Creating Engagement: Guiding Senior Living Prospects Through the Customer Journey

Best practices and tactics for nurturing prospects using digital marketing techniques

By Ellen Stokes, VP of Marketing Innovation, and Mike Guill, Digital Interactive and Content Marketing Director, Love & Company

This is the second of a three-part series on digital marketing, with additional blogs focusing on generating leads through digital marketing tactics, and on how sales teams need to adapt their approaches to be most effective in an increasingly digital landscape.

Launching the journey

In the first blog in this series, “Opening Gates: Inviting Senior Living Prospects to Begin the Customer Journey,” we showed how digitally generated leads and sales have grown dramatically in recent years, becoming the second most important source of sales behind the collective word-of-mouth sources. We then addressed a variety of digital techniques to capture prospects’ attention and invite them to begin the journey to learn more about senior living.

Beginning the journey, though, is only the first step in what can be a long period of research, learning, engagement and relationship building that—if done well—will deliver a steady stream of qualified prospects ready to engage with your sales team.

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MQLs and SQLs

It can often take years for a customer to make the decision to move to a senior living community. This deeply personal decision is not one people make easily. The goal of senior living marketers is to speed up that process through education and engagement.

Unlike most referral and even direct mail leads, communities often know very little about digital leads. In the past, the key objective of a sales counselor was to call every new lead promptly and begin building a personal relationship. As most digitally generated leads don’t provide phone numbers, communities need to take a different approach to building relationships with them. That approach is designed to convert marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) to sales-qualified leads (SQLs).

In plain English, MQLs are simply those people that have inquired about our communities but have not yet given information or permission that enables a sales counselor to talk directly with them. This is the majority of digitally generated leads. SQLs are those that have progressed through the education and nurturing process to the point that they are now ready to engage directly with the community.

During the MQL-to-SQL marketing process, it is important to behave how the customer wants you to behave. Most customers during the research phase wish to be anonymous, even if they’re giving “micro-yesses” by subscribing to your emails or following your social media pages. At this stage of the sales process, your primary goal is to get a continuing stream of micro-yesses from prospects by continuing to offer them information of value to their particular needs and desires, thus building and strengthening the relationship over time. For example, in return for one piece of information, you may request an address so you can mail something to them. And you can weave in invitations to talk to a sales counselor for which you would request a phone number, knowing that—as some prospects get closer to becoming an SQL—they will become more interested in speaking to someone in person.

Mass nurturing techniques

Some forms of ongoing marketing may be delivered to all of your MQLs at the same time. Monthly enewsletters, blog subscriptions and event invitations may go out to everyone for whom you have an email address. These all include some form of call to action, inviting prospects to respond to things that are most interesting to them.

A drip campaign is another form of mass nurturing, in that the same series of emails may go to all new prospects. The difference is that the drip emails are sent individually to prospects when and after they initially inquire, not to all prospects at once.

For all mass nurturing tactics, monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs) is important. Increasing numbers of unsubscribes and falling open rates are a sign that something isn’t connecting with your audience.

Targeted nurturing techniques: Marketing automation

While prospect nurturing can certainly be done through mass communications techniques, the real power in digital marketing is to customize each prospect’s experience with your community. This can only be done through marketing automation.

Through the strategic use of cookies to track prospects’ engagement with your website, and through effective use of tracking tools, your customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation program can begin to learn what is important to each prospect, and then provide customized information to each. For example, if one prospect spends a lot of time looking at cottage floor plans, you can send that person a video tour of one of your cottages. If another spends time on the contract options page, you can send that prospect more detailed information on the various contract options you offer.

Of course, no one person in your sales office can track all of this and send individualized information to what oftentimes is 1,000, 2,000 or more individual prospects. But this process can be managed well through marketing automation programs such as ActiveDEMAND.


Speaking of cookies, remarketing is another effective way to stay in front of prospects. Although the future of cookie-based data collection is somewhat uncertain, for now it is one of the primary tools of digital marketing. If customers have visited your website, they leave a footprint through their IP address and their browsing history. This footprint can be used to generate ads that are served to them through their ongoing internet activity.

As with all digital marketing, video content is more effective than static imagery, stopping users from scrolling and keeping their attention for longer periods of time. Using remarketing tools to strategically place content in customers’ social media and search engine feeds are two proven ways to keep you at the top of your prospects’ minds.

Social media

Of course, another way to stay connected with prospects is through organic social media. Inviting prospects to follow your social media posts provides another avenue for them to learn about your community. Platforms like Facebook can be used to offer thought leadership to prospects and other senior living professionals, whereas blogs and event highlights give followers and information-seekers a glimpse into the community’s personality.

A stream of SQLs

Done well, a strong, educational and engaging prospect nurturing program will help guide prospects along their research journey, resulting in a steady flow of qualified prospects that are ready to engage with a sales counselor.

How does a sales team best respond to the new SQLs? Visit part 3 of our three-part series, “Advancing the Sale with Digitally Generated Leads” for more insights.

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