During the pandemic, senior living providers quickly changed to a digital sales and marketing approach. In 2021 they will continue to build upon digital marketing, but it requires additional investments. There is more to the digital revolution than simply increasing sales or purchasing more ad spots.
The digital marketing budget at Harmony Senior Services was doubled for 2021, but the traditional advertising budget was not reduced. Meanwhile, Ridge Senior Living expects to greatly increase digital marketing budgets to $1.7 million.
Many senior living providers are also taking similar approaches, with one regional operator planning to spend up to 40% more in 2021, with the majority being on digital marketing. Providers will need to create the right message to build trust again after many months of negative headlines. Additionally, with more people being online and isolated, digital marketing makes sense to reach a wider audience.
Margaret Cabell, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at Harmony Senior Services, expected a seismic change in the market was about to hit as Covid-19 reached the United States in early 2020. Last March, the operator was able to start switching to the “new normal” in senior living with the help of Reed Public Relations, a Nashville, TN based operation.
According to Cabell, they brought on a digital media manager to review their touchpoints, which led to an increase in their SEO digital spending. He said, “We reviewed our Facebook pages and discovered opportunities to push leads through the appointment center for booking tours and as a communication tool.”
Harmony is based in Charleston, SC, but operates 29 active senior living communities across 7 states. Additionally, they are developing another 15 communities. Meanwhile, The Ridge Senior Living operators 3 communities in Colorado and Utah while working alongside national marking and ad firm GlynnDevins and had a similar experience over the past year.
When Covid-19 greatly impacted the United States, there were various traditional lead sources that quickly became obsolete as people were changing habits. Therefore, efforts to build digital marketing campaigns and strategies quickly intensified amidst the pandemic.
The Ridge Senior Living COO Mandy Hampton stated, “if there are no leads coming in, then local agencies and referral sources aren’t working, meaning there was no option but to make the change to digital marketing, and luckily, we had started already.”
Defining Digital Marketing
Digital marketing strategies often include various tasks, such as online listings, paid search results, digital video, banner ads, social media, and others. The goal is to stand out to generate leads while they are looking at your advertisement or content, directing them to take action, such as schedule an appointment or tour. According to Director of Media at GlynnDevins, Lindsay Johnson, this has become much more important over the last year. Johnson said, “It is all focused on increasing traffic to the company website and the way we manage to do it.”
Facebook has become one of the key tools used for increasing digital marketing and reaching a larger audience over the past year. According to Johnson, “Having a presence on Facebook is important, both managing your page and from an organic perspective to ensure content is regularly posted, but also from a paid perspective.”
On occasion, re-engaging clients is needed to keep their interests on the sales funnel content. Johnson added, “We target those that previously visited a community website or somehow engaged with one. After a prospect has shown interest by filling a form, we begin engaging them through email.”
Harmony was able to audit their digital marketing strategies ahead of the pandemic with Reed PR’s assistance. Cabell stated, “it was my goal to understand all of the website features and what customers do, does it offer value, fast to load, mobile-friendly? These were important factors that assisted in moving forward with the Covid marketing plan.”
Additionally, Cabell examined user behaviors, discovering that the time users would spend on the website had changed after the pandemic hit, along with when they were most active. Cabell said, “People were not waking up as early, kids did not have to prepare for school, adults were laid off work or working from home. This also had an impact on traffic patterns and where users looked on the site.”
Harmony responded by changing its marketing plan to suit users’ latest schedules and preferences, such as when ads were shown on Facebook. Cabell said, “We changed our marketing times that boosted ads and sponsors. Then we changed Facebook content to reflect Covid educational updates.”
In the future, both The Ridge and Harmony said they expect to continue their digital marketing as it will have a large role in the senior living markets even once things return to a more normal state. Cabell said, “We are here to serve some of the most vulnerable people in the population who deserve a safe and comfortable place, and that includes how we reach out to them. We want to continue that goal through digital marketing.”
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