By Susan Saldibar
As we all sit and watch this pandemic roll out, many a marketing program has taken a back seat to the operational side of the house. It’s all hands on deck these days. And rightfully so. Because, amidst the confusion and disruption, the driving need to put the safety and health of residents and staff above all else has taken center stage.
And yet there is a price to pay for tapping the marketing brakes. “The biggest mistake senior living marketers can make right now is to go dark,” says Valerie Whitman, VP of Senior Living for LeadingResponse, (a Senior Living Foresight partner). And, for good reason.
“First, your prospects need to know you’re out there,” Valerie says. “Even with the coronavirus crisis, there are thousands of families struggling to make decisions about loved ones who can no longer live alone. The virus hasn’t changed that.”
That means that families of aging seniors still need to be able to find you. But, Valerie explains, marketers will need to make a few key adjustments. Some are born out of necessity (you probably aren’t doing tours or events right now). Others represent a shift in how you relate to your prospects.
Valerie will be conducting a webinar called Strategies to Continue Lead Generation During COVID-19 on Thursday, March 26th at 1 pm EST. You can register here.
In the meantime, here are some “musts” for senior living community marketers in order to effectively adjust your marketing vehicles and programs in ways that suit the current environment and help your prospects in more meaningful ways.
- Maintain and increase your brand awareness. This is a time for marketers to push back a bit on tracking ROI to reinforcing your brand. While ROI is always going to be important, Valerie sees this as an opportunity to build your brand in more meaningful ways. People are seeking resources now more than ever and are attracted to businesses that understand their needs in this new environment. Why not be that resource?
- Engage in the absence of tours. No one can deny that this is a huge challenge right now. Suddenly tours are grinding to a halt as senior care communities close their doors to control the safety of their environments. That said, this is a good time to get serious about your capability to provide virtual tours to your prospects. It’s also a good time to reach out in new ways to future residents that live in your greater community. “When we experience blizzards, floods, and other life-altering events, we reach out to our neighbors to help,” Valerie explains. “Find ways to help, whether it’s delivering care packages to seniors who are isolated in their homes or sending reassuring messages. It’s a great way to help out and keep your brand fresh,” she adds.
- Adopt alternative lead generation strategies. It’s time to re-calibrate and sharpen your programs and find other ways of bringing in leads.
- Webinars. These can help bridge the onsite events gap. But Valerie urges caution. Make sure they are on topics that are of interest right now. No one wants to sit and hear a community extol its virtues while they’re homebound dealing with dogs and kids (and worries). Don’t be afraid to address the current coronavirus environment. What do you have to share that can help your prospects navigate these rocky waters?
- Digital marketing. While you will want to adjust your messaging to fit the sensitivity of this period, you should still be using tools to allow you to re-target. This is also a good time to do more, not less, with your digital marketing. It’s cost-effective and messaging is easily adjusted.
- Direct mail. People are still going out to their mailboxes. Valerie notes that she’s seeing senior living communities stepping up the frequency of their direct mail and using inexpensive postcards to send re-assuring messages, helpful hints, and other educational information to prospective residents and families.
- It bears noting here that LeadingResponse can handle all this for you. They have a live 24/7 call center set up to field inquiries and a structure that enables them to quickly route warm leads to your sales team.
- Find the best CTAs to use. This is a time to look inside your organization for things you can share that have value and will prompt prospects to fill out a form to access them. “Some communities already have built up a library of educational materials and checklists that have real value,” Valerie says. “So, a ‘schedule a tour’ CTA can be adjusted to one that brings prospects to your website to download a checklist or a care assessment tool,” Valerie says.
As hard as it might be to believe it, the coronavirus pandemic will have an end. The question is, how will your community be positioned to fill your rooms when it does end? Will your brand come out watered down because you went dark, or stronger than ever because you jumped in and engaged?