By Leigh Ann Hubbard

Are you feeling the identity crisis?

Senior living has been raked over the media coals. What used to be the biggest value proposition—connection—has been upended, so what’s your pitch? Or, here’s a better question: Who are you, as a company?

Understanding your core brand can strengthen and focus your marketing. But your brand today may not be what it was a year ago. And, according to Wendy O’Donovan Phillips, the way to figure out your brand is not to figure it out yourself.

Wendy is a senior living marketing expert and CEO of Big Buzz (a Foresight partner), a full-service marketing agency. “Some organizations have ‘brandstorms’ where executives get in a boardroom and decide what the brand is,” she says. “That’s exactly how brand is not built.”

Here’s a better way.

Ask Your Customers

“Brand is built by the customers,” Wendy says. “It’s what the residents and families believe to be true about the organization.”

Once you understand their views, you can write your messaging accordingly. Your branding will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As people experience your company, its claims will ring true, establishing trust.

Finding out what people believe about your brand can be as simple as conducting a strategically developed survey. “Any smart management company or community is going to run not just customer satisfaction surveys but also voice-of-the-customer surveys,” Wendy says. They ask things like:

  • What is the promise you believe to be true, that we fulfill for you? 
  • What made you decide to move forward with a move-in here? 
  • What media did you use to make this decision? 

You can use the answers to craft messaging that speaks directly to customers’ fears and challenges—and to vet your marketing plans, ensuring money is invested in the most effective ways.

Do It Now

Wendy and her team recommend conducting a voice-of-the-customer survey when you’re building the initial brand and then every few years — or anytime things change. And everything has changed.

A survey conducted today would yield different results than one from a year ago. “A strong brand speaks directly to today’s challenges, obstacles, and fears, not just those of yesteryears,” Wendy says.

Big Buzz’s survey process takes two to four weeks. And it doesn’t have to lead to a branding overhaul. A recalibration is more typical. “Doing this survey will streamline efforts, get everyone on the same page, and make marketing smoother from here on out,” Wendy says.

Biggest Mistake: Copy-Pasting CDC Language

One small but impactful change Wendy recommends right now is rethinking how you’re communicating COVID protocols. The number one thing she’s seen communities doing wrong is splashing CDC wording in a banner across their website. This gives a cold, clinical first impression.

Instead, lead with your branding. Here’s how Big Buzz reworded one client’s protocol copy to communicate love — a key part of their brand.


Covid-19 Protocols & Procedures

We put together a Covid-19 Task Force that has closely monitored all the guidelines from both local and federal sources. We have implemented a variety of protocols to ensure we lessen the footprint of Covid-19 in our communities. We have limited visitors, do thorough screenings of anyone visiting, and have plenty of PPE supplies and implemented additional paid sick time for associates, along with continuing education so they are well-informed on how to keep residents safe. You can feel confident about recommending our community to your client, that they will remain safe and will continue their path to health to avoid readmission.


Love at the Heart of Safety

Our focus today is to keep referred residents and families safe while continuing to put love first. Our COVID-19 Task Force closely monitors all guidelines and has implemented protocols from both local and federal sources, including the Centers for Disease Control. While we are limiting visits, we are still encouraging heart-to-heart interactions. Yes, each visitor must be screened before entering our communities, and yet we joyfully welcome their arrival. Our associates are wearing special protective garments, and our residents and families can still see the smiles in their eyes and feel the warmth in their hearts. Our focus today is safety, backed by love.

Wendy and her team at Big Buzz can help you conduct a voice-of-the-customer survey that will focus your marketing and inspire confidence in your brand. If you haven’t done a survey since before COVID, now’s the time. Click here to get more marketing tips and tricks sent right to your inbox.

Click here to read comments and join the conversation about this article.