Have You Conducted Market Research Lately? Here Are 3 Ways a Market Study Can Help Your Existing Community Flourish

By Jodi Bleier, Senior Living Executive & Consultant

Many senior living organizations tend to view the benefits of a market study solely in the context of new projects or expansions. While we can’t overstate the importance of gathering detailed market intelligence before starting a master plan, conducting market research can also yield rapidly actionable benefits for an existing community.

At a time when many senior living providers are facing broad challenges, it may be time for your organization to consider gathering up-to-date market intelligence so it can maintain healthy occupancy, price and plan in a manner that yields higher margins and continue fulfilling its mission.

This topic will be expanded upon in the upcoming webinar, “5 Ways Market Intelligence Can Help Drive Revenue,” on September 30 (for which you can register by clicking here). For now, I’d like to explore three ways that market intelligence can help existing communities:

  • Optimize strategies
  • Overcome challenges
  • Boost revenue

Because when it comes down to it, market intelligence really has everything to do with generating revenue.

1 – Use senior living market intelligence to reach and sustain census targets

The factors that affect a consumer’s choice to move to a community are always evolving—quickly—and so are various market factors, such as demographics and the competitive environment. What was a reliable understanding of your market just a couple of years ago may be less reliable now if your community’s demographics have shifted. Certain features (or a lack of certain features) could be causing your community to appear less desirable.

So, if your organization experienced healthy census for years but is now having trouble sustaining budgeted occupancy levels, look toward acquiring updated data. New information on your greater market, community, competitors and opportunities to meet an unmet need can help you readjust to the market, recover its differentiators and drive more revenue.

A unique, well-designed analysis can identify whether census challenges are caused by the market, marketing and sales issues, pricing, product or a combination of these elements. For example, several types of senior living studies can uncover where a community is unknowingly falling short in an area that may be easily addressed.

Market intelligence answers questions like:

  • Is our pricing competitive? Are we underpriced or overpriced for the market?
  • Is our physical space appropriate for and desirable to our target market?
  • Are our contract types outdated?
  • Are prospects aware of us, and do they find our community appealing?

So that you can acquire an updated view of the market and answer the questions above, your organization may undertake one or more of the following market intelligence studies:

  • Market analysis
  • Competitive pricing and positioning analysis
  • Mystery shops
  • Consumer research  
  • Consumer research events

Each of those market intelligence tools has its own set of objectives and takeaways, which will be discussed in greater detail in the webinar. As for putting the insights from market intelligence to use rapidly, Karen Adams, my co-presenter, shares the main point:

“The data and analysis from market research are what will help a C-suite senior living leader make the case to the executive team and board for what is necessary to bring the community back to optimum competitiveness. Lots of times, the figures and analyses make the case entirely on their own.”

2 – Use senior living market research to increase margins

A similar challenge to having a lower census than budgeted—but one that also causes senior living C-suite leaders to lose sleep—is a high census, but low margins.

That’s where market intelligence can evaluate an organization’s pricing across its service lines. Data gleaned from this type of market research will not only show how your community’s pricing compares, but also how its value compares.

A competitive pricing and positioning analysis ensures that your community provides a strong value, which is really what consumers are looking for with any purchase.

Rob Love, President & CEO of Love & Company and co-presenter on the upcoming webinar, once noted:

“To be a strong value, pricing and positioning must be in balance. If pricing for entrance fees, contract options or monthly service packages are going to be increased, then the perceived value of those products must be increased as well.”

Plus, with recent events compounding financial stress for many, senior living prospects want to know that what is likely one of the largest financial decisions of their lives brings with it a lot of value. Because if they can get more for less elsewhere, they will.

Speaking of elsewhere, looking at the competition deeper than just their pricing is what will inform your organization of where else it can differentiate itself from a value standpoint.

Karen puts this in context:

“The competition and details of the competitive environment are really critical pieces, and more than just the price, unit count or market depth. Details on competition are so important because that data says what people really want and completely outlines the competition in the market so organizations can separate themselves from the rest.”

3 – Use senior living market research to hone your target market

Pricing, amenities, contracts and health care are all major factors that contribute to the desirability of your community. But if your organization isn’t targeting the right people or geographic area, all the work to optimize your offerings becomes moot. This is where senior living market intelligence can also help fill gaps and increase ROI for your sales and marketing efforts.

It’s important to look inward at the people currently living at your community to compare and contrast your resident population to the people in your market area. In the past, your organization may have targeted five ZIP codes for new independent living leads. However, demographics can change over the years, and your ideal prospects may have literally moved out of those ZIP code areas.

A resident demographic analysis tells you what your prospect really looks like, plus details from where you have historically drawn the highest proportion of residents. Coupling this with a “heat density” map showing from where your residents moved, the density of age- and income-qualified prospects, and the location of competitors will give you clear insights on your geographic strengths and where you may be missing pockets of prospects. In a conversation we were having in preparation for our upcoming webinar, Karen captured this perfectly:

“New growth areas often attract a new market within an area, in essence creating a shift in market location and distribution. And these market studies help your organization tease out the details of the characteristics of the competitive environment. When we dig deeper and tease out details about the people, cultures and personalities behind the numbers, we can begin to understand just who your target market is and what it is they truly value. In many cases, turning your community around and ensuring its position in the market is one that draws in more leads and residents comes down to simply meeting an unmet need/niche in the market.”

And the process of conducting these market analyses often yields as much as (if not more than, in some cases) the results of the study itself.

The old adage, “Knowledge is power,” certainly applies to existing senior living communities seeking to stay competitive in an ever-changing marketplace. Armed with market intelligence, communities have the power to appeal to the right audience, be successful in getting that audience to choose their community and ensure their offerings provide value to the resident and revenue to the organization.

Stay tuned to this space for additional articles from the other co-presenters on Love & Company’s upcoming webinar, “5 Ways Market Intelligence Can Help Drive Revenue.” We hope you enjoy the articles, and we hope to see you during the presentation!

I’m excited to be part of a panel alongside Dave Hoglund of Perkins Eastman, as well as Rob Love and Karen Adams of Love & Company.

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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