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how to increase sales in senior living, man at whiteboard

How to Increase Sales in Senior Living

Maybe you’re a senior living sales counselor and you’ve been wondering how to increase sales in your community. Maybe you did a search in Google on that precise term—how to increase sales in senior living — and you landed on this blog post. You’re probably holding your breath, hoping this article will have the answer. Good news, folks! It does. And the answer is surprisingly straightforward.

Here’s what you need to do if you want to increase your senior living sales.

You need to work closely with marketing.

Long gone are the days where senior living marketing and sales worked separately. Any businesses that still maintain this separation and silo mentality are doomed for failure. Or, at the very least, they’re certainly not doing as well as they could be.

The line between sales and marketing has blurred. Why? For the simple reason that sales folks no longer drive sales. Buyers drive sales. Marketing’s job is to help enable today’s buyers to buy from you. Which means marketing often needs to think more like sales, and sales folks need to be ready to lend a hand to marketing.

You need to accept that not all leads are created equal.

Sure, some leads will be ready to have a conversation with you today or tomorrow. Those are sales-qualified leads. But most leads are not ready to buy right now. They’re interested in your community, and in senior living in general. But there’s a long way between “interested” and “ready to buy.”

Your job is to focus on the sales-qualified leads while the marketing-qualified leads continue to learn and explore your brand on their own through marketing automation (More on this in a moment.). This can be a tough pill for sales folks to swallow because if you follow this approach, you’ll be working fewer leads, which we know can feel scary.

But the good news is this: You’ll be working better leads, as a result.

You need to use marketing automation.

There’s no sense in bothering with our first two points if you’re going to skimp on the technology. Now, we get it: You’re a sales counselor in an incredibly personal, “high touch” industry. But no amount of charm is going to get you anywhere if you’re not already leaning heavily on marketing automation.

This goes back to our point about buyers being in charge of the sales process. Not marketing. Not sales. Today’s buyers want to interact with your brand (meaning your website, your social media, your emails) anywhere from 5-10 times before talking to anyone in sales. And the only way you can give them the brand experience that they crave is by having powerful marketing automation in place to help them explore your brand in the way they desire.

Why? Because that’s what marketing automation is—it’s a tool that helps deliver the right content to the right prospect at the right time. And guess what? It makes your job easier.

You need to pay attention to results over time.

Sales folks are famous for living in the moment. We get that. But one great week of sales isn’t necessarily an indicator that you’ve landed on the formula for boosting senior living sales in general. Which is precisely why you (and your marketing cohorts) need to embrace analytics.

You need to monitor what’s working and what isn’t. And before you even get to the monitoring part, your team needs to define what they mean by “what’s working.” Definitions will vary for different buyers based on where they are in their journey.

Sure, the ultimate indicator is move-ins, but for buyers who are just starting to research senior living, they’ll need to hit a bunch of milestones along the way before they buy and sign on the dotted line. The marketing and sales teams need to agree on which data and analytics matter.

And here’s the thing: THESE DEFINITIONS WILL CHANGE. What you used as a measuring stick two years ago might not work today. Being flexible is a trait all senior living sales and marketers must embody.

Bonus advice: Use an objective third party to help align your senior living sales and marketing.

The truth is that even the most well-intentioned sales and marketing teams don’t always align goals initially. So if this is the first time your senior living community is talking about things like marketing automation and buyer enablement, consider reaching out to an agency like ours that knows how to bring everyone together.

Get in touch and let’s chat.

Senior living advertising agencies, cell phone with ads

Senior Living Advertising Agencies: Do You Need One?

Advertising for senior living has changed dramatically in the last two decades. Newspaper print ads and telephone books (remember those?) might have been an effective strategy circa 2000. 

But when’s the last time you consulted the Yellow Pages? And while print ads might still play a role in your ad strategy today, they’re certainly not the only advertising game in town, not when you have Google AdWords and Facebook advertising to consider.

What’s a senior living community to do? Hire an advertising agency on top of an outsourced marketing agency? Or can a good marketing agency handle everything—marketing and advertising?

The short answer is yes. Yes, you could work with two separate agencies—one for advertising and one for marketing. And yes, you could work with one marketing agency that manages everything in-house.

We’re fans of the latter approach—using one agency to do everything—for three important reasons. 

1. Senior living advertising and senior living marketing should work in harmony, not in silos.

When you work with two separate agencies—one focused on advertising and the other focused on marketing—it’s easy for everyone to slip into a silo mentality where the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing.

Too often we see miscommunication or lack of communication altogether when multiple agencies are involved (even despite good intentions). This can result in mistakes like inconsistent messaging between the ads and the actual website that the ads point to. 

The most successful advertising and marketing work together toward the same ultimate goal—attracting more leads that convert into move-ins. And this is much easier to accomplish when everyone is in the same agency.

2. Things are much less likely to fall through the cracks when you work with one agency that oversees everything.

Today’s advertising can be complex because you have to juggle multiple channels, multiple pubs and platforms within each channel, different creative, and various flights. Think print ads in newspapers and magazines. Digital versions for the online versions of those pubs. Radio spots. Google AdWords. Facebook advertising. Remarketing ads. The Google Display Network. And that’s just the beginning.

If your advertising and marketing teams are in separate agencies, it can be easy—too easy—for something important to fall through the cracks, like deadlines or changes to messaging.

For example, if a digital ad promotes a new ad-specific landing page on your website, the marketing agency will typically be in charge of creating the landing page, not the advertising agency. Think of how easy it could be for the ad to go live and yet the landing page doesn’t exist because someone either forgot to inform the marketing agency or forgot to follow up to make sure the landing page was all set.

Collaboration that happens in-house means mistakes and miscommunications like this can easily be avoided.

3. Consolidating everything under the same roof will likely save you money over the long haul.

If you’re working with one agency to handle everything soup to nuts, you’ll get better pricing overall because everything falls under one vendor instead of being spread across two.

Plus, a senior living marketing agency that also offers ad services will already have established relationships with the right advertising partners, which also saves time and money. And the best agencies will pass these savings onto you. 

If you do decide to work with a separate ad agency, follow these tips at the very least:

  • Research and vet different senior living advertising agencies the same way you would any vendor or partner.
  • Make sure the ad agency has experience with ad buys in the senior living space. Ask about other senior living clients they’ve worked with, quiz them on their industry knowledge, and ask them to share a preliminary plan outlining their ideas for ad placements. 
  • Make sure you connect your marketing agency to the senior living advertising agency you ultimately choose. Members from both agencies should be involved in strategy planning and calls—and have access to the same internal documents and calendars.
  • Keep in mind that not all marketing agencies have expertise in advertising. So sometimes you might not have a choice. If you love your marketing agency, but they don’t do ad buys, you’ll need to work with a separate ad agency.
  • Make sure your marketing agency has real advertising experience if you decide to task them with handling your advertising as well. Again, anyone can claim to have this expertise. 

 

senior living podcast, microphone

Our Senior Living Podcast: The Boss’s Favorite Episodes

Did you know we have a popular senior living podcast called Senior Living Marketing Perspectives? Hosted by our CEO, Debbie Howard, the podcast covers a variety of senior living marketing topics about strategy, technology, and innovation in senior living.

We recently wrapped up our first season, so we asked Debbie to choose some of her favorite episodes. Here are her picks.

Senior Living Podcast Spotlight: A Treasure Trove of Inbound Marketing Best Practices

Are you a HubSpot or inbound marketing junkie? Or maybe you’re new to both terms/concepts? Either way, this episode is for you. Debbie speaks with Dan Tyre, a speaker, blogger, mentor, and coach for those who want to harness the power of inbound marketing to improve their bottom line. Dan joined HubSpot as a member of the original team in 2007 and currently serves as the company’s sales director.

Listen in as Dan unleashes a treasure trove of best practices for today’s inbound marketer, including how to define your persona, qualify prospects, and create an effective sales funnel.

Listen to the complete podcast with Debbie and Dan.

Senior Living Podcast: Creating an Effective Sales Culture in Senior Living during Covid-19

Yes, we’re finally emerging from the pandemic, but we’re going to feel its effects for some time. In this episode, Debbie talks to Mike Miller, President and CEO of Primo Solutions and the author of Selling at Combat Speed and Stop Selling & Start Caring.

In terms of selling during times of uncertainty, Mike says that we have no choice but to “make a difference on the phone.” Even today, it is still possible to increase your conversion rate via deliberate, creative, and empathetic selling. It starts with reducing your marketing spend and putting more focus on training your staff to work with existing leads.

Listen to the complete podcast with Debbie and Mike.

Senior Living Podcast Spotlight: Evaluating Your Digital Presence

Here’s the dirty secret about digital marketing: You’re never done. You need to constantly monitor it—and make adjustments based on what the analytics tell you.

In this episode, Debbie discusses all things digital with Andy Crestodina, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer at Orbit Media, an award-winning 38-person digital agency in Chicago. They chat about how to manage your community’s online reputation, when to update your site, and how to differentiate yourself with intentional copy.

Listen to the complete podcast with Debbie and Andy.

Senior Living Podcast Spotlight: The Science of Conversions and Optimization

All the time and money you spend optimizing your website doesn’t matter if the optimization efforts don’t result in conversions, right? In this episode, Debbie chats with Brian Massey, Managing Partner at Conversion Sciences, a data-driven conversion optimization agency that seeks to “find those impulses to act that are hidden in your site.” 

Brian discusses gems like bounce rate, content strategy, and conversion optimization. This is a great episode to listen to if you want to turn your website into a lead-conversion machine.

Listen to the complete podcast with Debbie and Brian.

Senior Living Podcast Spotlight: Business, Sales, and Marketing Advice

In this episode, Debbie chats with Doug Davidoff, Founder and CEO at Imagine Business Development, a management consulting firm that has worked with over 1500 small and mid-market businesses. Doug is all about offering strategies that help reduce friction between buyers and sellers—something senior living sales reps could definitely use help with. 

Doug says, “Your job is not to sell the community. Your job is to help somebody make a good decision about where they should spend their senior years.” With sales and marketing working in tandem, operating by the principles of empathy, the entire process becomes smoother. As Doug says, “The single best thing a company can do to increase sales is to make it easier for someone to buy.”

Listen to the complete podcast with Debbie and Doug.

Senior Living Podcast Spotlight: Adopting New Technology to Promote Well-Being

This episode features Hollie Kemp, Chief Operating Officer at Sagely, a Honolulu-based IT company that “marries the power of software, data, and the human element to empower caregivers, elders, and their families to improve elders’ well-being.” 

Using technology to boost engagement with seniors has been an incredibly popular topic this past year, thanks to the pandemic. What we love about Hollie’s perspective is that she doesn’t see technology as a replacement for people within the senior living industry. Hollie says, “I still think we’re a human business. Technology just enables the human to do their job better.” 

We couldn’t agree more! We always remind our clients that whenever we recommend any sort of technology, from marketing automation to Facebook Live, the goal is to enhance the human-to-human interactions, not replace them.

Listen to the complete podcast with Debbie and Hollie.

Senior Living Podcast Spotlight: Welcome Home – A CRM Platform Designed Specifically for Senior Housing and Care

If you’ve been on the hunt for a senior living CRM, Welcome Home is a great option. In this episode, Debbie talks to the founder of Welcome Home, John Lariccia, who designed the platform specifically for senior housing and care.

John developed Welcome Home because traditional CRM technologies did not adequately account for the complexities of the human element of closing sales that is especially important in senior living.

One of the best things about this CRM? No wasted functionality. Teams use all of it. The CRM is also incredibly intuitive (which saves on training costs).

Listen to the complete podcast with Debbie and John.

Senior Living Podcast Spotlight: Today’s Prospects Have a Greater Sense of Urgency About Their Senior Living Options

Too many senior living websites are nothing more than online brochures. But an interactive survey tool called Roobrik aims to engage website visitors while gaining data on them that helps Roobrik provide even more valuable info—info that will empower visitors to make the best decisions for their situation.

In this episode, Debbie chats with Nate O’Keefe, Founder and CEO of Roobrik, about the effectiveness of gathering data and building trust via anonymous “conversational assessments” and how the pandemic has affected people’s decision-making when it comes to senior living.

Listen to the complete podcast with Debbie and Nate.

Senior Living Podcast Spotlight: A Down-to-Earth Chat with Elder Resource Benefits Consulting

This is SUCH an important topic for senior living sales teams to be aware of—but more than that, it’s a great resource to have prospective residents and families listen to.

In a nutshell, Debbie talks with Patty Servaes, a VA-accredited agent and the founder of Elder Resource Benefits Consulting. ERBC was founded in 2005 to help seniors navigate different benefits that are available to them. Its specialty is the VA’s Basic Pension with Aid and Attendance Benefits. The company focuses on veterans getting the VA’s Pension Benefit as quickly as possible as soon as they are eligible for it. Definitely an episode to bookmark and share with seniors and their families, as needed.

Listen to the complete podcast with Debbie and Patty.

Browse all of our senior living podcasts.

The episodes above are just a sampling from this season. To learn more about all the episodes, download our guide, which includes notes on each podcast and links to episodes, speakers, and more.

 

Senior Living Marketing During a Pandemic: 5 Things We Learned

On the night of March 11, 2020, three things happened: The President of the United States addressed the nation about COVID-19. The NBA announced it had suspended its season. And Tom Hanks tweeted that he and his wife (the actor Rita Wilson) had contracted the coronavirus and were being treated in Australia.

That night, a Wednesday, turned out to be a watershed moment. Even though the virus had already reached our shores and begun taking lives, the declarations on the evening of March 11, 2020, made the pandemic real in a way it hadn’t been before.

A recap of what happened next is unnecessary. Anyone reading this has already lived it. Still, we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge this pivotal one-year anniversary.

In marketing, we constantly review our marketing efforts, like campaigns, conversions, and customer lifecycles. So it makes sense for us to stop and reflect on senior living marketing during a pandemic—what we learned, what surprised us, and what we can do better the next time disaster strikes. (Although we’re hoping none of us sees anything like this again in our lifetimes!)

1. Senior living sales teams found ways to engage and continue selling.

This didn’t necessarily surprise us, but it did surprise many of our clients, at least in the beginning. At first, sales teams panicked. “How are we going to sell during lockdowns if we can’t give people tours?”

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Creating virtual sales experiences became second nature to sales reps . . .

  • They gave live virtual tours to prospects via smartphones or tablets, walking prospects through the lobby, the dining room, the gym, the residences, etc.
  • They held one-to-one video conferences. Sales staff realized they could still have “sit-down” meetings with prospects, thanks to platforms like Zoom and Skype.
  • They uploaded paperwork to tablets so that people could virtually sign on the dotted line from the comfort and safety of their cars.

In addition, they focused on doing more of the simple things—thing that are often easy to overlook during “normal” times. For example, they made more house calls (masked, of course) and dropped in to check on prospects and/or to share info about helpful things, like a list of curbside pickups for groceries or pharmacies (this was in the early days). They cleaned up their senior living CRMs. They worked more closely with their marketing counterparts in developing virtual senior living marketing events.

2. Having a quality website that was easy to update became incredibly important.

Too many senior living communities treat their websites as static digital brochures. Often, these sorts of websites are built on platforms that don’t make updating them easy.

That can (and did) create a huge problem for some communities when it came time to update their home page with info about COVID-19. Accurate information—and easy access to it—was incredibly important in those early days when there was so much confusion, chaos, and fear.

Your senior living website is the most important marketing and sales asset that you have. It’s your hub. And yes, it is in an investment to do it right, but one that pays off.

Communities that had good websites were able to make updates quickly, create new pages, and provide critical info to residents’ families and friends as well as prospects. Communities that didn’t have a solid website suffered—and looked woefully unprepared and out-of-date.

3. How, when, and where you communicated your messages mattered.

Yes, your website serves as your communication hub. But keep in mind the many spokes connected to that hub:

  • Emails
  • Social media
  • Pay-per-click ads/remarketing ads
  • On-hold messaging
  • After-hours messaging
  • Text messaging
  • Chat bots
  • Live chat
  • On-site info for residents
  • Snail mail communications with residents/families

Having info on your home page about COVID was essential—but it wasn’t enough. The messaging had to be communicated consistently over a variety of media. Why? Simple. Because you never knew where, when, or how someone was going to access it.

One thing we discovered is that in times of a crisis like COVID-19, people crave immediate, current, and LIVE communications. One of our clients held Facebook LIVE events in the early days with the company CEO along with other folks from the organization who had relevant, helpful info.

These regular briefings reassured families that their loved ones were safe. Plus, one of the many benefits of FB Live is that these videos are then available for people to watch “on demand.”

4. Even when you turn a corner, you still face more unknowns.

We think this feeling/trend is going to continue for a while. Yes, we’re all grateful that several vaccines are now available and older adults and other vulnerable populations have been among the first to receive the vaccines. That’s good news for the senior living industry, but that doesn’t mean things will be returning to normal any time soon.

Sales reps will still need to think creatively and continue embracing “virtual selling” through the end of this year—at least. Marketing teams will need to stay on top of messaging across all media and be willing to adjust messages (often quite quickly) as things change.

The best thing communities can do is show that they’re current about what they communicate, how often they communicate, and what channels they use to communicate critical messages.

5. Our team made us incredibly proud.

At Senior Living SMART, our team was incredibly fortunate. We’re a virtual agency to begin with. Our team members already work from home—and know how to do so, even with kids and animals underfoot.

Of course, once home-schooling began, that did make things more challenging for some of our team members. Not to mention, everyone had concerns about the virus and any family and friends who contracted it. But we can honestly say our team didn’t miss a beat. Our wonderful team members worked hard to help clients and to make sure everything continued running as smoothly for them as possible.

Bottom line: We're here for you!

Even as we serve our existing clients, we look forward to collaborating with new clients who need a reliable, trusted partner during these uncertain times. If you’re among the latter, be sure to check out our free COVID-19 Marketing Resources where you can access many items that will help you better market your communities during the pandemic—and beyond.

Senior Living Marketing Events: 5 Tips for Going Virtual

When it comes to hosting senior living marketing events, everyone has had to pivot this last year, thanks to the pandemic. The good news? Learning how to create effective virtual events will serve your community long after COVID-19 is over.

Why? Well, because virtual events offer two key benefits:

  • Anyone can attend. In other words, people aren’t limited by location. This is important for people who might be looking at senior living communities in your area, but they live out of state (or in another part of a big state, like Texas).
  • Instant access. Recording virtual events and posting them on your site or social channels means that people can access them when they

Now, let’s discuss tips for creating engaging senior living marketing events for virtual audiences!

1. Develop different types of events for different personas.

For example, create one set of events for seniors/older adults. Create another set of events for adult children who are searching on behalf of their parents. You’ll also want to customize the event to various stages in the buyer’s journey.

For example, an educational seminar called “Can you afford to move into a senior living community?” is quite different from virtual armchair yoga for residents and their families.

And keep in mind that the events you plan for people interested in independent living will (and should) be different from events you plan for people who are interested in memory care.

2. Decide how you’ll broadcast your senior living marketing events.

You’ll do this step in conjunction with the previous step. But it’s so important to a virtual event’s success that we wanted to give it its own step. A variety of platforms exist. Two of the most popular include Zoom and Facebook Live.

Zoom is great for truly formal events. Think events where you want people to register and the topic is incredibly targeted. You have control over who can access/enter the Zoom event. It’s not “open” to the masses—people need a link to access. With Zoom, you have a free version and a paid version. The free version has limitations (like how long you can have a video call).

Facebook Live is excellent for more casual events. Think conversations or last-minute events. Many of our clients had standing Facebook Live chats planned in the early days of the pandemic. For these “events,” anyone could hop on and watch the Facebook Live stream as it was happening. Or they could go to the Facebook page after the event ended and watch the video. (You can also do Instagram Live Events as well.) Facebook Live is also free!

3. Once you’ve selected a platform, pay attention to the details.

You’ll want to test the technology, such as microphones, recording capabilities, and even the lighting in your space. In addition, figure out how interactive you want your event to be. For example, will you use chat, live Q&A sessions, or polls to survey attendees?

Feeling overwhelmed? Not to worry!

We have free guides that’ll walk you through the specifics:

4. Advertise and promote the events appropriately/accordingly.

In other words, make sure you understand the difference between low-cost promotional options and higher-cost options—and which options make the most sense for your events.

  • Low-cost promotional options include social media posts, social media advertising (because you can get good results with a small budget), website pop-ups, and email alerts.
  • Higher-cost advertising includes print ads in newspapers, direct mail pieces, and radio advertising. You’ll probably want to reserve the higher-cost ads for bigger events, such as authors or big-name speakers.

Keep in mind that a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t a smart strategy. You’ll use different ad combinations, depending on the type of event, your budget, and how much lead time you have to promote it.

Like anything else, measure results. You might discover that running Facebook advertising gives you the biggest bang for your buck—maybe even more so than print ads. Or you might discover the opposite is true—that print ads work better for older adults in your area.

5. Follow up and share your senior living marketing events!

When it comes to these events, record them! Then, SHARE them. Too often, people put on great events and they either forget to record or they don’t share the on-demand events.

  • Have a designated area of your website for webinars and past events. Your “Resources” section is a good place for this. For particularly engaging/successful events, you should highlight them on your home page for added traction.
  • Send a follow-up email to all registered attendees. Include a link to the recorded event (do not require them to fill out a form).
  • Promote the events on social media. And continue to promote them. The shelf life of a social media post isn’t long. You need to continually promote all your content (including recorded events) via all your senior living social media channels.
  • Use the events in your ongoing lead nurturing. On-demand webinars and events that people can watch at their leisure make for GREAT lead nurturing fodder.
  • Speaking of lead nurturing, create event-specific lead nurturing workflows. For example, if you’ve just delivered an event on the amazing food options in your dining room, the follow-up lead nurturing can share related content, like downloadable dinner menus, a Q&A with your head chef, or a video of a happy resident talking about the food.

Need fresh senior living marketing event ideas?
We can help!

We’ve got decades of experience in the industry. We know what excites prospects. Let us help you create fabulous senior living marketing events that get the results you want—more move-ins and happier residents/families. Get in touch and let’s brainstorm!

Concept of business men and women evaluating senior living marketing services

How to Evaluate Senior Living Marketing Services

If you’re thinking of changing marketing agencies or maybe using one for the first time, this article is for you. As you evaluate different agencies and the senior living marketing services they offer, keep the following questions in mind.

1. Does that agency have experience in the senior living industry?

The senior living industry is special. We don’t have to tell you that, right? After all, it’s real estate, healthcare, and lifestyle all rolled into one. An agency with senior living industry experience will have a much shorter learning curve. This saves time—and money.

2. Does the agency offer comprehensive senior living marketing services?

Are you OK juggling multiple agencies? Perhaps one that can handle your website, another for advertising, and still another for print materials? Or would you prefer to have a streamlined experience with one agency that handles everything soup to nuts? If you’d prefer the latter, then make sure you investigate all the services the agency offers. (A good place to start is the agency’s website.)

3. Does the agency only offer marketing services a la carte? Or does it provide strategy as well?

You don’t want to approach senior living marketing services like you do ordering from a fast-food menu. “I’ll take two website pages, a round of lead nurturing emails, and a PPC ad campaign to go.” Before you can think about marketing services, you need a marketing strategy. A good marketing agency will devise a strategy based on your community’s challenges and goals.

Marketing agency business men and women working together in a streamlined fashion to meet project goals

4. Does the agency demonstrate a deep understanding of each marketing service it offers—particularly how it relates to the senior living industry?

Anyone can provide a laundry list of marketing services on their website. You want to work with an agency that has expertise in the services it offers. How to tell? Look for examples of thought leadership.

Does the agency regularly blog about marketing topics? Are the blog posts well written and informative? Does the agency participate in industry webinars and podcasts? Does it offer guides about various marketing topics? Does the agency get quoted by relevant publications, like Senior Housing News?

5. Does the agency outsource any of its senior living marketing services? Or does it handle most stuff in-house?

This is a trick question. It’s not unusual for marketing agencies to outsource some work to contractors or to trusted partners. (For example, some marketing agencies might have a trusted PPC vendor they work with.) But if the agency outsources most work to third parties, this raises red flags.

First, it might cost you more in the long run since the agency is essentially serving as the middleman. Second, this approach can dilute the strategy since one of the positives a good marketing agency brings to the table is overseeing the BIG marketing picture. It’s easier to manage and oversee the various senior living marketing services when everything happens under the same roof.

6. Does the agency deliver real, quantifiable results?

Unless the agency can provide you with real, tangible results—think increased conversions and more tours and move-ins—what’s the point? To evaluate, ask the agency to share the results of three recent campaigns. Read case studies on their website. Ask to speak to several of their current clients. (And ask the clients the same questions about real, measurable results). Finally, read the agency’s reviews for more insight into not only deliverables, but also how the agency works with clients.

Marketing ideas leading to results you can see

7. Is the agency named Senior Living SMART? :)

All kidding aside, we pride ourselves on devising strong marketing roadmaps and delivering real, measurable results to our clients. Plus, we only focus on the senior living industry. It’s our passion! Interested in learning more about our senior living marketing services? Let’s chat!

Hands dropping different currencies in multiple baskets, concept of diversifying advertising budget

3 Tips for Better Senior Living Advertising Campaigns

Want to create better senior living advertising campaigns—ones that entice people to click, call, or visit? Here are three tips to keep in mind.

1. Don’t put all your eggs in the same advertising basket.

If you were advertising to, say, twenty-somethings, you’d likely focus most of your advertising efforts online. With older adults, however, you need to spread your advertising dollars across different media—print, radio, direct mail, pay-per-click, and remarketing.

This isn’t surprising, considering the demographic. After all, older adults grew up reading the daily paper and listening to the radio, habits that continue even in this hi-tech age.

  • According to Statista, 23% of adults aged 60 or older read a print newspaper daily, 13% read the paper several days a week, and 18% once a week.
  • According to Statista, older generations are more inclined to listen to the radio regularly.

At the same time, however, older adults are also embracing technology and spending more time online. Consider the following stats:

  • In 2000, 14% of those aged 65 and older were internet users; now 73% are. [Source: Pew Research Center]
  • Baby Boomers spend more time online than Millennials, and a staggering 92% of Boomers shop online. [Source: The Shelf]
  • 75% of all Boomers are on Facebook, and 35% use business-focused networking sites, such as LinkedIn. [Source: Kenshoo]
  • Boomers are almost as likely as Millennials to own a tablet. [Source: Marketing Charts]
  • 68% of Boomers own a smartphone. [Source: Pew Research Center]

So, how should you allocate your advertising budget?

This will depend on a variety of factors. Recent past success is often a good indicator of future success, so you can start by evaluating what has worked best in the recent past (within the last year or two).

For example, if the best ROI has historically come from running spots on your local country radio station, it probably makes sense to allocate a chunk of your budget to a new radio campaign.

But even as you rely on “tried and true” methods, you should continue to experiment with pay-per-click and remarketing ads. (The latter refers to ads that seemingly “follow” people around after they visit your site.)

And you should avoid dismissing an ad vehicle—especially a digital one—simply because it didn’t work in the past. For example, just because Facebook advertising didn’t work well for your community eight years ago, that doesn’t mean it won’t work today. Quite the opposite, in fact. As more Boomers spend time on Facebook, chances are good that Facebook ads will work better now than they did a decade ago.

2. Measure, measure, measure.

The biggest mistake that senior living communities make is that they spend all this money on advertising, but they haven’t built in ways to measure success. Talk about a waste of valuable marketing budget!

Make sure you’re following best practices when it comes to measuring an ad campaign’s effectiveness:

  • For online ads, make sure tracking URLs are set up. Tracking URLs will help you see which online ads are delivering the most traffic and conversions.
  • For any print or radio ads, make sure you include ad-specific phone numbers and/or website addresses. For example, for all the radio ads you run on that country station, you’d use a specific phone number that you only include in those ads. Ditto website URLs. (Companies like CallRail can help with this.)
  • Make sure your website’s backend provides the insight and visibility you need. Ideally, you’ll want to have some sort of “traffic resources” option available in your marketing automation software that easily breaks down the traffic referral sources.
  • Make sure staff always asks the question “How did you hear about us?” And make sure you have a central repository for recording this info.

Allow the metrics to inform your ad-buying decisions.

Complacency can easily take over when it comes to advertising. Not to mention, you might have long-term relationships with sales reps, newspapers, radio stations, and so forth. Still, you need to make decisions based on real data, not relationships.

For example, if you’ve been running radio ads for years on the country station, but the ads are no longer delivering results, ask questions. What’s changed? Is the copy stale? Do you need to adjust the flight schedule/time of day the spots run? Has something changed with the station’s demographics? (Maybe the country station has tweaked its format to a more contemporary feel, rather than classic country tunes. As such, it’s skewing younger.)

Yes, you should resist dumping something the minute it stops working. But be open to moving on if the metrics are indeed telling you something is no longer delivering ROI despite tweaks and fixes. And make sure you’re paying attention to the right metrics. A boatload of website traffic can feel good. But unless that anonymous web traffic is converting into leads and those leads into tours and move-ins, what’s the point?

3. When it comes to the ad’s content, be human.

You’re selling a very personal experience to older adults—the next chapter of their lives. (And, for many, the final chapter of their lives.) This is a BIG deal. Listing a bunch of amenities isn’t going to make your community memorable.

So, what can you do to create personal content? Tell stories. Humans love hearing stories. Stories help us experience another world and another life, which is precisely what you want your ads to do—to help the reader or listener picture themselves living in your community.

For example, imagine coming across this blurb in a nicely designed print piece and/or direct mailer:

Meet Margot Benoit. Margot is 87 years old. She worked as a nurse for thirty years, raised a family of four, and is a proud grandmother to six. Margot loves extra dry martinis, knitting, yoga, collecting lighthouses, and watching The Crown on Netflix. She’s been residing in Maple Grove since 2018 and loves playing bridge with her neighbors, going out for cocktails in our pub, and organizing day trips to New York City with all the friends she’s made in our community.

Margot calls Maple Grove home. You could, too.

Ready to stop by, meet Margot, and learn more about us?

www.MapleGroveCommunities.com/meet-margot

Stories can involve residents, but also staff—your head chef, your groundskeepers, the facilities manager, etc. You could also highlight adult children who helped get Mom or Dad into the community. And the stories could serve as themes. The Margot “story” could work as a print ad and direct mailer. But you could also have Margot voice the radio spot and be part of a video ad that you run on Facebook.


What to look for when choosing a Senior Living CRM software

3 Tips for Evaluating Senior Living Software: Marketing Automation

Senior living communities need a wide variety of senior living software to support operations—from electronic medical records to CRMs to everything in between. Today, we’re going to talk about an important piece of senior living software for the marketing and sales department: marketing automation.

First, what is marketing automation?

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

For example, you can have your marketing automation “score” every lead that comes into your website as a marketing-qualified lead or a sales-qualified lead based on criteria you set. The marketing leads will automatically enter email workflows that will nurture them. The sales leads will immediately go to sales for follow up. All of this happens AUTOMATICALLY without anyone having to label things manually. This frees up the marketing and sales teams to focus on substantive tasks.

Learn more about what marketing automation is.

Does your senior living community need marketing automation?

The goal with marketing automation is to make everyone’s lives easier. Think marketing, sales, and even your prospects. Every senior living community operating today needs some level of marketing automation in order to remain competitive.

In other words, the question isn’t whether you need it. The question is what type of marketing automation you need. Below, we discuss three tips for evaluating this important piece of senior living software.

How should you evaluate different marketing automation solutions?

1. Consider what your teams need.

Marketing automation companies typically offer different tiers ranging from basic products to the Cadillac version. Get the right solution for your needs. You don’t want to spend dollars on features your teams don’t need or won’t use.

Questions to ask as you evaluate marketing automation:

  • What’s your number one reason for investing in marketing automation right now? Make sure you can articulate this clearly.
  • How easily does the marketing automation software scale? For example, if you’re looking to expand your senior living portfolio in 2021 and 2022, how easily can new communities get on board with the solution?
  • How much does it cost? When comparing products, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Some solutions might bill based on the number of contacts. Others might bill on the number of marketing emails you send. Understand ALL the costs.
  • Can it easily integrate with your existing technology? Will it “play nice” with your current website? Will it integrate with your senior living CRM? These are the two most important pieces of technology to consider. But if your community uses any other apps/technology, make sure you understand any integration limitations.
  • Is it intuitive? You’ll want to sit in on a few demos. Does the interface make sense? Can you follow along with how things work? Can you see your team using the software?
  • Is it built specifically for the senior living industry? If not, can it adapt to the industry’s needs? Most marketing automation companies will highlight the industries they serve. Check out their websites. Look for case studies that talk about how the software is used in other senior living settings.
  • What sort of support does the company offer? Ideally, look for a company that builds relationships with its customers. You will need tech support at some point.
  • What are the analytics like? The best marketing automation provides solid insights into results—click-through rates, conversions, engagement, etc.
  • Will you be managing the marketing automation yourself? Or will a third party, like a marketing agency, be assisting? While marketing automation does save time by automating many functions, you shouldn’t treat it as a “turn it on and forget it” sort of system. If you only have the budget for one or two people to manage it, then you might want to opt for a simpler solution or a basic version of a product that has tiered options.

2. Read reviews on marketing automation software.

Capterra does an excellent job curating reviews and providing objectives pros and cons. However, the list for marketing automation software is overwhelming. So you might want to start with Capterra’s Top 20 Report.

When perusing reviews, don’t simply read the five- and one-star reviews. Those will be predictable. The five-star reviews will make the product sound like the best thing since sliced bread. The one-star reviews will make the product sound like it was developed by a child. Instead, pay close attention to the three-star reviews. Those will often provide the most revealing—and helpful—insights regarding the solution.

Pay attention to how the marketing automation company responds to negative reviews. You can tell a lot about a company by how they respond to critical feedback.

3. Ask for recommendations from senior living marketing agencies.

Again, you could ask any marketing agency for its preference. (They will definitely have one!) But asking an agency with senior living experience makes much more sense. A senior living marketing agency will understand the types of software a community like yours needs in order to achieve its marketing and sales goals.

At Senior Living SMART, we’re big fans of HubSpot. (Full disclosure: We’re a HubSpot Gold Solutions Partner.) But that doesn’t mean we’re not fans of other products. Many good marketing automation products exist. (As well as not-so-good products.) If you’ve whittled down your list to three or four (even if HubSpot isn’t on the list), we’d be happy to discuss your options in a free 30-minute brainstorm.

And if you're just getting started with thinking about marketing automation, even better!

We can help you from start to finish, including choosing the right product for your community, setting it up, and analyzing the results. Get in touch!

 

Business man excited about maintaining five star review

Senior Living Reputation Management: How to Respond to Reviews

Your senior living community’s online reputation is everything. In fact, it might be the only thing that matters. Perception is reality and all that. Not to mention online reviews almost always come up in local search results. That’s why when it comes to senior living reputation management, you MUST have a strategy for responding to reviews.

We’ve written a couple articles about managing your overall online reputation, including claiming listings and soliciting reviews. But today we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty of how to respond to those pesky one- and two-star reviews.

1. Never argue.

When we say never, we mean NEVER. Not even if you feel the review is unfair. Not even if you know the review is inaccurate. A combative response will cause more damage. Why? Because other people will see your belligerent response. This will influence their decision—and not in a good way.

2. Keep in mind that critical feedback isn’t always negative.

We all tend to think of one-star reviews as “bad.” But negative reviews provide opportunity. Your critics are giving you a gift: an unfiltered, unvarnished view of your community’s weaknesses. If you pay attention to your reviews and address legitimate issues revealed within them, your community will ultimately be in a better, stronger, more competitive position.

What should you pay attention to in one- and two-star reviews? Look for trends. Look for consistent complaints. If you’re hearing the same complaint in multiple reviews, you can no longer claim it’s simply one disgruntled person’s “opinion.” Uncover the core issue and address it.

3. Be genuine in your response.

  • Acknowledge the person’s pain/criticism. Again, don’t argue. Don’t make condescending statements like “We’re sorry you feel this way.” Instead, opt for something that sounds human: “Chris, we’re sorry to hear your mom isn’t happy with X. We’re sharing your feedback with the team. If you’d like to tell us more, we welcome your additional input. You can reach us here.” (Provide a real phone number and extension. Make sure someone monitors the messages and passes on messages to the appropriate person in your community.)
  • Do not end your response with “Have a great day.” It sounds silly to say something like: “We’re sorry to hear about your experience. Have a great day!” Try this instead: “Even though it’s hard to hear, we do appreciate your candid feedback. We’re discussing your review internally so we can address these issues.”
  • Don’t say the same thing in every response. People scroll through reviews. If people see the same response on every review, well—that doesn’t sound genuine, does it?
  • Respond to positive reviews, too! A warm “Thank you” is always welcome on a positive review. You’ll follow the same suggestions outlined above. Acknowledge what the person liked. Don’t say the same thing in every response. And sound genuine.

Need inspiration? Here are real examples of great responses to negative Yelp reviews.

4. Run your response by a committee before hitting publish.

Get in the habit of drafting a response to a critical review and sharing it with a couple members of your team. Why? Just to get a second opinion and a second set of eyes on the response. The problem with responding in writing is the tone issue. The person who writes the response can’t always “hear” if something might come across as snarky or defensive. When it comes to senior living reputation management, take a team approach.

5. Accept that negative reviews are part of doing business.

Your senior living community will get negative reviews. It’s a part of doing business. Your focus should be on responding thoughtfully to these critical reviews and addressing issues, as needed.

SeniorLivingAdvisor.com notes this in its FAQs: “Consumers do not expect every customer will have an ideal experience with any service provider. In fact, consumers tend to trust reviews more when they see both positive and negative feedback. What is important to those searching for senior care is that the organization acknowledges and addresses concerns.”

6. Flag any reviews that are truly inappropriate.

While you should never respond to negative reviews, your community—and the people reading the reviews—shouldn’t have to endure violent, abusive, racist, or other toxic language. Most review sites offer a way to flag/report/dispute problematic reviews. You won’t use this for someone who is irate about a legitimate issue. People have a right to vent their frustration. But if a reviewer ever crosses a line, you can ask to have the review removed.

An important note: People reading reviews will be able to read between the lines. Most of us can easily identify an incoherent rant when we spot one. And most of us won’t put much stock into those sorts of reviews. So even if you have a couple of “stinkers,” don’t worry too much about it.

7. Combat negative reviews with more positive reviews.

With many review sites, the most recent reviews are listed first. So if you have a few negative reviews cluttering the feed—even if you’ve answered them in a thoughtful manner—revisit your playbook for soliciting more positive reviews.

Some ideas:

  • Tap recent move-ins. While the experience is still fresh, ask the resident and/or family member to leave a review on why they chose your community.
  • Use text messaging apps. Sending a text message asking for a review stands a better chance of getting opened and acted upon. Capterra evaluates different text messaging apps here.
  • Audit your lead nurturing. Make sure you include “Love us? Leave us a review” call-outs on appropriate lead nurturing workflows.
  • Don’t overlook your employees! Make sure you monitor reviews on places like Indeed and Glassdoor. Savvy consumers will look at these sites to see what employees are saying about working in your senior living community. Happy employees make for happy residents.

 

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