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.
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.
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/)
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.