Sales Archives – Varsity Branding

Tag: Sales

Over 350 sales and marketing professionals from senior living organizations of all sizes across the U.S. participated in the 2023 Senior Care Marketing & Sales Summit (SMASH) in Henderson, Nevada. Two of Varsity’s roundtable participants attended the sold-out conference. In this post, Mark Hamby, Director of Resident and Family Services at Parkway Village, and Christine Hall, Senior Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Franke Tobey Jones, share with us 11 of the hottest trends that they heard about at SMASH. As you’ll see below, there have been a lot of new changes in the space since we posted about the top 10 senior living market trends during the pandemic.

  1. Occupancy has flattened out. The average occupancy across senior living in 2023 was 80%. 20% of communities are under 60% occupied, so more communities are discounting this year.
  2. AI is transforming the customer journey. Within five years, every webpage and follow-up email will be completely different for each prospect, with copy completely tailored to their interests.
  3. Prospects are aging. 20% of prospects and 25% of new residents are 90+ years old.
  4. Digital marketing is more important than ever. For all communities, 40% to 60% of leads are coming in digitally. One important feature that prospects want to see on websites is accurate, transparent pricing. Also, communities need to protect themselves from lawsuits by including HIPAA-compliant copy that assures prospects their information will not be sold.
  5. The senior living industry is underperforming. According to Forbes, senior living is the third largest industry, but is also the most underperforming. Our space is doing 9% of total business, but we should be doing closer to 19%.
  6. Adult children are shopping online at night. A huge number of adult family members are researching communities between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. Communities should consider hiring a call center or using a chatbot to ensure customers can get initial information after hours.
  7. Speed to lead is critical. 70% of prospects will tour a community within seven days of initial contact, and during that time, sales teams complete about 10 touches. The first community to reach a lead is most likely to get the tour. Sales teams must reach out within 20 minutes to an hour, or the lead will go on to another community.
  8. Online reviews are crucial. 91% of people looking for senior living communities are using Google reviews —  the highest percentage of any industry (80% said if the community doesn’t have four stars or more, they won’t consider it).
  9. Value-select premium pricing is on the rise. Pricing of same-sized units is no longer identical. Consumers don’t want to pay as much for an apartment that looks out on a parking lot as one with a lake view.
  10. Fear of COVID-19 is still the biggest obstacle to move-ins. It’s important to educate prospects, letting them know that fewer than 1% of 800,000 residents have contracted COVID and that communities continue to strengthen their safety policies.
  11. Biggest selling tool: a welcoming atmosphere. Prospects put a huge emphasis on how they feel when they walk in to a community. A friendly, engaged atmosphere with smiling staff and residents is the best tool for closing sales.

Guest post by Mary Muñoz, Senior Managing Director, Ziegler

This is certainly an interesting time for senior living — we’re moving away from COVID-19, although we’re not quite past it yet. The pandemic has taught us a lot about where we’re headed in the future, but there are also a lot of industry trends that have remained constant through it all. Let’s take a look at what’s trending in senior living right now.

Industrywide Growth and Consolidation

What hasn’t changed with COVID-19 is the population wave we have coming, with a surge in the 75- to 85-plus cohort. And with that, we still have many drivers that make our business an attractive one. For starters, there are those still living at home who don’t have anybody there to take care of them during the day. We have the dangers of social isolation among older adults. And there are those who can’t afford caregiving.

In addition, we’re seeing a consolidation trend across the industry. Why is this happening? Almost every transaction we’ve seen has involved a CEO retirement. We’re facing a labor shortage in care and dining, along with a shortage on the C-suite side, as fewer people are coming into the senior living business, although larger organizations have some advantages in recruitment and career path offerings.

Ongoing Labor Market Challenges

Speaking of which, let’s talk about the labor market a bit. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting almost 1.2 million annual job openings in senior living. Worldwide, we’ve already crossed the line in the past couple of years that there are fewer people under 5 than there are those 65 and older.* That means we literally won’t have the bodies to do things the way we’ve done in the past. So, we have to find ways to reinvent how work is getting done in our communities.

The pressures are coming from many different directions. We’ve got financial struggles, and the changing demographics of who’s coming into the workforce. Government reimbursement is under pressure, which in turn affects health care worker wages. The pandemic caused clients to lose employees because they refused to be vaccinated or simply burned out. Immigration was disrupted and a lot of the caregivers we get from across the border were affected. And then we have the lasting issue that senior services isn’t exactly a sexy line of work.

Stressors in Skilled Nursing

For post-acute care, I want to highlight the compounding challenges in the skilled nursing environment. COVID-19 definitely exhausted and burned out employees. There’s also the need for private rooms, which many communities did not offer pre-COVID. And a lot of the nursing communities are old, with declining occupancy, in part because we didn’t have assisted living and memory care until recent years. So, there were some people who didn’t need to be there and could be taken care of in a less acute setting.

All of these factors are leading to a downsizing of skilled nursing, and in some cases the transition of skilled nursing rooms to high-acuity assisted living. In fact, we’ve counted 35 Life Plan Communities around the country that have eliminated skilled nursing from their continuums in favor of high-acuity assisted living.** And there are many new communities being built right now that have no skilled nursing.

Technology as a Partner for Smarter Aging

There are many developing technologies that serve seniors in various ways. We’ve certainly had a dramatic rise in telehealth during the pandemic. Beyond that and electronic medical records — which most already have in place — there are resident engagement technologies, including dining reservations, menus and activities. There’s also been a focus on predictive technology, not only tracking footsteps but also predicting falls by tracking gait. That’s in addition to cognitive brain solutions, smart home technology and even robots. While robots probably won’t cure the labor shortage, we have seen communities using robots to deliver plated meals and bus plates in dining venues, for example.

These four takeaways are just the beginning of what’s trending as we emerge from the pandemic. For more information, feel free to subscribe to the Ziegler e-newsletter, refer to our white paper about health care technology or message me at .

*Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Percentage of World Population Under Age 5 and Aged 65 and Over: 1950-2050

**Source: Ziegler Investment Banking

Solo agers. Kinless seniors. Elder orphans. These buzzwords have entered the common vernacular, but they’re also describing a very real shift in demographics. The current generation of seniors contains more solo agers than ever before.

“Solo agers” are defined as those over age 50 who live alone, are not married or partnered in a long-term relationship, and have no living children. They make up 12% of the ages 50+ population in the United States, and this trend is increasing, as more baby boomers get divorced and fewer have children, and people live longer overall.

According to a recent report by Forbes, among adults 75 years and older (not boomers), 10.9% reported being childless; among those ages 65–74 (early boomers), 15.9% reported being childless; and among those ages 55–64 (late boomers), 19.6% reported being childless.

Right now, there are close to a million solo agers in the U.S., and as Generation X and Millennials head to retirement, that number could grow even larger. These generations are getting married even less frequently than boomers.

What does the trend toward more seniors without family ties mean for retirement communities? We hear a lot about “demanding boomers” and the high-end amenities they expect — but another audience to consider is diverse populations like these.

According to an article in InsideHook, kinless seniors often live alone and rely on appointments with doctors or encounters with cashiers to interact with other people.

What’s more, a Canadian study reported in the New York Times that those without partners or children had lower levels of self-reported mental and physical health, and higher levels of loneliness, which in itself has been linked to many health conditions. Even more worrisome, a decade after respondents’ initial interviews, more than 80% of seniors with partners and children had survived, compared with only about 60% of those without either.

In contrast, studies have shown that residents of Life Plan Communities tend to live longer than other people. So what better environment for solo agers than senior communities, where they can form meaningful friendships and live happier, healthier, longer lives?

Here are a few suggestions on ways to connect with kinless seniors — and to help them get the most out of your community once they join it.

  1. The sales process

Typically, the salesperson must consider the influence of adult children on the sales process. But there are a growing number of prospects who will be trying to make these decisions on their own, and who will be looking for input and advice.

  1. Online resources

Why not show that you understand this growing audience and their concerns by including solo ager-focused blogs and resources on your website?

  1. Prospect events

Events can address issues that solo agers are coming to terms with, such as decision-making on one’s own, medical power of attorney, financial planning and loneliness.

  1. Marketing materials

While married couples will always be depicted in brochures and ads, it’s also important to think about the diverse populations we’re serving and make sure they’re represented in marketing pieces.

  1. Campus events

Since connecting with others is so important for kinless seniors, inclusive activities, events and clubs can help them feel a part of campus life. Shared meals with “friendship tables” open to all are also a great way to make solo agers feel welcome.

  1. Celebrations

Holidays like Mother’s Day, when the mailroom is filled to bursting with bouquets and cards from children around the country, can be a time to also acknowledge those who don’t have children.

  1. Support groups

Campus support groups that address the needs of solo agers can help them find a niche in your community.

Senior communities have always had a focus on supporting solo residents, but with the trend toward more divorces and lower marriage rates, combined with longer lifespans, this group will only continue to grow. In a society that doesn’t provide well for those without family ties, communities can be a powerful solution to help them thrive during their later years.

I’m Stuart Jackson. executive vice president at Greystone. We are a development and operations consultant in all areas of senior living. We work with Life Plan Communities in over 40 states, and have consulted with well over 500 providers in our corporate history. We are often asked to come in and bring strategic thinking to help organizations grow, adapt and change.

Recently, Brad Straub, executive vice president at Greystone, and I presented “A Bird’s Eye View in Growth and Redevelopment” at the Greystone Sales Adventure event in Dallas. In this post, I’ll touch on some of the highlights, including trends within the space and how your peers are adapting their businesses to them.

An Overview of Our Current Environment

Our current environment has a lot of pressures and uncertainties. Inflation has had its impact. Labor has been difficult to come by. Interest rates are rising. Hopefully, we’re past COVID-19 to a degree, but that’s been painful and tough. Yet there are positive indicators, too, like demographic growth, economic improvement and a healthy real estate market  (depending on where you are). Cost of capital has historically been a positive indicator. Rates are rising, but availability is still relatively strong.

Demographics Remain Strong

I want to emphasize the positive indicators that make us excited for the future of senior living. There will be continued, sustained growth of the senior population over the next 20 years. The roughly 25 million 75+ year-olds in the U.S. will grow to roughly 45 million, remaining strong. By the mid-2020s, twice as many people will celebrate their 65th birthday than in the 1980s and ‘90s.

Households Age 75+ by Income

All of that is great, but you might ask, “Will this generation have the economic means to move into a retirement community in the future?” We looked at projections from 2016 as to how many households would meet income thresholds in 2021. When we compared them to the actual 2021 data, the number of seniors meeting those thresholds were actually 30% to 40% greater than projected. That tells us that when looking to the future, seniors will have more income and assets than they had before.

US Home Values Up 110% Since 2002

In some locations we’ve seen a decline in home prices. But we have to take a broader view. Seniors who have owned their homes for a long time have experienced significant run-ups in price. The value of homes post-COVID-19 has skyrocketed. That’s a positive indicator for entrance-fee-based communities, as seniors will have even more assets than anticipated.

Favorable Mortgage Rates

The bond market expects mortgage rates will average 5.6% in 2023. If you look at rates, they’ve risen sharply over the last nine months, but they are still at all-time lows. They’re projected to normalize in the 5% range. That’s great for a buyer looking to buy a senior’s home when they sell it.

Current Market Conditions

Sales and pricing conditions are slow or very slow in 64% of markets, down from 81% last month. 36% of markets are normal, which reflects 2–3-month sales per community with rising net prices. Homes are selling in around 60 days, which is pretty normal for this last decade.

What’s on Providers’ Minds Today?

Let’s shift to the current landscape and touch on the mindset of the customer. Even if people have a high-value home, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re confident in selling their house and moving into senior living. They may be hearing about the economy and putting a pause on the decision-making process. So how do communities address planning for the future?

We’re seeing a range of methods to position communities for the future, including expansions of current campuses, new locations, satellite locations, acquisitions and affiliations. Let’s focus on a few.

Expansions

Expansions are a great way to incrementally innovate your campus, to better position yourself with current residents, and better serve future Boomer residents who may look to your community for aging well. We believe you should create projects in small phases that are both market- and financially supportable, in order for expansions to support themselves and generate benefits for your organization.

Independent living is the main focus. Creating larger accommodations has absolutely been a trend, because Boomers have more resources and are willing to pay for, or wait for, bigger accommodations. If you have one-bedrooms or studios, you may find those challenging to fill. If you have assisted living and/or memory care on campus, our view is to right-size those types of residences to benefit mostly your internal population, and have them fill those levels of living. Choice for the consumer is key. There is lots of focus on dining and amenity spaces, and how existing spaces can benefit new prospects. We’ve talked about pickleball more in the last six months than I think we ever have! That’s what we’re seeing a lot of, combined with great social spaces.

Canterbury Court is an example of a recent Greystone expansion. This Buckhead Atlanta community has a replacement healthcare building going in next to their existing towers. We’ve been helping them adjust by reducing their healthcare and adding more independent living.

Satellite Campuses

Another trend we’re seeing is the satellite campus. If you’re landlocked and have a difficult time adding more land to your campus, but you need more independent living to improve your offerings, the way to do so is with a satellite location. At Friendsview in Portland, we created an expansion of an existing satellite cottage community, about one-and-a-half miles from the main campus. This satellite community is also adjacent to the nearby college campus for lifelong learning opportunities. It’s already sold out and filled up.

Strategic Pricing

Another area we spend a lot of time digging into is strategic pricing analysis to really evaluate your market.

Nationally, the number of age-and-income-qualified seniors in the market has jumped 20% in the last two years. Your market can afford more. There is value in adjusting your entrance fees and monthly fees, and you can analyze your current pricing and compare it to the pricing of your competitors. Once you have that knowledge of your market, you can determine how to change your pricing and contract structures, and look at your healthcare benefit and refund options. This analysis can help your businesses with inflation and rising costs that are putting pressure on your operating margin.

One thing to do in any pricing analysis is prepare a penetration analysis. We actually test every unit, style and price point across monthly and entrance fees, to understand the market’s ability to afford those specific price points within your mix of units. That penetration rate shows either risk or opportunity in your marketplace.

I hope this analysis of the latest trends in senior living has been helpful to you. Today’s landscape has challenges, but there are many positive indicators that can help your community move forward to a successful future.

Guest post by Andrew Lock, author of  Walt Disney’s Way: How to Build a Better Business Using the Magical Marketing Strategies of Walt Disney. We were fortunate to have Andrew as the guest speaker at Varsity’s 150th Sales & Marketing Roundtable.

How My Journey Began

My journey with Disney started when I was a young child. I was sitting in a doctor’s waiting room and picked up a Reader’s Digest, which had an article about Walt Disney. His story really resonated with me, to the extent that I’ve studied Walt and The Walt Disney Company ever since. Throughout my life I’ve done a deep dive into understanding the practical lessons from Walt, who has been established as an incredible visionary and dreamer. For those in sales and marketing, there are so many lessons to learn from him.

Disney Today

Disney is an absolute Goliath of a business. They own 12 theme parks around the world, 40 hotels and resorts, movie studios, record companies, TV stations, cruise lines and more. Their annual revenue is $45,000,000,000.

What’s unique about Disney is that not only are they one of the most profitable companies in the world, they are one of the top five most admired companies.

“But Andrew, What Does My Business Have in Common with Disney?”

Since you are in senior living, you may be asking yourself, “What does my business have in common with a Disney theme park?” If you boil down the core aspects of running a business, you can identify a number of things that you have in common:

  • You want to stay profitable
  • You want happy clients
  • You want to see enthusiastic, engaged and loyal staff
  • You face competition and need to stand out from the crowd
  • You continually face rising costs

The key is looking at the principles of what Disney does well, and adapting those into your business.

Principle 1: Deliver a Positive and Memorable Experience

The first principle is most important and it encompasses everything. For many years, customer service was the highest priority for a business. Now we’ve moved beyond it, and experience is the biggest thing that can separate us from other businesses. Customers might not be consciously thinking that they want an experience, but subconsciously, they do.

If we wow customers with a positive and memorable experience, then they will tell their friends. That is the best form of recommendation in any space and the easiest sale you’ll ever have. Walt knew that too, which is why 97% of visitors at Disney are repeat visitors.

Example: Droid Depot at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Disney decided to sell remote control droids, from the Star Wars movies, but rather than just sell boxes in a store, they created an experience. A cast member helps you choose parts for your droid, assemble it and operate it. You have fun playing with it on the showroom floor. What’s even more amazing is that, not only does a droid cost $100 plus tax, but you have to make a reservation to have the privilege of buying it. They’re selling something so enjoyable that customers forget they’re there to buy.

The lesson? Think far beyond the normal boundaries in your industry, to realize how much further you can — and should — go to create memorable experiences.

Principle 2: Premium Pricing

Many people wrongly believe that price is the most important factor in making a buying decision. A lot of salespeople have trepidation because they think that customers are concerned about price. There’s a danger in dwelling too much on price when it is not the most important factor for most people.

Disney is proud of owning the highest priced theme parks, because they know that this enables them to provide a better product. This is really the biggest advantage of charging more.

So, sell with confidence and enthusiasm that you’re delivering an enormous value. Don’t be shy that you charge more because it enables you to deliver a better product. Be proud of being a premium provider at the top of your industry.

Principle 3: Mind Your Language

The third principle is all about the words that we use with customers. Walt invented the Disney language that he trained all of his staff to use. He wanted them to remember that they are putting on a show. Employees are called cast members, customers are called guests, a group of guests is the audience, the experience is the show, and uniforms are costumes. Rather than just being clever, Walt found that this terminology made a difference. When staff thought of customers as guests rather just a transaction, they became happier and more welcoming.

We’re not going to use the exact same terminology as Disney, but how can we follow this principle?

Examples:

What most say:                                      What you should say:

“Price”                                                           “Investment”

“Problem”                                                      “Challenge”

“No problem”                                                “You’re welcome/My pleasure”

“Sign up”                                                        “Register/Join”

“Contract”                                                      “Paperwork”

“I don’t know”                                               “Let me find out for you”

The words that we choose and use in our business really do make a difference.

Principle 4: The Power of a Name

Walt encouraged cast members to use guest names as much as possible. One of the ways Disney facilitates this is by giving out badges when you first get to the park. They have pins for birthdays, first-time visitors, honeymooners, anniversaries, family reunions, etc. And they write the person’s name on the badge itself. So later that day, a cast member might come up to a child and ask them by name how their birthday is going. The child may ask how they know their name and that it’s their birthday, and the cast member will say, “Disney magic.”

Disney realized that it’s very powerful when we learn and use clients’ names as much as possible. Even if we’re not good with names, we need to make the effort, as it’s so important.

Principle 5: Pay Close Attention to Details

When we are busy, it’s so easy to overlook the details. But our clients and guests do notice. I went into a chiropractor’s office and the first thing I noticed was there were a lot of marks on the walls. When I went up to the counter, I saw a computer monitor with a thick pile of dust that hadn’t been cleaned in years, and tangled cables spilling onto the floor.

I noticed all of these things as a first-time visitor, but if we aren’t walking in our customers’ shoes, we cease to register those details. But attention to detail matters, because guests do notice. Which is why to this day, on Main Street in Disney World, they repaint the lampposts every single night. Because they’re the first things people see when they come into the park. So, to stand out from the crowd, you need to pay attention to the smallest details.

 

Beyond Walt’s creative genius, he was a master marketer and understood the psychology of how to interact with people. I hope you’ve been inspired, and see how Walt’s principles can be applied in all aspects of your business.

From an upswing in sales activities to new concepts in senior living and positive attention from the press, there were lots of successes for our participants this February. However, some attendees struggled with challenges like sales slumps and poor Google reviews — and their fellow participants jumped in with some welcome advice.

Prospects Falling in Love With Communities
The month of love was very busy for Roundtable attendees. There was a major upswing in activity after the holiday slowdown with lots of tours, applications and move-ins. Many communities are at or close to full occupancy. But higher occupancy levels create their own unique problems.

“We’ve had so much success that I don’t have move-in-ready inventory, which is a challenge in itself.” (Missouri)

One creative working solution that an Illinois participant found was marketing guest suites for a trial stay of one to two weeks, in order to “allow those people [who are interested] to try it out for a week or two, and get a feel for living here.” (Illinois)

Unique New Approaches to the Senior Living Concept
Many of the Roundtable attendees had exciting and fresh takes on what senior living can mean, with upcoming projects and expansions underway.

Zen Community
One participant is involved in a “Zen” contemplative care community opening in California later this summer.

“The community will be a contemplative care community with a much different approach to assisted living and memory support than we’ve done in the past. There will be Zen teachers who live in the community, a tea room, and a fully vegetarian offering based on the Greens restaurant in San Francisco. It’s been 10 years in the making.” (Delaware/California)

An On-Site Dog Grooming Spa
One participant added an on-site dog grooming spa. “In one of our apartment buildings, we took over a floor and added a dog grooming spa where we will have a groomer assist residents on campus.” (Arkansas)

Hybrid Home Expansion
Another participant is involved in a “hybrid home” expansion project. “A hybrid home is really the best of an apartment and the best of a cottage or villa. It will be three stories high with an open floor plan. We often hear prospects say they wish they had parking or a garage, and this model has an underground parking structure where every resident can have one car, kept underground and out of the elements.” (Pennsylvania)

Memory Care Village
One participant from New Jersey has plans for developing a memory care village based on the Hogeweyk concept from the Netherlands. “It is a self-enclosed village concept with its own supermarket, cafe, etc., and everything right there on campus. We’re hung up on the zoning process right now and we expect the local town to contest it. The position of the model, that the residents get to live a natural life, is the hook that draws people in. It’s not just dementia care, but dementia living.” (New Jersey)

Media Coverage of On-Campus Fun
A number of participants were able to invite the media to their community, where they got some coverage for fun activities put on to chase away residents’ winter blues.

“We had our indoor snowball fight yesterday! We ended up on the front page of today’s local paper, the local televised news, and even on CBS and ABC news. (Illinois)

ADVICE FROM THE ROUNDTABLE

Navigating Difficult Conversations With Residents
Dealing with an unhappy resident can put staff in treacherous waters, and even more so when the resident is inciting a tirade against the whole community. One participant shared an experience dealing with one such displeased resident, and the Roundtable weighed in with advice.

The Situation:
“We had very little blowback [about rate increases]. The only negative feedback was from just one individual, who seems to have started a campaign with their family and friends to give us 1-star reviews on Google. A lot of it is just not accurate at all. So that’s been a little challenging.” (Arkansas)

The Advice:
“We’ve found that it’s best if the response is quick, and acknowledges what they’ve said — and if you extend the courtesy to please contact as soon as possible and show that you want to learn more about this situation. At that point, you’re really trying to influence the future visitors and viewers as opposed to what they’re actually doing to the Google ratings.” (Pennsylvania)

“Sometimes in those situations, just posting the response and being timely is important. Also, try to drive the conversation offline because what you’re trying to flag for those reading the 1-star reviews is that you care, and that there might be another side to the story.” (Bill Mulligan, Varsity)

Sales Cycle Slumps
One Pennsylvania participant enlisted the Roundtable participants for help with an issue with one of their sales counselors who is in a “slump,” asking, “What do you all do when you have a slow sales cycle and you want to get it kick-started?”

“Maybe you could have a heart-to-heart with them. Ask them if they’re feeling intimidated by an area, or what their knowledge level is, just work with that person.” (Washington state)

“Speaking from personal experience, a number of years ago when I was on the sales side, I went through a slump period. I tried talking to other people and seeing what they were doing, and analyzed my own weak areas. I discovered something about myself, that I spent too much time launching into our community offerings when talking with the prospect rather than getting to know their story first. When I turned that around and focused on the person and said, ‘Tell me more about you,’ it made a really big difference.” (Arkansas)

Learn from your peers at our weekly Sales & Marketing Roundtables. Join us on Thursdays at noon ET, 11 a.m. CT and 9 a.m. PT. For login information, email .

 

As a sales consultant, market researcher and mystery shopper with nearly 30 years of experience within the senior living industry, I visit many senior living communities every year. In my experience, I’ve identified some simple, affordable things you can do to make your community more appealing to potential residents. Even if you can’t afford to make significant updates to your campus and residences, here are some small changes that can make a big difference in the impression you make on prospects.

Be Responsive

  • Keep a close eye on web inquiries. At a few communities, I filled out a website contact form and requested a tour at a specific time and day, but got no response to the request.
  • Have a back-up team of individuals available to provide a tour whenever possible. After I received no response from one community and stopped by, no one was able to give me a tour and I was handed a brochure.

Enhance Curb Appeal

Just as in all real estate tours, you always want your property to wow the visitor at first sight. Some things to watch out for:

  • Make sure the buildings are power-washed to fend off that dingy, old look.
  • Keep your signage looking fresh — it should never be dirty, damaged, unreadable or have overgrown vegetation.
  • Keep your landscaping well-groomed. Brown, patchy grass and scraggly bushes make a poor impression.
  • It’s a nice touch to have a welcome sign at the main entrance for the visitor.
  • Ensure light bulbs are not burned out or dead bugs visible in the light fixtures during the tour.

Start the Tour Off Strong

Take a look at your discovery room to make sure it’s warm and welcoming.

  • Provide an area that’s conducive to intimate, private conversation.
  • Keep the room clean, decluttered and neat.
  • Offer your prospects a cold drink or a hot cup of coffee or tea.
  • A large, mounted TV with a virtual sales platform sharing floor plans, amenities, site plan/campus can be a strong selling tool.
  • Have documents such as floor plans, menus, fitness schedule, program/activity calendar, rate sheets readily available.

Make Affordable Upgrades to Residences

Even if you can’t afford to do a full-scale remodel on apartments or cottages/villas, there are cost-effective ways to show them to their best advantage.

  • Ensure the front door to the residence is freshly painted and not damaged or scuffed. Place “Welcome Home” in the nameplate vs. nothing or the previous resident’s name.
  • Declutter residences for a cleaner impression. Less is better.
  • Remove all items left from prior residents.
  • Ensure housekeeping cleans the residence prior to showing it. Ensure all available residences are cleaned on a regular basis.
  • Stage your residences with new, modern furniture, rather than with furniture left by deceased residents.
  • Remove or drywall over popcorn ceilings, which feel outdated.
  • Update lighting. Large fluorescent lights in the kitchen feel institutional and not residential.
  • Update everything at the same time for cost and time savings and a cohesive, modern look. For instance, in some bathrooms I toured, the lower-height oak cabinets were still in place; however, the kitchen cabinets were updated and modern.

Make It a Happy Ending

  • At one community, tours ended in the performing arts center with an exit out the side door. I recommend ending the tour in the discovery center for a next-step discussion.
  • Offer your prospects something to drink during the closing conversation.
  • Consider leaving your visitor with a small gift — at one community I was offered eclairs branded with a ribbon printed with the community logo, and another offered me something from their cafe to take with me.

Follow Up Promptly

Make sure to follow up right away after the tour. I appreciated it when a sales director sent me an email the same day with videos of the apartments we toured, and also mailed a handwritten note a few days later.

Thank you for reading the insights I’ve gathered after mystery shopping many types of senior communities. If you have any questions about how to make your community more appealing during tours, please feel free to contact me at .

 

In case you couldn’t make it to our December Sales & Marketing Roundtables, here are some of the trends we saw in senior living last month, and a look forward to 2023.

  1. Holiday Conversations. New Year’s Conversions.

Many participants saw sales activity gaining momentum in December. At this time of year, children come home for the holidays and notice that Mom and Dad aren’t getting around as well as they used to, and might benefit from senior living options. Sales and marketing leaders saw leads pick up, which will hopefully become conversions in January now that the busy holiday season is over.

  1. Connecting With Kinless Seniors

A frequent topic of conversation in December was “kinless” seniors, or seniors who do not have family support, whether it be because they never married, never had kids, are widowed, or for whatever reason don’t have a support network nearby. Kinless seniors can be uniquely limited in their caregiving support, and senior living communities can be well equipped to serve them.

“There are quite a few kinless folks who visit us. And I see them as very proactive, coming in and talking to us about their future plans, making sure they have their legal documents in order.” (Washington state)

  1. Nearly Universal Rate Increases — and Tips for Communicating Them

Entry fees and monthly service fees are being raised for 2023 in most senior living communities.

“The industry standard is a 9% to 10% increase, on average this year. (Pennsylvania)

Sales and marketing leaders shared helpful tips on how to best communicate rate increases with residents. It was agreed that it’s best to be extremely transparent with why fees have to go up, and to go into detail about why.

“We were extremely clear about why we raised rates and broke down the pricing for our residents. We were clear on what we spent on renovation and really broke it down. We also showed figures of how the minimum wage is going up, how utilities have increased, how the food bills have gone up.” (Massachusetts)

When using this up-front approach, residents tend to have less pushback and are more accepting of the current situation.

  1. Loneliness as a Public Health Problem

Americans are spending more and more hours alone than ever before. Our time spent alone has increased by over nine hours a week. This trend started well before the pandemic, although 2020 surely exacerbated it, and we know that time spent alone dramatically increases as we age. We discussed that it could be valuable for sales teams to convey that time spent alone can be dramatically reduced for people who live in senior communities.

  1. Competition Changing to At-Home Options

Sales and marketing leaders agree that their competition isn’t necessarily the other community down the road — especially for independent living. More often, they’re competing against home health agencies and private duty care.

“I have always said that I feel like other communities aren’t our competitors. We’re all competing against the home and the prospect staying at home.” (Washington state)

“It’s when the home is no longer working for them that people start calling us.” (Massachusetts)

See what’s new in senior living for 2023 at our weekly Sales & Marketing Roundtables. Join us on Thursdays at noon ET, 11 a.m. CT and 9 a.m. PT.

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In case you couldn’t make it to our November Sales & Marketing Roundtables, here are some key takeaways from the month.

Rates Jump for 2023
Rate increases are expected to take a high leap in the upcoming year due to inflation and rising living expenses. Entrance and/or monthly fees are being raised across the board.

“Our rates are going up 7.5 to 8%, which is the biggest increase we’ve ever had that I can remember. Usually, it’s only 2 to 3%. I also heard the average rate increase in the country is 9%.” (Washington state)

“Yes, we’re raising our entrance fee as well, by roughly 10 to 15%.” (Arkansas)

GUEST SPEAKERS OF THE MONTH 

The Party is Over in Real Estate

Elias Papasavvas, CEO of Second Act Financial Services 

CElias spoke about the changing housing market and how it will likely impact the senior living industry. Seniors now have rising mortgage rates, lots of newer construction, and other factors that are putting the pressure on home sales and adding time to the selling process. This means it won’t be as easy anymore for seniors to sell their houses, and not as quickly as they did earlier in 2022 during the housing boom. Second Act is a senior-focused division of a Federal Savings Bank that offers a senior-focused Home Equity Line of Credit and bridge loan solutions. They work with senior living sales professionals to help with the home sale process for seniors looking to move into an LPC/CCRC.

“Studies show that if you embed the conversation with how to pay for senior living in the beginning of the journey, and communicate that you have the solutions if somebody can’t sell their home in time or doesn’t want to at their move-in time, it can increase sales by 6%,” says Elias.

Rethinking Resident Engagement

Shawn Richard, Vice President Strategic Accounts, Cubigo
Shawn spoke about rethinking resident engagement and the importance of resident experience overall. Senior living sales and marketing programs are shifting more toward selling a lifestyle, and how to tailor the resident experience to meet the needs of the baby boomers as they filter into the senior living space. Communities need to have programs and activities that are personalized to residents, as well as having the methods to track resident engagement and satisfaction. Cubigo is an app that residents can download on their device, where they can track events in their calendar, RSVP to activities, manage their transportation and dining, and more.

“A focus on resident experience is becoming more prevalent, and people are talking more and more about it overall,” says Shawn. “Programs are shifting to meet the needs of the new wave of seniors coming in. So we need a holistic and a personalized view on what they’re looking for, versus the broad brush we used to apply to it.”

“When looking at resident experience as a whole, it’s not just experience itself, but how you can tailor it to the individual,” Shawn says, “When you think about experience and selling lifestyle, there’s a company who does a phenomenal job of it, and that’s Margaritaville. They take their experience in resort living to apply to senior living, and these are properties pre-selling that are full before they even open.”

Selling Through the Holidays
After the slowdown of the summer and the mad rush of September/October, November is calming down but is still steady. Life Plan Community sales and marketing leaders are staying busy with planning for the upcoming new fiscal year, and preparing for the busy holiday season of events. Many are hosting open houses to invite people into their community during the holidays.

“We’re having a holiday dinner for residents, and that is always the event of the year. Anyone who is a depositor — whether they’re a resident, or not moving in for months — can come as a networking opportunity.” (Wisconsin)

“We’ve had snow the past few days, but we got in a turkey trot event before the snow came. We had residents from all levels of care doing laps on the grounds, dressed up as turkeys and other things.” (Illinois)

Many communities hosted successful Veterans Day events and invited military guest speakers, or even their own residents, to share about their military experience.

“We’re having a guest speaker from the local Air Force base coming out. We’ll recognize our veterans, of course, and we’ll do different military hymns. And the local ROTC will come out and do a presentation. We do offer a veterans’ benefit with a discount on their entrance fee.” (Arkansas)

Takeaways From SMASH
Several roundtable participants picked up new tools at the Senior Care Marketing & Sales Summit  (SMASH)

“Everything is all about local SEO, especially for standalone communities. Being local is so important, so [we’re] trying to have more of a focus that way.” (Wisconsin)

“Content is king. So much about the customer journey is having the right content, on the right platform, at the right time. Keywords aren’t the thing anymore, but key intent is, the intent of the person viewing your content.” (Washington state)

Join the conversation at our weekly Sales & Marketing Roundtables on Thursdays at noon ET, 11 a.m. CT and 9 a.m. PT.

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This article by Seth Anthony, Chief Revenue Officer at LW Consulting, Inc., was originally published at LW-consult.com and is reprinted here with permission.

Let’s be honest with ourselves.

For years, many organizations have viewed having a comprehensive compliance program as “check the box” activity. If there was a binder on the shelf labeled “Compliance Program,” then organizational leadership felt like they were covered.

Then, along came the role of Compliance Officer, and it became that person’s issue. Except, the comprehensive compliance program was one problem among many. While the compliance officer was busy putting out fires, programs moldered on shelves, with few tangible updates. Meanwhile, compliance requirements grew exponentially, with little opportunity for corporate leadership to integrate those changes into their daily operations in a holistic way.

Then, there was the pandemic. Businesses went from “firefighting” compliance into full operational triage. Now, as the pandemic fades, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Department of Justice (DOJ),  are getting serious about enforcing compliance failures.

And they are going to hold you personally responsible.

In the September 15, 2022 policy revision, DOJ made substantial changes relating to personal accountability, outside monitors, misconduct, voluntary disclosures, and expectations around the integration of compliance into the culture of an organization. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco made it very clear that a new era of “personal accountability” has dawned at the DOJ by stating, “[R]esourcing a compliance department is not enough; it must also be backed by, and integrated into, a corporate culture that rejects wrongdoing for the sake of profit.”

That is certainly some tough talk! But what should it mean to operators and leaders, especially those working in healthcare settings?

DOJ has said that when bringing a criminal complaint, their agents will consider a broad range of issues, including reward and compensation metrics tied to compliance, the imposition of financial sanctions for compliance failures, and the role leaders play in allowing those failures to occur. Active participation is no longer the key issue; passivity or inaction will likely be just as damning evidence going forward.

What’s a provider to do?

The answer is simple. Pick up that Compliance Program binder and get to work!

DOJ shared that an effective, updated, and independently reviewed compliance plan is the best strategy to ward off misconduct and such a plan will likely be considered if a compliance breach comes before DOJ officials. If your plan does not include actionable compliance incentives, such as those tied to compensation, promotion, and hiring practices, you are likely already behind the proverbial “8 Ball.”

Ethical behavior and compliance are no longer a “corporate” problem. It’s a “you” problem. Your career may be on the line for compliance failures if you do not take an active role, right now, in making sure your programs are comprehensive, effective, implemented, and enforced.

Is your Compliance Program up to date, or do you need assistance with reviewing your Compliance Program? Contact one of the experts at LW Consulting to learn more about how they can help.