In today’s economic environment, it is more important than ever for senior living communities to maximize census and revenue. For many communities, a significant decrease in census can mean millions of dollars in lost entrance fees and hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost monthly service fees. So what should communities be doing to maximize census and revenue?
We believe any sales and marketing strategy requires five key components to be successful:
- The right product
- A strong brand
- Strong lead generation
- Disciplined sales practices
- Pricing that reflects value
In this blog, we share how St. James Place in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, substantially increased census and revenue by adopting improved sales strategies and supercharging its lead generation with exciting new creative approaches.
Learn More Insights on How Two Communities Used Five Key Sales and Marketing Strategies to Drive Sales
View our webinar, “Five Keys to Strong Sales Performance,” to hear additional insights from Love & Company’s Genie Heer, strategic sales advisor; Sara Montalto, senior vice president of strategic services; Liz Phlegar, account strategy director; and Rob Love, president/CEO, as they look at five important elements in managing strong lead generation and sales programs, with a particular focus on how two Life Plan Communities have successfully implemented these five strategies to substantially increase sales.
St. James Place is a Life Plan Community located on a large, beautiful, gated campus with a grand entrance, lush grounds and a lake. There are 214 independent living residences consisting of 178 apartments, 16 garden homes and 20 patio homes. The community also offers assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing.
In early 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, St. James Place began to miss its occupancy goals. The community had historically been challenged by misconceptions about the wealth of its residents, which local rental communities had capitalized on in their marketing efforts. In addition to this misperception, the St. James Place sales team was frustrated by its CRM, and was not able to use it to the full advantage a CRM should provide.
Liz Phlegar, account strategy director for Love & Company, says, “We were asked to provide short-term sales support in 2020, during the heart of COVID, and the community saw modest improvements. But we knew more robust change was needed. That engagement opened the door to a comprehensive sales and marketing assessment.”
“In May 2021, in partnership with St. James, we began implementing the initial assessment recommendations, focusing initially on sales processes and community improvements. This resulted in significant progress in several key areas, including many new sales. To further these efforts, the community transitioned to a new CRM, Sherpa, in October 2021. A CRM audit and progress report were completed in March of 2022, which showed ongoing progress in transitioning from a product-centered sales approach to one that was prospect-centered.”
Liz notes, “Beyond any internal challenges, as the only Life Plan Community in Baton Rouge, St. James Place faced a significant marketing challenge: educating prospects on the difference between their community and a typical rental community. Given this lack of understanding in the market, St. James Place faced ongoing value perception issues. To combat the problem, they had tried using some very aggressive price reduction strategies which they knew wouldn’t be sustainable long term.”
Love & Company worked to rebuild census through a comprehensive approach that developed synergies and built momentum using several of the five key components shown earlier. We began extensive (and intensive) sales training by expanding on the fundamentals we had initially shared during 2020, and we deployed Sherpa training on CRM to provide a systematic approach to advancing the sales process. We also began a 16-month sales training regimen.
But the real key to success was fostering a true sense of partnership with the client that allowed for give and take. Over time, the community’s sales and marketing leaders trusted Love & Company to try new things.
A New Approach to Creative Lead Generation
Working together with St. James’ leadership, we retooled the lead generation strategies and tactics, establishing clear goals for lead generation by month and by source. We also developed a new event strategy that featured unique experiences and compelling speakers, with a goal of generating renewed interest and driving traffic.
Liz says, “In our initial marketing launch, we reallocated their previous budget into more lead generation tactics, such as direct mail, events and digital advertising, and away from the more general awareness tactics they had been using. In addition to changing the creative and media strategies, we split the market into primary and secondary areas based on past move-in results, because they had been spending in too large an area while getting too few results.”
In 2022, new creative materials —particularly direct mail—positioned the community as lively, dynamic and accessible to people of many walks of life. In tandem with this new lead generation approach was a retooling of the community’s brand, positioning it as both a desirable and attainable retirement option. This included copy messages that touted the community’s lively spirit of camaraderie and its down-to-earth, warm and welcoming spirit.
Liz adds, “One of the most successful things we’ve done thus far is to continue to evolve their direct mail creative. In late 2022, and continuing into 2023, the strategy was refocused on creating unique and compelling events. They’ve had tremendous turnout!” As part of the new creative strategy, the community tapped celebrated local sports legends, a Louisiana history expert and even a renowned forensic anthropologist to speak at luncheon events.
Sara Montalto, senior vice president, strategic services for Love & Company, notes, “They also really invested in their marketing assets by creating new video ads and completing a photo shoot.” Both of these efforts provided fresh images for the new creative materials.
As Liz concludes, “The amount of money the client needed to allocate to effect change was much higher than they had ever spent. We were able to instill the belief that—if they invested the extra money—we would realize that much more return, and they have. The client is very pleased with the return.”
Occupancy at St. James Place has risen to a level it hasn’t seen for several years, as has the community’s image in the surrounding market. These results are certainly attributable to the successful new sales and marketing strategies.
Most importantly—and crucial to the community’s bottom line—move ins have substantially increased over the past two years.
Through a strong partnership, St. James Place and Love & Company expanded the community’s prospect base, created a brand image that is accessible and highly desirable, and developed creative and media strategies and tactics that continue to generate a strong flow of viable leads. We also rebooted the community’s sales efforts to follow up on those leads to generate sales and move ins.
Together, we built a bold new creative product that dispelled notions about affordability as it stopped readers in their tracks. Now, St. James Place is perceived as an innovative community that is more affordable than was historically assumed. It is also seen as a place with an active, vibrant lifestyle and warm and sociable people.
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