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Marketing Strategies for Senior Living: The Marketing Hourglass

When it comes to effective marketing strategies for senior living, we follow the marketing hourglass, which our friends at Duct Tape Marketing developed.

The marketing hourglass involves seven important steps: Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Retain, and Refer. This differs from the classic marketing and sales “funnel” approach, which typically involves Awareness, Consideration, and Purchase.

Duct Tape Marketing contends that the funnel ignores an important fact: that happy customers are often your best tools when it comes to lead generation and referral generation. The hourglass approach, on the other hand, takes customers into account (especially in the “retain” and “refer” steps).

Let’s break down the seven steps so you can apply them to your marketing strategies for senior living . . .

Step #1: KNOW

Basically, can people find you? If you operate a senior living community in Dallas, Texas, and someone in Dallas searches on “senior living near me” or “senior living Dallas,” will your community’s website come up on the first page of Google? If the answer is yes, great. If the answer is no (or you’re not sure), then you’ve got some work to do!

For your community to be “known,” you need to create a highly secure and highly optimized digital presence. This includes doing the following (at the very least):

  • Make sure your site is optimized with relevant keyword phrases. You want to use keyword phrases that your ideal prospects are searching on. (This requires research and know-how.) Then, you want to use these phrases naturally throughout your site, both on the page itself and in the meta data (the title tag and meta description).
  • Make sure your site has SSL security. How to tell? Call up your senior living website in a browser and look at the URL. Do you see a warning that says it’s “not secure”? Google penalizes sites that don’t have SSL security, meaning you’re less likely to rank well in organic search.
  • Make sure your site is optimized for mobile devices. More and more people (yes, even seniors) conduct searches on their phones or tablets. Your site needs to automatically “respond” to different devices (and screen sizes). Again, if your site isn’t built for mobile, Google will penalize you.
  • Make sure you site is speedy. It needs to load quickly! This is critical for the user experience (no one likes watching an endless pinwheel while a page loads). Again, Google takes note of slow sites as well. Incorrectly sized photos, bloated and unnecessary code, and big videos can slow down sites.
  • Make sure your Google My Business listing is up to date. Google cares about Google products. Google consistently serves up Google My Business listings when people search for things, particularly physical locations, like senior living communities. Consider your Google My Business listing as a mini website. Apply the same level of care you would on your main site. Include updated contact info, compelling text, great images and videos, and lots of reviews.

Step #2: LIKE

Once prospects find your senior living website, what happens next? Keep in mind that people have only so much patience when it comes to websites. If they don’t see what they’re looking for within a few seconds, they WILL bounce off your site—and go to a competitor’s site.

To encourage website “stickiness,” make sure . . .

  • The website navigation is clear and intuitive. Make it easy for people to work their way through the site. Keep in mind you’ll be dealing with older eyes. Think larger fonts and good color contrasts.
  • The keyword-phrase that brought people to the page is relevant and fully “dealt” with in the copy. For example, if someone landed on a page about “senior living community prices in Dallas,” the page better thoroughly deal with that topic and deliver the goods. (Rule of thumb: each page of your site should have one main keyword-phrase focus.)
  • The design is welcoming . . . and authentic. DON’T USE STOCK IMAGES. If someone is doing research on senior living communities in Dallas, chances are good they will see the same tired and unoriginal stock images on multiple sites. Don’t let your site be one of them. Invest in custom photography that highlights your community—and that helps people remember it.
  • The website is truly helpful. Make sure the site has a Resources section, contact info at the top of every page, and, ideally, some sort of Live Chat function so people can get answers right away.

Step #3: TRUST

You’ve lured prospects to your site. Now, you need to build trust. A variety of “trust signals” exist. The best websites will use a combination.

  • Both text-based and (ideally) videos of real people talking about how much they love your community. (A combo of residents and staff can work well! A happy staff indicates a happy place, too!)
  • Relevant logos for any awards, recognitions, certifications. Your website—particularly the home page—is a great place to highlight “best of” and other awards.
  • In-depth resources that you offer for free. Position your community as the go-to place for information about senior living in your area. Offer educational content on hot topics like financing, how to move, checklists for evaluating options, resources for family members, and so forth.
  • A clear and compelling “team” and/or management page. Prospects want to get a sense of the people behind the scenes. Supply warmly written bios and photos that capture the people who bring your community to life.
  • Relevant info about COVID-19. For the immediate future, you need to have information front-and-center about how your community is navigating COVID-19. And guess what? This section isn’t static. It NEEDS to change to reflect what’s going on in your community. (Hint: Check out our free resource on how to market your senior living community during a pandemic.)

Step #4: TRY

Today’s prospects expect websites to be interactive. Yours should provide opportunities for prospects to “try” out your community so they can picture themselves or their loved ones living there.

  • Offer virtual room builders/floor plans. Room builders allow people to get a sense of space and décor. In addition, they help people envision how their belongings would work in the space.
  • Offer “on demand” tours. In this case, we’re referring to a tour you’ve recorded on video. While being able to experience a community in person is always preferable, it’s not always possible—due to things like COVID-19 or even location. If someone in Boston wants to get a feel for your community in Florida, an on-demand tour or other virtual event can help.
  • Let people download menus and activity calendars. It’s one thing to tell people about everything your community offers. It’s a whole other thing to allow them to see a breakdown on a real day-to-day calendar.
  • Make it easy for people to access your YouTube channel, Facebook, Instagram. Your social media channels are a great place to go “behind the scenes” in your community. While professionally shot videos and pictures are great for your site, your social channels can house the candid shots and videos (which often come across as more authentic and relatable anyway).
  • Allow people to schedule tours (in-person or virtual) directly on your site at a day/time that’s convenient for them. This empowers the prospect and eliminates unnecessary back-and-forth between a sales rep and the prospect.

Step #5: BUY

You need to make it easy for prospects to buy from you. Now, we know what you might be thinking: “If someone wants to buy into our senior living community, all they need to do is talk to a sales rep.”

But that’s not how most people buy today. People do their homework first (as we described above). For senior living especially, prospects also try to self-qualify by researching and requesting pricing.

So ask yourself: How transparent is your senior living website when it comes to things like pricing, financing options, and so forth? Even if you don’t list pricing, you need to ADDRESS pricing so that people have a sense of ranges—and an understanding about what’s included. Then, beyond that, how easy is the overall buying process when someone does indeed want to buy?

Focus on the following:

  • Evaluate your website from a “I’m ready to buy now” perspective. Is there an area that clearly addresses the buying process soup to nuts? Bottom line: you want to enable prospects to buy from you.
  • Audit the overall buying process from start to finish. Begin with the moment someone says “Yes, I want to move in.” How easy is it to make a deposit? What happens next? Do you offer transitional services? Have you streamlined paperwork? Do you provide move-in checklists and downsizing tips?

Step #6: RETAIN

A prospect who becomes a happy resident will be your best form of advertising going forward. So the question is, how do you keep your residents happy?

  • Make sure you have programs in place designed specifically for new residents and their families. Think welcome kits, orientations, and “meet your neighbors” events that help new residents acclimate.
  • Conduct surveys. We recommend doing surveys two weeks after move-in. Why? Because 17% of all move-outs happen in the first 30 days! If you can get feedback/insight into how new residents are acclimating (or not), you and your team can identify any issues and (hopefully!) address them before someone decides to move out.

Note: The insights you gather during the “retain” step can inform your marketing and sales efforts. For example, use positive quotes from surveys and highlight them on your website.

Step #7: REFER

Did you know resident and family referrals have a 30 – 35 % closing rate? (For comparison, third-party leads close at 3 – 6 %).

  • Make sure you have an easy system in place for soliciting referrals from residents and their family members. One idea: “I’ve just moved!” postcards that you supply as part of your welcome kit to new residents. Encourage them to send these to their friends.
  • Make it easy for residents and their family members to review your community. In addition to referrals, the words of real residents can be incredibly compelling. Encourage people to leave reviews on your Google My Business page and via social media.

5 Strategies for Powerful Senior Living Branding

Marketing jargon like “branding” can often sound equal parts mysterious and intimidating. But effective senior living branding doesn’t have to be either.

1. First, make sure you understand what a brand is.

An effective brand evokes a reaction in people whenever they come across the company’s name. They might get excited (Game of Thrones!). Or hungry (Krispy Kreme!). Or nostalgic (Fun Dip or Pop Rocks!).

Bottom line: Effective branding will make people feel. HOW they feel very much depends on the experience you deliver to them—or that people have heard you deliver.

For example, if you’ve never eaten at Awesome Pizza Shop, but you’ve heard your friends ooh and ahh about the food, the prices, and the customer service, you’ll likely have a very positive reaction to the brand even though you haven’t experienced it yourself yet. That’s the power of branding.

2. Develop accurate and insightful buyer personas.

Before you can develop an effective brand that delivers the type of experience your ideal prospect craves, you need to understand your ideal prospect first. We accomplish this through persona development.

Don’t rush this process. Taking the time to understand and develop your buyer personas will help you develop a brand that accurately reflects your community and truly resonates with people.

The ONLY way you can develop an accurate senior living persona is by talking to . . .

  • Real residents (and/or the adult children) who chose your community (including those who love the community as well as some who might be disappointed in it)
  • Lost prospects (to discover why they didn’t choose your community)

You can’t rely on your sales and marketing teams to develop the personas on their own. They will (and should) have input, of course. But you need to talk to real people in order to challenge and confirm assumptions. Bottom line: You can’t develop effective senior living branding if you don’t know your ideal buyer inside and out.

3. Choose words, colors, and visuals that reflect and reinforce what you discovered during the persona development process.

If you’re developing a brand for people in their 60s when your ideal persona is 80, your messaging is probably going to be off the mark. If your ideal buyer tends to skew conservative, but you’ve created a brand that has a more progressive tone or feel, it’s not going to resonate.

So, how can you make sure you’re developing messaging and visuals that hit the mark? Share your persona work with your writers and designers. (The best writers and designers will ask you for your persona info; but if they don’t, you should share your key findings.) Learn more about writing and designing for senior living audiences here.

4. Always be authentic and honest.

Which do you think will resonate more with your prospective buyers: images of older adults where everything is posed? Or natural, candid photos of people from your community? Or how about this: Do your personas want to hear cliched stories about the “golden years” or a refreshing take on growing older in your community?

Authenticity can go a long way in helping to create a winning senior living brand. But brand authenticity has to be exactly that—authentic. And remember this: you MUST deliver on your brand promise. If not, you will be called out on it in places like social media and online reviews. And that could damage your brand for the long-term.

In fact, Chief Marketer recommends that you begin your brand development by looking internally to the people who deliver your brand every day—because being “self-aware” is just as important as being honest. For senior living communities, this would include not only your sales and marketing teams, but everyone on the operations side—activities, facilities, dining, health, and so forth.

Chief Marketer says, “Make it a collaborative process, and be sure to include the right people. It’s just as important to hear from customer-facing staff as it is the C-suite. Involve your internal stakeholders early in the process, and empower them to ‘be your brand.'”

5. Be consistent with your senior living branding across all media.

Too often, we see senior living communities do awesome branding work, but they forget to update all marketing and sales channels. Think website, social media, email signatures, collateral materials, business cards, stationery—the list is seemingly endless. And it can get even more complex when you have multiple communities that fall under the same brand umbrella.

Task someone within your marketing team as the “brand manager.” This person will serve as the keeper of the brand, making sure the look and feel and messaging are consistent across all media.

To make their life easier, they should check out SMART Brand and SMART Stores. These solutions will help them manage the brand consistently within the community as well as across multiple locations.

Need help? Choose a marketing agency that "gets" senior living branding.

Honestly, the best thing you can do is partner with an agency that has experience in the senior living industry and experience in branding. Not all marketing agencies do branding, and even fewer have dedicated industry experience in senior living. The good news? At Senior Living SMART, we’ve got deep experience in both. Schedule a complimentary brainstorm session with us today and let’s talk about your community’s brand identity!.

5 Steps to Successfully Managing Your Online Reputation

5 Steps to Successfully Managing Your Online Reputation

According to Google, 70% of Americans online say they use reviews before converting to customers. A Harvard Business School Study found something they call The Yelp Effect. According to their study published in 2011, “A one-star increase in Yelp rating leads to a 5-9 percent increase in revenue.”

The senior living industry lags behind most other industries in creating and managing a strong online and social media presence. Online review sites will force an increase in awareness and action in ensuring that their communities are positively represented.

Here are some quick tips to pro-actively manage your online reputation:

  1. Review & Enhance – check out all of your online profiles for accuracy and utilize all available opportunities to provide content. Photos continue to be the most viewed components and virtual tours are also very effective.
  2. You can’t manage what you can’t see–get online and read reviews of your community. Check out Senior Advisor at https://www.SeniorAdvisor.com and Caring.com at https://www.caring.com, also Google Maps as well as Google, Yahoo! and Bing Places pages. (Whether you know it or not, your senior living community has a listing on all these sites.)
  3. Engage & Respond–regardless of the positive or negative content of the review. The more comments and responses that are posted about a community the greater the increase in revenue. Keep your tone positive and conversational, never defensive. A bad review is not the end of the day, as long as there are some positive reviews that put it in perspective and provide balance.
  4. Respond quickly–If there is a pattern of negative comments, respond quickly to address the issue. One negative review can be neutralized by counter balancing positive reviews, but there will be major damage control needed for unresolved complaints
  5. Be pro-active–encourage reviews throughout the resident’s stay. After a prospect chooses your community, send a link to review sites and ask them to comment about why they chose your community. After a successful resident and family event, a great state survey or nomination to a local “Best Of” award, reach out an provide links to online review opportunities. Post the best reviews on your website, acknowledge the review site and provide a link back to improve SEO.

The bottom line is that your families and prospects are already talking about you so now is the time to listen, respond, and join the conversation.


Free Download

The case for online reviews goes stronger by the day. Customers are increasingly searching online and referring to reviews before making a purchasing decision.

Members can download the ‘Why Online Reviews Matter’ tipsheet, or non-members may download the resource by filling out form in the link below: