Technology vs Marketing — Do you know what you need to keep up?

By Susan Saldibar

Think 2015 presented marketing challenges? Get ready for 2016. More competition, more technology, more options. And now is the time to start planning, according to Melinda Schmitz, Executive VP of Sage Age Strategies a Senior Housing Forum Partner.

Melinda urges senior care providers to stop back-pedaling when it comes to using today’s marketing tools. You are selling to a savvy new generation of clients; the children of today’s (and tomorrow’s) seniors. That means you need to get serious about how you use your marketing tools.

“Every year that senior care providers continue to apply old school practices to serve a very tech savvy new generation of clients, puts them further and further behind the curve,” says Melinda. “You don’t have to redesign your entire infrastructure. You just need to get on top of the key technology drivers that are fueling the marketing life cycle for today’s senior living communities.”  

So before you pull the trigger on a new marketing plan and budget for 2016, here are the five areas where your marketing dollars can make a big difference.

1. Mobile Access to Everything

Mobile apps are now available for just about everything. Busy adult children turn to their smart phones to access the internet. There are now more people accessing the internet from smart phones than from laptop computers.

How does your website respond to mobile access? Are your ads and access to information easy to grab off a smart phone? Remember, no one is sitting at home in a comfortable chair in front of their home computer to leisurely research communities for their parents. They are on the run and on their smartphones. Are you?

2. The Latest SEO Tools 

We’ve all heard the foreboding words of marketers: “If you’re not on ‘Page One,’ you don’t exist!” It’s true. Think of all the adult children who have neither the time nor the patience to search page after page of community web listings. They could be your next leads. But they have to see you first!

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Today’s SEO is about more than key words these days for maximized page ranking. Remember when Google’s “Hummingbird” SEO algorithm was introduced just a few years ago? Hummingbird modified the entire SEO dynamic, adding significant value to responsive, consumer-oriented content (more about that later). If you are not on top of your SEO, you won’t be able to adjust your marketing to optimize its power.

3. “Smart” Social Media Programs

Okay, everyone does social media, right? So what do we mean by “smart”? We mean taking Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and blogging seriously enough to tightly integrate them with your marketing plan. Every piece of content and messaging needs to support your goals and reinforce your brand.

Social media isn’t a kid’s playground anymore. It’s a competitive playing field. In fact, many marketers predict that social media platforms such as Facebook will actually replace traditional internet website as a way to gather insight about an organization. The more relaxed format gives visitors a window into the culture of the organization and its clients.

And, yes, it drives leads! Studies have shown that social media has a higher lead-to-close rate than many of the traditional marketing tactics. A higher number of social media followers builds trust and credibility in your brand – a primary consideration in senior living decision making.

4. Responsive and Relevant Content

Successful businesses consider content as a primary strategy. Studies show that organizations that strategically focus their content on the detailed personas of their key customer groups outperform those that take a less targeted approach. These businesses achieve an average website conversion rate that is far superior to others – 5.9 percent vs. 3.8 percent respectively.

And a recent Forbes study found that marketers using responsive, data-driven messaging are 6+ times more likely than their counterparts to achieve a competitive advantage and increase profitability.

But what do we mean by “responsive” and “relevant”? Says Melinda, “In a nutshell, your content messaging should respond directly to the expressed needs, questions and concerns of your key customer groups if it is going to register with them and motivate them to respond. A mere listing of your services and features is no longer sufficient. Your content needs to speak directly to the issues that your prospective customers have as well as offering them compelling reasons why you offer the most effective solutions.”

5. Performance Dashboards

It almost goes without saying that, if you are active in all the above areas, you’ll need a way to track metrics and measure performance. And spreadsheets won’t get you there.

Performance “Dashboards,” are critical to measure and display Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). And today’s dashboards do more than publish data; they allow interaction with the data.

Just as an example, how many monthly leads are generated and where they are coming from (or not coming from)? Are your resident/ family satisfaction scores meeting your targets – and if not, why not? Well-designed dashboards will make obvious what is working, what isn’t working and where you need to spend your time and energy to optimize your community’s performance.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Sage Age Strategies has developed a performance dashboard that can pinpoint your weaknesses, improve your operations and, most importantly, boost your return on investment. Recently previewed at the 2015 SMASH conference, their SageDashboard is built on the most critical KPIs and measures in a single, convenient location, both your online (digital) and traditional marketing effectiveness. The SageDashboard will be launched in the senior living market this November. (We’ll have more on that next month.)

Click here for more tips about creating an effective marketing budget.