Conferences Archives – Varsity Branding

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The Varsity team attended the 2022 LeadingAge PA Annual Conference June 22–24 in Hershey, PA. In case you weren’t able to be there, here are some of the top issues we heard about at sessions and in conversations around the conference.

1.Workforce issues

As with all other industries, the aging services field is having challenges finding good people and also retaining current staffing. Several communities noted that they have experienced situations where people have been scheduled for interviews and simply didn’t show up. Communities are looking to do outreach with students and interns, as well as expand marketing and advertising initiatives aimed at employment.

2. Transforming spaces/amenities to keep up with community expansions

Overall space planning is important. While focusing on a new expansion and new spaces, it’s an opportunity to reimagine existing spaces for new uses and to present a fresh look across the campus. For example, one community mentioned that they are opening a new building, including a new auditorium and wellness center, and they are now building out the existing fitness center and auditorium as a new dining venue and pub, as well as other common use spaces.

3. Opportunities for growth through acquisitions, affiliations and mergers

All organizations are trying to stay profitable as they navigate the current landscape. Acquisitions, affiliations and mergers may present opportunities for communities to grow and be well positioned for the future, in the face of new for-profit rental communities.

4. Compliance and IT

The technology at a senior living community, just like at any organization, is vulnerable to malware attacks. We heard about the importance of protecting the system through cybersecurity. Everything from a smart light bulb to an adult child connecting to Wi-Fi can be a gap in the armor, and can create complications for IT from a security perspective. 

5. Midyear rate increases

Annual rate increases are standard for communities, but given the current environment of inflation and need for PPE (along with other, unexpected expenses), communities are considering — and some are implementing — midyear rate increases.

6. Innovations in technology

Demonstrated technology included robot-like Roombas that serve food, in-room Wi-Fi service providers that residents can log on to, and listings of the community’s activities that families can access through their TV screens. These innovations for the future can revitalize senior living, but there are challenges in implementing them for less tech-savvy residents and communities.

7. Digital marketing techniques for generating new leads

Lifestyle assessments, surveys and quizzes can effectively reach leads who are not yet ready to communicate directly with a sales counselor. Questions can be tailored to the navigation bar of the community’s site, the blog content they accompany, etc. — and, of course, can capture user information for future engagement. Examples of survey topics include: “Is it the right time for senior living?” “Is this dementia?” “Is it still safe for you to drive?”

 

The treats for senior living communities this October included lots of interest from prospects. The tricky part? Staffing issues and COVID-19-related restrictions made it tough for some organizations to take advantage of the momentum.

The Treats: Lots of Tours, Applications and Deposits 

A participant in Washington state said, “Four of our areas (apartments, memory care, assisted living and duplexes) are all 100% full, and I’m not sure that’s ever been the case.” Another marketer in California agreed that business continues to be strong. “We’re going to have 10 move-ins in October. It’s really exciting to see.”  And there’s good news from Arkansas as well:  “Sales for our new neighborhood are good, with 43 of 53 units sold.”

Communities are also trying creative new tactics for bringing in business. One participant from Wisconsin said, “We’ve been really rocking and rolling. For the first time, we offered a promotion of 10% off the entrance fee to people who sign up now, and we’ve had lots of success with it.”

The Tricks: COVID-19 Restrictions and Staff Shortages

Scary Shutdowns 

Something that could scare off prospects: Communities shutting down to visitors because of local COVID-19 restrictions. One marketer shared, “We’re talking about taking everything online again.” A second participant said, “We’re unable to do events, so it’s frustrating.” And a third marketer added, “I’m seeing more restrictions. It’s sad having to see people tap the brakes.”

In some cities, however, it’s nearly business as usual. One participant from Virginia said, “Our team members are all fully vaccinated — it’s a requirement, and I think that’s helped because a lot of prospects asked that question. We’ve been busy giving tours and adding people to the waiting list.”

Creative Hybrid Events

One way of solving the dilemma when prospects are worried about attending in-person seminars: Hold a hybrid event. “As far as marketing events, we have a hybrid event — in person and on Zoom as well, so people can choose to do either,“ a participant shared.

Industry-Wide Staff Shortages

Staffing shortages continue to be a roadblock to sales. One marketer shared, “We’re getting calls and inquiries, but we don’t have enough staff to keep up with the volume …  we had to turn down seven people last week who wanted to move in!” A participant in Arkansas agreed. “Our nursing home is desperately looking for staff and we’re having a difficult time finding applicants.” Another marketer shared, “This is the #1 thing on everyone’s minds — how will we deal with this?” One final comment: “We have a waitlist that’s two pages long. We don’t have the staff at the higher levels of care to cover all the interest.”

Innovative Solutions for Recruiting Staff

When we asked participants if they’d found any effective methods for recruitment in these challenging times, they shared these creative ideas:

  • Drive-through career fairs: “We had another drive-through career fair in August, which was successful. They have been fun and an interesting way to get people onto campus.”
  • Diversity and inclusion: “We have a resident committee here working hard at looking at diversity and inclusion.”
  • Salary hikes: “The board moved our minimum starting wage to $15 per hour, so some will get up to a 40% raise in November.”
  • Using staffing firms: Several firms participated in the recent LeadingAge conference, including: Fusion Medical Staffing, Gale Healthcare Solutions, Hireology, OnShift, Intelycare, Prime Time Healthcare  and ShiftMed.  (Varsity is not endorsing any of these firms; rather, merely providing information.)

Holiday Tactics for Targeting Adult Children

Heading into the holidays, some communities are targeting adult children (but not necessarily with in-person events). One participant shared, “We changed our media messages to target adult children more.” Another marketer said, “We put together a one-sheet guide of tips on how to talk about things with your parents.” A third community published an article in a local magazine about ways to connect with adult children who are raising their kids and caring for their parents as well.

Notes From the 2021 LeadingAge Conference

Held October 24-27 in Atlanta, Georgia, the first LeadingAge conference since COVID-19 had lighter attendance than usual, but some fascinating presentations. The major focus? “Technology, technology, technology,” said Derek Dunham, who attended with his Varsity colleagues. For instance, Amazon launched its new senior living product with an enterprise solution. You can read about it in this Senior Housing News article. Varsity, sister firm WildFig Data and Ingleside also presented a session with a technology focus: “Predictive Analytics: Connecting Past Performance to Future Success.”

Look for our next monthly roundtable recap in your inbox. Until then, please be sure to join our weekly Sales & Marketing Roundtable on Thursdays at noon ET, 11 a.m. CT and 9 a.m. PT.

For login information, email DDunham@varsitybranding.com.

At our 2nd monthly Continuing Care at Home Roundtable, we all shared our ideas about generating leads, cross-promoting community living and overcoming objections.

Check out the highlights below, and feel free to join us for our next roundtable discussion in April.

Please join our next Continuing Care at Home Roundtable on Wednesday, April 7, at noon ET.

For login information, email DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.

 

At our 34th sales and marketing roundtable, we shared our successes and setbacks during the pandemic. We were also fortunate to have one participant share takeaways from this year’s SMASH conference.

Check out the recap and conference takeaways below. We also invite you to attend our next roundtable this week.

Takeaways from the SMASH Conference 

Over 200 sales and marketing professionals from senior living organizations of all sizes across the U.S. participated. One of our roundtable attendees shared these takeaways:

Biggest Sales and Marketing Trends

  1. Since COVID-19, leads and occupancy have plunged across the board.
  2. The deepest occupancy decreases have been in assisted living, with the toughest objection being “Why would I move my mom into assisted living when I know I won’t be able to see her for months?”
  3. Marketing budgets are not being cut and, in many instances, they are being increased.
  4. Marketing dollars are being reallocated from events and on-site activities to digital, SEO/SEM, virtual tours, videos and webinars.
  5. Marketing automation (automated lead nurture) is by far the #2 marketing priority after digital paid search and search engine optimization (SEO/SEM).
  6. Marketing messages have pivoted for assisted living and memory care to safety and security. IL messages are still about lifestyle, with a bit of safety and security in the message mix.
  7. Website — making sure the messages are appropriate/correct for the times. For most senior living communities, COVID-19 info has recently been moved from front and center to a smaller tab on the homepage, still easily accessible.
  8. Salespeople across the board are still focusing 100% of their time on sales, including nurturing the wait list/depositors, cold calling, working through the database, delivering treats/meals to depositors, virtual tours, apartment tours, answering website/call leads, etc. Activity team members, as well as social workers and front desk team members, are taking care of all window/outside visits, temperature taking, Facetime/Skyping with family members, virtual doctor visits, etc.
  9. Sales messaging, especially for assisted living — do not lead with COVID-19. We are living with COVID-19 24/7; however, prospects are calling us because mom/dad needs more help. They want to know how we can help them first and foremost.
  10. “Backstage Pass” — can’t tour the community, but can tour individual apartments.

Interesting Sales and Marketing Stats

  • New reality — 90% of prospects do not want to talk with us. They just want more information (which they are finding digitally via Google, website, videos, Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
  • Across the U.S. in CCRCs:
    • 43% increase in cost per conversion in digital search
    • 39% decrease in goal completion (filling out a form, calling, etc.)
    • 103% increase in phone calls (these are not all sales calls)
  • 70% of adult daughters find care for their parents through digital (up from 50% not so long ago)
  • Google will drive 90% of digital leads
  • 77% of searches for senior care begin online … even for skilled nursing
  • 80% of senior living search online is Google, Facebook and individual community websites
  • 6 billion minutes of content per week are consumed via video
  • 3 connected devices per person — and we switch between them all day long
  • Average number of brand touchpoints = six per person … up from two 10 years ago.
  • 92% of consumers begin their healthcare search online — with 6,000 searches related to long-term care EVERY HOUR
  • 88% of residents overall would recommend LTC. (Perception: 24% of seniors don’t want to move to LTC. Reality: 88% who live in LTC really love it.)

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, November 19, at noon ET.

For login information, please contact DDunham@Varsitybranding.com.

 

 

Guest post by Sharon Fahrer, Director of Special Events, LeadingAge PA

We’re excited to present the 2020 LeadingAge PA Annual Conference + EXPO on August 19–21. Our goal is to make the virtual experience every bit as interesting and exciting as the live event! You’ll experience much of what our attendees have come to love about our live conference—plus a few surprises!

From the moment you (virtually) walk into the lobby of the three-dimensional conference, you’ll feel like you’re physically there. You can explore the EXPO exhibits, attend educational sessions, catch keynote speaker Colette Carlson and even network with colleagues. As in past years, the highlight of day one will be the LeadingAge PA Distinguished Service Awards.

Advantages of attending the conference virtually:

  • If you’re among the first 500 people to register, you’ll receive an exhibitor box with carefully selected goodies, including gift cards to cover the cost of lunches attendees are usually provided at Hershey
  • You’ll save time and money on travel: no hotel stay, no gas, no car rental, no traffic!
  • Registration rates are discounted as we’re sensitive to many of our members being under COVID-related financial stress
  • People who usually wouldn’t have the opportunity to physically attend will find it easier to participate

Why we decided on a virtual conference

We were in the final stages of planning our live conference when COVID-19 hit. We decided to go virtual when it became clear we needed to pivot in order to protect our members.  As their well-being comes first, there was no way we could encourage people in the senior living industry to gather and put their safety, or the safety of their residents, at risk.

Finding a virtual platform that feels real

As we pivoted, we concentrated on finding the best virtual platform. We were fortunate that LeadingAge National was also starting a search. We selected the same platform. We chose an engaging system, with three-dimensional elements and cool features, so that you feel as close as possible to being at a live conference. When you enter the conference, it’s not like looking at a flat screen; there’s a three-dimensional building with different activities going on in the lobby. 

The EXPO Hall
Each exhibitor will have a booth. Visitors can chat with staff in real time, access their resources and set appointments. In addition to dedicated hours for the EXPO, you’ll be allowed 24/7 access to booths.

Networking opportunities

You can see who’s online at any given time, so you can connect with them via live video chat. It’s like being at our live conference, seeing a colleague in a hallway, and starting a conversation—only, it’s virtual.

General Sessions

Complementing three days of education sessions will be two general sessions:

  • Colette Carlson, human behavior expert – Keynote Speaker

Carlson’s topic will be, “Many Communicate, Few Connect.” Her engaging, energetic and upbeat presentation style is just what attendees need right now.

  • Rachel Levine, Secretary of Health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Dr. Levine will speak about Pennsylvania’s response to COVID-19 and answer attendees’ questions. You’ll have the opportunity to submit your questions and make your voice heard.

Tips to get the most out of the conference

Approach it as if you were attending in person. Block the time off on your online calendar. Close down other applications, and try to focus. The conference will include breaks and the days will end early so that you can work as needed.

Just a reminder: LeadingAge PA is here to help you during COVID-19, offering:

  • A weekly member update call with President and CEO Adam Marles
  • A community lounge where members can ask questions and communicate with other members about how they’re handling issues
  • Resources and tools on the dedicated LeadingAge PA COVID-19 webpage

If you haven’t registered yet, I urge you to attend the 2020 LeadingAge PA Annual Conference + EXPO: Virtual Experience. Hurry to receive the free exhibitor box full of goodies for only the first 500 registrants.  Have a great time!

Questions? Contact LeadingAge PA at (800) 545-2270 or (717) 763-5724.

 

 

Even after three days in the steamy summer heat, my excitement about everything I learned at the LeadingAge Tennessee 2019 Annual Meeting & EXPO is just beginning to heat up. The theme was: “What if we helped people find passion and purpose?” The individuals I connected with at the show are doing that in amazing ways. They’re bringing generations together, leveraging strategies from other industries and approaching their challenges with a fresh perspective.

Without further ado, I’m excited to report back to you my top five “what-ifs” at the show:

1. What if we could integrate former foster youth into senior living communities?

While I was walking the floor, I spoke with Rosemary Ramsey, founder of The Victory Lap, an organization committed to matching youth, 18 to 21, who have aged out of the foster program, with open apartments at senior living communities. The community would be paid $900 per month (funded by the foster program in Tennessee) and would be asked to provide a job for the individual (at least 10 hours per week). The program is intended to give former foster kids a boost — with stable housing, employment opportunities and support from caring older adults — while meeting workforce challenges, filling otherwise vacant units and fostering intergenerational friendships. Look for an interview with Rosemary in a future blog post!

2. What if we could bring the principles of doula care to hospice?

A session on creating a doula program for hospice created some serious conference buzz. The program follows the principles of birthing doulas to help guide the individual and family/loved ones through the dying process.

3. What if we could find and retain top talent?

One of my favorite sessions, led by Matt Thornhill, stressed the need for transparency and inclusion when hiring. It was all about finding and retaining top talent. One example Matt referenced was the innovative 30/40 program by LifeSpire of Virginia in which certified nursing assistants are paid for 40 hours but are only required to work 30.

4. What if new residents could feel at home more easily?

I heard several people talking about a unique continuum concierge program discussed by Melissa Ward, vice president of clinical & regulatory affairs at Functional Pathways. The program promotes successful transitions and helps people stay in their current levels of care. Its tools include new resident orientations, resident-driven support groups, physician services, collaboration across the care continuum and more. Stay tuned for a future blog post about this innovative program.

5. What if we looked beyond a prospect’s age and income?

Last but not least, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our session with co-presenter Robbie Voloshin of United Methodist Communities (UMC). Robbie celebrated her birthday that day! The talk covered an in-depth research study on which we had partnered with UMC. In short, the study shows how going beyond superficial demographics to interests and values can help organizations connect more deeply with the right prospects. Discussion centered around the core aspects of the study — the values statements and how they were ranked.

Have you had any what-if moments of your own? If so, drop me an email at DDunham@VarsityBranding.com. I’d love to hear about them.

I’ve traveled all over the country to attend senior living conferences. Last week, I had one of my  favorite event experiences. It was just three minutes from my home in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

At most conferences, the locations change, but the same pain points keep coming up. Issues include staffing headaches, leadership transitions and ever-changing regulations. However, at the recent 2019 LeadingAge PA Annual Conference & EXPO, themed “Own Your Future,” speakers raised some new and different questions. These questions could dramatically impact the future of aging services. In case you weren’t able to attend, I wanted to share them with you.

  1. Are smart speakers in communities breaking the law?

That’s one question you may not be able to ask Siri or Alexa. Even so, every community should be seriously considering it. As more and more providers (and more and more residents) plug in to voice assistant technology, the more potential legal and regulatory conflicts they face. For instance, allowing a resident to be audio-recorded without consent (which smart speakers do) violates both HIPAA and state wiretapping acts. Is smart technology always such a smart idea? In this fascinating presentation, Larry Zook and Cynthia Haines made the case for putting strong policies in place to deal with this new technology. 

  1. Why do for-profit developments move so much faster than nonprofits?

For-profit senior communities can be built in 12–18 months, while nonprofits often take 3–5 years. What accounts for the faster speed to market? In a peek inside the for-profit world, Maura Richards of Wohlsen Construction and Jamie Spencer of SilverBloom Consulting broke down the reasons.  They included vetting based on market feasibility, no need for pre-sales, a focus on rentals and availability of equity. Can nonprofits find ways to speed up their own development process?

  1. How can we extend housing solutions to the middle market?

As a field, we have options for people with significant resources. We also have housing  for people with extremely limited resources. But those in the middle? They’re often left without good choices. Research specialist Sara Marcq, banking professional Lynn Daly and architect Craig Kimmel discussed new models coming to market — including some for-profit rentals — to fill these unmet needs.

No, I didn’t take three flights to attend LeadingAge PA or visit an exotic locale. After the show, I got in my car, made two lefts and a right and arrived in my own driveway. This shows that a conference really isn’t about a place but about people. It’s people coming together to share their knowledge, in the hopes of improving life for older adults.

 

 

 

At the recent LeadingAge CA conference, the buzz was around the changes in how mature consumers are using their homes.  Those changes also mean different expectations for their new residences. Here are three design elements your community must have to attract Boomers:

  1. Space that works

More residents are continuing their careers. Therefore, they desire more usable work and office space. It’s no longer enough to provide the corner of a room for computers. These days, prospective residents are looking for more formal office space and built-in furnishings to support their ongoing careers.

  1. Indoor-outdoor living

Common space for socialization is no longer sufficient. Prospective residents are looking for open floor plans and spaces that transition to outdoor areas. so they can entertain groups of friends and relatives.  A place to party in the privacy of their own space is a common request.

  1. A home with a heart

Along with higher-grade finishes, Boomers want open-concept, larger kitchens and kitchen islands. An open layout can replicate what happens in their own homes, where everyone congregates in the kitchen to socialize.

Architects and marketers are sharing notes in an effort to create more pleasing environments for a younger set of prospects. Although the shift toward younger residents is slow at best, the mindset and expectations of prospects — regardless of age — feels younger.

 

 

Last week, part of the Varsity team was in Denver, Colorado attending the “Pioneering a New Culture of Aging” conference hosting by Pioneer Network. It was an excellent event that certainly helped to reshape some of our thoughts around aging. We came away refreshed and invigorated; we are ready to bring forth these new ideas in our work. As we look back on the event, we identified three major points that everyone can benefit from.

1. Collaboration and transparency

The spirit of collaboration and transparency among the “Pioneers” creates an incredibly opportunity for transforming the way we view aging. This event convened a unique mix of aging services professionals. Each person brought with him or her an attitude of activism, directed at making a difference in the aging experience. Theirs is a mindset that promotes a willingness to share best practices in a way too many conferences miss.

2. Substantial shifts required

Often, when we think about change, we view it through a lens of policy and procedure. This event reminded us that culture change initiatives also require substantial shifts in programming, physical environments and mindsets. Our space needs thought leaders from across multiple disciplines, and not just traditional aging services professionals, to impact society’s views on aging.

3. Age of fear

As our friends at Janska displayed their amazing garments during Tuesday night’s fashion show, they reminded us of the importance of treating older adults with dignity. The items were, of course, fabulous – but so were the faces of the residents modeling the garments. Treating aging adults with respect and dignity isn’t as difficult as we sometimes make it seem. Get over your fear of what aging does to the human body and connect emotionally with someone you consider “old.”  You’ll be rewarded in countless ways!

We genuinely enjoyed our time at the conference and heartily recommend this event to anyone who has an interest in aging services. Until next year, we encourage everyone to keep making those subtle, daily improvements that can change how we view aging.

It’s August. The summer temperatures are soaring, and families are working to squeeze in one last vacation before school starts. For us at Varsity, August marks the last leg of the summer conference season. Our team has crisscrossed the country, visiting LeadingAge and aging service conferences from coast to coast. Like you, we learn something new at every one of these events. We also get excited about what the future holds and how we can be part of it. Then, winter rolls in, our daily workload increases, and those big ideas get bogged down in a mental mire from which they rarely return.

In speaking with a colleague, I was asked, “How do you keep yourself and your team inspired and excited long after a LeadingAge conference is over?

It’s a challenge we all struggle with — and one that I’ve been thinking more about since having that question posed.

Perhaps one of the best tactics I’ve used is our series of “takeaway” articles from each event. Sure, they are informative for our clients and friends, but they also provide me with a handy reference to remember what we found most exciting at each event. Over the course of the year, our team keeps track of these takeaways and looks for larger, nationwide trends. Then, as the year closes, with conference season far behind us, we gather and discuss the global trends that we have noticed. We distill the most important points that then become part of our business mindset going forward. For us, regular check-ins like this help to keep the conference energy up and to remind us of what we are excited about.

Therein lies the best and most difficult way to reengage your team members and build their excitement. You have to give them a time and an opportunity to be excited. You need to carve out a half day or a full day of time wherein they can ignore their daily tasks and get excited about the future and share their conference experiences. Doing this three to six months after an event is perfect, as it allows your team members to reflect on what they’ve heard and also see how it relates to your business.

For instance, we recently wrote about hybrid homes here on this blog. This is a concept that first came to us more than a year ago. As we’ve heard more about it, our team has gotten more excited. This excitement has led us to connect and grow our relationship with RLPS Architects. The company’s work helps to drive excitement in our team. Likewise, our marketing abilities help its team understand how the mature market is using the spaces it creates. By coming together to talk about those we serve, we energize each other between major events.

You simply can’t do everything, though. Conferences can offer hundreds of great, innovative ideas, but the reality is that most organizations can only handle one, maybe two, of these ideas at a time. By engaging with your team members and letting them decide which idea excites them most — and figuring out how to execute that idea — you can really keep the conference energy flowing through personal buy-in.

Over the next few weeks, our team is hitting the road for Florida, Colorado and Tennessee — you can be sure that we’ll be posting takeaways from all of these events. Just like you, we are working to harness these ideas to build our team, with the plan to better serve our clients, and through them, their residents.

A conference is a once-a-year event. It’s up to you to harness that excitement and energy for the remainder of the year to inspire your team.