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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