In a world drowning in social media noise and content clutter, email marketing continues to be a silver bullet for building awareness, acquiring leads and converting prospects. In the last two years, unique opens increased 28.3% and click through rates jumped 23%, according to industry-expert Silverpop’s Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study. That’s good news for senior living marketing executives who are struggling to connect with aging Baby Boomers and reduce vacancy rates.
While the Baby Boomer population is rapidly aging, the recent boom in senior living construction means that the market is saturated with available units, especially in the Sun Belt. In Q4 2016, assisted living occupancy rates dropped to 87.6 percent, the lowest level since early 2010. The drop in occupancy is correlated with a spike in new units– more than 5900 senior housing units came online in Q4 2016, almost 4100 of which were assisted living units. Adding to the challenge: 32 percent of older adults move into a senior living facility within one month of initiating their search, and another 37 percent move within one to six months. Marketers have a small window to identify, engage and convert Baby Boomers.
That brings us back to email marketing, a critical marketing channel for keeping Baby Boomers engaged throughout the decision-making process and delivering the personalized messages that ultimately persuade them to choose your retirement community over another.
Haphazardly producing and distributing emails, however, won’t generate results. A clear strategy needs to be in place from day one to communicate the value of your communities, engage retirees who are considering making the move, and ultimately close the deal.
As you craft your email marketing strategy for 2017, keep these best practices in mind:
#1 Segment your lists based on where a lead falls in the sales funnel
If there’s one best practice you adopt this year, make it list segmentation. Open rates are 14 percent higher, click rates are 94 percent higher and unsubscribe rates are 9 percent lower for segmented campaigns as compared to unsegmented campaigns, reports MailChimp. Why? Quite simply, a Baby Boomer who is just starting their search process will respond to a very different type of message than the Baby Boomer who is making the final choice between two communities. Additionally, senior living is not “one-size-fits-all” and your email marketing program must differentiate your offerings.
Earlier in the search process, Boomers may not be sure which criteria to use when evaluating communities, providing your community with the unique opportunity to define the buying vision in your favor. For example, costs are a major concern for Boomers when selecting senior housing. If your community is one of the more expensive in the region, this is the time to emphasize benefits like a high quality of life or the opportunity to “age in place” and transition into assisted living or memory care, as needed, which can minimize the role cost places in the decision making process. Later in the process, you can share testimonials or stories from happy residents that further assuage these cost concerns.
#2 Have a specific goal for each message
This goes hand-in-hand with list segmentation. As you develop content tailored towards each stage of the decision-making cycle, don’t send mixed messages or confuse your recipient with multiple CTAs. Have a very clear end goal and call-to-action.
For example, is the email’s goal to get Boomers in the door to consider your property and tour it? Is it to re-engage Boomers who have already taken a tour? Is it to keep prospects excited about happenings in your community? Remember, one-third of seniors move into senior housing within one month of initiating their search and another third will move within one to six months. You have a narrow window to capture and convert– be sure each email is driving home your key message points and ending with a strong call-to-action.
#3 Tell a memorable, compelling story
Baby Boomers are savvy consumers who have been bombarded with marketing messages their entire lives– they have zero tolerance for a “hard sell”. All email content must be honest, upfront and factual about your community offerings. Don’t use generic stock photos of “happy baby boomers”. Instead, obtain permission to use photos of real residents enjoying their daily life within your community. Focus on the benefits of your community and use your email content to tell a memorable, compelling story detailing how Baby Boomers’ daily life is enhanced and elevated.
#4 Start A/B testing
While there’s a wealth of industry best practice available on email marketing, what ultimately moves Baby Boomers who receive your emails to take action may be very different from what works for Millennials, B2B consumers, etc. From subject line to email design, you won’t know for sure what’s working – and what’s not – until you test it.
Here are a few starting points:
- The from field: The from field is an opportunity to deliver information that could lead to email opens without lengthening the subject line. Test options include the name of a specific retirement community, the community’s director, or even the name of a resident who is sharing a testimonial.
- Subject lines: With email subject lines restricted to 25 to 30 characters for mobile optimization, that’s not a lot of real estate to connect with your audience. Some best practice guidelines call for subject lines to be creative and/or intriguing in order to stand out from generic messages. Other best practices maintain that clear, informative subject lines perform best. It all depends on what your audience finds most compelling, so be sure to test these!
- CTAs. The call-to-action is arguably the most important part of an email, so be sure yours is designed for maximum impact. Campaign Monitor redesigned their blog subscribers newsletter to use buttons rather than hyperlinks and saw a 127% increase in conversion rates. Conversely, other companies enjoy strong click through rates from simple text hyperlinks. Test to see which works best for your audience.
If you’re disappointed with your current email marketing ROI, just a few small tweaks like list segmentation or A/B testing subject lines can lead to a big jump in engagement and click through rates. Once your email marketing is generating results, resist the urge to get lazy! Continual testing is critical to ensuring you’re always delivering the right message to the right person at the right time.
For more information on baby boomer living dynamics, housing and residency, health concerns, technology adoption, and travel trends, download our 44 page Baby Boomer Market Opportunity Analysis here.
Liquid Lock Media is a social media agency that works with industry innovators, disruptors, movers and shakers; those who have a patient centered focus and burning passion to enhance the healthcare experience.
We specialize in baby boomers via paid social, community, and persona development. From pharma companies, biotech, insurance, medical device, to behavioral science firms and more – we tap the baby boomer market using diverse mapping insights and precise, data driven targeting methodology.