A panel of senior living experts talk about how to reach senior living consumers.

A couple of weeks ago I moderated a panel on how senior living providers reach consumers at Mary Furlong’s What’s Next Business Boomer Summit in Chicago. I confess I went to the conference more out of guilt and obligation than because I felt it had much to do with my focus on senior living providers. 

Don’t get me wrong. It is a great event for those selling to, looking at, and thinking about Baby Boomers, but most are too young for senior living and most of the participants are focused on serving and exploring relatively young seniors.

Senior Living

It turns out that Mary is doing a really nice job of more fully integrating senior living into the whole boomer conversation. As I stuck my head in the various breakout sessions, it appeared the session I moderated on senior living marketing was better attended than most and had a meaningful number of senior living providers.

I headed back to the airport thinking I kinda screwed up when I booked a flight that would get me in late the night before the event and a flight back home in the early evening of the event. It meant  I missed the last couple of sessions and some great networking at the end of the day.

The Panel

The panel included Katie Roper of Caring.com, a Senior Housing Forum partner, Rick Banas with BMA Management, Paula Ledbetter, with Mather LifeWays and Bailey Beeken, the founder of the SMASH Marketing Summit

Before the event I worked with the panel to come-up with a list of questions I might ask knowing I would not use all of them (If you are interested, you can download the master list I used at the bottom of the page).

The High Points

  • The World of Marketing Senior Living Has Changed  –  It is clear and obvious that the internet and social media has become much more important.  However, Paula pointed out, that for Mather Lifeways and their CCRC communities, they are still finding that traditional print and snail mail is a huge part of what they are doing. They continue to use those old schools because they work.

    This is a hugely important reminder that the web and social media are just tools and not the end game or end goal. If we can fill our communities efficiently we should not stop doing that because social and the web is the new thing that everyone else is doing.

  • What the Industry is Doing Right – One of my early questions was this: What is the senior living sector doing really well with respect to reaching consumers. Even though the entire panel had access to my list of questions in advance, they all looked like deer in the headlights when I asked that question. If I am honest, no one felt like the industry is doing a bang up job of reaching the right consumers.
  • Consumer Reviews –  There was consensus that consumer reviews are hugely important and curiously that hardly anyone is doing a great job of exploiting that opportunity.   Katie pointed out that the Caring.com data consistently suggests that more reviews equals high quality leads and more leads.
  • To Post or Not Post  –  It was not particularly surprising, but when I asked the panelists about whether or not they thought posting pricing on community sites, there was vigorous discussion. On one hand, there is a general belief that consumers do want to see pricing data, something that has been confirmed in research done by Google and others. One the other hand, pricing is difficult because what we sell is a mix of housing and services and how that it is bundled creates a huge amount of variability.

Finally I did a quick thumbs up or down on the following platforms media:

  • LinkedIn 
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Pinetrest
  • Video
  • Instagram

It was a great panel and we could have gone for another hour easily. Did we hit the right areas; did the panel get it right?

Steve Moran