By Steve Moran

One of my favorite conferences of the year is SMASH for senior living sales and marketing leaders. It is always a great time to connect with readers and I almost always learn something that helps us at Senior Living Foresight do a better job of serving you.

This year, I asked a bunch of attendees to share their thoughts. We will also be creating a second downloadable marketing tip sheet you can use in your organizations.

Ideas and Experiments

Melissa Wiebenga, Community Relations Manager, Senior Housing Management

“One of the best ideas that I got at the conference was about building relationships with peers – we all have a Rolodex of business cards that we collect. Mostly we don’t do much with them . . . When you meet someone, make a note on their card about what you discussed, and a personal fact about them, then use that information to be both creative and personal in your follow-up.

“For example, if the person is going on vacation make a note of where; if they love books, what kinds of books; and if they have children how old and how many? Then when you follow up you can say, ‘how was that vacation – do you have photos?’ or send them a book they would love. We should be treating our referral partners with the same hospitality we do our potential residents!”

Sharing Ideas

Maureen Leader, Public Relations and Communications Manager, Willow Valley Communities

For her and so many others, the ability to network with other senior living sales and marketing people is huge. It is an opportunity to hear about unique market challenges and solutions. She was particularly intrigued by the idea of using more video in social media and press releases.

No More Doing Things the Same Old Way

Christie Ziegler, Kavod Senior Life

“From the ‘Birds of a Feather’ conversation, I received great marketing insights and ideas from people doing business in similar places and in similar ways. I was reminded that we cannot afford to keep doing business in the same way we have been; I’m excited to think differently and take on new creative challenges.”

Digital, Digital, Digital

Jenni Bost, Director of Brand Development, Radiant Senior Living, Inc. 

“I have a digital marketing background and I was pleased to see that senior living is making use of digital data in exciting ways that help us become better informed about our potential resident and staff members’ needs.

“In my experience, senior living as an industry has been woefully behind in utilizing the digital marketplace in a way that can be most beneficial to those needing our services. It was exciting to see that many companies are out there to help bridge that gap and many of those working in this field are utilizing this space in inventive and exciting ways.”

Email Strategies on Steroids

Kim Kilday, Health and Managed Care Consultant  

“I have a skilled nursing and home care services background where the sales cycle is much different than independent and assisted living. In skilled nursing, email marketing is rarely used. The session titled “The Key to Email Success in Senior Care Marketing” focused on reaching customers where and how they want to receive communication.

The big idea is that providers think about timing in the context of including email. There are financial variables a customer must think about regardless of income level; communicating with people mid-month may lead to conversions at the beginning or end of the month because of how bills get paid relative to  retirement income.

Create a survey and use this question: When thinking about options, which of the following factors are important to you and your loved one?

  1. Financial Costs
  2. Happiness of my loved one
  3. Quality of programming

A community can then customize the next message to respondents based on the answer to this question.”

The Neuroscience of Selling Senior Living

Suzanne Nagel, VP of Marketing, HumanGood

“I am still thinking about the keynote from neuroscientist Carmen Simon about how to make communication memorable. I’ve been in the senior living industry for two years and as I’ve gotten to know it, the lack of differentiation across websites, collateral, and other marketing material is striking (and I include ourselves in that). So, I am thinking deeply about how we can communicate in more unique and memorable ways.”

Know Your Audience

Tom Harner, Marketing Communications Manager, St. John’s, Rochester, NY

“The concept of knowing your audience and creating/positioning content to meet their needs aren’t foreign ones. But as a marketer, it can be difficult to stick to your guns all of the time and keep your audience top of mind. Hearing virtually every speaker talk about the importance of understanding your audience(s) and thinking through how to communicate to them was a great reminder of just how crucial of a step that is.

I particularly enjoyed Allison Wert’s insights on “audience needs” and how putting thought to what those needs are should happen before content creation begins.”

The Buddy System

Lola Rain, Advisory Board Member of SMASH; VP Marketing, Embodied Labs

“Peer support can really have a positive impact on your ability to process information and create an action plan. I recommend implementing the buddy system. Find three or four SMASH attendees you connect with and set up a call within two weeks after the conference. Discuss the key takeaways and how they can be incorporated into your strategy. Create an action plan. Follow up with your buddies two weeks later on the status of your plan. This will help to make sure good ideas don’t fall through the cracks.”