This blog is the first in our two-part follow-up series to our June webinar, “Senior Living Marketing after Shelter at Home,” in which our panel provided insights for how communities can safely and effectively continue their census-building efforts amid COVID-19. To watch a recording of the webinar session, click here. Part two of this special blog series, “Closing Senior Living Sales Amid COVID-19: What Your Community Needs To Do,” will be coming soon. To explore our entire archive of COVID-19-related content, including articles and webinars, click here.
While senior living providers are facing myriad challenges posed by COVID-19, the future well-being of a community can depend on how well it maintains census and adds sales and move-ins during this time. This raises the importance of consistent and coordinated marketing efforts even higher. And with budgets being stretched to cover new items like personal protective equipment, it forces communities to focus on only the most effective senior living marketing tactics. Encouragingly, we’ve seen some great results so far with the fresh approaches communities are taking to generate and nurture leads.
So, what’s working? Here’s a peek at five examples.
1 – Phone calls
Surprised? It turns out that many sales teams have reported that connected call rates have increased significantly, and that phone calls are working quite well right now; especially phone calls that position the community as a solutions provider to the concerns that prospects currently have. Senior living prospects have more or less been stuck at home during the pandemic, which has left them with the opportunity to think about the future. They are also seeking connections during this time of uncertainty, making them more receptive to calls such as those from senior living sales consultants. These factors make it a great time for sales teams to focus on connecting with prospects empathetically and showing genuine concern.
When calling, sales consultants can offer suggestions and resources as a friendly gesture while simultaneously taking the opportunity to perform a bit of lead discovery to find out the prospect’s main motivations or hesitancies. Amid COVID-19, it’s also important to confidently, completely and clearly convey all the safety precautions and protocols taking place at the community or sales center.
As with any call, sales teams should be sure to follow best practices: Always have a defined purpose, and gracefully ask for the “mini-close” to establish the next point of contact. And if sales teams remember one thing when making calls, it should be to lead with empathy.
2 – Webinars
We have found webinars successful in connecting with senior living prospects right now. Although they require a relatively high initial time investment, once your community has the necessary tools in place for hosting a virtual event, webinars present a cost-effective alternative to on-campus events and an environment that prospects find more candid and free from any marketing veneer.
A recent webinar that Love & Company managed from start to finish for a client (including setup, training, practice, promotion and session moderation) yielded more than 50 attendees and dozens of new leads. The success of the webinar session, which featured a candid and forthright panel discussion covering the current moment, led the community to put four additional webinars on its events calendar. The initial investment in webinars made it much easier to proceed with the subsequent sessions, and the community has already decided to make webinars a standard part of its marketing repertoire in the future.
3 – Digital advertising
As communities work to reach more prospects digitally—and as senior living prospects grow evermore digitally fluent—digital advertising and virtual communications are proving to be incredibly effective ways to maintain marketing momentum during COVID-19. We have seen that newer online ad options from Facebook and Google are particularly effective at a range of budget levels. The key is in knowing where, when and how to invest digital marketing spend.
For example, Facebook’s lookalike audience advertising tool has helped communities target and speak to people who are more likely to be interested in a particular product or lifestyle. Plus, communities that have been running Facebook ads more regularly have benefited from continued optimization of ad placements as Facebook’s algorithms learn how to better target interested users. It’s a similar story in 2020 so far for Google ads, too: As keyword ad groups and programmatic campaigns optimize over time, Google is better able to understand user behavior to deliver stronger results.
4 – Virtual tours and video content
Although the challenge persists at most communities of not yet being able to welcome prospects to campus for an in-person tour, technology can help bridge the gap with virtual tours, video campaigns and cutting-edge software tools.
Virtual tours, especially when conducted via video chat, have been received well by prospects who have seemed to appreciate the extra personal, authentic touch. We have heard that communities are finding two different approaches to virtual tours to be most effective:
- A virtual tour that uses “choreographed” live shots
This could start somewhere such as the welcome or design center, with a sales consultant using a rough script and then walking around the community with the camera. This approach can work with one-on-one virtual sessions or live group video presentations, and it works best for showing model or vacant residences rather than amenity spaces that are currently empty. Although many communities have impressive amenity spaces, it is best to avoid showing them in the current state of operations and use the next video option instead.
- A pre-recorded video to “walk through” with the prospect
The idea for this approach is to have a video that any salesperson can control as they “walk” the prospect through it during a virtual appointment. It is not meant to have a pre-recorded script, so it can function more like a traditional tour and conversation that are tailored to each prospect. If video production or technology resources are limited, teams can use still photos and stitch them together “Ken Burns” style to give the video more dynamic appeal. This is also a better approach to use for showing amenity spaces in use by using pre-pandemic photo or video footage of such areas.
For showing specific residence styles and floor plans, innovative software programs also make this easier while teams are unable to host in-person visits. BoxBrownie is a service that turns 2D floor plans into 3D layouts, which can help show how furniture fits the available space, along with showing a better concept of fixtures and finishes. Matterport is a separate tool that creates complete, virtual 3D tours.
Additionally, creating video content that connects with senior living prospects is easier than it’s ever been. Many communities are strategically using stock footage, voiceovers, still images and smartphones to produce compelling clips for social media use. We’ve also seen that this type of video content can go viral to a degree, because it comes across as true and genuine.
5 – Getting creative and personal
During our latest webinar, “Senior Living Marketing after Shelter at Home,” we shared what we learned from a recent survey of several organizations about what is currently working well. One of the things we heard was that sales teams are having success with highly personalized efforts. These go beyond just standard personalized messages—which are advisable anyway—and branches into innovative and creative ways that make a lasting impression and connection with prospects. Some of the most interesting approaches shared with us by communities include:
- Coordinating home delivery of a prospect’s favorite meal
- Writing personalized letters/songs/poems to prospects
- Sending personalized items directly to prospects such as care packages (including toilet paper, branded sanitizer, masks, favorite candies, etc.)
- Sending physical or digital resources to boost brain activity such as puzzles, trivia, games or short stories
- Coordinating a “virtual wine tasting” by partnering with a local winery and courier
Of course, the level of creativity (or expense) that the community takes will depend on the status of the lead and the discovery that the sales team has performed with them. As with any marketing campaign, the combination of creativity and personalization can push results over the top.
Fortunately, from what we have heard from many senior living providers recently is that some communities are actually experiencing a rise in sales and deposits as prospects seek the security of Life Plan Communities. The communities that have maintained their marketing efforts have been careful to remain empathetic in their approach and messaging, as it relates to their mission and vision for serving seniors.
It is also important to remember this about senior living prospects: they are more resilient than perhaps any other generation. They have lived through a lot and know how to handle a crisis. With this current challenge, prospects are taking the time to think about the future they want, and are eager to bounce back—like they have done time and time again. Keep these elements in mind when your organization crafts its marketing efforts. Our next blog in this series will focus on how to turn those conversations with prospects into commitments. Stay tuned to the Love & Company Leaders’ Board blog for further insights on senior living marketing amid COVID-19, and contact Tim Bracken at 410-207-0013 or firstname.lastname@example.org to get started on implementing any of the tactics mentioned here.