Marketing Gurus: 3 Ways to Implement Brands at the Street Level

Feedback. It plays a key role in top providers’ marketing strategies, but figuring out how to effectively and efficiently construe input from those in the front lines of an operation can be a challenge.

But doing so is a must, senior living marketing gurus agree, noting that the days of marketing campaigns being disseminated from an ivory tower are long gone.

“Feedback is a gift,” said Jonathan Ruchman, vice president of brand marketing at Brookdale Senior Living, during the recent 2014 Senior Care Marketing Sales Summit in Chicago. “And every day is Christmas.”

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And while Brookdale (NYSE: BKD) is experiencing the growing pains of its recent  $2.8 billion merger with Emeritus Senior Living Corp. (NYSE: ESC), Ruchman says successful alignment of the two brands boils down to setting expectations and following through at every level of operation.

“It’s like when two airlines merge,” he said. “You have to do everything from painting the planes to changing the cocktail napkins.”

But beyond bricks and mortar unification, a company’s brand and message must be realized at the street level —  by the customer and employees who are often the first representation of a company’s mission and values.

“How does a brand show up at this key moment of truth?” he said. “It comes down to your promise, and then delivering that promise every day, person by person.”

1. Learn from mistakes.

Contacting a prospective resident or family member within five minutes of that person showing interest online makes that person 100 times more likely to be engaged than following up 30 minutes later, recent research shows.

Providing quick turnaround inspired Presbyterian Homes & Services and Sunrise Senior Living to implement various strategies to ensure someone was always available to speak with prospective residents — but some approaches worked better than others, company representatives said.

“We’re all hands on deck when it comes to our marketing,” said Peggy Scoggins, director of sales & marketing for Presbyterian Homes & Services. “Every time the phone rings or someone walks through the door we want to connect them with a live person, but that went all the way down to the caregivers — and that was a mistake. If they’re answering a call, then what are they not doing?”

Formal structures help all team members to be more confident and engaged in the marketing experience, said Kelly Myers, senior vice president of sales at Sunrise Senior Living, noting that Sunrise has also had to nix certain procedures that did more harm than good.

“No matter how polite the concierge is, if [he or she] has to chase down someone to speak with a prospective resident that can be an all day thing and [annoy the prospect],” she said. “Now, the all hands-on-deck person has a phone at all times, and front desk isn’t chasing that person down.”

2. Personalize community tours.

When planning a tour for a perspective resident to a senior living community, it’s important to identify who the most meaningful team member will be for that person to meet, Myers said.

“If food is a big deal then schedule a sit down with the dining services coordinator,” Myers said, adding that at Sunrise the community’s executive director will follow up with the prospective resident the day following a visit to ask about their experience and answer additional questions.

3. Look outside the industry for new ideas.

Senior housing newcomer Avanti Senior Living, which entered the market last fall, promotes creativity when it comes to creating campaigns that resonate with the prospective resident.

“There’s no stupid, or wrong idea,” said Lori Alford, COO of Avanti Senior Living, adding that team members are encouraged to bring in ads from other industries they think are successful and discuss how to use those ideas to Avanti’s benefit. “We say, ‘Go big or go home.’”

In addition, team members also discuss bad ads from inside the industry to learn what not to do.

“‘You’re locked in forever,’ or ‘Short stays here’ might as well have an angel of death in the ad,” Alford said, noting such messages have been spread by senior living providers. “No wonder most people are scared of [senior housing]. We need to push people to think differently.”

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

Written by Cassandra Dowell

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