This article is sponsored by Dreamscape Marketing. In this Voices interview, Senior Housing News sits down with Dreamscape President and CEO Dan Gemp to learn why phone calls are the preferred customer contact method for 70% of prospective senior housing customers, how Dreamscape helped a client achieve a 207% monthly increase in calls and the meaning of “ethical digital marketing.”
Senior Housing News: Dan, you’ve run Dreamscape Marketing for 16 years, but your career has brought you to other stops. What experiences do you draw from most in your work today?
Dan Gemp: It’s not about just running a digital marketing agency. I think we’ve learned so much about our clients’ businesses and we’ve been at the table for so many transactions, mergers and acquisitions, that we have more of a general business background than most ad agencies. We’ve taken a huge focus on return on investment.
I think that my exposure to the industries that we work in at large — healthcare, and mergers and acquisitions — helps make us a strong business partner and growth partner, as opposed to just a publicity group or a traffic generator. Given my personal background in finance, I believe it’s important to apply a cost-per-action modeling to marketing and make sure that we’re always keeping an eye on return on investment for our clients. That finance background has helped me assist clients when they’re in transactions, and assist clients as they’re trying to hit their business development goals.
Tell us about how Dreamscape Marketing got to where it is today and how that informed the leap that you’re taking now into senior living digital marketing?
Gemp: In the beginning, we were working in any industry. We worked in about 28 different industries from professional sports teams through government defense contractors. When we got into healthcare, we carved out a niche in this hospitality-meets-healthcare model.
Senior care is the latest expansion for Dreamscape Marketing. We think that this is a niche: helping operators keep a focus on value and ethics while delivering move-ins and census. We find senior living communities that want an ethical partner in making their pivot to digital. It’s not easy to do on your own.
I really want this industry to benefit from a digital-first mindset. I think senior living has been outdated for a while in terms of their digital marketing. This is going to be the primary driver for 2021 for new residents, and we’re also committed to staying on the leading edge of technology. It’s not just our strong stance on ethics — it’s that we will continue to innovate. We don’t want any of our clients’ websites to ever be more than a few days old.
You’ve talked about “ethical digital marketing.” How do you define it and why is it important?
Gemp: I’m going to define ethical marketing somewhat uniquely. I don’t just mean good old-fashioned morality. I mean that these business models and the marketing engines that drive growth in the industry need to be on the side of consumer advocacy. No false advertising. No tricks. No B.S. Direct, transparent communication.
What does it mean to me? I think it is most ethical to make a direct, one-to-one connection with your prospective customer, regardless of what you do after. I think in senior living, ethical digital marketing is almost a mandate, a moral obligation, but it also ends up costing less. If you’re on the acute side of the space, you’ll know you’re doing it right when your cost-per-move-in or cost to obtain a new patient is lower. You should spend about 35% to 40% less to obtain a new resident than you would need to through third-party lead generation groups.
Engage in dialogue with your potential audience. Be truthful and transparent.
Along with ethical digital marketing, what are the other key differentiators for Dreamscape Marketing?
Gemp: Along with that, and our expertise in the balance between healthcare and hospitality, we are leaders on the technology side. We spend an awful lot on research and development. We are always using the latest and greatest platforms. Our technology integrates with all common platforms in the space as well as phone tracking tools, contact form tracking tools, and CRM systems. The reason we do that is because we believe, as an agency, that we’re liable for producing return on investment.
We are ROI-focused, and our business model is dependent on generating ROI for our clients and partners. On the wall at our headquarters, we have the phrase “Relentless Improvement.” It’s meant to challenge our employees to constantly increase their own value by learning and then implementing new tactics and new techniques. They’re even financially rewarded for that. It’s ingrained in us. Those are our differentiators.
I’m sure that people say to you, “Isn’t all digital marketing the same?” What do each of those two options of senior living marketing — the healthcare-style vs. the hospitality-style — look like in practice?
Gemp: Great question. Certainly, all digital marketing is not the same, but I understand why people ask that. There’s a middle ground to the actual messaging used. The pitch goes beyond just lifestyle and amenities. What you’re presenting is comfort, not necessarily luxury. You’re presenting wellness as opposed to direct healthcare. Effective digital marketing in this space presents community and care in the right hospitality-meets-hospital ratio.
In practice, it’s almost more like a college campus than it is a hospital, and similarly, more like a college campus than it is a hotel. Here’s a place where you’re going to participate in life, build relationships, where the food matters, where the comfort of the amenities matter, but it’s not meant to necessarily be a 24/7 resort and you can address specific items like social activities as well as any specialized care level.
Yes, you might make a hospitality pitch and maybe you’re a developer that’s super proud of your buildings, but if you offer memory care, you need to highlight the medical side, the hospital more than the hospitality side of things, for example. In practice, don’t just feature your building and amenities and don’t just feature your lifestyle and the warmth of your staff. Find a balance and you’ll find your conversion rates and your inbound inquiries increasing dramatically.
How did you adapt digital marketing to senior living last year with everything that was going on?
Gemp: How did we adapt our digital marketing? I’m going to start off with two words: A lot.
Everything on the digital side went hyperlocal. There are all of these mainstream websites that generate leads and sell them back to you, but really they’re just outranking you for your own name or your own town. So getting your website to outrank them is critical to a strong digital presence and strong performance.
Another huge shift for the industry was phone call conversions over all other forms of inquiries. Contact forms on your website, you’re going to notice that your phone calls convert 10 to 15 times more revenue than web contact form leads. Phone calls needed to be a priority a year ago. If you haven’t made that shift yet, start doing it now.
Data we work with internally shows that 70% of senior living and senior care customers are going to call you now as a primary method when the previous goal was just get them to fill out some form and get them on your calendar for a tour. The actual sale now, the actual transaction is occurring on the phone, and it can happen way faster.
It can be a one-time phone call. A caller is more motivated than someone who’s casually filling out a web form. What you’ll find on the conversion side of an actual move-in, you’re going to close deals, you’re going to close move-ins 30% faster through the phone. Get back to these callers. If you don’t pick up right away, get back to them as soon as possible, because when they’re done leaving a voicemail for you, they’re calling the next community minutes later.
Do you have a particular favorite customer success story?
Gemp: My favorite success story of the year was a human success. We had a client who was truly in need in May right after all the COVID lockdowns took effect. They did have COVID in their communities. Our point of pride in this was it’s a smaller community, right in the Midwest, and they only needed to make some slight adjustments. They didn’t have the infrastructure they needed to go digital.
We did a quick turnaround on their website. Got it ranking better on Google. They now outrank all lead aggregators for their name and their town. The result was a 207% monthly increase in phone calls through their own website and Google My Business. It was a win for them and a win for us.
2020 was a one-of-a-kind year, to say the least. What makes you hopeful about the senior housing industry for 2021?
Gemp: Looking back as we move through 2021, I actually don’t think we’re going to find 2020 to have been one of a kind. I think that habits and comfort levels with digital technology are different now. I think it’s going to continue to work this way for 2021 and beyond. You’re going to get even more phone calls when lockdowns end and mass mandates change.
A lot of businesses have been crushed and destroyed during this environment, so for those that survived and weathered the storm, there is so much demand. There is such a huge increase in online search volumes, well above where they were a year ago, that we look at the economy and people are talking about this V-shaped recovery. The latter half of the year is going to be very much a regrowth in the space, and will lead into a very strong and consistent 2022.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
A strong 2021 for your community starts with top Google ranking, which in turn starts by finding out what’s holding you back and then planning a path forward. 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.
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more — shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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