How Can We Ensure Prospects Will Buy Our New Senior Living Product? By Asking Them!

By Rob Love, President & CEO at Love & Company

We’ve noted many times how critical it is to conduct thorough market research before undertaking master planning. Perhaps surprising to many, though, is that a specific type of market research conducted later in the master planning process is one of the most critical.

This particular type of market research puts the finishing touches on a project, as it assures that by the time your organization brings its new product to market, it will be one that senior living prospects actually want to buy.

It’s also one of the topics that we just discussed in our webinar, “5 Ways Market Intelligence Can Help Drive Revenue,” which you can watch here. In it, I’m joined by Karen Adams, our Vice President of Market Intelligence, as well as J. David Hoglund, Principal & Executive Director at Perkins Eastman, and Jodi Bleier, an experienced senior living executive and consultant.

So, how does senior living market intelligence help a master planning team put the finishing touches on a new start-up or expansion so that it doesn’t just succeed—but excels—in its marketplace? Quite simply, it excels by asking prospects themselves for input and feedback on the project.

The C.R.E. is key

As part of the proven team-based master planning process—a collaborative approach that integrates each master planning role—the marketing team brings knowledge of the consumer to the table, representing the defined market throughout the project. It’s our job to understand the people who may actually buy the new product, and to notify the team if what those people are saying will necessitate adjustments. We learn what the people are saying (and thinking, and feeling) through consumer research events (CREs).

“Consumer research events are strong tools for evaluating consumer likelihood to ‘buy this product, in this location, at this price,’” Karen said. “CREs provide strong insights to project development teams on how plans may need to be fine-tuned to best meet market needs and expectations.”

Development teams can also use CREs to answer other outstanding questions, or to gauge how consumer interests have shifted since the beginning of the planning process. For example, today teams can use consumer research events (and surveys) to determine what their prospects expect from a community relative to COVID-19 precautions. David expanded on this in the recent article he wrote and in the webinar as well.

Overcoming prospect objections

Independent of COVID-19, we all know that one of the main objections that sales teams receive from prospects is, “I’m not ready yet.”

Market intelligence steps in here to help “peel back that onion,” as Karen says. CREs are an effective way to get to the root of prospects’ reason(s) for not feeling ready yet, and to discover what levers the team can pull to make its product more desirable.

For example, CREs can help dissect the thoughts and feelings behind common objections of moving to a new or expansion Life Plan Community, such as:

  • Concerns over cost or investment
  • Perceived loss of freedom, autonomy and flexibility
  • Desired level of amenities or service package

“Sales teams know this best, but in CREs, cost is always a big focus,” Karen added. “This is why it’s very important to evaluate pricing often, whether via CREs or competitive pricing and positioning analyses.”

Regarding the other two points, CREs can also help determine one of the key elements of any project: value. Seniors want to maintain flexibility and autonomy, but they object to paying a high monthly service fee for services or amenities that they don’t think they need.

CRE-acquired insights from the prospects in your market can help gauge the perceived value of your project, as well as indicate where you can build in flexibility into some of the contract and service options.

Jodi cautions not to make them too flexible, though. “Creating flexible service packages does present operational challenges,” she said. “You need to have a critical mass of takers to sustain an economy of scale for a particular service. Plus, you need to be careful of running into scenarios like letting someone who never cleans opt out of housekeeping services, or letting someone who doesn’t cook opt out of a dining plan.”

New ideas and future considerations

Senior living prospects are also helping drive change in our field by sharing their thoughts and wishes in things like CREs and surveys. For example, conducting a CRE may give your team a new way of thinking about the actual design or placement of a new building when it comes time to create site maps and scale models. Implementing certain elements of what comes from CREs may, in turn, make your new product more competitive and desirable.

Plus, we’ve witnessed firsthand through a pilot survey what seniors desire from a programming perspective in the age of COVID-19.

We learned that older adults are interested in increasing their use of a variety of online resources (education, travel, health, communications), which unlocks numerous opportunities for yet-to-be-built communities or neighborhoods in developing their messaging, programming and services for now and the future.

This is all just a cross-section of the insights that an organization can glean from senior living market intelligence, and how it can help a development team ensure that its target prospects will purchase its new product when it becomes available.

You can explore other ways that market research can help drive revenue for both existing and planned senior living communities by watching our recent webinar and checking out other blogs on the topic. We hope you enjoy these resources!

For more of Love & Company’s resources on senior living market intelligence, click here; or call Tim Bracken at 410-207-0013 to find out how new data can help your existing Life Plan Community advance its mission.

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