By Tim Bracken, Vice President
A common challenge multi-site organizations face is determining how to establish consistent and universal marketing programs and sales approaches. This is particularly true when their communities are very different, with varying challenges. One community might be rural, one might be urban; one could be many decades old while another is brand new with all the bells and whistles. Trying to build efficiencies into your marketing program and synergy between your various site-specific teams can be maddening, when every set of challenges is so diverse.
Given the spectrum of differences that can fall within the same organization, marketing leaders can find it hard to implement, let alone identify, one organization-wide marketing approach to address the key issues at each community. In fact, site-specific teams are often highly suspicious, if not resistant, to universal policies and process. They appear cookie-cutter. Site-specific teams feel their community’s situations are unique. And in many ways, they are right.
So the question becomes, how does a multi-site organization make a square peg (an organization-wide marketing plan) fit into multiple round holes?
The answer: establish context.
The first step to finding the most efficient way to successfully market all communities is to know where each individual community fits within its specific market. So often, organizations look exclusively at how “Community A” is the same and/or different from “Community B.” The more fundamental question is, how does “Community A” and “Community B” each score on a series of key indicators, in relation to its market area instead?
[bctt tweet=”Marketing your #seniorliving communities together requires first understanding how each relates to their own markets.” via=”no”]
Figuring out how to market all your communities together requires that you first understand how they relate to their individual markets. Accurately establishing each community’s position in its own market allows you to identify what issues — branding, lead generation, sales processes, and pricing — to address with highest priority.
Establish the marketing context for each community by assessing key elements:
- Size and proximity of age- and income-qualified prospects in the local market area
- Relationship between entrance fees and the market’s median house value
- Relationship between pricing, contracts options and lifetime cost comparison with market competitors
- Location, appearance, amenities, programming and upkeep of the community in comparison with market competitors
- Age and size of the community, and the corresponding anticipated attrition rates
With this information in hand, the next step will be to establish marketing goals based on occupancy needs. However, you will not have a legitimate way to compare the difficulty or ease of achieving those goals across communities until you have first establishing this baseline in relation to the market.
By grading each community in relation to its own market place, you will have a realistic picture of what challenges are shared between all communities, and what challenges are unique to one or to a sub-group of communities. For example, you may establish that all your communities represent a strong value (total cost in relation to what is offered). Value-focused marketing tactics (e.g., a financial planning-themed event series) may be viable for all communities, even if those communities vary greatly in price. What matters is how they relate to their individual markets.
Similarly, you may find that one community does not meet the expectations of its market for some essential element (dining experience, for example) and this fact significantly handicaps or disqualifies it from participating in a desired brand-driven, organization-wide marketing initiative (an on-site 5-Star dining event series, for example). This process allows you to identify that dining sub-par experience (as defined by its market place) as a key priority to address.
In practice, many multi-site organizations are best served by grouping their communities together by key, dominant characteristics, rather than by treating all communities the same. Such organizations can find the greatest efficiency by embracing the groupings and organizing corporate plans accordingly. By recognizing the major groupings, based on how each community relates to its specific market, you can begin to establish internally consistent guidelines for sales activity goals, lead base tactics, multi-community marketing tactics (like common event themes), sales team professional development programs and other initiatives that reflect the efficiencies available to multi-site organizations.