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senior living marketing

How To Generate Word Of Mouth Endorsements – A Case Study

Written By: Doug Pruden Principal Customer Experience Partners, LLC – and Senior Living SMART Partner

What Costco Might Teach us About Generating Word of Mouth

Confirmed Costco shoppers appear to enjoy their shopping experiences at the big-box retailer.  Despite the less than luxurious facilities, larger than desirable multi-packs, membership fee, and frustratingly long checkout lines, Costco rises to the top in just about every national customer satisfaction ranking.  At first glance, it may seem strange that Costco ranks right up there with the likes of Nordstrom and Trader Joes, but when all of the components of the total customer experience are considered, it makes sense.

Word of Mouth Just Happens, Right?

But the apparent contradictions don’t stop with Customer Satisfaction.  Costco also enjoys strong, positive word of mouth!  Actual, in-market dialogue about a company often doesn’t track well with these more traditional measures.  So, it’s worth taking a look at how Costco manages to turn purchases of 6-month supplies of olive oil or ‘convenient’ twenty-four packs of D-batteries into a shopping experience that customers actually talk about.

Of course numerous possible explanations come to mind.  It could be that shoppers like to brag about how much money they save, such as the convenience of ‘one-stop shopping’, etc.  However, according to Robin Ross, Senior Director of Corporate Marketing, Costco’s ability to generate word of mouth also has to do with offering unexpected surprises and instilling the sense of a ‘treasure hunt’ into every shopping visit. Costco understands that providing good bargains and a satisfactory shopping experience may keep customers coming back, but these more mundane issues are not likely to stimulate conversations with friends, neighbors, relatives, and co-workers.  And, it’s this positive word of mouth that communicates and perpetuates the memorable customer experience which, in turn, helps keep customers returning and attracts new customers as well.

Advertising Isn’t Involved!

Stimulating and maintaining dialogues about itself with little or no advertising demanded what Ross describes as a “better idea”.  Costco elected a unique strategy.  They added “conversation products” into their product mix; a $3,000 toilet, a $2+ million dollar ring, and computer-measured, custom-tailored men’s suits.  These items are both unconventional and unexpected offerings in a discounter-setting and in truth Costco doesn’t expect to sell many of these items.  But along with other, more affordable ‘treasures’, they provide customers stories to tell.  This unusual merchandise provides customers a reason to talk about their trips to Costco.  Embedded in the resulting word of mouth may be mentions of other, more traditional purchases; the wild salmon they bought or the rewarding savings they received at the in-store pharmacy.  The next time a friend mentions Costco pay attention; you may be a recipient of just such a report.

Strategies for increasing the volume and positive tonality of word of mouth aren’t unique to Costco. Senior living facilities that understand how to provide: 1) Motivation, 2) Content: stories to tell, and 3) Opportunity: chances to relate their content, will enjoy increased word of mouth as well. To hear more about managing and monitoring word of mouth for your brand join us for a Senior Living Smart webinar on October 14!

Would you like to learn more about word of mouth referrals?

Watch our webinar, and don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need solutions.

senior living marketing

How To Execute The Perfect Senior Living Grand Opening Event

Recently I was able to attend the Grand Opening of Belmont Village’s newest community in Houston Texas: Hunters Creek. I have attended many similar events and have rarely experienced the level of planning, preparation, and execution as I did at Hunter’s Creek. So what separates a good event from a memorable one?

Planning The Flow

Belmont Village set the tone for this event before attendees even entered the front door. A professional valet service and traffic control and direction kept the stream of cars moving smoothly to the entry. Additional parking had been prearranged nearby, and all of the Belmont employees parked offsite to leave all the parking spaces for their guests. Tours were available with little to no waiting, and these tours were provided by community team members, sister community support teams and most importantly, the executive team.

Using The Tour to Share Your Better & Different Story!

At the Hunter’s Creek event, there were experts stationed at key points along the tour route to speak to unique characteristics of the community and the Belmont Village brand. This allowed the Belmont team to share their “better and different story” with their visitors. Visitors were able to better understand their early stage memory care program, Circle of Friends, their philosophy and approach to secured memory care programming (including a dedicated full time Program Director), rehab capabilities and 24/7 on-site (awake!) nursing. Tour guides had notes to incorporate the unique features about the community and have answers to the most commonly asked questions.

Keep The Focus on the Senior Living Residents

The entire event was resident focused. Belmont Village does not use any stock images in any of their creative pieces, so pictures displayed throughout the community were of actual residents. The photos were beautiful and expressed life, laughter, and relationships. Residents who were Veteran’s were honored throughout the community with displays in Assisted Living, Circle of Friends and Memory Care neighborhoods. Instead of the usual corporate and political posturing that usually is the focus of these events, Patricia Will, Founder and “Mother” of Belmont Village spoke of the resident experience, lifestyle and “honoring this experience of aging.”

It’s A Party – Make It Fun!

Belmont showed off their outstanding culinary expertise with a mouth-watering spread of food that represents their commitment to healthy and delicious options. An open bar featuring a signature cocktail, attentive wait staff and plenty of seating completed the setting. Live music (classical guitars) set the stage of a sophisticated event, without overpowering conversations.

It’s a Business – Collect All The Attendee Information

The community team made sure to get complete information to begin developing their referral network. Registered guests were able to quickly pick up a nametag and unregistered guests had a separate table so all attendee information was quickly and easily collected.

event planning template

Looking to expand? Let’s Chat!

senior living marketing

Senior Living CRM Software: 6 Things To Consider When Choosing

It is such an exciting time in the senior living industry with the influx of innovation. One area of growth is in senior living CRM software. Of course, with more choice, you can have more confusion. Below, you’ll find six things to keep in mind when choosing your system.

1. Avoid retrofitted CRMs of yesterday.

CRMs were primarily designed for either the multi-family housing or real estate industries. Then, they were adapted for senior housing use. Retrofits tend to have clunky user interfaces, multiple entries of duplicate information, and clumsy navigation. AVOID!

2. Choose a senior living CRM.

In other words, choose senior living software developed by senior living operators, sales trainers, and experienced thought leaders. How to tell? Visit the industry section on the CRM website. Or look for case studies that highlight use in senior living industries. It’s OK if the CRM company caters to several target markets. Just make sure senior living is among them.

3. Decide between a stand-alone or integrated CRM.

An integrated CRM is connected to a suite of software resources, including clinical and billing/accounting functions. (And sometimes pharmacy, staffing, HR & payroll.)  The upside: the flow of data between departments. The downside is that usually there is one area of strength (strong in accounting/ GL/ financial reporting and budgets) but is weak in the clinical or CRM component – or both.  But once you choose integration, you are stuck with the entire suite leaving some stakeholders frustrated.

A stand-alone CRM only manages the lead base and sales process. The upside is that there are some great choices that match a preferred sales method or philosophy. Also, because it is built specifically for sales, there are usually features included that are not standard in integrated solutions. The downside: once the sale closes, resident information has to be re-entered into clinical and billing/financial systems creating a duplication of effort and an extra investment of time.

4. Evaluate your current situation.

Finding the right senior living CRM software requires an honest analysis of where your community/company is today with both the existing resource, the sales culture, the user comfort level with technology, and training/implementation resources. Begin by getting feedback from stakeholders at every level. What do they think works about the current solution? The goal: to retain the positives of your current solution.

5. Begin with the end in mind.

Once you understand the above, the next step involves evaluating the gaps and what you want to accomplish with the change.  Community, regional, and corporate users will have different priorities. So, it’s important to create a work group representing different roles.

6. Participate in demos of senior living CRM software.

Equipped with a “wish list” and workgroup, you’ll be able to narrow down your choices. Schedule demos with the senior living CRMs that match your requirements. In addition to demos, request access to a test site or sandbox so your users can take the software for a test drive.

Some features sound great, but if they’re too complex for an average user, why bother?  Ask lots of questions. This is a high value purchase. A thoughtful and deliberate decision making process is a worthy investment.

When considering the cost, be sure to find out if pricing is based on the number of users, priced by community with unlimited users, a subscription, etc. Ask if there’s an additional cost to migrate data from your current system to the new software. You might be facing set-up fees and training & support fees as well.

Work with an agency that can help you select and implement your CRM.

That would be us! :) We can help you find the perfect CRM for your needs. We have some favorites that we work with (like Sherpa CRM). Plus, we can show you how to get the most out of it. Let’s chat!

senior living marketing

6 Components of a Successful Senior Living Social Media Strategy

Using Social Media to Create a Fully Integrated Growth Strategy

For growth-oriented senior living communities and health-related organizations today, a sound social media strategy should be an integral part of the total marketing program. Your community events and outreach activities should now be viewed in the context of how they fit into your overall social media strategy. They represent an ideal opportunity for positive social interaction with the surrounding community. Social media becomes a vehicle that can take virtually anything positive that is happening and turn it into a valuable marketing opportunity. Social media, which is increasing in usage and popularity every day, becomes a way to supercharge and magnify your marketing efforts.

The overarching goal for senior living organizations today is to become the recognized “go-to” resource for all things related to senior care and senior lifestyles. This involves a strategic shift from an “advertising/event mindset” to becoming a valuable and valued educational resource for your community. Ultimately, your social media strategy is not just about getting your name in the marketplace, it is about getting prospects to visit your community and to choose your community as the best option over competing communities or remaining in the home.

Specific Goals that Support Your Senior Living Community’s Growth

Sage Age works with our client-partners to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy that includes social media as a vehicle to accomplish the following key goals:

  • Building Credibility – Even if never spoken, families have two questions: Will mom or dad be safe here? Will mom or dad be happier here above all other options? When social media is effectively implemented, it will build credibility, trust, and confidence – the keys to the “purchase decision.”
  • Storytelling – Storytelling is the oldest and most effective form of marketing that exists. It grabs the heart, builds credibility and is most powerful when it is a resident or their family member that is telling the story. Social media is the only effective way to tell fresh stories to a large audience.
  • Crowd Sourcing – This is a business term for “viral marketing.” If you tell compelling stories and provide useful information, the crowd will tell your story for you. They will pass the stories on to their families and friends, to people you might never be able to reach directly through traditional marketing approaches.
  • Content Marketing – For most communities, finding time to write, knowing what to write, and actually writing it effectively is often a significant challenge. Yet creating valuable content on a consistent basis is a powerful way for you to stay personally connected with your prospects, your family members, and your referral sources. Sage Age excels at creating relevant, compelling and engaging content that will garner your customer’s interest, attention, and response.
  • E-mail — E-mail is the tool that supports and reinforces the above tasks. It is how you get the word out.
  • Assessment – Finally, it is essential to continually assess the effectiveness of your efforts and to make minor adjustments or radical changes based on the findings.

Does your senior living community have a social media strategy? Let’s Chat!

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value proposition

Senior Living Marketing Strategy: Creating Your Value Proposition

When it comes to devising a killer senior living marketing strategy, we need a new shtick.  I’m tired of listening to recorded calls and mystery shops and hearing the same things: We have the best people. You’re going to love the food. We’re resident-focused.

If every senior living community is saying the same thing, then what’s the point? How can you possibly differentiate? To stand out, you and your team need to agree on your community’s value proposition.

How do you go about creating one?

Well, when was the last time you spent time with your team to honestly discuss your senior living marketing strategy? Have you recently looked at your place in the market, your differentiators . . . and then figured out a story that conveys those things? Remember, people are more engaged with stories than information. Finding time to brainstorm can be a great team-building exercise. It will also help get everyone up to speed with what your community’s value proposition is. (And how to communicate it.)

Senior living marketing strategy: Start with a thorough competitive analysis.

This involves going on a tour of each competitor and acting as the prospect. Ask all the questions that prospects ask you to see how the community sales person answers them. How are they are positioning their community? Do they explain their pricing, levels of care, amenities, lifestyle, memory care program, etc.?  Pick up a full marketing packet to see how your community’s presentation compares. Make notes of your impressions right away while the experience is fresh in your mind.

Senior living marketing strategy: Do a SWOT with the team.

Schedule an hour or two to strategize as a team about your community’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT).  You can go online to get an outline, training, and tools on how to do a SWOT. But for now, here is a quick overview.

Strengths & weaknesses refer to internal aspects of the community

  • Demographics, location – close to cultural, community & healthcare resources, on a main road, easy to find? What are the characteristics of your current residents and families? Why did they choose your community?
  • Physical plant – first impressions, age & condition of interior & exterior, updates needed, does the model apartment Wow? Size of community, apartment mix, etc.
  • Amenities – dining, activities, transportation, recreation, social, spiritual, intellectual activities, pool, spa, etc.
  • Care – survey results, memory care program, levels of care available, niche programs, acuity management, training, technology
  • Team – stability, experience, turnover, leadership, culture, mission, values, etc
  • Other – reputation, ownership, customer service, friendliness, family engagement, history of community (who built it & why?)
  • Price/value – drill down into competitive analysis

Opportunities & threats refer to external aspects of the community

  • Marketplace Changes – new communities in development, competitors adding on units or products (i.e. memory care), hospital closing, businesses coming or going?
  • Competitors – running specials, renovating, creating niche programs, have an ACO relationship with the local hospital that could reduce your referrals? Changes in leadership/ turnover/ stability?  Acquisitions?
  • People Changes – have key referral sources moved, are there new relationships that have to be nurtured, are there new docs in town, new homecare companies?
  • Regulatory/Economic – Did the state create a grant program to encourage homecare?  Is the hospital forming an ACO?  Are there new state regulations that may affect you?

When the SWOT is completed, your team will be able to identify unique characteristics that will create your “better and different story.” In other words, your value proposition. So, when someone asks why they should select your community, you have your answer at the ready.

Here’s an example: “We’re locally owned, and we do business with our friends and neighbors. Our owner built this community because he wanted his mother to have a lovely place to live. And she lived here for six years until age 92! Our owner is here every week to speak with our team, the residents, and their families. And because we don’t own hundreds of communities, we can make sure that this community runs well. Our residents develop strong bonds with our staff. We have very low turnover! Our staff has worked here an average of 5 years. We got a perfect score on our most recent state survey and a 92% satisfaction score from residents and families.”

Now THAT’S a story, right? And certainly much more compelling than “We have the best people and great food.”

Need help with your senior living marketing strategy?

You’ve come to the right place. We have deep expertise in senior living and marketing. Set up a complimentary brainstorming session today.