By Tom Mann, Principal, Executive Vice President
So, there are a lot of marketing “experts” running around singing the praises of digital advertising and marketing automation and how it’s the next big thing for senior living. Can you believe the hype?
Here are a few truths in regard to digital marketing:
Targeted pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is the quickest, most cost-efficient route to qualified leads for most retirement communities. Google has rigged the game and those that adjust have a far better chance of capturing leads. This is not to say that search engine optimization (SEO) is not important. In fact, having a quality content marketing strategy is one of the wisest long-term marketing investments your community could make.
Advertisers that aren’t using targeted squeeze pages and inducements are wasting LOTS of money. Sadly, most of the online advertising campaigns we see are driving prospects back to their main website. This is a cardinal sin of PPC advertising. If you are not utilizing squeeze pages (dedicated landing pages), we estimate you are losing 50% of your potential leads right off the bat. In addition, you are probably wasting your sales team’s time with lots of unqualified leads. To get a good sense of how a squeeze page can work with other marketing strategies in order to generate better leads for your community, watch this short video.
Most retirement communities are currently treating all leads the same. This is a mistake; digital leads are VERY different and need to be treated so. You must ask yourself the following question: “What is the difference between a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and a sales qualified lead (SQL)?” The answer is that MQLs are not ready to talk to a sales counselor yet and should NOT be immediately turned over to a sales counselor. MQLs need to be nurtured into SQLs. Next question: “How do you turn an MQL into an SQL?”
Why do most sales counselors hate digital leads? Because many managers treat digital leads like other lead sources (and count them against the sales counselor’s closing rate).
Manager: “Suzy, why haven’t you called Mr. Jones yet?”
Suzy: “Because there is no phone number!”
Leads without phone numbers are digital MQLs, and need to be classified differently in your customer management relationship system (CRM). They need to be nurtured by the marketing team utilizing a nurture or drip campaign until they are READY to speak to your sales team. This is when digital marketing efforts most often break down. This is also where most “experts” in the field have usually over-promised.
In addition to advertising tours of your retirement community, your nurture campaign should include ads promoting other inducements (i.e., events, white papers, guides) that provide a low hurdle into your sales funnel. Remember, most people do not want to speak to a sales person when they first start gathering information. This is why providing quality information in the form of a white paper or guide (or an event opportunity) is key to driving leads.
Lead nurturing, including quality marketing automation, is the key to converting digital marketing qualified leads into sales qualified leads and eventually into sales appointments. Once a prospect fills out a form (to attend your event or get a white paper), they should automatically receive a well-written auto-response to their inbox, followed by a series of emails, along with a remarketing program, that start to build the relationship while offering them other opportunities to engage with your retirement community. Then, on a regular basis, these digital leads should receive enewsletters featuring answers to frequently asked questions, glimpses of life on campus, and insight into your community’s culture—all to keep YOUR community top of mind. Providing engaging content on a regular basis can shorten the average time to move in by more than 16 months. How much extra revenue would your community generate in 16 months’ worth of monthly service fees? Digital leads must be nurtured to become impressive sales-qualified leads. This is why it’s called a nurture campaign.
Does your website and marketing automation platform (MAP) communicate with your CRM (i.e., REPS, Enquire, SalesForce, etc.)? Should you be using a closed eco-system where your CRM and MAP are packaged together like HubSpot or SalesForce? Or should you go the more affordable route and connect tools like MailChimp and/or Mautic to your CRM? The answer depends on your organization’s specific situation and needs. But one thing that shouldn’t be negotiable is that your website, CRM, and MAP all “talk” to each other in order to identify those good digital leads for your sales team.
To find out more about maximizing your digital leads, please contact Tim Bracken at 410-207-0013 or Rick Hunsicker at 214-906-3801.