Assisted Living Marketing and Lead Generation: Part 1 of 2

THE UNDERLYING REASON YOUR ASSISTED LIVING MARKETING INVESTMENTS RARELY PAY OFF IN LEADS THAT MOVE IN

IT’S TIME TO PIVOT AND GET RESULTS BY TAKING MARKETING IN-HOUSE TO INCREASE TRAFFIC, MOVE INS, AND REVENUE WHILE CREATING SELF-SUFFICIENCY

In 2019, I spent $175,000 on a marketing firm to update my website, review all our collateral assets, and ensure we had great digital exposure for prospective buyers to vet us out. Not a penny of this budget went to advertising as we are primarily referral based.

What this $175,000 bought us was a massive headache.

The first draft of our website was designed in red and black while my logo consists of blues and greens, each month we had to plead with our agency to get deliverables turned around on time without incurring more cost, and we were sent reports with no translation as to what the numbers meant. At the end of the day, we simply desired more qualified leads. The engagement was filled with frustration and disappointment; and we were so excited initially that we had finally found the right marketing partner. Long story short, I had to pay $20,000 in fees to exit my contract. I was completely baffled because the owner of the agency did nothing to save our relationship. I understand mistakes happen and that marketing is complex; but the apathy was gut wrenching. Prior to this we had partnered with two other marketing firms: each resulting in the same outcome and us parting ways.
“FAILURE TENDS TO PROVIDE OUR GREATEST LESSONS”
Yet something changed the last time I went through this setback; I decided to learn how to execute marketing for Bild & Co myself and built my own team. A wonderful mentor of mine, Victoria Lynden, once shared that in a conversation with Manoj Bhargava, the CEO of 5-Hour Energy, he said, “Your sole job as the CEO of your company is sales and marketing, that must be your main priority,” and honestly it changed my life. While I have always loved to sell, I had many other responsibilities and was not a fan of marketing. Today, 100% of my focus is sales and marketing and while I was nervous and didn’t know if I would ever understand the many dynamics of marketing; I dove in and discovered he was spot on.
Online Marketing, Seniors Housing

Understanding digital marketing for Bild & Co and ultimately our clients, which is now the backbone of the seniors housing marketing engine was not easy, but it was empowering. I took courses, read books, tweaked my own company’s marketing strategies bit by bit and today I’m proud to say it’s a well-oiled machine. One of the biggest lessons I learned is that we tend to overcomplicate marketing. What’s most important is a strategy followed by the proper and timely execution of that strategy. If there are so many moving parts to a marketing effort that nothing gets done properly, it’s going to be an expensive disaster. 

WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT TO SPEND

Unless you have at minimum $200K per year to spend on a marketing retainer with an agency, my best advice is that you take marketing in-house for the day-to-day management. I’d suggest you invest in solid branding and collaterals, which will easily run $25,000, photography (another $20,000), a lead generating website that is easy to navigate ($25,000-$30,000 minimally), and ongoing website maintenance and Search Engine Optimization ($2,500 per month minimally).

Once you have a solid platform to work from, you can build out your own team to write content, distribute that content, manage social media, make website updates, and more. To begin, start with the outcome; what is it you want marketing to do for you? While there are good marketing firms, your business is not their business and will never be the priority to them that it is to you.

This is a tough blog to write, especially considering that I once had a multi-million-dollar marketing agency myself. I realized early on that selling was my passion and that it was best to market a seniors housing community by building relationships with the surrounding professional community as those leads close four times faster and provide a consistent pipeline for our clients.

In the past decade, my team has tried diligently to find and refer the right marketing partners for our clients, to make recommendations, and push back when things are not to our standards. What we have found, particularly with the surge in digital marketing, is that with the budgets available to market assisted living communities, there are not many viable options.

 

IT’S TIME TO SHIFT ASSISTED LIVING MARKETING AND LEAD GEN IN-HOUSE

 

I’ll be frank: it’s time to roll up your sleeves and learn the ins and outs of marketing. Doing so will allow you to hire and build your own internal team, understand how to leverage contractors and part time experts, and when working with a full-service agency, call BS where needed and advocate for yourself because you will be in the know. Not all agencies are bad, yet your experience will be ten times better if you understand their language.

If this blog resonates with you, keep reading. I don’t have all the answers, but I know enough to be dangerous and am confident I can help you to work smart, not hard when it comes to assisted living marketing and save money while producing more leads that convert to move ins and revenue.

The sales and marketing of a seniors housing community, whether assisted living or memory care is more challenging than any other time in our industry’s history. As an owner, operator, or developer it is vital you understand common marketing mistakes that are costly, result in frustration, internal conflict, and endless finger-pointing.

A typical 125-unit assisted living new development project will invest $5,000 per month or $60,000 per year in lead gen to lease up; while an established assisted living will spend $1,500 per month or $18,000 per year to maintain stabilization. Life Plan and Continuum of Care communities spend far more. Even with these investments, many will fall short of their goals due to lack of proper strategy.

Digital Marketing, Senior Living

Sales and marketing can consume a good portion of an assisted living operating budget. For many operators, it’s a line item; something that must be done but that is rarely understood. That’s why so many salespeople report to an individual off-site rather than the Executive Director and operators entrust their marketing efforts to vendors or marketing consultants that are oftentimes detached, disengaged, and failing to produce results; yet kept on retainer for years on end.

SIMPLIFYING THE COMPLEXITIES OF MARKETING ASSISTED LIVING COMMUNITIES

Assisted living marketing has become incredibly complex, particularly with the pandemic. Operators have proven their ability to pivot fast as it relates to operations; it’s now time to make sales and marketing a priority; to professionalize and own it in-house. Doing so will create increased ownership over results, quicker execution, reduced spend, and most importantly, improved results.

Marketing is a beast; and it can be overwhelming. It’s important to educate yourself and to prioritize how best to market your assisted living or memory care community effectively- and no one knows your business better than you.

The goal of this blog is to dive into assisted living marketing specifically. If you are struggling to close leads as an organization, be sure to join our executive book club series as we just completed a deep dive into Zero Lost Revenue Days, a proven seniors housing sales system that ensures those leads generated close.

SALES AND MARKETING IS NOT INTERCHANGEABLE

Sales and marketing are not the same, in any capacity. For decades, assisted living operators have spoken of these two roles as if they were synonymous, which they are not. Each requires very specific skill sets and with a pandemic that has been raging for a year, complete visibility, accountability, and responsiveness.

Operators are more frustrated than ever by ineffective marketing efforts that don’t result in qualified leads that move in. Even more challenging is traffic assisted living communities historically generated off-line has now moved online and most are simply not prepared. What is the answer? How does the industry pivot? What should operators do that are frustrated with current marketing outcomes?

  • Should operators build out their own in-house marketing department?
  • Should operators hire a professional marketing firm?
  • Should operators piece meal marketing to get the best work possible for the fairest price?
Marketing Team, Project Manager, Assisted Living

One of the biggest challenges we see here at Bild & Co for assisted living operators is that the budget allotted to market their senior living communities is not enough to hire a viable full-service marketing firm. Most end up with an allotment of hours that is far below what’s needed and have no project manager to oversee marketing efforts.

 

In the next blog in this marketing series, I will break down what you must do to succeed and own digital, traditional, and referral marketing to see the results desired. I am going to provide a road map you can model that will move you toward assisted living marketing independence and consistent lead generation. Be sure to watch for Part 2!

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