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7 Signs It's Time to Change Your Website Hosting Company

Senior Living Website Tips: Make Sure You Own Your Website

Consider this important statistic: 87% of senior living prospects will visit a community website before they pick up the phone, attend an event, or schedule a tour. Your website is your virtual front door!  

If you put the work and money into your website, make sure you OWN it. Because older, closed, and proprietary platforms will limit your ability to own your strategy, decisions, and results

Senior living website tips: warning signs to watch out for 

1. The website will be hosted on a proprietary CMS (content management system).

Your web designer or digital marketing agency might talk about their cool content management system. But what happens to your senior living website if you decide you want to work with a different agency or designer? The digital agency will own the license and, therefore, your brand…and they might not be willing to part with either.

If that’s the case, you’ll basically be a captive of the agency since there won’t be a way to simply “move” the site from one vendor to another. You’ll need to completely rebuild the site at a cost of many thousands of dollars.

2. The designer/agency doesn’t have an open API because they don’t want their clients to integrate with solutions other than their own.

Controlling integration on the website means providers will have to buy packaged solutions owned by the agency rather than allowing clients to choose their own integrations and tools.

3. Automated lead response emails are signed by the website hosting company, not the community sales and marketing team.

The goal of marketing automation is to build rapport and trust with your brand, not with the hosting company’s brand!

4. Website designs are out-of-the-box with locked-down templates.

This means that providers will have to pay extra (and wait in line) for customization. And again, see the first point: You might not even OWN the customization on your senior living website.

5. The only people that can make changes to the website are employed by the digital agency.

Just, no! You and your team should be able to easily make changes on your own. That’s the beauty of WordPress sites or sites built using content management systems where you own the files/content (like on HubSpot).

6. There is no written guarantee that the content on your senior living website belongs to you.

If there’s no written guarantee, then the digital agency could claim it as their content. This includes copy, images, videos, history, analytics, and reports. We can’t stress this point enough. READ CONTRACTS CAREFULLY BEFORE YOU SIGN. Here’s a good article that gets into the nitty-gritty of website ownership and clauses to look out for.

7. There is a 12-month commitment, lengthy notice period, and/or or auto-renewal clause.

You should be able to take your business elsewhere whenever you want (or at least within a reasonable time frame, like 30 days). Sure, it can sound appealing to have an “all in one” solution, but the lower price point and so-called conveniences are NOT worth it if you end up losing control of your senior living website and brand. Not to mention that the lost lead-generation opportunities will cost you more in the long run.

Work with a digital marketing agency that will RESPECT your brand—and your autonomy! Hint: That would be us!

We hope these senior living website tips were helpful. Need more help? Schedule a 30-minute brainstorming session ASAP!

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 senior living 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.

Another At-Bat: How to Rescue A Missed Opportunity Webinar

Another At-Bat: How to Rescue A Missed Opportunity Webinar

Here’s what you’ll learn: 

  • Inbound call handling best practices
  • Understand why calls fail
  • Expose blind spots in the customer journey
  • See how to calculate what its costing your organization to not effectively capture calls.
To Publish or Not to Publish? That is the Question About Community Pricing Webinar

To Publish or Not to Publish? That is the Question About Community Pricing Webinar

Here’s what you’ll learn: 

  • How to build a family/prospect experience strategy that scales.
  • How to interject powerful touch points that wows the family/prospect.
  • How to measure the efficacy of your customer experience strategy.
  • How to build your customer experience plan to deliver.
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 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.

Senior Living Marketing Tips to Kick Start January 2019

How to Create an Effect Senior Living Marketing Plan

It’s that special time of year. Dreams of sugar plum fairies and winter wonderlands are interrupted with the seasonal realities of Q4. A blizzard of demands grows our To Do list. And all of a sudden, it’s next year. Still a bit hazy from some holiday cheer, you might rush to cobble together a senior living marketing plan for Q1.

It’s fine, you think. After all, look at all those online and aggregator leads coming in!

But is it really OK?

Maybe not, especially when you consider the following…

  • Online leads tend to have a lower quality score than other lead sources, such as referrals.
  • Move-outs tend to increase this time of year, meaning you’ll need even more move-ins.
  • In some regions, weather can wreak havoc with promotional efforts.
  • Not to mention, as we update this article, a pandemic has changed senior living marketing (possibly for good).

So what can you do to make sure you’re not panicking on January 1?

Here are some strategies to follow NOW so that you can hit the ground running with an effective senior living marketing plan for the upcoming year, quarter, or month…

1. Set goals based on real numbers.

Number-driven goals are best, since it’s easier to measure their success. Move-in volume is a typical, measurable sales number (or, at least, it used to be pre-COVID). Set a realistic move-in goal for each month. If you’re not sure, look at the last 12-24 months. (You’ll want to consider 2018 and 2019 numbers to get a realistic sense of what the numbers look like during “normal” times. Then, you’ll want to consider 2020 numbers, too.) And set a monthly marketing budget. You need these numbers to plan.

Once you have a move-in number and a budget number for the month ahead (or better yet, the upcoming quarter or even the whole year), planning becomes easier.

For this exercise, let’s say the move-in number for January is 4.

Based on a budgeted 4 move-ins, how many leads do you need? Leads will equal the number of move-ins divided by your community’s lead-to-move-in conversion rate.

So let’s say your average lead-to-move-in conversion rate over the past 12 months is 12.8%. The math: 4 move-ins divided by .128 = 31 leads. So, in general, you’ll need 31 leads to produce 4 move-ins.

But is that really the number? Probably not for January.

Why? Well, what do we know about Januarys?

  • Online and lead aggregator volume typically spikes.
  • Move-outs often increase.
  • The weather stinks in ¾ of the country. Think ice, snow, rain, wind, and cold. And even if you’re working in a community that’s welcoming snowbirds, you’re thinking how you can keep them with you year-round.

Now, what do we know in general?

  • Not all lead sources are equal.
  • So many variables impact an average annual conversion rate.
  • Leads produced in the current month will most likely convert next month depending on several factors both in and out of your control.

So, most likely, you will need more than 31 leads.
All that said, 31 leads is a good starting point. From there, you can develop a senior living marketing plan that will generate these leads. Then, you can let lead aggregators produce gravy for you.

2. Identify target personas.

How do you bucket the various types of people contacting you and sitting in your CRM? Keep your various buyer personas in mind, including where they might be on their journey:

  • Some know they have problems, but don’t know what will solve them.
  • Others are researching their options on the internet (perhaps prompted by a postcard or a newspaper ad they saw).
  • Some are now calling you, touring communities, talking with lead aggregators, and actively weighing all the options (meaning your direct and indirect competition).
  • Meanwhile, a few are ready to buy, but they may have some concerns.
  • Others may move back up the funnel because of a bad tour, guidance from a friend, a change in financial situation, or other reasons.

You’ll want to bucket your targets.

  • On the lead generation side, you’re looking at seniors, their adult children, professional influencers, and residents with friends they can refer to you.
  • On the consumer side, you’ll look at demographic and socio-economic sweet spots based on an analysis of your CRM data with a data insights company.
  • On the lead nurture side, you most likely are bucketing by time frame to moving in – hot, warm, and cold.

Some of you may have more sophisticated lead scoring in place. Your hot and warm leads should be a enjoying a very personalized sales approach based on your discovery.

3. Select the right marketing campaign to get the job done.

Now that you’ve bucketed your targets, what will you do to generate new leads, nurture your various lead types, and influence professionals and residents to refer to you?

Consider three types of senior living marketing campaigns:

  • Event promotions
  • Product/brand promotions
  • Price promotions

Event promotions are designed to work hard to encourage someone to visit your community and experience the lifestyle you offer. If you are promising an event, you need to ensure you can pull it off successfully. Events are valuable for lead generation and lead nurturing. However, you can also leverage daily resident activities, clubs, and outings as lead nurturing events once you better understand the various interests of people in your CRM.

We recommend one event a month for lead generation. Yes, they are time consuming, but if executed well, you really drive home the value of what you offer to residents. (Psst. Need help creating collateral to promote your events? Check out SMARTbrand.)

Product/brand promotions focus on people on the early side of the buyer’s journey. So your message should focus on things like what you do and what makes your community different/better than your competitors. In essence, you’re making the local market aware of your community. This might involve placing advertisements in places that reach your target audience, both online and off.

Price promotions. We don’t recommend price promotions for lead generation. It cheapens your product and really confuses potential leads about how pricing works at your community. Price promotions are good sales closing tools for a part of your lead base already aware of all you do to offer value, quality, and peace of mind.

What are good ways to come up with promotions?

First, get a calendar of all the holidays during the year. Second, bring your community leadership team together to discuss promotions, especially event promotions. You’ll need their help to pull off successful events for lead generation purposes. Third, you can look at all the promotional options in a “brand-on-demand” system. These systems typically have a catalog of postcards and flyers, and you simply add your branding, event details, and community details. From there, you get them printed and distributed. (A great option is SMARTbrand.)

Select the right media.

Once you’ve figured out your promotions each month for your various targets, you’ll need to determine how you’ll get the promotions to them. This is where budgets are necessary. Some things you can do very inexpensively. For example, with SMARTbrand, you can easily customize digital banners, download them, and place them on social media or your website. But for lead generation, typically you’ll want to look at direct mail, advertising, and online services, too. You’ll also want some materials to hand out to residents and professional referral sources.

Measure a job well done.

How will you measure success? Remember, it’s import to record every inquiry. You may have criteria on what determines who goes into your senior living CRM, but knowing a postcard, print ad, or web page works to generate an inquiry is critical, even if the person ultimately isn’t interested or doesn’t qualify for your services.

You can use things like call-tracking numbers and special website landing pages for direct mail (there are seemingly countless ways to measure—we’re just mentioning a couple).

Bottom line: over time, this information will help you identify media and promotions that give you the biggest bang for your marketing buck.

Need help creating an effective senior living marketing plan?

You’ve come to the right place! We have decades of experience in the senior living industry. Let us help you create a strategic marketing roadmap that achieves the goals you’ve identified. GET IN TOUCH NOW!

11 Strategies for Promoting Content & Measuring Results

11 Strategies for Promoting Content & Measuring Results

So, you’ve got your content teed up, whether it’s a guest post, a hot take, or a summary of a survey you conducted. You’re done, right? Not so fast!

Producing quality content is the first step. But now it’s time to share your content and to understand which pieces help bring leads—and ultimately customers—to your senior living community.

Here are 11 strategies that will help you promote and measure your content like a pro.

1. Write irresistible headlines.
Your content could be the best in the world, but it’s worthless unless you’re grabbing people’s attention and getting them to read it. Headlines are crucial for this very reason, and there are several rules for creating good ones:

  • Make them explicit and concise.
  • Don’t give away the whole article, but don’t hide what it’s about, either.
  • Trigger curiosity. Appeal to emotions.
  • Use numbers or percentages when possible.

2. Put your content in front of targeted eyeballs.
Share your content in an email to targeted prospects(hint:segment your database according to buyer personas, and only share content that will interest that particular persona). Share your content on social media as well. Putting your content directly in someone’s inbox is a simple way to reach them, while posting content on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn makes it easy for people to share.

3. Add tools to your promotions arsenal.
Use tools like Buffer to share content efficiently. Buffer allows you to queue up content you want to share on social media and then spaces out when that content is released throughout the day.

Want to learn more?

Get our FREE eBook

A blog is a long-term marketing asset that will bring traffic and new leads to your senior living website. In this eBook, we will walk you step-by-step through the blogging fundamentals and show you how to start reaping the benefits of this valuable marketing and awareness channel.

 

4. Embrace being a big fish in a small pond.
Don’t view the fractionalized senior living market as a threat. View it as a marketing opportunity to specialize in a niche.

5. Don’t date yourself.
When publishing articles that aren’t news-oriented,don’t include the date. With information that’s useful no matter when it’s posted, including the date may discourage someone from reading it as time passes.

6. Connect with everyone on social media.
Create a separate account if necessary on Facebook or Instagram for consumer-facing marketing and make sure to do the same on LinkedIn for referral contacts. It’s a content sharing platform—treat it as such. Content marketers benefit from connecting with each other.

7. Be a fount of information.
Content marketing is a test of generosity. It costs nothing to give away your best advice and knowledge, and that’s how you’ll win the relationships that give you the links, the authority, the rank—all leading to getting qualified visitors on your website.

8. Use data to your advantage.
How much authority does your page have? Find out with tools like Google Analytics. Make use of available data and adjust your content accordingly.

9. Focus on what matters.
There’s a very long road between getting a “like” and making money. A very low number of social media interactions convert into leads. Your website is much more likely to get a visit from a Google search, so put the bulk of your energy into where you get the best results.

10. Share content that people want to see.
Look at what’s getting shared and clicked the most. Use Google Analytics to find the articles that will get people to subscribe to your newsletter. Put these items on your sharing list.

11. Know when to share.
Track your web traffic and email click-through performance to find out when people click on your content. So if you find your Facebook audience engages around noon on Fridays, but LinkedIn folks seem to get into your stuff on Wednesdays between one and four, schedule your posts accordingly. For further insights, check out this industry research regarding the best times to post on social media.

What tips do you have for promoting content and measuring results? Share in the comments!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andy Crestodina

Andy Crestodina is the author of Content Chemistry: The Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing. Andy will be sharing his wisdom in two presentations at the 2018 Senior Care Marketing Sales(SMASH)Summit taking place Oct 1 – 3 in Chicago: Content Marketing Micro-moments: Turning Traffic into Leads and Leads into Conversions and Content Marketing 2.0. Drive your Content Engine in 2019.

Sign up for our free webinarContent, Conversions and Lead Generation” on Thursday September 6th at 1:30PM EST.

senior living marketing

The Power of Storytelling in Marketing: Use Real Images

You’ve probably heard about the power of storytelling in marketing. Resident photography and videos can be excellent ways to tell the “story” behind your brand. These images and stories can also help prospects overcome fears and stereotypes typically associated with senior living communities.

In our quest to better understand the benefits of telling stories in marketing materials, we interviewed Tom Sanders, founder of Senior Living Visuals. Tom does an excellent job of creating powerful stories through visuals. He’s created films and photo shoots seen by millions of prospects. Many of these images include residents who are veterans, artists, painters, centenarians, and long-married couples. Many have truly unique stories, such as working under John F. Kennedy or playing baseball with Jackie Robinson.

Below is our interview with Tom about the power of storytelling in marketing. Specifically, we talk about the importance of using real images.

SLS: Tell us about a compelling story that you brought to life for a senior living community.

TS: I made a three-minute film with MBK Senior Living on a painter who is going blind and has an optimistic outlook on life to keep discovering and evolving as an artist. The film titled “Lynn the Painter” was picked up by the positive news website Upworthy. To date, the film has received over a million views worldwide. Lynn chose to live at an MBK community up in northern California because it matched her personality.

SLS: What strategy or process should people follow to create a positive emotional response?

TS: In most cases, every story generally needs some sort of a story arc where there is a struggle. The “Hero’s Journey” by Joseph Conrad is a universal book that explains the struggle and overcoming of a challenge you want in every story (the book is not an easy read; you can watch this documentary on “The Hero’s Journey” here if you have limited time).

SLS: So once you’ve created these compelling themes, how do you integrate them into marketing strategies and tactics?

TS: You need to know which resident portraits are applicable to print, digital, direct mail, display ads, events, and on-site at the community. In most cases, if a photo series is photographed on a certain subject matter, such as couples who have been married for over fifty years, the photos can be used at the community level and all the way up to the corporate level for any kind of marketing.

A series shot on 80-year-old-plus athletes might only function for a calendar and the wellness/fitness section on a senior living community’s website. Films, in most cases, can live on the community’s main websites and social media platforms for two years. After two years, the wardrobe begins to look out dated and reflects poorly on your branding.

SLS: Is there any particular project that has touched you most personally?

TS: Yes, my ongoing veteran photo series with Belmont Village. Each community proudly displays a permanent exhibition of the veteran portraits of their residents. This resulted in my book from Random House, The Last Good War: The Faces and Voices of WWII.

SLS: We so often see the same stock photography used repetitively in digital and print campaigns. Most of the time, we see images that are completely unrealistic or silly, such as seniors taking rides in wheelbarrows. Do you have any thoughts on that?

TS: Please try hard not to buy stock photography and films. Your competitors are using the same stock imagery that your company is using. Photograph and create films on your residents for your marketing materials. This way, the stuff you use will be truly unique to your company, you can build a library of your own films and photos, and the marketing materials will match the real heart and soul of the characters that live within your communities.

More info on Senior Living Visuals and Tom Sanders: Senior Living Visuals was founded by Tom Sanders, a photographer, author, and filmmaker. Tom has been creating films and photography for the senior living industry nationwide for over 13 years. His book, The Last Good War: The Faces and Voices of WWII, was published with Random House in 2010. In addition, the book was named the non-fiction book of the year by Foreword Magazine.

Sanders traveled the country photographing and interviewing WWII veterans at retirement communities, launching him into the aging industry right out of college. Sanders has been interviewed on TV news over one hundred times. His short commercial films have received millions of views worldwide.

Interested in learning more strategies for exceeding prospects’ expectations?

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

senior living marketing

Senior Living Website Tips for Better Resident Photos

Your senior living website is your virtual storefront. Ideally, it should accurately reflect your community. This means using REAL photos, not stock images.

Here are seven tips for taking better resident photos.

Today, we have a guest post from Tom Sanders of Senior Living Visuals. Tom is going to provide seven tips for taking better photos. Follow these and you’ll soon have a distinctive senior living website that truly reflects your community.

1) You’re a Storyteller First and Foremost

You need to ask yourself, “What is the story I’m trying to tell in this portrait?” When I taught digital photography at San Jose State, I was always happier with the students who had a stronger story and technically weak photograph (rather than the other way around) because your goal is to emotionally touch your audience.

In my opinion, it is easier to pose people and have them not look at the camera than it is to “capture” a random moment. Why? When you pose people, you have total control and the viewer will not know you posed the photograph if you do a good job. For example, if you are asking two friends to raise their wine glasses, just ask them to look at each other and they can keep toasting their wine until you have the photo that expresses the candid feeling you want.

2) Less is More

You want to simplify your portraits and keep clear of distractions. If a resident couple is celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary in the dining area, place them at a table near a window or wall so when you take their photo there will be fewer distractions in the background. The benefit of being near a window is light. You can always shoot a low angle and isolate the subjects against the sky to have a natural backdrop.

3) Color vs. Black and White

In my ongoing series on WWII veterans and in my book, I have both color and black and white portraits. People often ask me, “How do you know when to make a photograph black and white or leave it in color?” The objects, expressions, and clothing in the portrait will determine changing a photograph to black and white.

For example, I photographed a portrait calendar on centenarians, and as a side project, I also photographed details of their wrinkled hands. Since it was only skin tone and a black backdrop with dramatic lighting, changing the centenarian hand portraits to black and white made the wrinkles dramatic and the hand iconic.

On the other hand…Just like babies, as we get older we become androgynous looking again, and so I tend to always leave my female portraits in color so the women are not mistaken as men (I’ve had this happen; the viewer has mistaken some of my black and white veteran female portraits as men). So if the viewer can see the pop of red lipstick, for example, the viewer knows that the subject is a woman.

4) Using a Prop

Have your residents hold a prop to help tell the story for your senior living website. So ask yourself the following: What scenario is the resident in and what prop would help tell the story? Having your subject hold an object gives them something to focus on and makes them feel more comfortable. Having the gentleman hold a simple cup of coffee conveys that he is having his daily cup while subtly highlighting the nice landscaping of the senior living community.

5) Lighting Outside

A good rule of thumb: Take portraits in the morning or at the end of the day because the lighting is more manageable. Many think that you want to have people face the sun. In some cases, this works, but it is usually better to have the sun behind the person. Photographing people with their back to the sun makes for more even and complementary lighting. The harsh sun can bring out wrinkles and blemishes.

But again, remember to ask yourself this: What is the story you’re trying to tell and how does the lighting play into your story? You typically want to stay away from noon lighting because it adds big dark shadows in the eyes, which look horrible on a person. Then again, depending on the story, you might want those big dark shadows in the eyes to add to the mood of your portrait (see the famous Depression-era portraits from Dorothea Lange).

6) Lighting Inside

Usually, the lighting in senior living communities is from overhead lights, which don’t tend to work well in portraits. Still, you do have a couple options for inside lighting. First, you can use the flash setting on your camera/smartphone to create a poppy energetic feeling. Second, or you can place the residents near a window that offers different lighting possibilities. In a room with many windows surrounding the subject, you can usually get a nice even lighting that will look good at most any angle.

7) Critique

Ask several of your fellow associates which photos they like best before posting your photos to your senior living website. Usually, you can get a consensus from people on what they like and you can narrow down the best photographs from there. If someone does not like your photos, do not take it personally. We all have our own unique upbringings and backgrounds; we are entitled to our opinions. Ask 5-10 people what their favorite photos are and you will figure out what photographs to use.

About Senior Living Visuals. Senior Living Visuals will create photography and films that will elevate your marketing and increases your online presence. Senior Living Visuals is based in the San Francisco Bay area and works with companies nationwide. They have been creating films, photography for advertising, and artistic portraits series for the aging industry for over thirteen years.