As the national demographics continue to shift toward an ever larger senior population, senior living marketers find themselves in a strange conundrum.
Demand for assisted living and other senior living services is increasing; simultaneously, over-construction in preparation for the Boomer “boom” has created rising vacancies across the industry.
This high-demand/oversupply paradox has made competition within the industry fierce. Gone are the days when consumers had one or two neighborhood communities to choose from. Today, Boomers have higher expectations for the kind of lives they want to lead in retirement.
As a result, communities are enhancing services and amenities at an exponential clip, distinguishing themselves as much through their lifestyle offerings as their care, services and pricing. How we market to such discerning audiences must change too.
More seniors are online than ever before
According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, 64% of adults aged 65 and older were online as of 2016—up from 43% just six years earlier. More than four in ten seniors own smartphones—nearly double the number from 2013—and over 32% own tablet devices.
Seniors aren’t merely using the Internet more; they’re relying on it—just like the rest of us. Over 71% of seniors say they log on every day, and nearly 62% report being active on Facebook, using it to follow news, trends and family members.
These are big shifts. And since other audiences—namely adult children of potential residents—likely use the Internet even more often, senior communities are wisely looking for new ways to leverage digital platforms within their own marketing mix.
Which online tactics work best for Senior Marketing?
When it comes to digital marketing, senior communities have a lot of options. You can earn traffic organically through original content via blogs, social media posts, online reviews and search engine optimization (SEO). Or you can buy greater reach through paid search ads, social ads, display ads and remarketing. Likely you’ll need a mixture of all of the above to have any success at all.
But choosing which tactics to use in your digital marketing is only part of the equation. If the deployment of those tactics and the content within them are not aligned with where your prospects are in the buying cycle, you’re seriously undermining any chance you have of actually turning online leads into residents.
Maximizing your conversion opportunity
Consider this: two-thirds of those looking for retirement community options online end up making their move within 6 months of beginning their search. That’s not a lot of time for you to engage and convert online prospects before the competition does. If your online marketing is not focused on the immediate needs of potential residents, rest assured another community’s will be.
Understanding what those needs are at the different stages of your funnel can go a long way toward helping you decide which content, tactics and calls to action will deliver the best results.
At this stage, potential prospects are simply exploring their options. Some life event has likely pushed them toward thinking seriously about the security living in a senior community can provide: hitting retirement, dealing with health changes, the loss of a spouse, encouragement from friends and family, to name just a few. They aren’t looking for move-in specials or tour opportunities. They’re just looking for information.
Your goal is not to push curious searchers toward a purchasing decision; it’s to build recognition and possibly define the prospect’s decision-making criteria in your favor. You’re trying to become a trusted resource. Here is where SEO, online reviews, blogs and social media posts do the heavy lifting by drawing your audience into your funnel with relevant content they’ve found through organic search.
Research current search trends to identify topics and subjects your target groups might be searching for online, and craft content that speaks to them. You’re casting a wide net at this stage, so targeting the most qualified prospects is not essential.
But your content should still seek to distinguish your community from other options—whether that’s framing the conversation around care, lifestyle, cost or some other benefit that sets you apart. Track likes and shares and push people to your site with low-risk calls to action like “Learn More” or “Download Our Free Guide.” Make sure you drive leads to a dedicated landing page or form to capture data and track behavior.
Once your prospect has expressed interest in your community, you face the tricky task of holding onto it. Maybe the visitor clicked through to fill out an online form for more information. Maybe they downloaded a helpful guide. However, they aren’t ready to make a decision just yet. How do you stay top of mind as they explore other options?
Drip email campaigns work well at this stage. Take what you’ve learned about the prospect from your brief encounters to target your content more precisely. Become the resource they need to make that final decision, and provide relevant, personalized content they need to begin trusting your expertise. Reinforce the benefits of your own community by digging deeper into amenities, lifestyle and resident stories.
Google Search Ads and Boosted Social Media Posts are also ideal for educating potential residents and families, separating yourself from the competition and offering additional free content, upcoming tour opportunities and the like.
But don’t be obtrusive. A little goes a long way, so make sure you control the frequency of your touches so that they don’t overwhelm or annoy. Keep emails brief and to the point and close with a strong call to action to attend an event, subscribe to a newsletter or schedule a tour.
In the final stage, you’re looking to provide incentives to reconnect, schedule follow-up tours and give your sales team the chance to close warm leads. Email outreach continues to be a primary digital tactic, but Display Ad Remarketing and Facebook Lead Generation can also be used to track conversions.
You have likely had enough engagement with your lead by now to get a sense of both their motivators and barriers, so shape the content you share to address them. Testimonials are a great way to showcase the positives of life at the community and address concerns.
Speaking of concerns, this is also the stage where others will be getting involved in the decision-making process—including family members and healthcare providers. Be sure to tailor some of the content you provide in ways that will speak to their concerns and questions.
Ready to Optimize Your Sales Funnel?
Our Free Digital Marketing Assessment can help you find new opportunities within your current strategies to drive up occupancy and boost revenues.