By Gail Peacock

Too often when I work with senior living organizations to improve sales, planning seems to be a completely foreign idea. They go to work each day, work some leads and then, maybe at the last minute, decide to do some kind of event for referral sources or prospects. And then they are disappointed when they have poor results.

Plan events a few months in advance. Talk to everyone in the community about what you are doing. Make a list of things you need, particularly from outside sources. Think in terms of making a big impression.

How to . . .

Right now I am working on an event for next month and I started googling to look for ideas. I decided to do a wine tasting for referral sources. In this case, rather than shooting to have many people at the event, I decided to go for something more intimate. Mostly I am a “more the merrier” kind of person, but it has problems.

If I have 50 people, maybe I’m going to get two people who might have a lead for me. So I’m shooting for something small where we actually get to know each other. And, at the end of the event, I want to know I connected with and built a relationship with (or at least started a relationship with) people who have the potential to give us high-quality leads.

Involve Your Partners

I never do events alone. In every senior living community, we have high-quality partners. Hospice, home health, therapy, are a big part of making the community what it is. They need us to love on them, to support them. Truth be told, if we do this and other communities don’t, we will get more referrals from them.

Then I start talking to the entire team. I want to know what else life enrichment is working on, what big events dining has planned. I don’t want to spring anything on anyone. I also spend time with maintenance to make sure the community looks its very best.

Finally, I start thinking about what I am going to need to bring in from outside the community. Do we need to rent a bus? Do I need extra tables? A tent? It used to be that we could just order these things up at the last minute. Not so much anymore.

Bringing Everyone Together

I think about what roles I want families to play in the event. Do we invite some, none, which ones?

I also make sure the staff loves being a part of the planning and execution. What I do is ask the staff to fill out a little survey where they tell me their favorite things. Then when they get involved, I go out and get those favorite things to surprise them.

At the end of the day, we want this to be fun for everyone because if staff resent doing these things it will show. It will hurt culture and occupancy. And it takes so little to make them feel appreciated and to love being a part of the event.

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