Learn the keys to effective prospect-centered marketing.

By Susan Saldibar

Carol is frustrated and worn out. A few years after her mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Carol has finally hit the wall and panicked. She knew she needed to put her in an environment where she would get the care she needed. Carol needed to act quickly. She went to the Internet and Googled “Alzheimer’s care.” Numerous listings came up, and she began the arduous task of sorting through them. Which was the best? Where were they located? Did she know anyone who had gone through her situation? How would she figure out if her family could afford it? How would she convince her mom it was time to make the move?

Alice, on the other hand, is concerned, but not frustrated. After her mom had a bad fall, she knew it was time to plan the move into a senior community. And there was no question as to whom she would call first. It would be Oak Grove. Why? Because she and her mom already knew them. Over the last couple of years, Alice had been to their seminars and taken her mom to their senior fitness classes. She still had their “How to Listen to Mom” tips sheet tacked on her bulletin board. While it wouldn’t be easy, it would be a lot more familiar and comfortable for both Alice and her mom. Her only hope was that they would have room.

Of course, Oak Grove could be any senior living community. The point is how many “Carols” are living within 50 miles of your center right now? And how do you reach them before they start searching online?

Calling you first should be a no brainer.

“Start by changing the way you approach sales and marketing,” says Tom Goldman, COO of SoftVu, a leading provider of marketing automation platforms and Senior Housing Forum partner. “The key is to get out in front of your community and your prospects, not just at that critical moment, but well before they even have a need,” he adds.

It’s called “prospect-centered marketing” and it helps communities leverage their expertise and knowledge within the surrounding areas by sharing it in a way that garners trust and loyalty from prospects and their families.  

“True prospect-centered marketing means understanding the current needs of your future residents and their families,” says Tom. “Then, if and when there is a need for senior care, you are at the top of their list to call,” he adds.

Putting the pieces together.

Effective prospect-centered marketing combines these three elements:

  1. Changing the marketing orientation: The fact is, the information needs of your future residents start well before the actual physical needs your community can provide. Families and future residents alike struggle with overall preparedness, a general lack of information, and a belief that they are going through their particular situation alone. Timing is also an issue. When is it time to make a change and are they ready for it?
  2. Customized programs: These are the building blocks that will help brand your senior care community as the “go to” resource for senior care issues, especially before there is an actual need. But they should to be put together in a way that resonates with your specific demographic. Tom explains. “As an example, we may start with a targeted 30-second video embedded in an email, highly customized to the local community,” he says. “This could be coupled with our call centers, to schedule personal visits with a senior care representative to discuss various challenges and issues right in the home,” he adds. “This is not a sales call, it is sharing knowledge and cultivating brand awareness.”
  3. Automation: This is a new era of very affordable marketing automation, a highly customizable set of processes calibrated to maintain a steady pace of contact, leaving no gaps or lapses. Whether it’s automated email delivery, physical mailings, social media or a combination of orchestrated content delivery, today’s technology is able to anticipate and fine tune your actions. “Why use your valuable team to perform tasks that can be automated in a highly customizable way?” Tom asks.

Would you rather manage your leads or manage your waitlist?

It is a question Tom likes to ask, since he has found that, by building a custom prospect-centered marketing program, soon senior care providers start experiencing a greater number of people coming to their doors from a variety of organic marketing channels.

The key to effective prospect-centered marketing, according to Tom, is to remember that you are not “selling” in the traditional way. You are informing and educating and branding your senior care as the subject matter expert. You are out to build trust. The fact is most great communities care deeply about their residents and their families . . . shouldn’t your prospective residents know that?”

And you are also building “share value.” As more people within the greater community learn about your senior living organization, they will likely share the information with others. So you are, in effect, exponentially extending your reach and brand awareness throughout the community.

“What’s great about prospect-centered marketing is that it is a model that will never go out of style because it starts with caring about future residents and their families,” says Tom.  By reaching out and engaging well in advance of actual need, senior living communities can foster the kind of relationship that will turn more “Carols” into “Alices.”