Jackie Stone

The senior living field is unique for many reasons. The product being marketed is not only very costly, but also one that brings about dramatic life changes. Retirement communities are not selling “widgets”; they’re selling a way of life, safety, security and more. Thus, the sales funnel for a retirement community is one of the deepest around. One estimate places the number of “touches” a potential resident needs at 20-25 before a sale is completed. That’s certainly more than your average electronic device or impulse buy at the grocery store!
However, there’s one additional catch to that sales funnel: You’re not only working the potential resident through the sales process, but in many cases his/her/their family members. This is especially true if the potential resident needs higher levels of care or is battling a specific or chronic illness. Now not only do you have to help this person see the benefits of moving to your community, but their family as well — and, let’s face it, the family can often be the tougher critic.

It all has to start at one place: a conversation.

Whether that first conversation happens between spouses looking at a community or between a prospect and his or her family, it is one fraught with concern, fear and the best interests of the potential resident in mind. Often, several family members are gathered together to have this conversation, offering advice and input from different angles. That conversation is absolutely critical for the loved ones involved and is usually the starting place for the hunt for a retirement community. The discussion is most likely to happen three times throughout the year — Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

Why are those three holidays so important? Simply, they are most likely to gather families together. Also, in many cases, major holidays happen at the house of the patriarch/matriarch of the family. This usually gives children and loved ones insight into how a person is living. Are they taking care of the home as they always have? Is something amiss with his or her daily routine? Are they just ignoring problems rather than fixing them? These are the first telltale signs that a loved one might need more services or assistance than he or she is currently receiving.

As a marketer for such communities, it’s our job to find a way to make your community and services a part of those talks. Optimally, we want the potential resident and family to think of you as their community of choice and to reach out to one of your sales professionals. However, we recognize that you may also have a broader mission. Sure, at the end of the day, you want to make a sale, but it’s also important that you provide quality, honest resources about what senior living services are available to them. You should be happy to assist potential residents with identifying challenges and offering solutions, from addressing financial concerns to whether or not a favorite credenza will fit into the new apartment.

Leading a potential resident and his or her family through the sales funnel is hard work, but it’s also rewarding. In a way, it’s a process many marketing professionals wish they had, because the “customer” can be tracked through each step — from initial contact all the way to move-in day (and beyond). Yes, it’s a challenge, and it’s one that keeps us working to be part of those crucial conversations around the family dinner table.