By Steve Moran
I am going to start by saying that “save” is way to strong a word. The senior living sector continues to be strong even in the face of COVID-19 and will bounce back from the occupancy losses even stronger than before.
But we HAVE A HUGE PROBLEM . . .
We have, for decades, been unable to crack a market penetration rate of 10-11%. I and others have suggested we need a national campaign to tell the senior living story. And there have been a few attempts at this with little to no measurable impact.
The A Place for Mom (APFM) Problem
I know APFM will hate me saying this, but they know it. They are the favorite vendor company for senior living operators to HATE. I have received no less than half a dozen messages asking if I thought one of the bright spots in the COVID-19 pandemic would be the demise of APFM. My short answer is that I think it will do serious damage to them, but that they will not go away.
I also need to note that Caring.com is a valued Senior Living Foresight partner and they have a near-identical business model to APFM but are generally viewed more charitably.
The Big Problem
I get why senior living operators view the online aggregators with such disdain. But I also think the industry owns a big part of the blame for why these companies exist. If they had done a great job of integrating themselves into their local communities, the online aggregators would never have gained a foothold.
My big objection to the online aggregators is that consumers inadvertently become a party to a contract between the community and the aggregator. And have no way of really understanding how this could limit their choices in the future.
How Senior Living Could Fall In Love with APFM and Caring.com
Today there is a correct perception that what the aggregators do is pick off a percentage of inevitable senior living consumers. Those who would seek out and ultimately purchase senior living with or without the online service. This means they are getting money that would otherwise go to senior living operators.
It could be different.
What if APFM and Caring.com, but particularly APFM, retargeted their advertising from picking off people who have already decided senior living is right for them and instead focused their advertising and promotional efforts on the 90% who are rejecting senior living in favor of staying home? I should be charging them for this advice, but here are some themes they could focus on:
- My friend Russell Rush, the creator of the R3R1 sales system, talks frequently about senior living consumers having a “prior commitment” to staying home that needs to be refuted.
- They need to be talking about the risk of living at home alone.
- They need to be sharing the statistics about how loneliness kills.
- They need to be sharing stories about how senior living is transforming lives.
If This Happened . . .
Senior living operators would fall in love with aggregators. They would also make buckets more money because they would likely lose very little if any of the revenues they already receive from people who have already decided they need senior living.
Even more noble, they would improve the lives of thousands of older people who would be living better lives.