Making the Case for Price Transparency in Senior Living

The costs of senior living can range from $1,500 to $8,000 a month and beyond — price points providers often hesitate to immediately share with prospective residents.

But these costs, along with billing and payment options, are becoming increasingly important to share upfront with prospects who are in the throes of making a major life decision.

So while some communities avoid openly sharing financial information prior to making contact with prospects, experts find that failing to do so can deter qualified leads from taking the first step.

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In fact, some prospects disqualify themselves based on the misperception that they can’t afford a community, assuming the price is too high even though it isn’t listed, says April LaMon, co-founder of Lead InSite, which provides big data insights for the senior living
and real estate industries.

“There was a day when if someone was interested, they would come in the door, you’d have a conversation with them and walk them through most of the pre-qualifying steps,” LaMon says. “Now it’s widely known and is becoming more embraced by the industry that a lot of the pre-qualifying activity is happening online and without the benefit of a sales counselor’s consultation.”

Because of this, some providers are finding that pricing transparency is key to attracting residents, who are looking more and more to communities’ websites for the information they need. By sharing financial details, providers reap three clear benefits and create a better prospect experience overall.

Here are three ways providers are benefitting from sharing their prices online:

1. Get More Qualified Leads

Imagine the following scenario: An otherwise perfect lead searches online for local senior living communities when he stumbles upon a community that bills itself as an “upscale and luxurious site for the active and engaged senior.”

But after browsing the provider’s website, he assumes he can’t afford the high-end design, services and amenities, so goes on to searching for other area communities.

This is exactly what one senior living provider faced before deciding to share its pricing structure online in May 2014.

“[The provider] had the feeling that prospects were self-selecting themselves out of the process because they assumed they couldn’t afford it,” says LaMon, whose client wished to remain anonymous. “What they believed was that they were, based on perception, turning truly qualified leads away before they got a chance to talk to them.”

So the provider made a commitment to become more transparent, starting with listing their units’ price ranges online and sharing how the sales team qualifies leads. Additionally, the provider hosted events that centered around the financial aspects of the decision and developed a series of FAQs to guide prospects through the process.

And it made a world of difference, LaMon says.

“This client has found that when a lead engages with the sales team, they’re far better educated about the community and ask fewer questions about pricing,” she says. “They’re a confident buyer, versus someone who’s coming in and is, in essence, feeling like they’re being sold to.”

2. Cut Down the Decision-Making Time

When providers arm prospects with financial information, they not only create more qualified leads, but also decrease the conversion time.

This is true for LaMon’s client, which has found that the time it takes to close is shorter now that leads have access to pricing.

“The community finds that leads are better prepared and more qualified, asking different questions and closing more quickly,” LaMon says.

Pennsylvania-based Willow Valley Communities has experienced similar results. Though the operator has provided pricing ranges for several years, in the last few years this information has become more detailed.

With 90 different floor plans, the provider shares a range of prices online, giving prospects an idea of the costs involved with making the move. And doing so accelerates the sales process, says Kim Daly Nobbs, chief marketing officer at Willow Valley Communities

“People come to us as more educated consumers,” she says. “They’ve already done some of the legwork themselves, so they come to us at a different point of readiness than someone who has seen the [pricing] information for the first time.”

Willow Valley pays special attention to its first inquiry-to-close rate, which can be as high as 18 to 24 months, but is around 14 months on average at its communities — something Nobbs attributes in part to the provider’s pricing transparency.

“Having that transparency arms people with the ability to help sell themselves a little before they even get to us,” she says.

3. Convey Respect to Prospects

Prospects’ expectations have changed dramatically over the years, partly fuelled by the wealth of information available online.

So when they arrive at a community’s website, they expect to see basic information: housing, pricing, amenities and care. When they don’t find those components, they get frustrated, lose interest and move on — especially if it’s an adult child, Nobbs says.

“The world is so noisy from a marketing perspective that if you create another item on their to-do list, that’s not going to bode well,” she says. “We want to communicate respect for the prospective resident or adult child, and have found that it really creates more of a bond with our customers if we share [financial] information.”

Being upfront about a community’s prices can make the process easier for both prospective residents and adult children, whose situations are timely and can require the decision to be made quickly.

Pricing transparency also can be a differentiating factor for the prospective resident who would rather access this information at the beginning of the process than wait or hunt it down.

“If they’re in anything of an urgent, need-driven situation, then time is of the essence and you don’t want to create barriers for people who are trying to like you,” Nobbs says. “And if it’s a more desire-driven situation, those are the people who aren’t fooling around — they’re not going to be in a position where they wait for you to reveal the fees.”

Ultimately, sharing prices online is about respecting the prospect and his or her family. And while doing so can lead to more qualified prospects and a quicker sales process, it also speaks volumes about the organization.

“What people are responding to these days is authenticity and transparency,” Nobbs says. “They want to be living in a place that they feel shoots straight, because they’re going to be depending on that for a lot of things when they move into the community.”

Written by Emily Study

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