By Susan Saldibar

A year or so ago, after COVID delivered its sucker punch to on-site tours, operators looked around for something, anything, to share on their websites that might give visitors a better sense of what lies behind their doors. Some were more successful than others. But the job of shortening the ever-widening gap between initial inquiry and tour fell to sales counselors. Most of whom were ill-equipped to “paint a picture” that no one could physically see.

And yet there were tools available to help them do just that. Some technology providers were already ahead of the game and ready to help. One of those providers was The Vectre (a Foresight partner), creator of YourTour, a personalized virtual sales enablement tool.

As community restrictions begin to loosen, that gap between initial inquiry and tour is still problematic. During a recent conversation with Hoyle Koontz, co-founder of The Vectre, he shared data from the recent Enquire sales and marketing benchmark study of over 4,000 senior living locations nationwide. The study compared its findings between 2019 (pre-COVID) and 2020 (COVID):

Not surprisingly, web inquiries increased from 2019 to 2020 for most segments:

  • IL: Increased 20%
  • Life Plan: Increased 10%
  • AL: Increased 8%
  • IL and AL: Increased 0%

But so did the length of inquiry-to-tour from 2019 to 2020 across all segments:

  • IL: From 53 days to 70 days
  • Life Plan: From 89 days to 116 days
  • AL: From 40 days to 53 days
  • IL and AL: From 52 days to 69 days

Some Communities Have Actually Shortened the Gap — But How?

It’s hard to ignore the impact on sales due to months of closed doors. “And think about it, that’s still where we are,” Hoyle says. “Some restrictions may be loosening, but we still have a major gap between inquiry and tour.”

And yet some operators have managed to actually narrow that gap. One tool that has made a difference is YourTour, with its ability to dynamically tailor a virtual tour to each prospect. The key, according to Hoyle, is that by offering a highly personalized view of a community, the prospect can evaluate and decide much faster, thereby getting “unstuck” from a perpetual cycle of indecision. “It also gives a great first impression in a highly competitive market,” Hoyle says.

But, unlike static virtual tours on the community’s marketing website, YourTour was developed specifically to empower the sales team. “Don’t mistake a virtual tour that sits on a community website as a sales tool,” Hoyle says. “They’re great marketing tools, and we harness those virtual tours in the YourTour platform for enhanced storytelling, but we’re creating a sales tool that helps advance the sales process.”

Communities Are Sharing Their Stories — We All Should Be Listening

Maybe the best way to illustrate this is by those communities that are using YourTour and reporting results. Hoyle shared a couple with me:

Highpoint at Stonecrest, a new for-profit retirement community in Summerfield, Florida

Having broken ground during the heart of the pandemic in a very competitive market with 20+ communities within an 11-mile radius, the challenge was in pre-leasing apartments. The sales team used YourTour to help prospects visualize the soon-to-be-built community with the help of a highly interactive community map integrated with high-quality 3D renderings and animations of the major amenities. Residences are showcased with individual 3D floor plans that include actual furnishings.

The result of using YourTour was declared “a huge win”, helping them garner 80 depositors in less than 6 months. They believe that the YourTour platform “is the reason we have been so successful.” (You can read the full case study here.)

Still Hopes Retirement Community, a not-for-profit Life Plan Community in Columbia, South Carolina

With visitation restrictions and infection protocols came the end of in-person marketing events at Still Hopes. Stewart Rawson, Director of Sales and Marketing, paints the picture in an interesting manner. “Gone were the monthly lunches that offered us the opportunity to showcase our amenities, our fabulous dining options, and our highly engaged staff. We could no longer offer tours in person. We had to rely on phone calls and emails and other impersonal forms of communication. And the message that we received on the other end was, ‘We are going to wait until this is over to make a decision.’”

“Then came YourTour. This nimble, virtual platform rendered our entire campus, embedded lifestyle-based videos of our amenities, and featured all of our floor plans. Immediately we were able to offer the closest thing possible to an in-person tour. Sharing our screen on Zoom, we were able to create the feel of an in-person lunch and tour. We could “walk through” the floor plans that were available with the three-dimensional renderings. It was the closest we could come to offering folks the ability to look, feel, touch, and experience. The first couple that joined on a Zoom call reserved an apartment at the end of a 45-minute virtual experience and signed a contract the next day. YourTour is now how we start our sales conversations here in our discovery center with prospects to avoid tour fatigue, and how we engage and follow-up with prospects as the sales cycle progresses.”

Rethinking the Process

“My hope is that we’ve learned enough to rethink the process of going back to the way things used to be,” Hoyle says. “Sales teams now have access to new digital tools, such as YourTour, to evolve their sales process to meet prospects where they are today. You can close that inquiry to tour gap by personalizing the customer’s experience with a highly relevant virtual tour. So that by the time they do walk through your doors, the in-person tour is already very familiar to them.”

For more information, or to schedule a demo of the YourTour platform, visit the YourTour website.

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