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Computer sending automated emails all day to help sales and marketing teams follow up with leads and schedule appointments and phone calls and meetings

Senior Living Leads: Auto Responders vs. Lead Nurturing

Sometimes it makes sense to take a step back and define terms we use a lot, especially when it comes a complex topic like senior living leads. So let’s discuss two terms you’ll likely encounter: auto responders vs. lead nurturing.

What are auto responders?

An auto responder is exactly as it sounds. It’s an automated response, typically in the form of an email, that’s generated after someone takes an action on your senior living website.

For example, after someone fills out a website form, best practices suggest that you direct the person to a thank-you web page AND that you send an automatically generated email. The benefits are two-fold. First, the thank-you page and email reassure the person their form successfully went through. Second, the thank-you page and email provide an opportunity to serve up additional content the person might find interesting.

The reason you should do BOTH the thank-you page and auto-responder email is because the email gives the person something tangible to refer to. The thank-you page will “disappear” once someone navigates away from it.

BENEFITS: Auto responders are an effective way to personalize the experience for your senior living leads and to continue engaging with them.

What is lead nurturing?

Lead nurturing involves sending a series of emails to senior living leads who are not ready to “buy” right now. The goal? To continue engaging with them until they are ready.

Again, everything is automated thanks to your senior living software. Over time—days, weeks, even months—the person will receive a set of emails. The emails will engage and “push” the lead further along the sales funnel until they are ready to make a decision. At this point, sales would take over.

The types of lead nurturing emails that you send—the content, the frequency, how many overall—will be something that marketing and sales will (ideally) figure out together based on lead scoring and lead attributes (e.g., persona and decision timeframe).

Not all leads will enter a lead nurturing program. Leads that your marketing automation indicates as sales-ready/sales-qualified will go to sales for direct follow up.

BENEFITS: Lead nurturing will help your community stay in front of prospects who aren’t ready to buy right now, but who might be ready in the future. The content can help persuade people that your community is the best fit for their specific needs.

How auto responders and lead nurturing affect senior living leads

This isn’t an “either or” situation. You should use auto responders and lead nurturing in your ongoing marketing efforts. So, for example, after someone downloads a piece of content from your site, they will be redirected to a thank-you page and they will receive an auto responder email. Both things happen IMMEDIATELY after the person hits “submit” on the form.

If your marketing automation software identifies the lead as sales-qualified, the lead will go to sales for direct follow up. If the software labels the lead as marketing-qualified, the person will enter an appropriate lead nurturing workflow to engage them further.

The right senior living software is critical for lead scoring and lead nurturing.

If you need help choosing the right senior living software and setting it up correctly, give us a shout! We live and breathe marketing automation for senior living communities.

Stay In Touch cold and lost lead re-engagement program

Re-Engage Cold Senior Living Leads with Our Stay in Touch Program

When it comes to the senior living leads in your database, does any of this sound familiar?

  • You have a CRM filled with hundreds of leads that fizzled and went cold—and you don’t know what to do with them.
  • Your sales team has strategies for nurturing leads that come in now—but no strategies for nurturing leads that are eighteen, twelve, or even six months old.
  • You don’t have the people-power to manually call or email all your colds leads, yet you know that you’re missing out on good opportunities.

If you were nodding your head YES as you read through the above, you’re not alone. Your senior living CRM is likely home to many old/cold leads—leads that never received any follow up.

Why didn’t they receive any follow up?

Well, as you know, prospects inquire at various stages of readiness, but sales people can only work 10 – 12 active leads at a time, so they focus on leads closest to decision. Providers know this is a problem. But most don’t have a strategy for addressing it. So, what do they do? They just keep buying new leads.

This isn’t a SMART approach.

And that’s precisely why we created our “Stay in Touch” program-to help busy sales and marketing teams re-engage cold senior living leads through a SMART marketing automation solution.

All you have to do is provide the list of cold leads, and we take it from there. Sounds great, right?

Below are some FAQs about the program.

How does the Stay in Touch program help re-engage cold senior living leads?

We’ve already created a series of surveys, offers, and emails that have proven to re-engage colder senior living leads. This content will help score and segment the leads according to their level of interest.

  • Leads with good potential get served up to your sales team.
  • Cooler leads continue through the various lead nurturing paths until they’re closer to decision and ready to talk to sales.

Why should my community use the Stay in Touch program?

We’ve done the heavy lifting for you! We’ve thought through the messaging that will most likely resonate, the offers that will entice people to take action, and the branching “logic” for the workflows.

We customize all pieces according to your community’s branding guidelines, set up everything (from emails to landing pages), and schedule emails at a rate that makes sense. Once it’s set up, it works on its own. (That’s the power and beauty of marketing automation!)

What will my community “get” from the Stay in Touch program?

The benefits are many. You’ll get . . .

    • A turnkey solution to engage cold leads and turn some of them into warm and hot leads that convert into tours and move-ins
    • More accurate views of your sales pipeline
    • A cleaner, nimbler database/CRM
    • Buy-in from marketing and sales regarding marketing automation
    • And did we mention cold leads that actually CONVERT?

I want the Stay in Touch program. What should I do next?

Let’s set up a 30-minute brainstorming session. There’s no cost for this session (and no obligation, of course). It’s simply an opportunity for you to get to know us and for us to get to know more about your community (or communities) and how you manage your senior living leads. We can also walk you through how the various elements of the Stay in Touch program work.

Cool Grandma With Unique Fashion Sense and Dance Moves

Senior Living Sales Strategies: Why Personalization Matters

Today, we’re going to give you a simple, yet powerful tool to add to your senior living sales strategies: personalization.

When we say personalization, we mean exactly that: using a person’s first name, specifically in emails.

Why?

Well, as humans, we’re wired to respond positively when we hear and read our first names. It’s all about this concept called “implicit egotism.”

Marketers and advertisers for big companies already know this. It’s why you’ll often see your name in the subject lines of emails from your favorite brands. Subconsciously, we see our name, and our brains think “This was written for me.”

Of course, smart marketers don’t include names simply to stroke people’s egos. We do it because of the results: more opens and clicks. In fact, Campaign Monitor reports personalization increases open rates by 26%.

If you haven’t been using personalization in your prospect emails, it’s time to spruce up your senior living sales strategies with a little first-name magic.

Here’s how to add in personalization when communicating with your senior living leads:

Email subject lines

Good marketing automation software (and even email marketing software, like Mailchimp and Constant Contact) makes personalization super easy through the use of personalization tokens.

Typically, when you enter the text for your subject line, you’d enter a series of characters that would indicate to the software to automatically add the person’s first name.

For example, the string of characters might look something like this *|FNAME|*

Or some marketing automation software, like HubSpot, includes a button that says “Personalization” and you can choose how you want to personalize the subject line.

When you’re done, the subject line box of the email might look something like this:

*|FNAME|*, do you have questions about financing senior living?

When the email is sent, the marketing automation software will insert the person’s first name. So, this is what the person would see in her email inbox:

Mary, do you have questions about financing senior living?

Note: In order to personalize using a prospect’s first name, you need to make sure you’re GETTING this info on your online forms. This is why you should have separate FIRST NAME and LAST NAME fields on any online forms, rather than one generic NAME field.

Email body copy

With good automation software, you can do the same thing with your email copy and include the person’s first name.

A caveat: ONLY DO IT IF IT SOUNDS NATURAL.

So, for example, maybe you’ve just described what a lovely Saturday night might be like in your community, with wine on the patio, a scrumptious dinner, and then dancing in the pub. After the description, you might write:

Sounds great, doesn’t it, *|FNAME|*?

When the email is delivered to the recipient, they would see their name in the copy like this:

Sounds great, doesn’t it, Mary?

In the above example, the line sounds natural.

Don’t overdo it! We don’t recommend adding personalization more than one time in the body of the email. And again, ONLY do it if it sounds natural.

Need assistance adding personalization to the emails you deliver to your senior living leads?

 

superhero delivering effective lead nurturing automated senior living email

Senior Living Lead Generation: Create Better Lead Nurturing Emails

Congratulations! Your senior living lead generation is WORKING! You’ve enticed anonymous websites to give you their contact info, thanks to compelling content offers.

Now what?

Make sure you’ve set up your website forms to support a strong senior living lead generation program.

Any form on your senior living website should gather basic info: first name, last name, email, and state. But it should also ask two required questions that will provide further valuable insights.

First, ask something like this: “Are you gathering this info for yourself or a loved one?”

A drop-down would appear with these choices:

  • I’m looking for myself.
  • I am an adult child looking for a parent.
  • Other

You’re keeping the options simple here, because you don’t want to overwhelm people with questions. And you don’t want to create overly complicated lead nurturing paths, either. (More on this in a moment.)

Second, ask something along these lines: “What’s your timeline for making a decision about senior living?”

A drop-down would appear with these choices:

  • ASAP
  • 3-6 months
  • 6-12 months
  • 12-24 months
  • No timeline—just researching

Again, you’d don’t want to overwhelm visitors with too many choices. And you don’t want to complicate the lead nurturing paths you set up.

Now that you’ve set up proper lead forms, you can think about the next steps.

Lead nurturing best practices: Turbocharge your senior living lead generation program.

1. Score and segment your senior living leads.

See? Everything we recommended earlier with the website forms serves a purpose. By allowing your prospects to self-identify who they are and where they are in their journey, you can score and segment your senior living leads accordingly: marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs).

For example, an adult child who is looking to make a decision for her mother ASAP should be funneled directly to the sales team for immediate follow up. This is a classic SQL.

But you can place anyone who chooses one of the other timelines into a longer-term lead nurturing workflow. This way, you can nurture these “not ready yet” leads, or MQLs. The goal involves staying in front of them so that when they ARE ready, they will think of your community first.

Depending on your internal resources at the outset, you can drill down deep into the lead nurturing “logic.”

So, let’s consider someone who is researching senior living for herself. If she is making her decision ASAP, she will become an SQL and go to sales. But if she chooses one of the following timelines, she’ll be considered an MQL primed for nurturing:

  • 3-6 months
  • 6-12 months
  • 12-24 months

Now, here’s the thing: You’ll need to create a separate set of lead nurturing emails for each timeframe.

For example, if the person conducting her own research enters the 3- to 6-month workflow, she would receive one set of emails. Another person entering the 6- to 12-month workflow would receive a different set. And so forth.

Yes, some of the emails in each set might be similar—or even identical.

Remember, you want to personalize the emails so that they match where the person is in their buying journey. An adult child researching options for her dad to move in 18 months is in a very different place from an eighty-year-old woman needing to move by the end of the year and researching for herself.

If you’ve been thinking, “Gee, that sounds like a lot of emails we need to write and set up,” you’re correct!

But, again: some emails will work in all of your lead nurturing campaigns. And others might only require a few tweaks. Plus, once you do the initial set-up, it becomes an extremely easy program to manage and even tweak, provided you use marketing automation, which brings us to our next best practice . . .

2. Use marketing automation for your senior living lead generation.

Your senior living sales and marketing teams don’t need to manually score leads, segment them, and send the emails. Marketing automation takes care of it. This way, the sales and marketing teams can focus on the RESULTS, specifically the analytics, so they can respond accordingly.

And it goes without saying, but most leads should change from MQL to SQL over time. At least, that’s the goal.

For example, let’s say a prospect in the “I’m an adult child researching for a parent in the next 6-12 months” category is opening your emails, downloading content, and spending more time on the site. You can change the lead score from marketing qualified to sales qualified. (And if you have a robust marketing automation system, you can program it to automatically make this change based on the lead behavior). Now, the sales team can follow up directly with the lead since the person appears to be super interested.

Bottom line: A good lead nurturing program helps salespeople focus on the best opportunities. And it helps the marketing team understand which types of emails and content drive conversions. Armed with this information, the marketing team can focus on creating more content like it.

Need help right away?

At Senior Living SMART, we love helping senior living sales and marketing teams shine.
Reach out and let’s talk!

3. Follow email marketing best practices.

Like everything else, email marketing best practices evolve. But certain evergreen practices will always remain true:

  • Pay attention to grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Nothing yells amateur like careless mistakes.
  • Shorter is almost always better. First, leave long-form copy to your guides and e-books. Second, keep emails short and highly skimmable.
  • Make your emails mobile responsive. More and more people are reading emails on smaller devices like tablets and phones. (Yes, this includes older adults.) Test your emails on a variety of devices. Some marketing software, like HubSpot, bakes this feature into its platform.
  • Keep subject lines succinct. MailChimp recommends no more than nine words or 60 characters.
  • Send the email from a real person. You don’t want to make it look auto-generated by having a [email protected] email.

Remember, make it about the buyer. Don’t lead by talking about your community. Think about the pain points the person might be experiencing. How can you solve for these pain points? Offering a piece of helpful content is a great place to start.

As for current email marketing trends, here are some to consider testing:

  1. Personalization. Emails that include a person’s name in the subject line have a 29% higher unique open rate and 41% more unique click-through rates.
  2. Experiment with emojis (but still use sparingly). Emojis are a popular trend right now, and mileage varies widely. But you could test subject lines with one emoji.

For example, if one of the emails in your lead nurturing set includes inviting someone to have lunch at your community, your subject line could be something playful: Lunch on us! WE HAVE CAKE! (Then, include a cake emoji 🍰).

Test and see if the subject line with the emoji improves open rates, but also keep in mind that open rates are just ONE metric. Conversions are what matter most. In other words, do you get more people requesting lunch when you use a subject line with an emoji? THAT is what you need to pay attention to.

4. Don’t set it and forget it.

Marketing automation makes life easier because it reduces the manual labor. But you still have to use your noggin and regularly review the analytics and make smart decisions based on what the numbers are telling you.

You also need to make adjustments to lead nurturing emails when something unexpected happens. For example, if you run any lead nurturing campaigns right now, you’d be remiss if you didn’t acknowledge the pandemic.

5. Seek help with your senior living lead generation when you need it.

Setting up a well-designed senior living lead generation program doesn’t just happen. And not every marketing or sales team has the requisite skill sets. Working with a reputable senior living marketing agency that has experience in lead generation can save you time and money.

Need help right away?

At Senior Living SMART, we love helping senior living sales and marketing teams shine.
Reach out and let’s talk!

What is Marketing Automation & Do You Need It?

What is Marketing Automation & Do You Need It?

With marketing automation, you can easily schedule and duplicate various marketing tasks (typically connected with actions on your website) to happen without any further work on your part.

Marketing automation examples:

  • When someone downloads a piece of content from a site, they usually receive a thank you email. THAT’s marketing automation in action. This email can include additional information to engage them further.
  • Quality marketing automation software can automatically identify and label website leads as marketing qualified leads (MQLs) or sales qualified leads (SQLs) based on criteria you set. From there, the MQLs could be automatically entered into an email workflow for longtime nurturing.

The goal with marketing automation is to make everyone’s lives easier—think marketing, sales, and even your prospects.

How marketing automation helps senior living marketing teams

Your marketing team can “set it and forget it.” This frees up senior living marketing teams to do more important things like brainstorm and try out new ideas, create more of what works, efficiently move prospects through the sales funnel, and tweak existing campaigns based on results.

Remember, the majority of your website visitors are NOT ready to buy yet. They are researching and comparing. Marketing automation helps you capture these otherwise anonymous visitors (through forms) so that you can continue the conversation with them at their pace.

How it helps senior living sales teams

Sales can now spend more time focusing on true sales-qualified leads (SQLs). For example, if someone requests info on pricing, the automated system might label them as an SQL because of that action—and automatically notify sales to follow up with that particular lead.

Sales can focus on converting SQLs to tours and move-ins while the MQLs “marinate” in a lead nurturing program that readies them to become SQLs when the time is right. This means better close rates for sales teams.

How it helps prospects

Let’s say a prospective resident is browsing your site at midnight and is interested in reading your guide on “How to Finance Senior Living for Aging Parents.” Instead of requesting it and waiting for someone to manually email or snail mail it, the person will get it instantly—without anyone on your end having to lift a finger.

Does your senior living community need marketing automation?

If you’d asked this question a decade ago, the answer would have been “it depends.” As we enter this new decade, however, we’d argue that all senior living communities need some form of marketing automation in order to remain competitive.

The question you need to ask is what level you need.

Do you need the Cadillac version with all the bells and whistles or would basic software do? We’re huge fans of HubSpot (we’re a certified HubSpot agency). We’ve had a ton of success working with senior living communities who install HubSpot.

Marketing automation IS an investment.

But if your teams use it correctly, it will pay for itself over time by identifying sales-qualified leads when they’re truly “hot,” nurturing cool and warm leads over time, improving efficiencies, and providing deep insights in terms of analytics.

Still on the fence?

Or maybe you know you need some form of marketing automation but you don’t know what to do next? Don’t go it alone! The only thing worse than NO marketing automation is the wrong marketing automation for your needs—or setting it up incorrectly.

We LOVE helping our clients get the most out of their marketing automation. Let’s talk solutions.

The Impact of Marketing Automation on One Senior Living Community

Marketing Automation: The Impact On One Senior Living Community

Sonata Senior Living operates in highly competitive markets in central and southern Florida. They were looking for a way to drive more qualified prospects to their site, convert more tour and phone interactions, and determine the ROI of their digital efforts. We recommended marketing automation, since it’s both strategic and measurable.

Here’s the philosophy behind it…

Persona Development to Attract the Ideal Prospects

A persona is a fictional representation of the most qualified prospects with the highest opportunity to convert to a resident. Think about your most successful residents. They’ve lived in the community for a long time. They enjoy the amenities and lifestyle. And their families are involved and supportive. To get more of those ideal leads, you should develop buyer personas to understand common attributes, decision-making behavior, and key motivators.

Content Development to Attract More Qualified Leads

Once the personas are developed, the next step is to create an editorial calendar with relevant topics that are compelling to your personas throughout their journey. Content development should start with a keyword analysis for the target community and their nearest and dearest competitors. We focus on building a content strategy with topics for each persona and each stage within their journey.

Our copywriters work from keyword-rich titles based on our clients’ ranking for desirable keywords vs. the ranking of their competitors. For example, Sonata ranked lower on “Florida Senior Living” than their competitors. This keyword had a strong search volume, so we increased the number of blog titles with that keyword to elevate their ranking.

Boosting Conversions through Marketing Automation

Blogs serve as the bait that attracts interested prospects to the website, but gated premium content reels them in! Simply having regular blog content (we recommend two to four original blogs per month) will improve your SEO. But once you add gated premium content, conversions will significantly increase. For example, Sonata is seeing contacts double thanks to premium content.

Optimizing contact forms is a quick win. Offering multiple choices to prospects instead of only “contact us” or “schedule a tour” will allow prospects to opt in at the level they are most comfortable.

For instance, early stage leads are not ready for a tour, but they will eagerly download brochures and pricing. We like to offer “speak with an advisor,” “join us for lunch,” “schedule a tour,” and “receive our newsletter.” Sometimes just changing the location of the contact form can increase conversions.

Creating Workflows to Nurture Leads

Once a prospect takes the bait, marketing automation ensures that each prospect is nurtured according to where they are in the buyer’s journey.

Leads in the “bottom” of the sales funnel are ready to buy. We call these Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). The goal is to get SQLs to the sales team quickly while integrating prospect information into the CRM.

Another goal is to keep Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) in a nurturing environment to build trust, provide valuable information and resources, and continue to advance them to SQL status.

Sending all leads to the senior living CRM is a distraction to the sales team. In addition, it often turns off early-stage prospects who aren’t ready for the sales pitch. Marketing automation can discern sales-qualified vs. marketing-qualified leads. Automation can also plate-up highly qualified and motivated leads to the sales team without losing the “not ready” opportunities.

Return on Investment – How Much Revenue Does Your Website Generate?

Sonata was interested in measuring the effectiveness of every marketing investment. They provided us with their average rent and length of stay by lifestyle. We tracked deposits and move-ins. Also, we were able to calculate the ROI of marketing automation and PPC efforts. In the first three months, Sonata realized a 1200% ROI. (Nope, that’s not a typo.)

Interested in learning more? Download the full case study today!

How to Boost Occupancy & Lead Generation Through Inbound Marketing.  In this case study, track the growth of 10 communities in just 3 months using marketing automation, and view measurable results with reported ROI.