Research shows that about 1/3 of online searchers of senior care resources prefer to get an overview of their options from a one-stop shop like a directory site

A few days ago, a Senior Housing Forum partner, pulled together a unique webinar panel to discuss how senior living communities can get the most from their partnership with any online referral agency, not just

The discussion, part of’s ongoing Digital Marketing Academy, was moderated by Katie Roper, vice president of sales and marketing for  Panelists included:

  • Anne Kempsell, vice president of sales for Bright Oaks Group, formerly head of client services for
  • Lise Detweiler, vice president with Concepts in Community Living, and formerly regional sales manager for A Place for Mom; and
  • Megan Fletcher, director of client services for, and formerly regional sales and marketing director for Merrill Gardens

These talented professionals have worked both sides of the partnership and provided the inside scoop.

The Inside Scoop

For referral agencies: The process starts with getting unscreened leads. Their valuable content, unbiased consumer reviews, and sophisticated digital marketing tactics attract people seeking information and support for aging loved ones to their websites. For example,, the largest senior care resource online, attracts three million visitors each month.

Research shows that about 1/3 of online searchers of senior care resources prefer to get an overview of their options from a one-stop shop like a directory site, especially if they do not live in the area in which they’re searching for care.

Once consumers request contact, they are routed to call centers where advisors talk with these prospects. They typically spend from 20-40 minutes screening the calls, by uncovering  the caller’s situation, needs and available finances. They redirect the spam, job seekers, those on Medicaid, and others who are financially unqualified. They match the caller’s needs with available communities, and, finally, email the prospects’ contact information and important screening notes to appropriate communities.

With the hand off to senior living communities, the referral partners hope that the community’s salespeople will read the notes and contact the prospect immediately, and then continue to “work” the lead or service the individual’s information request: following up with calls, emails, and other written correspondence – whatever is the prospect’s preferred method of contact. As many industry salespeople are aware, the community that gets the first face-to-face with the prospect is five (5) times more likely to get the move-in according to DEI Sales.

10 Best Practices

During the Digital Marketing Academy webcast, the expert panelists agreed that to get the best results – that is, to convert these qualified referrals to move-ins – community salespeople need to utilize the following best practices:

  1. Provide a compelling description of your community – that makes your community seem great and conveys how you are unique. Tip: Describe your “signature” programs or one-of-a-kind services – stand out from the crowd of options.  
  2. Give the referral partner lots of information – pricing, specials and promotions, events in community, etc. – and make sure it’s up-to-date. Tip: Check in with your listing account rep. at least once a quarter.  
  3. Take advantage of “private notes” features that only referral agency advisors see – to convey information you want the advisor to know but that consumer prospects do not need to know or might find confusing, such as end dates for promotions, medical care capabilities, and the like. Tip: While these are “internal” or private messages, keep them professional nonetheless.
  4. When you receive a referral, jump on it – get back to prospects as quickly as possible, then keep contacting them until they let you know they’ve made their choice. Tip: Honor the communication preference of the consumer – you can turn off a ‘hot referral’ by calling too much in too short a timeframe.
  5. When speaking with the consumer, reference the referral agency advisor who screened the prospect. – Tip: The referral partner advisor has developed a level of rapport with the prospect and mentioning them builds your credibility and makes the prospect more likely to call you back.
  6. Personalize conversations and emails based on what you’ve read in the advisor notes – verify their situation and needs. Tip: Referencing specific notes from the referral partner about the prospect is another way to build the relationship and demonstrate your focus on meeting their specific needs.
  7. Keep the referral agency in the loop – provide feedback on each lead, tell them if the lead is in your database. Tip: This can reduce administrative burden later (as well as ease stress of all involved) – and helps improve the quality of referrals you receive as well.
  8. Remember we’re in this together – Treat your advisor as a partner; get to know him or her, strategize with them. Tip: Like your relationship-building approach to prospects, you should also take note about the advisor’s particular skills, style, and personal attributes to reference later and help develop rapport.  
  9. Make sure your referral partner is telling each prospect what is going to happen next – so prospects are more open to community calls. Tip: Share your sales approach with your referral partner to help ensure accurate info is conveyed to the prospect about your community’s outreach/next steps.
  10. If your referral partner’s site carries online reviews, check and respond to them – whether they’re positive or negative.Tip: Learn about the partner’s value-added features for clients, such as automated alerts when new reviews are posted.

    Use referral agency’s tools — such as’s custom submission form and pre-paid postcard — to seek reviews from your residents and their family members,

Do you think you’re getting the best from your online referral agency? What keeps it from happening or makes it happen for you?

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