Content Marketing has seen a big spike in use in just the last few years.

By Dan Hutson

Although it’s been around in various guises since the mid-1800s, content marketing — the creation and distribution of valuable, relevant and consistent content designed to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience in order to drive profitable customer action — has seen a big spike in use in just the last few years. (Need an intro to content marketing? Check this out.)

B2C and B2B marketers alike are developing increasingly complex content marketing strategies while exploring new and innovative formats, distributing content across a wide range of social media platforms and promoting it through paid advertising. Much of this content is designed to meet specific consumer needs for information and education, positioning those publishers as trustworthy, helpful brands, all in hopes of building stronger customer relationships that drive engagement and sales.

Meanwhile, over in senior living, we’re posting videos of old ladies dancing the Nae Nae and lip-syncing to “Happy.” Because seniors behaving like children is ADORABLE.

As you can imagine, I’m not a big fan of video or other storytelling that treats older adults like cute puppies or anything less than people who continue to live rich, purposeful and engaged lives. I’m also not a fan of what passes for content marketing in our industry today.

Too much content that ostensibly is out there to educate and inform is actually self-serving promotion masquerading as useful content. Worse, much of what’s out there doesn’t seem to be part of a larger effort that distinguishes brands through positioning as a trusted resource.

I get it. Building and executing a content marketing strategy is hard work. But it’s an investment that will pay off in the long run. Older adults have seen every kind of come-on and deceptive advertising practice in their long lives. Many know the difference between authentic helpfulness and a sales pitch.

Absent a larger content strategy, consider at least developing and making widely available these five pieces of content. Each focuses on a pressing question or concern most consumers have about senior living. Each could be delivered in the form of a guide, an explanatory video, an infographic or even a consumer education event. Better yet, do each in multiple formats; each of us has our own preferred method of consumption when it comes to learning.

Explain the options

Those of us who work in senior living have a deep understanding of what’s meant by residential living, assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care, etc. Most prospective consumers do not (unless they’re already knee-deep in their research). Help them get past the jargon to understand what the various lifestyle options and care levels represent, how they’re different and where there’s a probable fit. And don’t leave out the options you don’t offer—being authentically helpful sometimes means pointing people in a direction other than yours.

Explain the costs

There’s a lot of market confusion around what’s included (and what’s not) when comparing the various costs of community residency vs. staying at home, moving in with family or other options. I know a number of senior living marketers who probably think it’s clever and effective, but I really hate those so-called “financial calculators” on many sites where you plug in the various costs associated with living at home — mortgage, utilities, insurance, maintenance, etc. — and in the next column over they show community costs where everything’s marked “Included!” I’d prefer giving prospects a deeper understanding of costs that helps them do better financial planning as they enter into a commitment with us. (Having said this, I really hope we don’t still have one of those calculators lurking on our site. I’ve been meaning to develop something more useful, but the list of “To Dos” is really long.)

Explain how to pay for it

If understanding the costs of community living is confusing, knowing how to pay for it can be even more challenging. This is particularly true for health-care-related services. What’s covered by health insurance? What’s included in a long-term-care insurance policy? What’s paid for by Veterans Aid and Attendance? Helping prospects begin to sketch out a financing strategy even before they come through your door is a service they’ll appreciate (and make it more likely they DO come through your door when they’re ready).

Explain contracts

Is there anything more stressful in life than signing a contract that has huge financial implications? A piece of explanatory content that reviews senior living contract types and what to look for can go a long way in educating prospects and giving them greater assurance that the decision they’re making is in their best interests. If knowledge is power, then clarity leads to confidence.

Explain how to evaluate and choose

Speaking of confidence, I can think of no greater indicator that you stand by your product than when you teach people how to assess your community and others. Give them the questions that you yourself would ask if you were evaluating communities for your own family. Tell them what to watch for during a tour. Help them understand the difference between the red flags and the red herrings — for example, when is a survey deficiency something to worry about and when is it much ado about nothing?

These are not meant as substitutes for a comprehensive, integrated strategy. But if you consider the many questions and concerns that come up during the sales process, and develop content that begins to answer these questions, then you’ve taken a step in the right direction.