Welcome our Solutions Advisors newest Team Members!

We are excited to announce and welcome the most recent additions to the Solutions Advisors team:

Dora-croppedDora Barber, Vice President of Sales & Marketing
Dora has more than 20 years of sales experience in the senior living industry. Prior to joining Solutions Advisors and Solvere Senior Living, Dora was with Harbor Retirement Associates (HRA) for four years as the Vice President of Sales and Marketing, which included creating the sales strategies for six new developments in major markets. Preceding HRA she was the Regional Director of Sales and Marketing for the Southeast at Senior Lifestyle Corporation. She oversaw the sales staff of twenty communities working closely with each team to maximize sales. Read full bio here…

Linda-croppedLinda Bott, Account Manager
Linda comes to Solutions Advisors with 25 years of marketing experience focused on brand awareness and direct marketing. In client account service leadership roles, Linda has managed marketing budgets in excess of $8 million, developed and executed integrated marketing plans, including branding, digital marketing, social media, email and direct mail marketing. Linda is a strong believer in collaborating with clients’ sales and marketing teams to build strong relationships and provide cohesive marketing strategies. Linda will work with Solutions Advisor’s clients to identify and execute new marketing strategies that help grow brand awareness and lead generation. Read full bio here…

Justin-croppedJustin Jung, Staff Accountant
Justin Jung, Staff Accountant for Solutions Advisors, has accounting experience in manufacturing and retail environments. He was most recently with Apex Consolidated Corporation, New Brunswick, New Jersey, where he was promoted from bookkeeper to accountant with responsibility for all accounts payable, accounts receivable, bank reconciliation, and monthly closing procedures. Read full bio here… 

Kimber-croppedKimber Karn, Account Coordinator
New to the senior living industry, Kimber brings an invaluable set of project management skills to the creative and marketing teams at Solutions Advisors. Prior to joining Solutions Advisors, Kimber served as the Marketing and Membership Services Coordinator for the National Association of Social Workers, Virginia chapter with various roles and responsibilities for implementing online and offline marketing campaigns.  Read full bio here…

Dominique Mariano, Marketing CoordinatorDominique-cropped
Dominique has 8 years of experience in the senior living industry, working primarily in the community setting in a various array of roles and responsibilities. Dominque brings a background of marketing and graphic arts to Solutions Advisors. Her focus is to use her creativity and organizational skills for both marketing design and administrative duties.  Read full bio here…

 

To wait or not to wait?

Solutions Advisors works with a number of communities across the country that are in various stages of sales; some are under development, some are challenged with occupancy while others are in more of a maintenance mode. Regardless of the circumstance, a common question asked by the sales team is – should we have a waiting list even if we are not 100% occupied?

The short answer is – YES! Using a waiting list strategically is a great way to allow prospects to commit to the community prior to moving in.

The long answer is…well, longer.

 

My community is under development!

Google “senior housing projects under construction” and you will find new communities being developed across the country. “Blue sky” projects typically go through two deposit phases – a priority deposit phase followed by a reservation deposit phase. The goal is to have the priority depositor convert to a reservation deposit or a waiting list for the future. Then, once the community reaches 100% pre-sold with reservation deposits, new deposits are for the waiting list only. The waiting list will help back-fill cancellations as well as provide a pipeline for future move-ins after the community opens.

Some important waiting list tips for blue sky projects:

  • Divide the waiting list by floor plan style.  If a reservation depositor cancels, start with those waiting list members who have expressed an interest in that particular floor plan style.  If no one on the waiting list is interested in the available residence, then it can be offered to the market
  • Know the timeframe of the waiting list members. Remember, with a new community, opportunities to reoccupy a residence take considerably longer than with an established community.  Ensure the depositor understands the sense of urgency
  • Ask the depositor for back-up residence styles. Since, as noted, reoccupancy can take longer, know the depositor’s first, second and third choice
  • Include the waiting list members in select, depositor-only events.  Some events should be held for only reservation depositors; however, inviting waiting list members to select events will help form a bond with the future residents more easily

 

My community is occupancy challenged!

Managing a waiting list for an occupancy-challenged community is just as important as for one that is full. Prospects in the planning phase of the sales process may find the waiting list a safe way to connect with the community while not being quite “ready” to make the move. The goal of converting a prospect to the waiting list is to engage them with the community so their desire to move increases. The deposit shows a financial commitment which is typically an indication of future interest. We’ve seen some communities that have stagnant waiting lists in which depositors simply want to have a placeholder but have little intention of moving unless a crisis hits. In some cases, prospects may be on multiple waiting lists, possibly waiting for the best deal or incentive.

Some important waiting list tips for occupancy-challenged communities:

  • Consider defining two separate waiting lists: one more traditional list of people who want to be kept apprised of the availability of the community and one with a higher financial commitment that allows them to personally experience life at the community.  In the case of the list with the higher financial commitment, the depositor would, for example, provide a $5,000 deposit to become part of the “Club”.  As a member of the club, they might receive special benefits such as:
    • Monthly Sunday brunch
    • Access to the fitness center or other select amenities
    • Monthly trips and excursions with residents and other club members
    • Priority ranking on the waiting list over traditional waiting list members
  • Create conversion events specifically for waiting list members that allow them to mingle with existing residents
  • Set goals for both waiting list deposits as well as waiting list conversions to move-ins.  Review these conversions separately from typical inquiry to move-in and tour to move-in conversion ratios

If you are challenged with occupancy, it becomes even more important to be strategic in your communication with a waiting list. Don’t just follow up occasionally to see if their timeframe has changed – use creative follow up, home visits and other strategies to engage them with the community. The goal is to get them to move in sooner rather than later.

 

My community is in maintenance mode!

If your community is operating above budget and in more of a maintenance mode, a more traditional working of the lead base typically will suffice. However, it is still important to keep the depositors engaged in the community to ensure they are more likely to move when something becomes available for them.

  • The waiting list deposit is typically 100% refundable.  The deposit should be small enough to be manageable yet large enough to demonstrate a financial commitment to the community as an indication of future interest. Traditional CCRCs see waiting list deposits  that vary from $1,000 to $2,500 while some rental communities require less money to commit
  • One option to identify depositors who are more serious is to require a 10% deposit to be on the waiting list for those residences that are the highest in demand, such as larger floor plans, apartments with great views, etc.
  • Some communities have a “three and done” philosophy in which the waiting list depositor is offered a residence three times before they drop to the bottom of the list.  Often, this strategy requires a 72-hour decision making period.  While this may create a sense of urgency, it can actually slow down the process while waiting for a commitment, and make the depositor feel pressured to make a decision that they may regret.  We find that placing the decision in the hands of the depositor allows them to feel more in control and not feel ‘punished’ if the timing and circumstances are not right.  We prefer allowing the depositor to turn down the available residence without losing their place on the list.  In order for this method to work, however, it is imperative to have a clear understanding of the timeframe of the depositors on the list so the sales team does not waste time contacting depositors who are unlikely to move
  • We find it useful to send out an annual waiting list survey to determine if interests, timeframe or circumstances of the depositors have changed.  This will help the sales team maintain a grasp of the status of the waiting list depositors.

Of primary importance is to be strategic in your approach and consistently track conversions to monitor the success of your efforts. Review key ratios such as waiting list deposit to move-in, waiting list deposit cancellations as well as gestation periods from waiting list deposit to move-in. These conversions will vary based on the current sales state your community is in as well as the attrition rate; however, establishing ratios and tracking them over time will allow you to evaluate progress. Also, do not assume that waiting list members are already sold on your community. They need to be engaged and connected with often, just as you would with traditional prospects.

People Are Talking About Your Community. Are You Listening?

Wouldn’t it be great if every social media post or online review written about your senior living community wasn’t just complimentary, but heaped mountains of praise for exceptional service, superb personal attention, unparalleled quality and an unmatched level of care?

While we believe our communities are often worthy of these accolades, the reality is that someone, whether that be a current resident, family member of a resident, prospect, or possibly a disgruntled former employee, may not agree with the perceptions we have of Negative_Online_Review Image our community, service and staff. If fact, some individuals may feel so wronged, real or otherwise, by the community that they go to online reviews and social media to voice their displeasure and take a very public swipe at the community.

But what do you do when a negative post about you, your staff or the community in general surfaces? To do nothing and hope that it blows over is wishful thinking, but ultimately ineffective. While you’re waiting for the negative post to disappear, which likely will not happen without any effort on your part, scores of prospects could be viewing this negative post and be forming an unfavorable opinion about your community.

While it might may seem daunting to have a public online dialogue with a disgruntled resident, prospect or family member, know that responding to a negative review is vital for your community for these reasons:

  1. To show your audience that the community cares and values their opinion
  2. To protect the brand reputation of the community
  3. To provide an opportunity to re-engage with the individual who has experienced a less-than-positive interaction with the community

Provided are several considerations that should be taken into account before responding to a negative review or post:

  • Turn negative comments into a positive. For example, if a reviewer claims the food at the community dining venue was awful, respond by thanking them for the feedback and respond that the community will use that feedback to help improve the goal of excellence in all food services areas or highlight a change that might have occurred recently in offerings or quality.
  • Be careful of your tone, especially when it comes to a difference in opinion. Take the high road by maintaining your professionalism and avoid using argumentative or aggressive language that may cause the reviewer to respond in kind with even more aggressive language.
  • Avoid the temptation to go on the offensive against the reviewer, even if their statements are false, categorically untrue or are a personal attack on you or a staff member. Retain your composure and remember that your response is not just being seen by this reviewer but by all prospective residents and families.
  • Show empathy with your response. Remember, you may be responding to a caregiver who is dealing with many challenges (financial, emotional, etc.) in their support of their family member at the community. Demonstrate your compassion, responsiveness and expertise in senior living.
  • Do not reveal private information not revealed in the review. Communications must abide by HIPAA regulations and can be subpoenaed in court.
  • If appropriate, acknowledge mistakes, lessons learned and corrective actions taken to avoid future mistakes.
  • Take the conversation offline if the reviewer continues to post negative comments even after two repeated attempts by you to diffuse the issue. Provide a phone number or email address so the situation can be resolved with a private exchange.
  • Avoid using corporate language that makes your response read more like a templated response. Respond to the viewer in human terms that’s conversational and authentic.

Remember that you might not be able to change the opinion of the negative reviewer, but you might be positively influencing a host of prospective residents and their families with your actions.

Go On The Offensive!…Foster Positive Conversations About Your Community

Reputation management is more than just damage control. It’s using a multitude of messaging from any number of sources, from your website, to your social media sites to your advertising to resident testimonials and reviews to positively shape the community’s brand essence. And like almost all other industries today, people trust what others are saying online about a service or product before they make a decision, especially one as important as where they’ll spend their retirement years.

In addition to contributing to your community’s brand, fostering positive conversations and reviews helps to improve your overall digital marketing efforts. While only part of a larger puzzle, positive reviews are an increasingly important factor in search engine rankings.

Here are six tips for generating positive online conversations and reviews about your community:

  • Provide a simple process for residents, family members or friends to leave a positive review by providing links to important senior living review sites and social media sites. Create a special webpage with icons of these review sites so visitors can go directly to your community’s profile and leave a review.
  • Use both online and offline methods to promote the use of positive review sites such as emails to residents and family members, a mention at resident meetings, inserts in billing statements, and community flyers and handouts.
  • Specifically target and encourage your resident ‘brand ambassadors’ to spread the good news about their experience with the community through social media and review sites.
  • For any reviews 3-star or higher, post the reviews on your website for visitors to see. If you come across a really great review, reach out to this brand ambassador as they may be a perfect candidate for a testimonial about their positive interactions with the community.
  • Monitor what’s been said about your community on social media and senior living review sites. Several sites and services are available to monitor for what’s being said about your community and provide real-time updates for a quick response if needed.

 

Jeff Felton, Director of Marketing Services for Solutions Advisors, is a believer in a best defense is a good offense when it comes to the online conversation for a senior living community. Part of Solutions Advisors’ digital strategy is to create opportunities for as many positive reviews, social media posts, testimonials, anecdotal stories and videos as possible because we know online reviews influence prospective residents’ confidence in a community, thereby helping to narrow down their choices. Contact us to learn more about our digital strategies.

 

Six Techniques for Improving Senior Living Sales

In traditional, transactional sales, you’re trained to focus on convincing your customer that their lives would be better with your product or service. This is not the case when it comes to sales for senior living communities.

In senior living, it’s not about selling a need. It’s about providing support and being there as a coach or guide.

Though it may sound cliché, selling senior living is about listening deeply to people – in this case, prospective residents and their families or friends. This approach to discovery is what we call legacy learning, and you can use it to gain a deeper understanding of your customer.

“Legacy learning, at its core, is a deep conversation,” says Solutions Advisors’ vice president Mike Brindley, who has more than 23 years of service in senior living communities. “As the sales counselor, you must ask the right questions about the prospect’s life, family, career, anxieties, and goals. When they begin to open up and share, that’s when the magic happens,” says Brindley. “You’ll uncover ‘wow moments,’ find open doors to ask more pointed questions, and eventually guide them to offerings at your community.”

Remember: Your role is to support their needs and goals, not offer unsolicited advice and tell them what they need.

To get there, you must also first understand who the prospect is – and where they are in life.

Drivers of Older Adults
The prospect embraces his or her age and recognizes changes in their life, whether that is adapting to and enjoying retirement or facing the challenges that come with aging. Many also enjoy the independence and control they have over their lives, so it’s natural to link a phrase like “senior living community” to a loss of control, a chief fear of seniors. Such loss includes independence, sure, but also the loss of personal health, finances, family and friends, professional status, and appearance – not to mention their own home.

Prospects need Purpose
What prospective residents need is not tangible; that is to say, it’s not the Olympic-sized pool or the anytime-dining menu that your community may offer. To be sure, such features make superb amenities, but there is a deeper sense of purpose and belonging that a prospective resident truly needs.

Purpose is how a person views himself or herself, and this self-identity affects their consideration of moving into a senior living community. Your community must first and foremost support the prospect’s sense of purpose instead of diminishing quality of life. Avoid paternalism. Prospects at this stage don’t want to be ‘cared for.’ They want to maintain their identity as a productive member of society, and leave a legacy for their children and grandchildren.

Once you’ve established that your community can support their purpose and help build their legacy, then feel free to mention the pool and dining schedules.

To that end, we offer sales professionals in the senior living industry Six Techniques for Successful Legacy Learning.

#1: Open with deep, legacy-building questions.

Everyone has a story to tell, so let the prospect tell theirs. You’ll understand the things that are important to them, you’ll learn about their past, their professional life, their personal challenges, and their hopes for the future.

To get to the core of a prospect’s purpose, begin with a prompt:

  • Help me understand who you are, and what’s important to you.
  • What gets you out of bed in the morning?
  • What is your greatest achievement?
  • What’s important in your life?
  • What was the happiest time in your life?

Tip #2: Listen intently.

It is an innate human need: to be listened to. Take the time to understand the person, and connect the dots to understand that individual’s goals and objectives.

Tip #3: Respond appropriately.

If you’re truly listening, you respond with emotion and pointed follow-up questions. Be empathetic to the person’s anxieties and hopeful for their goals. Find the “wow” moments of your prospect’s life.

Tip #4: Find a personal connection.

Undoubtedly, the customer will mention something about their life that you can connect to: a place they lived, a favorite movie or TV show, a car they drove, or a hobby that you, too, also enjoy. Use the opportunity to naturally connect over shared experiences.

Tip #5: Once you’ve built rapport, ask tough questions.

It will take some time, but once you’ve established a personal connection to the prospect, you may feel more open to ask hard questions: about their health concerns, their fears, or even regrets in life. It’s also the opportunity to understand what they want in a senior living community.

Tip #6: Master the creative follow-up.

Demonstrate that you listened and understood their goals and passions. If they have a dog, it may be natural to send a dog toy. But with proper discovery, you should have learned the dog’s name. So get it painted onto a bowl. Learn their favorite foods, sports teams, or provide a book that supports their interests. Go above and beyond, and be sincere in your follow-up. A successful follow-up will also lead to a reciprocal communication from the individual.

Legacy Learning takes an investment of your time to master, but is worth the effort over your sales career in the senior care industry. It is the key to better understanding a prospect’s stage of readiness, and grants you permission to slow down, make connections, build relationships and gain a deeper understanding of your customer.

Mike Brindley, Vice President of Associate Development for Solutions Advisors, has used his 20+ years of experience in senior housing to help our clients make a more meaningful impact on their sales operations. Mike is a frequent speaker at conferences where his presentations Top Sales Tips for Senior Living, The Discipline of Discovery for Senior Living Sales and Prospect Centered Selling for Senior Living has garnered industry acclaim.

 

What’s In & What’s Out in 2017

Age at move-in drops at one community, yes, really…

The holy grail of senior living marketing is to get younger prospects to move into your community.  At Applewood, a Life Plan Community in Freehold, New Jersey, the average age of recent move-ins has dropped four years, from 87 to 83, since 2014. What’s more, the number of couples moving in has quadrupled over that same time period.  What’s the secret sauce?

Eric Eichhorst, Applewood’s Director of Sales and Marketing, credits a more strategic approach to events and more targeted direct mail for driving a younger crowd to Applewood, “and younger typically means more couples.”  Solutions Advisors has provided marketing and sales consulting to Applewood for two years with a focus on sales, brand positioning and strategic events that showcase the community’s Engaged Living program.  Along with creating more targeted and contemporary-looking direct mail pieces, collateral materials and website, Solutions Advisors helped the sales team transition from transactional selling to prospect-centered selling, a philosophy which focuses on the prospect’s stage of readiness. The switch to Sherpa CRM helped to reinforce this change in selling style. Sherpa helps the team keep track of quality measures like the prospect’s stage of readiness to move, time spent in the selling zone and advances rather than just the number of tasks completed.

In addition to drawing a younger resident, year-end results showed an increase in initial inquiries from 139 in 2014 to 725 in 2016, resulting in 236 initial tours, 58 deposits and 37 move-ins for 2016. Applewood’s forward momentum was further advanced by a floor-to-ceiling redesign of community spaces, new outdoor amenities and a commitment to culinary excellence through its innovative Culinary Institute of Applewood program.

Improved conversion rates result in increased move-ins

At two Mid-West communities, increased conversion ratios resulted in more move-ins. At Wesley Willows in Rockford, Illinois where Solutions Advisors has provided sales and marketing consulting since March 2016, the inquiry to move-in conversion ratio increased from 12% to 15% resulting in 52 total move-ins for 2016, ten more than the prior year’s total. At Peterson Meadows, Wesley Willow’s sister community, the inquiry to move-in conversion rate doubled, from 3.5% to 7%, resulting in 11 move-ins the first quarter of 2016, surpassing the total number of move-ins for all of 2015.

The inquiry to move-in ratio is an indicator of both the quality of leads generated as well as follow up strategies. Good communities should be able to achieve an inquiry to move-in ratio of 6% or higher.  Often this ratio can be improved with creative follow up strategies as well as with prospect-centered selling which focuses on the individual prospect’s stage of readiness.  Want to learn more about prospect-centered selling?  Click here

Holiday Doldrums? Not at The Clare

At The Clare, Chicago’s preeminent retirement community, the holidays were anything but dull. At a time when most communities experience slow sales, The Clare was hopping with 10 deposits and 9 move-ins in December alone.  The year-end goal of 42 move-ins was exceeded by five resulting in an ending occupancy of 198 or 80%.  Solutions Advisors has provided marketing and sales consulting to The Clare since July 2014, providing strategic marketing planning and creative strategies including new collaterals and new website.  Since July 2014, average move-ins per month more than doubled from 1.7 to 3.9, and inquiry to move-in conversion ratios jumped from 2% to 20% in December for an average 5% for the year.

Even Road Warriors Have Favorite Holiday Recipes!

At Solutions Advisors, the holidays are special for the time we get to spend at home with family and friends. And some of us even take the time to cook or bake!  Here are some of our favorite holiday recipes to share. From all of us at Solutions Advisors to you and your families, our warmest wishes for a wonderful and safe holiday!

Lauren’s Bourbon Balls

Sift dry ingredients together:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
Wisk wet ingredients in separate bowl:
¼ cup bourbon (or a little more…)
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
Mix the wet with the dry.
Put two cups of vanilla wafers into a large plastic bag and whack them with a rolling pin until crushed.
Mix the wafers plus 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans with the other ingredients.
Roll into 1-inch balls and roll through powdered sugar.  That’s it! Store in a sealed container at room temperature between layers of wax paper for up to 3 weeks.

 

Christie’s Cabernet Cranberries

1 ¼ cups sugar
1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
2 teaspoons grated tangerine rind
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
Bring sugar and wine to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add remaining ingredients, and return to a boil, stirring constantly.
Reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, 10 to 15 minutes or until cranberry skins pop. Remove and discard cinnamon stick. Cool slightly; serve warm, or chill 2 hours, if desired.
Note: Sauce may be stored in refrigerator up to 2 months.

 

Dominique’s Sweet Potato Casserole

2½ pounds sweet potatoes, cooked, peeled and mashed
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 package of mini marshmallows
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray / olive oil.
In a large bowl mix the sweet potatoes, butter, white and brown sugars, orange juice and cinnamon.
Spread the mixture of sweet potato into a prepared 9 x 13 baking dish.
Sprinkle the mini marshmallows over the top in a single layer
Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes or until the marshmallows are golden brown.

 

Jeff’s Fried Oysters

Our family tradition is to eat fried oysters for Christmas breakfast. Sounds strange, but it’s a fairly common practice for the Chesapeake Bay region.

1 pint Chesapeake Bay oysters (preferably Eastern Shore, VA seaside or Lynnhaven river). Usually 20 to 30, shucked and stored in their own liquor
1 pint buttermilk
1 dry pint cornmeal (about 2¹/³ cups)
1 dry pint all-purpose flour (about 2¹/³ cups)
1 tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
1 tsp. kosher salt
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients until well blended. Remove oysters from liquor, draining excess so oysters are still wet but not dripping. Place all of the oysters in buttermilk. One at a time, remove each oyster from the buttermilk, allowing the excess to drip back into the container. Toss to coat all sides in the breading. Transfer to waxed-paper-lined plate or cookie sheet until oysters are all breaded.
In a heavy stockpot with high sides fitted with a deep-frying (or candy) thermometer, bring at least two inches of peanut oil to 375ºF.
Keeping the heat at a steady 375ºF and working in batches of six, fry the oysters until they are golden brown and just cooked through, about 90 seconds. (The oysters will curl slightly when they are done.) Using a slotted spoon, remove oysters and drain on brown-paper-bag-lined plate. Serve immediately with a lemon wedge and a homemade cocktail sauce loaded with horseradish.

 

Kristi’s Eggnog Cupcakes

Yield: about 18 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
¼ cup dark rum or bourbon (optional)
1 cup eggnog
¼ cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
For the frosting:
20 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2½ tbsp. eggnog
1 tbsp. dark rum (0ptional)
For garnish:
Ground cinnamon or grated nutmeg
Cinnamon sticks
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg; whisk to combine.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the rum, eggnog, vegetable oil, vinegar, and sugar.  Beat on medium-low speed until well blended.  Add in the dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until incorporated.
Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling the cups 2/3 full.  Bake 22-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, 20-30 seconds.  Add in the powdered sugar, salt and nutmeg, and mix on medium-high speed until incorporated and smooth, about 1 minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add in the eggnog and  whip on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 4 minutes.  With the mixer on medium-low speed, blend in the rum.
Fill a pastry bag with the frosting and decorate the cooled cupcakes as desired. (I used a large, unlabeled star tip for these cupcakes). Sprinkle with ground cinnamon or grated nutmeg, and garnish with cinnamon sticks if desired.

 

Courtney’s Oh Henry Bars

1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
7 cups Special K cereal
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
½ cup butter
Melt together corn syrup and sugar. Turn off heat and add Peanut butter. Stir in cereal. Dump in lightly greased 9×13 in. pan, pressing lightly with buttered fingers or wax paper. Melt together chocolate chips, buttterscotch chips,and butter in microwave until completely melted. Spread over bars and allow to cool.

 

Kimber’s Grandy’s Green Beans 

1 lb green beans, trimmed
For Sauce:
¼ cup butter
1 tbsp sugar
¾ tsp garlic salt
1/8 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp dried basil
Cherry tomatoes (halfed)
Boil beans ~20 minutes or until just slightly crunchy
For Sauce:
Heat all ingredients together in a skillet/sauce pan until combined & tomatoes are soft
Pour over beans and serve!

Kimber’s Chocolate Chip Snowball Cookies

Yield: 4 Dozen
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips
Additional powdered sugar, for rolling
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Mix butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add flour and salt and mix until the dough comes together. Stir in the chocolate chips. If dough is too soft, chill it until you can work it easily with your hands.
Scoop 1 tablespoon balls of dough and place on prepared cookie sheet.
Bake cookies for 7-10 minutes until bottoms are just slightly brown. Remove from oven and cool for just a minute, until you can handle them. Fill a small bowl with powdered sugar and roll each cookie in the sugar until coated. Place on a rack to cool. (Once cookies are cooled, you may want to re-roll them in more powdered sugar)

 

Jessica’s Mamoul Cookies

When it comes to celebrating the holidays, my husband and I have blended our traditions and heritages.  Our holiday dinner is very international, Lebanese, Southern (Louisiana), Peruvian and Italian.  I decided to share one of our favorites, Mamoul cookies.  The recipe is from my husband’s grandmother.  It is a Lebanese cookie.

Althernate & Sift Together (mix well):
10 lbs Semolina
8 lbs self rising flour
Add 4 lbs sugar and mix into semolina mixture. Work 9 lbs butter little by little into semolina and sugar mixture. Mix well.
Add & knead little by little the mixture with 1/2 to 3/4 gallon of milk until you get the dough at the right consistency. Keep dough covered with clean wet cloth so the mixture will not dry out.
Grind (filling) 5 lbs of pecans and 2 boxes confectioners sugar (add sugar to taste and mazaha to taste)
Sift semolina and flour (mix well) – add sugar and mix. Add butter mix little by little; mix well; add milk little by little and mix. Roll into golf ball size and stuff with pecans, mazaha and sugar mixture. Put into mold, then onto cookie sheet. Do not let them touch each other. Bake on top rack 300 degrees 8-20 minutes. Sift powdered sugar on top of baked Mamouls.

 

Bethany’s Cherry Coconut Bars

1 C flour
½ c butter
3T Powder Sugar
2 eggs slightly beaten
1 C sugar
¼ c flour
1/2t baking powder
1t vanilla
¾ c chopped nuts
½ c coconut
½ c quartered maraschino cherries
Oven to 350 degrees.  Measure flour.  Mix 1 c flour, butter and powdered sugar until smooth.  Spread thin in 8×8 pan.  Bake about 25 min.
Stir all remaining ingredients into eggs.  Spread over base.
Bake 25 min more.

Bethany’s Aunt Ferol’s Caramel Corn

1 Cup Brown Sugar
¼ c Dark Caro
¼ c real butter
½ t salt
Microwave for 3 minutes, stir after each minute
Microwave 2 more minutes
Mix in 1/2t baking soda
Mix with 3 qts popcorn in brown paper bag
Shake in bag 3 minutes

The 7 must-have marketing initiatives for 2017

1 – Relook at your positioning

Many communities have gone through a SWOT session to identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  The key selling points identified during the SWOT are typically used to determine the positioning and message of your community that permeates both the sales and marketing efforts. This practice is Marketing 101.  When was the last time, however, that you revisited the SWOT with your key personnel and department heads? Do you still offer choice and flexibility? Are you still the value leader? Does your non-profit, faith-based history still resonate with prospects?  Do not just consider what you do well, but what you do differently and what matters to prospects. Why are your residents a strength?  What about your dining program is special? Capitalize on the fact that today’s prospect understands senior housing better than ever before and are more educated on what to look for.  Take another look at your positioning so you can better deliver your key selling points and differentiation.

2 – Are you down with PPC?

Five years ago I presented at a conference where I asked the sales directors in the audience if they felt that they worked website leads the same as those that came in from other lead sources.  Only about half raised their hands.  Today, your website and digital efforts should be generating at least 30 to 40% of your leads for independent living, even more for assisted living.  Communities across the country are seeing their websites as significant sources for move-ins. Everyone must take these leads seriously.

A key component of digital efforts is pay-per-click advertising (PPC).  PPC allows communities to target lead generation the same way that direct mail lists do – demographically, geographically, and psychographically.  Incorporating a resource for consumers like a guidebook or white paper about researching senior housing can help solidify your position in the market as an expert while offering prospects a “carrot” to provide their contact information.  Test different messaging and offers to fine-tune your campaigns to your different audiences. For instance, one segment of your audience may respond more favorably to copy and headlines about senior living in a downtown, high-rise building with access to all a city has to offer, while another segment may have a better response to varied floorplan options with a list of room types and amenities. Vary your landing pages accordingly to match interests with the right messaging.

In order for PPC to be effective, work with a company that understands the changing digital environment.  Research the keywords your prospects are searching for and modify your efforts regularly, keeping in mind that the most common keywords and phrases are often the most bid on so finding the right balance between cost and effectiveness of lesser-used keywords and phrases is paramount to executing a successful pay-per-click campaign. PPC and all digital marketing efforts should be fluid and consistently improving.  If you aren’t yet down with PPC or website leads in general, it’s time to get on board.

3 – Long Format Content

Maybe you have PPC covered and developed your existing site with “optimized content”.  Maybe you see the value in Facebook boosts and remarketing. These digital efforts can make a huge impact on your website exposure. You may wonder what else you can do that other communities are not.  Now is the time to consider developing long format content that will jolt your organic search rankings and expose exponentially more people to your site than other digital efforts.

Long format content refers to articles and white papers, typically of 2,000 words or more.  The goal of long format content is not only to drive traffic to your site by attracting backlinks and organic traffic from search engines but also to drive return traffic and create user engagement.  The content should provide value to the user and compel the user to spend more time on your site.  Long content, if written well and promoted through outreach, can make your community an authority on a specific subject or high-interest topic for readers. And authority is a very strong factor for search engines rankings.  Long format should be sustainable. Promote your long format content through social media, blog posts, emails, newsletters and through PPC efforts. Click here for an example of long format content. (http://foxhillresidences.com/our-community/history-of-bethesda-maryland/)

4 –  Feel your guest’s experience

Many communities offer prospects a chance to experience the lifestyle prior to moving in. Some communities have even branded the experience programmatically with names like “The Escape” or “The Experience”. What we have found visiting and staying at dozens of communities, however, is that the sales and management team does not understand what the prospect actually experiences during their stay as almost none have ever stayed on-site at their communities.

Consider:

  • How are your guests greeted if they arrive “after hours”?
  • Do you offer the basics in your guest suites: coffee, water, hair dryer, fresh fruit, a midnight snack?
  • Is the bed in your guest suite comfortable?
  • What does the prospect hear in the middle of the night?  Are they awakened at 4am by the trash collector emptying dumpsters?
  • Are there clean towels and linens? Fresh soaps and shampoo?

Feel the guest experience. Understand what happens when a prospect stays overnight.  Stay on-site in your guest retreat. You may have to suffer through a bad hair day or a sore back from a lumpy mattress, but the learning experience will be worth it.

5 – Mystery shopping you and your competition

Shopping for shoes can be fun. Shopping your sales team can be concerning.  We have conducted hundreds of mystery shops for clients; in-person, on the phone and online. Some have been better than others. We have found that mystery shops can provide communities with a solid assessment of the skills of the sales team and can help the team perform better, particularly when used as a coaching tool, not as a “gotcha”. We specifically consider three areas:

  • Discovery & Legacy
    Does the salesperson ask questions to understand prospect’s background, current situation, or lifestyle?
  • Community Connection & Benefit Selling
    Does the salesperson make a personal connection with the caller and connect the value of the community to prospect?
  • Advancing the Sale
    Does the salesperson ask caller’s permission to follow up and set a specific next step?

After you shop your own community, shop your competition. Learn their selling style and how they position their strengths.  Shopping your competition can also provide you with some perspective of how they sell against you.  Tell them you are also planning to visit your own community and see what they say.

6 – Multi-channel marketing efforts

Multiple touches throughout the marketing process is crucial to make an impact and convey the specific messaging of a campaign.  In many markets, traditional marketing (direct mail, print advertising) can still produce an acceptable amount of qualified leads. The effectiveness of these methods, however, can be enhanced when combined with other, non-traditional techniques. Looking forward, a multi-channel approach will be key for targeting not only adult children but savvy prospects as well. With your next event direct mail campaign, consider sending send out an email to your existing lead base AND a purchased list (an email append), incorporate a landing page to allow RSVPs, boost your ad on social media and consider individual IP targeting by matching postal addresses with IP addresses to target specific individuals with your messages.

7 – Prospect-centered marketing, not just sales

Prospect-centered sales is quickly becoming recognized as the most effective sales philosophy in the senior housing industry.  The idea behind prospect-centered selling is to shift the sales focus from a transactional, templated approach to one that establishes rapport, builds trust, facilitates individuality and emphasizes legacy. This person-centered message, however, goes beyond the sales process – it needs to be primary in all of our communication with prospects, including our marketing messages.  Use words that evoke the feeling of control for prospects: Conduct, Choose, Organize, Decide, Direct, Guide, Command.  Plan legacy events that allow residents and prospects to tell their stories, enable life review and explore their sense of purpose.  Ensure that your language empowers the prospects you are working with – do not “convince” them to inquire, inspire them to.