A realistic look at unrealistic expectations.

By Dan Hutson

As more senior living providers begin exploring the brave new world of content marketing, one of the biggest content questions is this: Should I post prices on my website? This one is a tough call for several reasons. 

If I tell you that a Mercedes SLK-class convertible costs somewhere north of $50,000, or that a flight from Los Angeles to Paris will set you back a thousand bucks, you’ll probably shrug and say, “Well, yeah.”

We all have a contextual basis for understanding the relative costs of automobiles and air travel. Kia Soul: cheap (everyone knows hamsters are frugal), Mercedes-Benz any class: expensive. Los Angeles to the Bay Area super-cheap, L.A. to Paris pricey. These products are so pervasive in our lives that we intuitively know what’s cheap and what isn’t. We also know what we’re getting for our investment.

Not true with senior housing. Few people have an understanding of what goes into the pricing of life in a senior living community. And because most people lack a clear understanding of our product, if you provide pricing without context you run the risk of turning off prospective customers prematurely.

Understanding the Value Proposition

Because senior living is a complex purchase—size of residence, level of care, contract type, health care needs, other services and various intangibles—understanding the value proposition is essential to understanding pricing. Senior living isn’t a commodity. If I tell you it’s going to cost $3,000 a month plus a $250,000 entrance fee without first providing context or establishing value, then you’re probably going to tell me, “Uh, thanks, I think I’ll wait a little while longer (until I DIE).”

Posting prices without establishing value feels a little suicidal. However, not making pricing more accessible is equally problematic because the buying process has changed dramatically in recent years.

Do Your Homework

Before the Internet, prospects knew little or nothing about our product. Doing your homework on senior living options required making contact with providers early in the process. We controlled access to information; where else could people turn?

Today, of course, prospects do extensive research before we even know they exist. In fact, many do their due diligence online and eliminate you from contention based on what they find (or don’t find). You’ll never know they existed, and your sales team will never have the opportunity to explain why it costs what it costs.

A recent study of business-to-business customers found that nearly two-thirds of a typical purchase decision is made before a customer even talks to a supplier. I suspect senior living buying behavior is similar.

Consumers want their questions answered, and cost is one of the biggest questions on their minds. Senior living providers who resist sharing pricing information online will find themselves increasingly left off of consumers’ short lists. We’d all like our salespeople to have the opportunity to establish context and value before sharing prices, but it’s just not realistic. People want to know what stuff costs now, not when you decide they can handle the information.

Provide Context Through Content

Providing context through content is one way to acknowledge reality: The consumer is now in control of the conversation. If a prospect chooses to educate herself before making contact with you, make sure you’re the source of that education.

Don’t simply post a price sheet on your site and call it a day. Develop content that outlines the differences in housing options and levels of care, explains how pricing works, and shows the value of what you provide through engaging storytelling around how others use your product. Showing the value of your product in a content environment helps provide context for the numbers in the absence of a salesperson/prospect relationship.

It may not be the sales path that you’re comfortable with or the relationship that you desire, but if you’re not more transparent on pricing, you may never get the chance to form any kind of relationship.