WHAT SENIOR LIVING OPERATORS CAN LEARN FROM THE GRATEFUL DEAD ABOUT SALES & MARKETING DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Learn 3 immediate steps you can take as an independent, assisted living or memory care owner, operator or investor to jumpstart 2Q20 and 3Q20 move ins right now
THE INCREDIBLE POWER OF A SIMPLE GIFT
In our fast-paced world, people are constantly bombarded with offers, opportunities and opinions. Back in the ‘70s, the average consumer in the U.S. saw around 500 ads per day. That number has since increased by a factor of 10 to upward of 5,000 ads per day. For businesses that look to make an impression and be memorable, it’s tough.
The cluttered nature of the digital age means that we have a mere fleeting moment to leave an impression.
In attempt to get people’s attention, brands shout louder, use brighter color or make their web-pop ups more intrusive in hopes that they’ll get someone to stick around on their website longer. As we dig ever deeper into our digital lives, we grow increasingly disconnected from other humans. As a result, our guard is up as we wonder if someone we may do business with is going to help or take advantage of us. We scan things to quickly determine if something holds value for us and if that value doesn’t jump out right away, we move on to the next thing.
After reading chapter six of Fanocracy, if our digital connect is the problem, what you are about to learn in this blog offers a simple and powerful opportunity for your senior living communities to stand out, be noticed and endeared to those seniors, caregivers and referral sources in your community at large. Today, you will learn how to break transactional patterns by doing the opposite of what’s expected. When we give to others rather than take, we develop a fanocracy.
“WE BREAK TRANSACTIONAL PATTERNS BY DOING THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT’S EXPECTED”
THE GRATEFUL DEAD: GIVING AWAY MUSIC TO REACH NEW FANS BREAKS ALL PAST BOUNDARIES
What do Al Gore, Whoopi Goldberg, Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin, Carlos Santana, Nancy Pelosi, Mario Batali, and yes, Ann Coulter have in common? They are all members of the inimitable community of Grateful Dead fans commonly and affectionately known as Deadheads.
Unlike most artists, the Grateful Dead encouraged concertgoers to record their live shows. This unexpected and unusual break of giving the gift of free music turned the Grateful Dead community into a fanocracy. In fact, their gift of permission to tape shows introduced new people to the band who were able to hear the tapes in dorm rooms, apartments and cars; that otherwise would have never heard it. Those new enthusiasts then wanted to see a live show too, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in ticket revenue to the band.
During the peak of their career in the late 1980s and first half of the 1990s, the Grateful Dead was the most popular touring band in the country. In fact, surviving band members are still selling out stadiums today, more than fifty years after the group formed in 1965! Fandom is built on human connection, and when you’re given something of value completely free and with no obligation, you tend to share your appreciation with others.
Fans copied and shared countless millions of Grateful Dead recordings who then passed on the gift of a cassette tape or download link to others who also became fans. All of that led back to the band that made it happen. It was a true fanocracy with a huge tribe of Deadheads financially supporting the band for decades by buying tickets to their live shows. I must admit, I’m not a Deadhead and have never been much of a fan until I read this chapter. I’m fascinated by their genius sales and marketing approach and well, I’m going to dig in this weekend and listen to some Grateful Dead to see what all the fandom is about!
WHAT SENIORS HOUSING CAN LEARN FROM THE GRATEFUL DEAD ABOUT SALES AND MARKETING
Any organization can use this technique pioneered by the Grateful Dead. We are going to explore how you, as seniors housing operator, investor, owner or developer can build a fanocracy around your community by leveraging the assets of your community and staff.
If you’ve ever seen me or one of my Bild & Co trainers speak, hired us to develop a custom training program or read my book, Zero Lost Revenue Days, you know that I am a BIG fan of the concept presented in this chapter. In fact, a core training principle within the Bild Sales System is the One Extra which was built upon the Law of Reciprocity.
The Law of Reciprocity simply states that when you do something for someone that is unexpected, in the form of a gift or gesture, people by nature want to do something in return for you. It’s incredibly powerful and has been a vital part of our sales system for two decades. Sales professionals who use our system have seen its effect firsthand and its dramatic impact on sales results. The key to success is the gift or gesture must be authentic and sincere.
This is your moment, to show what you are made of. Never have more eyes been upon the seniors housing industry than in this moment. We are either going to rise to the occasion or we are going to further tarnish a product people already think they don’t want. We can destroy old stereotypes and show the world what we really do in senior living communities by bringing it to their doorstep.
Operators and investors must unite and agree upon a strategy that will pay off for years to come. This may mean redirecting or increasing marketing funds in a new type of marketing- old-fashioned, grassroots and relationship marketing to build a fandom unlike anything your community has ever seen.
What this may mean is increased payroll or food and supply purchases. Depending what you decide to do will determine the spend and please, don’t go cheap but instead think strategically. How do you want to show up as an assisted living, independent living or memory care community during the COVID-19 pandemic, how do you want to be remembered?
TURNING CHAOS INTO PASSION
People are starving for connection right now. Neighbors are talking, some for the first time ever! People on walks are saying hello to one another and communities are rallying together to support essential employees with food, notes of thanks and other such gestures. As you continue to take care of and protect your residents and staff, start to think about how you can expand your reach into the community at large, to further broaden your impact and, taking a page from the Grateful Dead, build a fandom of people who will never forget your actions.
3-Steps to Build a Fanocracy Amidst COVID-19
1) Set the Parameters
Depending on your location, determine how far of a reach you wish to have on your local market service area. If your community is in an urban environment, you may choose a two-mile radius. However, in more of a rural market, you might have to go out five or even ten miles to reach enough seniors to make impact. You may forget radius altogether and work strictly from your lead base. The goal is to identify seniors you can serve now and that ultimately may become residents tomorrow and if nothing more, raving fans who go out of their way to tell others about you. This means investing in people without the expectation that they will ever become a resident; but will without a doubt pay off tenfold. Both seniors and their adult children will be blown away by your efforts.
2) Set a Budget
Campaigns of this sort will require a budget. Remember, you are being proactive, and this is an expenditure in tomorrow. There is going to be pent up demand once COVID-19 passes and both you and your competitors are going to be fighting for those same prospective buyers. Implementing the strategies as laid out in this blog will remove you from that dogfight and put you squarely at the top of this list for prospective buyers. In sales, there is nothing more powerful than the law of reciprocation. I’ve seen it work wonders for two decades and it brings incredible joy for everyone involved because giving is incredibly fulfilling.
3) Establish a Plan
Determine what resources you have available or can get. If you are already short on staff, who can you partner with to create a win-win? In prior blogs I’ve stressed the importance of not pulling sales directors into operations more than a few hours a day (and only during this pandemic). While I understand everyone needs to pitch in right now to operations, we must protect our sales pipeline and ensure a solid strategy is in place to move in residents either now or post COVID-19 depending on where you are located and what you can do. Meaning, much of this effort may need to be executed by your marketing or sales director, a business office manager or someone in the community that typically would not be involved in marketing. Determine WHO will facilitate the customer experience and HOW. What resources can you leverage that are an extension of the community?
Comb your database. Who has reached out to you in the past, 30, 60 or 90 days that you can make part of your plan? If need be, go back further up to the past six months. Identify your list, whether just ten people, twenty or thirty! If your lead list is nominal, identify the targeted radius and start making connections to seniors. The more you include, the stronger your pipeline will be once this is all over and more importantly the greater difference you can make in people’s lives. Then consider what you will do and how often you will do it.
Food: How can you leverage your kitchen, staff and supplies to serve this initiative? Can your chef make a batch of chicken soup, homemade pot pies or some other comfort food that you can package, label and tie a note of concern to? Will you drop food once a week or once a month, what’s the rotation?
Supplies: What about having residents make homemade sanitizer or masks and drop them off to the individuals on your list? People are quarantined and anxious for something to do; particularly if it makes a difference. Perhaps the first drop is sanitizer, the second a mask and the third a roll of toilet paper.
Care: Consider wellness checks if you have the staffing to do so or partner with someone like CaringOnDemand who charges by the minute and can act on your behalf. Whether blood pressure and temperature checks or checking in to gauge what’s in the refrigerator and how well the individual is caring for themselves, it’s all important.
Activities: Provide virtual activities daily that are live on screen via Zoom or Join.Me and that allow both residents and prospective residents to engage together in chair yoga, trivia, book clubs and more. These events should be happening daily and must be consistent so that the number of participants will build up and grow over time, ultimately providing an entirely new following of engaged seniors and prospective future residents. Be sure to ask people to invite their friends to grow exposure and make it fun!
Residents: Ask your residents if they have a course, favorite hobby or something they are passionate about that they may want to teach, share or lead in a virtual group for both current and prospective residents. Is someone a former French teacher who can start a group for people interested in learning a new language? What about a former author or writer who can facilitate a group that teaches people the process of writing their life story or taking a stab at writing a short novel! While each group may have just three or four participants, you are connecting people who would otherwise be isolated and creating a lifeline of connection.
Get organized, map out your plan and sync everything up.
Have your sales director make those phone calls to let both the seniors you are helping, and their adult children know what you wish to do. People will be so appreciative! Keep in mind that no one must go inside to facilitate this effort. Physical items can be left on a doorstep along with a text to alert the senior and caregiver that the gift has been delivered. Rather than looking at why this can’t work, find ways for it to work. Imagine how exciting it will be to meet face to face once this is all over!
This type of program can be mapped out and executed upon within a week. What I can tell you for sure is that this will be the most impactful marketing program ever introduced by your organization. It’s not about quantity but quality and its built upon a proven law, gives those giving at the site level true purpose and those receiving a sense of belonging.
Remember, you can’t focus on who will ultimately move. Give without expecting anything in return and trust me, it will come back in spades. We not only teach this concept but have lived it for years at Bild & Co. Our team finds such incredible joy in sending gifts, being thoughtful and helping people in ways that are completely unexpected but joyful in every way.
DON’T FORGET VALUABLE REFERRAL PARTNERS
When creating your plan, be sure to include those ten to twelve referral partners who are also on the front lines of this crisis. If you’ve had a hard time getting in front of them in the past, trust me; it will be easy right now and while they may be too busy to say thanks today, I can promise, they will never forget your kindness and will refer your community as often as they can tomorrow.
In teaching this concept as outlined in chapter six for two decades, it’s inspired a lot of feedback. I’ve had countless number of sales directors tell me things like, “I’ve fallen in love with my job again,” or “the gift of giving has impacted me more than those I’m giving to” because they see how people respond with surprise and awe that someone was so thoughtful. The emotion it evokes is breathtaking and brings incredible purpose back to a job that has become extremely difficult, and in some cases, thankless.
You can show up in ways you never imagined and redefine your culture. Depending on what you decide to do, you can create a fandom among employees, residents, referral sources, seniors and adult children that transforms your organization. This is turning lemons into lemonade!
Need help crafting a marketing strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic? Schedule some time with me via this calendar link and lets brainstorm together, positioning you for a strong 2Q20 and 3Q20 proactively.