SENIORS HOUSING EXECUTIVE BOOK CLUB FANOCRACY: STRENGTH THROUGH FANDOM
Independent and Assisted Living, Memory Care and Active Adult Communities Make Sales and Marketing Far More Difficult Than It Is; Learn One Tactic That Will Transform Performance Results
ONE WHEEL: A TECH WONDER PUSHED TO THE FOREFRONT OF INNOVATION BY IT’S MIDDLE-AGED FANS
In June 2018 my son Noah purchased a Onewheel. He had his eye on this gadget for several years and finally, at the age of twelve had saved enough money to purchase one. It’s hard to describe a Onewheel because it’s so unique. There’s nothing like it on the market. Think of an electric snowboard because it rides like one…without the expensive lift tickets and you can ride literally anywhere, even uphill at speeds of up to twenty miles per hour.
Developed in Santa Cruz, California as an alternative to transportation, this product changed my son’s life. Now 14 years old, Noah is number seven in the world in miles, with 8,565 under his belt. He has no desire to get a car at 16 because this tech wonder takes him everywhere he needs to go and its electric. From the time he gets home from school until the sun sets Noah is on his board. Curious, I decided to try it myself and before I knew it I too was hooked and then my husband David (that’s a picture of my son and husband riding with friends)!
We have a total of five Onewheels in our home and every day after work I run down to the garage, grab my Onewheel and hit the trails. It’s one of the best parts of my day.
More interesting is the people we have met being part of the Onewheel community. Saying people are obsessed is not even close to the fandom among Onewheel owners. People become instant friends, talking for hours and setting up dates to ride all to share their passion for The Float Life.
I’ve never seen something connect people in the way Onewheels do and oddly enough most riders are over thirty. I call it “the fountain of youth” because that’s how it makes me feel and at 49, I’ll take whatever help I can get! In 2019 The Wall Street Journal called the Onewheel the Best Tech Gift while Wired put it on their 52 Amazing Gifts You’ll Want to Keep for Yourself List! This product changed my life but the community and passion amongst those of us who ride have enriched it in ways I can’t explain. Onewheel mastered the art of Fanocracy by creating a community of like-minded individuals who love the outdoors, care about the environment and seek adventure.
Just as Onewheel created a Fanocracy, companies from Tesla, Southwest Airlines, Apple and Netflix have too. Chapter Two of this month’s executive book club selection is full of examples to model of different types of companies that have created a fandom among its customers. As an operator, investor, developer or owner, consider how you might create your own fanocracy with any one of your customer groups or perhaps all four:
- Create fanocracy among your employees
- Create fanocracy among your residents
- Create fanocracy among your referral sources
- Create fanocracy among prospective buyers
Taking the time to shape a culture where shared passions are a priority among employees, residents, referral sources and prospective buyers can have tremendous impact on your organization. People crave connection and those companies that understand how important it is to slow down and take the time to talk about this shared connection will never want for employees or residents again.
Even more importantly, you must clearly identify what your shared connection is. Why would an employee come to work for you versus a competitor? What exactly is it that you are passionate about? Clearly everyone in seniors housing is passionate about seniors so ask, “how can we be more specific?” What is it you promote and do that your competitors don’t or that is so powerful people will rally around you and support your mission, telling everyone they know about you and your cause?
I have a client, Darryl Fisher that makes dreams come true for the elderly. A civilian pilot, Darryl and his foundation is committed to honoring senior veterans. As captain of a mini-fleet of vintage World War II biplanes, Darryl travels the country dispensing “dream flights” to those who have served our country. Fisher’s nonprofit Ageless Aviation Dream Foundation so far has awarded more than 4,200 flights aboard open-cockpit Stearman aircraft.
“ Our mission is to give back to those who have given,” says Fisher, whose group is based in Carson City, Nevada. “We want them to know how grateful we are.” The foundation’s focus is on recognizing seniors and veterans living in long-term care communities–helping them fulfill their dream of flying. Being a huge fan of veterans and aviation fan myself, I found myself instantly connected with Darryl’s cause and seeing his work created instant fandom for me!
As the Founder and President of the foundation, Darryl is incredibly passionate about this cause that binds everyone involved from those who serve the foundation, it’s donors and veterans. It’s clear what the foundations stands for as it unites others with a passion for seniors, veterans and aviation; creating lasting bonds for everyone involved in a dream flight, creating a fanocracy!
THE LONELY CHAOS OF THE DIGITAL AGE
Interests connect us, just as Onewheel has connected two generations of riders. Fandom connects us- whether it’s military, sports, or a cause, that’s the kind of human connection people crave.
The internet brought promise of easy engagement with audiences around the world and initially, it did feel as if the world got smaller! In the early days, taking part in social media and various internet platforms was like a virtual cocktail party. We could meet friends, catch up on their lives and reconnect with people from the past. But today, it’s another story. Spam, advertising and fake news have infiltrated what was once an enjoyable escape resulting in a polarizing and cold digital world. People are more isolated than ever and has led to an important cultural shift within all generations of people, the craving for connection.
Americans are lonely. Almost half report feeling alone or left out nearly all the time. The 2018 U.S. Loneliness Index found that 46 percent of Americans report feeling lonely sometimes or always, and 47 percent report feeling left out sometimes or always. A little less, 43 percent, report feeling isolated from others, and the same number report feeling they lack companionship and their relationships lack meaning.
Our lives are increasingly cluttered and superficial, we’re missing genuine human connection. As a result, people are going to be most invested in that which creates a sense of intimacy, warmth and shared meaning in a world that would otherwise relegate them to a statistic.
SHARED INTEREST CREATES PERMANENT BONDS AND CONNECTION
I’m certain that long after a dream flight, a simple conversation between two people who were part of the experience can spark an immediate connection, as if it happened just yesterday. The same is true for people in the service. Once a marine, always a marine and the connection is instant. People who were in the same sorority, have the same kind of dog, or perhaps a shared profession whether a teacher, business owner or truck driver are instantly bonded.
Everyone has a story; the single greatest marketing mistake seniors housing operators make is failing to teach their salespeople how to emotionally connect with their prospective buyers. It does no good to generate hundreds of leads if the people responsible for converting those inquiries into residents fail to ask valuable questions that allow them to connect or even worse, fail to listen and respond in a personal way. People can sense when you are genuinely interested and based on our thousands of mystery shops conducted each year; it’s more common than not to engage with a disconnected salesperson.
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While the authors reference the Boston Marathon bombing in this chapter and the deep bonds established among Bostonians in the aftermath of the attack to demonstrate the power of connection, I spoke about something that was personal to me. I imagine you have something you’re incredibly passionate about whether it’s red wine, vintage cars, or a finding a cure for Alzheimers; I’m certain you can relate to the shared bonds these passions create among yourself and others of like mind.
Our lives are made up of stories, it’s what makes us human and when we see people inquiring about our communities as a dollar sign we miss the opportunity to transform their lives. Therefore, operators convert just 10% of those who inquire into a new resident. Slowing down and establishing a true emotional connection through shared experiences can more than double this conversion and cut the length of the sales cycle in half.
WE ARE WORKING HARD, NOT SMART AND IT SHOWS IN LACKLUSTER PERFORMANCE
I’ve been facilitating sales training programs for over two decades. Seniors housing, more than any other product outside childcare is the most highly emotional sale I’ve encountered. Earning an adult child or senior’s trust takes skill, not luck to navigate. We have beautiful independent and assisted living, memory care, and active adult communities sitting seventy or eight percent full and many new developments that will miss their proforma targets by years. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Most underperforming communities we access at Bild & Co have fair lead traffic; it’s converting leads to move in that’s the challenge. People don’t wake up and decide to call a senior living community for fun; 100% of incoming leads are calling for a reason. Yet salespeople are quick to pre-qualify leads as hot, warm or cold. No one wakes up and says, “I think I’ll call a memory care community for the heck of it today!”
Every lead is a hot lead. Your salespeople and executive directors must have the skill set to get beyond topical conversation and make it personal. We have found in our research that most salespeople avoid intimacy and feel they are violating the privacy of people who inquire by asking detailed, thought-provoking questions. As a result, the conversation is superficial and impersonal, the opposite of what people crave, connection!
The sooner you teach your sales organization the power of emotional connection and how to curate it with customers; the faster you will see results. Not so sure? Here is an exercise: Pull five leads from one of your community’s database and ask your site level salesperson or executive director to tell you about that individual in detail. You will quickly discover why the sale didn’t progress to the next step. In most cases the value simply isn’t there and it can singularly be attributed to lack of connection between the person making the inquiry and the individual taking their call.
OWNERS MUST TAKE OWNERSHIP OVER SALES AND MARKETING
While you may be an owner, investor or developer and operate high level, you must understand what is happening with your assets as it relates to sales and marketing. A building is no good to you if it’s not filled with people who are paying rent and benefiting from the care provided. It’s important that you are educated so that when your site level team says the reason performance is subpar is heavy competition, rates that are too high or that they lack leads; you know what to dig into for answers.
The single most important thing you can do is teach your executive director, sales director, department heads and line staff the power of personal connection. Doing so will create bonds that are unbreakable, earn you raving fans who will go out of their way to tell others about you and create stronger relationships community wide.
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Just as you and I could meet and establish an immediate connection over the very obscure niche of seniors housing, your executive director can do the same with a prospective resident by discovering they both love historical fiction novels. It’s that simple. This is the difference between earning a sale and losing it to a competitor. If there is nothing to compete on but price, the prospective resident is going to go to the community that gives them the best deal. Wouldn’t you?
Seniors housing operators must get back to basics, the art of human connection. In the mass push to drive earnings amid explosive growth, we’ve all but left the heart of what we do by the roadside. It’s not been intentional, but instead a byproduct of the pressure the industry has been under the past decade.
Tired of poor sales and marketing performance results? Behind on new development lease up projections? The Bild & Co Team can equip your executive directors to lead the sales department to results and your sales directors with the sales system needed to work smart, not hard and hit the goals and expectations established within the budget. Email Revenue@BildandCo.com or call 1.800.640.0688 to learn about our six-week Sales Academy live web classroom.