MARKETING IN SENIOR LIVING – A Series by Senior GuidePost
From ‘Drive-By’ to ‘Internet Lead,’ the Dramatic Change in Marketing in Senior Living – Volume 2, Time to Catch Up
OK, now we are here. Our website looks pretty good… I think.
How do I know it is working? What does working even mean? In this article, I share our journey of discovery, reflection, and deep evaluation of what our commitment is to building value. The content for this article is organized into the learning cycle that we went through; Discovery, Rip the Band Aid, So Many Tools!, and Ongoing Engagement. Although this narrative only outlines our journey, I believe that most small to midsized owner/operators have experienced a similar path.
The first step for us was to evaluate where we stood. Our internet presence was limited to a website that I would have rated a ‘7 out of 10’ at the time. At the end of 2016, I engaged an outside public relations and marketing company to help us on this journey. They were well qualified, and had operated in many other industries, although with very limited exposure to senior living. The first thing they identified was that our site that was a ‘7’ in my mind, was probably closer to a ‘2’ in the world of digital marketing. The structure of the site prevented search engines from crawling our content, essentially hiding our site from the outside world. Further, our site, that was created by an individual in her home in about 2008, didn’t allow for the connection of any analytics platforms. Ranking it as a ‘2’ might have been giving it the benefit of the doubt.
RIP THE BAND AID:
After understanding the limitations of our current site, we were faced with making a tough decision. We had to either continue to work with our current site developer, who operated out of her home office (but with low overhead comes low cost), or we had to commit real dollars to a new platform, and jump into the darkness of unknown processes and terminology. As with many other smaller owner/operators, we have a soft spot for people. On occasion, we give residents extra months to relocate if they run out of funds, provide deeper discounts in cases of financial hardship, and keep some employees longer than we should. We really liked the person that kept our website up, but we had to rip off the metaphorical emotional and financial band aid, transitioning to a larger provider out of Austin, TX.
SO MANY TOOLS!
After taking that first step of faith, the doors opened to a new world of tools, tools and more tools. We started by truly engaging with our analytics through Google. Still, to this day, two years later, the first thing I do every morning is open Google Analytics to see how many people visited our site the prior day, where they were located, and how they came to find our site. That was the first tool with which we engaged. After a couple of false starts, the second tool was a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform. We chose Hubspot, a platform created for multiple industries, although there are a number of terrific platforms that may be even better (we are still considering). Hubspot required a fair amount of customization, because of the flexibility that it provides, but the deeper we got into the platform, the more we were able to truly manage the customer journey, walking strangers through our online system of education and engagement. We now feel like the true resource that we want to be, and that was as a result of the depth of our CRM.
Today’s successful online marketer can’t just setup a great website and allow it to work. Digital marketing is a daily process filled with updates, regular valuable content, strategy testing, and the creation of online tools that educate and assist potential residents and their families.
Through the use of landing pages, surveys, blog posts, and other online resource delivery methods, a community can share their personality with the outside world.
Even though sometimes utilizing online chat, social media messenger services and bots feels like a cold way to interact with someone who’s mom has just been diagnosed with dementia, it should be considered a great way to begin the family’s education process earlier. Even though we are true believers in the value of a robust and ongoing digital marketing and education process, it is very difficult to see a screen replacing a smile of a concierge or the hug of a community team member. Keep baking those Otis Spunkmeyer cookies, but make sure that your digital cookies are delivering cultivated content to your target demographics. After all, if they don’t know you are there, they won’t ever walk in the door to see the passion that your team brings to their residents. Nor will they be able to taste your cookies!
In this series of articles, we will evaluate what has happened in the senior living industry with regard to marketing over the last 5 years, where we are currently, and some ideas on the future of senior living marketing. Please watch our Knowledge Center for the next post in this series.