Don’t Think Piecemeal
Even a growing market (like assisted living) is effected by the down economy. In this type of environment, those with a more effective marketing plan will attract a larger share of the available move-ins. Those with weak plans will suffer. So its critical to hone and strengthen your plan. One way to do this is to weave integration into the strategy.
What do I mean by integration? The commonly designed marketing plan is designed to be piecemeal… elements of the plan are treated independently and executed separately. For example, a marketing director will visit professionals in the community and hand out their brochure to “earn?” referrals. When the visit is over, they may send a thank you card and set their calendar for the next visit. (After all, it is the visiting part of their plan.) But they will seldom think about interviewing the professional while they are there and including that professional’s expertise in an advertisement for their facility or on their website.
If they would, they would acquire valuable content (along with its credibility) for their ad and/or website. At the same time, they would also be building a stronger relationship that can turn a professional into an ally, and even a key referral source. And the new information on their website would help them to serve their community. This one effort would inject continuity and synergy into their plan, making it more dynamic and effective. The end result, more people take notice, are attracted and are referred. That leads to move-ins.
Flow From One Element To Another
There are seven key elements to any assisted living marketing plan are:
- Referral Source Development
- Community Outreach & Inreach
- Public Relations
- Visits & Tours
- Inquiry and Family Member “Keep In Touch”
- Website & Internet
When executed well, each element can lead to move-ins. However, when organized as a team, each one can become more powerful and increase their results. For example, what is shown on a tour of the facility will be remembered and trusted more if it has already been seen on the company website. When a variation is also seen on a community bulletin board or in a follow-up mailing, the trust level increases even more. (FYI – Trust is critical to the assisted living selling process.)
Place The Website In The Center Of The Plan
The website is commonly thought of as an extended brochure and an independent element. Big mistake! It should be the hub of all marketing. Most (if not all) strategies should either start on the website or lead back to the website. Some should do both. The dynamics of the added continuity and synergy, as well as the use of technology the market has come to expect, result in a more effective plan. In addition, the staff can save a lot of time on the creative process and may even lower the expenses of execution. Here is an example of what I mean.
- Visit and interview a local professional who serves seniors and/or caregivers…
- That leads to adding their information and a sample of their expertise to the “Support Services” page on your website…
- That leads to including that sample of their expertise in an advertisement in the local newspaper for your community outreach event…
- That leads to the community outreach event that involves the same referral source…
- That leads to a news story released to the local media outlets…
- The event is also added as an “Activity Scrapbook” entry on your website…
- The Scrapbook entry is easily converted into a new, quick, printed in-house handout…
- That leads to follow-up mailings and e-mails to event attendees, family members and referral sources…
- And the new handout is also added to community bulletin boards you have set up.
This one strategy blends together six of the seven key marketing plan elements – referral source development, advertising, community outreach or inreach, public relations, inquiry “keep in touch” and the website. It can also share copy, design elements and photos which saves time and money. Note: Of course, to do this effectively and efficiently, their must be systems in place that take advantage of technology.
Put Me In Coach
Adding integration is similar to managing a team sport. You have to recognize and understand the individual players at your disposal (marketing elements and people), then blend them into a cohesive unit that performs better as a team than as individuals. When designing a plan, you should look at your list of key elements, then weave (at least) some of them into each campaign. They could work together or they lead to one another. The goals of this integrated team include:
- Creating added credibility.
- Building trust faster with the help of continuity and synergy.
- Providing tools to those would like to promote you.
- Saving time and/or saving money.
- Attracting more inquiries.
- Providing more incentive to offer referrals to your facility.
- Improving inquiry/tour/move-in ratios.
This concept of integration is not new, but it is underutilized. A big reason why is that it demands an organized leader who sees things differently, has the ability to blend the positive attributes of people and marketing elements, and works within a company culture that allows change to what has been done in the past. Is it worth the effort and the change? I believe it provides a marketing advantage that should not be overlooked or underestimated. An assisted living company that utilizes integration properly will come out of this down economy with added market share and will be well positioned for growth in better times.