By Leigh Ann Hubbard

As occupancy rates keep setting record lows, senior living marketers are feeling pressure to do whatever it takes to attract qualified new residents. The temptation to push ethical boundaries can be great. A little white lie or exaggeration here and there — what does it hurt?

For one thing, it could hurt your profits. Sticking to your moral guns can save you money while attracting better leads, says Dan Gemp, president and CEO of Dreamscape Marketing, a Foresight partner.

The company specializes in ethical digital marketing. They use clients’ budgets judiciously, market transparently, and focus on bringing in not just leads but leads likely to convert.

Here are their top tips for how to market ethically and be more successful than you would otherwise.

Tip 1: Market Your Specialty

“You’re not going to trick someone into moving their mother into your location,” says Dan, who tends to pull no punches.

For example, if your community offers excellent care options, “your digital marketing plan should not default to broad lifestyle messaging, but instead target the precise demographic of prospective residents searching for your expertise,” Dan says.

On the other hand, if care isn’t your strength, focus on what is. For example, Dan has seen some communities tout memory care even without a strong program. “So they’re somewhat taking advantage of people with dementia,” he says. “Whereas we have found if you advertise your specialties transparently and ethically, you’ll actually get more move-ins. You’ll make more money that way than pretending.”

If you’re struggling with finding the right messaging, consulting with a marketing agency can help. A firm with experience in senior living can tell you what they’ve seen work for communities like yours.

Tip 2: Get Your Own Leads

To say that Dan doesn’t like lead aggregator services is putting it lightly. “Essentially, they’re ‘selling’ your parents to the highest bidder,” he says.

And given aggregators’ markups, many communities would prefer not to work with them either. But does pulling the plug with this lead generator mean losing leads?

Not necessarily. “Communities could do exactly what placement service sites do to generate leads for 30% less money. That’s the data,” Dan says. “All these sites do is hyper-local SEO and localized paid search ads, and then mark up resulting inquiries.” 

If you focus your content — website, articles, blog posts, social media, online ads — on the town your community is in (or, in large cities, on the neighborhood it’s in), you can get leads coming directly to you instead of a third party.

Not only that, but you may get better-qualified leads. “What’s better than 100 phone calls? 10 phone calls and 10 move-ins,” Dan points out.

Great search engine optimization is important in this method, especially in competitive markets. If you’re not an SEO expert — or if you don’t have time to develop new content — you may want to outsource some of the work. In that case . . .

Tip 3: Make Sure You’re Served Ethically Too

A lot of senior living marketing agencies template their services to maximize their profits, Dan says. “They give the least amount of deliverables for the most amount of money.” For example, they may offer to run lots of paid ads, even if that’s not the best solution for their client, because that nets them easy money.

Dreamscape Marketing has a different business model. “We’ve directly profited by staying old-school ethical — 100% good for our word — and, regardless of budget, always delivering for our clients,” Dan says. “We would rather be clever and not have to spend all of your money to accomplish your goals. That builds partnership.”

Tip 4: Market with A Mission

Though marketing sometimes gets a bad rap because of unscrupulous players, when done ethically, senior living marketing has the power to help improve lives.

Dave Grauel, marketing director at Dreamscape Marketing, goes so far as to say that if your community is excellent, you have a moral obligation to help people find it.

For example, if, through SEO, you get to the top of a key organic Google search result — or, even better, the highly coveted Google local pack results — that’s a great marketing success. But it’s also an ethical win. By making your community easy to find, Dave says, “you are boxing out — taking digital real estate back from substandard operators, and ensuring the senior population you’ve dedicated your career to serving connects with their possible new home.

“It is your humanitarian, moral obligation to deliver your message — tell your story where it will do the most good. In 2021, that place is at the top of Google search results through digital marketing,” Dave says. “You owe it to your future residents to be at the top of Google, or else someone else will be.” And that someone else may not be as ethical as you are. “We would love to see this industry competing for the strongest transparency in dialogue and ethical operations.”

If you’re interested in exploring how ethical marketing could help your community succeed, while reducing costs, you can book a complimentary strategy session with Dreamscape Marketing. Ask questions and get answers specific to your challenges. To claim your complimentary consultation, fill out the form below.

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