By Amy Brodie, Vice President of Client Services
With 2020 now firmly in the rearview (and good riddance!), Life Plan Communities look to 2021 for recovery and restoration. Above all else, communities have recommitted to providing the best—and safest—retirement experience possible. With a new focus on safely serving and sustaining their missions, communities also look to rebuild census.
That’s the focus of Love & Company’s upcoming webinar, “Marketing and Sales in 2021: The Path to Rebuilding and Sustaining Census.” I hope you’ll join us for this one on January 28. To sign up, click here. If you won’t be able to attend live, register anyway, because all registrants will receive a recording of this valuable session.
For today, we know that the next several months will be crucial to the short- and long-term success of mission-driven senior living providers and our sector as a whole. Having COVID-19 vaccine distribution prioritized for senior living providers has certainly helped to an extent, however, we’re not out of the woods yet.
Here are three ways that your Life Plan Community can act now to best spark success as the year continues.
1. Meet prospects where they are—really!
COVID-19 shook our collective worlds and threatened our feelings of safety and security. Many people need to find that base-level sense of security and well-being again. Keep this in mind as you plan your marketing and messaging.
What does that mean, during a pandemic when typical senior living sales challenges have evolved so much? How do we meet prospects where they are? It means marketing to them based on their current needs and motivations.
What are your prospects thinking and how do we know?
As Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs points out, us humans are motivated to reach for the next level. As our needs are met, we can aspire to more and can work toward the levels at the top of the hierarchy. If certain needs are not met, we focus our energy on the lower levels of the hierarchy or pause at one level until those needs are met.
For senior living providers, it comes down to what your prospects’ needs are in your specific market. Factors that can determine this include:
- Is your location a COVID-19 hot spot, or the opposite?
- What’s vaccine rollout like there?
- How confident (or scared) are people in your market region?
- What do prospects need right now?
While it’s tempting to stick with marketing messaging rooted in aspiration and self-fulfillment, today’s senior living prospects in many regions are just seeking safety.
Especially for that last question on the list above, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.
When it comes to understanding the needs of prospects in your particular market, big opportunities also exist, says Karen Adams, Love & Company’s Vice President of Market Intelligence and a co-panelist on the upcoming webinar:
“Our clients have access to enormous amounts of info and opportunities for feedback,” she said. “Things are moving so quickly, and we encourage clients to listen, talk to people, talk to and survey their waitlists and leads—folks they’re already engaged with. This is an enormous opportunity not to miss.”
2. Focus messaging on safety and a welcoming, comfortable community
Within all the elements of your marketing campaign (ads, website, emails, etc.), messaging needs to fulfill the base-level desire for safety and security. As mentioned above, telling people that they can be the best version of themselves at your Life Plan Community may work later, but being aspirational won’t work right now.
Providing factual information about your community’s safety measures is important too, but the tone of the message needs to be positive and focus on moving forward; not how terrible it has all been.
Making prospects feel comfortable also has to do with giving them the chance to “find their tribe” at your community.
“It’s important that people can feel like they’ll fit in, as that gives them comfort from a mental aspect, which appropriate messaging can enhance,” says Jim Gentry, Love & Company’s Copy Director and fellow January 28 webinar panelist.
“That mental comfort and wellness associated with your community is extremely important today because people have been so isolated, and stressed by world events in general. People really need body-and-soul nurturing, which is hard to market, but will be one of the big challenges facing our sector and all others this year,” he explained.
“Intense social and political external factors are accelerating seniors’ desires to live with like-minded people in a true community,” Karen added.
And when a prospect feels comfortable enough to reach out, appropriate messaging also applies to interactions they have with your sales team. Lisa Pearre, Love & Company Principal and Chief Client Services Officer, expands on this and why sales teams must be careful:
“We are finding that sales teams are projecting their own concerns about the pandemic onto prospects,” she explained. “Sales teams can’t take the news at face value, and many times doing so will lead to their conversation with a prospect not targeting what the prospect really needs. That will disengage prospects and decrease their comfort.”
3. Stay connected
It’s especially important for Life Plan Communities to stay connected with prospects and stay communicative as the year continues. Your community can provide a sense of steadiness and comfort by simply communicating consistently and being there.
Last year, amidst the evolutions that came to senior living sales and marketing, the opportunity arose for us to explore the many other available ways to stay connected with prospects with regularity.
For example, 2020 taught us that while direct mail pieces are still relevant and people like to receive tangible marketing pieces in the mail, the virtual marketing world is here to stay.
Communities that have embraced virtual marketing tools and strategies have been the most successful in our portfolio, and they have a huge advantage over competitors who were later adopters of virtual marketing.
If your Life Plan Community hasn’t yet invested in the tools, tech and time needed to make virtual marketing environments happen (webinars, video chats, instant messaging, virtual tours, etc.), now is the time. (Here are some tips to help get started.)
A final tip on staying connected with prospects and building fruitful relationships with them comes from Joan Kelly-Kincade, one of Love & Company’s Senior Sales Advisors:
“Salespeople must really work on active listening! It takes practice, but will really help them connect with prospects and get a better understanding of prospects’ needs—and how the community will serve those needs.”
We’re excited to expand on these three key points and many others in the January 28 webinar. We hope you’ll join us! Click here to register, and be on the lookout for more articles to support the theme of the session: rebuilding and sustaining census.