Why Consumer Marketing Alone Won’t Cut it in Senior Living

Senior woman using remote control while relaxing on armchair at home

Marketing Matters is brought to you by Solutions Advisors and Retiring by Design. Working together, Solutions Advisors and Retiring by Design give you the analytic and creative synergy to develop unique solutions and achieve optimum results for your senior living community, providing management, operations, marketing, and sales consulting services. 

It’s a balancing act — create a marketing campaign that successfully reaches both consumers and professionals. And it can leave senior living providers straddling two worlds — one that is consumer-focused and another that is business-focused.


But marketing campaigns can cater to two groups simultaneously, and it’s imperative, marketing experts say, as the lines between senior living and health care continue to blur.

Seniors are becoming more savvy regarding their living and health care options, said Alexandra Morehouse, vice president of brand experience and advertising at Kaiser Permanente during the 2014 Senior Care Marketing Sales Summit in Chicago on Thursday.

“[Providers] can’t afford to talk to the consumer anymore,” Morehouse said, noting that today’s consumer plays a key role in shaping the dialogue between a company and its audience. “Power is going into the hand of the consumer.”


Kaiser, a health insurance provider, recently expanded its B2B marketing to also include B2C consumer outreach.

“Shopping for health insurance has moved from B2B to consumer[-driven],” she said, noting that the same can be said for senior living providers, especially those in the post acute space. “People are much more likely to trust a public rating than advertising.”

1. Build one site for two audiences.

Health care professionals and other strategic partners want to know more about the type of acuity or expertise offered, while consumers are looking for how a community will fit into their lifestyle. And the sooner providers can triage those two audiences the better.

A company’s website can be a key tool in reaching both audiences without burdening either visitor with information they don’t want or need, Morehouse said.

“So, have a drop down menu or central location [on the website] that says, ‘If you’re an employer/clincian [click here] and if you’re an individual shopper [click here],’” she said. “Then you can divert them to different resources. Get them to self identify so that they don’t have to do a lot of hunting on the website.”

2. Keep it simple.

Today’s consumer is confused by the options available, but also accustomed to finding what they need at any time in a digital format.

In fact, about 80% of consumers searching for senior living or health care products search online first, she said.

“You want a clear and simple campaign,” she said. “Consumers really want options. If they’re having some sort of crisis they want to feel like they’re in control. If you allow people to participate then they feel like they have control — even if the outcome will be the same — and that will lead to a higher close rate.”

And marketing efforts can even be seen in bills and related payment paperwork.

“We tend to think of marketing as brochures,” Morehouse said. “But, the consumer is going to ask, ‘Do I understand what services I’m paying for? Consumers are saying, ‘Empower me.’”

3. Start local — go big. 

When it comes to outreach, build from the bottom up.

“Senior living is local, and you want to build people who are advocates,” she said, noting the power of review sites. “You want people to say, ‘They took good care of my mom.’ Before [consumers] make a senior living or health care purchase, they use over 11 sources of information to help them make their purchase decision.”

Providers can evaluate their sales strategy through customer journey mapping, or taking note of what role the provider played in each step of the prospect’s decision making process.

“Where are you when they come to consider [senior living]?” she said. “They might just be dipping their toe in. You want to make sure you show up when they search online. How do you participate in each step of the way?”

As providers continue to grow through mergers and acquisitions, smaller communities may struggle to align with a new corporate brand. And that can pose a challenge for marketers who want to maintain local relationships, but need to  rebrand new communities to align with the dominant corporate image.

“Health care is extremely local,” she said. “But it’s important to have a corporate identity. A template gives you consistency [across marketing platforms]. You want to use the dominant brand and then the subordinate brand — show them together. It’s sort of like leaving bread crumbs for the consumer so they can follow the trail and know who they’re talking to.”

For more information about Solutions Advisors and Retiring by Design, visit solutions-advisors.com.

Written by Cassandra Dowell

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