Raise your hand if you’ve been handed a flyer on the street, only to throw it in the next available trash can.
Let me guess: you tossed the flyer because you weren’t interested in its message or offering, right? Seems pretty reasonable.
Distributing collateral to anyone who walks by on the street is a prime example of a more traditional or “outbound” approach to marketing. If outbound marketing had a mantra, it would be “spread the word as widely as possible and see who bites.” Outbound practices rely on the marketer to initiate conversation with the customer, and the approach isn’t always tailored toward a specific target audience.
Inbound marketing, in contrast, is a form of marketing that attracts customers by creating and publishing content that is actually useful and relevant to those customers, and makes that content easy for them to find when they’re ready. Its mantra is much more “let them come to you.”
Here’s how the inbound methodology works, and how you can use it to fill your senior living community:
Stage 1: Attract
During the “attract” stage, the company’s goal is to draw strangers to its website. How do they achieve this? By creating content around common terms (“keywords”) their customers are entering into search engines, also known as search engine optimization (“SEO”). Blogging is one of the most effective ways to do this. Not only does it add a steady stream of new content to your website, making your company look active and engaged, it also provides a space for offering relevant educational content to your customers that addresses their interests and answers their questions. Promoting this content on the social media platforms where your ideal customers spend time is another key piece of the “attract” stage, as it allows you to interact with prospects and personalize your brand.
While inbound is often focused on web tactics, using more traditional techniques to attract residents to your physical senior living community, such as hosting interesting events that are open to the public, is just as important and measurable.
Stage 2: Convert
Once someone visits your website or attends an event at your community, your goal is to convert them into a lead, a visitor who has provided their contact information to your company in exchange for an offer of some sort. Offers frequently come in the form of content (eBooks, white papers, webinars, etc.), but they can also be more experiential — in the senior living world, that could mean lunch and a tour of your community, a free memory screening or a complimentary day of respite.
On websites, a visitor typically accepts an offer through a call-to-action or CTA (a button that promotes an offer) that links to a landing page (a form where the person enters and submits their contact information). Once they submit their information, the landing page takes them to a thank you page, which thanks the lead for providing their information in exchange for the offer and presents the next step for obtaining that offer. Another important element of the “convert” stage is entering those newly-converted leads into your customer relationship management (CRM) software, such as Yardi, Salesforce, You’ve Got Leads, or Sherpa. This allows you to track where they are in the inbound methodology and optimize your future interactions.
Stage 3: Close
The “close” stage is where leads are converted into customers, as well as the point where the marketing team hands off “marketing-qualified leads” to the sales team, effectively transitioning them into “sales-qualified leads” who are ready to make a purchase. Lead nurturing becomes key during this stage, and email marketing containing relevant content or offers and customized messaging is a great solution for staying in touch with leads who aren’t quite ready to become customers. It’s also smart to implement lead scoring so that your sales team knows how to prioritize their outreach based on how hot or cold a lead is.
Stage 4: Delight
Once your leads become customers, your job isn’t done — delighting your customers is the key to not only retaining their business, but inspiring them to promote your community. Make your customer service top notch. Keep track of any likes, dislikes, issues or questions they bring up and follow up with relevant actions, solutions and answers. Don’t be shy about asking them for feedback, either — consider setting up simple online and print surveys to keep a pulse on the success of events, activities, quality of care and more. Use social media as a monitoring and listening tool. Carefully target your email marketing content to them, as sending customers messaging intended for leads can make your community look disorganized or careless. In short, do whatever you can to make their experience as your customer not just exceptional, but delightful.
As with many things in life, it’s typically advisable to be balanced in your marketing approach — most successful marketing programs use a combination of inbound and outbound tactics to attract visitors, convert them into leads, then close them. But if your company isn’t using inbound practices, it’s well worth considering. Look out for more posts on how to optimize specific inbound practices to help fill your senior living community on the Pivot blog.