For many senior living companies, the holiday season is by far the biggest sales opportunity of the year, with some seeing inquiries increase as much as 25% post-Thanksgiving and double that in January.
The industry historically experiences increased inquiries right before and immediately after Thanksgiving, says Chris Rodde, CEO of SeniorHomes.com, an online directory and resource for those seeking senior housing and care options. There’s usually an 8-10 day period right after the holiday when lead volumes are up around 25% compared to normal levels of activity.
“After that peak, there’s a long slide all the way down to Christmas as people get more and more engaged in the holidays and focus on preparing for the holidays,” Rodde says.
But then in the days after Christmas, activity starts to pick back up and peaks again a few days into the new year, he says, typically around January 3 or 4.
“The whole month of January is really a strong month in terms of people looking for senior care services,” Rodde says, adding that the post-Christmas and New Year’s peak volume is around 40-50% higher than standard levels.
Care.com, an online site that connects caregivers with families seeking care services, said it is staffing up as the holiday season kicks off. Between December 2012 and January 2013, the company saw a 100% spike in job postings for senior care.
On the provider side, communities that are attuned to traffic increases are expected to also staff up.
“It’s about planning, making sure people at the community level are ready and staffed appropriately,” Rodde says. “That may mean someone has to work on the day after Christmas, or on New Year’s day or the following day, even if it’s a Sunday. That’s critical because of the volume of inquiries that comes in.”
Communities that aren’t prepared could miss out on the opportunity to convert on hot prospects who may have just realized their loved one is in need of care services.
“The holidays can be difficult for families who are alarmed by their loved one’s deteriorating health [or] cannot accommodate the needs of their loved one,” says Cathy Martin, President and CEO of Hamlyn Senior Marketing in a recent holiday-themed newsletter.
Part of what providers should be doing when they engage with a prospect is make sure that person—or family—feels like the community is going to be a place where they want to live and call home, says Rodde.
Decking the Halls
“When you think about the holiday season, it’s really about embracing that season to the extent you have people coming in on a tour and making sure it feels like the holidays,” he says. “You’ve developed that atmosphere—not only for the prospects, but also for the people that live there.”
Senior care referral service A Place for Mom agrees, writing in a recent blog post that the holidays are the best time to tour assisted living communities.
“Since there are so many social events over the holidays at communities—choirs, carol singers, tree lighting, intergenerational events with children and festive dinners—you can request a calendar of events be mailed to your senior,” Alycia Altman, a senior living advisor for APFM says in the post. “Most importantly, because the events center around music, children, food and family fellowship, our loved ones do not feel pressured or singled out.”
Some providers offer specific specials or incentives for people to take action before the end of the year, says Rodde.
“It’s a typical thing in sales, whether it’s car dealerships or other industries,” he says. “Some communities are giving away a free month’s rent, or a voucher to get a couple thousand dollars toward rent.”
Another way providers are preparing is to produce holiday-themed stories pushed out through blogs or email blasts.
“We’re definitely seeing holiday topical stories, through blogs,” Rodde says. “A lot of bigger providers are good at putting out a lot of good, high-quality content. It becomes more interesting to people during the holidays.”
Emeritus Senior Living—the nation’s largest assisted living provider—sent out an email blast ahead of Thanksgiving in honor of National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month announcing the launch of its “Memorable Moments” campaign. While not specifically designated as a holiday effort, it’s geared toward guiding families help loved ones with memory impairments enjoy the holiday season and includes a gift card for a free meal at an Emeritus community—a marketing strategy to get people in the door.
“Winter months generally see more healthcare sales,” says Kristine Graeber, senior regional manager at Greystone Communities, Inc., adding that there’s “no real pattern” for top sales months for the company’s Midwest CCRCs. “It’s absolutely different for what you’d see with independent living sales.”
While independent living doesn’t see the same demand spike as more needs-based communities, providers tend to embrace the season’s marketing opportunity.
“Usually during the winter we do more bigger, splashier, lead generating events like holiday open houses or luncheons,” Graeber says. “It’s about getting the right lure, and you want to do that at a time with more exciting events.”
Written by Alyssa Gerace