By Susan Saldibar
“They came to us and said, ‘Please help us defend our community!’”
Those words became the rallying cry for an organization that is now saving communities tens of thousands of dollars; money they no longer have to spend to get leads that should have come directly to them.
Chris Westmeyer (he goes by “Wes”), is the founder and president of Caring Advisor (a Foresight partner). Given his near-geekish knowledge of how search works, it isn’t surprising that he and his team have become experts at “blocking and tackling” on the Google/Bing field every day on behalf of his clients.
Leads Can Cost Thousands of Dollars
So, what’s the problem here? “We built Caring Advisor because our clients (from their digital marketing company, DigitalStrike) were complaining about the payments they were making to the ‘big guys’,” Wes says. “So, when someone searched their community, by brand name, they were being outranked by listing agencies in organic search who were also running ads against the community’s branded keywords. They said, ‘Help us defend our community!’ And we did.”
Most community searches are littered with competitors (listing agencies/aggregators) ready and waiting to use their power and might to outbid on a community name, jump ahead in the search ranking and then sell the lead back to the community. So a lead that should have gone direct, will end up costing the community 60% of the first month after a move-in. That’s thousands of dollars!
Do a Search on Your Brand. Did You Get Out Bid?
Why is it continuing to happen? Much of this, according to Wes, is due to a hesitation by community leadership to invest in digital marketing. Instead, they assume that the brand alone will always win the top spot in the search engines. The lack of investment is now coming home to roost in a big way.
Wes urges senior living marketers to do a Google or Bing search on their brand. “What did you see within the search results? Were lead-generating websites bidding or ranking organically for your community name? Why do you think they do this? The simple answer is – it’s very profitable for them,” he says.
3 Ways to Defend Your Brand Visibility
I asked Wes what communities can do to defend their brands. Here are his 3 options to take back control:
- Increase your search marketing efforts. The only concern here is at best, your community can run one paid search ad, generally appear once in search results for the website, and have one local business listing. Lead generation companies with multiple brands/websites can appear multiple times within paid and organic search results. As an example, A Place for Mom could appear in paid and organic search results for your community name and Senior Advisor (a website they own) could do the same. But all leads end up coming through A Place for Mom. This does not even take into account the other “informational” websites that are affiliated with A Place for Mom that could also rank, such as Alzheimers.net or theseniorlist.com.
- Decide that it is not worth the cost and effort and just try to negotiate the best deal you can get with these companies. A big concern going forward is that these lead generation companies are generally owned by private equity companies and, as such, are always being pushed to create more revenue. So lead costs will probably never decrease, but could increase over time.
- Decide to utilize a partner like Caring Advisor. They can do the blocking and tackling for you. And, ultimately, minimize any costs associated with defending your brand while also opening up additional opportunities for unbranded leads. The biggest concern is you are utilizing a third party to help capture your lost branded leads. But, if that partner has your best interests in mind then it may be less of a concern.
What Does All This Mean for Senior Living Community Marketers?
It’s good news because it means that you now have an option in addition to listing agencies. You can continue to use them, but you can also put Caring Advisor and the Caring Advisor Network on your team to block and tackle while opening up a path to greater visibility (and more direct leads).
“Our job is to help communities own everything again,” Wes says. “We’re committed to it. We have a solution to get them leads, and we’re ready to block and tackle those who don’t play fair.”