You know the major challenges affecting senior living – low occupancy, affordability, reputation management, staffing – but do you know what needs to be done to address these issues so they’re not problems in 2020? Digital marketing may be the answer. Let’s review the current market environment and then dive into digital marketing solutions.
Near record-low occupancies
National senior living occupancy rates fell to near record lows (87.8%) in the first half of 2019, highlighting the need for marketing and sales teams to consider new options for attracting residents. Digital advertising, long hailed in e-commerce, hospitality and retail for its efficiency in generating new business, offers a targeted approach that is more cost-effective than an internet listing service and traditional marketing such as direct mail. What’s more, its dollar is going toward both building awareness of your own local brands and lead generation.
Here’s a simplified overview of how the traditional marketing funnel
aligns to this modern technology:
- Top of funnel – Social media ads generate awareness.
- Middle of funnel – Display ads drive interest.
- Lower funnel – Retargeting and paid search ads close the deal.
The rise of the middle market
Middle-income older adults don’t have the resources needed to afford current private-pay rates, but many also do not qualify for limited Medicaid and Veterans Affairs programs. According to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care-funded “Forgotten Middle” middle-market senior housing study, by 2029, the number of middle-income seniors will increase to more than 14 million, 6 million more than today.
To better address this demographic, you need to tackle the affordability issue. That means developing digital marketing efficiencies of scale. Offering middle-market senior living means sharpening budgets, and looking at the marketing line item is no exception. The next generation of marketing efficiency will come from smart systems that use advanced technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning to save you money.
Displaying base pricing on your website also can help control overhead, because it allows prospects to self-qualify before contacting you for additional information. Pre-qualifying leads helps focus your energy on prospects that give you the best return on your time, investment and effort — resulting in less waste during the sales process.
Before expanding into the middle market, owners and operators should consider differentiating their brand by property type. This isn’t to suggest a complete overhaul, but rather a reimagining of what makes each one unique.
Brand equity and the need for reputation management
Older adults and their grown children increasingly are turning to online reviews to evaluate the services provided by senior living communities. In fact, 72% of customers don’t take action until they have read reviews, and 49% of consumers need at least a four-star rating before they choose to use a business. In such a competitive and connected environment, this makes protecting your brand equity more important than ever. Reputation management software is a strong option for doing so, but not all rep and social tools are created equal. When selecting a reputation management platform, look for one with the following capabilities:
- Monitors social and review channels.
- Engages and responds directly to reviewers.
- Gains insight into property performance through drill-down sentiment reporting by topic.
- Benchmarks against competitors.
- Aligns your workflow with your business goals.
Managing reputation and social reviews no longer is a soft art. It now has numbers to it so you can focus on what needs improvement in both the experience you offer and the management of your reputation itself.
Tight labor markets
Low-unemployment rates are a sign of a strong economy, but they make attracting and retaining qualified employment candidates rather difficult. Digital marketing can help, and its effects are two-fold:
- Social media ads offer a new avenue to engage employment prospects and can be targeted by proximity to a local community, as well as by education and job title.
- Digital marketing improves operational efficiency by increasing the number of qualified job seekers walking through your door, which means less time wasted on prospects that won’t convert.
The state of digital marketing in senior living is strong – consumers are turning to digital channels to learn about the features, benefits and value of senior living communities. More than that, though, digital marketing is offering operators the opportunity to creatively address issues affecting the industry and stretch their marketing dollars.