Why Your Senior Living Marketing Budget Needs A Second Look (And 3 Keys To A Refreshed Budgeting Approach)

By Lisa Pearre, Principal and Chief Client Services Officer

In the wake of the past 18 months, wouldn’t it seem silly for any senior living organization to approach things the way it had before? This is the thought that inspired our webinar, “Approach Your Marketing Budget With Fresh Eyes,” especially as many organizations head into budgeting season.

With this in mind, we think it’s an appropriate time to share why we believe that taking a refreshed approach to any senior living marketing budget is so important. Whether or not you’ve been planning your marketing budget based on any data or goals from the past couple of years, here is why—and how—to take a second look.

Understanding the current situation

We often talk about a “disciplined process” in terms of your team’s sales efforts, but this philosophy applies to your marketing program, too. Many communities are finding themselves with a need to rebuild occupancy, whereas before the pandemic they may have maintained a stabilized occupancy level.

Relative to the current realities in our field, perhaps more than ever, taking a disciplined approach to budgeting is paramount to achieving your occupancy and sales goals.

Furthermore, even if you are satisfied with your current occupancy, it’s wise to take a hard, fresh look at how your marketing dollars are working for you. Leveraging what we’ve learned since early 2020 is another important best practice.

Here are three steps that your organization should take at the outset to ensure that it approaches its next budget adroitly.

1) Goal-centric budgeting

Make sure your budget is clearly tied to the occupancy goals you want to achieve, including the sales necessary for both the desired net increase in move-ins and to replace attrition.

For example, if your goal is to increase overall occupancy by 10 residences in the next fiscal year, you must know how many sales you need to make to achieve a net increase of 10 new residents. If your attrition rate is one move-out per month, then you’ll need to make 22 sales to net the desired 10-resident occupancy increase. That means you’ll need to budget for 22 sales, not just 10.

And, as with any goal your organization sets, make sure it is a SMART one (which is something that webinar co-panelist Amy Brodie discusses in this article.)

2) Look back to look ahead

Look back at which marketing and sales efforts have worked and which haven’t, both prior to and during the pandemic. Use this information to take a critical look at what marketing efforts truly warrant remaining part of your program. Don’t fall into the trap of “we’ve always done it that way.”

If your organization has always spent 30 percent of its marketing budget on direct mail pieces, take a hard look at the results you’ve gotten and see where shifting budget may be appropriate. This is certainly not the time to continue with ineffective marketing tactics.

On the other side of that coin, it’s time to capitalize on what you’ve seen to be most effective since early 2020. From our view, that’s been tactics like virtual events, webinars and new ways to connect with prospects digitally that are here to stay.

3) Think big

With the pandemic getting further in the rearview, Life Plan Communities can refocus on their future and long-term goals. Even though a particular goal or vision can seem far away, an organization can take proactive steps toward achieving it by factoring that goal into the next 12 months of its marketing budget. That’s why we recommend determining the major initiative(s) to undertake this coming year that will position your organization for long-term success.

Yes, achieving a particular goal or vision takes several years of planning and execution to come to fruition. However, even if all or most of the work to do it can be achieved within a 12-month timeframe, the budgetary needs cannot always realistically be allocated for that timeframe. Therefore, we advise any organization to identify the steps and budget needed; then map them out over several years to ensure they are attainable both in staff resources and dollars.

From there, your organization will have the framework to start really digging into crafting its ideal senior living marketing budget. And that’s something Amy explores in her article in this series supporting our budgeting webinar, which you can watch here.

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