By Susan Saldibar

The other day, as I read through a paper called “Top 10 Ways to Fill Your RAL Fast”, I couldn’t help but think that there were some useful tips for anyone operating a senior care community, whether you’re residential assisted living (RAL) or not. Gene Guarino, President of RAL Academy (and author of the paper), agrees. 

So I thought I’d share a few things in the paper that stand out – first, because they’re important and, second, because they tend to get pushed aside. Maybe that’s because they require a bit more thought and organization and are therefore regarded as “a hassle”. But they’re important and deserve attention. So here they are, along with a few of my own comments.

Three Key Moves

  1. Engage regularly with potential professional referrals
    Professional referrals are an important source of leads for senior living operators. And, yet, the amount of time operators spend engaging with them can be spotty, at best. Maybe that’s because it takes commitment and energy to get out there and visit them. For those who do, however, it is time well spent. Especially those who don’t go empty-handed. The paper suggests bringing along a small gift to keep the memory of your visit (and your brand) alive. While many providers have policies that prevent them from receiving gifts, a plate of fresh cookies or box of candy stays under the radar and is generally well-received. It’s old fashioned and low tech, but it works. Here are a few referral sources that the paper suggests getting in front of regularly: 
    • Geriatric doctors
    • Hospitals
    • Nurses
    • Discharge staff and caseworkers
    • Financial planners
    • Pharmacies
  2. Get serious about YELP (and other directories)
    If you are not yet working to optimize your presence on YELP and keeping track of reviews, now is the time to do it. If you don’t, you are in effect handing over the reins to your competitors. And chances are they’re already doing it. Gene suggests that operators check for reviews and update listings regularly. As the paper states, “You can’t just do it once and hope it works.”
  3. Have a strong “leave behind” brochure
    This is a good one for those of you who think you can get by on just sending emails containing links or pdfs after a visit. According to Gene, having a printed piece (or “leave behind”) can really set your community apart. And they’re easy to create (MS Publisher) and print (upload file to a professional printer). They can be taken on calls to potential referral sources, such as senior centers, hospitals, clinics, churches, and anywhere else your reps might visit. 

Again, these are just a few of the tips you’ll find in the paper. Gene, by the way, always has a few additional points to share when I speak with him. Here’s one: Boomers aren’t the only ones out there searching for living solutions for their parents. Gene tells me that he’s seeing increasing numbers of younger adults, even millennials, emerging as influencers and information gatherers on behalf of their aging grandparents. “That’s why having a website that is responsive to mobile is so important,” Gene tells me. “People love photos and videos. They also tend to gravitate towards sections like ‘About Us’. Make sure that section is well put together and represents your community in a positive way,” he adds. 

There’s plenty more expertise and insight where that came from, Gene tells me. And you’ll find it within the 20+ presentations scheduled for the upcoming RAL National Convention, October 4th-5th in Phoenix. Attendance is open to anyone in the senior living industry and those interested in learning more about the opportunities in residential assisted living. Owners, operators, and investors are all welcome to attend.  

First, download the paper. Then, you can get more information about the RAL National convention coming up October 4th-5th in Phoenix, here. (Register with the code “SLF” for a discount!) For more information about the RAL National Association, you can visit their website here. Finally, to learn more about the RAL Academy you can visit their website