The Successful Assisted Living Marketing Plan Is Evolving Some Things Are The Same
In our many years of working with the assisted living and senior care industry, the fundamentals of increasing the census have remained pretty much the same. Simply put, the backbone of an effective marketing strategy remains:
Developing services that target a specific senior market. Providing "evidence" of how you care, and how much you care for that specific senior market. Building notoriety through word of mouth. Creating a "referral pipeline" among professionals. Matching your care to the prospects issues and solving their problems. Developing follow-up and keep-in-touch systems that build the trust of your prospects. Regularly providing new tools that help those who like you (family members, friends, referral sources) to promote your facility.
Some Things Are Different
The big changes in the selling and buying process have come in the execution of this strategy. The availability and the amazing functions of the internet, smart phones, social networks and other technologies have changed how the public expects to find your facility and interacts your with staff. These new communication mediums are now "required" and must be integrated into the selling process.
In addition, many assisted living prospects now "demand" to have easier access to information, be engaged during the buying process and have a higher level of control. They want to be aware, up-dated and reassured so they can trust their buying decision (when they are ready to make it), and then win over their family members.
Ideas & Suggested Changes
Here are some suggestions for adjusting your marketing to the evolving selling and buying process.
Utilize a database. This will help you keep track of multiple phone numbers and e-mail addresses, personalize group communications, and keep track of where prospects sit in their buying process.
Ask every prospect, family member and referral source how they prefer to be contacted. Highlight this preference in your database, smartphone and social networks.
Improve your website and make it the hub of marketing communications. It should include very current evidence of your care and services, integrate your updates with social networks and keep-intouch systems, encourage return visits and the sharing of your site, and provide new tools for people who want to promote you.
Utilize e-mail and social networks to make people aware of your updates. The key is to not overdue contact so people stop paying attention. Mix up the updates with your Activity Scrapbook entries, Caregiver Tips, videos and articles about seniors. We have found that two valuable updates per month is usually sufficient.
Replace & Integrate
Many in the senior care industry will read this article and tremble at the thought of more work. At the beginning, setting up your systems will add work. However, once systems are developed and in place, the evolved marketing plan will be more efficient. Updates to your website and social networks that are filled with emotion and reality can take a marketing director little time, and be lots of fun. E-mail and social networks that highlight those updates can reach hundreds (or thousands) of people on the three key lists with little effort and cost.
When you compare the investment of time and money needed in this technology strategy with what goes into hosting the standard one-time, generic, small-attendance open house, this is a real bargain. Note: By the way, well done updates can make an open house a much more effective marketing tool over a longer period of time. It can also bring the event to those who could not attend. And for those who choose to pass on such an event, a great update system can replace many (but not all) of the benefits of an open house.
Even The Building Of Professional Relationships Is Evolving
In the old days, the typical marketing plan built relationships by visiting doctor offices and hospitals, dropping off a brochure and maybe some cookies, and chatting a little. The building of relationships is still necessary today. However, many face-to-face visits may evolve into a "tech" visit. The cookies may be replaced by photos of your chef baking, a cookie recipe for diabetics, or a Caregiver Tip on helping seniors with little appetite.
Now I know that many people consider technology to be cold and have no feeling. I agree...when it is left on its own. However, what I am recommending is using the mediums of technology to highlight the warmth, care and expertise of assisted living, and making these valuable assets accessible to more people in the method they prefer (and at their convenience).
It's Worth The Effort The rapid changes in technology are forcing the marketing world to adapt and change, and at a faster rate than it did in the past. This does put an additional burden on assisted living marketing departments and small home owners. (So does a low census.) Plans and strategies must continue to evolve to meet the demands of the "current" buyer and referral source. A higher census (and less financial stress) will prove it was well worth the effort.
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