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Turning the corner on COVID-19

Senior Living Marketing: How to Position Your Community Post-COVID

If there’s one thing COVID taught us, it’s this: the senior living industry still has a lot to do when it comes to effectively marketing itself.  How many times did the media and consumers use the words “senior living” and “nursing homes” interchangeably?

The answer: TOO OFTEN.

Collectively, we all need to do a better job communicating the differences between these terms. We also need to get better at communicating the many benefits the senior lifestyle provides in general, and especially during a pandemic).

So, as you plan your content and senior living marketing for the next 6-12 months, remember the following key messages. Adjust, as needed, for your senior living community.

Important Senior Living Marketing Messages to Promote:

Message #1: Senior living is a great lifestyle.

Capture and share the “great lifestyle” aspect of your community through pictures and videos and share, share, share.

Some ideas:

  • Residents working out in the fitness center or partaking in a class, like yoga
  • Seniors enjoying the pool
  • Residents enjoying happy hour at the pub
  • Seniors enjoying the comfort of their spacious apartment/residence—show them reading, doing a puzzle, reading, knitting

Message #2: A senior living community is very different from a nursing home.

You need to contrast senior living with nursing homes. Keep it straightforward and high level. Plus, focus on the key differences that matter most to people.

Here’s some copy to work from…

Senior living is an enriching lifestyle for older adults. The lifestyle encompasses the following:

  • Active lifestyle communities
  • 55+ communities
  • Independent living
  • Retirement communities (and all of its synonyms)
  • Assisted living (sometimes with or without a Memory Care “neighborhood”)

Nursing homes, on the other hand, provide skilled 24/7 nursing care in a residential setting for elderly or disabled people. Senior living communities don’t provide 24/7 skilled nursing care.

While senior living communities weren’t spared from COVID-19, the incidence in senior living communities was typically much lower than in nursing homes. The main reason for this? Nursing home residents often live in tighter quarters with roommates. Plus, nearly half are 85 or older.

Message #3: “My senior living community made me feel safe during the pandemic.”

Gather testimonials from residents, their family members, and your staff about what daily life was like during the pandemic.

Make sure your testimonials cover the following themes, specifically how…

  • Residents always had plenty of food/healthy meals
  • No one had to worry about prescription refills/pickups
  • The community’s industrial supply chain was strong—no shortage of toilet paper or cleaning supplies!
  • Family members could rest easy knowing that mom or dad was safe and taken care of
  • The staff felt supported, cared for, and valued by the community’s leadership and residents

Message #4: Here’s what COVID-19 taught our senior living community.

You can’t shy away from this issue, so use this opportunity to transparently share how your community dealt with COVID-19.

No one is expecting perfection. In fact, many people would be rightfully skeptical if they heard such a message. If you had some cases, or even an outbreak, talk about it. (Remember, nothing is legally prohibiting you from talking about raw numbers in a general way.)

If your numbers were low, you can promote that fact, but don’t get cocky and gloat. If you had higher numbers than you would have liked, stress what your community learned from this reality. Talk about improvements. Discuss the protocol if there’s a second wave.

Most importantly, keep your COVID-19 resource center easily accessible on your website for the next 12-18 months. Keep it updated. You should have an FAQ section or page. Regularly add answers to the most common questions you hear. Listen closely to residents, families, prospects, and staff—ask them what questions they have.

Share these key messages regularly across various channels, including…

  • Social media
  • Key website pages (home, contact, COVID-19 resource page, schedule a tour landing page)
  • Blog posts
  • Local newspaper ads
  • Quick guides/brochures (e.g., “X Reasons Why Our Senior Living Community is a GREAT Lifestyle Choice—Even During a Global Pandemic”)

Need help fine tuning your senior living community’s messaging—especially as you emerge from lockdown? Let’s talk.

As a senior living marketing agency, we focus only on the senior living industry. We have decades of experience working in the industry as well, on the operator side. We know your struggles  and what keeps you up at night. And we also know your “buyers” and how to effectively communicate with them, even during a pandemic.

How COVID-19 Can Help Make Your Senior Living Sales Process Better

How COVID-19 Can Help Make Your Senior Living Sales Process Better

Editor’s note: The following senior living sales content was inspired by discussions during our COVID-19 Webinar, which you can access for free here.

COVID-19 has forced all of us to change many aspects of our personal and professional lives, and this is especially true for senior living sales pros.

But here’s the good news: The adjustments you make to your sales process right now can serve you well over the long haul. Below are just some of the adjustments to consider:

1. Senior living sales tips: Stop selling. Start helping.

You’ve likely heard this advice before, especially if you’re a regular reader of our blog and newsletter. This isn’t a new strategy, by any stretch. But now is a great time to try it, especially if you’ve been skeptical of the concept.

So what do we mean by “stop selling, start helping“? No one likes being sold to (and definitely not during a global pandemic). But people do tend to be grateful for genuine help and concern.

Whenever you speak to a “prospect,” particularly during these uncertain times, forget the word “prospect.” Don’t think “how can I move this person to the next stage in the journey?” Instead, think of the word “human” and think about how you can help this fellow human.

Begin by asking questions…

  • How are you and your family adjusting to social-distancing measures?
  • What sort of activities are you doing?
  • What do you miss most?
  • Have you watched or read anything good lately?
  • What do you need help with?
  • What supplies are your running low on?
  • How can I help/be of service to you right now?

Listen to their answers. Share your experiences as well. And if they need help with something, help them—get them answers to their questions, follow up in a meaningful way, drop off a care package at their door.

And guess what? If you build stronger relationships by making a real connection and demonstrating genuine empathy, you will naturally move people closer to a purchase decision when the time comes. And when the pandemic is over, you’ll find that most of the prospects will see you in a very different (and more positive) light. You’ll have created a much stronger and enduring bond than you ever could have done when you were in constant selling mode.

A final note on this strategy: Yes, these sorts of conversations with prospects will take longer. But you’ve got the time, right? And here’s an important tip: try having these conversations face-to-face via virtual methods.

Which brings us to our next point . . .

2. Senior living sales tips: Make an effort to move from voice-to-voice contact to (virtual) face-to-face.

In the “old” days of just a few months ago, making follow-up phone calls to prospects was the norm. And it worked fine. A phone call was more personal than an email—hearing someone’s voice and all that. But given social distancing and the isolation we’ve all found ourselves in, we’re all craving VISUAL contact right now.

You already know that seeing someone’s face (and being able to read nonverbal gestures) can be critical to the sales process. You now have the opportunity to make visual contact a regular part of your sales follow-up process.

Use apps like Zoom or Facetime to connect with prospects. This visual contact better enables you to develop a relationship with a person, rather than a prospect. It also allows the person to see YOU as a human being rather than merely a sales rep trying to sell them something.

Suggesting video calls right now isn’t a hard sell, either. People around the globe are using these modes of communication to keep in touch with family and friends, so they are poised to accept this sort of communication from businesses as well.

In fact, Axios reports that this year’s Easter and Passover celebrations forced many older Americans to take the plunge and try video conferencing, like Zoom, for the first time. And Axios also wisely notes, “Older generations are usually slow to adopt new technologies, but history shows that when they finally do learn, they’re hooked.”

3. Senior living sales tips: Include more virtual events in your overall event planning.

Why have more virtual events, especially once things have improved? Well, COVID-19 has taught all of us that how we interact with brands and companies—including how we buy from them—can and will continue to evolve.

Not every sale—even for big-ticket items, like new living quarters—has to be done in person, thanks to technology. This is true, even for senior living communities. Some of our clients are reporting to us that they’re still making sales and move-ins during this time, albeit creatively and with much less in-person contact.

And now that consumers are seeing that they don’t need as much in-person time with sales people in order to successfully purchase something, demand for virtual sales processes will likely increase.

As a result, senior living sales and marketing teams will need to get creative and offer more virtual ways to engage prospects. This will be especially true for so-called “bottom of the funnel” events, like in-person tours, open houses, and lunches.

An important caveat: We don’t think virtual events are going to replace in-person events. But including virtual events in your offerings gives people (aka, your prospects) more choices—and ultimately more control.

4. Senior living sales tips: Clean up/update your CRM—and keep it updated.

No more excuses. You have the time to clean up your CRM, so do it.

Of course, the real problem isn’t the cleanup, though; it’s maintaining a clean database by getting in the habit of logging all details after every call on a go-forward basis

Again, you have the time right now. So after every call—even the long ones—get in the habit of immediately updating the contact record in your database with notes, info on the follow-up call, and any relevant tasks. For example, if you were talking to someone who was unsure about senior hours at the area grocery stores, assign yourself a task to get a list to the person ASAP. This goes back to the “stop selling, start helping” point above.

Note: Don’t have a CRM? (Or maybe you’re thinking of making a switch?) Here are six crucial elements to consider when choosing the right CRM.

5. Senior living sales tips: Focus less on lead volume and more on conversions.

Listen, we get it. You’re in sales. You live and die by the numbers. But consider this: would you rather have a ton of leads that never convert or a smaller amount of leads with a high conversion rate?

Lead volumes are down across the board due to the pandemic—some of our clients are reporting by more than half. But our most successful clients are working the leads they have in a sensitive and empathetic manner (see point #1 above) and seeing an increase in conversions as a result.

Think about that, because it’s a powerful point. Nurture leads in a more authentic, real way, and possibly convert more of the leads you already have. That’s not a bad approach right now—or in the future when we’re (hopefully) back to normal.

Need help thinking through your sales process post COVID—and aligning it better with marketing?

We can help. We’ve been in your shoes. We understand the enormous pressures you’re facing! Let’s chat.

MORE HELPFUL TOPICS:

What Can Sales People Do If They Cannot Sell?

Tips for Creating Virtual Sales Experiences in Senior Living

Senior Living Sales Tips: Characteristics of Super Star Sales Talent

May-2020-2-blog-1-772x340-1_d23f3974ccff838272ca42a495b13497

Senior Living Marketing & Sales: It’s a Great Time to Experiment

[Editor’s note: The following senior living marketing & sales content was inspired by discussions during our COVID-19 Webinar, which you can access for free here.

So many businesses, including those in the senior living industry, have had to throw their marketing and sales playbooks out the window due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While many people are mourning the loss of the “old ways,” we’d like to take a more optimistic view. Now is a good time to experiment and get creative, especially when it comes to senior living marketing and sales.

No, not everything you try will work for your community. But you might uncover some fresh approaches that you’ll want to adopt for the long term.

1. Virtual Tours for Effective Senior Living Sales

One of the challenges right now is figuring out how to replace or augment some of the more traditional high-touch tactics, like tours and marketing events, with other kinds of tech-supported and virtual tactics.

As an industry, we tend to rely A LOT on the personal tour and other in-person events. How often do you say things like “Schedule a tour, come to an event, join us for lunch”? It’s easy to make those offers, because senior living sales reps see them as easy ways to engage with people. But have you ever considered if these things are what perspectives want to do? Now is a great time to test whether virtual tours (and other virtual events) can be just as effective as in-person tours and events.

Note: when we say virtual tours, we don’t simply mean those slick, professionally shot videos, either. You probably already have some sort of virtual tour on your site (if you don’t, you should, regardless of  COVID-19). We’re talking about taking virtual tours to the next level.

For example, maybe the director of dining services uses his/her phone to record a message and a walk through the kitchen as the team is preparing dinner. Show that well-stocked pantry, introduce people to the sous chef, show the staff plating the food. You get the idea.

Don’t worry about an occasional shaky video—people know the difference between slick and highly produced videos and off-the-cuff authentic ones. Which ones are going to be more believable or have the biggest impact?

Lather, rinse, repeat. Do the same sort of video tours with activities, with the facilities team, with the director of nursing, etc.

  • PRO TIP: We recommend Heart Legacy to create these sorts of brand experiences. Note: if you have a library of compelling pictures from your community—for example, all of the architecture/buildings—you can create a video tour out of the photography.

2. Facebook Live.

People are glued to their devices right now and incredibly active on social media, Facebook in particular (Facebook has seen its already-high usage soar since the start of the pandemic).

Facebook Live events are great ways to create “must-see” TV. The best part? You can repurpose this content and share via other social channels, embed on your website, and share in emails.

3. Video conferencing check-in calls with prospects.

Doing video calls right now isn’t a hard sell, either. People around the globe are using these modes of communication to keep in touch with family and friends, so they are poised to accept this sort of communication from businesses as well.

Encourage the sales team to do these sorts of calls with prospects and to focus on helping, not selling.

  • PRO TIP: Zoom is a popular and budget-friendly app. Skype works, too, as does Facetime.

4. Live chats hosted by real humans, not a bot.

If someone comes to your website with a question or concern, but they’re NOT ready for a phone call, a true “live chat” with a real human, not a bot, can be a great option.

Why not use a bot? Well, a bot can answer a question, but they can’t empathize. They can’t offer the all-important human touch.

  • PRO TIP: SiteStaff is our very favorite chat company hosted by college educated Americans who were hired for their empathy. We train them on senior living discovery skills.

5. Interactive tools/surveys.

Sales reps love engaging with people in person during tours or lunches, but that’s not necessarily what all prospects want or need. Interactive tools and surveys (and other apps) provide a way to engage while delivering what a prospect might need in that moment.

So a senior living sales rep could send an email to a prospect saying, “I’ve really been thinking about you, and I know that you’re struggling to know if senior living is right for you or if it’s the right time to make the move. Here’s a link to an insightful interactive survey that really dives deep and helps people understand what’s best for them and their situation. There’s no obligation and it’s free to use. Give it a try and see what it says. Happy to discuss your results with you if that helps.”

The other nice thing about interactive tools/surveys is that they help create a “sticky” website (meaning people hang out on the site longer), and they provide another opportunity to convert anonymous website visitors into leads you can nurture.

  • PRO TIP: Roobrik is our go-to for awesome, insightful surveys.

6. Senior Living Marketing Automation

Marketing automation will allow you to nurture leads in a way that’s meaningful to the prospect.

For example, let’s say the prospect has been interacting with a tool/survey on the memory care page. You can automatically follow up with helpful info, such as an article, related to memory care. On the other hand, if they download a financial guide, they’re going to get very different nurturing. In this case, the message should reassure and provide information regarding how affordable senior living can be.

And when we use the word “automated,” we mean exactly that: the system will automatically trigger a series of emails based on the actions a person takes on the site.

Give prospects lots of opportunities to choose how they want to engage with you (so a mix of chat, guides, surveys, etc.). And once they submit a form—meaning once they “opt in” based on their comfort level and where they are in their journey—then marketing automation takes over and nurtures them, encourages them, builds trust, and gives them more resources that are relevant to what they’ve expressed interest in. Over time, the nurturing will move them into a sales qualified interaction of a phone call or a tour or a virtual tour.

  • Pro Tip: We highly recommend HubSpot (we’re a HubSpot certified partner) for marketing automation.

Need help trying new ideas? We’re the app for that! :)

Seriously, we’ve been in your shoes, and we can help. We keep our eyes on the latest and greatest technology. This gives us a sense of if and how it could work for the senior living industry. Get in touch and let’s talk about how we can help.

Hands holding globe isolated on black background. COVID 19 or ecological disaster concept

Marketing During a Pandemic: How to Adjust Your Community’s Messaging

[Editor’s note: The following content was inspired by discussions during our senior living marketing webinar about the pandemic, which you can access for free here.]

Due to COVID-19 and the 24/7 news cycle, all eyes are on senior living communities, for better or worse.

In a recent article, we talked about how your community can use Facebook Live to help combat negative perceptions. Now, let’s have a deeper conversation about marketing during a pandemic.

In particular, let’s discuss how the senior living marketing team should re-frame your messaging during these unprecedented times.

1. Go longer and deeper with your messaging when marketing during a pandemic.

When it comes to effective content marketing for senior living communities, we usually advocate succinct, punchy copy. Right now, however, most people are stuck at home (whether they’re working or not), so you’re going to have a captive audience like never before. This means you can go longer and more in depth because people 1) are craving detailed info and 2) they have the time to read, watch, listen.

So what do we mean by going deeper? Don’t forget, you live and breathe the senior living industry every day, so everything is second nature to you, right? But for those on the outside looking in, they don’t know all the details. And thanks to the current media spotlight, people are curious. So educate them. Get into the fine details, the inner workings, the “inside baseball” stories, as we like to say.

Inside baseball is a metaphor for the minutiae—the detailed inner workings of a system that are usually only interesting to insiders and aficionados. Right now, many people are interested in the inner workings of senior living communities, such as how cleaning/disinfecting is done and who determines the daily menus.

Your content could be a series of “How We Do X” blog posts:

  • How We Clean During a Pandemic
  • How We Handle Social Distancing in Our Community
  • What Goes Into Creating a Daily Menu
  • How We Source Local Ingredients

You get the idea.

2. Talk about those “boring” topics you never would normally discuss in senior living marketing materials.

For example, who ever thought a topic like “senior living community supply chains” would be a must-read topic, yet here we are!

Right now, everybody’s focused on their own personal supply chain management. If you can show the differences between institutional supply chain management and your personal household management around toilet paper, eggs, and sanitizer, that will be a GREAT service to people.

How to accomplish this? Well, do something educational and reassuring by taking people “behind the scenes” via a Facebook Live video and bring them into the kitchen and supply closets and show an abundance of food and supplies like toilet paper—it’s not a direct sales message, but it certainly is a comforting one. People can “see” for themselves and think, “Mom will be OK. They have supplies, they have folks who are cleaning, and they have the infrastructure already built right in.”

No, this isn’t something that you would ever put in a marketing brochure—”Hey, when you choose our senior living community, you’ll always have toilet paper!” But right now, this is something that’s top of mind for people.

Bottom line: there are some interesting opportunities for creative storytelling around things that you never thought you would tell a story about.

3. Show your community’s commitment to—and expertise with—supporting older adults.

One example would be instead of simply saying you provide a safe environment, walk people through the exact procedures and protocols that you put in place to ensure safety every day.

And not just from a health perspective—yes, that’s the main concern on everyone’s mind right now, thanks to COVID-19—but also physical safety. For instance, how many lay people understand what the term “elopement” means when it comes to older adults? This is a great opportunity to educate about an industry-specific topic and to demonstrate your community’s specific approach.

4. Share the spotlight.

Again, this is a great opportunity to take people deep inside your daily operations. People love to understand how things work, so take advantage of that. You have talented people working in your communities. Make them the stars of these stories.

For example, bring forward your dining room supervisor, your chef, the person who’s running activities, or your head of healthcare. Make them the focus of your content and let them talk about what it is that goes into delivering the kinds of services that make up your community.

Hint: these make great topics for Facebook Live events (and then you can repurpose the content into blog posts and other written content).

5. Show your city/town spirit.

So many people are hunkering down right now and taking a keen interest in their local communities, particularly small businesses. Demonstrate how your senior living community supports and celebrates the businesses in your local town/city.

For example, talk about local businesses that you buy from/rely on. Keep a section of your COVID-19 website page dedicated to information that older adults (and their families) would find helpful, such as grocery store hours for older adults, pharmacy drive-thrus/deliveries, restaurants still offering takeout, and so forth.

Again, you’re celebrating your local town and city while also making your senior living community website a destination for responsible and accurate information as it pertains to seniors.

6. Continue to create responsible COVID-19 resources.

No one wants to be creating this content, but here’s the thing: YOU are uniquely positioned to discuss COVID-19 from a senior living perspective because YOU WORK IN THE INDUSTRY. Don’t let the uninformed or misinformed take control of your community’s story or narrative.

Instead, continue to create responsible COVID-19 resources that will truly help your residents, their families, prospects, staff, and the media.

Some ideas:

  • X Underreported Things Everyone Over 60 Should Know About COVID-19
  • Step-by-Step Guide to Skype and Facetime
  • X Ways to Keep in Touch with Your Senior Loved Ones During Lockdowns
  • Keep the Body Moving: X Great Alternatives to Daily Group Walks
  • X SMART Strategies for Helping Seniors Stay Safe during a Pandemic

Need more topics? People are searching on topics in Google all the time. Conduct a search on your own, such as “keeping seniors safe during COVID,” and scroll to the bottom for “People Also Search On” for additional ideas.

7. Share positive stories and messages, too.

People are rightly concerned about this pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you should forget to share happy news. Perhaps it’s a picture of a resident celebrating a birthday with their family members looking on through the window. Or it could be something as simple as sharing a pic of daffodils blooming in front of your building or outside a resident’s window.

8. Reconsider print advertising and direct mail.

With so many people stuck at home, now might be a great time to run some local newspaper ads and/or do some direct mail campaigns. You don’t need to “sell” either—it could simply be an alert regarding some strategies about how you’re keeping seniors in your communities safe. The call to action could be to set up a virtual tour or to join the next Facebook Live event. Psst: we make designing print pieces extremely turnkey—check out SMARTbrand.

Need help marketing during a pandemic?

We’re always happy to help senior living communities with their marketing during a pandemic or other crisis. Don’t hesitate to get in touch. And be sure to check out our COVID-19 resource library—everything is free to download.

How Facebook Live Can Change COVID-19 Perception Issues in Your Senior Living Community

How Facebook Live Can Change COVID-19 Perception Issues in Your Senior Living Community

[Editor’s note: The following content was inspired by discussions during our COVID-19 Webinar, which you can access for free here.]

COVID-19 has forced everyone to rethink how they communicate with their customers and prospects—and this is especially true for senior living communities.

Anyone who’s worked for any length of time in our industry has had to face troubling perception issues, such as “old folks’ homes” and the like. Given the recent pandemic, however, these problematic perceptions have increased exponentially, thanks in large part to the media breathlessly reminding viewers/readers that senior living communities serve as ground zero for the coronavirus.

How’s a community supposed to combat THAT sort of image?

Here’s one idea: Facebook Live.

What is Facebook Live?

HubSpot shares this solid definition: “Facebook Live is a feature of the Facebook social network that uses the camera on a computer or mobile device to broadcast real-time video to Facebook. Live broadcasters can decide who on Facebook can see their video and use this content to engage their audience during the moments and events that are important to them.”

You’ve likely encountered Facebook Live videos and not even realized it. Reporters use them in the field all the time. And even “regular” people will use Facebook Live to chronicle aspects of their day-to-day lives.

Could Facebook Live really make a difference when it comes to challenging people’s perceptions of senior living communities during this pandemic?

We think so. Regular, reasonable communication can have a huge—and positive—effect on people.

Consider this current example: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s midday news conferences have become legendary the last few weeks. His briefings are highly anticipated (they occur at roughly the same time each day). They’re also highly informative, but down to earth and accessible by lay people. And—most important—they are calming and rational. He doesn’t sugarcoat what’s happening in his state, but at the same time, he responsibly shares info and even finds opportunity for levity and humor.

The result? People are tuning in. Why? Because people crave reliable info, and they want to know what’s going on. (Plus, they’re a captive audience right now!)

Now, granted, Cuomo’s press briefings are broadcast via good old-fashioned television, but the concept is the same as Facebook Live: regular, real-time communication with an audience during these unprecedented times can be an excellent way to combat misinformation and troubling perceptions.

But don’t take our word for it. One of our clients, Vitality Senior Living, has been doing regular Facebook Live events with the CEO and President, Chris Guay—to great effect. You can see one here.

How do Facebook Live events work?

Here’s the good news: they’re easy to do! If you have a smartphone, you can conduct Facebook Live events for any Facebook page where you’re an admin or editor. You can also go live from a desktop equipped with a web cam (and, again, for pages you’re an admin or editor).

From there, it’s a matter of simply hitting the “go live” or “start live video” buttons/prompts. But we recommend doing a couple of private videos first, just to get comfortable.

Note: we know being “on camera” can be nerve racking for people. No one is expecting Meryl Streep or Brad Pitt. What we all want right now is a real person speaking real, unvarnished truths. If you stumble or um or ah at times—IT’S OK.

Need further guidance on how to get going? Check out the following resources:

We’ll wait here while you check ’em out. Then, come back for tips on what YOU should be talking about regarding your senior living community and COVID-19.

Who should do Facebook Live events?

Executive directors are a good choice. And yes, we get the executive directors might not WANT to do it, but it makes sense for them to be the “face” of your community. But it doesn’t need to simply be the EDs. You could also have your Wellness Director, Facilities Director, Activities Director, and so forth host their own Facebook Live videos and talk about the specifics related to their role/department.

For example, here’s Vitality’s Regional Vice President of Wellness. This video currently has over 2000 views and 25 shares—that’s excellent engagement!

How often should you do them?

The pandemic is changing daily, sometimes hourly. Right now, it might make sense to do regular “briefings” (ideally at the same time every day—don’t forget, most of us are stuck at home, so you’ll have a captive audience).

But as the situation improves, you could move to a few times a week. Here’s the thing: because Facebook Live is such a great way to connect with people and communicate about your brand, you might discover that you want to continue doing these events long after the pandemic is over.

What should you talk about?

Use this “all eyes on you” opportunity to reframe some of the scarier messages that are out there about COVID-19 and senior living communities. Yes, older people are vulnerable to COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean every senior living community on the planet has become a death trap.

Instead, educate viewers regarding the following items…

  • The current status in your community; be transparent about any cases and how your community is responding; if you DON’T have any cases, LEAD WITH THIS.
  • How your community handles social distancing.
  • How residents are still living full lives during these unprecedented times
  • What you know, what you don’t know (no one knows everything about this situation, and it’s OK to say that—honesty is paramount here)
  • Protocols in place for cleaning/disinfecting.
  • Walk-throughs of certain areas—show that you’re well-stocked with toilet paper and food; people like seeing these visual reassurances.
  • Happy, positive stories, such as milestone birthdays, anniversaries, and so forth.
  • The measures your community takes every day to create a place that supports older adults in living rich, purposeful lives in a healthy, safe environment.
  • When appropriate (and with permission, of course!) include an occasional live event with a senior and let them talk about how they’re dealing with things; for example, if your community is encouraging residents to Skype their loved ones, you could do a Facebook Live that shows a resident doing Skyping in the background.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. No doubt, as you continue to get comfortable and do more videos, you’ll come up with other topics. Not to mention, people will post questions during your videos. Be sure to address them—either during the live event itself or in a future Facebook Live video.

What else can you do with the Facebook Live videos?

 Here’s the real beauty of these broadcasts—you do them live, but then they’re saved on your Facebook page (in the Videos tab) so people can watch them on demand.

Here’s what you can do with the videos:

  • Send out a daily/weekly email with a link to the video and a reminder about when you’ll be broadcasting next.
  • Share the video link on other social media channels, like Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • Keep a “library” of video links on your COVID-19 page/section on your site. (You have one, right?)

Need help getting started with Facebook Live?

We’re always happy to help you shine! You can test drive some videos on us and/or ask us for talking points if you’re feeling nervous. Don’t hesitate to get in touch.

And be sure to check out our COVID-19 resource library—everything is free to download.

Senior Living Sales Tips: Characteristics of Super Star Sales Talent

Senior Living Sales Tips: Characteristics of Super Star Sales Talent

The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) reported that assisted living occupancy reached a new low last quarter (Q2-2019).

If you operate an assisted living facility (or other type of senior living community), what can you do to remain competitive and boost occupancy? You can’t change your location, product, or competitors. You probably don’t want to turn over the management team or cut rate. You might even think you have the best community (your competitors probably think the same thing). You say that you care more, that you have the best team, that you are resident-focused, just like everyone else says.

How can you improve your sales conversions?

Well, for one thing, you need a super star sales counselor, and they are a rare breed. But if you know what to look for, you might just be able to find one in the wild. Here are the five top characteristics of the best senior living sales talent.

1. They See Prospects as Real People.

Unfortunately, too many sales people in our industry treat prospects as a commodity. These sales folks tend to take the position of “subject expert.” They want to be right, and they believe they have heard it all before. They perceive prospects as numbers and assign them a value: top 10, hot, warm, cold, or future. This value assignment drives their effort and engagement. Their approach is to talk prospects into the community, and they often use fear and manipulation to create urgency.

You want to avoid this type of sales “talent” at all costs.

Because the greatest sales people seek to understand the prospect’s wants, needs, and goals. Solving the problem on behalf of the prospect is their biggest concern—and they are passionate that they have the best solution. This dedication to the prospect drives their engagement.

2. They Sell Value, Not Features.

After listening to thousands of mystery shops, it’s clear that too many sales people still approach interactions as a transaction. They spend most of the time talking, listing every feature, and hoping something will stick.

Great sales people spend time developing rapport with the prospects. In other words, they take a relational approach. They listen and reflect back what they hear to demonstrate that they care about the prospect. This builds enough trust to empower the prospect to open up and communicate their needs and goals. After this, the sales person can focus on personalizing the value of their community to each individual prospect.

3. They Are Respectfully Persistent.

Rejection is common in sales since more prospects will say “no” rather than “yes.” Most sales people give up after a couple of attempts because they are uncomfortable with rejection. But what these sales folks don’t understand is that it often takes multiple attempts simply to connect and build rapport. Still, these sales people would rather focus on the new leads and hot leads rather than nurture the leads that aren’t ready yet.

The greatest sales counselors understand that most prospects are stressed and emotionally exhausted. The best sales counselors know it takes multiple attempts to engage and build trust. They focus on what they can do and they are politely persistent in staying connected. They do not take rejection personally because they understand that when someone is making an emotional decision, the path is rarely linear.

These sales folks also embrace technology that can help nurture these “not ready” leads over time. They work with marketing to make sure relevant lead nurturing workflows are set up that will resonate with different buyer personas.

4. They Are Not Afraid of Silence.

Super star sales counselors leave space for silence to give prospects time to process the information. This type of sales person wants to hear what’s important to the prospect (or what the prospect is questioning).

In an interview, I always ask why the candidate thinks they will be successful in a sales role. The interview is over when they say, “I’m a good talker!” This type of sales person will not do well in an emotional selling environment because they will make the conversation about them, rather than about the prospect. Instead, I always perk up if the job candidate says, “I’m a good listener. I hear what people are saying and can respond accordingly.”

5. They Embrace Follow Up – Creatively, Personally, and Energetically!

It takes energy, effort, and optimistic persistence to continue to follow up with prospects over the course of their sales journey. Prospects inquire, go dark, re-engage, and change direction throughout the process. Most sales people work the hot leads and new leads because they are only interested in closing sales in the next 30 days—they’re not thinking about the long game.

Super stars realize they need to keep the pipeline full with leads at every stage of their journey. They meet them where they are and stay in touch throughout the sales cycle – without any strings attached. Super stars drop off dinner, write a personal note (yes, handwritten!), leave a plant with a note on a doorstep, and/or send a book they know will help. When they leave a voicemail, it’s to let the prospect know they are thinking of them, not just “checking in” for an update.

Bottom line: When it comes to filling your community with super star sales talent, hire for heart first. You can always train them on specific skills as they go along.

What You Need to Know About Your Online Senior Living Competition

Competitor Analysis: How Senior Living Communities Need to Evaluate Online Competition

You’ve likely set goals and key performance indicators (KPI) for your digital marketing strategy. Hopefully, you’re reviewing the data and adjusting your strategy based on the results against your goals. But to truly analyze your digital marketing success, you have to compare it to the results from your market. In other words, you need to conduct competitor analysis. This involves monitoring and measuring your competitors’ digital marketing efforts as well.

Want to be a better online sleuth? Focus on these top four areas and follow our tips.

Content

Look at what types of content perform best. Which blogs have the most reads or the greatest number of likes and shares? What sort of content offers does the competition promote? What about videos? Infographics? You get the idea.

Pro tip: And speaking of ideas, keep track of content topics that your organization hasn’t been capitalizing on—yet. We’re not suggesting that you plagiarize, but we guarantee looking at your competitors’ content will get your own creative juices going.

Website Traffic

It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole when looking at competitors’ websites and related analytics. Focus on these metrics for a solid overview of a site’s performance:

  • Overall traffic by month
  • Unique traffic
  • Main sources of traffic
  • Who is visiting
  • Time on site

Pro tip: HubSpot has an excellent (and free) online website grader that can provide this top-level intel. If you want to go deeper, SimilarWeb has free and paid subscriptions.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization has changed dramatically in the last two decades. One of the foundational elements is keywords (although the way we approach keywords has also evolved over the years).

  • What keywords are they bidding for?
  • What keywords are they ranked for?
  • Do they have any quality backlinks?

Pro tip: SpyFu is a great tool for SEO competitor analysis. WordStream takes a deep dive into eight tools (including SpyFu).

Social Media and Ads

When it comes to social media, look beyond “vanity metrics,” such as the number of followers, since those are rarely accurate. Instead, focus on engagement, such as the number of shares and comments. This will give you a better idea about what content is resonating with people.

Pro tip: Social Media Examiner offers a great list of four free tools to help you analyze and compare.

See how you compare with your competition!

Want someone else to do the heavy lifting for you? That’s what we do!  Click HERE to schedule a free consultation!

How to Build Your 24/7/365 Senior Living Sales Team

How to Build Your 24/7/365 Senior Living Sales Team

Fifty percent of all senior living sales inquiries occur outside of regular business hours. Prospects often engage during early mornings, after work, and on weekends when full-time sales teams are not typically in the community. And keep in mind that these prospects aren’t just looking at your community; they’re likely engaging with several at the same time.

This can create challenges since studies show that the sales person who responds to the prospect first—”speed to the lead”—has the best chance of converting them. So building a 24-hour virtual sales team is a must if you want your community to remain competitive.

Sound like a daunting task? Here’s the good news: Many solutions exist to help you fill in the sales “gap” during off hours.

Website – Your 24-Hour Sales Office

Eighty-seven percent of your prospects begin their journey on your website—and it’s open 24 hours a day.

What information should you have on your site? Think about the top 10 questions that prospects ask your sales people during the inquiry process (and what resources the sales team provides) and make sure that those answers and resources are easily accessible on your website.

For example, prospects usually want to know what your community offers, so information on accommodations, amenities, activities, and care should be accessible with downloadable brochures, calendars, menus, and floor plans. Extra points for video tours and photo galleries, since most people prefer to consume information visually rather than reading a lot of copy.

Prospects also want to know about pricing, so tell them (at least the “starting at” pricing). Pricing transparency improves qualified lead conversion. People use pricing information to self-qualify—or disqualify—themselves, which will give your sales teams a better chance to work with high-conversion opportunities.

Finally, prospects want to educate themselves before they get a sales pitch, so having educational blogs, guides, and checklists to help prospects make an informed decision will go a long way in building trust.

Make sure that there are CTAs (calls to action) throughout your website to lead your visitors down a path to conversion, such as scheduling a visit, requesting a call back, or subscribing to a newsletter. Each CTA creates an opportunity to convert an anonymous visitor into a lead.

Download our eBook

for marketers looking to get the most out of inbound phone calls

See real-time, working community examples of integrating these technology solutions helped to complement existing sales team.

Marketing Automation/ Lead Nurturing

If someone called into your community or scheduled a tour, your onsite sales team would follow up, right? Marketing automation creates workflows for ongoing lead nurturing after prospects leave your website—without your community sales team doing a thing.

Even better? The most powerful marketing automation will allow you to personalize the content and messaging based on each prospect’s interests. Lead nurturing that is both automated and personal tends to have the highest conversions.

Not convinced? Well, imagine this: someone comes to your website at 10 PM on a Saturday and they request a brochure. Your sales team is not available and your prospect does not want to wait for the information. No worries! As soon as the person requests the brochure, they would receive it right from the website along with a “thank you” email that demonstrates the community team is ready to help. From a backend perspective, the person would be automatically enrolled in a lead nurturing workflow.

Then, a day or so later, they receive a second email to see if they have any questions. The second email might also include a CTA to request a call back and a second piece of content, like “how to make a decision” guide. Finally, a few days later, they receive a check-in email with encouragement to schedule a visit.

Notice how each interaction offers resources, builds trust, and encourages them to take the next action—and it’s all happening automatically in the background without your sales team needing to do anything.

Remember, 90% of your first-time website visitors are “not ready to buy”—yet. Marketing automation keeps prospects engaged, brings them back to your website, and exposes them to your brand until they are ready to move forward.

Technology that is Always On Duty

Complete your virtual sales team with these technology solutions (vetted and approved by us, Senior Living SMART):

SiteStaff humanizes your website via chat services with college-educated American hosts hired for empathy, trained in senior living sales skills, and ready to answer questions with information available in a community-specific knowledgebase.

Roobrik offers interactive assessments to match needs with solutions. Prospects spend four to five minutes answering up to 28 questions about their situation, challenges, finances, cognitive status, and readiness to embrace change. A “Care Fit” report scores each person based on urgency and then matches them to care and housing recommendations.

Marchex provides a lens into the customer journey, their experience, and sentiment. And the entire process is automated—every single call. With the data surfaced, your sales team will be able to deliver a better, branded customer experience, which will result in greater revenue performance. By understanding “breakage” in the customer journey, you can advise your staff about lost opportunities and tips for correcting them. Information gathered will help the sales team to personalize their interactions, which will give you an advantage over competitors.

And, of course, if you need help with your website or marketing automation, give us a shout!

Effective Marketing: 5 Metrics Everyone in the C-Suite Should Know

Digital Marketing for Senior Living: 5 Metrics Everyone in the C-Suite Should Know

A few years ago, Eat This, Not That! was published to provide advice on how to replace unhealthy food choices with better alternatives.

Today, we’re sharing Ask This, Not That! – a guide for VPs of marketing and the C-Suite to measure the effectiveness of their digital marketing for senior living.

We recommend focusing on five critical metrics:

1. Digital Marketing for Senior Living: Conversions, Not Traffic

Don’t be distracted by website traffic. Instead, focus on what matters: conversions. As in traffic that actually converts into customers.

Invest your budget in creating more website conversion points rather than simply increasing traffic. Here are some ideas for doing exactly that:

  • Blog more. Websites that publish new blog posts every week get 3.5 times more leads per month.
  • Create premium content such as guides, e-books, tool kits, and infographics. Gate them (put them behind a form) to increase conversions of anonymous visitors to leads.
  • Add live chat (like SiteStaff) to respond to prospects’ questions and convert chats to leads and tours.
  • Make your website experiential with interactive surveys (Roobrik), room planners (Design Floor Plans), and financial calculators.

Note: Marketing teams should be able to quantify how many leads have converted to inquiry calls (using call tracking, such as Marchex), scheduled tours, and brochure/ pricing requests.

Question to bring up during your next meeting with marketing and sales: “What are the conversion rates for each marketing channel?”

2. Digital Marketing for Senior Living: Not All Leads Are Created Equal

Asking how many leads are generated is the wrong question. A better question to ask is this: How many leads are Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) vs. Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)? You should have a way of measuring both.

  • MQLs are early stage leads in research mode. They engage by reading blogs, downloading guides and brochures, and checking out pricing. Or maybe they are trying to self-qualify, but they’re not ready for a sales pitch. They want to be left alone until they are ready!
  • SQLs, on the other hand, are in the consideration and decision stages. These leads will opt into calls-to-action, such as “schedule a tour” and “speak with an advisor.” As such, it’s imperative that the sales team has immediate access to these leads.

Having technology that can apply lead scoring to quickly sort leads into MQLs and SQLs is critical in today’s competitive “speed to the lead” environment. And your marketing team should be able to provide the number of MQLs and SQLs in the pipeline.

Question to bring up during your next meeting with marketing and sales: “How do we identify MQLs vs SQLs so the sales team is working with the prospects most likely to convert?”

3. Digital Marketing for Senior Living: Nurturing the “Not Ready” Leads

Pressure on getting move-ins TODAY has created dangerous behaviors of focusing exclusively on urgent (high acuity) leads rather than building a healthy pipeline.

Each sales team member can realistically manage only about 10 active leads. So what do you think is happening with the other 200+ leads languishing in the CRM? Not much beyond maybe a few perfunctory “just checking in” follow-up calls to make an activity quota.

Marketing teams should have a strategy to keep the “not ready” leads engaged. Marketing automation (we use HubSpot) takes rote and repetitive tasks off the sales team’s plates and uses automated workflows to ensure that “not ready” leads are given resources while being exposed to your brand. Over time, this fosters trust and encourages the lead to advance to an SQL as they continue on their decision-making journey.

The best part? You can customize these strategic “drip campaigns” to each prospect based on their expressed interests and website behaviors. Links to blogs, premium content, newsletters, and event invitations keep prospects engaged until they are “ready.”

Question to bring up during your next meeting with marketing and sales: “What is our strategy to engage, nurture, and convert ‘not ready’ leads?”

4. Digital Marketing for Senior Living: Impact of Third Party Leads

The question most executives ask is “how many leads are in the CRM?” But a better question is this: “How many unique leads are in the database?”

A VP of Sales & Marketing recently told me that 80% of the leads in their CRM were generated from third party lead sources. This is important for two reasons. First, these leads averaged a 3% conversion rate. This means the sales team spends 80% of their time with low conversion opportunities. That leaves them only 20% of their time to work with leads generated from high conversion lead sources, such as friend and family referrals (35% conversion), professional referrals (40% conversion rate), and organic digital lead sources.

Second, these are shared leads – probably with five to seven of your nearest and dearest competitors. So in measuring actual lead volume, third party leads should only count as 1/5th or 1/7th of a lead. Counting third party leads as a unique lead will skew your actual lead volume and lull sales teams into a false sense of security that they have “plenty of leads” in the pipeline.

Question to bring up during your next meeting with marketing and sales: “What’s the lead percentage from each referral source category?”

5. Digital Marketing for Senior Living: It’s All About the ROI

At the end of the day, it is all about ROI. That is the difference between a marketing expense and an investment. You should be able to measure through every marketing channel—digital, paid AdWords and social campaigns, events, and traditional print, radio and TV advertising—the dollars invested and the leads generated in return.

Ideally, you should have a way to follow every lead through their journey and measure the cost per lead, cost per qualified lead, cost per tour, and cost per move-in. At Senior Living SMART, we help our clients go even further by calculating the resident lifetime value. Our clients provide the average length of stay and average rate by lifestyle for each community so we can accurately calculate the ROI of all marketing efforts.

Effective Marketing: 5 Metrics Everyone in the C-Suite Should Know

Question to bring up during your next meeting with senior living marketing and sales: “What is the ROI of each marketing campaign?”

Need help analyzing your analytics?

As a senior living marketing agency, we can help you understand the metrics that matter most. Get in touch!

How to Boost Occupancy & Lead Generation Through Inbound Marketing. Learn how we helped one client experience over 1200% ROI across 10 communities in fewer than four months! In this case study, track the growth of 10 communities using marketing automation, and view measurable results with reported ROI.

The First Conversation in Senior Living Sales

The First Conversation in Senior Living Sales

Not too long ago, the first conversation with prospects happened either over the phone with the initial discovery call or in person during an event or tour. Today, the first conversation with prospects is digital in nature. Eighty-seven percent of senior living sales start online, and providers have only seven seconds to engage prospects.

Here are five tips to increase engagement and conversions.

Tip #1: It’s Not About You.

Your prospects don’t come to your website because they want to hear your “story,” meet your team, or read your mission statement. They come because they have a compelling need or concern, many questions, and a desire to connect with helpful resources to guide their decision-making journey.

Remember, you only have seven seconds. So ask yourself how you’re going to connect, engage, and convert them to a lead. Prospects today are much more experiential in their research style. If you have relevant information, they will stay on your site. If not, they will bounce off to a competitor or third party lead aggregator site.

So make sure you put the most relevant and helpful info front and center on your most trafficked pages, particularly the home page. Include calls-to-action that will lead people to helpful resources they can download. Make sure FAQs are easily accessible in the navigation (better yet, include a Live Chat feature so you can address their questions in real-time).

Tip #2: Create Content for All Stages in The Buyer’s Journey.

Ninety percent of website visitors are not sales qualified. Prospects in the Awareness Stage are looking for basic information (e.g., What are the options? What’s included? Can I afford it?).

When they move into the Consideration Stage, they are weighing pros and cons and transitional issues (e.g., Is home or community the best setting? What will we do with all the stuff? Is the family on board? How do we broach the subject with Mom/ Dad?).

By the time prospects move into the Decision Stage, urgency replaces ambivalence and the conversation shifts to timing and location (e.g., Which community is going to be the best fit? what funding sources can we tap into? How do we make a smooth transition?).

To meet prospects where they are, your website must offer a range of content types to consume throughout the journey and multiple CTAs (calls to action) to advance leads. You’ll want to gate some content, but you should also “un-gate” some content as well. Blogs make great un-gated content (we recommend two to four original educational blog posts per month). Offering downloadable activity calendars, menus, and newsletters works well, too.

Guides, e-books, and tool kits work best for gated content (the prospect must exchange limited contact information in exchange for the valuable resource). Offering digital brochures and pricing resources are very popular with prospects and have high engagement and conversion metrics. We have found that e-newsletters are the number one tool to re-engage website visitors.

Need more help getting your website up to snuff?

Check out the following offers:

Tip #3: Make Your Website Interactive.

Websites today have to be more than online brochures. Less copy and more interactive experiences will make the website “sticky” so prospects stay longer and come back often.

Need some ideas? Live chat (not self-managed, not bots, and not foreign-based) produces high conversion rates with 40% of chats turning into leads and 20% converting to a scheduled tour. Interactive surveys (such as financial calculators) and self-guided decision tools (such as Roobrik) engage and convert anonymous website visitors into marketing- and sales-qualified leads. Interactive site maps, virtual tours, and room planners allow prospects to explore from their couch, without the drive time or sales pitch.

Tip #4 Optimize the Contact Us Form.

Prospects at each stage will respond to different CTAs, so offer them a menu of choices. Create a “pick list” with options such as the following:

  • Download a brochure
  • Check pricing
  • Join us for lunch
  • Schedule a home visit
  • Schedule a tour
  • Attend an upcoming event
  • Speak with an advisor
  • Subscribe to our newsletter and/or blog

Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) who opt in to face-to-face or voice-to-voice interaction should immediately go to the community sales team. We recommend marketing automation to nurture early stage leads with personalized workflows. This allows sales teams to stay focused on high-conversion opportunities without the distraction of following up with leads that are not ready.

Tip #5: Attract and Convert More Leads, Tours, & Move-Ins with Essential Resources.

Below, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite resources. But you can find others in our Senior Living Marketplace.

  • Senior Living SMART – website design, marketing automation, content development
  • SiteStaff – live chat staffed by college-educated Americans trained for senior living
  • Roobrik – self-guided decision tools with low lead-acquisition costs and high conversions
  • Marchex – call tracking to measure conversion points for digital, social, and traditional channels
  • Design Floor Plans – interactive sitemaps, room planners, 2- and 3-D floor plans