COVID-19 has weakened the very heart of what senior living communities are best at: offering socialization that supports resident well-being. Yet while this disease disproportionately affects older adults with underlying health conditions, senior living communities have seen great public support for their staff’s efforts to reduce its impact on the residents they serve.
Entering another month of this crisis, it’s apparent that no senior housing or care facility, whether luxury or low-income, has escaped COVID-19’s effects. Yet as the initial shock recedes into daily vigilance for staff and residents, many senior living operators recognize that, to maintain occupancy levels, their focus must return to communicating their value and maintaining trust as a valuable living option.
The senior living marketing mindset must shift, as core activities such as in-person tours have been suspended, other activities such as email marketing have been accelerated and virtual tours have become a new normal. Using what we are hearing and seeing, Pivot put together the following list of senior living marketing activities should be stopped, started or continued during this pivotal time.
Marketing activities to stop
- Offering in-house prospect tours. If not mandated by state or local orders, suspending outside visits is only fair to your residents and sends a message to both parties that safety comes first.
- Permitting visitor access, except on a case-by-case basis. Now universally in place, this practice should be continued until public health officials say otherwise.
- Hosting onsite events, especially those involving outside groups. While events have always been a mainstay in your marketing toolbox to showcase your community’s lifestyle, a pause is warranted.
- Holding in-person gatherings for residents. While events add vibrancy, resident safety must be a priority.
- Allowing communal dining. Most communities have moved to room-service style dining for now, and this should remain the case for the time being.
- Running outdated ads that reference pre-pandemic scenarios. Nothing says “out of touch” like an ad that highlights the wrong image or message.
- Thinking that sales can’t happen! In fact, some prospects currently under stay-at-home orders will realize that they would actually be safer in a community, with better access to food, care and support.
Marketing activities to start
- Documenting and sharing your safety practices. You can tell your story using a range of marketing channels, including social media, your newsletter, your website and more.
- Adding COVID-19 updates to your website. Create a designated webpage featuring community advisories and announcements of new policies and practices to keep the community and the public informed.
- Communicate frequently with core audiences. It’s essential to communicate frequently with residents, families and staff. Find a channel (email, social media, videos, Zoom town halls) that works for you and stick to a schedule. Families and others who see and appreciate the updates will be more willing to be supportive through thick and thin.
- Stay engaged with prospects. Don’t leave prospects hanging; instead, keep in touch through email marketing, direct mail, links to tour videos or care packages to their homes that show you care.
- Accelerating the use of technology. It has been remarkable how quickly communities have adapted to using FaceTime, Zoom, internal communication systems and more to keep residents connected with family and friends. If you have not gone this route yet, do so.
- Conducting virtual tours via GoPro, smartphone or even drone, or a detailed PowerPoint presentation, is a great way to show off your community’s highlights, without prospects even stepping through your doors.
- Developing a polished online sales presentation that shows why your community is a valuable place to live. Get started now thinking about the way you make your case to prospects, and how that might change.
- Creating basic materials for media relations and prepping a spokesperson. This will be helpful for crisis communication as well as everyday communication. Just like the Boy Scouts, senior living communities need to BE PREPARED!
- Generating new ways of keeping residents engaged every day through online research and brainstorming sessions with staff. There are so many ideas out there that will thrill and delight your residents. And make sure to get the local community involved!
- Tapping volunteers to provide resources, ideas, preparation, or assistance for your resident engagement activities, which could be as simple as connecting pen pals or organizing a phone tree. The energy and enthusiasm of your volunteers is still one of your community’s greatest resources!
And marketing activities to continue (and beef up)
- Treating staff like gold – because they are! Encourage staff retention by setting up staff appreciation breakfasts; making toiletries, snacks and household items available in the break room; and sending out regular internal emails to highlight the rising stars in your ranks.
- Taking full advantage of social media. Show off the creative ways your staff is keeping residents engaged while maintaining social distancing and PPE requirements.
- Reaching out to the local news media to share positive stories. With all the depressing news coverage about COVID-19, now is a great time to offer local news outlets uplifting stories that show how your community is making the best of the moment.
- Consistently adding fresh content to your website, including blogs, video, guest columns and interviews and helpful COVID-19 advice and resources for seniors.
- Launching digital ad campaigns on Google and Facebook that link to your virtual tour. It’s time to double down on those ads and utilize additional channels to offer prospects greater digital access to your community.
- Maintaining your website. Make sure to perform regular checks so your platform is accessible to visitors and content is accurate. Now more than ever, your website is a portal to your prospects, and highlighting how your community is adapting and still thriving today is key.
- Taking a monthly inventory of your marketing plan and your short, mid and long-term goals, then adjusting based on new developments. One thing has become clear these last few months: your team must be nimble to keep up with constantly shifting circumstances.
Even as COVID-19 continues to pose a major threat, it’s important for communities to realize there are so many things you can do (or not do) RIGHT NOW to develop and maintain your prospects’ trust, and to reinforce the idea your community is a valuable place to live.
Switching focus may mean significantly adjusting your senior living marketing strategy, whether it’s coming up with new ways to showcase your community to prospects, striving to be more creative in showing off community highlights online, growing your brand awareness through soliciting positive media coverage and more.
If you’re wondering how to adjust your senior living marketing strategy for the new normal, or have questions about dos and don’ts going forward, Pivot is here for you. Contact us at (303) 499-9291 or send an email to [email protected].