3 Ways to Solve Senior Housing’s Biggest Marketing Challenge

Converting leads to move-ins is a tough task to begin with in senior living, but when multiple generations are involved in the decision, it becomes even more of a challenge.

Adult children participate in 73% of senior housing decisions, according to 2014 figures from the American Senior Housing Association (ASHA). When the inquirer is an adult child, the move-in rate is three times higher than if an individual sought senior housing for him or herself, data from third-party referral agent Caring.com suggests.

“Even for older people who are still pretty independent, having an adult child involved means it moves along more quickly,” Katie Roper, vice president of sales and marketing for Caring.com, said.

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That means providers have their work cut out for them in appealing to adult children without alienating their loved ones in the process, according to a webinar put on by Caring.com titled “Multi-Generational Marketing in Senior Living.” But there are certain tips and tricks they can employ to win the multigenerational marketing game.

1. Consider where different generations learn about communities.

As senior living providers market across generations, it’s important to note where potential residents and their adult children are discovering their options.

Whereas 40% of adult children surveyed by Caring.com indicated local knowledge of senior housing options as a factor in selecting a community, a separate survey conducted by Varsity Branding shows 65% of senior housing residents and prospects who responded stopped by communities they already knew.

“If you’re expecting an adult child to just know about your community, you might want to think again,” Roper said.

Meanwhile, in both surveys, online searches proved popular across the board, solidifying this as an important piece of the marketing mix.

In this regard, stories shared online matter, said Shannon Ingram, vice president of sales and marketing for Oregon-based Anthem Memory Care, a developer and operator with about 10 communities. Social media, reviews and testimonials are all important facets and should be used strategically, she said, as high percentages of baby boomers use sites like Facebook.

Similarly, New Jersey-based operator Juniper Communities is active on Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest, said Cindy Longfellow, national director of sales and marketing.

2. Understand the power of sharing stories.

No matter the platform, one thing is certain: stories are incredibly valuable in marketing senior living to adult children and potential residents alike.

“People will forget data and details, but they’ll never forget a good story,” Longfellow said.

Stories help providers illustrate senior living at its core and dispel any misconceptions about the industry, she said. These might be about residents, or families describing their journey in making a decision.

Sharing stories can also involve playing up a company’s mission, values and cultures. Consumers tend to feel most engaged when they share values with a given company, so touting them works to a provider’s advantage, Longfellow said.

3. Give up the end result.

Many salespeople go into a situation with the end result in mind. Instead, Ingram suggested giving up whatever conclusion might come from a conversation and remain in the present moment, focusing on the interaction at hand.

Giving up the end result denotes negating any preconceived notions of where a meeting or conversation might go.

“It’s a different way of working with people as opposed to spilling our guts about how great our community is,” Ingram said.

As part of this approach, it’s also crucial to always acknowledge potential residents and not talk around them to their adult children. This means using their names, not speaking in third-person, Ingram said.

Even if a family comes to a community and says they’re not ready, it’s important to remain engaged with them. Ask questions about what brought them in for a visit, and where their loved ones are at physically, emotionally and mentally.

“It’s all about the connection and engagement,” Longfellow said. “There needs to be that magic moment, where the perception of who we are and what we offer and the reality of it meld together.”

Written by Kourtney Liepelt

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