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September 28, 2017 Article 6 min read

Marketing and sales tactics are incredibly important to the success of all senior living communities. Are your initiatives as up-to-snuff as they could, and should, be?

Senior woman and young girl looking at a computer while sitting on a couch

We won’t be the first ones to break this news to you, as I am sure you are already seeing this trend in your own senior living communities: Occupancy is down all over the country. Not only is it down, but it’s at the lowest levels we’ve seen in years and the trends aren’t pointing north.

According to national data recently compiled by NIC, assisted living and independent living occupancy fell to 86.5% and 90.6%, respectively, in Q2 2017. While demand has been strong for both — assisted living properties experienced a record absorption rate of 4.3% — it hasn’t been strong enough to fill the influx of new communities opening across the country. This has led to low occupancy across the board and available housing left empty for long periods.

Given this unfortunate trend, you’re probably asking yourself, “What can we be doing to improve occupancy?” and “How can we attract new residents?” If you’re not currently in this frame of mind, you will fall behind your competitors.

What can senior living communities do to improve occupancy?

Making immediate improvements to two areas could bolster both interest in your community and your occupancy rates: marketing and sales.

Some communities view marketing and sales initiatives as interchangeable or “one in the same.” However, there is a clear distinction: Marketing gets heads turning toward your community, sales happens once your target is already in the door.

Although the difference may seem small, it is important that communities differentiate their sales and marketing tactics. Only by taking a targeted approach within each arena will your community be able to connect meaningfully with potential residents at each stage of sales funnel: awareness, interest, decision, and action.

But don’t be fooled into separating them too much: Synchronizing these tactics provides potential residents with a positive, consistent message about the benefits of your community.

Marketing gets heads turning toward your community, sales happens once your target is already in the door.

In conducting marketing and sales audits at many senior living communities, our team has seen communities attempt to deploy many tactics to get seniors interested in moving in. Here are 10 proven marketing and sales tactics that consistently help senior living communities improve occupancy.

5 marketing tactics to increase interest in your senior living community

#1 Ensure your website is up to par with your competitors’.

Is your website easy to navigate, even for someone who’s not tech savvy? Can you type your web address manually without struggling? Does your website load quickly? Are you using high-quality images of your available units, landscaping, amenities, and dining spaces? Is your website mobile friendly? Your community’s first impression often happens online. You must invest time and energy to make it inviting, with easy navigation, fast and mobile access, and engaging content.

#2 Consistently track the ROI of every marketing initiative.

Each market is going to respond to marketing initiatives differently. While some may find that printed ads work best to draw in seniors and their families, others may conclude that hosting on-site events or “open houses” are the best way to create interest. Careful tracking is essential to make sure you’re investing your valuable marketing dollars only on tactics with high returns.

#3 Be aware of what is being said about your community online.

While getting negative reviews can be difficult and damaging to your brand, it is important you have a member of your team respond to concerns posted online as soon as possible. You want to show people that management at your community is willing to make things right when they go wrong. Sometimes, a great response to a bad review means more to potential residents and their families than the bad review itself.

#4 Use Google AdWords to help you stay visible in web searches.

Google AdWords is a customizable, efficient marketing tool used by millions of businesses to get their organizations noticed online. Chances are, your competitors are already using it. Stay at the top of Google search results — and top of mind for those who are looking for a new place to live — by considering an investment into this service.

#5 Use your current residents as “brand ambassadors.”

Do you have current residents who love living in your community? Those seniors — and their families — may be willing to become “brand ambassadors” to promote your community. Consider starting a “resident referral program” that asks residents to refer their friends. You can use that connection to let potential residents know that because their friend loves living there, so would they.

5 sales tactics to convince your prospective residents to move in

#1 Make sure all sales personnel have formal training.

No matter how small or temporary a role, make sure each staff member has formal training on sales etiquette and strategy. Include weekend staff, after-hours reception, and other roles outside of your 9-to-5 lineup. One slip up could mean an irreversible impression and a lost sale.

#2 Be open and transparent with community information.

Residents moving into a community and away from life-long homes have a lot to think about and many questions to ask. Don’t hold information hostage as a quid pro quo for contact information. The most important thing you can do is make seniors feel comfortable with the idea of moving in. They need full disclosure to make the decision.

#3 Listen to what the potential resident REALLY needs.

Sales staff are often so hyper-focused on going through the motions of a tour that they forget an important first step. Before the tour, sales staff should get to know perspective residents and learn their needs. A “home body” may be overwhelmed or turned off if the salesperson emphasizes high-activity areas. If the senior is reluctant to move, teach your sales staff how to dig into the root of why so together, with the senior and his or her family, they can work through any insecurities.

#4 Use a CRM system to track lead interaction.

Don’t rely on your staff’s anecdotal recall to understand your marketing and sales initiatives’ effectiveness. Whether staff contact leads in person, via email, or over the phone, track every interaction with every lead, every time. A customer relationship management (CRM) system is the most effective way to gauge the impact of tactics on your sales traffic.

#5 Be willing to ask for the sale.

While you don’t want to be too pushy, not asking for a sale could lead to losing out on the sale altogether. Ask the potential resident, “What will it take to make you to move?” or “When can we expect you to move? Let’s discuss some potential move-in dates that fit your schedule.” You might be surprised at the positive response this gets. 

Steps you should take to improve your marketing and sales initiatives

So there you have it: 10 marketing and sales tactics to improve senior living occupancy.

Your next steps? Download our checklist to compare these tactics to your community’s marketing and sales initiatives for a quick way to make improvements that will help attract new residents and increase occupancy.

If you prefer a more comprehensive assessment, we would be happy to help you evaluate your departments’ initiatives as part of our marketing and sales audit services.

The 10 tactics we provided are a great place to start, but there are still many other areas within your business you should assess to ensure your community’s occupancy levels improve year to year. Your facilities, service mix, staffing, and many other factors also affect occupancy.

Plante Moran Living Forward has a multidisciplinary team that can help you think through all of these factors. We bring financial feasibility, market study and site selection, operations consulting, and development advisory services under a single point of contact to help senior living providers stay competitive, grow, and provide quality care. Contact us today to learn more.