Marketing Messaging During COVID-19: What You Need to Say to Your Senior Living Residents, Depositors & Prospects

by | May 20, 2020

This is the sixth blog in our special blog series focused on addressing the senior living marketing challenges presented by COVID-19. Links to the other blogs in the series are below:

No matter the size or scope of your senior living organization, COVID-19 is bringing the need to urgently and effectively communicate with various audiences in ways many of us have never explored. We’ve already covered the tools and technology that can help your senior living community sustain its marketing efforts, as well as some of the immediate ways you can shift your organization’s resources and energies. Today we want to focus on how to craft conscionable messaging to support and inform your possible audience targets: residents, depositors and prospects.

Messaging guidelines: Some general notes for each audience

Certain principles apply to the messaging you’ll craft during this time, no matter the audience. As we covered during our webinar, Covid-19: Marketing During Uncertain Times

 COVID-19 webinar, here is advice for all communications:

  • Assure your audience that you are taking all necessary precautions to keep everyone healthy (those at your community and those at home).
  • Keep a calm and reassuring tone.
  • Tell the truth without any exaggeration.
  • Empathize with your audience and be caring; don’t give advice.
  • Provide useful information about the community such as its planning and decision-making process.
  • Let prospects know how you are available to connect: phone, text, email, video chat and social media.

Messaging guidelines for residents (and their families)

Current residents are one of your most important groups to address—if not the most important—and they should be among the first to receive any updates on what the community is doing to stay safe.

As mentioned in the previous article, stability is one of the pillars to focus on in terms of what people seek from messaging at this time. Prospects (and their families) want to see that engagement opportunities are being created in new ways, and that your community is adapting well in this novel environment. Consider this example of one community that has taken a proactive approach by showing residents its carefully composed yet humorous “takes” on the current situation. While family visits are limited or even impossible, this type of messaging (on a platform where content is easily shareable, Facebook) gives a reassuring view of stability with a human touch. Also notice that the post copy is minimal and the pictures of smiling residents do all the talking.

Remember to also use clarity as a pillar of messaging when communicating with current residents, because they will likely be the ones to relay the information to their relatives and loved ones. Because residents’ families will not be able to visit, any updates or information you share with residents will be appreciated and shared with their families by phone or video. The clearer your organization communicates to residents, the clearer the messaging will translate to their families, helping to ease concern and bolstering your organization’s reputation.

Messaging guidelines for communities in pre-sales

When managing the marketing messaging for a community (or expansion) that isn’t yet built, at this time the primary goal is to use messaging to spur prospects to preserve an option for their future. With restrictions on preview events and personalized appointments, now is the time to move to the digital world. Consider gathering all of your multimedia, video, photos, renderings, site maps, floor plans—and create an engaging digital presentation. When communicating, be sure to:

  • Emphasize the benefits of preserving an option like the one your organization provides. You’re helping the prospect put a plan in place, be a co-creator and early adopter for the community and get the best possible pricing. If a deposit is risk-free in your state, make sure to communicate this benefit.
  • In your messaging, remember to be clear and share that your organization has made it as easy as possible to deposit. Communicate the ways that one can deposit such as mailing a check or using a secure online deposit link.
  • Consider creating an online priority depositor or reservation depositor group (such as on Facebook) where folks can connect online and get to know each other in the absence of in-person events. Use encouraging language to help establish bonds among depositors to build the sense of community from the outset.
  • As with the rest, remember to schedule the next contact—or at least let your depositors know when they’ll be hearing from you next (or when they can tune in to your next live virtual presentation, for example).

Especially now, knowing your audience is essential. Tailor your messaging to suit each audience so your organization can maintain good on-campus morale, sales and its reputation in this time of uncertainty.

Messaging guidelines for reservation depositors and waitlist members

Your organization’s primary messaging goal is to strengthen its bond with those who have reserved residences at your community or are on a waitlist. Whether communicating directly or en masse with depositors, follow these tips:

  • Prepare by anticipating objections and concerns, whether related to COVID-19, the economy or both.
  • In speaking with individuals or couples, review your notes and list every reason the person reserved the residence.
  • Similar to all messaging and communication, be empathetic, but also listen and keep prospects thinking about why they reserved in the first place.
  • Schedule the next contact: this helps keep the prospect informed and ensures further opportunities to strengthen your bond. Offer to connect via phone, video chat or text—and adapt to the person’s preferred method.

Messaging guidelines for prospects currently in your CRM

Like the depositors who have already reserved their residences, your primary goal when communicating with leads in your CRM is to strengthen your established bonds. These existing leads can be the most volatile during uncertain times. We’ve seen that in some cases they can be more eager to move to a senior living community (due to the security they provide), but in other cases they are much colder to the idea because of perceived risk and economic uncertainties. Follow these tips when communicating with your leads to help your organization:

  • Be prepared to specify the precautions that your community takes to provide securities and services that would not, by comparison, be available to those remaining in their home. Examples of these precautions are guaranteed availability of meals and medicine, on-site primary and specialty care, early intervention, no home maintenance and no repair concerns.
  • Prepare for these discussions by revisiting your brand promise: Who should choose your community, and why?
  • Discuss why it is more important than ever to establish a plan for the future—peace of mind comes from having a plan—and how you can help prospects execute this plan (immediately available residences, a quick reservation process, etc.).
  • Make sure to schedule the next contact using the prospect’s preferred communication method.

Messaging guidelines for prospects not in your CRM

Your primary goal with prospects—who may be only mildly aware of your community or perhaps not yet aware—is to engage with them. With outreach and awareness campaigns, your messaging should consider the following:

  • Think about what you can do for them right now and the solution you provide.
    • Seize this opportunity about what these people want to do with their time and energy. They’re stuck at home and would rather be doing what they love—how can your community provide that?
    • Provide resources to help them combat social isolation such as virtual museum tours, TED Talks or perhaps a presentation or cultural series your team already produces (which would also give them a preview of your community).
    • Give them a voice. These people are experienced, educated and have lived through many challenges in life. Perhaps ask how they’ve been resilient in the face of challenges—most people are eager to share their stories (which can help your sales team members build and strengthen those all-important bonds).
  • Schedule the next contact, even though it’s going to appear differently. You may not have these folks’ phone numbers yet, so perhaps it’s using digital or ad messaging to communicate when they’ll be hearing from you next such as, “Our next eblast/direct mail will be hitting your inbox on X date,” or “We’ll be going live again on Facebook on Wednesday.” Setting these expectations should make engaging your prospects much easier.

We hope these messaging tips are helpful, actionable and practical. Be sure to see the rest of our special blog series on navigating the senior living marketing challenges presented by COVID-19, and feel free to reach out to Tim Bracken (tbracken@loveandcompany.com or 410-207-0013) to talk through any particular challenges your organization is facing. Tim can also provide more information about special, aggressively affordable resources we’ve created just for this situation, such as a four-part direct mail series and sales script, that require no long-term commitment. We’re always thinking, and we’re here to help.

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