How far will someone considering senior housing travel to visit your community?

How far will someone considering senior housing travel to visit your community?

Research conducted in 2003 by Beverly Asper and Jennifer Schwalm, titled “Determining Moving Distances to Continuing Care Retirement Communities: An Empirical Analysis,” concluded that 22.5% of CCRC residents relocate from more than 15 miles away from the property where they ultimately reside. Or conversely, 77.5% relocate from less than 15 miles.

A more recent (2009) study, conducted by CIRCA 46 (a Senior Housing Forum Partner), CCRC client confirmed that more than 80% of its residents moved less than ten miles to the community. Conversations with senior housing operators I have had about this question generally support this observation; some have even suggested a smaller 7-8 mile radius.

So why should this be important to any senior housing operator?

First, it should tell you that most of your advertising spending outside of a 10-15 mile radius around your community is wasted.

As your advertising expands farther away from your community geographically, the cost for every incremental prospect you reach increases exponentially – you spend more and more to reach fewer and fewer prospective residents. Statistically, you are four times more likely to reach a bona fide within that radius than outside of it.

What this means is that advertising a single community in mass media vehicles with broad geographic coverage – like television, radio, major metropolitan newspapers – is very inefficient.

Second, most of your prospects will not seriously consider communities that are not nearby. If they are looking at you, they are probably limiting their options to other communities that are located close to yours. Therefore, your true competition are those communities located within that same 10-15 radius surrounding your community.

As you work to position your community vis-à-vis other senior living options, you really only need to consider those properties within that radius.

The point is this: concentrate your marketing and advertising spending in as tight a geographic area as you feel comfortable with, recognizing that you can’t afford to reach every potential prospect and will consequently miss out on prospects who are outside of your area of focus.

And while I am on the topic of “focus” . . .

If there is one thing I have learned over four-plus decades in the advertising business, it is that probably the biggest mistake advertisers make is lack of focus. As they look at the all the opportunities that are available to them, they can usually make a good case for pursuing every opportunity.

So what do they do?

They allocate a little money to pursue Opportunity #1. They budget a little money for Opportunity #2. They throw a little more of their budget at Opportunity #3. And so on. The end result is they ultimately spread their marketing dollars so thin, that there is not enough budget allocated to pursue any single opportunity effectively. 

This is a big temptation for senior housing operators.

Don’t try to do everything! To compete successfully with limited resources, it is essential that you concentrate your advertising dollars so that you have enough advertising weight to make an impact on a given target.

A highway patrolman once stopped me for speeding. (I was driving a red Corvette at the time, and it was a radar magnet.) While I couldn’t argue that I was not driving at a rate that was above the posted speed limit, I suggested, in the nicest manner, that I thought I was driving with the flow of traffic.

The patrolman agreed.

My next question obviously was, “Why me?” The patrolman asked me if I had ever been duck hunting. When I said no, he replied, “When you’re sitting in your duck blind and a flock of ducks flies overhead, you don’t shoot at the whole flock. You pick one out.” In other words, out of all the cars that were exceeding the speed limit, he singled out my red ‘Vette.

I tell this story to make a point (other than to advise you to stay within the speed limit when driving a red Corvette). Just as a duck hunter doesn’t shoot at the whole flock, the senior housing operator cannot chase after all the opportunities that are presented to him (or her). He needs to “pick one out.”

Finally we have put together a one-page tip sheet on how to sharpen the focus of your marketing efforts and dollars that you can download here.

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Paul Flowers