By Kate Leach, Senior Sales Advisor
For a while, it looked like senior living marketing—and the rest of the world—was getting back to normal. Life Plan Communities were welcoming on-campus tours, events were occurring (albeit with smaller audiences), and communities were showing how resident life had so boldly bounced back. And then, the Delta variant proved us wrong.
But this current stage of the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t mean that it’s time to panic. Rather, it warrants a look at the playbooks that senior living providers built on-the-fly in 2020 and adapt them to today’s circumstances. Believe it or not, there are some potential advantages to be found—you just need to know where to look.
More ready than ever
For however long this “new normal” stays with us, fortunately it’s not as new to us this time around.
“The first part of making the most of this comes down to mindset,” said Amy Brodie, our VP of Client Services. “We’ve been through this before and we know we’ll come out of it eventually. We just need to be able to convey that to prospects. Prospects who’ve proven themselves to be incredibly resilient.”
Presently, we’re seeing that resilience hold true. My experience working with senior living sales teams recently demonstrates that prospects are much better equipped for virtual and remote interaction than they were in early 2020. Given prospects’ embrace of technology, it’s now up to sales teams to harness and mobilize that readiness.
If there’s a case in point to support how well prospects have adjusted, it’s that my own mother is 76 years old, and she texts back faster than my 25-year-old daughter! Senior living sales teams need not worry about asking for prospects’ permission to text, FaceTime, video chat or conduct a virtual tour. They’re ready.
We just hosted a webinar all about the importance of social connection, and this is something I’ve discussed when coaching sales teams, too. Prospects and their families, by now, should be keenly aware of the detriments of social isolation for older adults; this is exacerbated by the pandemic and discussed openly in the media.
The uncertainties with the Delta variant can be a reminder to prospects of the long and lonely winter, and how much Life Plan Communities have to offer when it comes to providing genuine, uplifting opportunities for social connection.
On the sales side, our teams can play a part in helping reduce prospects’ isolation, simply by staying on top of regular sales activities and follow-up. Last year, we saw salespeople become lifelines for social interaction, and we’ve heard that prospects looked forward to phone calls simply for the human conversation. Importantly, this gave sales teams the opportunity to build stronger connections with prospects.
“This presents an opportunity to better nurture leads,” Amy added. “Whether it’s a phone call, email or direct mail piece, if people are staying at home again, they’re engaging with what’s coming to them. This is especially true for people whose attention you already have. A good tactic is to go through your lead base and focus attention on who has been in contact, perhaps for a virtual tour, but has not converted yet.”
Have a plan B (or a plan V)
Of course, the Delta variant has affected various geographic areas differently, and some organizations can reasonably continue in-person events, tours, etc. However as with any plan, it does help to have a plan B. If you are planning an on-campus or community event, be sure to have a way to pivot the event or campaign to the virtual space.
That is where a “plan V” comes in—creating a plan that incorporates virtual and video options. Making presentations, tours and events accessible online is now simply a best practice, and our clients have seen some virtual events even surpass in-person attendance. (Plus, Amy noted that hosting regular online events can attract prospects from outside your primary market area: a notable bonus.)
Video provides endless ways to bring the community to the prospect, too. Whether they are direct follow-up video messages using platforms like OneDay or Vidyard, or resident testimonial videos, these tactics should be in your toolbox regardless of the pandemic.
I’d also like to share an example that we’ve found particularly effective: Sales teams have recruited current residents to reach out to prospects themselves via video chat or phone. During the call, the resident shares with the prospect what life has been like living at the community during the pandemic, such as how the community has provided meals, groceries, and perhaps most importantly, social connections.
During some of those conversations I heard in 2020, Life Plan Community residents poignantly shared their deep gratitude for living where they live amid the uncertainty of COVID-19. Those conversations—and connections—proved powerful.
And if Amy and I leave you with one more note, it’s something we said in 2020 and something we’ll repeat: stay consistent with your marketing and sales efforts. They work!
For more articles on effectively marketing and selling senior living during COVID-19, click here to access our blog article archive.