senior living marketing strategy

Senior Living Marketing Strategy: What Is an Advertorial?

A client recently asked us about an advertorial opportunity that a newspaper was offering their community. Their first question to us was “What is an advertorial anyway?” Their second question was “Should we do it? Does it make sense for our senior living marketing strategy?”

We figured our answer would make a great blog post, so here you go!

What is an advertorial?

The word itself is known as a portmanteau. With a portmanteau, you combine two common words to create a new word. Common portmanteaus include “blog” (web + log) and “brunch” (breakfast + lunch). In this case, we’re combining the word “advertising” and “editorial” to get “advertorial.”

At its simplest, an advertorial is an advertisement. But instead of the advertisement being displayed in typical ad format, it takes the form of a newspaper editorial.

Here’s the thing, though: Not everyone understands what a newspaper editorial is.

An editorial is essentially an argument—it takes a position on something and expresses the editor’s opinion. (Think of political candidate endorsements, for example). A newspaper’s editorial section is separate from the journalistic side of things, where reporters remain objective and report only the facts.

An advertorial has the same “look and feel” as other editorials or articles in the publication. In other words, it’s a lot less obvious that you’re looking at an ad because of the format. The advertorial might even read like an article. But underneath, it’s still very much an advertisement promoting a product, service, or cause.

And advertorials aren’t just found in print publications, either. You’ll find them online as well, where they’re more commonly referred to as “native advertising.” The TV equivalent is the infomercial (another portmanteau). Same concept. It’s a sponsored advertisement, but it takes on a different format, like a talk show or news feature.

Hmm. Advertorials sound a little shady. Are they?

There’s nothing shady about advertorials that are done right. When we say “done right,” we mean advertorials that present accurate information from reliable sources, science, and the like—and the publication makes it super obvious that the advertorial is indeed a paid advertisement.

In fact, the Federal Trade Commission requires transparency and clear disclaimers/disclosures around advertorials and native advertising. Unfortunately, however, not everyone plays by the rules. And even when they do, sometimes words like “Sponsored Ad” might not necessarily communicate to the reader that the big article they’re reading is actually a long-form paid advertisement.

And this, of course, is where things can get tricky.

If the advertorial has been put together in a thoughtful and ethical way—with accurate information, reputable sources, quotes from real people, and even consideration for “the other side”—then the advertorial wouldn’t pose a problem. It will simply read like a longer advertisement, one where the reader would need to assess the claims, just as they would if they were to carefully read a digital display ad or a traditional print ad.

But if the advertorial is put together in a haphazard way (remember, no one is fact-checking the advertorial) and the reader misses the disclaimer about it being a paid ad, things can get dicey since the reader could walk away with skewed information—or downright false information.

When it comes to advertising, we all bear responsibility. If we’re involved with advertising, we must endeavor to create ethical ads. As consumers, we must use critical thinking skills when assessing claims made in ads.

Bottom line: If you decide to run an advertorial or native advertisement for your community and you focus on data and facts, rather than spin, you’ll be fine. In fact, you might be more than fine. Because advertorials can be an extremely effective marketing vehicle.

Why are advertorials so effective?

For the same reason they can also be problematic—the format. We humans are much more likely to pay attention to something that’s in an article format than something that screams “ad,” even if we see the disclaimer and we know it’s an ad.

Where the advertorial is published can also influence us. For example, some folks might pay more attention to an advertorial in an advertising supplement in The New York Times because it’s The New York Times.

Advertorials also provide more space to mount a compelling “argument”—much more than a typical print ad or display ad. With a print advertorial, you can go much deeper into whatever it is you’re selling, like a product, a service, or—in this case—a senior living community (or the concept of senior living in general).

And digital advertorials (native advertisements) tend to have much more engagement than traditional online ads. Think about native ads that have come across your social media feeds—and all the likes, comments, and shares the ad got. Banner ads and display ads don’t have that sort of activity!

But advertorials probably cost more than typical ads, right?

It really depends on the publication. Running an advertorial in a supplement to The New York Times will be much more expensive than an advertorial in your town’s weekly paper.

But yes—price points for advertorials that run in premier publications like the Times will cost you a pretty marketing penny.

So should communities run advertorials and native advertising as part of their senior living marketing strategy?

It depends. Long-form ads / native advertising can be effective marketing vehicles, provided the advertorial aligns with your overall marketing strategy and is executed well.

OK, so what are some tips for producing awesome advertorials?

Our suggestions are the same for any senior living advertising campaign. You need to start by carefully answering the following questions:

  • What’s your goal? Building brand awareness, getting people to book a visit, something else?
  • Can the publication that you want to run the advertorial in help you achieve this goal? For example, do demographics align with your buyer personas?
  • Would running an advertorial integrate with your overall marketing strategy? For example, would the advertorial work with your other paid campaigns? Or did a random publication message you with a “great deal” for an advertorial and you want to try it—even though you haven’t been running a ton of advertising?
  • What metrics do you have in place to measure the advertorial’s effectiveness? How will you define success?
  • Do you have people who understand how to write and design effective advertorials? Don’t skimp on the writing. Consider using a professional writer with experience in advertorial creation.

Can Senior Living SMART help my community with advertorials and native advertising?

Absolutely! We can help you evaluate any advertising offers that cross your desk to ensure they make sense for your goals, that they align with your larger senior living marketing strategy, and that the ad buy works for your budget. Our team can also write and design effective advertorials and native advertisements as well. Get in touch and let’s talk it through.

gated vs ungated content

Senior Living Marketing Strategy: Gated Vs. Ungated Content

When it comes to developing a SMART senior living marketing strategy, one of the biggest decisions you must make is whether to gate your content. Here’s what to keep in mind.

What is gated content?

As its name suggests, gated content requires formal access. Most often, the content resides behind a website form. To access the content, a person needs to supply specific info, like their name, email address, and phone number.

Why would businesses gate content anyway?

The main reason businesses gate content is so that they can continue marketing to the people who download the content. For example, if someone downloads a piece of content from your senior living website—maybe it’s a floor plan, brochure, pricing info—they’re signaling that they’re interested in what you’re selling. No, they might not be ready to move in tomorrow—or even a year from now. Or they might be looking on behalf of someone else, like a parent. 

Here’s the thing, though: If someone takes the time to download your content, that action suggests a certain level of interest in what you’re selling. 

Businesses capitalize on this interest by staying in front of these people and continuing to market to them. The “gate” enables businesses to do exactly that since the gate is a website form that captures a person’s email address. With the email address, the business can stay in touch with prospects by sending them more info that will (hopefully) keep the prospects engaged with the brand. (This is known as email lead nurturing.)

OK, given all that, why would a business ever offer ungated content?

Ah, this is where it gets interesting. If the goal is to continue to market to people who’ve shown interest in your senior living community, why would you ever offer content “in the clear”—meaning without requiring the person to fill out a form?

Not all content deserves to be put behind forms. Take a blog, for example. If you have a blog on your senior living website, you’re offering compelling content (we hope!), but you’re giving it away in the clear. Why? Because you trust that the person who’s reading the content is capable of taking the next best step for them, whatever that is. 

Another good example is case studies. If someone is interested in reading a case study—what you might call “resident stories”—about your community, why on earth would you put that content behind a form? 

If someone wants to read a case study about your community, that suggests a high level of interest. If the case study does its job well and satisfies the questions/concerns the person has about your community, chances are good the person will contact you for a tour or to speak to a sales counselor. 

Keep in mind, too, that the way people buy things today is much different from the way they shopped even ten years ago. Buyers are now in control of the sales process, not the other way around. In fact, buyers will often engage with a company’s website and other online assets (like social media or review sites) multiple times before showing any interest in talking to a salesperson. 

If someone has no interest in being “marketed to,” they’ll ignore any methods you use to try to reach them. (And they might possibly think less of your brand as a result of all the pushiness.) If you “require” their info on a form and they don’t want to give it, they might supply a dummy name and phone number—and a “junk” email address that they only use to download stuff. They might back away from your site altogether and see if they can find the information they’re looking for in some other way—or from someone else (like a competitor), which kind of defeats the purpose, right?

So when it comes to the best senior living marketing strategy for my community, what should we offer: gated or ungated content?

We typically recommend a mix of gated and ungated content. Why a mix? Well, we do believe certain content, like a 5-page guide on understanding how to finance senior living, offers excellent value. So it’s understandable that someone would have to surrender something—like their name and email—to access the premium content. In other words, it’s a fair “ask.” 

Certain pieces of content, like pricing requests, suggest someone might be farther down the sales funnel and closer to making a decision. Having their info makes sense because they might be more inclined to talk to a salesperson. 

But other content, like case studies and blog posts, work well as ungated content. This type of content enables the buyer to self-identify if your community is right for them or their loved one. At which point, they can then raise their hand if they want a sales counselor to contact them.

What are some of the biggest mistakes communities make with ungated and gated content?

The biggest mistake people make isn’t whether to gate a piece of content. The biggest mistake involves the website forms (if the content is gated) and the resulting follow-up process. Here’s what you should keep in mind.

For first-time downloads, keep forms short. 

When we say “first-time” downloads, we mean exactly that: The person is downloading content for the first time on your website. (Good marketing automation software will know if someone is a first-time downloader.) 

On the forms, ask only the essential info: first name, email address, and a question with multiple choice options: Are you searching for a senior living community for yourself or a loved one? (The multiple choices would be: Myself, Loved One, Neither.) 

Notice that we don’t recommend asking for phone numbers for first-time downloaders. This is deliberate. Most people do NOT want a phone call the minute they submit a form. (Something that happens WAY too often in our industry.)

Implement progressive fields on forms for subsequent downloads. 

Often, website visitors who are in the education stage will download multiple pieces of content at once or over a period of time, like days or weeks. When you use progressive fields in forms, you can “program” the form to serve up new fields to the person—meaning required info they haven’t filled out before. So each time they download a piece of content, they will have a new item or two to fill out on the form. 

Why use progressive fields on forms? It’s less overwhelming for people to provide additional information over time rather than up front on one lengthy form (or worse: over and over again on various forms). You can ask different questions with each form they fill out—and the answers will provide further insight into who they are, where they are in their buying journey, and whether they are a marketing-qualified lead or sales-qualified lead for your community

Because let’s face it: Not everyone who fills out a form on your site is going to be a good senior living lead.

If you do ask for phone numbers, don’t bombard people with phone calls the minute they submit a form. 

We know that we’ll probably lose the “don’t ask for phone numbers” debate. OK. But if you ask for phone numbers, make sure your sales team or call center doesn’t dial up people the minute they download a piece of content. The sales team should have a strategy for identifying who might be a suitable candidate for a phone call (this involves segmenting leads into two main buckets: marketing-qualified vs. sales-qualified).

Enter people into appropriate lead nurturing email campaigns.

We’re big fans of thoughtful email lead nurturing. The keyword, however, is thoughtful. You need to have a sound senior living marketing strategy behind each lead nurturing campaign you create. 

Put some thought into the various workflows and journeys people are on along with the type of content people are downloading. All of those things will help determine the various email lead nurturing campaigns you need to create—and how you’ll decide which prospects should go where. (This is why strong marketing automation software, like HubSpot, is critical.)

Don’t overwhelm people with multiple email workflows, either. This goes hand-in-hand with the above. If someone downloads a bunch of stuff at once (a common experience), then you need an overarching strategy for the logic behind the workflows. This can all be done within your marketing automation, but humans still need to think through and supply the logic to the software.

So, for example, if someone downloads your pricing comparison guide, your floorplans, and the seasonal dining room menu—and each download has its own email lead nurturing workflow—you shouldn’t allow that person to be in all THREE email workflows at the same time. Talk about overwhelming! 

Instead, there should be logic for these situations. Perhaps the pricing guide trumps the other items since it suggests that someone is comparing prices/options between your community and your competitors. So the lead nurturing workflow for the pricing guide might be the most sensible one for the person to enter. You’d have the automation logic set up in such a way that it funnels the person into that workflow and not the other ones. 

Need help thinking through your senior living marketing strategy?

We love working with senior living communities and helping them develop buyer personas and smart content strategies. Get in touch and let’s chat about your content marketing needs.

Local SEO Tips

Best Local SEO Tips for Your Senior Living Marketing Strategy

When it comes to the topic of best local SEO tips for your senior living marketing strategy, we probably sound like a broken record. But if you want your community or communities to effectively compete in today’s ultra-competitive landscape, you must pay attention to local search

Why local search optimization is so important

If you’ve spent any time reading about local SEO, you’ve likely heard the saying that ALL search is local search. Because optimizing for local search first means you’re automatically optimizing for overall search, period. 

Of course, in the senior living industry, optimizing for local search matters for another reason: PROSPECTS CARE ABOUT LOCATION. And yet too often we see communities ignoring location-based keywords and defaulting to generic optimization techniques with the hope that Google will “figure it out.”

Listen, Google is smart. But you’ll increase your chances of Google serving up your content to the right prospects if you take the time TO TELL GOOGLE where your communities are located. 

Need some local search stats to convince you? Here you go . . .

  • 92% of searchers will pick businesses on the first page of local search results. [Source: SEO Expert Brad]
  • 82% of local searchers follow up offline via an in-person visit, phone call, or purchase. [Source: Duct Tape Marketing]
  • 61% of mobile searchers are more likely to contact a local business if they have a mobile-friendly site. [Source: HubSpot]

Oh, we could go on and on, but hopefully you get the idea. So let’s talk local search, specifically the best local SEO tips to weave into your overall senior living marketing strategy.

Best local SEO tips: Create a strong Google My Business listing (or listings).

We recently provided lots of tips for Google My Business listings, so check it out. But the short of it goes like this: Google controls the universe (or, at the very least, the search universe). Google uses your Google My Business (GMB) listing to inform your company’s entire presence across Google, including all related products from Search to Maps.

Keep in mind that you will need a separate Google My Business listing for each senior living community’s location. Depending on how many you have, that can be a lot of work, but agencies like ours are familiar with the ins and outs of GMB, including bulk location management. Let us help.

Bonus local SEO tip: While your Google business profile is the most important one to focus on, if you’ve got time to spare, set up your Yahoo! and Bing Places for Business profiles as well.

Best local SEO tips: Make sure your social media profiles are location-specific.

It’s so easy to get lost in tweets, posts, pics, and TikToks while overlooking the critical “About” sections in each social media platform. Don’t underestimate their power. Because social media profiles do rank in Google.

As marketing guru Neil Patel notes, “While social shares may or may not affect a web page’s position in search listings, your social profiles definitely influence the content of your search results. In fact, social media profiles are often amongst the top results in search listings for brand names.”

If you have multiple locations, get creative—and take advantage of any baked-in tools. Just as Google My Business allows you to easily manage multiple locations from one dashboard, Facebook’s “Locations” lets you do the same thing. 

As Facebook explains, “With Facebook Locations, you can connect and manage all your business locations on Facebook. Our free tool lets you quickly add new store Pages, edit information for existing stores, and manage your locations from one central spot.”

For Instagram, as of the writing of this article, you’ll need to set up separate Instagram accounts for each location, but you can manage them all from one single device.

We wouldn’t necessarily recommend having multiple Twitter accounts (that would be too hard to maintain and likely unnecessary for our industry, at this time). For something like YouTube, you could have your main channel and then create location-specific “playlists” for each location. (Yes, YouTube is important. Remember who owns it: Google.)

Like everything else in marketing, you need to think about social media strategically based on the marketing resources you have in your various locations. Bottom line: Make sure you properly optimize every account you do have for local search. (Guess what: We can help! Let’s discuss your social media strategy.)

Best local SEO tips: Run location-specific pay-per-click (PPC) and social media ads.

Running location-specific PPC ads is a great way to build awareness for your various locations. Paid ads will supplement and support organic listings (including your Google My Business listing). 

When you run social media ads, particularly on Facebook, you can create location-specific campaigns that target people within a certain radius of your location. (You can even target specific zip codes in addition to other attributes, like age and gender.) Instead of running the same generic ad to all your locations, location-specific campaigns will sound much more personal, timely, and intimate.

Best local SEO tips: Monitor and manage review sites.

Reputation management should be a cornerstone of your senior living marketing strategy. What people are saying about your community matters. According to Qualtrics, nearly all consumers (97%) use online media when researching products or services in their local area. And 93% of consumers say online reviews influence their purchasing decision.

You’ll want to monitor the “big guys” like Google reviews (which appear on your Google My Business listing) and Facebook. But don’t overlook other popular sites, like Yelp, and industry-specific listings, like and

Responding to reviews can be tricky. The thing to remember is this: People leave reviews because they want to be heard and they want to share their experience, for better or worse. They’re not writing the reviews for you—they’re writing them for other potential customers. 

For positive reviews, you can say simply say thank you or give the equivalent of a “thumbs up.” With mediocre or downright negative reviews, be mindful in your approach. Be genuine in your thanks and/or acceptance of constructive criticism. Never be defensive. And don’t engage in any back and forth—take it offline.

Keep in mind that reputation management is never done. It’s an ongoing task, one that you have to work into your marketing plan.

Best local SEO tips: Be mindful of your main hub—your senior living website.

At the very least, you should have a page on your senior living website devoted to each location (and optimized for the strongest keyword phrase for that location). The page should be compelling! In other words, it should have more than just one or two pics and contact info for that location. 

Your blog is also a good place to highlight location-specific longtail keyword phrases. If you want to get super fancy, when people subscribe to your blog, you could have them choose a location they’re interested in. You could set up the blog automation so that the person only receives evergreen content or the location-specific content that matches the location they selected.

And don’t forget: Make sure you pay attention to how your site renders on mobile. As HubSpot reports, “Mobile web traffic has consistently accounted for about half of all global web traffic since the beginning of 2017.” It’s critical that your site looks great on mobile. 

Best local SEO tips: Work with a senior living marketing agency that gets it.

And by “it,” we mean search engine optimization and senior living. At Senior Living SMART, we have specialists on our team who can help with all aspects of local SEO. Even better? Everyone is passionate about senior living. Let’s chat about your community’s local SEO needs!

Marketing Strategy Website Forms

Senior Living Marketing Strategy for Website Forms

Here’s a true story regarding one community’s senior living marketing strategy. (Or lack thereof.) 

Debbie Howard (our CEO and co-founder) was on a call with a prospective client: the COO of a senior living community. They were discussing the community’s website, and the COO said they had no idea what happened when someone filled out a form on the site. So Debbie went ahead and filled one out. She specifically requested pricing and floor plans.

Instead of receiving what she asked for, she got an immediate call from a salesperson saying, “I got your phone number, but I can’t make out what you’re looking for.”

UGH! Talk about a poor website experience.

Sadly, this is not an isolated case. Whenever we perform a website audit for clients or prospects, we always test the website forms and opt-ins. And too often, they result in an annoying sales call rather than the info we requested. Sometimes after filling out a form, nothing happens at all—no thank-you page saying our info was successfully submitted. No follow-up email. Nothing. It’s as if our request got sucked into a black hole. That’s NOT the first impression you want to give prospects.

Your senior living marketing strategy should include a thoughtful approach to website forms.

Don’t treat your website forms as an afterthought. Your forms serve as the connection between anonymity and bona fide leads. Treat website forms with the respect and reverence they deserve.

Are you asking for the right information?

Mileage will vary, but you want to ask for just enough information to get the ball rolling. Having too many fields on your forms could discourage people from filling them out. Pay attention to conversion rates on landing pages. If it’s lower than you’d like, experimenting with the form length is a good thing to test.

Do you use progressive profiling?

Good marketing automation software will offer progressive profiling. This means after someone fills out one set of fields on a form, they’ll be offered up a new set of fields on subsequent forms. You can get more information about a prospect as they explore your site and engage with more content. From there, you can serve up custom content designed for their particular needs and pain points.

Do you have a SMART senior living marketing strategy in place for what happens AFTER someone submits a form?

This is often where the trouble starts. In a perfect world, here’s what would happen after someone fills out a form on your senior living website . . .

The prospect would be redirected to a thank-you page. The page would indicate that their info was successfully submitted. If the person requested a specific piece of content—like a guide or floor plans—this content would be served on the thank-you page (usually via a link). 

The prospect would also receive an email autoresponder. The email would include the same info as the thank-you page. This way, if someone navigates away from the thank-you page, they can still access the info within the email.

The email and thank-you page would include relevant calls-to-action (CTAs). The goal is to enable the buyer by providing helpful content that speaks to where they are in their journey. If they just requested a guide on financing senior living, you could serve up other content related to financing, such as a blog post on the Veterans Aid & Attendance benefit.

Lead scoring would automatically kick in. Marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) would enter a relevant email nurturing campaign. Sales-qualified leads (SQLs) would go to the sales team. Only SQLs would receive a follow-up call or email from a sales rep. (Read more about the difference between MQLs and SQLs.)

The last bit is usually the hardest pill for senior living sales teams to swallow. The temptation is to contact every single lead that comes through the site, no matter what. Remember: The buyer controls the sales process, not the sales team. 

Buyers want to engage with content on their own. And they want to self-identify when they’re ready to talk to sales. Your sales team will be wasting its time calling people who are not ready to buy. Or worse: They’ll annoy prospects with the intrusion. (Which is how Debbie felt after she filled out the form on the client’s website.) 

Bottom line: A submitted website form is NOT an automatic invitation for a phone call.

Yet too many senior living communities default to that line of thinking. Instead, they should focus on a SMART senior living marketing strategy when it comes to website forms. 

  • Make sure your form fields are the right length. Monitor results. If your landing pages aren’t converting, your forms might be the culprit.
  • Make sure you ask for the right info at the right time. Start with the most important info—name, email, location, where they are in their journey. Then, build from there by using progressive form fields.
  • Remove friction and respect boundaries. Give people what they ask for when they ask for it. If they don’t want a sales call, DON’T CALL. 
  • Spot-check forms. Things can break on the back end. It happens. Get in the habit of spot-checking forms every quarter.
  • Make sure everyone’s on the same page. Your marketing and sales teams need to agree on what happens after someone submits a form. MQLs should be nurtured with compelling campaigns designed for where they are in their journey. Sales reps should only reach out to SQLs (prospective buyers in the bottom of the funnel who’ve requested a sales interaction).

Need help with your senior living marketing strategy?

We can take an objective look at your website’s forms and get them in tip-top shape. Let’s chat about your senior living website.

senior living marketing strategy, hands with gears

7 Mistakes to Avoid with Your Senior Living Marketing Strategy

As we wrap up third quarter, now’s a good time to think about your senior living marketing strategy for the fourth quarter (as well as next year). Below, you’ll find seven mistakes to avoid as you develop your strategy.

Mistake #1. Thinking you don’t need a senior living marketing strategy in the first place.

For some things in life, you can fly by the seat of your pants. But marketing your senior living community isn’t one of them. The benefits of having a formal marketing strategy are many:

  • It provides clear goals.
  • It keeps everyone accountable (marketing and sales).
  • It provides important insights to the C-suite.
  • It will help inform future strategies based on real intelligence.

Mistake #2. Simply going through the motions of creating a strategy.

Don’t treat your marketing strategy as one more thing you need to cross off your to-do list. Your strategy should be your team’s constant companion, the blueprint everyone refers to week in and week out. 

Mistake #3. Treating your strategy as if it’s set in stone.

Your senior living marketing strategy must remain fluid. The best example we could possibly offer: Consider the strategy you had going into 2020. Given the pandemic, if you had “stayed the course” with your original strategy, that would have been a big mistake. Strategies will and should change based on things like analytics and conditions on the ground. 

Mistake #4. Making your strategy too vague.

On the flip side of #3, you still need to have a concrete marketing strategy—one with clear goals and specific initiatives to support those goals. If it’s too loosey goosey, it won’t serve anyone. A good way to approach developing your strategy: Focus on key areas. Think website/SEO, paid advertising, content marketing, email marketing/automation, social media marketing, and print/traditional marketing (like direct mail). Define what you’ll be doing under each, as needed.

Mistake #5. Making your strategy too long.

Planning too far out can result in unwieldy and unrealistic initiatives. Better to focus on shorter time frames. Consider creating quarterly marketing strategies or even month-to-month marketing plans, if that makes following them easier.

Mistake #6. Not revisiting the results of previous strategies before developing this one.

Think of strategies as chapters in a novel — they should all flow together, rather than function as separate books. You should always review past strategies and develop new strategies based on measurable results. 

For example, is your paid advertising delivering excellent ROI? Great! You might decide to reserve more budget for pay-per-click campaigns. Are you finding you’re not gaining any traction on Twitter, but Facebook is lively? Wonderful. You might decide to downgrade (or eliminate) Twitter initiatives and make Facebook the focus of your social media strategy.

Mistake #7. Developing your strategy in a silo and/or forging ahead on your own, even if you don’t know what you’re doing.

There’s no shame in saying you’ve never created a formal senior living marketing strategy before. And there’s no shame in saying you’d like some guidance (even if you have created strategies in the past). In fact, though it might sound self-serving, we do believe working with an objective third-party on your strategy can be extremely beneficial — precisely because it will be objective. You and your team might be too close to things. Or you might not have the experience in developing a sound strategy. 

Whatever you do, don’t develop the strategy by yourself. Work with team members in marketing and sales at the very least. Or do yourself a favor and reach out to us about developing a strategic marketing roadmap for your community.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, mature couple navigating websites

Make Your Web Content More Accessible to People with Disabilities with UserWay

Have you heard of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)?

In a nutshell, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is “developed through the W3C process in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world, with a goal of providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.”

The ultimate goal? To make web content more accessible to everyone, particularly people with disabilities. 

At Senior Living SMART, we’ve always advocated making senior living websites accessible to site visitors (think older people with aging eyes, for example). We’ve taught many clients over the years about the value of adjustable text sizing, strong color contrast with fonts and backgrounds, avoiding layering text over images, and using alt tags to describe images. (Just to name a few best practices.) 

Why? Because it’s the right thing to do.

That said, WCAG takes accessibility to a whole new level. As Mozilla notes, “It is comprehensive but incredibly detailed, and quite difficult to gain a rapid understanding of.” And depending on what sort of business you’re in, you could face legal repercussions if your site doesn’t comply (for example, federal agencies and their contractors). 

Now, we’re not sharing this info to make you nervous. Our job is to make sure you’re aware—and to tell you about our approach to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. We’re proud to announce we’re working with UserWay as our accessibility compliance partner. 

As its website explains, “UserWay’s Accessibility Technology is the world’s most advanced and popular AI-powered accessibility compliance solution that ensures your website provides a digital experience that meets and exceeds WCAG 2.1 AA requirements, as required by the ADA and other governmental and regulatory bodies.”

UserWay has been installed in over 1.2 million websites around the globe (and counting!). It makes compliance straightforward. As noted on this user review site, UserWay’s “AI-powered widget does the job of making smart modifications on your website without the need to make dramatic changes to the existing code.”

Bottom line: UserWay is our way to help clients’ websites remain compliant and accessible to all.

Need help with your Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)? Talk to us!

We’re experts in senior living and website marketing. Let’s talk about your community’s specific needs, including making your web content accessible to everyone.

Note: Affiliate links are used in this post.

Finding Solutions to the Pandemic Disruption in the Senior Living Industry, infographic

Finding Solutions to the Pandemic Disruption in the Senior Living Industry

The Senior Living industry is currently undergoing a massive transition, due to the disruption brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. No aspect of the industry has been spared, including management, operations, and sales and marketing. Sara Nay, host of Duct Tape Marketing’s Agency Spark Podcast, interviewed Debbie Howard, CEO and Founder of industry marketing agency Senior Living SMART, to talk more about this. In the interview, Howard was candid about how this disruption has impacted her experience growing an agency, and how they have pivoted to better meet the needs of their clients.

A solution for the pandemic disruption

There is an entirely new reality for the industry that has been evolving since the start of the pandemic. The senior living providers that wish to survive and succeed will be those that are most innovative in working to create value-added platforms for the future. That’s where Senior Living SMART comes in. “We had to reimagine the entire prospect journey,” Howard said. “We had to create solutions that would normally be touchpoints that HAD to happen in person.” On top of that, the Senior Living SMART team found that prospects were craving content that felt “real” and provoked a feeling of human connection. The solution? Technology.

The COVID-19 pandemic created rapid and powerful momentum for the technology movement that Howard admitted had already started transforming the industry years ago. Howard recognizes that this change can be uncomfortable for the client, but she encourages them to embrace it. “Prospects are empowered to have more choice in how they want to engage,” she said.

Senior Living SMART helped clients bolster their digital footprint by incorporating:

  • Still photography (showcasing interactions between staff and residents)
  • Architectural stills with movement
  • Virtual tours
  • Facebook Live events to engage with prospects

Staying focused on the prospect

Though some of the Senior Living SMART strategy had to change, their client-focused mission never wavered. Their focus on the client’s ideal prospect (through very comprehensive persona work), set them apart. Howard cites for example the difference in experience for the adult daughter versus the adult son – emphasizing that the strategy must resonate with both. In addition to personas, Senior Living SMART provides clients with:

  • A TOPA (total online presence audit) to inform website optimization.
  • Content development (blogs, guides, eBooks, newsletters).
  • Email marketing and marketing automation.
  • Social media & paid search.

Howard emphasized that they do the paid part of the strategy last because they want to make sure the website is set up to convert inquiries to leads.

Senior Living SMART strives to be the best partner for its clients, providing comprehensive solutions based on experience and research. “In our industry, we have to make things turn-key,” she states. As part of that goal, Senior Living SMART offers clients entry to its Marketplace, which provides access to carefully vetted, best-in-class resources that will help clients grow their occupancy.

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content marketing agency cell phone infographic

What to Look for in a Content Marketing Agency for Senior Living

When it comes to online search, content is still king. The words you use on your senior living website, blog, and social channels matter—big time.

If you’re thinking about working with a content marketing agency, here’s what to look for as you research your options.

Does the content marketing agency offer only writing services? Or can it provide a strategy as well?

Strategy informs the writing. But here’s the thing: A good content strategist doesn’t always translate into being a good writer. And a good writer doesn’t always make for a good strategist. Ideally, look for a content marketing agency that can deliver both.

Questions to ask:

  • How do they conduct their strategy work? How involved are the clients? (You should absolutely have input.)
  • How do they communicate strategy to the writer or writers?
  • How do they monitor the writer’s content to make sure it’s on track with the strategy?
  • How do they measure the content and the strategy’s overall effectiveness? What metrics do they use?

Does the agency have writers in-house? Or does it farm out everything?

It’s perfectly OK if a content marketing agency uses freelance writers. Not all agencies can employ dozens of writers. But a reputable agency should have a core staff and a solid stable filled with good freelancers. Think of it like starting pitchers and bullpens. To have a winning team, you need both.

What you want to avoid, however, is the firm that claims it’s a content marketing agency, but it outsources everything to another firm, or it outsources all writing to cheap resources. The former situation results in marked-up prices. The latter usually results in weak copy.

When it comes to writing, this old chestnut always holds true: You get what you pay for. If you want your content to convert leads into move-ins, then you need capable writers who can write compelling copy.

Do the writers understand the tenets of search engine optimization (SEO)?

Lots of great writers exist out there. But not all of them understand SEO—or how to write optimized content without sounding awkward.

Do the writers and content strategists have experience in senior living?

While this isn’t a must-have, it can be extremely helpful to work with writers and content strategists who already have working knowledge of the senior living industry. If they don’t have any experience, ask the agency how it gets writers up to speed when collaborating with clients in new industries.

What to look for in their answers:

  • Buyer personas. If the content marketing agency asks about your buyer personas and/or recommends starting with this work, that’s a good sign.
  • Keyword research. A good content marketing agency should discuss its approach to keyword research, since this work will shed valuable light on the industry itself. (Keyword research might come up during the SEO discussion as well.)

Can the content marketing agency provide examples of content and strategy that delivered big ROI?

Remember, strategy and copy go together like peanut butter and jelly. Reputable content marketing agencies shouldn’t have any qualms about sharing examples of strategies and content that converted.

If the agency has direct experience in senior living, make sure you ask to see industry-specific examples of blog posts and premium content, like guides and e-books. Ask specifically about conversions: marketing-qualified leads to sales-qualified leads to move-ins. After all, increasing occupancy is the number one goal for senior living communities.

Do you like the agency’s content?

A content marketing agency should be putting its best face forward on its website and in its marketing materials. This means compelling, clear, and clean copy.

  • How does the site read?
  • Does the copy have personality?
  • If the agency has a blog, is it regularly updated with interesting content?
  • Does the agency offer premium content, like e-books and white papers? If yes, what’s the copy “experience” like from landing pages to thank-you emails?
  • How about social media? What do you think of the voice, the content, and the topics being discussed in different social media channels?
  • Does the site have a team page with bios? Do the writers’ bios demonstrate strong experience? (Check out the various writers’ LinkedIn profiles for further insights, including any public endorsements.)

Listen to your gut. If you’re not liking the agency’s own website or you spot errors (like grammar issues), move on.

senior living digital marketing man-struggling with bullseye graphic

Senior Living Digital Marketing: 5 Mistakes to Avoid

What are some of the biggest senior living digital marketing mistakes that we see day in and day out? Keep reading!

Mistake #1: Not having a plan or strategy.

It’s OK to wing some things in life, like creating a soup using whatever is in your fridge. But marketing is not one of those things. Well, we suppose you could try to wing it. But we guarantee you won’t be happy with the results.

Why is this the case? Well, marketing has gotten a lot more complex in the last two decades thanks to search, social media, and smartphones. In the “old days” of marketing, you could get by with an ad in the Yellow Pages (remember those?) and direct mail. That’s not the case now. You need to think about organic search, paid search, your website and blog, social media, and yes—some of those traditional marketing methods, like direct mail and print ads.

Because marketing is so complex, you need to have a senior living digital marketing plan in place. A good plan will make sure you’re implementing tasks that will achieve your goals. It will also keep everyone “honest” in that everyone knows what needs to happen day to day, week to week, and month to month.

Bottom line: Sure, you might be able to get by for a little while if you opt for a haphazard seat-of-your-pants approach. But it will catch up with you. Why wait to fail? Focus on developing a strong senior living marketing strategy now so your community (and marketing and sales teams) can reap the rewards.

Mistake #2: Not being consistent.

Too often we see senior living marketing teams getting psyched once they have a plan, but then the reality of work life interferes, and that awesome plan falls by the wayside or fizzles out over time.

Here’s the thing: effective senior living digital marketing is all about consistency. Lather, rinse, repeat—that’s the name of the game. Marketing guru Seth Godin refers to this as the “Drip, drip, drip” of marketing. You need to show up every day and engage prospects and delight them before you can turn them into residents and—hopefully—raving fans.

Bottom line: If you fall off your marketing horse, be kind to yourself. It happens. And before you get back on, ask yourself and your team a few questions: Was the plan realistic? Do you need to delegate more? Do you need outside help from a digital marketing agency?

Mistake #3: Not paying attention to results.

Why do all the work if it doesn’t deliver the results you’re looking for (i.e., move-ins)? We hate busy work just for the sake of looking busy. That’s where strategy comes into play. But not all strategies are going to be winners, which is why you need to monitor and measure the results.

Bottom line: If one particular marketing activity isn’t generating any leads—or it isn’t moving the marketing-qualified leads to sales-qualified leads—then you need to reconsider and recalibrate. You might want to tweak the activity in question and see if you get better results. Or you might want to put more time and money into the task that is working.

Mistake #4: Not embracing automation.

This one goes hand-in-hand with #2. The biggest reason that communities become inconsistent with their marketing is because they haven’t implemented tools that’ll help them be successful. And the tool we’re talking about here is marketing automation.

It would be impossible for one person or even one team to be responsible for manually doing things like analyzing and scoring leads, serving up and assigning the sales-qualified leads to the sales reps, and sending specific emails with specific content on a specific day and time to the marketing-qualified leads.

The only way to make it all work is through some sort of marketing automation. Any senior living community that shuns the idea is only hurting itself—and its marketing and sales teams. Don’t be this community!

Bottom line: Marketing automation makes life easier for marketing and sales teams while also delivering excellent results. (Provided it’s implemented correctly!) Psst: Need help sourcing and setting up the right marketing automation for your community? We can help!

Mistake #5: Not seeking expert help when you need it.

There’s no shame in outsourcing some of your digital marketing work. Even the most competent teams could use support—or even some strategy guidance from an objective third party. The key is making sure you use a senior living digital marketing agency, one that has experience in both digital marketing and senior living.

Bottom line: Senior Living SMART is the only agency whose team members have experience in digital marketing and senior living. We can help you avoid the big mistakes and get the results you crave. Get in touch!

Ideas for compelling YouTube videos

Senior Living Social Media Marketing: YouTube Content Ideas

In our previous blog post on senior living social media marketing, we noted the most popular social media platforms among the Boomer generation, and YouTube sits at the top of the list at 70%.

Some folks might not think of YouTube as a social media platform, but it most definitely is since users can like, share, comment, and reply on videos. YouTube videos also rank well in organic search results (provided you optimize your video titles and descriptions—treat these the same way you do optimization elements on your website).

When thinking through your senior living marketing plan and budget, diversification is important—but so is a smart strategy. YouTube is an excellent platform to invest in not only because Boomers spend time on the platform, but also because you can easily use your YouTube videos on other platforms, like Facebook, blog posts, and Google My Business listings.

When it comes to content, what sorts of videos should you develop for your senior living community’s YouTube channel? Here are some ideas . . .

1. Give a virtual tour of your entire community.

No doubt, you might be tired of hearing the words “virtual tour” thanks to the pandemic. But virtual tour videos offer people a great bird’s eye view of your community.

They can also be an excellent way to move people from the marketing-qualified stage to the sales-qualified stage. For example, if you embed your tour video in a lead nurturing workflow and someone books an in-person tour after viewing it, you’ll know that you’ve got an interested prospect on your hands.

Not to mention, virtual tours are excellent vehicles for people who are coming from outside the immediate area. So, for example, if adult children are looking for places for mom and dad in another state, virtual tours can provide important info.

  • Pro tip: Your tour of the community itself is just that—it should provide a solid overview. Don’t make it overly long, either. Three to four minutes should be enough to give everyone a good sense of place.

2. Provide a tour of various room layouts/floorplans.

Consider these your “drill-down” videos where you provide a deeper look into one aspect of your community. Most prospects want to know about the residences themselves. What floorplans are available? How big are the bedrooms? Is there a patio/deck? What other amenities do certain floorplans have? You get the idea. Create videos for each type of residence your community offers.

  • Pro tip: Add a call-to-action (CTA) at the end of each video so people can download the actual floorplan. You could choose to give away the floor plan free and clear (no name required) or put it behind a VERY brief form so that you can nurture the person further.

3. Show off your dining areas (inside and out).

Anyone who’s worked in senior living sales for any length of time knows that one of the most popular questions centers around food. What are the dining options? Who’s the chef? Are any residences outfitted with full kitchens? Does the community offer a private function room for family events like birthdays and anniversaries? Is there a pub on site? And so forth.

Think of all the questions you get about food in your community and create a video (or set of videos) that focuses on cuisine and other culinary aspects.

  • Pro tip: What truly differentiates your community from others in the area when it comes to dining? Do you have an award-winning chef? Then, do a video interview with them. Do you cater to different diets, including contemporary diets, like keto and paleo? Talk about how you accommodate.

4. Stroll the grounds.

Setting is everything, and if this is what makes your community special—perhaps it sits on a golf course or overlooks conservation land or is a stone’s throw from the ocean—then create a video that captures the magic. Get footage from different times of day and, ideally, different times of year.

  • Pro tip: Regarding our last suggestion, you could create a series of “seasonal strolls.” So if you have a senior living community in the northeast, make sure you have a video of your community in every season. Play up the gorgeous maples with their leaves ablaze in the fall and the blooming dogwoods in the spring. Capture residents sipping cocktails on the veranda on a hot summer’s evening. Celebrate how your community looks decked out in holiday decorations in December.

5. Record events.

Think guest musicians, sing-alongs, poetry slams, comedy nights, and the like. Residents who missed an event can watch on demand from the comfort of their home. Prospects will get a good feel for how active and engaging the event schedule is in your community.

  • Pro tip: When recording an event, ask the videographer to also get b-roll of the space and to get reaction quotes from attendees (i.e., your current residents and their family/friends). While these “candid” clips won’t make it into the cut of the event itself, you’ll have the footage available for other marketing purposes. (Like our next idea.) 

6. Create yearly retrospectives.

Put out a “best of” video every December that features clips from events and anything else that was new that year (such as the opening of a new amenity, for example). These can be great videos to share across social media in December, since people are always eager to reflect on the past 12 months. And they can serve as great marketing vehicles moving forward.

7. Highlight area attractions.

When it comes to senior living—and truly demonstrating that it is indeed a different lifestyle than the myths that persist around “retirement homes”—you need to go beyond the community itself. Because while all the amenities your community provides are certainly important things to share and show off, you also want to give people a flavor for what life in the town/city and nearby areas has to offer.

  • Pro tip: Ask your existing residents about their favorite nearby spots. If you keep hearing the same answer, make sure you add that spot to the list.

8. Interview residents, family members, and staff.

Highlight the people who reside and work within your community. Record a resident or group of residents with a great story. Tape short resident testimonials (this should be an ongoing item). Feature staff members from various departments. Again, look for people with interesting stories, who’ve been part of your community’s family for a long time, and/or who are popular with residents/staff.

  • Pro tip: Videos with staff can perform double duty. Yes, they can be a great marketing tool, but they can also be a great recruitment Post your videos to places like your community’s company page on LinkedIn.

9. Experiment, play, and try new things.

What we shared above isn’t an exhaustive list. Honestly, the sky’s the limit when it comes to YouTube content ideas. Be willing to experiment and try new things. Ask people in your community for ideas. (You might be surprised at the creativity!)

  • Pro tip: If you need help, seek it, which brings us to our final point.