Maximizing First Impressions

by | May 20, 2015

By Rob Love, President & CEO

Senior couple in new homeTwo major hurdles senior living organizations face when it comes to growing and maintaining their census are 1) prospects’ perceptions of what it means to live in a senior living community, and 2) their impression of the communities they visit.

“I’m not ready.”

As we have all heard time and again, the most frequent objection from prospects during the sales process is some variation of, “I’m not ready yet.” In many ways, I believe this is a euphemism for, “I’m not yet ready for this,” where “this” is the sum total of their experiences when they visited and toured a community.

Despite years of senior living communities working to educate the public, a high proportion of the population still views CCRCs as “glorified nursing homes,” or “a place where people go to die.” This mindset is especially true for those who have yet to thoroughly research senior living communities, more and more of which are chockfull of amazing cultural, lifestyle and social amenities.

You Only Get One Chance to Make a First Impression

This age-old truth is one of the biggest obstacles we see sales teams face, particularly when working for an older community. If a prospect’s first impression of a campus is “Oh…,” the sales person is likely to wind up getting an, “I’m not ready yet” response, and it is going to be difficult to re-engage with that prospect in the future. This is usually the result of an unintentionally lackluster experience while visiting a community. While prospects may not be consciously “keeping score” of carpet that needs to be replaced, worn furniture in common areas, or dated color schemes, their brains are forming an overall impression.

Our goal should be to create a “Wow!” first impression—which is short for, “Wow, I had no idea a senior living community could be like this!” We want everything about their experience to leave a positive impression about both the community and senior living in general. This is especially true when it comes to model homes. A prospect should walk into a model and immediately have a, “Wow, I want to live here!” reaction. Maximizing first impressions is a key factor in generating excitement.

The Community Scorecard

At Love & Company, we’ve developed a Community Assessment Scorecard we use to help clients understand how potential prospects are likely to react to each facet of the community on their first visit. From the signage when they enter the community, to their first impression as they walk in the main entrance, to their experience in the marketing office and model home, we rate everything on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best in the senior living field today. With the rating sheet and analysis in hand, the community not only has a clear idea of what it needs to do to enhance the prospect’s experience, it also has a good sense of what parts of the community may need to be redeveloped or improved as part of an overall strategic plan.

This method of scoring can be particularly beneficial to marketing and sales management of multi-site organizations. For example, if two communities in the system have similar numbers of leads, but significantly different closing ratios, is the difference really a reflection of the effectiveness of each community’s sales team? Or is the closing percentage significantly impacted by environmental and aesthetic factors that the organization can and should improve?

Little Things Make a Big Difference

Enhancing the prospect’s experience does not necessarily require a major renovation. Simple things such as clearly designating convenient parking spaces for marketing guests, ensuring fresh flowers are displayed inside the main entrance, making sure maintenance crews do a top-notch job on housekeeping and landscaping, and ensuring that the model home is fully furnished and decorated, can make all the difference. Effectively managing prospects’ perception of your community by creating a great first experience will enable you to increase the likelihood that prospects respond not with, “I’m not ready yet,” but with, “I can’t wait to experience living here!”

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