Barn Raising was a pioneer way of getting a big thing done and building a mutually supportive community. It provides great lessons for marketing your senior housing community.

In grade school we all learned about the pioneer practice of “Barn Raising”. 

In early America, when a farmer needed a new barn he would prepare his site, gather all the needed material,  then throw a “Barn Raising” party.   Neighbors from miles around would show up to build a barn in just a few days with no wages promised or expected.   It was an efficient and fun way to get a barn built. 

Entire families would come; the men would build, the women would cook and the kids would play.   At the end of the day, the weekend or a few days, the kids had more fun than Christmas, the wives got to show off their best recipes, brag on their kids and deepen their friendships.  The men worked hard, saw a tangible result and knew with absolute certainty that when they needed a new barn their friends would be there to help them.  At the end of the party everyone when home feeling completely satisfied.

In the competitive silo’ d world of senior housing (and most business segments) the art of barn raising has been lost.  Here is the proposition: Senior housing communities are in a unique position to be master barn raisers in their local community and, over time, they can know that this community building (which ultimately is what barn building was all about) will result in a constant flow of new residents and a very high level of occupancy.   

Selling to Seniors

In some sense the buzz about selling to seniors is ten or fifteen years too early. Consumers  who are sixty, seventy and even eighty years old today look a lot more like twenty and thirty year old consumers than like we think senior consumers are supposed to look and behave, but this does not stop businesses from trying.  Here is just a partial list of people who want to sell to seniors:  

· Insurance Companies · Opticians · Physicians
· Airlines · Pharmacies · Funeral Homes
· Hotels · DME Providers · Physical Therapists
· Attorneys · Nutritionists · Cemeteries
· Financial Planners · Home Care Agencies · Small Board & Care Homes
· Hospitals · Banks · Other Senior Communities

So here is where I hope you to start dreaming:  Imagine that for each of these entities in your local marketplace, when someone needs your level of care, the first place they think of is your community.  This might very well even include your competitors because, in truth, from time to time you will have someone come to your community and after getting to know them you will figure out that you are not the best fit but someone else is. 

This is equally true for competitors. Barn building means making friends with people in these organizations . . .  and I am talking about real friendships not just phony stuff (because life is too short for that).  Then figuring out what their needs are and helping them meet those needs. 

For each one it is going to be different and those needs will change over time.  The approach will be different for each one.  In some cases it will be monthly lunches, in other cases it will be regular phone calls or emails.  Part of the challenge and fun is figuring it all out. Part Two will provide some practical guidance about how to make this happen in real life including some examples from the Growth of Senior Housing Forum.  

You can read Part Two  “Barn Raising –  Pay it Forward, Senior Housing Sized” here   What are some other groups I should have added to my list above?  

Steve Moran