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Tips for Creating Virtual Sales Experiences in Senior Living

Senior Living Sales Strategies During COVID: Create Virtual Experiences

EDITOR’S NOTE: Like everyone else around the globe, we’re struggling with this new reality due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Heartbreaking stories of loss and grief and a world economy inching towards recession are just some of the things keeping us up at night. As a senior living marketing agency, we’ve been thinking about all our clients as they face these unprecedented times. It’s hard to see past this pandemic since we’re only in the early stages, but at some point, we know we’ll begin to adjust to this “new normal.” The articles we’ll be providing during this time are designed to give senior living sales strategies and marketing tips that can help. 

Senior Living Sales Strategies: Think Virtual & Interactive  Experiences

The current “no touch” reality due to COVID-19 will require creative approaches for senior living sales teams. Several states have suspended move-ins and on-site visits. As a result, occupancy rates can only go down until these restrictions are lifted.

No doubt, the last thing on most people’s minds is marketing or sales, but it’s important to keep initiatives going—in a thoughtful and compassionate way, of course. For the foreseeable future, tours, events, and perhaps even home visits will not be options, so here are some ideas for creating effective (and, bottom line, SAFE) sales experience for prospective residents.

Your New Front Door

People might not be able to physically enter your community, but that doesn’t mean you can’t provide them a glimpse inside.  Remember, your website has always served as your virtual front door. And, for the time being anyway, it is THE entry point into all that your community offers. Everything that people would usually come into the community to experience must be available on your website.

Here’s a quick list of must-haves to create an interactive experience:

  • Live Chat. Real human chat “hosts” should personally welcome website visitors, answer questions, provide information, and generate leads. Your human “hosts” can work from the safety of their own homes.
  • Video Conferencing. Meeting “face-to-face” in this new reality is possible, thanks to virtual conferencing options. Skype is free and widely accessible. Paid options like Zoom are budget-friendly.
  • Downloadable brochures (gate this with a form so you can gather contact information and follow up). Here is an example.
  • Video Tours. If you don’t have professional video tours, invest in a technology such as HeartLegacy and have the sales team create videos to highlight the community. Here is a sample.
  • Interactive Surveys such as Roobrik allow prospects to find their best senior housing and care option.
  • Floor Plans and Interactive Room Planners. Here is an example.
  • Testimonials to show the experience of living in the community. Check out these examples.
  • Links to Facebook to highlight all the positive stories within each community.
  • A Robust Resources Section. Think blogs, guides, videos, links to COVID-19 articles, and guidelines to show that you are well prepared, caring, and reassuring.

Taking these steps won’t be in vain, either. Since most searches for senior living begin online, creating a strong virtual experience for people is something that will help your community for the long term.

As always, we’re here to help with your marketing and senior living sales strategies during COVID.

If you need assistance making any of the above happen during this chaotic time, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Battling COVID-19 Webinar

Senior Living Marketing Webinar: Battling COVID-19

We’ve gathered industry experts for this FREE senior living marketing webinar to give you the tools to effectively manage the COVID-19 pandemic in your senior living community. From resident and staff health, effective procedures for cleaning and disinfecting to managing crisis communication.

Here’s what you’ll learn: 

  • Strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in senior living communities
  • Prevention, treatment of COVID-19
  • COVID-19 HR Policy
  • CDC Recommendations
  • Safety FAQs
  • When should you use standard precautions
  • Three types of transmission
  • Practicing good EVS procedures
  • Supporting staff, residents and families
  • Crisis Communication
  • Virtual sales tools
Special Edition: COVID-19 Communication Tips

Senior Living Marketing Crisis Communication Tips for COVID-19

The World Health Organization has officially used the term “pandemic” in relation to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Senior living communities are especially vulnerable to this disease, so what your community does next matters. These crisis communication tips will help.

Effective and pro-active communication with residents, families, referral sources, and prospects should be a high priority.  If you have a crisis communication policy, dust it off and start executing. If you don’t have something in place, follow these crisis communication tips ASAP.

Crisis Communication Tips: Be Open, Honest, & Transparent

Everyone wants reassurance that you have a plan in place to minimize risk and exposure to your residents and staff. Plan to communicate at least daily through a dedicated hotline number with a regularly updated recording. Or make a live central contact available to answer questions. Provide specifics on your protocols. In addition, reference the CDC recommendations for reducing risk and exposure to residents and staff.

Here are some links to include in your communication:

Crisis Communication Tips: Address the Most Pressing Concerns

Some of the most pressing questions include the following. Make sure you have answers:

  • Is my loved one safe right now? How will you ensure their safety throughout this crisis?
  • Will you close the community to visitors? If so, how will you provide resident status updates?
  • Are you stopping admissions, cancelling events and trips, serving residents on paper or delivering meals to apartments?
  • Do you have enough staff and supplies?
  • Are you increasing inventory of medical, food, and service supplies?
  • Have you increased your cleaning/ disinfecting protocols?
  • Are you retraining staff and hosting Town Hall meetings with residents?
  • What will you do if the virus is detected in the community?

People want to know what steps you’re taking to minimize risk. In addition, they expect regular communication about it.

Crisis Communication Tips: Use Every Communication Channel

You don’t know how or where people will go to access info. So, use all communication channels to deliver a consistent message.

Website. Put a banner on your website with a link to your prepared statement.

Email. Send emails, as needed, to all residents, family members, and responsible parties. First, outline your resident safety protocols. Second, reassure fearful and anxious family members. Finally, provide the various ways people can get regular updates.

Phone. Have a dedicated hotline to provide regular communication. This can be a central person available at the corporate level, recordings at the community level, or a call center. The more proactively you push out information, the fewer burdens there will be in managing incoming calls.

Live Chat. Provide your live chat partner with your crisis communication plan and FAQs so they can engage appropriately with website visitors.

Automated messaging technologies. Communication platforms, such as Voicefriend, automate notifications to residents, families, and staff via recorded phone messages, text, and email.

SMS. Do a bulk text notification to all residents, family members, and responsible parties. Include links to your updated notification channels, such as your hotline and website.

Prepare a media statement. If reporters contact your community, your department heads need to have a prepared statement that they can provide. Here is an example from Brookdale.

Example to follow: Brookdale has done a great job communicating their plan. They even created a COVID-19 Toolkit. Check it out here.

As always, if you need help creating or setting up any of these items, we can help you effectively sell and market your community during the pandemic

The Magic of Higher Funnel Thinking Webinar

The Magic of Higher Funnel Thinking Webinar

Here’s what you’ll learn: 

  • Valuable insight into marketing resource and effort allocation
  • Actionable tips for engaging older adults and their families sooner with minimal effort
  • Information about how decision science can influence marketing content
  • Proven path to getting families “unstuck” in their senior living decision process
Senior Living Sales Tips: Characteristics of Super Star Sales Talent

Senior Living Sales: Characteristics of Super Star Sales Talent

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

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

How can you improve your sales conversions?

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

1. The Best Senior Living Sales Rep Sees Prospects as Real People.

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

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

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

2. The Best Senior Living Sales Rep Sells Value, Not Features.

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

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

3. The Best Senior Living Sales Reps Are Respectfully Persistent.

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

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

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

4. The Best Senior Living Sales Rep Are Not Afraid of Silence.

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

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

5. The Best Senior Living Sales Reps Embrace Follow Up – Creatively, Personally, and Energetically!

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

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

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

The Senior Living Marketing Rebellion

The Senior Living Marketing Rebellion

I recently listened to a Duct Tape Marketing podcast featuring Mark Shaefer, author of Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins. The podcast addresses the “new reality” of marketing strategy. The insights are timely and relevant for the senior living industry.

The new reality is that the customer is in control of their own journey—and no two customers are alike. The buying journey in senior living is complex and emotional, often involving multiple decision makers and influencers. This journey is rarely linear, so today’s senior living marketers have to create an environment for prospects to be able to engage with the brand at every stage of their journey. We need to meet them wherever they are. Then, we must provide the information they need and nurture them along the path. Finally, we must keep them engaged until they make the decision to move forward.

When it comes to senior living marketing today, there have been three distinctive shifts.

Let’s look at each one more closely.

1. Shift in the Access to Information

Information is power, and we senior living marketers used to have it. Prospects had to call or visit the community to get any information. For example, pricing, floor plans, and marketing collateral were provided personally or snail-mailed out. And prospects waited for the information to come in their mailboxes!

Today, prospects expect to get information about everything on your senior living website. And if you don’t give it to them, they will quickly move to a competitor or third-party lead aggregator site. We are now marketing to a “shop-around” society, and they expect to be able to independently research and compare their options.

2. Shift in Transparency

There is no room for secrets in today’s senior living marketing strategy. Trust in business, brands, and advertising has declined for the last 10 years, and today’s prospects want to self-qualify or self-disqualify without a sales pitch.

What can a senior living marketer do? One of the most important things is putting your pricing on your website (the starting rates at the very least). If you don’t provide your pricing, the lead aggregators will, and you will be buying back your own leads!

3. Shift in Control

Our prospects are becoming the marketers, because we no longer control the conversation. They listen to each other, they learn from each other, and they trust each other (more than they trust us). We no longer control our message—social channels and review sites do. Our job has shifted from leading the conversation to finding ways of being invited into the conversations that prospects are already having.

We can, however, initiate conversations and offer expertise and resources, such as blogs, guides, and infographics. And we can make sure that our messaging intersects with where prospects are researching.

Remember, Rebellious Times Require Radical Changes

Successful senior living marketing today starts with the right strategy. Operators that jump at every bright shiny new marketing tactic will end up wasting a lot of money without results. There is no point in spending budget on a paid digital advertising campaign if the website is not designed to convert the leads generated. More traffic does not equal more prospects, and more leads won’t always translate into the right leads.

Ready to embrace this new senior living marketing reality?

Schedule a 30-minute brainstorming session today.

7 Signs It's Time to Change Your Website Hosting Company

Senior Living Website Tips: Make Sure You Own Your Website

Consider this important statistic: 87% of senior living prospects will visit a community website before they pick up the phone, attend an event, or schedule a tour. Your website is your virtual front door!  

If you put the work and money into your website, make sure you OWN it. Because older, closed, and proprietary platforms will limit your ability to own your strategy, decisions, and results

Senior living website tips: warning signs to watch out for 

1. The website will be hosted on a proprietary CMS (content management system).

Your web designer or digital marketing agency might talk about their cool content management system. But what happens to your senior living website if you decide you want to work with a different agency or designer? The digital agency will own the license and, therefore, your brand…and they might not be willing to part with either.

If that’s the case, you’ll basically be a captive of the agency since there won’t be a way to simply “move” the site from one vendor to another. You’ll need to completely rebuild the site at a cost of many thousands of dollars.

2. The designer/agency doesn’t have an open API because they don’t want their clients to integrate with solutions other than their own.

Controlling integration on the website means providers will have to buy packaged solutions owned by the agency rather than allowing clients to choose their own integrations and tools.

3. Automated lead response emails are signed by the website hosting company, not the community sales and marketing team.

The goal of marketing automation is to build rapport and trust with your brand, not with the hosting company’s brand!

4. Website designs are out-of-the-box with locked-down templates.

This means that providers will have to pay extra (and wait in line) for customization. And again, see the first point: You might not even OWN the customization on your senior living website.

5. The only people that can make changes to the website are employed by the digital agency.

Just, no! You and your team should be able to easily make changes on your own. That’s the beauty of WordPress sites or sites built using content management systems where you own the files/content (like on HubSpot).

6. There is no written guarantee that the content on your senior living website belongs to you.

If there’s no written guarantee, then the digital agency could claim it as their content. This includes copy, images, videos, history, analytics, and reports. We can’t stress this point enough. READ CONTRACTS CAREFULLY BEFORE YOU SIGN. Here’s a good article that gets into the nitty-gritty of website ownership and clauses to look out for.

7. There is a 12-month commitment, lengthy notice period, and/or or auto-renewal clause.

You should be able to take your business elsewhere whenever you want (or at least within a reasonable time frame, like 30 days). Sure, it can sound appealing to have an “all in one” solution, but the lower price point and so-called conveniences are NOT worth it if you end up losing control of your senior living website and brand. Not to mention that the lost lead-generation opportunities will cost you more in the long run.

Work with a digital marketing agency that will RESPECT your brand—and your autonomy! Hint: That would be us!

We hope these senior living website tips were helpful. Need more help? Schedule a 30-minute brainstorming session ASAP!

The Marketing Agency Trap in Senior Living

The Senior Living Marketing Agency Trap

We are a senior living marketing agency. Over the years, we’ve worked with marketing agencies, and weve hired marketing agencies at various times throughout our growth. This gives us a unique perspective on the pros and cons of the typical marketing agency model. 

Here are some of the lessons weve learned about the agency world. 

Lesson #1: Be Wary of the Ol’ Bait & Switch.

Too often, a strategic leader in the marketing agency will woo you, but the minute the deal closes, they disappear.

That’s a big problem because the greatest value provided by an industry-specific marketing agency is in the development of the strategy. If you don’t have a sound marketing strategy, nothing else matters.

On a couple of occasions in our earlier years, we were “sold” by a charismatic and strategic agency leader with great insights and ideas. But after we signed the contract, we never saw or spoke to that person again.

Pro Tip: Before you sign the contract, learn how often the strategic leader will be joining results calls and strategy sessions.  (They should be involved at least quarterly.) Make sure you have this point outlined in the contract. Psst: When you work with Senior Living SMART, you always get one of us—the founders—on your team.

Lesson #2: Remember, You Get What You Pay For.

In the world of marketing agencies, the budget you’re willing to spend will determine the experience and quality of the team assigned.

Only clients with the largest budget will get the A Team. Agencies employ marketing specialists with a wide variety of experience levels from entry level on up. This means, you may end up with a B, C, or D team based on your spend.

Pro Tip: Before you sign the contract, find out all you can about the people on your marketing “team.” This should include their professional marketing experience, how long they’ve been with the agency, and what other senior living clients they’ve worked with. You can learn all about our senior living marketing team here.

Lesson #3: Make Sure Your Brand is NEVER Held Hostage.

Read your marketing agency contract carefully and be sure that you own your content and brand elements! We’ve worked with senior living clients who’ve discovered their agency would not release their logos, images, and creative files to them. In essence, the agency was basically holding the brand hostage.

Pro Tip: Always retain the original art files, brand guidelines, logos, and images you purchase. And have an attorney double check your contract before signing.

Lesson #4: Be Skeptical of Too Many Trade Secrets.

In the course of delivering a great digital marketing experience, agencies will employ multiple technologies for analytic and diagnostic purposes. Most will “white label” these resources so they can retain the licenses and own the marketing “secrets.”

This might be OK while you’re working with the agency. But in the future, you might want to transfer the licenses to yourself or another agency—and you shouldn’t have to lose your historical data in order to do so. Here are some examples where the data and analytics can really pile up: marketing automation software, reputation management, social sharing platforms, SEO, and heat mapping tools.

Pro Tip: Before signing the contract, get a list of all tools and technologies that will be used to manage your account and be sure there is a process to transfer all licenses to you or your next agency.

Lesson #5: Your Agency’s Idea of “Success” Doesn’t Match Yours.

We worked with marketing agencies that were always excited to report their wonderful results in reaching various goals. The problem? Their goals were NOT our goals.

Goal setting should be collaborative and realistic. Don’t be fooled by the fluff reporting of impressions, views, clicks, and website traffic. In the senior living industry, the best measurements of success are conversions-to-leads, tours, and move-ins.

Pro Tip: Ask about reporting up front. What will be measured? What are the sources of truth? How will ROI be determined?

Learn from our lessons and avoid these mistakes!

And if you’re looking for a senior living marketing agency that works exclusively in the senior housing and care industry, we’d love to chat. Click here to schedule a 30-minute brainstorming session.

Another At-Bat: How to Rescue A Missed Opportunity Webinar

Another At-Bat: How to Rescue A Missed Opportunity Webinar

Here’s what you’ll learn: 

  • Inbound call handling best practices
  • Understand why calls fail
  • Expose blind spots in the customer journey
  • See how to calculate what its costing your organization to not effectively capture calls.
To Publish or Not to Publish? That is the Question About Community Pricing Webinar

To Publish or Not to Publish? That is the Question About Community Pricing Webinar

Here’s what you’ll learn: 

  • How to build a family/prospect experience strategy that scales.
  • How to interject powerful touch points that wows the family/prospect.
  • How to measure the efficacy of your customer experience strategy.
  • How to build your customer experience plan to deliver.