When you partner with a sales and marketing firm to help with occupancy, training, lead generation or branding, you should set the bar high enough to ensure that your partner can deliver the results you need.
At the same time, also stop to think if you’re equipping the firm with an adequate budget and approving a robust plan, one that contains the tools it will need to ensure the best results. Make sure your own bar is set high enough.
“As someone who spends a lot of time developing budgets and prioritizing what we do, I notice that what typically gets cut are things we would not like to see cut,” Sara Montalto, senior vice president, strategic services for Love & Company, says. “Too often, the things that clients first put on the chopping block are things that are important to foundational best practices, like sales training and content marketing.”
Start With an Assessment
One of the key elements of the most successful campaigns or sales strategies is making sure that all elements are in sync and linked together. But the idea of confluent marketing can be difficult for some clients to understand and implement.
“I think the one thing that gives them that understanding is our assessment process,” Joan Kelly-Kincade, senior sales advisor for Love & Company, says. “This is often what helps them understand the underlying connections between things, the cause and effect. At the end of the day, it’s an investment in awareness, knowledge and understanding.”
“Our assessments really clarify that in a very powerful way, so when clients choose what to do or fix, they understand why they’re doing it. Everything else—website, blogs, content—flows from that understanding.”
Sara adds, “When communities are looking towards 2024 and they haven’t taken a comprehensive look at their product and their sales and marketing program since before COVID-19, they need to do it. If they’ve really just been focused on keeping their head above water, they need to take a step back and really look at what they’re doing, what’s working and what’s changed.”
Understand the Competition
As communities emerged from COVID-19, they were in different places depending—in part—on the strength of their competition. Some communities have emerged strong because they’ve been using the right tools in the right way, while others have emerged struggling.
“The value of a competitive analysis is lost on some communities,” Genie says. “I see it as a tool for the sales and management team to help analyze and implement the decisions they’ll be making about pricing, expansions or whatever else might be needed.”
Sara adds, “Also, understanding what tools your competitors are using in their marketing programs—ones that you may not be using—can be very helpful. For example, if the competitor is using a tool for live chat or has great, interactive site plans that really show how different elements of their campus are interconnected that allow viewers to zoom in.”
“Even something as simple as knowing your competitor isn’t answering the phone with a live person can be powerful. Just start answering the phone and you’re going to make more sales.”
Liz adds, “This is not even anything that requires a financial investment. Make phone calls, go to websites and shop competitors. It doesn’t cost any money, but it can make a huge difference in terms of your success in the marketplace and your ability to keep up and differentiate.”
Your Website Is the Centerpiece of Your Marketing
Liz Phlegar, account strategy director for Love & Company, says, “While some clients understand the value of a strong, well-built website with great content that links back to and connects to their other efforts, others have websites that are just kind of adequate, and really should be improved. But they tend to think that what they have will do for now.”
“What a community’s digital investment should consist of is also a challenge. Unfortunately, it’s often easier to convince a client to invest in media than it is to convince them to spend money on developing content.”
Enhance Content Marketing
Content marketing is often the day-to-day face of your community, the one part of the marketing mix that can be the nimblest and most easily updated as priorities change.
Sara says, “Adding new blog content helps a client’s website with SEO and provides content that we’re able to share in e-newsletters or on a Facebook page. These tools lead people back to the website so they can learn more about the community, get engaged and get to the point of being willing to take the next step. It’s often how they become qualified sales leads.”
“Clients should also invest in an automated email series, so when prospects get that initial brochure, depending on how their campaign is set up, they might not see anything else until a salesperson calls them.”
Invest in Sales Training
A great campaign or other marketing effort can get lost in the weeds without a properly trained sales team. Calls can go unanswered, leads can wither and die, and the CRM can be reduced to just three letters in the alphabet.
Genie says, “Some communities either know their sales team is struggling with certain things and they’re hopeful that they’ll be able to somehow turn it around. Or they have a little bit of training, but don’t really give the sales team the support they need to make these foundational ways of doing things take hold.”
“We know from our experience that teams that have continuing support from a sales trainer and advisor have a higher rate of success than those that don’t.”
Implement the Right Tools
There are few tools more powerful for a sales team than a robust, well-used CRM. Although many communities recognize this fact and use their CRM effectively throughout the sales cycle, too many may be using it as little more than a phone book.
“Because of that, these sales teams are forced to work much harder,” Sara says. “We recently looked at a community that had invested a lot in physical plant updates, but they can’t get beyond 82% occupancy. Why? They’re not doing the fundamentals.”
“Prospects will come into an appointment, and they’ll tell them everything they need to know and then say, ‘Well, it’s been great meeting you. I’ve told you everything. I’m not going to bother you. So, if you need anything else, give me a call when you’re ready to talk more.”
Of course, that call rarely happens, because prospects have likely moved on to a community where the sales team is better trained and more proactive.
Strengthen Resident Referrals
One of the simplest forms of marketing a community is a resident referral program. Creating a program that allows happy, satisfied residents to refer others to the community is a win-win. It means the residents will know some of the new people entering the community. And it shortens the sales cycle dramatically by delivering prequalified leads to the sales team.
“Resident referrals are definitely the biggest driver of low-cost leads,” Sara says, “and communities need to be taking advantage of that.”
“These types of things can certainly be overseen and handled by a marketing firm,” Genie says, “but they don’t need to be, and really shouldn’t be. This should be a community-driven initiative.”
Putting It All Together
Going back to what we said at the start, are you ‘equipping your sales and marketing firm with an adequate budget and approving a robust plan, one that contains the tools it will need to make sure you’ll get the best results?’ If you are, then you’ve probably scooted right past 82% occupancy and are sitting comfortably at 90% or more.
And crucially, if you have done the right things, your community is reaping the benefits of millions of dollars of entrance fees and hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in monthly fees that come with higher occupancy, which translates to more and better amenities and programming for your residents.
Contact Love & Company’s team of seasoned sales and marketing professionals
We’re ready to listen and help you plan, implement and work toward achieving your goals. We welcome the opportunity to start a conversation.