3 Senior Housing Marketing Strategies That Deliver Results

In the sales world, it’s called a “micro-yes.” In the senior living world, it’s called guiding a lead.

But the idea is the same: Marketers and senior living providers, alike, must guide customers and prospects along through a series of smaller decision points, or micro-yeses, to get to the ultimate yes, which is the purchase — or the move-in.

“Moving into senior living is such a major commitment,” says Erin Read, director of strategic planning at Creating Results, a marketing agency that works with senior living providers. “So it’s important to build trust with prospects so they get the information they need in a controlled fashion and can be guided along to that ultimate decision to move in.”

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The best way to do so? Host events and programs aimed at getting leads into the community, fostering relationships with them and learning what they want. Each time prospects attend an event, they make a small commitment to the community. And each time after that, they’re closer to moving in.

“These mini commitments show us that they’re serious about senior living and they’ll also uncover any objections they have,” says Tim Hearl, regional sales manager of Seniority Inc., which provides senior housing marketing and sales services. “By going to these events, they start to create a framework of: How will this fit my lifestyle and what am I looking for in my retirement years?”

For some senior living communities, this marketing strategy is the underlying theme behind day-to-day efforts. Here’s how they’re using it:

1. A Step-by-Step Approach

Arbor Glen, a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Bridgewater, N.J., says it shortens the sales cycle by hosting a number of events that gradually lead to a personalized one-on-one appointment.

Though common among many senior housing providers, the CCRC’s “Dine and Discover” series is targeted at first-time visitors, while the next step up — the resident panel — is geared toward repeat visitors.

The first is an educational session that covers important topics such as specifc senior living options and aspects of the aging process. It gives prospects their first peek into senior living and, more importantly, into the community itself.

“We like to call them ‘Dine and Discovers,’ because it’s not just learning about the community, but discovering it yourself,” says Hearl, of Seniority Inc., which has been working with Arbor Glen on its sales and marketing initiatives for six months.

The resident panel, on the other hand, gives prospects yet a closer look at the community and its offerings. During these events, they interact directly with current residents who answer questions, share their thoughts and give attendees a firsthand experience of what it’s like to live there, Hearl says.

“The whole goal is to get people engaged in the community,” he says. “We find these events help people move along the sales process. The resident panels are a great way to help them overcome that ‘I’m not ready yet’ scenario.”

Additionally, Arbor Glen hosts events aimed at connecting prospects and current residents who share common interests, such as traveling.

“The whole goal is to get people engaged in the community,” Hearl says. “All of these things really do help accelerate the sales process. Most people are complacent [aging in place] and that’s the attitude a lot of them have, so it’s up to us to find out what will motivate them to make a change.”

2. Guest Stay Programs (And Contests)

Similar to some model units at senior living communities, guest homes at Traditions of America allow prospects to test drive the community before buying into it.

Traditions of America (ToA), which operates eight 55-plus communities in Pennsylvania, offers guest stay programs for leads to “try before they buy.”

In fact, “Try Before You Buy” is the name one of its programs, which aims to make the decision to move easier for potential homeowners.

While this particular program includes a one-night stay, the provider also recently rolled out a three-day, two-night “Stay and Play” package that prospects can enter to win. Launched last year, the contest includes tickets to a local show or performance, a homeowner happy hour complete with complimentary drinks, a meal at a local restaurant, and more.

“We’ve found that it’s much easier to say ‘yes’ to a weekend than a full-on purchase agreement,” says Sara Kosteva, ToA’s director of marketing. “After they’ve enjoyed a full weekend, they’re usually pretty speedy to sign on with us. It allows them to stay in our custom homes, utilize the clubhouse, meet current homeowners and get a sense for what the community is really like.”

3. ‘Gold Card’ Waitlists

While some programs target potential leads, others are aimed at cultivating and maintaining relationships with those prospects who have already made a pretty big commitment to the community: the waitlisters.

To keep them interested and engaged as they wait for the right unit to become available, senior living communities have developed marketing programs specific to these individuals.

Take Kahala Nui, for example, which has a waitlist of anywhere from one and a half to four years. The Hawaii-based nonprofit CCRC, which recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, created a “gold club” membership to allow waitlisters to become more involved in the community.

The “membership” comes with a number of benefits to the community’s waitlisters and grants priority status for certain events on campus. What it also does is make prospects more comfortable with the idea of moving in.

“When someone’s been on the waitlist for two to three years, or even less, and it’s their time to move in, they’re walking into unknown territory and it can be very intimidating,” says Darlene Canto, director of marketing and community outreach. “But having them come to different events on campus has really allowed them to feel part of the community before they actually have to move in, so the move-in process is a lot less daunting.”

Similarly, Oakmont Senior Living’s Capriana community in Brea, Calif., created Club Capriana, a fancy name for its waitlist, and develops marketing programs and events targeted at these individuals.

Whether it’s an “Antiques Roadshow”-inspired event, a luau with fire dancers or a wine tasting, “we go all out for these events, because we want to wow them,” says Brent Rodriguez, marketing director for Villagio at Capriana, the community’s memory care building.

Through Club Capriana, waitlisters can attend all of the community’s events and enjoy free meals each month.

“We want to get them excited about moving in,” Rodriguez says.

Whatever the case — whether engaging those who are already on the waitlist or attracting new prospects — developing marketing strategies around the “micro-yes” concept is critical to guiding leads down the path to move-in.

“The idea of product sampling, guest stays, of useful resources for their decision making — they all lead directly to the desired business result which is purchase,” says Read, of Creating Results.

Each small commitment prospects make will ultimately lead them to the big decision of moving in. And making it easier for them to do so is increasingly important for senior living providers.

“We have to understand that everybody comes to senior living from a different place and with different needs,” Read says. “So how can we adjust our marketing to meet those needs? Micro-yeses are one way to do that.”

Written by Emily Study

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