An Important Lesson From 2020: Never Stop Marketing

By Rob Love, President & CEO

The articles in this blog series as well as our recent webinar, “Focus on 2021: Insights and Strategies for a Successful Year,” share perspectives from senior living thought leaders on what your Life Plan Community can do to rebound and maintain its mission in the new year. I really enjoyed moderating the session, which featured an all-star panel of representatives from Kendal, LeadingAge Virginia, Fitch Ratings and Pearl Creek Advisors.

Now in this brief article, I’d like to share marketing’s perspective on what we learned this year, and what we are recommending that Life Plan Communities do in 2021. My biggest takeaway from 2020 and top suggestion for the future? Never stop marketing.

Two distinct paths

In 2020, our firm observed two basic approaches that Life Plan Communities took in response to the early stages of the pandemic. The first approach was to withdraw from marketing, sit back and basically wait for it to pass. The second approach was to be proactive, aggressive and embrace the new dynamics in play.

Unsurprisingly, we witnessed stark differences in the census of Life Plan Communities depending on which approach they took. Communities that took the first approach ended up being hurt the most by the pandemic and now face financial and census challenges as we approach 2021.

“It wasn’t necessarily the pandemic that caught communities off guard, as most communities already had strong virus mitigation protocols. Communities had more of a challenge with moving forward in the new environment, as they could no longer rely on in-person events to build census and generate the census turnover that they rely on. Organizations that could not or chose not to adapt to virtual marketing are the ones that are now very nervous about ‘21.”

– Margaret Johnson, director and senior living sector lead at Fitch Ratings and co-panelist on the recent Love & Company webinar

On the other hand, communities that leaned into the new world of senior living marketing and maintained momentum now have a much more promising outlook on the next several months. They’re also already better prepared to continue marketing as the virus retightens its grip on the country.

Speaking about the future, Margaret noted in her observations that the communities projected to perform the strongest financially are also those that have embraced today’s virtual/digital marketing standards. This is another way that ongoing marketing bodes well for your organization.

She also added that a side benefit of using video and digital marketing tools is that it leads to better word of mouth regarding what is actually going on at the community. This enables your community to get ahead of the media and show that seniors are better off living at Life Plan Communities than at home on their own.

Don’t stop marketing to seniors now—or ever!

Even with the ongoing uncertainty that 2021 is projected to bring to our sector, we recommend that Life Plan Communities preserve—or even expand—their marketing budgets so that they can maintain momentum and census. Our colleagues at Enquire CRM recently noted that seniors’ inquiries into Life Plan Communities reached a record high this year, so the opportunities are out there. It’s up to your organization to capitalize on them.

We’ve already seen the numbers. Senior living marketing is working. And embracing today’s best practices will help your organization emerge from COVID-19 better prepared to market to seniors throughout whichever challenges lie ahead.

If you’re unsure how to get your organization’s marketing program up to speed, check out our resource-packed blog archive or schedule a consultation with our team. Our mission is to help you perpetuate your mission.

For the rest of the articles in this series supporting our newest webinar, Focus on 2021: Insights and Strategies for a Successful Year, click here.

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