4 Senior Living Sales and Marketing Mistakes to Avoid in 2021

By Joan Kelly-Kincade, Senior Sales Advisor

We’ve learned a lot this year. We’ve learned how to work from home. We’ve learned how to Zoom. We’ve learned how to stay safe.

We’ve also learned how a global pandemic affects senior living; the field serving the population that is most vulnerable to the disease. With that, we’ve gained a deeper knowledge of how communities can and should respond to a challenge of this magnitude so that they can preserve and advance their missions.

From our perspective as marketing and sales advisors, we have seen a shift in the senior living sales cycle. Prospects are seeking information differently, so Life Plan Communities need to adapt and adjust their marketing efforts to yet another “new normal.”

This is the theme of our webinar, “The New Senior Living Sales Cycle – Explained,” which features a packed panel of esteemed colleagues from Love & Company and Enquire. In case you missed it, you can click here to watch.

For now, to take an in-depth look at how Life Plan Communities can rebound and achieve sales and marketing success in 2021—with a focus on what not to do—just keep reading!

1. Dwelling on the unknown

Over the last several months, we have observed similar sentiment from both our clients and senior living prospects themselves: a lack of confidence predicated by a fear of the unknown. Life Plan Communities have been, for lack of a better term, paralyzed by the outside environment, which has caused many of them to pull back on their best practices and initiatives for securing more move-ins.

This, as a result, has sparked census declines, which could dip lower still and stagnate if leadership neglects to do the following:

  • Remember that sales and marketing teams are experienced professionals and they know better than almost anyone how to connect with older adults.
  • Rely on proven methods while embracing what has shown to be effective today and, at the same time, let go of methods that no longer meet current needs.
  • Understand that the change necessary does not need to be complicated. The principles of senior living sales haven’t changed; they’re just being put into practice a bit differently these days.

At the leadership level, this is often just a recognition issue. Sales and marketing teams are trying to accomplish the same thing as before. They’re trying to inspire prospects to act; just now it’s with virtual tours and video appointments, contemporary lead nurturing campaigns and freshly developed digital tools.

One thing we have noticed is this: The communities that can admit they’re not up to speed yet—while remaining open to adapting and taking the initiative to do so—will see the positive results we’ve seen elsewhere from these fresh sales and marketing methods.

In her article coming soon to this space and during the webinar, Erin Hayes, co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer at Enquire, shares that digital inquiries are on pace with or are exceeding 2019 levels. This means communities that stay current in their approaches are taking advantage of where prospects are today, and communities that have been slow to adapt are being left in the dust.

2. Disregarding digital leads

Senior living sales teams who do not fully understand the nuts and bolts of a digital marketing program are likely the ones who also disregard digital leads because “they don’t close at high enough rates,” as we’ve heard from some sales teams whom we’ve coached. This mindset can pose a big risk to generating more sales-qualified leads (SQLs) and more sales overall.

The reality is that, as we discuss in the webinar as part of the new senior living sales cycle, digital leads likely reach the sales team warmer and more ready to engage than sales counselors are accustomed. This is because with today’s digital lead funnel, most digital leads have already been made aware of your community through online ads and perhaps they’ve downloaded an information kit, received a nurture email or two or checked out the community’s social media page.

This can cause a disconnect with how sales teams approach new digital leads, because those leads are having their initial relationships built with the community online rather than with in-person seminars, events and tours. We’re not discounting the importance of one-on-one relationships by any means: Sales teams just need to be aware of this shift and know when and how to conduct their follow-up and discovery. (Erin will soon share pointers on how your CRM can help with this.)

3. Forgetting to realize where prospects are

Like always, senior living salespeople need to understand and appreciate a prospect’s situation. Especially today, this means being aware of where the prospect is not only in their decision process but also in their life. Our webinar moderator and Love & Company Principal and Chief Client Services Officer, Lisa Pearre, sums this up succinctly:

“Salespeople need to be careful that they aren’t projecting their own concerns and insecurities on the prospect. The older generation seems much more pragmatic and resilient than the younger generation, so concerns about the economy, housing market and election may not apply to prospects. Salespeople must not convey their own concerns and stresses during an appointment (face-to-face or virtually) like with poor body language or tone. They can’t let their own hang-ups be conveyed onto the prospects.”

Lisa Pearre, Love & Company Principal & Chief Client Services Officer

Even with new flows of digital leads and the tools that have made senior living marketing possible since the beginning of this year, the role of the salesperson hasn’t changed. To have success, it’s on them to recognize and appreciate where the prospect is so that they can form an authentic, fruitful relationship that leads to a move-in.

4. Reducing marketing efforts

“We’ve seen communities lean back when they should be leaning into marketing and sales,” Lisa added. “Communities that are not marketing as much or are not using new tools due to budget concerns—leaning back from marketing programs to preserve dollars—are putting themselves in impossible situations. The reality is that they have a census that they have to maintain, and it’s too hard to rebuild census once they’ve lost control of it. Many communities have felt the impact of doing nothing for six months, and have dug themselves into a hole.”

We’ve done the research: Prospects are out there and are ready to engage. Fortunately, embracing a confluent digital marketing program is one of the highest-ROI ways to capture these leads and harness new tools to convert more of them to sales.

For more insights, we recommend checking out the other articles in this series:

We hope you find these tips useful!

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

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