Sara Nay with Spark Lab Consulting & Duct Tape marketing

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Driving Predictable Growth Through Marketing Systems with Sara Nay

Episode Summary:

In this episode of Senior Living Marketing Perspectives, Debbie Howard interviews Sara Nay, the Chief Operating Officer of Duct Tape Marketing and the founder of Spark Lab Consulting. They discuss the significance of having a comprehensive marketing system and its role in driving predictable growth for businesses. Sara emphasizes the importance of aligning marketing and operations, sharing strategies to enhance the customer journey, retaining clients, and turning them into advocates. They also explore the critical role of metrics in assessing marketing success and the value of focusing on clients’ needs and experiences. Sara’s insights provide valuable guidance for businesses looking to improve their marketing strategies and operations.

Topics Discussed and Key Points: 

  1. Introduction to Duct Tape Marketing and Spark Lab Consulting
    • Duct Tape Marketing: A strategic marketing agency with over 25 years of experience.
    • Spark Lab Consulting: Focused on operations and systems consulting.
    • Sara’s journey from an intern to COO at Duct Tape Marketing.
  2. The Marketing System vs. Marketing Plan
    • Comprehensive nature of a marketing system, including strategy, implementation, and metrics.
    • Aligning marketing efforts with a well-defined strategy for consistent messaging.
  3. The Marketing Hourglass
    • Understanding the marketing hourglass as a framework for guiding prospects through stages of “know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat, and refer.”
    • Importance of consistency across brand messaging and channels.
  4. Creating Emotional Connections
    • Balancing education with storytelling and emotional connection in marketing.
    • The role of emotional connection in senior living marketing.
  5. Aligning with Prospects and Post-Close Marketing
    • Aligning with prospects on their journey rather than pushing the brand.
    • The significance of post-close marketing in retaining clients and generating referrals.
  6. Incorporating Fulfillment into Marketing Strategy
    • Integrating fulfillment and operations into marketing strategies to ensure a consistent and positive client experience.
    • Delivering on brand promises through excellent client service.
  7. Budgeting and Strategy
    • The importance of setting aside time for strategic budgeting and avoiding the chase for shiny objects in marketing.
    • Focusing on clients and the channels they use for wise marketing decisions.

Connect with Sara Nay:


Scott McCorvie with Generational Movement

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Elevating the Senior Living Industry

Episode Summary:

In this episode, host Debbie Howard engages in a conversation with Scott McCorvie, founder of Generational Movement, about his mission to improve lives in the senior living industry. First, Scott shares his passion for providing purpose and improvement strategies for seniors and his desire to create a global impact through his company. Then, he discusses his podcast, “The Inner Circle of Senior Living,” and how it focuses on connecting with the baby boomer generation. Finally, Scott emphasizes the importance of caring, communication, and connection in the senior living industry, forming the basis for his movement to elevate and enhance the industry. 

Topics Discussed and Key Points: 

  • Scott McCorvie launched Generational Movement, a multimedia content platform, driven by his mission to elevate lives in the senior living industry.  
  • First, he shares improvement strategies and tips globally through his podcast, “The Inner Circle of Senior Living”. 
  • Scott emphasizes the importance of connection, communication, and providing purpose in senior living. 
  • Next, Scott discusses the challenges faced by the senior living industry, such as recovering from the impacts of COVID-19, occupancy challenges, and economic factors.
  • Scott remains optimistic about the industry’s future due to the need for human connection and engagement. 
  • The conversation touches on implementing smart marketing strategies to drive growth and attract residents. 
  • Then, Debbie highlights the importance of creating a sense of belonging and emotional connection through personalized marketing campaigns. 
  • Scott and Debbie discuss the balance between older and newer senior living communities and the opportunities for updating older ones to meet today’s standards. 
  • Later, they explore the similarities between senior living and the hospitality industry
  • The conversation touches on the potential benefits and challenges of establishing national senior living brands. 
  • Scott emphasizes the need for senior living providers to focus on market-specific decision-making. 
  • Finally, the episode concludes with a discussion on the prospect journey and the importance of addressing the “whether, where, and when” stages to effectively engage potential residents. 

Resources Mentioned: 


20 Minute Marketing Skill Builders: Web Form Case Study

A panel of senior living marketing professionals will share strategies and tactics for lead generation, nurturing and conversions given current restrictions regarding tours, events and community visits.

John Jantsch with Duct Tape Marketing

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: AI In Marketing

Episode Summary:  

This episode explores the current state of AI in marketing, its use cases, limitations, and the future potential of AI in shaping marketing strategies. Debbie Howard and John Jantsch discuss various aspects of AI in marketing and share their insights and excitement about its future developments.

Topics Discussed and Key Points: 

 Current State of AI in Marketing: 

  •  AI is being widely experimented with for various purposes in marketing AI, specifically chat GPT (a large language learning model), has gained significant attention and usage. 
  • AI is still in its infancy stage, and many of the current interactions are limited to computation and basic tasks. 
  • AI tools are integrated into various software, providing data, ideas, and efficiencies. 

Current Use Cases of AI in Marketing: 

  • AI is used for content generation and creation, especially in producing large amounts of content quickly. 
  • AI tools can assist in writing articles, blog posts, and metadata, saving time and allowing for more creativity. 
  • Personalization is a potential use of AI, tailoring content to specific audiences and personas. 
  • AI can analyze data, extract trends, and provide insights for marketing strategies. 
  • AI is helpful in analyzing target markets, understanding customer concerns, and generating content ideas. 

Limitations and Challenges of Current AI in Marketing: 

  •  AI-generated content may not accurately represent a brand’s voice or values. 
  • AI tools require careful monitoring and editing to ensure brand consistency and accuracy.  
  • Privacy concerns exist when using AI tools that make uploaded content public. 

Future State of AI in Marketing: 

  • Future AI applications may involve personalized customer journeys and interactive websites. 
  • AI could assist in reverse engineering data to identify top prospects and shorten sales cycles. 
  • AI may help analyze customer behavior, predict trends, and suggest marketing strategies. 
  • Improved AI image and video generation could facilitate easier content creation. 
  • Concerns arise about the impact of AI on future generations and the need for responsible usage. 

Exciting Developments in AI: 

  • Advancements in AI image and video generation, allowing for easier and customizable content creation. 
  • Potential for AI to produce videos based on scripts and various styles, simplifying video production. 
  • AI’s role in marketing extends beyond content creation to data analysis, personalization, and customer insights. 


AI in Marketing Transcript.docx 

Duct Tape Marketing Website 

Follow John and DTM on LinkedIn 

30 Minute Marketing Skill Builders: Let’s Talk Content

A panel of senior living marketing professionals will share strategies and tactics for lead generation, nurturing and conversions given current restrictions regarding tours, events and community visits.

Chris Zook with Senior Living SMART podcast cover image.

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Utilizing Google Ads in the Senior Living Space

Episode Summary:

In this episode of “Senior Living Marketing Perspectives,” host Debbie Howard and guest Chris Zook delve into the topic of using Google Ads for senior living communities. They discuss the importance of differentiation, targeting the right audience, and optimizing strategies to maximize conversions.

Chris provides insights on creating effective landing pages and emphasizes the significance of marketing automation in nurturing leads throughout the sales cycle. Overall, Google Ads prove to be a must-have tool for senior living communities to reach their target audience and increase conversions.

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

 Differentiating Senior Living Communities: Debbie and Chris highlight the importance of creating a unique strategy for each senior living community, even if they offer similar services and amenities. Each community has its personality, presentation style, and target audience.

Financial Qualification Concerns: Debbie raises the concern that it’s challenging to financially qualify potential residents. Chris explains that although it’s not possible to target income levels explicitly, senior living communities can mention their pricing in ads to attract individuals who can afford their services. He also discusses the use of negative keywords on Google Ads to refine lead quality.

Designing a Strategy: Debbie and Chris discuss the nuances of designing a marketing strategy based on the desired types of leads. They explore the importance of understanding the different stages of the sales funnel and tailoring the approach accordingly. They mention offering options like downloading a brochure, speaking to an advisor, or scheduling a visit in ads to accommodate different preferences.

Power of Marketing Automation: Chris emphasizes the value of marketing automation in senior living marketing due to the longer sales cycle and the need for multiple touchpoints. He explains how offering a brochure as a low-commitment lead generation opportunity can help capture leads who are researching senior living options. Marketing automation, combined with regular email touchpoints, keeps potential residents engaged and increases the chances of conversion.

Landing Page Design: Chris discusses the importance of well-designed landing pages focusing on one specific purpose. He emphasizes the need for mobile-friendly designs, clear calls to action, and an intuitive layout. The goal is to make it easy for prospects to understand what they need to do next and maximize conversions.

Effective Conversion Rates: Debbie asks about the ideal conversion rate for senior living campaigns. Chris explains that the conversion rate can vary depending on geography and budget. Generally, a conversion rate of 8-15% is considered strong. Chris emphasizes that effective advertising is as much about allowing prospects to self-qualify out of the sales funnel as it is about bringing them in.

Understanding the Value of Conversions: Debbie and Chris address the question of how much to pay for a conversion. Chris highlights that conversions are a valuable digital currency, as they provide contact information and indicate genuine interest. He explains that finding the right balance between attracting prospects and filtering out unqualified leads is crucial for both the community and the prospects.


Connect with Chris Zook on LinkedIn

Episode Transcript

Blog: Googe Ads for Senior Living: How to Find the Prospects who need you

What is closed loop marketing

What Is Closed-Loop Marketing & Why Should Senior Living Marketers Care?

If you’ve worked in marketing long enough, you’ve likely encountered the phrase “closed-loop marketing.” Marketing, of course, is famous for its jargon. But you should pay attention to this phrase—and embrace it.

At its simplest, closed-loop marketing helps you understand which marketing strategies, tactics, and campaigns convert leads into customers (i.e., move-ins). If you want to do more of what’s working, you must “close the loop” to help you understand exactly that.

Is your head spinning? Don’t worry—that’s why we’re here.

Below, we’re going to answer the following questions:

  • What is closed-loop marketing?
  • Are there any limitations to closed-loop marketing?
  • How does closed-loop marketing work?
  • What are the benefits of using closed-loop marketing in senior living?
  • What if I need help with closed-loop marketing?

Let’s get to it!

What is closed-loop marketing?

Closed-looping marketing is a form of analysis that tells you which marketing tactics, channels, and campaigns turn leads into customers—or residents, in the case of senior living communities.

Picture an analog clock. A lead enters your site at the noon position. The lead engages with content and downloads a guide (the three o’clock position). The lead schedules a tour (six o’clock position). Finally, the lead has a follow-up conversation with sales and signs a lease for your community (the 11:59 position). The sales rep marks the lead as a customer, which closes the loop.

Of course, going from lead to resident takes much longer than 60 minutes. But the clock is merely a visual representation. Prospects will spend different amounts of time at various points as they journey around the loop. And some will never complete the loop.

Is closed-loop marketing automatic?

Closed-loop marketing only works if the sales team does its job. A salesperson closing a lead as a customer in your senior living CRM effectively “closes the loop.” Sales reps can also close the loop by indicating a lead is cold/lost—along with notes and insights on why this might be the case.

If set up correctly (more on this in a moment), you can review the closed customer’s journey from the moment they engaged with your community to all the various touchpoints leading up to their signing a lease. Same with the lost prospect.

From there, the marketing team can analyze the data. What channels deliver the best prospects? What content spurs action (like booking a tour)? Which emails get people to re-engage? Etc.

Are there any limitations to closed-loop marketing?

In marketing, you can only measure so much. The first trackable touchpoint a prospect has with your community probably isn’t their first real interaction.

For example, they might have read about your community on a review site, seen a sign in town, or heard about you through a friend or family member long before they ventured to your senior living website where a cookie could then track their journey.

And speaking of cookies . . . it’s possible someone could opt out of having a cookie track their activity. (In theory. Make sure your site’s cookie options are accurate and working.)

Bottom line: Closed-loop marketing isn’t perfect (but no analytics package is—at least, not yet!). Still, closed-loop marketing can provide valuable insights about what moves a person from an anonymous website visitor to a lead to a resident. And it can also tell you where leads stall out or drop off.

For example, if a particular piece of content seems to spur people to book tours, and most of those leads become move-ins, you might allocate more budget to promoting that content (for example, through paid ads).

On the flip side, if you notice a high percentage of lost prospects stall on a particular page on your site, you might do some A/B testing to see if you can remove the friction on that page.

How does closed-loop marketing work?

For closed-loop marketing to work, you need good marketing software (we love HubSpot), a CRM that integrates with the software, and willingness from sales reps to close their leads and provide notes about leads that became customers and leads that didn’t.

From there, you need someone on the marketing side who is savvy with metrics to analyze the data and review the notes from sales. The goal is to look for patterns to answer questions like: what campaigns or content seem to “work” with leads who become customers? Where are the lost prospects getting bogged down? Etc.

That’s an oversimplified explanation, but it gives you the gist. Having good marketing software is the biggest hurdle. We love HubSpot because it has closed-loop reporting baked in. (This HubSpot tutorial reviews the technical aspects of closed-loop marketing.)

How will closed-loop marketing benefit my senior living community? (And do I really need to do this?!)

If you don’t care about wasting dollars on marketing efforts that don’t work, then no—you don’t need to worry about closing the loop. But if you do care about maximizing your marketing budget, closed-loop marketing is necessary.

Remember, you analyze results to know what’s working and what needs to be improved. Then, you can allocate your marketing budget more effectively. Over time, based on actual data and results, you’ll know which marketing campaigns, tactics, and channels deliver the biggest bang for your marketing buck.

What if I need help with closed-loop marketing?

That’s why we’re here! Listen, we get it. There are only so many hours in the day, and your marketing and sales teams are already stretched thin. We can handle getting your closed-loop marketing set up and working correctly so that you and your team can focus on the results and do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Intrigued? Let’s chat about how we can help turbo-charge your analytics.

Headshot of Erez Cohen.

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Automate the Move-In Process by Digitizing your Move-In Packet

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • Why your senior living community needs to be using modern care software
  • Simplifying the move-in process by digitizing the move-in packet and going paperless
  • The importance of record keeping in a digitized system
  • How digitized processes can result in improved resident care

Episode Summary:

Deb speaks with Erez Cohen, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of August Health, a modern care platform and EHR purpose-built for senior living communities. Firstly, Deb and Erez discuss how using technology in senior living communities can make the move-in process go from zero to hero. Next, they discuss the process of the design. Designed with senior living experts and built by world-class engineers, the software platform is loved by communities for its easy-to-use design. Finally, they talk about the impact that the platform has. It simplifies everyday senior living workflows from paperless move-ins to assessments to compliance, while providing valuable business analytics to C-Suite leadership. Hundreds of leading communities, including Koelsch Communities, Westmont Living, and Seasons Living, rely on August Health to upgrade their operations and deliver exceptional care.

More about Erez:

Erez was selected for Aging Media Network’s Future Leaders Class of 2022. Prior to founding August Health, Erez was an executive at Apple, where he led a group of engineering teams. In addition, Erez was also the co-founder of Mapsense, a geospatial mapping startup that was acquired by Apple. Erez holds degrees in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from the University of California, Berkeley.


Episode Transcript

[email protected]

Park Howell Headshot Podcast Cover

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Marketing Through Storytelling

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • Storytelling versus pitching
  • Using the and/but/therefore framework to level up all of your communications
  • Creating your ABT story
  • Whether to have two separate messages—one for the adult child, one for the parent—when using the ABT framework
  • Three rules of storytelling
  • Addressing the COVID elephant in the room

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Park Howell, a storytelling strategist who helps marketers and content specialists grow their business using the power of the story. He is the host of the Business of Story podcast and the author of the 2020 book Brand Bewitchery: How to Wield the Story Cycle System to Craft Spellbinding Stories for Your Brand.
Today’s conversation explores how to sell more by saying less, and how to incorporate storytelling in your branding and marketing efforts in a way that is compelling to the audience you are speaking to. Stories allow us to experience what it is like to use a product or benefit from a service in a way that we would never be able to if we were simply “pitched” that product or service.

When communicating as a brand, instead of leading with logic, reason, data, and numbers, lead with a story. After all, every person, whether or not they want to admit it, buys with their heart and not their head. We only justify our purchases with our logical brain once the transaction has been made.

Park does a deep dive into the concept of and/but/therefore to maximize rapport and agreeableness between you (the salesperson) and the other person (your prospect or potential customer). and/but/therefore uses the three forces of story: agreement (Act 1), conflict (Act 2), solution (Act 3), respectively. This structure takes you out of the center of the story and in your place, the customer.

To use this effectively, you must understand what they want, what’s at stake for them in getting it, empathize with them in that they currently do not have it, and, finally, propose the solution to their problem.

“Your stories are not about what you make, but what you make happen in people’s lives.” Park goes on to explain how to become a compelling communicator using the power of repetition, addressing the elephant in the room, and crafting your ABT story today.

Resources Mentioned:
Business of Story
Brand Bewitchery

Robyn Bradley cover image

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Mastering Content Marketing

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • Turning data into great messages that grow your company
  • Reconciling keywords that people search for with the keywords you use to describe your business
  • The impact of the pandemic on the senior living industry
  • Transitioning from marketing to sales—and having synergy between both
  • Catering your message from the Greatest and Silent Generations to the Baby Boomers

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with writer Robyn Bradley. A self-proclaimed “copy bitch by day and novelist by night”, she is an SEO expert who for two decades has put together, among other things, websites, sales letters, print ads, radio spots, and marketing brochures.

Robyn has an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, and she won a short story award in 2007. Her work has appeared in, Metal Scratches, The Breakwater Review, Writer’s Digest, and The MetroWest Daily News, and others.

In today’s conversation, Robyn talks all things content marketing and the art and science of writing relevant, unique, and utterly human copy. She says that it all begins with pinpointing the right keywords to write around. With those search phrases as your starting point, you can begin to bridge customer desires with your particular goals as a company and tell an effective and engaging brand story.

Throughout the pandemic—and even as we emerge from it—the companies who thrive stay human and are not afraid to tackle the tough topics. As a senior living provider, trust can be gained when marketing makes an effort to explain, transparently, how the facility and staff will be able to keep residents healthy and safe amid the ongoing crisis. Videos and virtual tours are excellent ways to quickly capture that trust.

The operators who win are those who make it easy for prospects to find them, engage with them, and choose them, by meeting them where they are and removing friction along their journey.

As the industry shifts from catering to the Greatest and Silent Generations to the Baby Boomers, the key to success is to take everything that already works and “dialing them up by hundred,” as Robyn puts it. Radical authenticity and more customizable living spaces are also vital.

Debbie likens generational changes in the senior living space to those of the university, where the traditionally uniform college environment has largely disappeared so that the modern student now enjoys a plethora of choices regarding where they live, work, hang out, and eat.