, but down to earth and accessible by lay people. And—most important—they are calming and rational. He doesn’t sugarcoat what’s happening in his state, but at the same time, he responsibly shares info and even finds opportunity for levity and humor.

The result? People are tuning in. Why? Because people crave reliable info, and they want to know what’s going on. (Plus, they’re a captive audience right now!)

Now, granted, Cuomo’s press briefings are broadcast via good old-fashioned television, but the concept is the same as Facebook Live: regular, real-time communication with an audience during these unprecedented times can be an excellent way to combat misinformation and troubling perceptions.

But don’t take our word for it. One of our clients, Vitality Senior Living, has been doing regular Facebook Live events with the CEO and President, Chris Guay—to great effect. You can see one here.

How do Facebook Live events work?

Here’s the good news: they’re easy to do! If you have a smartphone, you can conduct Facebook Live events for any Facebook page where you’re an admin or editor. You can also go live from a desktop equipped with a web cam (and, again, for pages you’re an admin or editor).

From there, it’s a matter of simply hitting the “go live” or “start live video” buttons/prompts. But we recommend doing a couple of private videos first, just to get comfortable.

Note: we know being “on camera” can be nerve racking for people. No one is expecting Meryl Streep or Brad Pitt. What we all want right now is a real person speaking real, unvarnished truths. If you stumble or um or ah at times—IT’S OK.

Need further guidance on how to get going? Check out the following resources:

We’ll wait here while you check ’em out. Then, come back for tips on what YOU should be talking about regarding your senior living community and COVID-19.

Who should do Facebook Live events?

Executive directors are a good choice. And yes, we get the executive directors might not WANT to do it, but it makes sense for them to be the “face” of your community. But it doesn’t need to simply be the EDs. You could also have your Wellness Director, Facilities Director, Activities Director, and so forth host their own Facebook Live videos and talk about the specifics related to their role/department.

For example, here’s Vitality’s Regional Vice President of Wellness. This video currently has over 2000 views and 25 shares—that’s excellent engagement!

How often should you do them?

The pandemic is changing daily, sometimes hourly. Right now, it might make sense to do regular “briefings” (ideally at the same time every day—don’t forget, most of us are stuck at home, so you’ll have a captive audience).

But as the situation improves, you could move to a few times a week. Here’s the thing: because Facebook Live is such a great way to connect with people and communicate about your brand, you might discover that you want to continue doing these events long after the pandemic is over.

What should you talk about?

Use this “all eyes on you” opportunity to reframe some of the scarier messages that are out there about COVID-19 and senior living communities. Yes, older people are vulnerable to COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean every senior living community on the planet has become a death trap.

Instead, educate viewers regarding the following items…

  • The current status in your community; be transparent about any cases and how your community is responding; if you DON’T have any cases, LEAD WITH THIS.
  • How your community handles social distancing.
  • How residents are still living full lives during these unprecedented times
  • What you know, what you don’t know (no one knows everything about this situation, and it’s OK to say that—honesty is paramount here)
  • Protocols in place for cleaning/disinfecting.
  • Walk-throughs of certain areas—show that you’re well-stocked with toilet paper and food; people like seeing these visual reassurances.
  • Happy, positive stories, such as milestone birthdays, anniversaries, and so forth.
  • The measures your community takes every day to create a place that supports older adults in living rich, purposeful lives in a healthy, safe environment.
  • When appropriate (and with permission, of course!) include an occasional live event with a senior and let them talk about how they’re dealing with things; for example, if your community is encouraging residents to Skype their loved ones, you could do a Facebook Live that shows a resident doing Skyping in the background.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. No doubt, as you continue to get comfortable and do more videos, you’ll come up with other topics. Not to mention, people will post questions during your videos. Be sure to address them—either during the live event itself or in a future Facebook Live video.

What else can you do with the Facebook Live videos?

 Here’s the real beauty of these broadcasts—you do them live, but then they’re saved on your Facebook page (in the Videos tab) so people can watch them on demand.

Here’s what you can do with the videos:

  • Send out a daily/weekly email with a link to the video and a reminder about when you’ll be broadcasting next.
  • Share the video link on other social media channels, like Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • Keep a “library” of video links on your COVID-19 page/section on your site. (You have one, right?)

Need help getting started with Facebook Live?

We’re always happy to help you shine! You can test drive some videos on us and/or ask us for talking points if you’re feeling nervous. Don’t hesitate to get in touch.

And be sure to check out our COVID-19 resource library—everything is free to download.

How to Write a Great Senior Living Blog Post

How to Write a Great Senior Living Blog Post

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

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

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

Need ideas for topics? Turn to…

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

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

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

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

3. Mind your grammar, spelling, and punctuation!

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

4. Watch your tone.

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

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

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

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

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

6. Consider hiring a professional writer.

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

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

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

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

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

8. Measure results.

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

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

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

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

Need help with blogging?

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

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

The Benefits of a Senior Living Blog & Premium Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Need fresh ideas for your blog or premium content?

Let’s brainstorm together for 30 minutes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Compelling Content Written for Humans First.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Speed, Baby!

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

4. Site Security.

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

5. Mobile Responsiveness.

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

6. Google My Business Listings.

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

7.  Listings on Other Sites with Authority.

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

8. Oldies, But Goodies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Magic of Higher Funnel Thinking Webinar

The Magic of Higher Funnel Thinking Webinar

Here’s what you’ll learn: 

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

Evaluating Your Senior Living Website: Expert Tips

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

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

THE BUYER’S JOURNEY

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

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

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

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

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

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

LOOK AND FEEL

Does senior living website design say 2020 or 1999?

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

Does the site render well/correctly on various devices?

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

Does the site design work for your audience?

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

Does the site design SPEAK to your audience?

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

Is the website navigation simple and clear?

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

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

TECHNICAL STUFF

Is your site optimized for search?

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

Is the site fast?

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

Is the site secure?

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

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

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

Do you need to change hosting companies?

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

CONTENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you offer plenty of ungated content that demonstrates expertise?

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

ANALYTICS & RESULTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Top 3 Things That Senior Living Prospects Want from Their Online Experience

The Best Senior Living Websites Give Prospects What They Want

Let’s discuss strategies for creating the best senior living websites, shall we?

According to a study by Acquia, 90% of prospects report that the brands they are researching fail to meet their expectations of a good customer experience. What are they looking for? These three things: convenience, greater personalization, and regular interactions.

What’s even worse is this: 63% of consumers report that they will abandon a brand if the online experience is poor.

So how can senior living brands meet prospects’ expectations as people search online? Below we review each area—convenience, greater personalization, and regulation interactions—and provide hints and pro tips for improving each one on your senior living website.

1. Convenience.

senior-living-conversions

Convenience means that when a prospect lands on your website, they understand what you do and who you serve. Plus, they have choices in how to explore your site to find the information that they’re looking for. On average, prospects take 8 seconds to decide if your website is worthy of their time—or if they should move on.

The best thing you can do is make sure your website navigation is clear and intuitive—and that it meets the many different needs that prospects have.

Hint: The top navigation should include the following:

  • Locations. And if there are multiple states, communities should be organized by state first and then city/ town.
  • Lifestyles. Include hover-overs/drop downs to represent the care levels you offer (e.g., independent living, assisted living, etc.).
  • Resources. Offer un-gated content (like your blog) and premium content that requires a form in order to get the goods (like guides, infographics, and tips).

Your site should also have plenty of calls-to-action (CTAs). On the home page especially, you should have two to three CTAs for prospects to choose how they can engage with you, such as Download Our Brochure (a pdf from the website), Schedule a Tour, and Click to Call (with tracking number).

  • Pro Tip: Grab a timer, pull up your website and your competitors’ sites, and set the timer for 8 seconds. In that time, is it easy to tell what you do and who you serve? Is it easy for people to find their way around? How does the experience on your website compare to that of your competitors?

2. Personalization.

Senior Living Personalization

Prospects are looking for a personalized experience. The brands that strive to understand each prospect as an individual—and then customize the journey to the individual—will win. Keep in mind that 87% of all prospects will visit your website before they ever pick up the phone, so the personalization must start at your website.

Hint: Use marketing automation technology, such as HubSpot, to track prospect behavior on your website (e.g., number of visits, pages viewed, content downloaded, and email opens/ clicks) so you can enroll them in custom workflows based on their interests.

Strategically insert persona, stage, and motivation questions on all forms/landing pages. For example, if a prospect wants to download a brochure, ask them who they are inquiring for (self, parent, spouse, etc.) and what is most important to them in finding the right community (e.g., lifestyle/amenities; affordability/cost; socialization; access to healthcare). Then, create separate journeys for each.

  • Pro Tip: A high-performing website gathers information about persona/role (the adult daughter responds to different messaging than the adult son); understands the stage for each prospect (awareness, consideration, or decision); offers resources for each stage to keep prospects engaged throughout their journey; and uses this information to provide the right content/information to the right prospect at the right time.

3. Regular Interactions.

Senior Living Interactions

The majority (90%) of senior living website visitors are in the awareness stage, so it is important to create ways to keep them engaged and advance them along their journey.

At the beginning of their research, they will be interested in the basics: cost, services and amenities, activities, etc. Interactive surveys and blog posts/guides discussing financial scenarios, senior living overview, and family decisions work well in this stage.

In the consideration stage, prospects begin to explore floor plans, virtual tours, and reviews, so blogs and guides related to finding the right community, home vs. community pros & cons, and downsizing tips are valuable at this stage.

In the decision stage, most prospects are in direct communication with the sales team, but the website can support this stage with helpful items like packing lists and transitional topics.

Hint: Call Senior Living SMART for a website audit to find your best opportunities to improve website traffic and lead conversion.

  • Pro Tip: Create a content calendar with topics and keywords related to each prospect stage. Hire a professional copywriter! (And remember: you get what you pay for in that department.) Link all blogs to a piece of premium content, such as a guide, tip sheet, or infographic—gate it (put the item behind a form) so you can turn anonymous blog readers into contacts that you nurture.

Interested in learning more strategies for exceeding prospects’ expectations?

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

Senior Living Sales Tips: Characteristics of Super Star Sales Talent

Senior Living Sales Tips: Characteristics of Super Star Sales Talent

The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) reported that assisted living occupancy reached a new low last quarter (Q2-2019).

If you operate an assisted living facility (or other type of senior living community), what can you do to remain competitive and boost occupancy? You can’t change your location, product, or competitors. You probably don’t want to turn over the management team or cut rate. You might even think you have the best community (your competitors probably think the same thing). You say that you care more, that you have the best team, that you are resident-focused, just like everyone else says.

How can you improve your sales conversions?

Well, for one thing, you need a super star sales counselor, and they are a rare breed. But if you know what to look for, you might just be able to find one in the wild. Here are the five top characteristics of the best senior living sales talent.

1. They See Prospects as Real People.

Unfortunately, too many sales people in our industry treat prospects as a commodity. These sales folks tend to take the position of “subject expert.” They want to be right, and they believe they have heard it all before. They perceive prospects as numbers and assign them a value: top 10, hot, warm, cold, or future. This value assignment drives their effort and engagement. Their approach is to talk prospects into the community, and they often use fear and manipulation to create urgency.

You want to avoid this type of sales “talent” at all costs.

Because the greatest sales people seek to understand the prospect’s wants, needs, and goals. Solving the problem on behalf of the prospect is their biggest concern—and they are passionate that they have the best solution. This dedication to the prospect drives their engagement.

2. They Sell Value, Not Features.

After listening to thousands of mystery shops, it’s clear that too many sales people still approach interactions as a transaction. They spend most of the time talking, listing every feature, and hoping something will stick.

Great sales people spend time developing rapport with the prospects. In other words, they take a relational approach. They listen and reflect back what they hear to demonstrate that they care about the prospect. This builds enough trust to empower the prospect to open up and communicate their needs and goals. After this, the sales person can focus on personalizing the value of their community to each individual prospect.

3. They Are Respectfully Persistent.

Rejection is common in sales since more prospects will say “no” rather than “yes.” Most sales people give up after a couple of attempts because they are uncomfortable with rejection. But what these sales folks don’t understand is that it often takes multiple attempts simply to connect and build rapport. Still, these sales people would rather focus on the new leads and hot leads rather than nurture the leads that aren’t ready yet.

The greatest sales counselors understand that most prospects are stressed and emotionally exhausted. The best sales counselors know it takes multiple attempts to engage and build trust. They focus on what they can do and they are politely persistent in staying connected. They do not take rejection personally because they understand that when someone is making an emotional decision, the path is rarely linear.

These sales folks also embrace technology that can help nurture these “not ready” leads over time. They work with marketing to make sure relevant lead nurturing workflows are set up that will resonate with different buyer personas.

4. They Are Not Afraid of Silence.

Super star sales counselors leave space for silence to give prospects time to process the information. This type of sales person wants to hear what’s important to the prospect (or what the prospect is questioning).

In an interview, I always ask why the candidate thinks they will be successful in a sales role. The interview is over when they say, “I’m a good talker!” This type of sales person will not do well in an emotional selling environment because they will make the conversation about them, rather than about the prospect. Instead, I always perk up if the job candidate says, “I’m a good listener. I hear what people are saying and can respond accordingly.”

5. They Embrace Follow Up – Creatively, Personally, and Energetically!

It takes energy, effort, and optimistic persistence to continue to follow up with prospects over the course of their sales journey. Prospects inquire, go dark, re-engage, and change direction throughout the process. Most sales people work the hot leads and new leads because they are only interested in closing sales in the next 30 days—they’re not thinking about the long game.

Super stars realize they need to keep the pipeline full with leads at every stage of their journey. They meet them where they are and stay in touch throughout the sales cycle – without any strings attached. Super stars drop off dinner, write a personal note (yes, handwritten!), leave a plant with a note on a doorstep, and/or send a book they know will help. When they leave a voicemail, it’s to let the prospect know they are thinking of them, not just “checking in” for an update.

Bottom line: When it comes to filling your community with super star sales talent, hire for heart first. You can always train them on specific skills as they go along.