Some things about the marketing and selling of assisted living have not changed. You still have to answer phone inquiries, conduct tours, and personally help families through the decision-making process. However, the consumer may now demand that the use of new technologies be integrated into these once low-tech processes.
Without this “tech” side of marketing the phone may not ring, the tour may never be set up, and family members and influencers (some you may never even meet) may not have the information they need to make a decision to move into your facility. Marketing to seniors and their adult children has changed, and is still changing.
Disadvantage To Late Adopters
It is critical for senior care communities/facilities/homes of all sizes to have a marketing plan that integrates the use of technology into the communication and information sharing processes. Hey, in many cases, the consumer expects and demands this…in a variety of formats. For example:
- Website: Accurate, up-to-date information, and “real” photos and videos.
- E-mail/text messages: Appointment reminders, new information and much more.
- Social networks pages: To keep up with activities and see what others think.
- Smart phone/iPad: Support face-to-face meetings and tours, direct access by cell phone.
- Database: Keep track of communications, send (and resend) information.
Seniors Are More Tech Savvy Than Many Facility Operators Think
Owners and managers have told me that “seniors don’t use the internet.” A Pew Research Report disputes that statement. They discovered that “as of April 2012, 53% of American adults age 65 and older use the internet or email.” (My guess is that number continues to grow.) The report also stated “some 69% of adults ages 65 and older report that they have a mobile phone, up from 57% in May 2010.”
I have also found that even seniors who never touch a computer can be internet users. For example, my Mom never tapped the keyboard. But she would ask my Dad (or me) to look for things on the internet, or to e-mail a photo to a grandchild. And she sat right in front of the screen to chat with me on Skype and loved looking over Dad’s shoulder at family Facebook updates.
(Note: Click this link to view the Pew Report.)
Website In The Center Of The Plan
An attitude of denial, a fear of technology, and/or a resistance to change will only hurt the bottom line of providers. Avoiding or ignoring the tech side of marketing will provide advantages to your competition and cost you move-ins. If you are not a fan of the use of technology, then hire someone who is and give them the authority to make you more successful.
It is my believe the communication side of an assisted living marketing plan should center around an informative, content-driven website that is filled with reality. And there should be systems in place that making regular up-dates to the website an easy and quick process. ( Click to see up-dates article on my blog.)
Placing the website in the center provides more control of message, while organizing the information and making it easy to access. For example, if you have an “Activity Scrapbook” on your site, daily activities can become a more important marketing tool. Photos of an activity/event can be quickly uploaded to your website (resident authorization necessary) to drive a number of marketing efforts including:
- E-mail/text notices of the Scrapbook update can be sent out to your three key lists – inquiries, family/friends, professionals who serve seniors.
- A notice can be put on Social networks that drive friends/visitors back to your website to see more photos and your history of previous activities.
- Staff can show the updates on their smartphone or iPad to support what they are discussing during a face-to-face meeting or a tour.
- The Activity Scrapbook can be mentioned in advertisements.
- The Activity Scrapbook link can be added to press releases (both before and after events).
Hundreds, if not thousands, of people can quickly and inexpensively be up-dated on what your residents are doing and how much your staff cares. And if they click back to your website, in addition to seeing great photos and being more informed, they will improve your website’s SEO (search engine optimization) making it easier for people to find you when doing searches in their web browser.
Embrace The “Warmth” Of Technology
Often people who fight technology voice how cold machines are and that senior care is all about human connections. I agree with them about the human connections. And technology can be cold. It drives me nuts when I walk into a room and no one looks away from their smartphone. However, I believe that technology, when used properly, has a very warm side to it. For example:
- Effectively using a good database can help you keep an appointment, remember a birthday, fulfill a promise and make someone feel recognized/special.
- Showing your Activity Scrapbook on a smartphone or iPad while at your table during a Rotary Club meeting can break the ice, as well as be a great way to demonstrate how much your staff cares, and help professionals to place a higher value on what you do.
- E-mailing/texting a Caregiver Tip to your three key lists can share your expertise with adult children of seniors, and serve your community.
- The use of cell phones, texting and e-mail can make communications easier for many people, as well as make them feel you are more readily accessible to them.
In this day and age, I believe a higher census means putting technology and marketing on the same team. Most assisted living companies do this in fits and starts. Efforts are seldom coordinated, and often a strategy is not supported by everyone involved – management and/or staff. This leaves plenty of advantage to be gained by those who commit to integrating technology into their marketing plan and earning the buy-in of everyone in the company.
Last suggestion, do not focus on the technology itself and those “cold” machines. Instead, embrace how the use of technology can help you to serve seniors and their adult children, and guide them through the very difficult process of choosing senior care.