As many senior living organizations have experienced, maintaining census and revenue the last several years have been challenging, with many communities missing out on millions of dollars in lost entrance fees, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost monthly service fees. We believe a successful sales and marketing strategy—for any economic environment—requires five key components:
- The right product
- A strong brand
- Strong lead generation
- Disciplined sales practices
- Pricing that reflects value
In this blog, we will share how Westminster Canterbury Richmond in Richmond, Virginia, adopted new sales and marketing techniques during the pandemic that enabled it to not only keep the existing community residences occupied, but also successfully presell an expansion months ahead of schedule.
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.
Westminster Canterbury Richmond is a Life Plan Community located on a beautiful 60-acre campus. There are 506 independent living residences in addition to assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing. Prior to the pandemic, the community was well underway with planning an expansion that will add 118 new apartments to its mix of residences through its Vibrancy! expansion.
Love & Company began our partnership with Westminster Canterbury Richmond in 2016 with a market feasibility study and consumer research to determine the viability of a potential expansion. Sara Montalto explains, “This is another story of a client we’ve partnered with for all marketing and planning services. We started by looking at what the expansion residences should look like and how the pricing for them should compare with their existing residences. The partnership then evolved into sales and marketing to guide them through the expansion and presales while also ensuring that the existing residences maintained stable occupancy.”
This already-strong Life Plan Community launched its expansion to fund the development of a variety of new community amenities, many of which were designed to revitalize the community’s wellness and fitness offerings. Love & Company was tasked with helping market and sell the expansion while maintaining targeted occupancy in its existing residences. Doing so required using new tools and developing new techniques.
Love & Company started marketing the expansion by approaching the 1,200 members of the Canterbury Club, the community’s wait list. Our sales support team stepped in to help monitor this effort while also making sure that any newly generated leads were nurtured with appropriate follow-up.
Genie Heer, strategic sales advisor for Love & Company, notes, “Nothing was left to chance. We were very strategic about what each salesperson was doing and how they communicated with two distinct groups of prospects while learning new tools such as Zoom and YourTour because this was during the time of COVID. The team had to shift from selling large ‘blue-sky’ expansion residences one day to selling small existing inventory the next. That’s a skill that has to be learned and practiced so a salesperson can identify the prospect who is the best fit for either one.”
Regrouping and Adapting
We had just taken the expansion to the external market when COVID hit, and the community shut down its marketing communications to the outside world for the next six months. Through this pause and the other complications that COVID presented, we regrouped, added new tools and then went into the 10% deposit process. Westminster Canterbury then achieved its presales goal in a little more than six months—a pace that was so far ahead of schedule that the community added an additional Villa apartment building to the expansion!
Over the next two years there was a high cancellation rate that was attributable to people choosing to go into the existing residences rather than wait for the expansion residences. Sara says, “We’ve been significantly above our sales goals the entire time, from 2020 through the present. We are now so close to 100% again, and we’ve consistently stayed in the nineties.”
“The reason is the client never took their foot off the gas. They never said, ‘We’ve hit 100% early, so we can stop marketing.’ We told them that there would be cancellations (though we’ve been fortunate that many of the cancellations have been depositors who decided to move into an existing residence), so we’ve kept pushing marketing to keep replacing cancellations. We knew that—until this community opens and we’ve reached stabilization, we need to continue to treat this like every lead counts and every sale matters.”
A Multi-Pronged Program
In many ways, Love & Company was helping to plan and run two different marketing and sales programs. One was for the expansion, and the second had a strong focus on Westminster Canterbury’s smaller existing inventory because that’s where it had the most available residences. We maintained strong stabilized occupancy for the year while preselling the expansion so that, when the bonds went to market, the community could show stable occupancy.
Sara says, “We were able to adapt to selling an expansion during COVID when the client wasn’t able to do nearly as many in-person appointments and did more either on the phone or via Zoom than they had ever done previously. We figured out what made sense based on where we were in the cycle, what the goals were, where we were with preselling the expansion and what we needed to do with existing residences.”
Simply put, about half the sales for the new Vibrancy! expansion residences resulted from new leads, not from the long Canterbury Club wait list. At the same time, census was maintained in the community’s existing residences. That’s the value realized by a “keep your foot on the gas” approach. It also testifies to the fact that we all worked together to successfully implement two separate marketing programs simultaneously.
For any community, the most coveted result is high census that leads to strong revenue. In the case of Westminster Canterbury Richmond, Love & Company teams were involved throughout the intricacies of sales strategies, brand development and lead generation, all to achieve the dual goals of full occupancy in the existing residences and a successfully launched expansion.
Contact Love & Company’s team of seasoned sales and marketing professionals. We are ready to listen and help you achieve your goals. We welcome the opportunity to start a conversation.