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

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

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

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

1. 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 senior living website, the better. And that’s precisely what premium content and 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, though, 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, and 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, while 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. So many have to do with finances, right? Instead of doing quick hits on an FAQs page (which you should still have as a go-to resource), a blog or some other piece of premium content can allow you the space to give a more detailed answer.

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, the vibe you put “out there,” 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, it’s real, and it tackles the stuff that’s in the back of so many people’s heads yet so many sites skirt around in lieu of pictures of seniors sipping wine in the community’s pub.

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!

The Marketing Agency Trap in Senior Living

The Senior Living Marketing Agency Trap

We are a senior living marketing agency. Over the years, we’ve worked with marketing agencies, and weve hired marketing agencies at various times throughout our growth. This gives us a unique perspective on the pros and cons of the typical marketing agency model. 

Here are some of the lessons weve learned about the agency world. 

Lesson #1: Be Wary of the Ol’ Bait & Switch.

Too often, a strategic leader in the marketing agency will woo you, but the minute the deal closes, they disappear.

That’s a big problem because the greatest value provided by an industry-specific marketing agency is in the development of the strategy. If you don’t have a sound marketing strategy, nothing else matters.

On a couple of occasions in our earlier years, we were “sold” by a charismatic and strategic agency leader with great insights and ideas. But after we signed the contract, we never saw or spoke to that person again.

Pro Tip: Before you sign the contract, learn how often the strategic leader will be joining results calls and strategy sessions.  (They should be involved at least quarterly.) Make sure you have this point outlined in the contract. Psst: When you work with Senior Living SMART, you always get one of us—the founders—on your team.

Lesson #2: Remember, You Get What You Pay For.

In the world of marketing agencies, the budget you’re willing to spend will determine the experience and quality of the team assigned.

Only clients with the largest budget will get the A Team. Agencies employ marketing specialists with a wide variety of experience levels from entry level on up. This means, you may end up with a B, C, or D team based on your spend.

Pro Tip: Before you sign the contract, find out all you can about the people on your marketing “team.” This should include their professional marketing experience, how long they’ve been with the agency, and what other senior living clients they’ve worked with. You can learn all about our senior living marketing team here.

Lesson #3: Make Sure Your Brand is NEVER Held Hostage.

Read your marketing agency contract carefully and be sure that you own your content and brand elements! We’ve worked with senior living clients who’ve discovered their agency would not release their logos, images, and creative files to them. In essence, the agency was basically holding the brand hostage.

Pro Tip: Always retain the original art files, brand guidelines, logos, and images you purchase. And have an attorney double check your contract before signing.

Lesson #4: Be Skeptical of Too Many Trade Secrets.

In the course of delivering a great digital marketing experience, agencies will employ multiple technologies for analytic and diagnostic purposes. Most will “white label” these resources so they can retain the licenses and own the marketing “secrets.”

This might be OK while you’re working with the agency. But in the future, you might want to transfer the licenses to yourself or another agency—and you shouldn’t have to lose your historical data in order to do so. Here are some examples where the data and analytics can really pile up: marketing automation software, reputation management, social sharing platforms, SEO, and heat mapping tools.

Pro Tip: Before signing the contract, get a list of all tools and technologies that will be used to manage your account and be sure there is a process to transfer all licenses to you or your next agency.

Lesson #5: Your Agency’s Idea of “Success” Doesn’t Match Yours.

We worked with marketing agencies that were always excited to report their wonderful results in reaching various goals. The problem? Their goals were NOT our goals.

Goal setting should be collaborative and realistic. Don’t be fooled by the fluff reporting of impressions, views, clicks, and website traffic. In the senior living industry, the best measurements of success are conversions-to-leads, tours, and move-ins.

Pro Tip: Ask about reporting up front. What will be measured? What are the sources of truth? How will ROI be determined?

Learn from our lessons and avoid these mistakes!

And if you’re looking for a marketing agency that works exclusively in the senior housing and care industry, we’d love to chat. Click here to schedule a 30-minute brainstorming session.

Inbound Marketing: Your Best Employee Recruitment Tool

Inbound Marketing: Your Best Employee Recruitment Tool

In today’s job market, the candidates have the upper hand. We know that 95 percent of the people that companies want to hire for critical roles are not actually looking for a job. As a result, companies are competing for the best candidates. In order to effectively vie for great talent, you need the right tools.

As part of their recruitment strategy, many companies are using outbound marketing. This involves reaching out to potential candidates through job postings, paid advertising, or a third-party recruiter.

But today’s recruitment efforts need a more advanced strategy—one that you’re likely already using to attract residents: inbound marketing.

With inbound marketing, you create content that attracts new prospects to your company. From there, you can engage with them and determine if they’re the right fit. It’s an opportunity to establish a dialogue with passive and active job seekers, create a unique candidate experience, and build relationships with top talent.

Here are five quick ways to get started with inbound marketing as a recruitment tool:

1. Define Your Objectives

Before you start, decide on which positions you are trying to attract. Do you want to focus on executive level and above? Or do you also want to also use inbound marketing to source your nursing and care staff?

2. Define the Candidate “Persona”

Once you know which roles you want to recruit for, you also have to determine the characteristics that you are looking for in your ideal candidate. You should start with educational background, previous experience, and any technical requirements (licensure, software knowledge, etc.) that you may want in a candidate. Then dig a little deeper. Look at employees who are successful in their roles and identify traits and skills that help them prosper.

3. Define Your Culture

Think about your company culture. How do you define success in your company? What are the company non-negotiables when it comes to character and performance? What are the top 10 words you would use to define your culture?

4. Create “Hooks”

According to Career Builder, 75% of job seekers start their search on Google. So you should create search-friendly content that will attract the ideal candidates to your site (which is one of the reasons you develop the candidate personas).

Content can include why you are the best company to work for, associate testimonial videos, and educational info. Find the best channels to connect with your prospective candidate. This could be Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, You Tube, as well as industry sites.

Get creative where you share this content. Based on chats with your current successful employees, is there anything that most have in common? For example, maybe most are members of the local YMCA. If that’s the case, see if you can conduct an informal job fair there or post some info about open positions on the Y’s bulletin boards.

5. Create Opportunities to Build Relationships

Applying for a job is an investment. Today’s candidates want to know more about the company culture and role before they commit to the process. If a candidate isn’t ready to apply, create opportunities to engage them and develop a relationship. Give them opportunities to learn more about your company. This can be done with additional educational content, blog content, company resources, or signing up for a “keep in touch” newsletter.

It often takes many touch points to influence a decision, so invest the time in these relationships now to reap future rewards.

Learn more in this webinar: Inbound Marketing: Your Secret Weapon In Winning the Recruitment Game →

Senior Living Employee Recruitment: Tips for Attracting Great People

Senior Living Employee Recruitment: Tips for Attracting Great People

Question: Do you know the top five reasons a candidate would want to work for your senior living community?

If you don’t know the answer, start thinking about it. Because understanding why your company is a great place to work will help you attract great staff.

It’s no secret that it’s a competitive hiring market in senior living. Many companies are vying for the same candidates, from care staff to executive directors. So when you find a candidate you like, how do you convince them that they should work for you? You have to market your community to potential job candidates with the same intensity you market to prospects.

Which is why knowing the top five reasons candidates would want to work at your community is a great way to engage prospective employees and stand out from the crowd.

How do you come up with your list? Start by asking your current employees why they work for you and what they like about their job, the community, their co-workers, their managers, and even the residents. You’ll probably get some valuable feedback and great insights into why staff members stay with your community.

When you’re talking to job candidates, share these insights with them and ask which one is most important. Then, talk about that particular topic in more depth. For example, if a collaborative workplace culture is important, show them the ways your community and team foster this sort of environment.

Senior Living Sales: It Doesn't Have to Be Like "Groundhog Day"

Senior Living Sales: It Doesn’t Have to Be Like “Groundhog Day”

I sometimes miss working on the operations side of senior living, so much so that I’ll do occasional sales trainings and coaching projects to stay sharp. Whenever I dip my toes back into sales, the thing that surprises me most is this: marketing is like The Jetsons – innovative and exciting. Sales, however, is still like that Bill Murray classic: Groundhog Day. It’s as though time has stood still over the last 15 years as sales reps continue to struggle with the basics.

So let’s change that for good, shall we? Here are some ways to improve the sales process and results.

1. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Look at your community through prospects’ eyes and be honest about the basics. Start with the experience of arriving at the community. Can you improve the locations, landscaping, and visibility of signage (even at night)? Will zoning allow you to add feather banners or A-frames? Is there dedicated parking reserved for tours near the front door or are prospects circling endlessly? Is the landscaping inviting year-round? Is the outdoor furniture clean and arranged?

These small details can make a huge difference between your tour arriving relaxed and feeling welcome or stressed out and frustrated.

Bonus tip: Personalize your tour parking signage to add the names of expected guests so there will be a parking spot with their name on it.

2. Create a sense of belonging.

Prospects are typically looking at four to six communities. And let’s face it: most communities are very similar in design, services, and amenities. Prospects make decisions emotionally, which means you must build a strong sense of belonging from the minute they walk through your door. This starts with planning the visit to incorporate their life story, preferences, wants, needs, motivations, and non-negotiables.

Spending time as a team to plan every step of the visit will pay off with higher conversions. The better the discovery call, the better the planning and conversions. It takes the whole team to create a sense of belonging. For example, be sure the front desk is notified of all visits and has all the information they need to personalize their greeting. Also, provide notification to the line staff so they can participate more personally in the tour – and reward them when they do a great job!

 

 

 

Bonus tip: Use our turnkey “Red Carpet Tour” kit with all the resources needed to plan and execute the perfect tour.

3. It’s a $100,000 lifetime value sale, so why is there Styrofoam?

It now costs an average of $1200 to get a family to tour. This is an emotional decision and families will be sharing personal concerns, so setting up a hospitality suite with refreshments is a must. Conference rooms and offices are not conducive to sensitive and personal conversations.

And let’s get rid of Styrofoam, paper cups, and plastic cups and plates once and for all! The average resident lifetime value is usually greater than $100,000, so let’s roll out the glassware and china. Please use name-brand beverages. Store brand and generic brands shout “cheap.”

Bonus tip: Here is everything you need to create an inviting hospitality suite.

4. Location of the model apartment is critical.

I can’t tell you how many times I find the model apartment at the farthest end of the building. Why? So the maintenance department will not have to move it! The result? By the time the family gets to the model, they are already questioning if their loved one will be able to manage due to physical or memory deficits.

Always think of your prospect first—and what will be convenient to them. Ideally, the model apartments should be located in proximity to the hospitality suite. The model apartment should engage all senses: lights on, music playing, scented plug-ins, soft fabrics, and refreshments available. This is a place to linger, so have calendars, newsletters, floor plans, and menus out to create meaningful conversations.

Bonus tip: Use this model apartment checklist to see if your models are up to snuff! (download model apartment checklist)

5. Goodbyes and Advances.

Once the visit is wrapping up, it’s time to get a commitment to advance the relationship. This will be different for each prospect based on their unique situation. For earlier stage leads, a home visit, luncheon, or upcoming event may work best. For those closer to making a decision, a deposit, assessment, or re-tour with other decision-makers would be appropriate. Giving prospects something special is a memorable way to part ways, so consider having a swag collection available so you can find the right gift for each prospect. I recommend having dog/cat treats, teas/coffees, mugs, candies, small books etc. so I can find just the right gift for each prospect.

Bonus tip: Walk all tours out to their car to end the visit with a personal gesture.

Try free samples of our Red Carpet Tour kit!

Execute the perfect tour with planning tools, including forms, signs, staff recognition & post-tour gifts and followup resources.

Changes to the Veterans Pension with Aid & Attendance Benefit

Changes to the Veterans Pension with Aid & Attendance Benefit

The Veterans Pension Aid & Attendance Benefit, commonly called Aid and Attendance, is for veterans and their surviving spouses. Some important changes and updates happened in October 2018.

We interviewed Patty Servaes, founder of Elder Resource Benefits Consulting, a VA accredited agent and expert on the VA Pension. Here’s what you need to know about the changes:

Q: What are the major changes to the qualification and approval process for the Aid & Attendance benefit for veterans and their surviving spouses?

A: The big change everyone is talking about is the three-year “look back” for assets transferred or annuities purchased after October 17, 2018. If a veteran purchases an annuity or transfers an asset and then applies for the benefit, the VA will add any transfer made after October 17, 2018, back to their assets when determining if total assets are less than $127,061.

This change is fantastic for those folks in their 80s and 90s who were failing the life expectancy test for assets. People who had in excess of $100,000 but less than the new asset limit (and who thought they needed to wait to have assets below $80,000) were able to file with confidence on October 18, 2018.

As of October 18, 2018, if veterans and their surviving spouses are living in independent or assisted living or a nursing home and they have a primary home they wish to rent, the VA will not count the house as an investment, but will keep it excluded as their primary home. While the rental income will count as income, the exclusion of the home as an asset will allow families to maximize the earning potential of the home to pay for care while retaining the home for later sale or inheritance by the veteran’s heirs. I think this will result in more veterans aging in place.

Unfortunately, with the addition of the three-year “look back,” the VA form that collected financial data has gone from 4-5 pages to 19 pages. When you add in the other forms and supporting documents, most of our applications are now in excess of 40 pages!

Q: How does this impact financial planning tools?

A: Because the VA is adopting the Medicaid Community Spouse Resource Allowance as the assets an applicant can have (which is $127,061 as of Dec. 1, 2018), many applicants will qualify earlier without having to transfer assets—this is a good thing.

For veterans and surviving spouses with assets in excess of $127,061, it’s important to understand how long it will take for their assets to be below the maximum and to realize that transferring assets may keep them out of the pension program longer than waiting for their assets to decline naturally.

Since the primary home doesn’t count, many of our clients qualify the day they contact us. Others pre-pay their funerals and qualify. And still others might just need to wait a few months. And you would be surprised at how many people have no desire to transfer assets in order to qualify for a government program!

Q: What are the most common misunderstandings of this benefit?

A: It’s hard to say what the new myths are going to be after these sweeping changes. I still hear that you can’t get the benefit in independent living—I imagine that myth will continue. Veterans and their surviving spouses rated Aid and Attendance (meaning they need regular supervision or assistance with two activities of daily living) are allowed to use independent living expenses.

I would think that a new myth would be that the look-back period works the same as the Medicaid look-back when in fact it is much more generous.

And of course, I am sure we will continue to see folks who were told they didn’t qualify and they assume that means they won’t ever qualify. The truth is that eligibility changes as medical conditions, income, and assets change over time. It’s not a “yes or no” award, but “if and when.”

Q: Are there any changes to the benefit amount for 2019?

A: Yes, Social Security increased by 2.8% for 2019, and we will see a similar increase for the VA Pension. The VA likes to round down, so these figures might be off a dollar or two, but we are looking at monthly maximum awards for Pension with Aid and Attendance of approximately $1,197 for a surviving spouse, $1,881 for a single veteran, and $2,230 for a married veteran.

Q: Does this benefit still work with independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing?

A: Yes, it does! In fact, it starts with home care and can stay with the veteran through their move to independent living and all the way through skilled nursing as long as they continue to meet the medical, income, and asset criteria. For skilled nursing providers, qualifying patients with a veteran status for the Aid & Attendance benefit may increase the time of private pay status.

Q: It is still possible to get a partial benefit?

A: Absolutely. If an applicant’s income minus home care and residential facility costs leave them with a positive number (known as “Income for VA Purposes”), but one less than the Maximum Pension Benefit, they can receive, approximately, the difference between the Maximum Pension and the calculated Income for VA Purposes figure.

Q: How difficult is it for older adults, families, and community teams to complete the application process?

A: Well, at over 40 pages long, it’s significantly harder than doing your taxes!

Q: How long is your time to award?

A: Our average time to award is fewer than four months, which is significantly less than the 12-18 months the VA tells you to expect.

Q: Why is this benefit so important to senior care and housing providers?

A: The Pension benefit has the ability to significantly increase the buying power of our senior veterans. This allows people to stay in assisted living longer and allows them the peace of mind they need to move into the senior care community of their choice.

Just last week, I was working with a family who thought their 89-year-old dad could never afford assisted living since his income was only $1,500 per month, and he only had $30,000 left in assets. He’s living in Florida and with an estimated assisted living fee of $3,000 a month, he would be out of funds in under two years.

We were able to show them that with the $1,830 in Aid & Attendance benefits per month, he would not have to access his assets to pay for his monthly fee. They could not believe it and called me on Saturday to tell me they had chosen the room with the pond view for him at $3,200, were going to buy him a new couch, and that they hadn’t realized how stressed they had been worrying about how he was going to pay for this care.

Q: How do you assist families and providers with the application, approval, and appeal process?

A: It all starts with a free no-obligation phone call where we assess the medical and financial situation of the veteran or surviving spouse. If the potential claimant resides in a community that advertises on Elder Resource Benefits Consulting website, we assist them pro bono with the analysis and application.

If a resident doesn’t reside in an advertising community, they can hire us privately for a one-time pre-application analysis fee of $800 ($700 for Senior Living SMART members!) and then we assist them pro bono with the VA benefit for the remainder of their life.

Interested in learning more?

Check out Elder Resource Benefits Consulting

Elder Resource Benefits Consulting

Elder Resource Benefits Consulting has been helping families understand the cost of Senior Care since 2005.

Lessons Learned From Doing 100,000 Mystery Shops

Lessons Learned From Doing 100,000 Mystery Shops

Lessons Learned From Doing 100,000 Mystery Shops
An interview with Mike Miller, CEO of Primo Solutions

Senior Living SMART recently interviewed Mike Miller, CEO of Primo Solutions to discuss mind-blowing data gathered from doing over 100,000 mystery shops (phone and in-person) of senior living sales professionals.

Let’s dive into the results.

RESULT: 90% of questions asked by the Sales Counselor are closed-ended questions, which makes it nearly impossible to build rapport.

SLS: What are some of the best open-ended questions that every sales counselor should ask? 

MM: I normally do not provide a list of open-ended questions because it can be different for everyone. However, one of the best questions I love to ask the adult child/family member is this: “When you are not taking care of mom/dad, what are some of the things you enjoy doing?” Not only does this open the door to building rapport with the adult child, but it also puts the sales counselor in a closing posture. Saying that, I am including a list of “Starter Questions” that sales counselors can use to get a conversation started as well as transition through the sales process.

RESULT: 98% of the Sales Counselors talked more than 70% during the entire call.

SLS: How can sales managers train/ coach to improve this?

MM: This can easily be improved by asking more open-ended questions, which force the prospect to answer with more than 1 or 2 words.

SLS: What do they talk about? Is it feature-dumping/ laundry listing?

MM: Yes, it is features dumping. After asking just a couple of questions, most sales counselors jump right into presentation mode. They share everything there is to know about the community. The problem is that they never discovered the true needs (both physical and emotional), so most presentations are not specific to the prospect and that is a huge mistake.

Watch the Recorded Webinar: How To Use Mystery Shops as a Coaching Tool

RESULT: 45% of the time, the prospect was asked to visit the community in the first two minutes of the call. No rapport or discovery was attempted. How do you think this made the prospect feel?

SLS: Are there any stats about how many questions sales counselors typically ask before trying to close for the tour?  

MM: This is a great question and it really does depend on the personality of the sales counselor and the amount of training and coaching they have received. But if I had to put a number on it, I would say they typically ask 4-5 questions. Although asking too few questions is a problem, asking the wrong questions compounds that problem. Most of the questions being asked are questions that qualify or disqualify a prospect from moving into the community.

RESULT: The receptionist asked for the caller’s name only 20% of the time.

SLS: Is this getting worse?

MM: It seems to be getting a little better for those companies who are actually investing in the front-line staff members who answer the phone. However, the industry as a whole is not getting any better. Many times the caller is put on hold and then just transferred to the sales counselor. This one “little” thing can make the difference in creating a good first impression.

SLS: Do you offer training on this?

MM: When we are brought on to conduct sales training for a company, many times the concierge and management is included in the training. However, one does not need professional training to learn how to properly and professionally answer the phone, and then how to handle the call. A little bit of guidance from the ED or sales counselor can go a long ways.

RESULT: 35% of the time, prospects did not get answers to their questions on the first call.

SLS: Why is this?

MM: This statistic is actually derived from call backs. The first time a prospect calls a community, they think they have an idea of what questions to ask and what information they need to gain. However, as we all know, it is an educational process. Sales counselors need to ask questions that lead to an outcome. They need to ask questions to guide the prospect to start thinking about for more than what they called in. However, it normally takes several calls to other communities before they start piecing together the questions they did not even realize they needed to ask. The bottom line is that most of our prospects do not know what questions to ask when they call in. It is the job of the sales counselor to help them identify those questions, needs, and solutions.

Download ‘Questions to Use in the Inquiry Process’ checklist

RESULT: 60% of the Sales Counselors used the brochure as the close. 

SLS: Why? Have they disqualified the caller as not being hot/ urgent enough so they call back to the brochure?

MM: After the initial call, if a tour has not been scheduled, the sales counselor immediately offers to send a brochure. The problem is not the sending of the brochure. The problem is that they are not gaining a commitment to the next step. Perhaps the prospect needs to share the information with a family member, or they need to call a few other communities. There could be a number of reasons why the prospect does not agree to a tour initially. However, there still needs to be a next step, e.g. follow up call.

SLS: Do they not have other options: tour, lunch, event, home visit, support group, etc.?

MM: There are a number of different options. It just depends upon the objection given by the prospect. Many times the sales counselor does not even ask for the close, because they have not earned the right and therefore do not feel comfortable. So, they revert to sending a brochure. I am a firm believer that you need to earn the right to ask for the close. However, even if you have not earned the right, you still ask for the close. The truth is that most sales counselors are not earning the right to ask for the close. So, just ask!

SLS: These statistics obviously show there is a lot of room for improvement in the discovery process. Has anything changed in the last 5 years?

MM: There has been a significant amount of talk about changes in the industry. You cannot attend an industry conference without hearing about changes. The place where I have seen the greatest change is in technology. The problem is that technology is not the fix to creating a sales culture in your organization. This industry requires a sales process that is founded on relationship building principles. We do a good job of talking about these principles, but we do a poor job of implementing them.

SLS: Are there trends that we can learn from?

MM: There are certainly some key trends that we can learn from, and they are not industry specific. The first thing we need to do is invest in our people. When it’s time to reduce budgets, normally the training budget is the first thing cut. This is a huge mistake. A training program that is implemented correctly can create a sales culture, increase closing ratios, and decrease turnover. The second thing we need to do is hold our people accountable. If you make the commitment to invest in them, then make the commitment to hold them accountable. Third, you need to have follow up and follow through measures in place. Training your people once a year will not create any changes. There needs to be ongoing training and coaching. There needs to be tools in place, e.g. mystery shopping, that identifies specific areas of opportunity. Then you reinforce those areas of opportunity with more coaching and training.

The Secret to Incredible Lead Generation: Stop Selling and Start Caring!

Introduce yourself to new concepts and skills that will require you to change your current habits and ways of thinking when it comes to selling senior care.

SLS: What kind of training/ coaching has the best impact on improving skills?

MM: Although there are a number of training processes, I believe we should be using a process that is specific to the senior living industry. Once the sales process has been identified, then you need to ensure specific skill sets are being trained. There is a lot of training out there that tells you what you need to do, but they don’t tell you specifically how to do it. Any trainer can tell you that relationship building is crucial to the sales process, but don’t just tell me – show me. I am not a huge believer in inquiry forms, primarily because the sales counselors are not trained on how to properly use them. The majority of the time, the inquiry form turns the sales process into more of an interview or interrogation. Additionally, since most of these inquiry forms have pretty much the same questions, the prospect is getting asked the same questions regardless of what community they are calling. When a sales counselor asks a question, they should not know what their next question will be until they have heard the answer. The question should be based off the answer because that is how you are going to get below the surface to the emotional level. The inquiry form seems to be more of a hindrance than an assistance.

 SLS: Of the best performers that you have shopped, what are the common characteristics and behaviors that set them apart?

MM: First, they build rapport with the person who is on the phone (normally the adult child). This rarely happens but when it does, it transforms the call completely. Second, the call sounds like they are having a normal conversation with a friend. If they are using an inquiry form, it is certainly disguised by the sales person’s ability to drill down and ask deeper questions. Third, all of the best performers are great listeners. They listen with intent and pick up on key phrases that allow them to dig deeper until they get to an emotional level. Our prospects ask us about the logical things, but they really care about the emotional things.

SLS: Do you ever shop EDs or back up teams/ MOD? Anything we can share about those shops?

MM:  We do have clients that shop their EDs and back up teams. Many clients even conduct phone shops after hours (nights and weekends) to see how the calls are being handled. If you have contact with the prospect, you should be getting shopped. As you can imagine, the EDs and backup teams typically score significantly lower than the sales counselor. The main reason is because they are not provided the necessary training to handle an inquiry. I am not saying they need to master the sales process like your sales counselors, but they need to be armed with enough skills to properly handle the call without losing the lead. Mystery shopping is one of the most cost-effective tools you can invest in that could provide a very large return. If you don’t measure it, you can’t expect it.

Primo Solutions Mystery Shops & Sales Training

Primo Solutions, LLC is a full service Mystery Shopping, Training, Marketing, and Satisfaction Survey company, providing quality follow-up and follow-through measurement tools to evaluate your sales, customer service, and other team members.

content marketing

Using Premium Content to Generate More Leads, Tours, & Move-Ins

Content is king. If used correctly, it will attract and convert website visitors into qualified leads, scheduled tours, and move-ins.

But what content should you create? Most people immediately say “blog posts.” While blogs are a great tool to improve SEO, increase traffic, and engage visitors, you need to do more than simply “blog” if you want to generate leads, tours, and move-ins.

1. Invest in Premium Content

Your site probably has lots of ungated content, meaning people can access it without giving you their info. Your blog posts are examples of ungated content.

But offering premium content—something people can’t get anywhere else that is “gated” behind a form—motivates visitors to give you their contact information in exchange for the valuable content. From there, you can continue to nurture the prospects along their sales journey. So what should the premium content be? Think guides, e-books, “how-to” articles, and checklists.

A good place to promote your premium content is through a call-to-action (CTA) at the end of a blog post (e.g., “Get our free guide on aging well!”). The blog posts are the bait, your prospects are the fish, and the premium content serves as the hook.

Keep in mind that it’s important to have a variety of premium content because prospects will “bite” on different content based on their stage of readiness and interests.

2. Create Stellar Landing Pages

Your landing page is where the premium content “lives.” This the “gate” part in gated content. The landing page should include:

  • An image of the premium content – so work with a graphic designer on a beautiful cover!
  • A compelling description of what the prospect will learn – so work with a copywriter!
  • A form to gather contact information in exchange for receiving the content. If you want to be sure to gather real emails, distribute the content to prospects via email rather than direct download.

Don’t overwhelm prospects with too many required fields! This is a first date, so simply ask for first and last name and email address. In terms of how to create and host landing pages, we recommend HubSpot because they offer progressive profiling so you can ask additional questions with every opt-in form. As prospects take more premium content, you get more information such as preferred location, their role, and desired lifestyle.

Remember, marketing’s job is to “plate up” sales-qualified leads (SQLs) to the sales team. Each landing page represents a piece of content related to the sales funnel. Your sales team will be especially interested in prospects who opt into content that indicates they’re sales ready. And by knowing what content the SQL has downloaded, your sales team can have a more productive conversation when they talk to the prospect on the phone or meet face-to-face.

3. Set Up Effective Senior Living Marketing Automation to Nurture Leads

Congratulations, you took an anonymous website visitor and converted them to a lead – great! Now, it’s time to nurture these leads to create face-to-face or voice-to-voice interactions with the sales team.

However, if you reel in the fish too quickly, it will get spooked and drop off the line. That is what happens when you send every lead directly into your CRM. Instead, use a marketing automation platform that will create automated workflows to provide additional content and offers (e.g., tours, lunches, home visits, events) that are relevant to the lead based on the “bait” that reeled them in.

For example, if someone downloads a piece of educational content on tips for aging well, this suggests they are at the top of the sales funnel and perhaps just beginning to learn about senior living options. How you nurture them will be a lot different from the way you nurture someone who’s downloaded a guide on how to finance different senior living arrangements.

If you follow these three steps, you will establish your brand as a thought leader and you’ll continue to bring prospects back to your website throughout their journey. Best of all? You’ll be serving up SQLs that your sales team can take across the finish line.

If you need assistance setting up these systems, please contact us or call 888.620.9832.

Fresh Ideas For Planning Events That Drive Traffic & Generate Leads

Fresh Ideas For Planning Events That Drive Traffic & Generate Leads

Well planned and executed events for prospects and professionals can generate qualified leads, re-engage existing leads, and create opportunities to develop new professional contacts and nurture existing relationships.  Or they can be a waste of time and money. It’s difficult to come up with fresh ideas, so here are a few to start a dialogue – please add your best events to the list!

Show That You Are An Expert & A Resource

Educational events for prospects and professionals position you as a trusted advisor and valued resource:

  • CEU’s (at your community or bring program to hospital/ SNF)
  • Author Book Signing (for professionals, buy books in advance, bring them to contacts and hold private book signing reception for professionals)
  • Downsizing/ Transitions (real estate, moving, downsizing experts)
  • Financial Solutions (VA benefits, life insurance conversion, long term care, state / federally funded programs)
  • Legal Issues/ Financial Planning Topics
  • Memory Care Topics (brain fitness, education, research, driving & dementia)
  • Support Groups
  • Visiting Professor Classes offered by local college
  • Safe Driving
  • Navigating the Healthcare Maze

Holiday Tip Sheet

Holiday marketing is always an excellent way to increase awareness, boost your community’s reputation and generate leads. That’s why we’ve created this Holiday Magic Marketing Kit to give you the tools to plan a successful event and reach your end-of-year marketing goals.

Be Social & Show Your Fun Side

  • Networking (breakfasts, lunch, cocktail receptions, martini mixer etc.)
  • Dash & Dine (stop by for a tour or event, and take home dinner on us!)
  • Spa night
  • Brunch (champagne, jazz, holiday, Mother/Father’s Day)
  • Senior – Senior Prom with local high school (Star Dust Prom)
  • Holiday/ Special Day Socials / BBQ’s (Valentine’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, Mother/ Father’s/ Grandparent’s Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving)
  • Chef demonstrations & duels and contests (best chili, pizzapalooza etc)
  • Antique Car Show
  • Fashion Show – collaborate with local store and use staff, residents, family, or professionals as models
  • Comedienne – professionals need to have fun after work
  • Reading or one act play by local theatre group 

Grass Roots & Community

  • Host Spiritual Groups (Parish Nurses, Stephens Ministry, Non Denominational meeting of Rabbi’s, Pastors, Priests etc.)
  • Host seniors groups (Red Hat Society, Senior Centers & Groups)
  • Host Art Shows for local schools/ artists or resident art
  • Host piano recitals for local teachers if you have a piano
  • Dinner & a Movie if you have a theatre
  • Sponsor a community yard sale
  • Sponsor a community health fair with free screenings
  • Host community group car wash
  • Host fundraisers
  • Host a variety/ talent show
  • Wreath/ Miniature Tree decorating – referral sources & families buy a wreath or tree and decorate it (usually with a theme) and raffle them off for charity at a social event.

Please add to the discussion and add your best events to the list!

7 Keys to Successful External Business Development

7 Keys to Successful External Business Development

An important component of every successful sales plan involves generating referrals from professional sources by creating and nurturing relationships. It is challenging to balance internal and external sales responsibilities, so here are some best practices to get the greatest results from your efforts:

1. Have Designated Days Established for External Business Development

Tuesday – Thursday are usually the best days to meet with referral sources. To ensure that you create more referral opportunities with healthcare sources, find out what day they hold their care planning/discharge planning meetings and schedule a visit right after.

2. When Possible, Start Your Day with Sales Calls

Once you set foot in the community, it is very difficult to get out! Going directly from home to networking events, scheduled sales calls, and cold calls will reduce the opportunity for other sales activities to distract you from prospecting. 

3. Know the Difference Between a Sales Call and a Cold Call

A sales call is a scheduled appointment with purpose. It is face to face and it serves to move your relationship with the referral source forward. To be effective, 50% of your sales calls should be scheduled in advance to ensure that you have a face-to-face appointment with a decision maker who influences referrals.

A cold call is an unscheduled face-to-face meeting with a decision maker who influences referrals. It involves having a conversation that moves the relationship forward.

Dropping off brochures, flyers, invitations, cookies, etc., does not qualify as a sales call or a cold call. You must have a face-to-face meeting/conversation with a decision maker or an influencer who can help you get to the decision maker.

4. Hunting and Farming

There are two ways to increase your business; you either have to get more business from your existing referral sources by going deeper in your accounts, or you should find new pockets of untapped business. Finding new sources is hunting, while getting more business from established accounts is Your week should be a combination of both hunting and farming.

The best way to hunt for more business is to ask every contact at every sales call who they know that you should be talking to. Statistically, every referral source you interact with has a network of 250 contacts. Ask them, “If you were me, who would you be talking to, or who would you want to meet?”

The best way to farm for more business is to ask your existing contacts who else you should introduce yourself to in their organization.

5. Don’t Spill All of Your Candy in the Lobby!!!!

Once you get the appointment, stick with your plan and time frame. It is very tempting to “dump” all of your information in the first visit and then have nothing to tell them in the next visit. On average, people only remember 7% of verbal communication.

6. Common Courtesy Goes a Long Way

  1. Call to confirm the appointment.
  2. Be on time.
  3. Come with a purpose that is meaningful to them.
  4. Stick with the agreed upon timeframe—they are busy!

7. It’s not about You!

The main goal for sales calls is to learn about them—their role, their goals, their challenges, their business, who they would like to meet, how you can help them, what success looks like, how you can refer to them, and what resources would be valuable. Take an interest in them and they will take an interest in you. As you nurture the relationship, you will learn about their interests outside of work and this provides an opportunity to do something memorable that sets you apart. If a referral source brings their dog to work, bring biscuits or treats for your next meeting. If they love to eat out, bring a clipping of a new restaurant about to open. People like to do business with people they connect with, so be creative!

How does your community’s sales team farm for new business? Please share!