Sales Archives – Varsity Branding

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At last week’s Sales & Marketing Roundtable, we had a very special guest. We celebrated Martha B.’s 105th birthday! Martha has been an independent living resident of Parkway Village in Little Rock, Arkansas, for over 17 years.

After we sang Happy Birthday to her, Martha shared her perspective on life at a senior living community, her fondest memories, and some wise words on how to live a vibrant life, no matter your age.

Here are some questions Martha answered from participants, who were participating virtually everywhere on zoom.

What’s your favorite thing about being 105?
“I like to watch my grandkids and great-grandkids. It’s fun to watch them and see what they do. I have seven total grandchildren, and three are married now. I like to play bridge. But my big problem is being able to see, so I can’t do that as much any longer. Getting around is harder, too, but I always make it to bingo.”

What is the secret of staying so young and vibrant?”
“Well, I’ve always been active. I was always active in organizations at church. I knew the local high school principal well. After my children were grown, I went to work over there as a secretary for 22 years. Then, my husband had a small business and I kept the books. So, I did two or three jobs over the years and kept real active. I play bridge a lot, and I’ve always loved knitting and embroidery. After I retired, I did a lot of that.”

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen over the course of your life?”
“I’ve seen the invention of radios, TV, cars — my first car was a Ford that my dad had to crank in the front to go forward! That was the first car I can remember.  I’ve also seen a lot of change in home appliances. I didn’t have a washing machine or a dryer growing up, and those kinds of things are wonderful to have around the house.”

Do you have any fond memories of the last 105 years you would like to share?
“I have just enjoyed my life. I’ve always gone to Sunday school and church, and I’ve always stayed involved there. I love knitting, I do a lot of that at church. I play lots of bridge, and they say that’s very good for your mind. And I try to play bingo! When I moved here, I was very active and knew everybody and enjoyed all of the activities. Nowadays, things have slowed down because I can’t see as well, but I would still be doing everything if I could.”

What is the biggest historical event that stands out to you in the 105 years you’ve lived?
“Oh, goodness. It’s hard to think of one … I watched our church burn. I lived close enough to see the smoke. When I went over with my family, I saw it burning. That was ‘history’ to me.”

What is life like there at Parkway Village?
“It’s great, they’ve really taken care of me here. It’s been a perfect place for me. I moved here after I developed macular degeneration and I could no longer drive, so my son said I needed to be somewhere with people. Since I moved here, everyone has been wonderful to me. We have excellent security. The maintenance team comes as soon as you call. I have a housekeeper who comes to my apartment once a week, but other than that, I take care of myself and live independently. And I hope I can keep doing so!”

Do you have any advice for us on helping people make the decision to move to a community?
“People always say, ‘I’m not ready.’ But what I try to tell them is, ‘You will never be ready.’ But you just have to pick up and move. My son is a psychiatrist, and he made sure I left home, because I wouldn’t have been able to get along when I couldn’t drive anymore. So, you need to move somewhere to be with others. I think a lot of people wait until it’s too late.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
“I wanted to mention that Boston University has contacted me. They do work for a lot of senior organizations. They asked me to volunteer for their Alzheimer’s research, so I’m working for them. They have a number of people in my age group in the process of testing.”

Happy birthday to Martha! We are so grateful that you were able to join us on the roundtable today. You are a testament to all we do!

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

For login information, email DDunham@varsitybranding.com.

 

During the past quarter of the Varsity virtual roundtables, some common themes, challenges and frustrations seemed to come up over and over with our participants across the country. Here are some of the solutions they gave during our weekly brainstorming sessions.

l. How do you address staffing issues?

Many participants say staffing is a huge issue. “We have only been able to staff half the number of people that we actually need,” said one marketer. “It’s been very, very difficult to hire more people.”

      Solutions:

  • Adjust compensation/provide sign-on bonuses

“Our staffing issues seem to be getting better slowly,” said one participant. “We’ve adjusted compensation to meet demand.”

  • Brainstorm new tactics

“We have a task force that meets biweekly, and we’ve brainstormed new ways to recruit and retain,” said a marketer. “We’ve implemented gestures such as pizza parties and other events to show our appreciation to our employees.”

  • Recruit displaced food service workers

“One organization recruited by going after the displaced and unhappy food service workers and housekeepers from the service sector,” shared Seth Anthony of LW Consulting. “Their ad was basically: ‘Do you want steady hours and benefits that you’re not getting at the restaurant? Come work in senior living!’ They actually managed to really backfill a lot of their staff by using that message and hammering it home.”

  • Provide transportation

“I knew a place that offered employee transportation, where the routes were mapped in tandem with their staffing needs,” said a participant. “They provided the transport in urban areas, which allowed them to hire people who they would not have reached otherwise.”

  • Plan innovative career fairs

“I saw somebody who did a career fair with a food truck,” shared another marketer. “I thought that it was creative and fun to combine the two events.”

  • Get on TikTok

“We have a few employees at our building who graduated from dining services to becoming CNAs,” shared a participant. “They noted that being on TikTok is ideal for reaching the younger demographic.”

2. Should you put pricing on your website?

“We have put all of our pricing on our website, everything in detail for all levels of care,” a marketer shared. “We’ve done that for many, many years, and none of our competition around here has any of their pricing on the web — other than they have a ‘starting at’ or a basic range. We constantly hear from people that come in to see us that say, ‘I’m so glad you have that on your website because I knew exactly what I was getting into when I came here.’”

“I always use the analogy of when you’re going to a restaurant and you Google them, you look at the menu and they have no prices, you’re probably not going to go there,” shared another marketer. “You’re probably going to just move on until someone’s a little more transparent.”

3. How do you handle events in a changing COVID-19 landscape?

“If you have the ability to hold events in person, you may be able to offer hybrid options if people are still sensitive to the COVID-19 issue, even if regulations say that in person is safe,” shared Derek Dunham.

Another idea? Record the event. “We did a four-part dementia virtual series, and we recorded them,” said a participant from Washington state. “And we just had an email from somebody who couldn’t attend in person. They commented on how nice it was to be able to view the seminar recordings at their own pace.”

4. How do you encourage people to move from their homes when they don’t feel ready?

I’ve had my directors use the phrase, ‘Beat the clock.’ If someone is reticent, or their body language is closed off, the directors will go into the ‘beat the clock’ conversation,” said a participant from Pennsylvania. “We phrase it as such: that they have to roll the dice, and hope they do ok in the future. We give them the statistics and introduce the gamble of risk and uncertainty.”

“One of our campuses has a ridiculously long waitlist. We initiated this new program called ‘Get Ready to Say Yes,’” shared a marketer in Washington state. “We do meetings with the people on our waitlist, so that when the time comes when we call, they’re prepared to say yes. We’ve had realtors and downsizers come in. It’s a way to engage waitlisters and get them ready to go.”

5. What skill sets do you look for in a sales counselor?

“All of our sales counselors are over 60, in their sixties and seventies,” said a marketer in Washington state. “I think that having the life experience and empathy, and having gone through it with their own parents as hands-on market experience, is so valuable.”

“I agree, I think the biggest deal is with the relationship,” said another participant. “We are very lucky here to have great salespeople with diverse backgrounds. They can learn the product, but you can’t teach that relationship-building aspect.”

“A couple communities I know had luck hiring people who were previously college admission counselors,” shared Seth Anthony. “I think it’s because it’s similar, where they’re selling something big, multi-dollar, kind of intangible, and heavy on their brand that comes with a lifestyle.”

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.

 

Hello, I’m Jodi Gibble, a sales and marketing consultant with more than 28 years of experience in the senior living sector. As part of Varsity’s sales consulting team, in addition to sales and marketing support, audits and training, I conduct market research and mystery shops. I’ve mystery shopped  in person, via the telephone and on the websites of 60 senior living communities in several states over the past six months.

During my mystery shop tours and calls, I noticed that some no-brainer rules of sales and marketing weren’t always being followed. I shared these insights with participants at the Varsity Sales & Marketing Roundtable.  I’m expanding on that presentation here, in case you’d find such insights helpful as well.

As sales professionals, we all know these basics, but sometimes we need a refresher — or maybe there’s a new team member at your community who could use this advice.

No-brainer rule #1: Pick up the phone.

We all know that first impressions start way before a visitor sets foot on your campus. Your responses to phone calls, emails and website requests are even more important. Many people will not leave a message and will give up if you don’t promptly follow up on their request. However, it was surprising that only one-third of my first phone calls connected with an actual sales counselor.

No-brainer rule #2: Have sales counselors available.

When I called one community on a Monday, I was told the salesperson only works on Tuesday through Saturday and that she would call me the next day. If your sales counselor is off or they are on a tour, ensure that someone can take the phone call or at the very least have someone call the prospect back the same day. I feel that more people will probably want to visit during the week. Having limited hours is a missed opportunity.

No-brainer rule #3: Know your community.

I called several multi-site communities where the calls go to a central call center. The actual person was often unfamiliar with the community, other than rates and levels of care fees. In some cases, they mispronounced the community name, or didn’t know what state it was in! Solution: Make sure to properly brief the call center staff; they should know as much as possible about each individual community.

No-brainer rule #4: Get backup.

In some cases when the sales counselor wasn’t available, the receptionist, concierge or business manager did a great job  answering my questions. The sales counselor followed up later. Make sure there is someone (a backup team) to answer the phone when the salesperson is not available and that he or she knows the basics about the community. Train weekend managers and weekend/evening receptionists on what questions to ask prospects so that they can gather needed information for you to follow up.

In my next post,  I’ll share no-brainer rules for a successful tour and follow-up.

 

One of the most mispronounced words of 2021 is disrupting senior living communities in 2022.

Near the beginning of December, our participants had heard about the Omicron variant, but it wasn’t impacting them much yet. One marketer said, “The last data I heard was yesterday in our area that there were only nine cases of COVID-19 in our hospital, which is the lowest it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic.”

Another participant commented, “Right now we’re preparing for ‘just in case’ mode, making sure our communities and departments have rapid tests and enough PPE.”

Even during the second week of December, the focus was on planning and throwing holiday parties, not on Omicron. One roundtable participant said, “We’re having all kinds of holiday activities, and it has been fun to come together as a community to do this.”

And when we asked if the Omicron variant was an issue? Responses included:  “I haven’t heard a thing” and “not yet.”

The Holiday Gift Nobody Wanted

Later in December, concern began to mount. “We’re getting anxious about the Omicron variant,” said one participant. “We’re asking families to be cautious and test before visiting. We’re reloading on PPE and N95 masks to use in the buildings for a few weeks. We’re trying to keep things safe through this surge.”

A roundtable member in Arkansas commented, “A lot more folks are taking it more seriously. People are masking up more in the community.” A participant in Illinois added:  “There is an uptick in the Omicron variant around here. We’re offering free testing for the community.” From Wisconsin, we heard: “We’re going to get through Christmas and keep moving forward until after the holiday. We held a clinic last week where 75 people got boosted, including both residents and employees. Everyone is nervous about what’s going to happen with the new variant.”

New Year, New Cases

By the end of the month, communities were shutting down New Year’s Eve parties. One couple received a celebration kit complete with filet mignon, a dessert sampler and party hats after the community’s bash was canceled due to an outbreak among the staff.

Now that Varsity has held its first post-holiday roundtable on January 6, the situation has blown up. With Omicron surging, many communities feel like it’s Groundhog Day — they closed, they opened, and now they’re closed again.

One marketer commented, “COVID-19 has definitely hit here for staff as well as our residents, and all of our areas of long-term care as well as independent living. All of our events where we’re bringing people on-site have been canceled at this time. Private appointments or tours are on a case-by-case basis.”

Reports were similar at another community: “We’ve been hit hard with lots of cases of COVID-19. The state has surged in a big way, like everyone. We’re owned by a hospital system and they offered a drive-through testing to the community. 42% tested positive.”

What Are Your Resolutions for 2022? 

With communities across the country dealing with Omicron, one participant said, “I hear a lot of defeat in people’s voices. We can be very grateful for a lot.”

Another marketer commented, “It’s been a challenging time but there is a lot to be thankful for. We have had a really good year and I think we can have that again. I think the pandemic has caused a lot of fear, but I think it’s more about being cautious. Another participant added, “Once people got vaccinated, things got into a bit more normal living. And now it’s taken a big swing back right now. It isn’t going to be like this forever.”

Some roundtable members felt that we’ll get used to it. “Hopefully it will be like the flu in the future and we just get a booster shot, just like the flu has a different variant.” And one last comment: “I think we will just start accepting this new reality for restrictions for safety.”

Let’s all resolve to think positive and support one another in 2022! We’re looking forward to coming together this week. You’re welcome to join our Sales & Marketing Roundtable on Thursdays at noon ET, 11 a.m. CT and 9 a.m. PT.

For login information, email DDunham@varsitybranding.com.

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Those are the words of John Wanamaker (1838–1922), a very successful United States merchant, religious leader and political figure, considered by some to be a pioneer in marketing.

Anyone who is a marketer for senior living communities can relate to that statement. But there is a way to know where your marketing dollars are really going, and it’s by harnessing your data using predictive analytics.

That concept was the focus of a 2021 LeadingAge Conference session, “Predictive Analytics: Connecting Past Performance to Future Success,” a joint presentation by Varsity, its sister agency WildFig Data and Ingleside Senior Living.

“Retirement communities in general are data rich and insight poor,” says John Bassounas, Partner at Varsity. “Sometimes when it comes to analytics and data, people get overwhelmed. Really, at the end of the day our job is to simplify that process and deliver insights that can help communities make better decisions.”

During these challenging times, harnessing your data is especially important. “As an outgrowth of COVID-19,” John says, “everyone is trying to figure out the role of digital — how organizations can establish a competitive advantage. Data is the way to do that.”

A Progressive Partner

Varsity and WildFig have been fortunate to partner with Ingleside, a forward-thinking, multi-site, nonprofit senior living organization located in the Washington, D.C., area. “Data analysis was a leadership initiative at Ingleside,” says John. “It started at the top, and leadership identified data analytics as a key priority for their organization. In doing so, they partnered with us, and we became an extension of their team.”

“This is a visionary client,” agrees Derek Dunham, Vice President Client Services at Varsity. “They have established team members focused on the digital experience in analytics — they see the value in it. They have been an early adopter of data mining and analytics.”

Here are some key takeaways from the LeadingAge presentation based on our work with Ingleside:

1.  Consider all of the digital elements as an ecosystem, not siloed tactics.

“One of the goals here is to make sure that we’re not just looking at isolated tactics. We need to assess the impact of the entire digital ecosystem of paid, owned and earned media,” says Derek.

“From a marketing perspective, understanding the relationship between the various tactics and strategies to the overall program is incredibly valuable, because we want to optimize the plan for the best results.”

“For Ingleside, an important part of the ecosystem is a fresh website that is newly programmed using all the modern tools. Technology is always changing. With a new website, we don’t have to dumb down any of the analytics because the site can plug into analytics and pull data easily.

2. Embrace the process — Each organization is at a different stage with their analytics and modernization journey.

“It’s important for any organization to have the mindset that this is a process,” says Derek. “It’s not going to be a one-off project; it’s a culture. It’s an ongoing initiative that needs to be fed over time. I would say, assess what you have and get going. Taking the first step is important as this process is never ‘done’ — there are always opportunities to refine, test and learn.”

“Some organizations might think, ‘We don’t have all the data we need.’ Others may think, ‘We have too much data.’ Don’t let a lack of data stand in the way of proceeding with initiatives,” John says. “The first thing you need to ask is, ‘What is the question that you want to answer, and how can data make that happen?’”

3. Start with the big questions — Others will emerge.

“Starting with the big questions means, don’t get mired down in the details,” Derek says. “First think about what are the big questions you want to have answered. A question might seem too big initially, but you’ll be able to break it down into smaller questions and put together a manageable process.”

As an example, here are some of the questions that Ingleside wanted to answer:

  • How do we reach and maintain 95% occupancy?
  • How can we use data to make informed decisions?
  • How can we predict future outcomes?
  • Should the website be redesigned and merged under one URL?

4. Think not just about outcomes, but about implementation, and how to create a dynamic feedback loop.

“It’s an iterative process, and you’re constantly going to be refining it,” says Derek. “You want to look at the outcomes at a point in time. With this process, you are able to have confidence that you can pull your data at any point in time and get answers.”

Once the loop is established, John says, “We can either look backward at what has happened, or we can look forward to help inform what we’d like to have happen or predict outcomes.”

5. Customize the sales experience through predictive modeling.

“The overall goal of data analytics is to be able to understand the data to provide prospects with a customized experience — making the entire process from a marketing and sales perspective more efficient,” Derek says.

“For organizations like Ingleside, we’re doing that through a predictive modeling tool that does two things — predicts what lead volume will be, and assigns a lead score to every prospect in their database. We’ll be able to map each prospect’s customer journey and know the likelihood of their becoming a depositor at each interaction with the salesperson,” says John. “This map can be generated for every prospect, providing an easily digestible way to monitor the sales process.”

Why is that so important? “We all know that it takes anywhere from 20 to 30 touches for somebody to move in,” says Derek. “The more we can make those touches relevant and purposeful and efficient, the better. Through that process, we also make the salesperson’s time efficient, because they’re dealing with the people who are most predisposed to buying. We’re offering the salesperson better information so they are better able to connect with the right prospects.”

If you’d like the Varsity team to take you through the presentation in more detail, please contact John Bassounas at JBassounas@varsitybranding.com or Derek Dunham at DDunham@varsitybranding.com.

 

This November, many participants in our Thursday roundtables commented that leads are still pouring in. One marketer said, “We’re getting inquiries like crazy.” Another agreed, “It’s been our strongest year in 10 years.”

But even the busiest communities are working hard to capitalize on every lead and plan for the future. While other people were getting ready to pass the potatoes, our participants were passing around both new and tried-and-true sales and marketing approaches that are working for them:

1. Keep resident encounters casual. “We are seeing success with holding more casual events where prospects can mingle with residents versus having a more formal resident panel (which can be viewed as too scripted), so prospects can ask more specific questions about things not being presented here.”

2. Stay in touch. “There are usually about eight to nine articles in the marketing newsletter highlighting all the things we’re doing within the community,” said one participant. “Our sales team says prospects comment on it all the time.”

3. Stop talking, start listening. “People need someone who listens, not somebody who talks,” said a marketer. “I worked with a sales guy who was a master of the art of silence. He’d ask a question, and he’d stop talking. If you can stop talking long enough, the other person will start talking and open up.”

4. Overcome objections. Now that COVID-19 is slowing down, people are back to the classic excuses for not making the move. Here are some comebacks our participants found effective:

Objection: “I’m not ready yet.”

Answer: “I completely understand; however, can I ask what your hesitation is?”

Objection: “Wow, there’s a lot of old people here.”

Answer: “That’s because we take such good care of people, they live to a ripe old age.”

5. Update your floor plans. “We’re filling larger apartments, but it’s the smaller apartments that are harder to sell,” said one marketer. “We’re having work done, taking a wall down to make a bigger living space. People want their kitchen table, they don’t need that second bedroom.”

6. Offer trial stays. “There is a program that a community offers where if they stay one month, they get the second one free. Marketing it that way has been successful for them,” said a participant. “There is also a community that does a Safe & Warm program, which has been very successful for them when offering people to come in and live at the community on a trial basis during the winter months.”

7. Automate insights. “We’re trying to wrap up and create a sense of urgency now, so people move in the beginning of the year,” said one marketer. “We integrated some automated marketing in our database, and that’s really delivered some tangible results from our sales team. It’s giving us insights into our inquires and visits to our websites.

We’d like to leave you with one final thought: Normalize life again. “We need to remind people that there is a life to be lived,” said one participant. Another said, “It’s not entirely business as normal, but the more we act like it is, the better.”

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.

 

 

 

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.

Guest post by Andrew Leech, Vice President, Operations Management Services, Greystone Communities

Today Andrew Leech is expanding on some of the ideas he shared in his recent presentation at The Greystone Event 2021, “The Art of the Pivot: Addressing Operational Challenges.”

With all the tragedy that has come with the pandemic, we’ve learned a couple of things. In a 24/7 operation, we never have the opportunity to retool and reopen and reboot. COVID-19 has been awful and terrible for our residents and industry, but one of the positives coming out the other side is the lessons we’ve learned. It would be a real shame to go back to the old normal.

Some of the lessons communities have learned:

  • Residents can adopt and use technology far faster than we gave them credit for.
  • Society is more open to doing things a little differently now than it did a year-and-a-half ago, so why waste this opportunity to improve and secure the future of our communities?
  • In every facet of our operations, now is the time to change.

One caveat: There is a strong regulatory component in what we do, which means some things are not going to change as fast as we’d like them to. Guidelines and restrictions are going to impact our changes.

Here are some areas that I feel communities should be looking at:

Recruiting

We’ve had hiring challenges in health care for many, many years. There has been a nursing shortage and not enough nurses to replace those that left. Now the challenges are even greater, with other industries raising their wages during COVID-19. How are we going to compete for talent with other sectors? How can we help lower costs to help pay for talent? We’ve often pitched how strong our operations were, saying things like: “You would be lucky to come and work for such a fine organization that treats employees well.” In this market, rather than say, “You’d be fortunate to work for us,” it’s a natural shift to say, “We would really love the opportunity to have you be a part of our team.”

We need to change our approach to how we’re recruiting talent in a market this tight. We spend an awful lot of time and money to attract residents and get them through the sales process. We need to start to take some of those funds and have the same vested interest in appealing to employees. Some specific tactics communities can implement:

  • Pay for time spent during the screening process
  • Make sure your community has a director level position for HR
  • Partner with a Professional Employer Organization (PEO)
  • Text candidates within five minutes of their application hitting the portal (the younger generation doesn’t read emails)
  • Offer seven days on and seven days off in skilled nursing care, or four days of 10-hour shifts — think creatively about how to offer work/life balance.

Retention

We have teams that have been through hell and back during the last 18 months to two years. We need to show them that they’re appreciated for the sacrifices they’ve made. And we also have to be realistic about our expectations for retention: A year for a certified nurse’s aide or a server is actually quite good.

Ideas for retention will vary in every single market. Offering employee meals is a great start — but we can’t just stop there. Here are some other options, many of which are also strong recruitment tools:

  • Retention bonuses. We believe that a better approach to bonuses is to space them out and incentivize even further someone’s desire to stay with the company. Part of the bonuses may come at three months, six months, nine months, a year.
  • Day care. Some communities are looking at spaces on their properties for day care and figuring how to license and run a center. We’re in the research stages, and I do have leaders of communities telling me that day care would make a huge impact. Having day care on-site simplifies people’s lives. Imagine being able to drop your child right at your workplace and go into your job each day.
  • Flexible schedules. Gone are the days that if an employee can’t work weekends, they can’t be a part of your team. Now it can be mutually beneficial to be flexible to meet the needs of each individual. We can give team members the life balance that they’re looking for, and they can provide excellent experiences to the residents.
  • Attractive employee lounges and locker rooms. We need to evaluate employee areas and solicit team feedback to determine if they are welcoming.
  • Fee structure reviews and involvement of residents. COVID-19 strengthened that desire to help, because folks have very strong ties to members of the staff and their teams. The pandemic made us all re-evaluate what’s important. The residents have realized that their communities are not the same without these amazing team members who are working hard and sacrificing day in and day out. We had actually proposed a rate increase at one of our communities, and one of the members of the resident council came to the director and asked whether that number was going to be sufficient to pay their staff a living wage. He was invested in making sure the staff were well taken care of.

Infection Control

Because of the extra precautions communities have taken during COVID-19, we’ve had tremendous success in keeping the flu at bay this past year. Through tools like visitation restrictions, PPE and social distancing, we’ve shown we can control infections very, very effectively. That’s going to be the expectation moving forward. The challenge is, how do we eliminate the spread of infection, while still having communities that are more open with visitors?

Finding Efficiencies

Here’s an example of how we need to work more efficiently: If you have a housekeeper going to three different floors in a main building, as well as villas and cottages and garden homes, are you sacrificing a lot of time and energy in having that person traveling from place to place? This is now an opportunity to reboot services like housekeeping. Let’s break out the community in a way that is far more efficient for travel time. We’re looking for little opportunities to do things smarter.

Dining Innovations

Before COVID-19, dining in was not heavily utilized — and was not experientially the best. What we did learn during the pandemic was that there’s a way to do it well and inexpensively. We strongly believe, moving forward, that there is going to be demand for in-room dining to augment regular dining. We see this through the success of services like Grubhub, Door Dash and Uber Eats. Customers are looking to have great dining experiences with gourmet food in the comfort of their own homes — and seniors are going to be no different.

Stay Virtual

What we’ve learned from our residents’ eager adoption of technology is that virtual programs will always be in demand. Make sure your community keeps up by continuing to offer them and learning to do them better.

These are just small examples of how the need to change runs throughout the entire operation. It could be that in five to 10 years, our community buses will be driving themselves. Something along those lines is coming, so we’d better be ready.

People are more receptive to new ideas than they have been in years, so let’s take advantage of that opportunity. We don’t want to lose the chance to change and go back to doing things the way we’ve done for years and years and years. However, we also don’t want people to run to their communities with all these ideas and try to cram them all in at once. That’s not going to be successful for them. Each market may have different demands.

Fast and Simple Changes

Our focus is on providing small takeaways that everyone can do something with. For example, when was the last time you did a wage analysis in your market? If it’s a year old, the analysis is highly out of date. If it’s not done in the last 90 days, you can’t trust it.

Those are quick, easy things you can do: reviewing fees, involving residents, reassessing culture, looking for opportunities to be more efficient — those are actions that would be advantageous to any operation. It’s important to do the work to figure out what’s going to be most impactful to your team and operations. Now is the time to start to ask these questions and look into these issues.

A Short Window of Opportunity

You have a window of time to make these changes. You have receptive residents, prospective residents and staff. The trick is, you can’t sit on your hands and not do anything or the window will close. Eventually people will wipe these circumstances from their memories and we’ll continue on like we did before.

Our call to action is:Please don’t do nothing.” If you do nothing, you’re going to be left behind. You can’t waste this opportunity, and if you do waste it, it will have longstanding effects on the financial health and stability of your community for years to come.

Seeing the Glass Half Full

I’d like to end this on an optimistic note. Should we feel optimistic or pessimistic about the future, knowing all that has happened? I choose to look at this through a positive lens. We have had some teams that went through some extremely difficult, once-in-a-lifetime challenges, and the people who have stuck around have built more stamina and become more capable, more resilient and more optimistic. We now have these folks on our team who have managed through a huge crisis, and they will be able to draw on these experiences should, and when, the next crisis comes along. This is an industry that has been challenged by many, many things, from 9/11 to the Great Recession and now COVID-19. There are always going to be challenges. We need to take away what we excelled in and what we learned during this crisis to help our operations get stronger and more secure in the future. We believe that the future is bright.

The senior living industry is regaining speed after COVID-19, with some good surprises — and some challenges. One participant had a conversation recently in which she compared the current industry environment to a train, saying, “It takes a little time to get it going, but we continue to chug along, and we’re getting there.”

Read on for 7 takeaways from a month of conversations with communities across the country.

1.  Leads are flooding in, especially in independent living.

Communities are seeing a lot of activity — even if they’re not holding events yet.

2. The American Rescue Plan gives communities the opportunity to get funds from local government.

A lot of dialogue this month centered around the  American Rescue Plan and how senior living communities can get a stake of those funds. The money can go to any community, but nonprofit organizations have a strong story to tell. So if you fall into this category and serve seniors, you are positioned well to receive funding, as long as you know who to ask, according to Seth Anthony, a roundtable participant and Marketing & Business Development Manager at LW Consulting.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to receive these funds,  click here or contact Seth directly.

3. Marketing higher levels of care is a challenge.

Leads and sales for care higher up the continuum are improving, but lagging behind independent living. One reason for that is competition with communities that have lifted restrictions.

Another roadblock is staffing issues. One participant shared about having trouble hiring enough employees to meet staffing requirements for a higher level of care.

4. COVID-19 safety concerns are down.

Prospects’ concerns about safety and precautions related to COVID have lessened considerably.

5. Questions about the post-COVID experience are up.

Many prospects are now concerned about whether restrictions on dining, programming and visiting have been removed. They are ready to get back to normal. One roundtable participant said, “COVID-19 seems to be out of the picture, but our team is getting questions such as, ‘Can I visit as a prospect?,’ ‘Can family visit me if I move in?’ and ‘Are your dining rooms open?’”

6. Communities are offering incentives for staff vaccinations.

More team members have gotten the vaccine, but the percentages are still lower than for residents. Communities are using tools such as education, one-on-one meetings and incentives to boost participation rates.

7. Some communities have seen leads and move-ins skew younger.

Some participants are noticing that the average age of leads and move-ins is lower than it’s been in the past few years. One marketer said, “We’ve had several (new residents) in their 60s and early 70s. We’re definitely seeing a trend here. There is some feeling that after being cooped up during COVID-19, people are drawn to this environment.”

All in all, it’s been a great month! Sales counselors are busy, phones are ringing, events are well-attended and communities are filling apartments that have been empty for a long time. One participant even said, “I’ve been here 17 years and I can’t remember a time where we’ve seen the interest we have recently.”

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 and 11 a.m. CT.

For login information, email DDunham@varsitybranding.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Many people thought it would take senior living years and years to recover from the COVID-19 virus. But this May, Varsity’s Sales & Marketing Roundtable participants were feeling resounding optimism! Their positive experiences with leads and move-ins are echoed in communities across the country, as we found through a presentation by Lana Peck of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) in our last roundtable of the month, where she shared statistics about the  state of senior living.

Here are 10 takeaways from this month’s roundtable:

  1. Momentum is positive. Leads and move-ins are on the upswing. One participant in New Jersey said, “We have a small memory care wait list, which we haven’t seen since the pandemic started!” Another participant in Arkansas said, “Tours are way up. Leads are coming in strong.” From Pennsylvania, the news was, “IL is booming. Our small carriage home project is going well with 15 of 16 reserved.” And from Washington state: “We’re also super busy moving in people. There’s so much going on, our sales team can’t even keep up with it.”
  2. Staffing issues are still challenging. One participant said, “We are definitely having challenges. We used to struggle with nursing positions, but now it’s across all departments. We’ve been offering between $2,000 and $5,000 [as a] signing bonus. Another community shared a tip: “We held our Drive-In Career Fair yesterday and had 27 candidates show up.”
  3. The hot housing market helps. “The housing market is really hot and there are not enough houses, removing the challenge of selling your home,” said one participant from Illinois.
  4. People are “Zoomed out.” But that’s OK, since in-person events, especially outdoors, are back! “The turnout for in-person events has been strong and there’s a lot of interest,” said one participant.
  5. Mask updates are confusing. “Some of our campus is under one set of guidelines and some is under another set of guidelines,” said one attendee in Washington state. “It’s really confusing. We’re developing bullets to outline what our residents can and can’t do, depending on what buildings they are going in and out of.”
  6. Communities have to get used to holding in-person events again. “We had our first in-person event yesterday after a year and three months,” said one marketer. “It went OK — you forget things like putting pens and pads on tables — it’s been a long time! It was very well received. We just had some minor hiccups and need to remind ourselves of how to do in-person events again.”
  7. More team members are getting vaccinated. “Our staff is showing more interest in getting vaccinated and we’re at 66% right now. We think they are feeling more comfortable now that they’ve seen [that] others haven’t had negative reactions,” said one participant. Other communities are providing cash incentives and not requiring weekly tests if employees are vaccinated. One community even created videos of staff members explaining why it’s a good idea to get the vaccine. “It helped get us over 70%,” the participant said.
  8. There’s a lot of buzz around mandating the vaccine. There’s a desire to mandate the vaccine, and some communities have started to do this, but our prediction is that we’ll be hearing much more about this, especially the legal implications.
  9. It’s a struggle to re-engage residents. As discussed on a call with LeadingAge D.C., there’s a current struggle in getting Memory Care residents to re-engage because they’ve been in their rooms for 14 months.
  10. Move-ins are trending higher. Findings presented by Lana Peck of NIC back up participant experiences: Across all three levels of care, move-ins are up, move-outs are down, and traffic and leads are strong. Details below.

NIC Executive Survey Insights with Lana Peck

  • Lana Peck, Senior Principal from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC), attended the roundtable and shared insights from the latest wave of NIC’s Executive Survey.
    • A few high points:
      • Nursing care occupancy fell more than IL and AL — 12.5 points vs. 8.7 points. Senior housing declined 8.7 points over the course of the pandemic; that includes IL and AL. Nursing care fell the most, by 12.5 points. So, COVID-19 hit nursing properties especially hard.
      • Vaccinations have fallen off — right now, they are at 90% for residents and about 65% for employees.
      • A smaller share of properties have 90% or more occupancy — only 24% in the first quarter of 2021 versus 54% in the first quarter of 2020.
    • On the bright side:
      • An acceleration in the pace of move-ins is clearly trending, and the pace of move-outs is either staying the same or decelerating.
      • In March, we may have reached an inflection point in occupancy.
      • In IL, 56% of communities said they have seen an increase in occupancy.
      • Lead volume is increasing. Encouragingly, we’re seeing a growing number of organizations reaching lead volumes at pre-pandemic levels.
      • Rent discounts, free rent and rent freezes have been increasingly used as incentives to boost occupancy. Most of the C-suite operators and owners who were questioned believe that occupancy will reach pre-pandemic levels in a year or two.

See more details of Wave 28 of the NIC survey here.

We hope that move-ins, reopenings and vaccination rates continue to rise in June. Look for the next monthly recap of our roundtable discussions in your inbox.

Until then, please be sure to join our weekly Sales & Marketing Roundtable on Thursdays at noon ET and 11 a.m. CT.

For login information, email DDunham@varsitybranding.com.

 

 

The month started out on a hopeful tone, with some hesitancy mid-month, but in general, April seems to have ended quite positively for most participants of Varsity’s weekly roundtables! Restrictions have generally eased, although this varies from state to state. Many marketers are talking about a spike in leads, and a lot of success with more tours and people ready to make a move. People are indicating that they are “feeling good or great.”

Here are seven takeaways from our April roundtables:

  1. Sales are up. Way up.

Contrary to prior months when “people just weren’t ready,” the dam is breaking. Some positive words from our participants:

“We had a good month in IL and sold eight homes. There’s been so much pent-up demand, and people are ready to get out and ready to move, although spring is typically the busiest time. The real estate market is great. All of those things combined have contributed to a great month.”

“We’re doing better than we have in months for tours and move-ins.”

“The last few deposits I’ve received have been pretty quick. People have been thinking about it for a while and are ready to make a decision.”

  1. Digital is hotter than ever.

One marketer shared, “A majority of leads are coming from the internet and family referrals. Really the online space is what’s driving the most traffic.”

According to another participant, “We’ve been super busy with a lot more leads (especially email leads). We do a lot of digital ads, which direct people to our website to fill out a form. We also get a lot of requests through our autochat.” Another participant shared the love for online marketing, saying, “We have that constant flow to the website. It’s been a nice flow in light of us not making a huge effort.”

  1. Outdoor events are popular, with virtual still in the mix.

One community hosted an outdoor Earth Day event. “It’s a grab-and-go event, and the purpose of it is to get people to step on our property, get a goodie bag and say hello,” the participant explained. Another community is focusing on virtual seminars: “We had 14 people join the first one (on incontinence, promoting our short-term rehab offering) and it went really well. Tonight’s webinar is a food demo (brownies with blood orange-infused olive oil).”

  1. Staging is selling.

Many communities find staging to be a tried-and-true, but highly effective, tool that sells units faster.

“We have a flat rate with someone local who does our staging, and these apartments always go quickly when people see what she’s done,” said one participant. Another community calls the area where future residents can select their finishes their “Design Center.” New residents can pick paint colors, finishes, flooring, etc. Another participant also referenced the staging of AL apartments as a marketing tactic.

  1. Marketing AL to IL residents is working.

Some communities are finding that their best customers for AL are already living on campus in IL.

“We actually did an open house with our IL residents to showcase AL,” one marketer said. “We had four AL residents show their apartments, so residents can see what it looks like living in an AL residence. Another community had a different tactic: “Moving forward, I would consider inviting the IL family members to our next open house to showcase AL.”

  1. There are almost too many CRM choices.

Marketers have a bewildering number of choices in Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs), with a wide array of high-tech bells and whistles. One participant said, “We use Enquire and have for a little over a year. It has a marketing automation platform called MAP that we’re in the process of implementing now. It looks like a very robust platform.” Another marketer commented, “We use MatrixCare Marketing for everything. It’s a good system.” Other communities referenced using Sherpa, SharpSpring, Mailchimp, RHS, HubSpot and Yardi.

  1. Staffing issues are rampant.

Staffing in senior living has always been a challenge, but in the post-COVID environment, the competition for team members is even more competitive. One participant said, “As we’re staffing up our new building, literally no one has applied for housekeeping.” Another marketer commented, “We’ve hired a few people, but within a week or two they get paid more somewhere else. We’re having a hard time with the pay scale. They just don’t stay.”

One community has found a solution: “We’ve offered a signing bonus with a time limit, so we know that we will at least keep them until that bonus.” Another participant, who is having a particularly hard time filling CNA positions, said, “We started our own CNA school and do all of the training at our community, which has helped a lot.”

Here’s hoping May is filled with more good news, from reopenings to move-ins! Look for our next recap of our roundtable discussions in your inbox.

Until then, please be sure to join our weekly Sales & Marketing Roundtable on Thursdays at noon ET and 11 a.m. CT.

For login information, email DDunham@varsitybranding.com.

 

 

At our 46th Sales & Marketing Roundtable, professionals around the country shared the latest news at their communities: Virtually all residents are getting the vaccine, families are impatient with CMS regulations, and prospects are slowly opening up to the idea of a move.

Please check out the recap below, and join us for our next roundtable this week.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, March 4, at noon ET. For login information, please email DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.

During our 45th weekly Sales & Marketing Roundtable, we heard positive news: The vaccine is working, cases are down and marketers are feeling optimistic overall, although they’re adjusting sales goals because of the pandemic.

Check out the recap below, and please join us for our next virtual discussion this week.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, February 25, at noon ET

For login information, please email DDunham@varsitybranding.com.

 

 

During our weekly Sales & Marketing Roundtable, communities shared how they are struggling to manage family and resident expectations amidst shifting state and national quarantine policies.

Check out the highlights below, and please join us for our next virtual lunchtime session this week.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, February 18, at noon ET.

For login information, email DDunham@varsitybranding.com.

 

 

 

As the long-awaited vaccine arrives in senior living, some communities are using access to it as a selling tool to attract potential residents. But should they proceed with caution?

This topic, which has come up in Varsity’s Sales & Marketing Roundtable, has also caught the attention of McKnight’s Senior Living. In this recent article, they reached out to Derek Dunham, Varsity’s VP of Client Services, for his take on the issue. Read the full story here.

 

Last Wednesday, we held our first monthly virtual Continuing Care at Home Roundtable! A group of professionals from across the country pooled their knowledge and shared sales and marketing tactics that are succeeding during COVID-19.

Please join us for our next Continuing Care at Home Roundtable on Wednesday, March 3, 2021, at noon ET.

For login information, email DDunham@varsitybranding.com. 

At our 42nd sales and marketing roundtable, we learned how residents are eagerly getting the vaccine (and communities are telling the world), but team members are dragging their feet.

Check out the recap below, and please join us for our next virtual discussions this week: our new Continuing Care At Home Roundtable, to be held the first Wednesday of the month, and our regular weekly Sales & Marketing Roundtable every Thursday.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, February 4, 2021, at noon ET.

We will also be starting a similar Continuing Care At Home Roundtable discussion, to be held the first Wednesday of the month. Our first meeting will be Wednesday, February 3, at noon ET.

To receive login information for one or both roundtables, email DDunham@varsitybranding.com.

At our 41st weekly sales and marketing roundtable, the mood was on the upswing as the vaccine gave inquiries and sales at communities around the country a boost.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, January 28, at noon ET.

For login information, email DDunham@varsitybranding.com.

 

 

At our first sales & marketing roundtable of the new year, communities discussed the exciting news of the COVID-19 vaccine and shared tips for virtual events and video floor plans.

 

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, January 14, 2021, at noon ET.

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

During our final roundtable of the year, communities shared what they learned in 2020 and how they’re anxiously awaiting the vaccine.

Check out the highlights below, and please join us for our first roundtable of 2021 after the holiday break.

Please join our first roundtable of the year on Thursday, January 7, 2021, at noon ET.

For log-in information, contact DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.

At our 37th weekly sales and marketing roundtable, communities discussed the light at the end of the tunnel and shared how they’ll be implementing the vaccine.

Dig into the recap below, and please join us for our next roundtable this week.

Please join our last roundtable of 2020 on Thursday, December 17, at noon ET.

This will be our last discussion of the year, but we will start back up in early 2021!

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

 

 

 

As they deal with cases and closures during the holidays, participants of our weekly sales and marketing roundtable are experiencing a mix of emotions: worry about current COVID spikes and hope for the coming vaccine.

Check out the recap below, and please feel free to join us for our next roundtable, later this week.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, December 10, at noon ET.

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

 

 

 

At our 35th weekly sales and marketing roundtable, communities shared the spiking COVID rates in their respective states, and how they’re marketing differently in this environment.

Please check out the recap below. We also invite you to attend our next roundtable, the Thursday after Thanksgiving Day.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, December 3, at noon ET.

For login information, please contact 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.

 

 

At our 33rd weekly sales & marketing roundtable, we shared how we’re feeling this week. We also discussed a plastic wall that was set up by one community to allow residents and family to hug, shown below.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, November 12, at noon ET.

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

 

At our weekly sales & marketing roundtable, we all shared creative tactics we’re using to attract prospects as COVID-19 rates spike in some areas. We’d especially like to thank Lana Peck, senior principal at the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) for sharing the latest insights from executive surveys completed since the pandemic hit.

Check out the insights and survey results below. We also invite you to our next roundtable this week.

NIC Executive Survey Insights with Lana Peck

The full report is on the NIC website. Wave 14 findings can be found here.

We had 70 organizations respond to wave 14:

  • Not the same 70 for every wave, but 60–70% are repeat takers, so there is some continuity.
  • Geographical dispersion of respondents:
    • There’s a slight underrepresentation in the Northeast compared to national coverage of the NIC map.
    • For the most part, participants are coming from all over the country.
  • We’re promoting this more strongly with operators, as we’re getting some national media exposure.
    • It is important for operators to know that, by participating in the survey, they have the opportunity to ensure that the narrative is accurate.

  • We went from ⅓ in wave 10 (early August) to just under ⅔ in the most recent wave — a lot more organizations are offering rent concessions.
  • 90% of organizations are paying overtime to mitigate staffing issues.
  • Staffing/temp agency usage has grown throughout the pandemic.
  • About ⅔ of organizations that have IL in portfolio are offering rent concessions.
  • Organizations with nursing care are less likely to offer rent concessions.
  • Discussion from the group:
    • We are giving concessions on entrance fees and support on moving services.
    • We are offering $3,000 toward moving expenses and incentives to get people to move more quickly.

  • Organizations reporting no change in pace have been growing. It’s the highest it’s been in wave 14.
  • Deceleration of move-ins is lower in IL, AL and MC in wave 14.
  • Most respondents are citing increased resident demand (increase in move-ins).
  • Fewer organizations with nursing care beds in wave 14 reported acceleration in the pace of move-ins, with the fewest respondents citing hospital placement since wave 7 surveyed mid-May — presumably due to anecdotal reports of hospitals sending patients straight home to recuperate from surgeries or illnesses with in-home health care.
  • A quarter of organizations have a backlog of residents waiting to move in.

  • Organizations may be providing incentives. The month-over-month change in occupancy has been starting to rise.
  • About ¼ of the organizations that have IL in their portfolio; ⅓ of those with AL; ½ of those with MC; and about ½ with nursing care are seeing an upward change in occupancy rates in the past 30 days.
  • Fewer folks that have IL are seeing a decrease in occupancy.
  • 48% in nursing care are seeing increases, and 37% are seeing decreases.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, November 5, at noon ET.

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

At our 31st weekly sales and marketing roundtable, communities shared their challenges, solutions and one often-used event topic that’s still getting amazing traction.

Put these ideas to work for your community by checking out the recap below.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, October 29, at noon ET.

Lana Peck, senior principal at the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC), will be joining us again to discuss the recent NIC 2020 Fall Conference and findings on the next wave of surveys. 

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

At our 30th weekly sales and marketing roundtable, communities shared out-of-the-box, socially distanced ideas they’re using to get people to campus.

Find out how to make these ideas work at your community by checking out the recap below.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, October 22, at noon ET.

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

Last week at our virtual sales and marketing roundtable, participants shared that they are trying new sales strategies and working to debunk the myths of COVID-19.

Dig into the recap below. Please also join us for our next roundtable, coming up this week.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, October 15, at noon ET.

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

At our weekly sales and marketing roundtable, we all shared creative tactics we’re using to attract prospects as communities gradually open back up.

We’d especially like to thank Lana Peck, Senior Principal at the National Investment Center for  Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) for sharing insights gleaned from 11 waves of executive surveys, all completed since the pandemic hit.

You’ll find discussion highlights and survey results below. We also invite you to join us for our next roundtable, coming this week.

 

NIC Executive Survey Insights

We were joined by Lana Peck, Senior Principal at NIC.

Lana:

NIC is a nonprofit organization with a mission to enable access and choice for America’s seniors through data, transparency and making connections.

We’ve been doing our executive survey, since 3/24/20, with 11 waves of data so far. Our audience is C-suite executives and owners/operators of senior housing properties across the country.

We would encourage each of your executives to email insight@nic.org to take the executive survey.

Some highlights from the results so far:

  • Wave 10 = 53% (mid- to late July)
    • About half of organizations with more than one property are easing restrictions
  • Wave 11 = 63% (late August)
    • Even more are easing move-in restrictions

Note: blue = good; orange = bad

  • Wave 8 (around Memorial Day)—we start to see an improvement and a downward trend in decreasing occupancy (directional changes in occupancy by care segment across the respondent’s portfolio of properties—single-property operators included)
  • Mid- to late August sees pullback in move-ins for AL

• Note: blue = good; orange = bad
• Across the board, the pace of move-outs hasn’t changed tremendously (gray bars)
• Around Memorial Day, we see some improvement, with fewer organizations reporting acceleration in move-outs
• In mid- to late August, we see a pullback in acceleration again

  • The recent decline in a slowdown in leads/conversions is due to easing moratoriums and pent-up demand (especially in IL) when doors opened, and people waiting in the wings could actually move in
  • When the blue line goes down, that’s a good thing—it’s a reverse in the slowdown of leads and conversions
  • The orange line has been trending lower—about half of organizations eased move-in restrictions
  • Yellow line—only about half of organizations initially felt that resident or family member concerns contributed to deceleration of move-ins, but this has increased quite a bit, possibly due to a resurgence of COVID-19 or issues of residents not being able to see family members. This is a significant factor in more recent waves of the study.
  • This slide is aggregate and shows all care segments
  • Leads, conversions and sales are happening more frequently as of more recently. Before, there was an inability to have people on campus to make sales.

  • This shows the toll of the pandemic on organizations—how many are feeling the need to provide incentives to bring residents in. For the most part, most are not reducing rents or fees at this time.
  • The majority of respondents don’t have a backlog of residents waiting to move in.

Valuable Resources NIC Offers:

  • NIC’s Fall Virtual Conference. The conference will start on October 3. Week 1 will focus on education. Week 2 will be about making connections and business contacts in peer-to-peer discussions. Anyone who signs up for the conference will be able to participate in Community Connector—essentially a LinkedIn for senior housing.
  • COVID-19 Resource Center.  Data, analytics and connections to help provide transparency to the sector and keep  communities informed.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, October 1, at noon ET.

 For log-in information, please contact DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.

 

 

At our virtual sales and marketing roundtable, we brainstormed tactics to help prospects overcome their reluctance to move during a pandemic.

Check out the takeaways below. Please also join us for our next roundtable, coming up this week.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, September 24, at noon ET.

We’ll be joined by Lana Peck, Senior Principal at the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC). She’ll be discussing insights from NIC’s ongoing executive survey. NIC has conducted 12 waves of surveys with C-suite execs, across senior living, with near real-time data on the pulse of the market and the fundamentals of senior housing. The study includes topics like changes in occupancy, how communities are supporting staff and reasons for acceleration and deceleration of move-ins (among other topics).

For log-in information, please contact DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.

 

During our latest COVID-19 roundtable, communities talked about the changing moods in their respective states and exchanged advice for successful virtual events.

Dig into the summary below. Please also join us for our next roundtable, coming this week!

Please join us for our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, September 10, at noon ET.

Aging-services expert Scott Townsley from Trilogy Consulting will join us to discuss consumer research and other insights related to the pandemic.

For log-in information, please contact DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.

 

Last week, at our sales and marketing roundtable, communities shared creative ways to drive move-ins and brainstormed solutions to their biggest reopening challenges.

Dig into the recap below. Please also join us for our next virtual roundtable, coming this week!

 

Please join our next roundtable discussions on Thursday, September 3, and Thursday, September 10, at noon ET.

On September 10, aging services expert Scott Townsley from Trilogy Consulting will be joining us to discuss consumer research and other insights related to the pandemic.

For log-in information, please contact DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.

 

At our weekly sales and marketing roundtable, Varsity team members Cory Lorenz, Media Director, and Cara Stefchak, Senior Social Media Strategist, joined us to share their thoughts on social media and digital media use during the pandemic.

Check out the highlights below. Please also join us for our next sales and marketing roundtable next week!

Thoughts on social media from Cara Stefchak: 

Hello, everyone! Last time I joined you, I talked about content creation and brainstorming around what makes good content and best practices. I wanted to keep it more informal this time. I wanted to address some things I saw in last week’s roundtable—activities that I thought would make great social content.

  • Think about how a video tour or other event can be leveraged on social
    • I encourage you to work with whomever is filming and editing to get multiple deliverables out of a project. Engagement falls off at the two-minute mark for Facebook content, and one minute for an Instagram post. Always look at what your video is—how you can slice and dice it in different ways to provide you with legs on social media.
    • Design for sound off. We always encourage people to keep in mind that viewers may have their sound off. If someone is narrating the tour, include captions and include your logo early in the video to help communicate your message.
    • Two minutes is the longer end of things. Really, you have probably just a few seconds to get your audience’s attention. With a community tour, you probably have more leeway, but it’s still a good idea to catch their attention in the first few seconds to get them to hang on a little longer.
    • Question: How do you upload a longer video?
      • Answer: If you upload a video that is longer than one minute to Instagram, it will prompt you to go directly to Instagram TV. It will sense that it is too long for the feed, and that it should go to Instagram TV.
    • Question: Can you add captions to an iPhone video? 
      • Answer: You can’t do Instagram Live or Facebook Live with captions—you have to add them post-filming. Facebook has smart captioning, and it might be able to detect your voice, but I would still go back through and make sure everything is correct.
  • Virtual events make great social content—whether it’s bingo, or happy hour, or having folks share a meal in their room.
    • Always try to remove as many barriers as possible for participation.
      • Prepare for the event in advance (provide the cards, markers, and step-by-step directions for logging on) to make it as user-friendly as possible.
      • Snap a photo of care packages/prizes outside doors, and share on social media channels. Doing so shows that, even though there’s social distancing, your teams are doing their best to keep residents engaged.
    • Question: Do you keep the activity in small groups of 5 or 6 or a bigger group of 30?  
      • Answer: Smaller might be helpful depending on how much participation you anticipate. You can communicate more easily that way and have more back and forth. When you get in those larger Zoom meetings, it’s hard to jump in and speak up. Smaller breakout groups are definitely a nice idea.
    • Tip: It doesn’t have to be: “We need to do something for social content.”

A lot of things you’re already doing. Ask yourself: What activities do we have that could be nice to capture and share out on social? It’s a smart way to show people that life is going on, and life is still great in the community. It’s always nice when you can share a virtual event. It gives an impression of vitality and vibrancy.

  • What virtual events are you doing right now? 
    • We’ve posted some of our activities on Facebook—short programs with people exercising in the courtyard.
    • One community wanted to have a celebrity chef do a cooking demonstration, so they sent ingredients to those who RSVPed. We’re still working on setting it up
  • What moments are coming up that you could build an event around?

September 16 is National Play-Doh Day. Maybe artists can create with Play-Doh. It’s an excuse for something fun. There’s never a shortage of those interesting holidays that you’ve never heard of.

Grandparents Day: What a time to highlight intergenerational connections.

Instead of having grandchildren visit, grandparents can make gifts for grandchildren, and they could be delivered.Grandparents can share advice for grandchildren, and it can be shared on social.

  • Is anyone addressing COVID concerns directly in social content? If so, what response have you gotten?
    • I follow a lot of clients and I haven’t seen much lately.
    • We’ve been sharing our COVID status and policies via Constant Contact. People are sharing how grateful they are that we are taking care of the community. We’ve been COVID-free since June 1.
    • Have you purposely not put that content on social? No, we just haven’t thought about it, but I guess we also haven’t wanted to brag about being COVID-free because that could change tomorrow.
  • Question: A lot of people I know had their Instagram accounts hacked. How can we stop that?
    • Answer: Update your passwords. (Since our personal Instagram is our gateway to community sites, it’s even more important to make that more secure.) Another person said, “I recently had my accounts hacked. There’s a link you can use to report to Facebook that this isn’t you.”

Cory Lorenz presented an Enquire data slide showing recent media trends:

Cory: Social media inquiries are up year to year, and email is up huge. Conversely, direct mail is taking a hit, and out-of-home and paid referrals are way down. We’re curious whether this looks accurate to you for your specific communities. Are you seeing the same trends?

  • Internal referrals are down a little, but we’re working on a new testimonial campaign
  • We’re getting more leads from the internet and email; direct mail has flattened out.
  • We’ve cut way back on direct mail and advertising—it’s expensive in big-city markets. Most of my referrals are coming fromfriends, family and other people who are aware of the community.
  • We are getting more internet advertising referrals, and paid professional referrals are down. Since you can’t have events anymore, that’s one reason direct mail is taking such a hit.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, August 27, at noon ET.

For log-in information, please contact DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.

 

 

In this guest post, Jill Janes, vice president of sales and marketing at Methodist Retirement Communities (MRC), shares her thoughts on how to market and sell communities during COVID-19.

The current environment is a challenge for salespeople and marketers, but at no point has giving up been an option. It’s the same as facing any other obstacle in the sales process. It’s our job to get around it. That’s what we do. Here are some tips and techniques my sales team is using to overcome the challenges of COVID-19.

  1. Stress the Positives of Senior Living

Residents who move to senior living regain ground. They slow down the aging process; they became more social, active and intellectually stimulated. We’ve lost ground during these past four or five months, but I believe 100 percent that our residents are still aging in a superior fashion to those living in their homes right now.

Our residents are enjoying three delicious, nutritious meals, delivered to their doors every day. There are virtual exercise and wellness programs, socially distanced opportunities to engage with others, consistent education about illness prevention, and resources for grocery delivery so that they don’t have to leave their communities. Someone aging in their home doesn’t have any of that. It’s important to stress these benefits during your conversations with prospects.

  1. Understand the Shifting Customer Profile

Our customer profile is changing, specifically for independent living sales. Customers were always intrigued by a maintenance-free, worry-free, lock-it-to-leave-on-vacation lifestyle. They found it appealing to get rid of a big, cumbersome house and find a new world of friends and neighbors. That’s no longer our message.

For the youthful senior who would’ve normally been attracted to this lifestyle, they’re pulling back. The ones who are leaning forward are older, more frail; they’re saying, “Oh, you’ve got three meals delivered to the door? You coordinate grocery delivery?” The people who are active and well don’t feel the pressures of the pandemic as much as those who are frail or less mobile, or who have transportation issues.

We’re finding that the people we’re bringing in the front door are coming to us with a genuine need more than ever before. We’ve had lots of sales despite the pandemic, but they’ve shifted; they’re from a need-based group of folks.

As an industry, we must shift our expectations for continued attrition—add shorter lengths of stay at all levels. Residents are aging, and people are coming in frailer than ever.

  1. Use Creative Tactics for Keeping Depositors Engaged

To keep depositors interested, we have to change tactics. Normally, the way we sell our community is through experiences—come have lunch with us, meet our residents. The question now is, how do we create ways to bring the experience to depositors when we can’t have them on campus?

What we’re doing is taking the experience to them. We’re giving people opportunities to taste our food by having our chefs make mini-casseroles—or lunches that we’ve boxed up, with yummy desserts—which we take to their homes. Depositors are receiving one meal a week, and getting activity packs with games and puzzles.

At these visits, we’re getting our sales staff in front of depositors to nurture the sale. One sales counselor went to a home and saw that the person needed their lawn mowed. He had it mowed and dropped off a pie with a note; it said, “We wanted you to have a taste of a worry-free lifestyle.”

  1. Provide Peace of Mind During Troubling Times

There hasn’t been a single thing since mid-March that has lined up with expectations—everything has been unpredictable and up in the air. The most valuable things we can give back to seniors are a sense of control, security and peace of mind. Potential language to use: “When everything is crazy and unpredictable, it’s nice to have something that you’re in control of.” “It has always been important to plan ahead, but it has never been more critical that you secure a plan for your future—in a community with excellent infection control and quality measures.”

  1. Accept Deposits Without a Move-in Date

We’re now accepting risk-free deposits without a move-in date, but we’re telling people that, by the end of the year, we’re going to reassess.

  1. Offer Preapproval for Life Care

We’re offering to preapprove candidates for our Life Care Communities right now. If they pass a medical exam and have a health crisis in six months, they’re already approved for Life Care. We may reassess this policy at the end of the year, so this is not forever. People need to take advantage of it while we’re in this unusual situation.

  1. Increase Bonuses for Resident Referrals

Most of our traffic and successes are coming from people we have relationships with, through resident referrals and friends of the community. Our residents are saying, “This is wonderful; they’re taking care of us so well.” To thank them for their participation, we’ve dialed up our residential referral bonus an extra $500.

  1. Offer Incentives to Sales Staff

We’re adding commissions now too. After their first move-in for the month, for every additional move-in, salespeople will receive $500. This discourages them from letting the deposit linger, and encourages them to cross the finish line.

We hope you found these tips helpful! Read more sales and marketing advice in another guest post by Jill: Using a Blue-Sky Approach to Sell Current Inventory. 

 

 

As communities gathered virtually last week, most people seemed to be feeling frustrated, finding that prospects of late are need-driven. On a positive note, salespeople realized they aren’t alone, and it was comforting to know that others are in the same boat.

Check out the highlights of our discussion below. Please also join us for our next sales and marketing roundtable, coming up next week.

J

Join the next sales and marketing roundtable on August 13!

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, August 13, at noon ET.

For log-in information, please contact DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.

 

 

In this guest post, Jill Janes, vice president of sales and marketing at Methodist Retirement Communities (MRC), shares her secrets for selling and marketing communities during challenging times. A former stay-at-home mom, Jill first worked in senior living as a temp and split-shift cook. She was quickly promoted to receptionist, then told by her superiors, “You should be in marketing.” After hitting sales records and winning promotions, Jill became a regional manager across Kansas and Missouri; then, she was recruited to MRC, back in her home state of Texas.

Sales is about getting around barriers. If you’re a real salesperson to the core, and a true professional, the COVID-19 situation is just another obstacle you have to work around. It’s done nothing for our team but stimulate our creativity. Here’s one strategy we’ve been using during these times: the blue-sky approach.

The reason why people like selling brand-new blue-sky communities is that the number one objection to senior living is, “I’m not ready yet.” The reason why blue sky is so fun to sell—and why so many salespeople are successful at it—is that, when people say, “I’m not ready yet,” we reply with: “No problem—neither are we! The place isn’t even built yet. Relax. Enjoy these community benefits while you wait.”

It’s a low-pressure way to gain commitment for a promised move-in down the road.

Over 40 percent of people who put down a blue-sky deposit will cancel, and that’s okay. They give the gift of urgency to the market—the pressure builds for other people to get more skin in the game. Even if they cancel, they help build a viable path to achieving sales goals. As salespeople, we enter a blue-sky situation knowing full well that everyone who deposits isn’t moving in.

During COVID-19, we can use a blue-sky approach to existing inventory. We can take a risk-free, fully refundable deposit from a potential resident without the pressure of a move-in date, but with the right of first refusal.

Prospects can choose a risk-free, fully refundable deposit, with priority access to care, and the opportunity to move in when they’re ready. If someone comes along behind them, interested in the community, the original prospect has the right of first refusal. In this scenario, we can call the original prospect, and ask them to schedule a move-in date within 90 days of the phone call.

What we’re finding is that, when someone has a deposit but no move-in date (they’re on the fence), someone else being ready to move in helps enormously. Eventually these depositors are inclined to say, “We need to do this; we’re going to miss out on this opportunity. We would love a situation where we don’t have to muscle through the grocery store because we ran out of toilet paper.”

The more deposits we get, the more we’re able to create that sense of urgency among depositors.

For example, we can then say to the other prospect, “I’m sorry; this couple is going to take the apartment. Let’s look at our second choice.” From there, we ask the people who have the deposit on the second apartment if they’re ready. They say, “We’re going to move in.” So we say, again, “Sorry, the second couple says they’re going to move in; let’s go to your third choice.” Before we know it, we’ve got three move-ins.

This type of blue-sky strategy can continue, too, as the world looks different post-COVID-19. We can create a benefit package and give people lower-pressure opportunities to invest in their future.

To keep people interested once they’ve put down a deposit, we have to change our tactics. You can learn more about how we’re bringing the community experience to depositors at home in an upcoming blog.

At our 18th sales and marketing roundtable, communities contributed ideas and talked about changes on their campuses. This week, Adam Grafton, vice president of culinary for Morrison Living, shared his tips for elevating environments while keeping communities safe.

Here are some tips from Adam’s discussion:

He and other Morrison Living employees live by this motto: “Through compassion and dedication, creating an equitable approach to memorable experiences.”

Elevating Experiences in the Next Normal

  • Assure Safety
    • It’s obviously more important than ever
    • How are we communicating this to current and future residents?
  • Deliver Care
    • Care of associates and residents
    • Focus on wellness
  • Take Action
    • Look at opportunities to create innovation now and for the future

Culinary

Take Action:

  • Wellness
    • Set snack time with fun vibes (music and dancing)—all while social distancing
  • Flexibility
    • Residents have been introduced to different styles of service and food

and will want flexibility moving forward

Consider creating a marketplace for groceries for purchase or delivery

  • Cognitive health
    • Superfoods—virtual demonstrations through community channel (e.g., health benefits of citrus)

Technology

Take Action:

  • Wellness
  • Equitable food solutions
    • iPads with menus
    • Self-order kiosks
    • Residents able to view nutritionals
    • Technology connects directly with POS at community
  • Flexibility
  • Cognitive health

Innovation

Take Action:

  • Independence
  • Variety and flexibility
    • Takeout becomes more important, as well as other styles of service
    • Heavy on tech side with automated machines
      • Takeout lockers
      • Automated salad makers
      • Automated barista coffee machine
      • Virtual teaching kitchens
      • Robots to help assist with service
    • Experience
    • Socialization

Training + Engagement:

Take Action:

  • Retention
    • Let residents know that you’re thinking about them during this time with a takeout/delivery menu
    • Alcoholic/nonalcoholic drink kits to coincide with current events (e.g.,mint juleps for Kentucky Derby—which will be held on Saturday, September 5, this year)
    • Note that takeout items must be carefully selected as not everything will travel well
  • Safety
  • Pride of ownership

 Additional discussion:

  • Social distancing
    • Distancing of tables
    • Encourage reservations and staggered seating times vs. everyone attending at 4:30 p.m.
    • Dining rooms won’t be filled since there will be so many different types of services (market cafe, takeout, sit-down dining, etc.)
    • Staying 6 feet apart will be the new norm
  • Signage
    • Essential signs (floor/reminder to stay 6 feet apart)
    • General signage that assures residents, staff and visitors of the extra precautions your community is taking to keep them safe (washing hands/hand sinks)
  • Dining updates
    • We’ve reopened our dining rooms, but only at 25% capacity. They are being used at all hours (7 a.m.–7 p.m. for bistro and 5–8 p.m. for fine dining)
    • Our bistro is open with limited service times

Join the next sales & marketing roundtable on July 30!

  • Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, July 30, at noon ET.

Mark Ingram from SenioROI will join us to share his thoughts on direct marketing and list procurement in the time of COVID-19.

For log-in information, contact DDunham@VarsityBranding.com

During Thursday’s roundtable, retirement communities around the country shared sales and marketing strategies that are working during COVID-19. From virtual events to smart home communications, tech is being tapped frequently to reach and attract residents.

Join the next sales and marketing roundtable on July 23!

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, July 23, at noon ET. We will have a speaker from Morrison Living sharing tips to create safer environments.

For log-in information, please contact DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.

During Roundtable #16, community marketers shared the latest news from their campuses as they worked on new sales tactics.

Check out the highlights of our discussion below. Please join us for our next roundtable, coming up this week.

Join the next sales and marketing roundtable on July 16!

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, July 16, at noon ET.

For log-in information, contact DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.

 

 

Last Thursday, communities came together to talk about the need to market their communities differently in the current environment.

You’ll find a recap of the discussion below. Please also feel free to join our next sales & marketing roundtable, coming up this week.

Join the next sales & marketing roundtable on June 11!

You are welcome to join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, June 11, at 12 p.m. ET. Our Senior Social Media Strategist, Cara Stefchak, will share social media trends and best practices against the backdrop of Covid-19.

You don’t have to be a client to join — all are welcome. For call-in information, email DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.

 

 

Response to our COVID-19 conversations continues to be enthusiastic, so we held Sales & Marketing Roundtable #3 last week. For those who weren’t able to make it,  the high points are below.

We’re gathering for our next virtual discussion this week, and all are invited to attend.

 

Join the next roundtable on April 16!

We thank everyone for participating, and we invite you to join the next session on Thursday, April 16, at noon ET, for a sales & marketing discussion.

You don’t have to be a client to join the conversation — all are welcome. For call-in information, email DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.

 

 

 

Recently, a colleague forwarded an email to me that arrived in his inbox from the Harvard Business Review. The headline read, “Today’s Tip: Pressuring Your Sales Team Can Be Counterproductive.”

Wow, did that statement ever resonate with me. My colleague’s accompanying note said, “Doesn’t that suit your sales philosophy to a T, Jackie?” And he was 100 percent right.

In my long-standing work training and coaching sales staff at senior living communities, I have absolutely found that turning up the pressure to get team members to “make the numbers” doesn’t help, and in fact, is often seriously detrimental. As the Harvard Business Review article went on to explain, it’s not about closing sales at any cost; it’s about training and coaching salespeople to sell more effectively, not harder. Get the process right, and the sales flow from there.

Selling Isn’t Like the Movies

Perhaps it’s movies about high-pressure sales environments — “Jerry Maguire,” “Glengarry Glen Ross,” “Boiler Room” and the list goes on — that add to the impression that the most effective way to make salespeople reach sales goals is to crank up the heat and dangle money in front of them. But I’ve found that pressuring people and setting impossible goals for them doesn’t work well. In fact, pressure adds stress and anxiety, which hinders productivity, and setting unrealistic goals, no matter what the reward, demotivates people because they feel that success is unattainable.

Another unfortunate side effect of pressuring your salespeople is that they tend to turn around and pressure prospects, and when you become aggressive and push prospects to make a decision, they push back. In a category where the sales funnel to a decision can require an average of 24 touches and potentially two years to reach that decision, it’s much more important to build a relationship of trust with your prospects and lead them through the sales journey than to strong-arm them.

Same Team

When I train and coach sales staff, I put myself on their team. I work alongside them, get to know their selling style and where they might need additional training and support. Do they need help in selling the appointment over the phone? Or are their conversion rates of getting the appointments good, but their closing rate on getting deposits needs to improve?

I find out what I need to do to support salespeople in reaching their goals and being successful. I also help them understand that selling, especially in high-dollar and highly emotional sales, is about communicating and connecting with that unique individual sitting across from you. How I do that, and how I train others to do that, is by asking the right questions and really listening to learn what the person values; what his or her fears, hopes and dreams are; and how he or she makes decisions. When people feel understood, acknowledged and accepted, rapport is built, and they will follow you. This goes for salespeople as well as prospects.

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 thought I was just flying into Fort Worth, Texas, for another sales conference. Instead, attending the 2019 Greystone Sales Adventure from May 1 to 3 was a life-changing experience that challenged me to look not only at my role in sales, but my whole approach to aging services.

The first tip-off that this wasn’t sales as usual was the conference theme: “Get Down in Funkytown.” It reflected a collective commitment by these senior living sales professionals to get down and be rebellious as they seek to reach consumers who demand more control of their next phase of life. Oh, and it offered lots of opportunities for the participants to get their funk on.

The next clue was the keynote speaker, Lois Kelly, co-author of  Rebels at Work and co-founder of an organization of the same name. The essence of Kelly’s book and the organization she represents is a call for us to push all layers of the organization — regardless of respective role or place of authority — to take responsibility for driving improvement, change and innovation.

Lois challenged us as sales professionals to assume a leadership role in driving change across our organizations. In thinking about the undertaking Lois tasked us with, I’ll be lending ongoing attention to the following questions in collaboration with our clients:

  1. What are we doing as partners to make the status quo unappealing?
  2. How are we helping our teams become more agile and flexible?
  3. To what degree are we maintaining our curiosity? What did we learn today?
  4. Who did we listen to today, and what was their message to us?
  5. Why does the world need us?

One final takeaway: Lois summed up her message to the group by pushing each of us to change the soul of the place in which we work. The challenge is monumental, but the talented group of sales professionals is serious about transforming the field in an effort to serve those yet to be served.

 

 

 

If you were to ask any senior living sales and marketing professional who their greatest competition is, you’ll probably get one answer pretty consistently – “their own home.”

Even from the surface level, it makes perfect sense. If a person is comfortable in the home that they are already living in, and perhaps own, why would they undertake a major move to a retirement community? Usually, the impetus for a move often isn’t a choice, but rather a need, such as health concerns, inability to keep up with regular maintenance, or rising taxes. When these “pain points” become too much to bear, a person may start to look at other options.

There is, however, a new trend surfacing in the aging services space that purports to help people in these situations. Savvy marketers are pivoting their products and services to appeal to individuals who would much rather stay at home than make the move. If these products and services can keep you in your own home longer, at a fraction of the cost, why wouldn’t you consider them? This tactic has become the new marketing sweet spot for a very specific subset of companies – home bathroom remodelers.

One of the biggest hurdles people face as they age is maintaining their lifestyle in a space built for a younger person. Where once the bathtub ridge was easily negotiable, now it is a tripping hazard. In your 30’s, you don’t care if a shower has a seat or a grab bar, but when you are in your 80’s, these are important additions. Also, as human beings, when we are feeling unwell, we gravitate to two rooms in particular – the bedroom and the bathroom. Bedrooms can be pretty easy to rearrange and refurnish since they are just an empty box with a closet until furniture is brought in. But, a bathroom is a different story.

A recent survey of 1,100 homeowners aged 55 and older found that more than half are in the midst of or are considering a bathroom remodeling project. Let that sink in for a minute. More than half of the key demographic for senior living marketers are taking steps to stay in their current home longer, rather than to look at other housing options. The average bathroom remodel costs around $7,000. Even without specific data, we can take an educated guess that someone who spends a significant amount of money in remodeling their home, with accessibility in mind, is far less likely to consider making a big move to a senior living campus.

Accessibility is the true goal in a majority of these remodels. Nearly half of those doing bathroom remodels (47%) are changing their bathroom layout entirely, and a third of all remodels results in the removal of the bathtub. 84% of remodels result in substantially upgraded features, such as showers and vanities. Oh, and these aren’t DIY renovations; 83% of people hire a professional contractor for their projects (although this number does appear to be shrinking.)

While all of these facts and figures are useful, what does it really mean to senior living marketing professionals? Of course, the home a person is already in remains our biggest competition. But, now is the time to start thinking outside of the box on your marketing messages. “Why spend thousands remodeling your bathroom when you can move into a brand new home today?” Targeting ads to Boomers who are considering renovations could be an interesting tactic that few people are considering. In this way, digital marketing could be especially fruitful, because you could present ads to people who are of the right age and who are looking for remodels. This might be your chance to change their mind and entice them to your community!

As you look towards 2019, and even beyond that, how are you going to adapt your marketing message to appeal to these kinds of Boomers? Those that figure it out will certainly end up winning in our space – and forging what senior living is going to look like for the next several decades.

 

Source

https://www.supplyht.com/articles/101739-baby-boomers-anticipate-aging-in-place-needs-in-bathroom-renovations

In the aging services space, especially as it pertains to retirement community and rehabilitation services, 90 percent occupancy is an important benchmark. If you look at occupancy rates from key sources, such as NIC and Zeigler, you’ll find 91 percent to be about average as of late. At this level, most organizations have their costs covered and are probably in the black financially.

However, many organizations struggle to get above the 90 percent mark for a number reasons, including resident turnover, the time needed to remodel apartments and cottages, and the lead time it takes for a new resident to sell his or her house and move in. Thus, 90 percent has taken on the air of acceptability.

At Varsity, we strive for 100 percent occupied and reserved — not just because it sounds nice, but because that remaining 10 percent can be the difference between new community development, community improvements, higher wage increases and increased resident and staff satisfaction.

Let’s look at it from the financial standpoint first. For this example, we’ll start with a community that has 100 residences: 60 apartments and 40 cottages.

The apartments generate $1,000 a month in profit over and above costs for service, while cottages generate a similar $1,500 per month. (For simplicity, we’re going to disregard entrance fees, contract types and other mitigating factors that could cause confusion.)

This means that, during a single year, the apartments generate $720,000 of pure income, with the cottages creating an additional $720,000 — for a total of $1.44 million per year in profit.

Now, let’s look at the impact of an occupancy rate of only 90 percent each month — meaning that 10 of the 100 residences are unoccupied.

Seven empty apartments = $7,000 in lost income

Three empty cottages = $4,500 in lost income

That’s $11,500 in lost revenue each month, or $138,000 each year! While this a simplistic example, we think it’s important to realize just how much financial impact that 10 percent can have each month.

We do realize that true 100 percent occupancy isn’t sustainable. So, let’s imagine if your team can reach 95 percent occupancy consistently each month — an increase of only five percentage points. Now, you’re only leaving 5 percent of that revenue on the table. That’s an additional $69,000 in yearly income, which can still have quite an impact on the bottom line. It is that additional revenue that will help spur new community growth, provide increased wages and enable staff to address resident satisfaction concerns in a proactive way.

So, how do you tackle the challenge of selling that remaining 10 percent? In our next post, Jackie Stone, our VP of sales consulting, will share some of her insights for overcoming the 90 percent plateau that will help drive your community to be 100 percent occupied and reserved.

In a crowded aging services marketplace, retirement communities are working around the clock to find ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors. These tactics often include new amenities, varied dining experiences, and ever more involved life enrichment programs. While these upgrades are nice, and may help sway some new residents to sign on the proverbial dotted line, they often aren’t the deciding factor in choosing a community. We all know that location and culture trump granite countertops, lobster dinners, and symphony tickets.

So, let’s be honest with ourselves for a second, shall we? Most retirement communities are the same.

This is a blasphemous statement, I know! But, in a world populated by tens of thousands of communities, they just aren’t all that different when you get right down to it. Nonprofit communities all have a mission that involves caring for and supporting their residents to enable them to live their best life. The words might vary, but the intention is often very similar. So, naturally, these communities try to differentiate themselves from their competitors through physical amenities, unique programs, and better marketing.

Yet, as we opened with, these items usually don’t completely explain why someone chooses one community over another; they are supplemental factors to location and culture. Of course, you can’t change your location, but you can change your culture in a way that will make your community truly unique and quickly make you stand out from your competitors, attracting better leads and more new residents in the process. Here are three ways that you can grow your community culture and attract new residents.

SAGE USA

SAGE is a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting an overlooked and growing portion of the senior market. They advocate and provide services to older people who are GLBT. People in this market have special needs and wants when it comes to senior living and they can easily feel out of place at even the most “welcoming” community. Through their sagecare program, SAGE offers education courses for senior living leaders, managers, and front line employees. This education culminates in a credential provided by the organization denoting the level of training received (bronze, silver, gold.) By training staff in working with the GLBT population and implementing a culture of inclusiveness, you can quickly differentiate yourself from surrounding communities and have an inside track with a market that your competitors are probably ignoring.

SeniorAdvisor.com

Thanks to their strong marketing campaigns, you’ve probably heard of SeniorAdvisor. As an independent senior living review site, SeniorAdvisor has shown strong growth in the past few years. Unlike some other Senior Living referral sites, SeniorAdvisor doesn’t cost your community a dime and it performs two very important functions. First, it offers a forum for individuals to rate and review your community, independent of your digital presence. Of course, this doesn’t preclude you from asking your residents to review you on the site and leave feedback. By doing so, you can create a pool of positive reviews that demonstrates the culture of your community and provides a resource for potential residents who would like to know more about your community. Plus, the listings on SeniorAdvisor can create excellent backlinks, boosting your SEO in the process.

Also, SeniorAdvisor.com awards an annual “Best of” recognition to those communities who have had a sufficient number of positive reviews in the previous twelve months. This is a great credential to earn and includes both digital badges for your website and physical awards for your sales office. You should never underestimate the power of an independent review and recognition from an outside organization!

Find your niche.

This one is a little bit harder to articulate, as it’s not a certification or award, but rather a holistic piece of your culture that you must decide on. At one time, nearly every non-profit retirement was designed to service a niche in the local community. This is why we have organizations affiliated with various religious denominations, community organizations, and fraternal groups. They cater to these once large populations with a culture that was directly influenced by the common bond of membership. However, as membership in these groups has dwindled, so has interest in their retirement communities, forcing these nonprofits to go looking elsewhere for residents. Yet, the idea of a niche is still important; you just have to think about it in a different way.

Do you have a strong resident club that plays to a certain interest – perhaps the environment, organic gardening, or philanthropy? Find those niches and embrace them. While you probably can’t focus your entire community on a single niche (although some new communities are doing just that), you can use the interests of your current residents to connect with potential residents and help them see that the culture of your community lines up well with what they are looking for.

Knowing the culture of your community, and who that culture appeals to, can help you better market to future residents that are more likely to move in. While physical amenities can help sway a decision, a strong culture that attracts a broad range of residents can have a greater impact on your occupancy rates than any new restaurant or upgraded kitchen!