4 Steps to Take in 2020 to Gain an Edge in Seniors Housing Sales and Marketing
Owners, operators and real estate investors who seek to gain seniors housing market share must direct resources into proper sales and marketing channels
As it relates to the sales and marketing of seniors housing, I have found this executive book club study selection on The Customer of the Future to be incredibly challenging to write. What I realized and had to concede is that the seniors housing industry simply is not ready to take sales and marketing to the next level. With heightened focus on operational efficiencies and cost savings, sales and marketing as well as customer service have taken a back seat.
The reality is we are not meeting the demands of today’s buyer, let alone tomorrows. If you read the last two blog post in this series, you got insight into what companies globally are doing to integrate artificial intelligence and machine learning into the customer journey with the end goal to mine data and personalize the customer experience.
WHAT MARKETING TO THE CUSTOMER OF THE FUTURE LOOKS LIKE
This is what sales and marketing to the customer of the future looks like and what we should aspire to achieve: Jennifer Saxman, Bild & Co COO, and I frequently travel together for speaking engagements. We always find a hot yoga studio and hit a class before our morning session; it’s sort of become a tradition.
In the future, before departing our respective cities, our airline will know that we enjoy hot yoga and will help curate a personal experience with a local studio upon our arrival, to include location, directions and reviews to a recommended studio, as well as the link to register for class. Odds are there will be a commission of some sort for this cross selling but to the consumer, this type of personalized experience will dramatically enrich our trip, while saving us the time and headache of finding our own studio.
This is how companies will cater to the customer of the future. They will use customer data and analytics in an accountable, safe manner, being transparent with customers in order to improve their personal experiences; a win-win for everyone involved.
While it seems decades off in the future, the reality is this type of customer experience is already here! Amazon makes product suggestions based on past purchases, Uber asks what type of music you want played and the temperature of the car to enhance your ride, and Spotify suggest playlist you might like based on playing history. While tech-based companies, they are leading the way to what will soon become the norm; a personalized customer experience tailored down to the most minute detail.
The purpose of the Executive Book Club is to inspire thinking that drives change and disruption. The goal is to plant seeds that lead to ideas and ultimately action. As I dive into this month’s selection, The Customer of the Future by Blake Morgan, the question I want to answer is HOW CAN WE MOVE A STEP CLOSER TO PERSONALIZING THE SENIORS HOUSING CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE IN A MORE MEANINGFUL WAY, WITH OR EVEN WITHOUT TECHNOLOGY? Customers include employees, prospective buyers, residents, family members and referral sources; anyone who is a stakeholder.
What one step can you take in 2020 that will move personalization to the forefront of your mind, resulting in increased retention and satisfaction of your customers?
Curating personalized customer experiences is brilliant- but the truth is, it’s complicated. Do I believe we should be investing in and learning about the power of data to improve the seniors housing customer experience? Yes, I do! Do I feel we are ready to take this big step into the future and invest time and money into it? No, I do not. Our industry still struggles to understand the difference between sales and marketing. We have yet to prioritize the customer experience; consistently giving way to operational efficiencies that yield stronger margins.
For that reason, I am going to limit this current book study to this final blog. I’m a teacher and if what I am introducing is not something you can act on it’s only going to frustrate you. Instead, I’m going to point you in the right direction, to help you understand as an owner, operator or investor what sales and marketing priorities you must put in place right now, to get ready for that customer of the future. My goal is to help you pivot and position for success.
4-STEPS OWNERS, OPERATORS AND INVESTORS MUST TAKE TODAY TO PREPARE FOR THE CUSTOMER OF THE FUTURE TOMORROW
- Understand the Customer Journey
Before you begin to tackle ways to streamline how people search for, buy and live in assisted or independent living, active adult or continuum of care communities, you must understand their journey in its entirety. What are the steps prospective employees, buyers, and even referral sources take to engage with you both online and off? Map the process, then start to focus on ways you can streamline it, remove friction and implement technology solutions to personalize the customer experience.
- Hire a Corporate Marketing Director Who Understands Digital Marketing
Ideally, you should have an employee whose loyalties lie with the company, understands or can create and convey its unique culture and turn it into gold both online and offline. Marketing today involves a tremendous subset of unique talents, constant learning, testing and investments to see results. It is not for the light of heart. The good news is you can hire smart, young talent right out of college who are knee deep in technology and understand the importance of digital marketing, data and machine learning; as well as shaping a raving fan customer experience. You can also hire people from outside the industry who have already done this for other brands and who bring a wealth of experience and new ideas. Odds are, you don’t have the CMO in place today that is needed to market, attract and sell to the customer of tomorrow. Start looking now and take as long as you need to find the right fit as this individual can dramatically affect the trajectory of your organization.
- Implement a Company-Branded and Licensed Sales System with Recurrent Training
It doesn’t matter how good your marketing is if your sales process stinks. Most underperforming new developments or stabilized communities have more than enough traffic to lease up; the challenge is in converting prospective buyers into residents. Companies spend upwards of $500 per lead only to see leads lost in the sales process. Less than 10% of those people who inquire to an assisted living, independent living or memory care community will make a move. That means 90% say “thanks but no thanks!” Gone are the days of hiring people from competitors who can plug and play to fill your communities. You must hire, train, and consistently reinforce what your company stands for, how you are different and what value that brings to prospective buyers based on their unique wants and needs. That requires training, not luck, and strong collaboration between the sales and marketing function.
- Develop or Identify a Sales and Marketing Software that is Smart
This means finding a customer relationship management platform that ties sales and marketing efforts together. Yes, ideally it should flow into operations but the cost of stapling a poor sales CRM onto a strong operational platform is tremendous. Sales is the engine that generates the cash flow that operates your business. Your CRM should assist salespeople in understanding which buyers are engaging with your brand. What content prospective buyers are digesting, what are they looking at on your website, how often are they on your social pages, reading your blogs or attending community events? Sales and marketing dashboards should be reviewed weekly to understand what is working and what’s not so you can pivot quickly and keep marketing spend to a minimum. Salespeople must be held accountable to using the CRM daily so the CMO can leverage accurate data in real time to predict pipeline needs, marketing spend, projected move ins and revenue for the quarter ahead.
If you act and put any of these strategies in place in 2020, you will be one step closer to reaching the customer of the future. In the meantime, begin to pay attention to how technology is impacting your own customer experience with brands you love. Ask, “could we do that in seniors housing?” Every great idea starts with a thought. Don’t get discouraged, get focused!
Need help understanding the customer journey within your own organization and mapping out a complete strategic marketing plan that streamline’s the customer experience? The Bild & Co team can dive in and provide answers that result in increased occupancy, revenue and net operating income. Text me at 813.390.3349 or call 1.800.640.0688 to discuss you own strategy.