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Marketing to Drive Growth at Senior Care Facilities

While demographics generally support the pool of potential assisted living residents, facilities continue to suffer from pervasive vacancies. Challenges have worsened since the 2008 housing market crash, and families—both seniors and their adult children—still face financial stress alongside competing residential options and modes of care. With such a broad array of choices available to seniors, it is incumbent upon senior care facilities to execute a well-designed, long-term marketing plan to drive growth.

Assisted living has long been considered needs driven. However, care at a facility or residence is increasingly viewed as an “optional” purchase for addressing those needs, especially for adult children under financial stress. There are many new alternatives to facility care. We’ve also seen technological advances that allow for home monitoring and long-distance caregiving.

Aging in place—the practice of allowing elderly parents to live in their homes longer than they may have historically—is frequently viewed as a path to saving money. Unfortunately, that “independence” has many—often hidden—costs like home improvements to provide accessibility and on-call transportation services.

Increasingly, seniors are also moving in with their adult children to preserve assets and, in some cases, to support their children. Unsurprisingly, this has led to an increase in the number of community-based services for seniors as well as visits to both physician offices and emergency rooms. This arrangement also places significant strain on a family emotionally, particularly if active grandchildren are in the mix.

In this environment, it’s not hard to see why senior care facility waiting lists have become a thing of the past. Relying on how things were done by previous owners or successful facilities in previous years is no longer a guaranteed road to success. Instead, facilities need to work harder on their marketing plans than they ever have before.

To address this competitive marketplace, communicate their value proposition, and drive growth, assisted living and senior care facility marketing plans must address two constituents at the same time: enticing the family members of clients you wish to serve as well as those senior clients themselves. Finding out whether your buyers are more likely to be senior citizens or their adult children is the first step in building a successful marketing plan.

Instead of building a road map to increased occupancy, some facilities move straight to discounting—reducing entry fees, reducing monthly fees, or a combination of the two. Some offer special deals such as home-staging services, moving allowances, upgrade packages, or even waived fees. Unfortunately, none of these solutions is viable in the long term. Cutting cash flow may have your facility perceived by prospects as a “sinking ship” or providing “cut-rate care.”

A better solution is to look to independent living marketing to utilize the strategies that have been successful in that sector. The tactics and strategies that work for independent living facilities have a high crossover rate with those used in senior care facilities.

Next, you’ll want to plan tactics that should be a part of every senior care facility marketing program. Each of these tactics can be tailored to your target market and should include the following:

• Building relationships with clients and potential clients through networking and customer service. An outstanding network and reputation for excellent client service creates fertile ground for referrals, which is the single best route to new clients and income.

• Customer Relationship Management (CRM). It can be as simple as a system that tracks and manages leads in Excel or as elaborate a system as But a database that you manage and use to track all leads that you receive and their connections to one another is vital for marketing success.

• Follow-up. It sounds easy but following up is so infrequently executed. Creating a habitual schedule of follow-up on every lead is extremely important. That one follow-up phone call could mean the difference between a sale and losing a customer.

• Use analytics. The more data you can gather, the better. What does it cost you to make each phone call? How much is each potential client worth to you? How many calls does it take before you convert a new client? Building metrics around your pipeline and quantifying the “costs” of establishing and converting leads can help to focus your attention and convert more prospects.

• Set goals for calls, tours, and appointments. Look at last month. How many calls did you make, how many tours? Set an aspirational goal for next month and then next year for each of the key metrics that you use to gain new clients. Similar to analytics, tracking your progress can help to motivate and focus your marketing attention.

• Evolve your approach to direct contact. When specifically targeting adult children, direct physical mail and bulk messages are a thing of the past. The key is to use targeted email messages. Make sure that the message you send is educational, straightforward, and aimed at solving a “pain point” that your prospects have.

It is essential that you present your facility as attractive and proactive. Potential clients won’t convert on sales pitch alone. They need to see what you can offer and must believe in the care you provide. Ultimately, seniors and their adult children want to find someone they can trust and an institution designed to help them flourish. Make a concerted effort to point out exactly what you provide at your facility, what it can do to help them, and how it can solve their problems.

Finally, help adult children understand what signs they should look for to know when their parents need assisted living. This might mean creating a checklist and posting it front-and-center on your website. You should also provide adult children with tips and resources for starting the conversation with their parents.

These are just some of the ways facilities can think about designing an effective marketing plan to communicate your facility’s extraordinary services. Marketing and signaling effectively to families and seniors in a crowded market is the only way to be successful. Those that don’t will fall behind. With the world of senior care changing rapidly, make sure you are on the right side of that change with these tips.

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