Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Discussing Senior Housing Providers with Pam Steitz

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • Good news for senior living communities in 2021
  • Why market analysis is valuable to senior housing providers
  • Penetration rates between different types of providers
  • Why developers should consider building smaller, more intimate settings to serve as social hubs for seniors
  • Segments (i.e. independent living) that have fared better than others (i.e. assisted living)
  • How the industry should innovate or reimagine itself to respond to questions of health and safety in the new normal
  • When and how to adjust prices or create short-term incentives

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Pam Steitz, President of PLS Market Analysis, LLC, which provides market research services including feasibility studies and focus groups to senior housing providers. Pam is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Liberty Lutheran Senior Services and Retirement Community.

Because data informs marketing strategy, Pam speaks on how providers are doing research in order to adapt to the logistical, organizational, and even cultural challenges that have developed over the past year.

Market studies, she says, should always aim to answer the question, “Why are we struggling?” Whereas the senior living industry was somewhat saturated in pre-COVID times and required a different set of skills to navigate, providers now need to pinpoint the obstacles they face in simply maintaining their lead base or nurturing new leads entirely.

Market studies are not a one-and-done event—they are meant to be updated ideally once a year. “We’re going to see so much growth in this industry in the next five years that a market study really needs to be something that is routine,” Pam asserts. She speaks on the value of consumer research to extract lessons from mistakes and, using these lessons, determine how to reposition one’s marketing.

Market analysis is also about helping providers home in on their niche. According to Pam, “It’s really important to understand the marketplace, and that is really through data, both quantitative and qualitative.”

Pam also gives her thoughts on what providers need to know about the future of the senior living industry based on takeaways from market analyses in 2020 and early 2021.

Resources Mentioned:

PLS Market Analysis

Pam Steitz on LinkedIn

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Operating in the Senior Living Space Post-COVID with Amy McKinley

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • Operating in a completely virtual environment
  • How salespeople can effectively address concerns related to COVID-19
  • Introducing empathy in the call and building a genuine relationship with the prospect with a no-touch system
  • The senior living space in a post-COVID world

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Amy McKinley, a 35-year veteran of the senior living space and the Co-Founder and CEO at Senior Source Consulting Group.

Amy discusses the overnight reality of having to advise providers on selling their community in a no-touch environment. Amy says that salespeople “now have to be more on point.” For instance, in-person tours and face-to-face mystery shopping have exclusively turned into virtual walkthroughs and phone calls—which arguably take more skill to manage.

She adds that, nowadays, “we have to be more transparent, but in a way that is meaningful to the prospect.” It is important to make people feel important on the phone. This is, indeed, more work, but if done correctly, can easily allow one community to stand out in a sea of ever-increasing noise.

Health and safety have obviously become top-of-mind concerns among both prospects and providers. It is vital not just to demonstrate the safety measures your facility adheres to, but also to give good reasons why a family member should make the move to that facility as soon as possible. One point to emphasize is that it is much better for that family member to live among a community than to be alone in these uncertain times.

Salespeople should never rely on filling the CRM alone. Unfortunately, most do. What Amy recommends is for the salesperson to apply tactfulness during the call, keeping an appropriate balance between discovery and building rapport. In other words, salespeople should never forget the lasting power of building genuine relationships.

Emotion, after all, is what creates urgency to make a decision. “They’re not going to get to that point if you’re just asking a checklist of questions,” says Amy.

Resources Mentioned:

Senior Source Consulting Group

Amy McKinley on LinkedIn

Contact Amy: 615-330-9553

[email protected]

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: All Things Paid Search with Jay Buerck

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • How the pandemic has impacted organic and paid search in the senior living space
  • Differences between Google and Bing for paid search
  • How to maximize organic search and, later, complement it with paid search
  • The steps to mapping out an effective SEO strategy
  • First-touch versus retargeting campaigns
  • Paid ads on Facebook versus Google and Bing
  • How to set proper expectations when running ad campaigns

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Jay Buerck, Director of Strategy at Digital Strike, a “search-focused marketing company” catering to businesses of all sizes. Specializing in organic and paid search, the company’s focus is to harness intent-based marketing from search engines.

In this conversation, Debbie and Jay do a deep dive into all things Google Adwords, PPC campaigns, and other strategies to increase a business’s web presence.

With over half of Digital Strike’s business being in the senior living space, Jay references a DialogTech study which found that search volume has been decreasing, up to 40% for certain providers. At the same time, 75% of searches related to finding a community have taken place online, with about 83% of those searches coming from individuals who do not have a specific community in mind.

“It’s vitally important to be online,” says Jay, “and increase your visibility, whether that’s through organic search or through paid search.”

Asked about maximizing organic search, Jay refers to the three pillars of SEO that Digital Strike subscribes to: technical, content, and authority. Anyone can start seeing a boost in their search rankings by optimizing all three of these foundational factors.

Jay also speaks on setting expectations when running ad campaigns, saying that it’s important to look not only at your company’s metrics, but those of others who have run comparable campaigns so that you are not looking at your data in a vacuum. It also helps to engage in conversation with stakeholders and refer to reports that reveal current market trends.

Resources Mentioned:

Digital Strike

Jay Buerck on LinkedIn

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Solving the Occupancy Puzzle with Julie Podewitz

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • Why Julie decided to write a book specifically about the Regional Director role
  • How Regional Directors can develop productive relationships with different departments
  • How Regional Directors can plan their site visits in a way that is appropriate and adds value to all parties
  • How Regional Directors can create a system for higher conversions and set expectations with their team
  • Julie’s three-person coaching model for effectiveness
  • Why the senior housing lost/mismanaged lead statistic has not improved since 2007

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Julie Podewitz, Chief Sales Officer at Vitality Senior Living and author of the 2021 book Solving the Occupancy Puzzle: A Senior Living Regional Director Sales Playbook.

Asked why she chose to make the Regional Director the focus of her book, Julie says that this is “the role that has the most impact and the role we give the least attention to.” Julie has observed through the course of her career that “Regionals fail because of the lack of systems, the lack of specific expectations, and the lack of training and coaching.”

Julie speaks on the importance not only of communicating, but also of accountability between the Regional Directors of different departments, from sales and marketing to community relations. She also reminds Regionals to make it a point to “maintain their advisor status” in their interactions with prospects, taking care not to cross the line into friendship.

The value of connection extends to one’s strategy for converting prospects. “We’ve got to go back to those basics to build value and connect.” Similarly, Julie emphasizes that Regionals focus on one strategy at a time and double-down on it instead of spreading themselves too thin.

“The quality of your questions will determine the quality of the information you’ll receive.” Practicing these conversations is key, and the best way to practice is through regular roleplay. Julie describes her three-person coaching model for more effective roleplays, in which each of the three take turns (one permutation per training session) assuming the role of customer, sales counselor, or coach.

Resources Mentioned:

Solving the Occupancy Puzzle

Julie Podewitz on LinkedIn

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Business, Sales and Marketing Advice with Doug Davidoff

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • How businesses can communicate with their target market to design better services
  • Creating an environment that makes prospects stay comfortable while in the pipeline
  • Tried-and-true advice for all sales professionals
  • The ever-evolving relationship between sales and marketing
  • Considerations around “high-tech, high-touch”
  • Identifying the touches that matter and ignoring those that do not matter
  • How letting go of (your feeling of) control gives you more control as a company
  • Creating a solid structure for your business to spark more creativity among your team
  • The truth about friction in the sales process and how to use friction to your advantage
  • The difference between a “challenger” and a “provoker” in sales

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks 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 describes his career as being about “eliminating or mitigating the conflict between buyers and sellers,” an approach that is applied at Imagine.

Imagine has discovered that most organizations already have the raw material to achieve what they want to achieve. What they need is the correct recipe to make their vision a reality. Doug says that the problem usually lies more in what organizations are already doing and have to unlearn as opposed to what they are not doing. Imagine ensures that their clients maintain the structure of their respective businesses “to enable them to achieve predictable, sustainable, and scalable growth, however they define ‘scalable’.”

Imagine has worked with countless businesses in many different verticals, and the number one issue that Doug found is a lack of empathy. Instead of creating a product or service from assumption alone, companies need to see the world through their customers’ eyes. In addition, companies have a tendency to “try too hard” or overestimate what they can do. Sales professionals simply need to solve for x. They need to map their customer’s journey to make their subsequent decisions more informed.

Historically, salespeople were responsible for communicating the value proposition. Today, that has become marketing’s job. Sales professionals now “facilitate the decision using the resources that marketing has created to reduce the effort involved to make a high-risk decision.” Sales and marketing, previously siloed departments, now work parallel to each other.

“Your job is not to sell the community,” says Doug. “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.”


Imagine Business Development

Doug Davidoff on LinkedIn

Promoting Connectivity and Purpose in Senior Living

A panel of senior living marketing professionals will share strategies and tactics for lead generation, nurturing and conversions given current restrictions regarding tours, events and community visits.

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Adopting New Technology to Promote Well-Being with Sagely

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • How Sagely’s platform adds convenience for everyone in a senior care facility
  • The importance Sagely places on personal, one-on-one connection
  • How operators can take advantage of Sagely’s technology to reduce prospect friction
  • Helping residents adopt new technologies
  • Activities that have the highest engagement and preparing for the next generation
  • Customizing Sagely’s platform to different groups
  • Sagely’s remote learning capabilities and future on-demand initiatives

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with 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.” Sagely is a platform to document, manage, and navigate the tracking and delivery of engagement and care programs” that can be used by both residents and their families.

Hollie started out in the senior housing space over 20 years ago as a unit assistant. Through the years, she took on various roles, from caregiver all the way up to Chief Experience Officer. With a primary focus on memory care and engagement, her passion is quality of life and designing stellar lifestyles for the seniors in her care.

Hollie agrees with Debbie that the pandemic has served as an “accelerator” that has forced operators in the industry to focus on making their systems and processes more effective and efficient. Sagely in particular has had to fall back and reflect on their core mission to “keep elders happy, healthy, independent, and connected”.

This required them to create a two-pronged approach for 2020 and beyond: develop technology that is simple to use for residents who may not be tech-savvy, and “free up more time and also provide more efficient tools for that engagement director to meet their residents’ needs at all times.”

Hollie has noticed that, amid the pandemic, “people are less focused on limitations and more focused on possibilities”. The adoption of new technologies today should not actually be as difficult as many make it out to be, even in the senior living space. What makes the difference are the goals you have going into a project, how you hold your team accountable to those goals, and why those goals matter.

“In my opinion,” says Hollie, “in senior housing, technology is never replacing human touch. I do not believe that’s possible. I still think we’re a human business. Technology just enables the human to do their job better.” And this outlook should extend to those initiatives that technology aims to make possible. “A program,” continues Hollie, “can be wonderful on paper, but if it’s not alive in the community, it doesn’t matter.”



Hollie Kemp on LinkedIn

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: The Science of Conversions and Optimization with Brian Massey

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • Looking at the science of conversion and not just the art
  • Using behavioral science to understand the thought process of prospects
  • What data we should be looking at that informs strategic conversations with prospects
  • Tools to help track engagement metrics
  • Updating your website and communication tools to adapt to social distancing limitations
  • Designing a website that gradually educates cold prospects to warm them up over time
  • Creating content and designing web pages for different segments
  • Designing your website as a draftsman rather than as an artist
  • Optimizing your website for the mobile experience

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Brian Massey, Managing Partner at Conversion Sciences, a data-driven conversion optimization agency which seeks to “find those impulses to act that are hidden in your site.”

If you are counting on the internet to drive your business, you cannot manage it without having access to behavioral data. Brian says that his role is not just the scientific complement to the art of marketing, but one that allows the marketer to “expand their art to be more creative”.

Most businesses today do not need more leads, but more conversion. If they are aware of the data indicating the number of visitors, conversions, and the bounce rate (many companies do not even track these numbers), the first step is to look at the primary call to action that you want a particular page to make. Look at the amount of leads you are driving and how many engagements you are getting. Understanding the data helps you manage your relationship with visitors intelligently.

Bounce rate is a great measure of the quality of the traffic on your website. There is a constant tension between getting more traffic and making the landing experiences better, and there is not necessarily a correlation between the two. Troubleshooting the experience to get more conversions requires an analysis of the visitor’s behavior as they navigate your site or landing page.

Your website should always be updated to adapt to changes in the market. On the most practical level, this means looking at engagement metrics not just to know that data, but to know how to take action based on those changes.

Conversion optimization is “an assembling of segments”, starting with the largest segment in the early stages of your business. Personas are a great tool for understanding what those segments are so that you can keep track of the types of visitors on your website. As you scale and become more sophisticated with your site, you can have more offers targeted toward specific segments. In the senior living space, some of those segments could include the adult children, seniors who would rather live in their home, and seniors who prefer a community.

You should have a variety of content that caters to these different segments, and have pages on your website specially designed for these different kinds of content. Analytics will show how different segments behave differently on the pages you designed specifically for them.


Conversion Strategies

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Evaluating your Digital Presence with Andy Crestodina

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • How the senior care space has transformed in 2020
  • Managing your online reputation
  • When and how to update your website
  • Differentiating yourself with intentional copy
  • Pushing sales messaging into the marketing funnel
  • Creating content in 2021
  • Maximizing the conversion experience by incorporating flow
  • When to automate your processes
  • What tools operators should consider for their 2021 marketing budget 

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Andy Crestodina, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer at Orbit Media, an award-winning 38-person digital agency in Chicago.

The challenges we have seen in 2020 accelerated the trend toward the empowered prospect. There is more content than ever before for potential clients or customers to go through, which allows them to make a decision on a product or service even before meeting a representative of the company. Before, to learn what a business offered, you had to talk to people. Today, for many businesses that is no longer the case. The responsibility of a marketer, therefore, is to help prospects make a great decision by considering their product as an option.

The foundation of your marketing efforts is evaluating your digital presence (and those of your competitors). From being present on most of the major social channels (depending on your demographic) to making sure you show up at the top of Google results, having both quality and quantity in your content marketing efforts should be one of the first major goals of your business.

When it comes to designing and updating your website, always think about the perspective of the visitor. The site does not have to sell; but it has to give sufficient information to the visitor. The job of the website is to answer questions. What are their questions? What are their concerns? Which of those questions and concerns are among their top priorities? What are our best answers for those questions, and what evidence can we add to support those answers? When you know these things, you are ready to build a high-converting website. The job of the website is to give visitors sufficient clarity and trust (i.e. answers and evidence) to get them just over the psychological threshold toward contacting you.

Asked about producing the right kind of content in 2021, particularly for the senior living space, Andy encourages operators to focus on the bottom of the funnel. Take care of your current prospects first: those who are already brand-aware. Many cold prospects may continue to have low intent going into the new year and might not be ready for anything—not even the initial call.

Bottom-of-funnel content that answers sales questions should be prioritized; but also use this strategy to grow your email list. Work hard on the call to action to subscribe to your newsletter, because growing your email list puts you in control of your marketing destiny, unlike your social media platforms. Keep your subscribers in flow by keeping them engaged with a tailored content experience that regularly gives them value while keeping you top-of-mind until they are ready to take the next step.


Orbit Media

Orbit Media Studios on YouTube

Andy Crestodina on LinkedIn

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Uncovering New Insights in the Senior Living Industry with Alex Fisher from Sherpa

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • Insights uncovered about the senior living industry in March, April, and May
  • Making the best out of fewer leads
  • Adapting sales training and hiring practices to the new normal
  • Confronting fears by tapping into your motivations

 Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Alex Fisher, Co-Founder of Sherpa CRM. As the impact of COVID-19 continues to influence all major business decisions, Debbie and Alex discuss data insights for March, April, and May, released recently by Sherpa.

This data provides a qualitative indication of the sales and outcomes of a sample size of about 82,000 units of independent living, assisted living, and memory care facilities. In making sense of the information, Alex stresses that “the sales process should not be predicated on the level of care, but on the person.”

While leads have been down across the board, Alex says that sales and marketing professionals have always tended to “underwork” prospective buyers anyway. With the pandemic causing everybody to pay better attention to the leads that they do continue to generate, there is now an opportunity to put more focus and care into each individual prospect. Says Alex, “Our philosophy is that the new lead is not necessarily going to be better than the old lead. As a matter of fact, there is gold in your existing leads. Some of them may have been resistant to your efforts for a while, but they still exist.”

With fewer leads to work with, Alex emphasizes the importance of really getting inside the heads and the hearts of both the potential residents and their families. Specifically, what is going on in their world as they prepare to make the life-altering decision of whether or not to move into a new community, especially in the face of these challenging times? Making the effort to be truly empathetic to your potential customers’ desires always leads to more sales. As Alex eloquently puts it, “Shallow engagement leads to lower conversions.”

Even before COVID-19, Alex says that much can be done to improve sales training and what to look for when hiring salespeople. For one, there tends to be an overreliance on product. In an industry full of “glorified tour givers”, she calls for refocusing the focus of sales training onto the prospect by letting go of the outcome. This requires emotional intelligence through self-awareness and embracing the fact that salespeople are “facilitators of change” who help break down emotional barriers so that prospects can have the confidence to make adjustments in their lives.


Sherpa CRM

Email: [email protected]