Why it’s Time for Your Assisted Living Community to Hire a Marketing Consultant
It is estimated that 10,000 Baby Boomers reach the retirement age of 65 each day (Source: AARP). With the already strong housing market, new senior living construction is booming. Developers are racing to cash-in on an opportunity to house, what is inevitably 20% of the entire population.
With each new senior and assisted living construction project complete, the inventory of available units’ increases. So too does the available options to the consumer. The clinical feel of existing senior housing is being replaced with a range of upgraded options by way of the newly constructed facilities. From luxury finishes, convenient onsite amenities and value-added services such as concierge and room service – senior housing as we know it is changing.
This has put a tremendous amount of stress on existing providers to become competitive. Those experiencing lowering census have responded by price slashing their rents. Inevitably, for some, this has created a rent war which becomes a race to the bottom.
Innovation and Marketing
Some senior and assisted living companies are responding by beefing up their innovation and marketing efforts. They are doing this to meet the changing wants and needs of the modern senior consumer. Committing to marketing is not for the timid. It requires dedication. In business terms this means you’ll need to hire someone to head up your marketing efforts. Larger senior living management companies have responded by appropriating budget and resources for full-time personnel to address this need. But not all senior companies are large enough to enlist the help of a full-time in-house marketing team. This is where the value of a part-time marketing consultant comes into play.
The role of a marketing consultant will vary, and because no one assisted living entity is the same, each will have its own unique sets of challenges. An experienced consultant will be comfortable at identifying what those challenges are. Then through research will offer solutions designed to meet census goals and objectives.
If you are a provider falling to the wayside, the writing is probably already on the wall, you’ve seen census slide and have run out of ideas to grow census. You have a choice. You can continue the course and eventually become obsolete. Or you can take the path of marketing and innovation and reinvent the wheel.
Here are top reasons why it’s time for your Assisted Living company to hire a marketing consultant:
It is time to Reinvent Your Assisted Living Experience
When most people think of marketing, they think of the promotional side of marketing. They think of advertisement campaigns or a coupon or a giant banner in front of the building. Promotion is only part of marketing. At the heart of marketing is the product. Marketers refer to the product as the experience. Without an exceptional experience, promotional efforts can fall short. Or even worse can have no impact at all.
Bringing on an assisted living marketing consultant can help you get your experience right. The consultant will research ways to improve your community. They will critique the service experience, the first impressions, the food and dining experience and the events programs. The value of bringing on a marketing consultant is the incredible outsider perspective that they bring. Facilities that don’t consult from outsiders can end up in a rut; they’re complacent, which is usually reflective in poor census.
By reinventing yourself with the aid of a marketing consultant, you become more competitive. You give reasons for seniors to choose you. You create an experience that is desirable, sought after and unique to your community alone. A marketing consultant is not brought on board to change your entire organization; instead they work hand-in-hand with the Executive Director and leadership team to develop services and experiences that meets the changing needs and expectations of the modern senior consumer.
Branding and Promotion
When a assisted living community is able to effectively differentiate its self through branding and promotional efforts the result can be incredibly positive in the form of new inquiries. If done right by way of a consultant, branding and promotion can also create loyalty among existing residents. This creates a full community rich with financial resources to further improve the experience.
An accomplished marketing consultant with experience in assisted living should be familiar with the world of branding. They will have ample branding tactics at their disposal to encourage census building. They will know how to command the attention of the market, to create interest, desire and most importantly action in the form of move-ins.
When you are finally fed up with your poor census and decide to hire a marketing consultant, make sure they have a background in branding and promotion. Ask to see their branding portfolio. Review what kind of work they’ve done in the past. Although, the work that they provide for you will be different from past work, the portfolio will give you some indication of what level they are at with their branding.
The senior consumer is more digital savvy than they have ever been. An AARP poll found that 32% of 65 and older are on Facebook, a number that has steadily grown over the years (Source: AARP). The same poll also found that 52 percent of people ages 50 to 64 have Facebook pages. When combined this represents a large segment of people engaging on the world’s most popular social media platform.
For senior living this means before the consumer even steps foot into your building there is a good chance either they or their kids or grand-kids have already visited you on social media, your website and have likely read your reviews. This means your future residents and their family members have already formed opinions about you.
A marketing consultant with a background in digital strategy knows the ins and outs of creating positive first impressions online. They will know exactly how to address your website, social media channels and online reputation via consumer reviews. If your digital footprint is small and not making a positive impression, then the time is long overdue to hire a marketing consultant.
Hiring a Marketing Consultant for Your Assisted Living Community
Bringing on a consultant with experience directly in assisted living is not a must, though it can help. If you do decide hire help, make sure to always ask these questions when hiring a marketing consultant.
The very nature of marketing is very competitive. High performing assisted living facilities, communities and group homes with great census tend to guard their marketing plans and strategies from the prying eyes of competitors. Therefore hiring a assisted living digital ad agency or working with a consultant who also handles the marketing of direct competitors can create a conflict of interest. This is a no-no, because your strategies will be shared, which means any advantage you create will be short-lived. This is something to be aware of when seeking the counseling of a marketing consultant. Make sure they are working for you and not sharing your trade secrets and marketing discoveries with your competitors.
Levon Guiragossian is principal marketing consultant and founder of The Holy Grail of Marketing, a marketing company specializing in helping assisted living facilities, communities and group homes grow their census. The Holy Grail of Marketing practices what it preaches by never taking on direct competitors in the same market.
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The term “Assisted Living” is used interchangeably with terms like assisted living facility, assisted living community, assisted living residence, senior living community and senior living facility. ALF is an acronym that stands for Assisted Living Facility.
By definition an assisted living facility is a long-term senior care option that provides personal care support services such as meals, medication management, bathing, dressing and transportation. Although the extent of these services can vary from one location and provider to another.