By Leigh Ann Hubbard

Does this sound like your marketing team? Lots of projects and tasks, not much direction. Vague clarity on what’s working and what’s not, but no real evidence of traction. Lots of action, but no time to examine or replicate what’s working best.

This is a typical situation Wendy O’Donovan Phillips sees with senior living marketing teams. And fixing this kind of chaos is her specialty. As the CEO of Big Buzz, a full-service marketing agency and Foresight partner, Wendy helps teams focus.

Focus leads to increased productivity and effectiveness, and decreased stress and turnover. “Taking some time now to get everyone on the same page will make all the marketing go more smoothly for years to come,” she says.

Does your team have a focus problem? Here are some of the signs.

Sign 1: Objectives Are Unclear (or Not Set)

If your marketing team can’t identify its top three objectives, Wendy says, you have a focus problem.

Objectives are destinations—goalposts on a journey toward making your organization what you want it to be. To start creating objectives, look to your mission statement, vision statement, and core values for inspiration. Take it further by considering your brand promise and differentiators.

Here are some examples of marketing objectives: 

  • We have a highly functioning marketing team.
  • We have a positive impact on all our stakeholders.
  • We are known as the authority in our area of expertise.
  • We have a growing and engaged client base.

Objectives become litmus tests for marketing tactics. If one objective is, “We are the known memory care provider in our area,” this alerts the team to focus efforts on such tactics as writing memory care case studies, building out memory care content on the website, and running digital advertising to draw people seeking memory care to the website. The custom-made monthly event calendar for every location may have to wait or take a more automated form to create bandwidth for these more pressing tactics.

Sign 2: You Can’t Tell What’s Working

One of Wendy’s clients came to her with a marketing plan that included 700 tactics. This is an extreme case, but often, marketing teams continue projects just because they were told to do them at some point. They don’t stop and consider whether those tactics are the best use of everyone’s time or will help them meet the objectives.

“In senior living, there’s a lot of inherited marketing,” Wendy says. One marketing team morphs into another and continues what the previous team was doing without knowing why.

To fix this, Wendy helps teams identify three metrics by which to measure success in the current quarter. Building upon the earlier example, metrics might include “create three new memory care case studies,” “add three new memory care pages to the website” and “run five new ad groups on Google to attract memory care inquiries.”

The main three metrics should always be within the team’s control, helping them focus on what needs to be done by when, and why. Post-campaign metrics that can only be measured after the fact, like “generate 25 leads monthly,” are helpful additions because they help the team gauge what’s working and what’s not. Combined, both types of metrics guide the team quarter after quarter to build on momentum and success.

Sign 3: You Want to Scale the Company, but Marketing Is Too Busy to Help

Your marketing team shouldn’t be so busy executing everyday projects that they are unable to formulate a strategy that helps the company grow and scale.

One common problem is having the team exclusively focused on census, rather than profitability or revenue. “You can hit 100% occupancy and still have a significant growth problem,” Wendy points out.

For example, one of Wendy’s clients had an ambitious vision of opening one additional community per year. Though they talked a lot about doing this, the client’s team had trouble executing the goal because they were consumed with the everyday task of keeping the current properties at 100%.

“Just because you have 100% occupancy today doesn’t mean that you’re going to have it tomorrow,” Wendy says. “And tomorrow’s occupancy is dependent upon a much larger vision and a much larger goal.”

Getting to the Bigger Goals

“In our first session with a prospective client—before they even give us one dollar—we do an initial SWOT analysis together,” Wendy says. She helps the prospect identify current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. “And I consistently encourage folks to elevate that conversation.” Here’s how that “elevation” might go:

PROSPECT: We have a website problem. 

WENDY: Why is that important to you?

PROSPECT: I just think that we can get a whole lot more leads to the website. 

WENDY: Why is that important to you?

PROSPECT: Well, because we have this huge revenue goal and this growth goal. 

WENDY: Now we’re talking. Let’s talk about that.

Is your marketing team having trouble focusing? It may be time to bring in some extra help. Learn the important questions you should ask when considering a senior living marketing firm HERE. You can get a head start on tackling the problem by scheduling a free SWOT analysis with Wendy and the Big Buzz team.

Click here to read comments and join the conversation about this article.