A prospective senior living resident, or the prospect’s adult child, goes online to search for communities in the area – and what dominates their search results is a tailored list from a lead aggregator paid to display some communities and not others.
Instead of seeing all of their options, the researcher receives something else altogether.
“The majority of the publicly available resources online tend to be a lead aggregator or directory format,” says Dreamscape Marketing President and CEO Dan Gemp.
That means that consumers searching for senior housing find pre-filtered lists presented as their only options.
“It creates an illusion of choice, where the best match for the senior living searcher may not even be present,” Gemp says. “If all communities did their own local SEO and direct-to-consumer marketing, that would create an ethical and transparent online marketplace where all options are equally known.”
That is not just a problem for the prospect. It’s a two-pronged problem for the operators who falsely believe their approach is giving them a competitive edge, as well as guaranteed new business, Gemp says. First, the chances are higher that a prospect will be turned off by the community when they visit, as it won’t actually be what they are looking for.
Second, these aggregated, bidded-out leads don’t have the personalized approach that is best for capturing prospects.
The alternative to this illusion of choice is something Gemp describes as “ethical marketing,” which, he notes, drives more move-ins at a lower cost by directly connecting consumers with communities. In other words, ethical marketing is not just ethics for the sake of ethics, he says. It’s about profitability, as operators can drive more move-ins, cheaper and sooner.
“When you market your own communities directly and capture search traffic online, even through a piece of mail, you create dialogue,” Gemp says. “You’ll get higher volume and more local inquiries, and capture people later in the buying cycle. That’s because when someone is shopping locally, later, they’re typically more prepared to move. So the conversion rates will be higher.”
Here are three steps for creating an ethical marketing strategy.
Step 1: Sell a community lifestyle — the college campus approach
A senior living community is more than the sum of its parts. It is more than a unit’s marble countertops, more than the chandelier in the foyer, more than outdoor walking spaces.
“All of these building developers are advertising luxurious amenities and exotic wood flooring from Brazil — that just means it will be more or less expensive,” Gemp says. “Prospects want to know, more like a college campus: What will I be doing all day?”
Gemp says that operators should focus their marketing efforts around the ins and outs of daily campus life. Show prospects what they’re eating, and where. Show them the total experience, not just the component parts. After all, this is a place where residents might be for the rest of their lives.
“You have to find the middle ground between hospitality and health care,” he says. “If your marketing registers a little bit more like a hospital or a little bit more like a hotel, then you’re a bit too polarized, and you’ll have to spend more money if you’re communicating in a more polarized style.”
Step 2: Learn what your consumers want — and learn who you are talking to
One of the goals of ethical marketing is to reduce marketing costs. When marketing isn’t working, an operator spends more time and money on making it work. One of the reasons marketing fails, Gemp says, is that operators don’t create targeted campaigns.
Operators should craft messages designed for the person receiving them, whether that is the prospective resident or a family member. To do this, Gemp recommends that operators use self-identifying forms and interactive assessments.
“We’ve learned in our marketing that the contact forms and the assessments that are commonly used offer very little dialogue,” he says. “It’s all a one-way broadcast, and you’re missing out on what’s personal. That can be done through listening.”
Gemp notes that operators are best served by tailoring their messages to the recipients. That means understanding the psychological factors of shopping for senior housing.
“When you speak with an adult child about their parents, there is actually a guilt factor in that shopping process: ‘Am I putting Mom or Dad in the right community?’ So your messaging is a different type of assurance than it would be if you’re connecting directly with the resident about what it would be like to live there,” he says.
Step 3: Use truthful photos and videos — and boost conversion rate
When operators lie with their marketing visuals, they pay the price in conversions, Gemp says. Conversion rates are directly tied to the quality, quantity and honesty of pictures and video of their communities, particularly in pictures of food and lifestyle amenities.
“This is where ethics and transparency cross over,” Gemp says. “Photography is inherently trustworthy. Video is inherently trustworthy. Stock photos don’t answer the ‘What am I going to be doing all day?’ question. When trust is established from transparency, you’ll find your conversion rates are directly tied to elements like pictures of food services on your website. I’m talking about double-digit increases on your conversion rates from dining photos.”
Once again, this is an example where ethical marketing is not just about being ethical for the sake of being ethical (though of course, that’s not a bad thing). This is about profit and cost savings through independent verification of a community’s marketing.
“We can make you a beautiful website that can say anything you want it to say, but if it’s not true when they visit, they’re not moving in,” Gemp says. “This is the proof of marketing, and that earns you trust and wins you a dialogue with those most suited to benefit from your community and offerings.”
This article is sponsored by Dreamscape Marketing. Dreamscape invites you to use its free digital marketing assessment tools and team to complete your digital pivot starting with a free website audit at dreamscapemarketing.com/website-audit.
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