Category Archive: Blog

  1. It’s in the mail: 9 reasons why direct mail continues to drive occupancy in senior living sales

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    When marketing senior living communities, there are many tactics to include in the mix. PPC ads. SEO. Outreach. And direct mail. Lots of it.

    Direct mail advertising is considered anything physical – printed or produced – that is sent to potential customers. In senior living marketing, Solutions Advisors Group works with our clients to target specific demographics and neighborhoods near the community and send direct mail post cards, folded mailers and elaborate invitations to prospects who would make ideal residents. These can be grand opening announcements, incentive offers or invitations to any number of events held on or off campus.

    Because it is a proven marketing tactic for senior living communities of any size, we’ve come up with this list of 9 reasons to add direct mail to your marketing toolkit.

    1. Direct mail is more likely to be read. In fact, it can be welcome! Due to digital fatigue, people are more excited to receive their mail each day than before the pandemic. And even though the average person gets two pieces of mail each day compared to 57 emails, they are reading it! According to a study by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), direct mail open rates can reach up to 90% as opposed to email at approximately 23%, and 42% of recipients read or scan mail they receive. This means the vast majority of recipients will see your direct marketing message.
    2. People like direct mail. Many people, especially older adults, enjoy receiving mail. 70% of consumers say direct mail is more personal than online interactions. Direct mail has an average lifespan of 17 days meaning that cute design just might end up on someone’s refrigerator.
    3. Direct mail offers great response rates. Direct mail has always been a leader in response rates when compared to other marketing methods and has gotten even better in recent years. A study by the Data & Marketing Association (DMA) reported response rates at 9% for in-house databases and 5% for prospects or purchased lists. Email can’t even come close to a 5% response. “At Solutions Advisors Group, direct mail is typically among the top lead generating tactics, usually just behind PPC advertising,” explained Deb Lyons, Director of Creative and Production at Solutions Advisors Group. As many as 39% of consumers try a business for the first time because of direct mail. Older adults looking for a new home aren’t any different!
    4. Direct mail can be highly targeted. Direct mail lets you take full advantage of all the consumer information available. You can buy lists based on professions, purchase preferences, ages and much more. That allows senior living marketers to hone a very targeted message, too. To get in front of prospects, there are two main types of mailings:
      • Saturation Mailing: a saturation mailing list targets all of the addresses within a carrier route – subset of a zip code – so you can pick the neighborhoods you want to include or exclude. You can further refine this targeting by excluding specific types of addresses (PO Boxes, drop addresses and businesses). You can also include or remove carrier routes based on median data such as Age, Area Population, Average Household Net Worth, Home Values, Household Income, Renter/Owner, Single or Multi-family Units and Years of Education.
      • Purchased Mailing Lists: a purchased mailing list targets individuals instead of neighborhoods. Some of the most common targeting options we use at SAG include age, gender, homeowner status and income.
    5. Direct mail can be easily personalized. Prospects love advertising with a personal touch and customization on direct mail can increase response rates by a factor of 10 or more. Research shows people are more likely to engage with advertising they feel has been tailored to them, including their names or pictures of their hometown or car. Modern printing equipment has expanded customization options so that everyone can receive something unique.
    6. Direct mail can be felt. While we live on numerous platforms in the digital world with endless videos and countless ads, consumers have always preferred a physical form of information. You can increase your chances of being noticed by sending memorable items, such as oversized postcards, magnets that can be hung on the refrigerator and even interactive mailers with scratch-off prizes or smartphone-friendly QR codes. You can apply textures, send creative 3D objects or even add gloss, cutouts and foil options to any design. This gives you more opportunities to catch attention, draw recipients in and delight them while delivering a marketing message.
    7. Direct mail is cost effective. In addition to simple execution, direct mail is cost effective. According to an annual study by DMA, direct mail has an average ROI of 29%, which is competitive with online media. “Communities can keep mailing affordable by getting a non-profit mailing permit (when appropriate), keeping your mailing list clean and varying the size of the mailer – think folded piece vs. post card,” Lyons added.
    8. Direct mail is highly trackable. It’s important to have a system in place to track direct mail response. Without promotional codes or other means of tracking, it’s impossible to know how successful your campaign has been. At Solutions Advisors Group, we use call tracking, dedicated online landing pages and QR codes. If you’re able to track the success of your direct mailings then you can adjust and evolve your campaign moving forward.
    9. Direct mail complements digital marketing. Direct mail marketing is a key part of a cross-channel marketing strategy, creating aligned advertising campaigns that complement each other. Overall, brand recall is higher if an email campaign is followed up with a direct mail campaign. In addition, brands can get an increased response rate if a digital display ad is followed by a direct mail campaign. The great thing about direct mail marketing is that you can have the best of both worlds. You can reach your customers offline, while still giving them the option to connect with you online. You can include QR codes, social media links and online-only offers. A combined physical and digital presence can dramatically increase impact. At Solutions Advisors Group, community direct mail has resulted in:
      • Website visits up ~68%
      • Response rate up ~63%
      • ROI up ~60%
      • Leads up ~53%

    When looking for a way to connect with seniors, direct mail should not be overlooked. It can be targeted, personalized, cost-effective and a true complement to other on and offline marketing tactics being used to drive occupancy in communities everywhere.

    Interested in adding direct mail to your marketing mix? Request a no-cost consultation with Solutions Advisors Group today.

  2. 11 Signs It’s Time for a New Website

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    Jeff Felton, Solutions Advisors Group, Vice President of Digital Marketing Services, contends that web designs have a shelf life of three to five years. We did a little digging and confirmed that he’s right. According to a survey by Blue Fountain Media, 81% of internet users think less of a business if the website is not updated, and 39% would think twice about using a product or service if the website is not fresh, user friendly and current. We found there are at least 11 signs it is time to consider a new website!

    1. Your objectives have changed. What was the purpose of your website when you launched it? Increased occupancy? Name recognition? Introducing a new or expanding community? Even if your site is beautifully designed, if it doesn’t match your current company brand, it may need a redesign to ensure your mission and values shine through. Documenting the journey your site visitor might take can help you see your website in an entirely new light.
    2. You can’t navigate your website easily on a mobile phone. Having a mobile-friendly or responsive website design also affects other factors. More than 50% of website traffic comes from mobile devices. Google search favors websites that look good on smart phones and other mobile devices. Google began indexing websites based on their mobile version, not their desktop version.  More than 290 million people have smartphones, so it is very likely that a prospect will visit your site only on their phone. If visitors cannot find what they need quickly and easily on your mobile website it’s a clear sign it’s time to update.
    3. It wasn’t built using WordPress. Every marketer doesn’t need to be a website expert, but with a WordPress website, you have a chance! If your website uses the WordPress platform, you or your team can add events, update pricing or incentives, change team pages within minutes, or add other updates to keep the site fresh and keep users returning to your site. It should be constantly evolving as Google craves new content.
    4. You’ve installed a lot of plugins. Most website platforms support the use of third-party plugins. However, the more plugins, the more opportunities there are for site performance issues. If you have more than five or six plugins installed, chances are your site’s performance is being affected. If you are nearing the dozen mark, your site is trying to be something it isn’t and it’s time for a website update.
    5. It’s no longer visually appealing. What may have been trendy when you first created your website could now be out of date or look poorly designed by today’s standards. If your site looks professional and is loaded with useful information, visitors will see you as an authority and expert. Likewise, if your site looks poorly designed or out-of-date, they may make the same assumptions about your organization. Outdated sites can seem unsafe or send negative trust signals. Compare your current site to your competition and update your website visuals if yours aren’t up to par. Large images, appealing colors, and open or flat design elements are the ‘new normal’ user experience. And be sure to check both computer and phone views of your website. Both should be appealing and easy to navigate.
    6. The navigation feels awkward. If your objectives have changed, there is a good chance the menu should change, too. Depending on when your website was created, there may be a greater number of navigation options available. Check the website yourself: How easy is it to find information and complete actions? If it seems difficult or confusing to a first-time user or takes more than two clicks, it’s time to upgrade.
    7. Speed is slow. If you are using video (you should be, if you aren’t), page load times can start to slow. If your website wasn’t built to support video content, you should move to a platform that works well with stand-alone video or integrates easily with YouTube. Slow loading could be caused by a variety of factors, including large images, underpowered hosting or an older, poorly performing theme. Take a look at the speed of your webpages with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. If your score is below average, it could be worth a conversation with your web agency to figure out your next steps.
    8. Your SEO needs love. Search engine optimization (SEO) requirements change every few months or so it seems. If your website hasn’t been updated in a while, your ranking is probably not very high on search engines. Updating your website can be a great way to boost your search engine rank as you can take this time to add in keywords and phrases, as well as improve the organization of your content. And if you don’t have a blog yet, this is a perfect time to add one and update it with new content regularly to drive more traffic your way.
    9. Your website has been hacked. Security is a top priority for all businesses, but it is something that is often overlooked in the senior living industry. If your website is hacked and prospect or resident information is compromised, this could lead to a lack of trust that harms your community. If your site isn’t secure for all visitors, you need to invest in a new site sooner than later.
    10. Lead generation slows down. If you are driving prospects to your website, but they aren’t converting at the pace they used to, it could be time for a change. Maybe your content needs to be updated or your forms aren’t using best practices. A high bounce rate or low conversions could also signify that your users are disengaged. No matter how you are measuring, monthly metrics can help you determine the need for an update or entire new website.
    11. It doesn’t meet Google’s new Core Web Vitals criteria. What does that even mean? (link to write up on Core Web Vitals) Google announced that it will be adding page experience signals to how it ranks sites in the search engine results pages (SERPs), with the aim to allow websites to rank higher based on the quality of their user experience. The Core Web Vitals and existing metrics measured include things called First Input Delay (the time it takes for a page to become interactive) and Largest Contentful Paint (the time it takes for a page’s main content to load). If you have a site that isn’t meeting these Google-driven metrics, your user experience will be sub-par meaning your rankings and, subsequently, your traffic could suffer.

    How many of the reasons above have been mentioned in your community’s marketing and sales meetings in the past year? If you answered more than a few, it’s time! With a little planning, a solid web platform and lots of great copy and images, your community’s website will be selling for you in no time!

    Websites can be complicated, but they don’t need to be scary. In fact, updating or designing a new website we tackle together. At Solutions Advisors Group, our digital marketing team is here to develop digital strategies and supporting tactics that help you overcome any sales and marketing hurdles your community can possibly face. Contact us to learn how.

  3. Chatbots: Part-Time Virtual Salesperson Increases Tours

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    Whether you subscribe to the prospect-centered approach as the centerpiece of your sales and marketing philosophy or not, few could have predicted that the website chatbot would become such an important tool for the senior living digital marketer. Afterall, the thought of an emotionless, automated answering machine sounded like the opposite of how we should engage with senior living prospects. But like most ‘smart’ technological advancements, the chatbot has automated our interactions by chatting with us through a very conversational interface.

    And that’s great for senior living marketing, because these bots are proving to be extremely successful at handling routine inquiries and advancing the prospect through the sales journey.

    Here are six of the top reasons why you should be including chat bots as part of your marketing mix:

    1. Chatbots are always available. If an adult child has time to do research at midnight or senior prospect wakes up early with some questions, a chatbot is always available on your website.
    2. Chatbots can handle multiple customers at the same time. No one likes a busy signal or a voicemail. With a chatbot, a prospect will never have to wait for a salesperson to get off the phone or finish a tour to get basic questions answered.
    3. Chatbots can collect and analyze data. Do you get a lot of inquiries Sunday afternoon? Is everyone looking for price? By analyzing the content of your inquiries (and when you get them!), you may have enough compelling data to adjust your tour hours, or add a pricing page to your website or develop more educational content to help seniors and/or their influencers with their research.
    4. Chatbots can help you personalize your conversations with customers. If a prospect is only interested in assisted living, for example, questions and answers can be served to take then exclusively down the assisted living path!
    5. Chatbots can answer routine questions to free up your sales team to connect with their quality leads. Do you get asked about pricing every day? Or what your pet policy is? Or if your community accepts Medicare? Chat bots help non-qualifiers self-select out and qualifiers to engage more deeply with your community.
    6. Chatbots are becoming more mainstream, particularly out of necessity. Many service companies, from utilities to phone to banking have shifted to (AI)artificial intelligence chat bots to interact with their customers. Our audience is becoming more familiar and trusting of chat bots as a way of handling their personal business.

    The Davis Community, a retirement community in Wilmington, North Carolina, found that adding a chatbot doubled the number of tours that were scheduled on the weekend. “The Chabot is available 24/7 and is able to answer many questions immediately from our website in real time, without customers having to wait for a return phone call,” said Julie Lewis, Sales & Marketing Director at The Davis Community. “It assists in filtering prospects and directing them to the appropriate service line (Skilled Nursing, Assisted Living, Memory Care, Independent Living) so we are able to be thoroughly prepared when reaching out to them.” The Davis Community received 60+ inquiries and scheduled 22 tours online in the first 90 days using their chatbot with very little human interaction according to analytics.

    If the logistics of implementing a chat bot is daunting and holding you back from moving forward, then rest assured that the anxiety is far worse than the reality of launching a chat bot. By working with your webmaster or an agency partner like Solutions Advisors Group, you’ll quickly realize the process of onboarding this part-time salesperson is much more effortless than imagined. Contact us today to learn more!


  4. Seasonality in Senior Living Digital Marketing is Real. Here’s What We See.

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    The popular phrase ‘don’t wish away your days waiting for better ones ahead’ is certainly one that resonates within the senior living industry as we collectively undertake a mission of inspiring older adults to embrace their legacy, and invest in their physical, spiritual, social and mental well-being TODAY, not tomorrow. However, for the digital marketer within senior living, sometimes tomorrow looks a whole lot better than today.

    Metrics don’t lie. But they do tell a story.

    After years of collecting data and unenthusiastically anticipating the year-end metrics that come from our digital marketing efforts, the Solutions Advisors Group team of digital experts have begrudgingly accepted ‘seasonality’ as a real phenomenon. Not unlike anyone else in or outside of senior housing sales and marketing, we too believed that year-end holidays, from Yom Kippur, to Thanksgiving, to Christmas, were the perfect opportunities for families to come together and see how the family elders were thriving, or not. So, it seems logical that the fourth quarter of every year would be a breakout period for adult children and caregivers to ‘Google’ search for supportive living for their family members. But the metrics don’t lie…the fourth quarter produces less digital marketing performance than any of the other three quarters.

    Flipping the calendar flips the results.

    As we put the first quarter of 2022 to a close, our digital marketing team has identified the dramatic differences in results from December 2021 to January 2022. “We knew that for years we had seen better results coming out of the new year than year’s end”, says Marybeth Parker, SEO Specialist at Solutions Advisors. “But we were really surprised when we put the numbers from several of our clients into a side-by-side comparison report…it was really remarkable to see the stark contrast in performance over such a short period.”

    The findings were indeed remarkable. Across a random sampling of seven CCRCs and/or ‘full-service communities’, we saw an average increase of 42.7% in organic traffic alone from December 2021 to January 2022. And that organic traffic was engaged, with a 75.1% incremental lift in conversions (phone calls and contact forms) over that same time period.

    “To say we were relieved to see the calendar flip is an understatement”, notes Jeff Felton, Vice-President of Digital Services at Solutions Advisors. “We take this roller coaster ride every year and by late December are starting to question whether our targeting is off, the messaging needs refreshing or our content just isn’t hitting the right notes”, he adds. “But if we can just hold on until the new year, we’ll quickly realize that it’s not about our efforts, but seasonality at play”.

    It wouldn’t be fair or accurate to say all years are going to be the same with comparable fluctuations in traffic and lead generation. The fourth quarter of 2021 had some unique attributes that we certainly can’t rule out as influencing factors. For one, the news media had our full attention during the latter half of the year with a focus on the highly contagious Coronavirus’ Omicron variant. That may have squelched some interest in moving into communal housing for a segment of our audience. And the Google algorithm update of October 2021 caused volatile fluctuations in the Google search results, which likely were felt throughout the entire quarter.

    Preparing for seasonality in 2022/2023 

    So, if we know seasonality in our digital marketing efforts is coming, what can we do about it? Here are some strategies Marybeth Parker recommends that senior living marketers consider this year to help offset the losses in performance in the fourth quarter:

    • Blend seasonal messaging into your blogs that aren’t necessarily about senior living. I.e. think ‘Thanksgiving dinner tips for seniors’.
    • Utilize Google Trends to produce a graph of popular and relevant keywords over a period of time (i.e. monthly) and either double down on seasonal drivers or back away if certain keywords wain in seasonal months.
    • In seasonal months, advertisers are battling for impressions in a very crowded space. Consider a bump in your click-spend budget to remain visible to searchers.
    • Really leverage your email list. The fact that you have their email address demonstrates a positive experience and trust in your community brand. Contact them.
    • Be ready to educate in Q1. Family is going to be searching online during and right after the holidays. Align your content to be educational and helpful during this potentially difficult journey to ensure your community has an informed and entrusted persona.

    Ride the ‘seasonality’ roller coaster with Solutions Advisors Group

    While the seasonality digital marketing roller coaster can be a bit jarring and concerning, it doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, it can be a challenge we tackle together. At Solutions Advisors Group, our digital marketing team is here to develop digital strategies and supporting tactics that help you overcome any sales and marketing hurdles your community can possibly face. Contact us to learn how.

  5. New Google Policy Prohibits Targeting by Zip Code for Senior Living Marketers

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    Officially taking effect on October 19, 2020, Google’s new policy prohibits marketers in the greater housing, employment and credit sectors; including senior living; from targeting and excluding ads based on gender, age, parental status, marital status or ZIP code. These additional restrictions join an already-established list of exclusions of sensitive categories including:

    • Race
    • Religion
    • Ethnicity
    • Sexual orientation
    • National origin
    • Disability

    According to Google, these updates are made in part as “… an effort to improve inclusivity for users disproportionately affected by societal biases; housing, employment, and credit products or services can no longer be targeted to audiences based on gender, age, parental status, marital status, or ZIP code.”

    Google is not the first social media platform to make changes to its housing ad policies. In 2019, Facebook made massive changes to its ad platform after being accused by HUD of enabling predatory practices within the housing sector.

    What Does This Mean for Senior Living Marketers?

    Senior living marketers who had become accustomed to geo-targeting within their primary and secondary market areas will need to find alternative approaches without the use of personal marketers such as gender, marital status and ZIP code when targeting ads within the Google network.

    Any campaigns using the now-eliminated targeting options will automatically be paused by Google. To ensure uninterrupted campaigns, necessary adjustments to remove now-disavowed targeting options should have already been made.

    For most senior living marketers, like SA Digital, this new policy was not a complete surprise, with many already adopting a new set of best practices around targeting radii around a specific address. With more focus now on town, city and county targeting strategies, adjustments to ad copy should accompany landing pages designed specifically for these location-specific targets.

    If you are looking for more guidance on these changes and how your senior living ad campaigns can be adjusted to adhere to the new Google policy, please feel free to use us as a resource and contact SA Digital for more information.

  6. How To Create Facebook Posts That Bring People To Your Website

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    Our SAG Creator Series brings you tips, how-to’s, and general information from our team of creative experts on everything from innovative website and social media content to effective email campaigns to eye-catching printed mailers.

    If your community has a Facebook page, you’ve likely seen big increases in traffic and interactions during COVID-19 lockdowns. Our communities have seen traffic numbers increase anywhere from 75 percent to 400 percent, depending on how their page is being used and how often content is shared. And for those communities that have put the right practices in place, that boost in traffic and engagement is helping to build a strong new resource for leads, while better telling the story of those communities and the people who live and work in them.

    Here is a starter guide to improve your Facebook presence and engage your online community, giving you another way to share your message and build a strong lead generation engine.

    Step 1: Know What You Want Out Of Facebook

    Watching your Facebook followers increase is exciting, and seeing them react positively to your posts can give you an ego bump, but that’s not likely going to help build awareness or lead to people moving in without a plan in place. Think about your ultimate goals: Do you want a larger share of voice in your market? Are you looking for more leads? Are you trying to build stronger relationships with existing residents? Keep the end goal in mind and use Facebook to entice people to get to that destination.

    Step 2: Be Authentic When Telling Your Story

    Whether it’s the story of your community, the residents that call it home, or the team members and staff that help it all work, an honest story is one that will be the most successful. This has been especially important during COVID-19, as we all search for ways to help people learn about our communities without actually stepping foot inside. Sometimes the smallest things are the most engaging. Unique details will give potential residents and caregivers a better understanding of your community and what makes you different, and that goes a long way to helping separate you from your competition.

    Step 3: Think About Your Audience

    Knowing who you’re talking to (and why) will help you figure out what to say and how to say it. And while staying true to your community and your story is important, you need to know how to connect with the people you want to reach. This can be as simple as the language you use or as complicated as how you structure an advertising campaign. A good place to start is to consider how the things you are sharing will benefit the residents, their family or care providers, or potential employees. Then put context around the stories you are sharing to help those audiences see the benefits.

    Step 4: Don’t Stop At Facebook

    Facebook is a great place to make introductions and touch base with people you know, but you want the conversations to happen on your website. It’s rare for people to visit your Facebook page – it’s more likely they’ll see (and hopefully “Like”) individual posts in their newsfeeds, which are filled with other posts to grab their attention. Include links to your website in your posts to give people the option to learn more about the stories or news you share. This also puts them in an environment where they can explore more about your community, and more importantly, share their information to become a new lead.

    Step 5: Invest In Ads To See The Best Results

    The days of Facebook being a free way to advertise and promote your community are long gone. Less than 1% of your actual followers are likely to see your Facebook posts. That doesn’t mean organic, free Facebook posts aren’t important, but if you want this to be a lead generation channel, you’ll need to invest in Facebook Ads. A small budget can go a long way with the right combination of messaging and targeting, especially when paired with the right experiences and conversion environments on your website.

    Step 6: Track Your Success To Repeat Victories

    Facebook offers plenty of information on what’s working and what’s not working in Business Manager, specifically in the Insights section. Use this information to supplement what you’re learning about your community in the comments of the individual posts. If you’re properly linking your posts to content on your website, you should also keep an eye on those metrics to see exactly how your efforts on Facebook are translating into real conversion opportunities.

    If you’re looking for a way to make Facebook work for you, or would like to improve an existing Facebook page, Solutions Advisors Group can help you build and activate your community. Get in touch with us to talk about the right approach to start telling your story on Facebook.

  7. Senior VP Mike Brindley Reflects on Selling in the Time of Covid

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    Mike Brindley, Senior Vice President of Consulting Services, has been with Solutions Advisors nearly 8 years, having spent over 20 years in operations, sales and marketing and community development for two of the largest providers of senior living. As Senior VP, Mike coaches the Solutions Advisors’ team of sales consultants and advises clients on marketing strategies for existing communities, expansions and startups. We asked Mike how Solutions Advisors has helped communities adapt during the pandemic.

    How has Covid changed the way Solutions Advisors approaches sales and marketing?

    In the first few weeks we understood communities were focused on keeping everyone safe – residents and team members.  Internally, we took that time to step back and regroup – what can we do differently to help sales teams continue to work in this new environment. How can we help them remotely and still add value? How can we drive leads and conversions without being able to bring prospects on site? We looked at different technology platforms – Zoom, Facebook Live, OneDay – and immediately began to learn these platforms together and push them out to clients. We acted fast, learning as we went.

    Our sales consultants had to learn how to have sales meetings and planning sessions via Zoom. Instead of being on site 3 or 4 days a week, now we had daily and weekly phone calls to help sales teams adapt, to use their time more creatively to maintain connections with prospects, and to strategize ways to generate new leads without the benefit of on-site events or the ability to see the community or amenity spaces.

    What were some of the new strategies that worked to keep prospects engaged or generate new leads?

    We adapted our events strategy to hold webinars or virtual events.  Instead of a downsizing event, we held a downsizing webinar. Instead of a resident panel, we held a virtual panel and allowed participants to ask questions via chat. Virtual tours have become popular, although we realized it can’t be just about the community, but about the connection. We partnered with OneDay and trained sales teams how to use short videos to stay connected with prospects. Facebook Live is another resource for small scale events that can get a large reach. We emphasized the importance of frequent social media posts. Once communities realized this was the new normal, they began to get really creative in the way they connected with prospects, using webinars, FaceTime, Zoom meetings and creative follow up. One community even held a drive-by open house. We learned together, we brainstormed and shared ideas and “aha” moments among Solutions Advisors consultants on weekly calls so they in turn could share with clients.

    What’s been successful?

    Communities that have adapted new technology platforms like One Day to stay connected have been the most successful in keeping prospects in the pipeline or advancing prospects to the thinking or planning stage. Using OneDay we saw the value of building a genuine connection using video versus an email or phone conversation. Even if you cannot have tours or move-ins right now, eventually you will reap the benefits of keeping prospects engaged.

    We’ve identified some interesting trends. For example, we’re seeing more influencers involved in the independent living decision – more like assisted living. The adult children want to know mom’s going to be safe and comfortable at your community and feel confident about your community’s safety measures and protocols. They’re more involved, asking more questions, doing the research. So, we’ve started to look at strategies to communicate with the influencer while respecting the control of the decision with the potential resident.

    Our digital team has been in the forefront of identifying ways to use platforms like Facebook Live and social media to engage audiences and has pushed strategies like SEO, PPC, Google and Facebook ads to make websites more effective in driving leads and conversions. And, somewhat ironically, some markets are responding to the more traditional mediums like print advertising. People are at home more, reading more, listening to news about Covid. So, we are using at both traditional and non-traditional channels to communicate with different audiences.

    What are three top things you would share with sales teams during this time?

    One, it’s more important than ever to create the connection with the prospect, to listen and understand their story. Ask good questions. Not, ‘what are you looking for,’ but ‘how are you feeling?’ Develop trust with the prospect, try to dispel their fear and anxiety. It may not be a decision they are ready to make now, but if they trust you, they’ll come back to you.

    Two, be creative in a genuine way. Introduce yourself via Zoom. Develop a fun video about yourself using OneDay. Maybe they have a dog and you do too, or grandkids, or you share a fondness for reading or crossword puzzles – celebrate whatever creates that connection. Maybe make a short video testimonial from a resident who felt safe and cared about during the pandemic. Use the time you have now to be creative in your approach.

    Three, I respect and applaud our communities for their focus on keeping team members and residents safe. Several have been Covid free or have only one or two cases. That will become important down the road when residents are able to say, “Yes, we were quarantined but we had everything we needed and felt safer here than at home.” Be transparent, answer prospects’ questions about what you are doing differently now. But be real, be honest. Don’t show a dining room full of people if that’s not the reality right now. Show the outstanding customer service as team members deliver meals door to door, show outdoor dining with social distancing, show how you are keeping residents and team members safe while delivering needed services. Communities that are very transparent about what’s going on will win the day.

    Are you optimistic about the future of senior living?

    Look, our older population has been through a lot in their lives, from the depression, several wars, the recession, and now the pandemic. They are a resilient generation and we can learn a lot from them. It’s more important than ever to listen to their stories. We need to be adaptable and fluid. In several of our communities, people are still putting down deposits for the future, still moving, still seeing the value in the environment and services we offer. We need them and they need us. We’ll figure this out together.

    Any closing thoughts?

    Well, as we are talking, I’m driving to a community to meet with the sales team. While we’ve done a good job of staying connected through technology, I have to say it’s fantastic to see people face to face again, to have that human connection, even while six feet away and wearing masks. I guess my closing thought would be not to lose that sense of humanity. It may be a cliché by now, but we truly are all in this together.

  8. Senior Marketing Playbook: Digital Marketing and E-Commerce Should Prepare for Digital Refugees

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    The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many to turn to online resources to meet every-day needs, from work meetings to happy hours to shopping for groceries. And while some people were already natives of the digital landscape, this is a strange and unfamiliar place to many, especially older adults.

    This is not to say seniors are not tech-savvy. As noted by recent Pew research, people 60 and older are spending more and more time in front of screens, and that includes smartphones, tablets and computers. So they are aware of resources that are available online, but don’t often take advantage of them. Now that they’ve been forced to turn to online sources for goods and services, it’s more important than ever to make sure you create a clear direct pathway to help these new digital refugees find the solutions that you’re providing.

    UX For Seniors: Where To Start

    The User Experience (UX) determines how easy it is for someone to learn what they need to learn to feel comfortable and confident enough to buy your product.

    The Pitch

    Think of your homepage, or the landing page environment you created specifically for your senior audience traffic, as your initial pitch. Clearly state the benefit of your product, the reason to believe in it, and how to get it. There are a few things you can do to make this better, but these are the essentials, and you can add other elements later.

    The Details

    When it’s time to talk about what you’re offering, your main objective is to build trust. Does it work? Will you do what you say you’re going to do? If you have testimonials, especially from older patrons, use it to support your claims. If you aren’t a known entity, they may need a little more evidence to ensure you are legit. How you tell the story is important here, the content needs to be easy to find, easy to engage with, and easy to share.

    The Sale

    The theme of trust carries through here, as scams and fraud are a real concern. Make sure you have clearly noted where and how the online transactions are secure and safe. The payment method should be as accessible as possible. Venmo is a great application but asking your customer to go download and learn something just to complete a transaction with you is not good UX, and a major barrier to closing.

    In order to meet the needs of this group of consumers, it’s crucial that websites simplify and streamline UX at every touchpoint, especially along the paths that connect seniors to the goods and services they want or need. This is all in conjunction with the right advertising plan to alert these new audiences that you’re open for business, and a relationship management plan to keep them engaged and believing throughout your sales process.

    If you’re interested in finding out how to apply this knowledge to your senior living business model, reach out to Solutions Advisors to set up some time to discuss your goals.

  9. How to Evaluate Your Digital Marketing Strategy

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    Through well thought out senior living marketing strategies, communities have taken control of digital efforts by executing tactics that will drive more traffic to their websites. An increase in website traffic then presents an opportunity to further engage the prospect with relevant, concise content and clear calls-to-action. The result is a boost in online conversions that leads to sales and increased occupancy rates. How can this be accomplished?

    Let’s review some digital best practices and senior living marketing strategies that have brought success to our communities and client communities:

    1. Website Design: build a site that will convert and generate leads and reflect your mission, vision, unique levels of care and programming through quality, mobile-friendly designs.

    2. SEO Services: through strategic SEO solutions, your website will be easy for both users and search engine robots to find and understand your site and optimize your results.

    3. Social Media Management: create a profile that shows family members and prospective residents that you care by using meaningful and useful content. Social media strategy includes the combination of data, SEO and creativity.

    4. Blog Content Management: share meaningful content and position yourself as an expert or thought leader in senior care. By developing consistent, helpful content, you are providing an additional opportunity to connect with families and prospects and increase chances of ranking for targeted keywords.

    5. Digital Paid Advertising: reduce spend on third-party directory sites and use a paid advertising campaign with relevant, high-quality ads to attract qualified leads.

    6. Email Marketing Strategy: stay connected and drive action through your enewsletter or other email communications. When a prospect or family member signs up to receive emails from your community, engage them with short, impactful content that is targeted and helpful. Do not try to sell!

    Start Small and Scale for the Future

    We understand the business challenges that senior living communities face and change doesn’t have to happen overnight. Small steps, with testing along the way, can help you move forward and expand your website content and strategy as you begin to see results and feel comfortable.

    Take Control of Your Digital Marketing

    We work closely with our communities and clients to develop and execute digital strategies that engage emotion and rational thinking for decision-making. Let us help you attract, engage and show prospective residents and family members that you care while highlighting your community’s mission, vision, values and core differentiators. Contact us today.

  10. SEO and Digital Marketing Best Practices

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    Why SEO Matters to Your Senior Living Community

    By Dianna Leyton, Digital Strategist

    As a senior living professional in today’s digital age, you already know how critical your website is to your community’s success. Having an online presence matters, but what matters more is converting website visitors into inquiries. High performing communities generally see at least 40% of initial inquiries originating from their website. How do they accomplish this? Part of the answer lies in SEO.

    Let’s get started by reviewing some of the basics of SEO:

    What is SEO?
    Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a digital marketing practice that can improve the volume and quality of your website traffic. This can be accomplished in several ways including keyword research, content development, technical website adjustments and more to help websites gain higher visibility on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. Although only one piece of the overall marketing strategy, SEO is generally one of the most effective ways to bring in qualified web inquiries.

    Why does SEO matters and how can it help generate more online inquiries?
    When it comes to researching options for any major life decision like senior living, many begin their journey on a search engine, such as Google. The popularity of search engines is why organic search traffic is generally the primary source of website traffic. But, content also plays a major role in how your website will rank and appear as a search result.

    How is SEO and website content related?
    Creating valuable content and a great user experience is key to a great SEO strategy. This means developing valuable content that is easily accessible with a short path to discovery and fewer clicks. This can keep website visitors engaged and can signal to the search engine that you are a high-quality website, which can lead to more website visitors over time.

    What is the likely result of a successful SEO strategy?
    If you’re executing a well-developed SEO strategy, you will likely notice a greater influx of website visitors who are taking more desired actions on your website. These actions, or digital conversions, include submitting contact forms, calling your community or initiating a live chat conversation with a sales team member. This can increase your inquiry to tour ratio.

    What else can you do for a great SEO strategy?
    Your SEO strategy should include updating your local business profiles such as Google My Business, Yelp and Yellow Pages so information is complete and consistent across all directories. Updating these profiles not only makes you more visible in local searches, but it can also ensure that people are accessing the most up-to-date information.

    In addition to updating your local business profiles, online reviews that live within these directories should be given extra attention.  Now more than ever, prospects and influencers are looking at these online reviews to help them determine the best senior living communities in the area.

    Understanding how SEO works and how to implement a smart digital marketing strategy to grow your senior living community may seem overwhelming. A great place to start is through a website assessment with a team of digital marketing experts. The SA digital team has helped many senior living communities with personalized website assessments. The assessments help identify gaps and areas for improvement in SEO strategy and other areas of digital marketing.

    We would like to put our skills to work for your community!
    Call us at (888) 312-0889 or submit an online form at Contact Us.

  11. Marketing Best Practice – Part Three: Direct Mail

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    Too often communities dismiss direct mail as ineffective after just one or two failed attempts.
    While it is true that seniors (as well as the rest of us) receive an overwhelming amount of unsolicited mail, direct mail is still a key lead generator and can be a cost-effective way to communicate to a large audience.

    However, there are several best practices that must be followed for direct mail to be successful:

    • Always have a clear call to action – In most cases, a direct mail invitation to an event will have a clear and simple method of response, either via phone or email. Your call to action should NOT simply ask the prospect to call for more information or call for a personal appointment.
    • Use authentic photos that represent your target audience – If you are a high-end community, your photos should represent the same; the opposite is true. Don’t show pets if pets are not allowed. Try not to use the same stock photos everyone else is using. If possible, conduct a professional photo shoot to develop a portfolio of photos you can use in a variety of ways, from direct mail to your website. Be cognizant of equal housing opportunity rules concerning minority representation based on your geographic market area.
    • Use a variety of formats and folds – Do not stick to one size postcard or format. Switch up between sizes and folds and use envelops on occasion. At Solution Advisors we’ve experimented with sizes, envelopes and even fonts to find formats that get opened. Variety is the most crucial factor.
    • Don’t mail everything to everyone – Avoid direct mail fatigue that occurs when you mail to the same list repeatedly. Revisit the desired outcome of the event and select your mailing list accordingly. Want to advance prospects to the next step? Select those who have already attended an event or toured your community. If new lead generation is the goal, review your primary market area and look for new zip codes or areas that have not been penetrated before.
    • Segment the mailing lists/All messaging is not the same for all people – the target market and call to action for the direct mail should be determined based on the ultimate intent of the piece. For example:
      • If your inventory has an abundance of one-bedroom styles, the content should speak to that smaller unit footprint. Additionally, the mailing list should be segmented based on those most likely to buy that style unit. In this example, messaging can be directed toward single individuals, older individuals or those with more modest incomes.
      • Append a large mailing list for square footages of existing homes. For example, the mailing list could be segmented to identify those people with existing homes with square footages under 1,500 square feet to market available inventory that is 1,000 square feet or under, or vice versa for larger inventory. Mail a downsizing event direct mail to only those prospects who have larger square footages and have resided in their existing residence for 10 years or longer who would benefit from this type of mailing.
    • Personalization and Variable Data – direct mail is a mass marketing tool. However, direct mail can be personalized to include the prospect’s name in the piece so they are more likely to open and respond. Varying data fields do not have to only include letters. Variable data can be on other types of mailers, including self-mailers. Personalization allows for a more person-centered approach to marketing efforts.
  12. Marketing Best Practices – Part 2: Plan Strategic Events

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    Having a successful event entails more than serving chips and dip. Breathe new life into events that generate excitement and build confidence with clients. Strategic event planning is an important component to successfully generating inquiries and, potentially, advancing sales through the sales cycle. Event best practices include:

    • The outcome of the event should be determined first, even before the event is planned. In other words, is the outcome to simply inform or educate the audience? Advance the prospect forward in her decision-making? Close the prospect? Depending on the desired outcome, we categorize events as follows:
      • Lead Generation Events have the sole purpose of generating as many qualified leads as possible. These events are usually promoted via a direct mailer sent to a purchased list of age and income qualified households to generate new leads.
      • Advancement Events have the dual goal of generating new leads and moving existing leads from one level to the next in the sales cycle. The goal is to communicate the lifestyle of the community by having depositors speak about what life will be like at the community, showcasing the type of activities residents will regularly participate in and to generate leads.
      • Conversion Events have the goal of moving prospects from one phase of the selling cycle to the next, typically from ‘planning’ to ‘action’. The events should be intimate in nature and have a high degree of resident involvement.
    • Events should incorporate the strengths of the community. For instance, if your community is focused on wellness, plan events that will demonstrate the benefits of your wellness program. If food is the focus, plan events that will showcase the culinary experience at your community. Pet friendly? Plan a “Yappy Hour” for prospects to mingle with residents and their pets. Remember to capture the results of the event in terms of attendance, follow up appointments and sales, to measure the effectiveness and outcome of each direct mail campaign and event.
    • Events should be a cornerstone of your professional outreach strategy, giving team members a reason to call on referral sources and invite them into the community for continuing education, as a thank you, for pampering (manicures and martinis), or giving something of value to them (perhaps CEUs.) While professional events are typically not as highly attended as prospect events, they serve two purposes: first, they provide ongoing, fresh opportunities for referral sources to hear from your team, by phone, evite, and in-person; second, they create deeper connection into your organization and your referral source organizations, providing onsite opportunities for these partners to meet and mingle with your team members at once. Professional events for independent living are a good way to generate awareness and brand the community.
    • The most successful event topics include:
      • “Dine and Discover” (off-site for communities in pre-opening) for initial introductions into the market – Lead Generation
      • Sales center (or sales office) open house for communities in pre-opening – Lead Generation
      • Social event tie-in with state wine month or similar type of focus (food) – Lead Generation
      • Grand opening event one to two months following the opening of the community – Lead Generation
      • Farm-to-Table – When able, partner with a local food delivery group (farm-focus, organic) to deliver fresh fruits and/or vegetables to the community and have an event hosted around the food and wellness component of the community – Lead Generation or Advancement
      • Resident Panel explaining the experience of choosing the right community – Advancement
      • A “University” type of event for communities with interesting residents with strong backgrounds; teaching and sharing their expertise – Advancement
      • Standard moving and downsizing events to educate prospects on moving, the real estate market and downsizing – Advancement
      • Coffee/Lunch/Cocktails/Dinner with residents (roundtable event) – Advancement
      • Coffee/Lunch/Cocktails/Dinner with the executive director (small, roundtable event) – Conversion
      • Progressive dinner for select/hot prospects – Conversion
      • CEU event for professionals – Outreach
      • Yappy Hour (Halloween dog costume) for Professionals – Outreach or Advancement for prospects