When we launched Solutions Advisors nearly a decade ago, our goal was to create a company that offers creative, strategic marketing and advertising to the senior living industry. Website design and development were part of our offering, but we weren’t known as a truly “digital” company.
How times have changed. Over the years, we have quietly and steadily ramped up our digital capabilities, onboarding tech-savvy experts and pairing them with skilled storytellers to bring our client communities to life online. We have developed a unique story telling approach to website design, and in doing so are creating some of the industry’s most standout senior living websites.
Solutions Advisors was recently honored with 11 National Mature Media Awards for projects completed in the 2016 calendar year, two of which received the Gold award for website design: Fox Hill in Bethesda, MD and Applewood in Freehold, NJ.
These days, it’s a well-known fact that any site should be optimized for mobile devices and tablets. And that we do. It’s also naturally going to contain information about amenities, healthcare, services or floor plans. That, too, we also do. And it’s no secret that search engine marketing is a critical must-have in order to achieve online visibility and presence for prospects to find you in a crowded and competitive landscape. That, too, we also do very well.
So what does it take to make a senior living community website truly stand out from the pack?
In three words: Tell their story.
Here are seven elements we believe are critical to bringing a senior living community to life online.
Before launching any marketing campaign, it’s important to create an assessment of the market, strengths and weaknesses, competitors, audiences, and overall brand position. This is true, too, for websites.
As part of our overall marketing support, we perform deep market research and discovery to get a better sense of where the community stands and how to best position it in the market. From the amenities and architecture to the geography and culture of the region, every community is unique, so the branding should reflect those key differentiators. We also align ourselves closely with client communities, and get to know not only the leaders and staff, but the residents.
With research in hand and feet on the ground, we build a strategy, which ultimately informs the look and feel of the brand and tells the community’s story through marketing pieces such as brochures, direct mail, and the website.
Tell a story.
When the website development industry was growing in the early 2000s, getting found in “Page 1” search rankings was a top priority. And while search-engine optimization remains important to senior living marketers, equally as critical is telling a story of the community.
In many cases – thanks to word-of-mouth, direct mail, events, and a variety of sales touch points – visitors to your website will have previous knowledge of the community and simply seek out the website to learn more. Therefore, it’s important to make a good first impression by presenting the lifestyle: Who are the residents? What is it like to live here? What makes it unique? To answer those questions, you must…
Profile the people.
A community is a group of people, not only a place to live. So to capture the community, you need to get on the ground and talk to people.
At Fox Hill, for example, website visitors are immediately greeted not with floor plans, but faces of residents. In our discovery phase, we learned of truly amazing individuals living at Fox Hill (the scientist who discovered Ebola and a NASA physician, among others). We selected a diverse group of residents for profiles, capturing quality portraits of each and developing stories of their lives: the world traveler, lifelong learners, creative thinkers.
You may wonder what personal interests have to do with selling a prospect on a community, but storytelling creates an immediate connection. Readers begin to see themselves in the community by learning about like-minded individuals in a similar phase of life. Each story also includes reasons why the individual or couple chose Fox Hill.
Storytelling is important…but keep in mind that a website should ultimately sell the prospect and move them through the sales funnel. That’s why Solutions Advisors’ websites include strategically-placed calls-to-action functionality to make sure that contacting the community is simple and easy for the site visitor. You’ll find calls-to-action on most every page: Schedule a tour. Email. Contact us with questions. Some users are simply looking for a phone number, so make those 10 digits prominent.
Be a trusted resource.
Making the decision to move to a senior living community can be an emotional process for prospects and their families. So it is important to make your website a resource for people as they explore options.
On Fox Hill and Applewood – as well as all Solutions Advisors’ sites – we feature downloadable content in the form of a planning guide for senior living options. This valuable content can be accessed by filling out a form that then captures a lead. While we add a name into our CRM (customer relationship management) system, we provide users with educational content that isn’t an overt promotion. It helps solidify your community as a trusted local resource.
Including a blog page that can be continuously updated with news and resources is an added bonus. Search engines reward websites with improved search results rankings if the site continually provides new, fresh content and blog posts are an excellent way to deliver this relevant information.
Give multiple navigation options.
Traditional websites always include a top navigation bar to get users to where they want to go, but that shouldn’t be the only way to move through a website. Throughout a Solutions Advisors site, we offer numerous ways to bounce around, moving visitors between healthcare options to floor plans to fitness to services and more.
When adding multiple callouts and navigation points, it is critical, however, to work with a team that understands user-interfaces and experiences to ensure people don’t get lost in your site. While today’s trend of using icons in place of words for site navigation might work well for a segment of your audience, it may prove confusing and frustrating for another part of your target demographic and you will likely lose the ability to convert them into a lead.
Use original photography (and perhaps video)
Using stock imagery can be cost-effective, but don’t be surprised if you find the photos you pick on other senior living sites – or worse, local competitors. To truly stand apart, consider investing in original photography of the community and its residents and staff. This route requires more time, logistics, and investment, but it will help your website stand apart from the pack. If your property is in pre-development, consider contracting 2D or 3D renderings of living spaces and if budget allows, a virtual tour is an excellent way to showcase floor plans.
Video is a great resource for showcasing residents, letting prospects get to know your staff and providing a visual of the community’s common areas, amenities and differing floor plans. Video can range from simple 360° virtual tours, to computer-generated virtual tours or even drone fly-throughs and fly-overs.
In the end, a senior living community website should reflect the lifestyle of the people, not simply the buildings, services, and amenities. Tell their story, sell the community.
Now for our own call to action: To schedule a call with a Solutions Advisors web expert to discuss your website strategy, contact us today at 888-312-0889 or fill out contact form here.