Why Senior Living Content Marketing Must Align to the Buying Cycle
Is your retirement community struggling to connect with Baby Boomers and reduce vacancy rates? With an estimated 10,000 Boomers retiring each day – and the Boomer vanguard officially celebrating their 71st birthdays this year – the senior housing industry is undergoing a dramatic transformation. Boomers don’t want a one-size-fits-all solution. The generation who invented mass customization is demanding the same from their retirement housing: a wider variety of housing, more autonomy and options for aging in place, and greater personalization of health care services. The result: more options mean greater competition for Baby Boomers’ attention, interest, and money.
The Problem: How Can Retirement Communities Reach the Right Baby Boomer Audience?
While demand for high-quality assisted living and skilled nursing has never been higher, many senior communities are still struggling to fill vacancies. Thanks to a recent construction boom, 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. Adding to the challenge? Some Boomers are opting out of traditional retirement communities altogether and downsizing their suburban homes in favor of urban condo life, reports the Washington Post.
Competition among retirement communities for affluent Baby Boomer residents is also intensifying thanks to the sheer number of housing options. Boomers have a vast amount of information available online at their disposal. Gone are the days when their choice was limited to a handful of local nursing homes. Now, Boomers can research an almost overwhelming array of housing options across the country, ranging from niche communities that cater to specific lifestyle preferences to independent and assisted living apartments designed for aging in place.
One-third of Baby Boomers move into retirement community housing within one month of initiating their search, and another third move within one to six months. Retirement communities have a narrow window to capture attention and convert leads. Email marketing, pay-per-click (PPC) ads and social media display ads can all play a critical role in the moving leads through the sales funnel and ultimately closing the deal. But haphazardly creating and distributing this content across different digital channels without a clear understanding of your target audience’s needs and concerns will fall flat. Every piece of content you publish needs to engage your specific Baby Boomer audience, address their needs, and move them through your sales funnel.
The Solution: Aligning Content to the Sales Funnel
When you align content to the sales funnel, each piece of content has a clearly defined purpose that will guide everything from the copy you write to the pictures you choose to the final call-to-action. Doing so recognizes that the needs of a Baby Boomer initially starting her housing search may be very difficult that the needs of a Boomer who’s visited 10 different communities and is now trying to make the final decision. Every piece you create is tailored to your audience’s unique needs at that specific point in the sales funnel. The result: content that cuts through the digital clutter, delivers the right message to the right person at the right moment, and ultimately lowers vacancy rates by bringing more Boomers to your community.
Phase 1: Awareness
The challenge: defining decision-making criteria in your favor
During the “Awareness” phase, your Baby Boomer lead is just beginning to explore their options. Perhaps friends or relatives have recently moved into a retirement community and now they’re intrigued, too. Maybe a sudden life change like becoming empty nesters, retiring, the loss of a spouse or a health condition is now prompting Boomers to consider making the move to a retirement community.
As retirement communities become increasingly specialized, not all Boomers who visit your website will be qualified leads– and that’s okay. Don’t try to create content that speaks to all Boomers. Instead, create content that’s tailored specifically to your target audience. Let this audience know your community exists to serve them. Be clear about what distinguishes your community from other options. Most importantly, define the decision-making criteria in your community’s favor.
For example, the combined cost of housing and care is a major concern for Boomers who may worry if their savings are sufficient to cover their retirement expenses. If you know your community is more expensive than other nearby options, then you need to shift the conversation away from cost and towards benefits that these communities can’t offer. Maybe your community serves a specific lifestyle preference or you offer aging-in-place options like onsite memory care that are not offered by your competitors. Frame the conversation around these benefits, rather than costs. End with a strong call to action inviting the lead to learn more with an on-site visit or to make an appointment with a transition coordinator.
Phase 2: Evaluation
The challenge: staying top of mind
The second phase can be difficult to manage. At this point, your lead has clearly indicated interest in your community. Perhaps they’ve filled out an online information request, scheduled a visit or even toured the property. However, they’re not quite ready to make a decision yet. They’re still researching and evaluating their options. This is not the time to sit back and wait for contact, however. You need to share content that’s unobtrusive yet still keeps your community top of mind. That’s why a segmented email marketing program is ideal for the evaluation stage. Keep emails concise and compelling by focusing on a single story, such as an activity day that highlights happenings in your community, and always end with a strong call to action.
Phase 3: Decision
The challenge: driving consensus
During the final stage, you need to walk a delicate line between providing persuasive information and being over zealous and driving the lead away. Rather than repeating the same sales pitch about your community, let others do the talking for you. Share testimonials from residents or their loved ones that highlight your community’s benefits. Ideally, you’ve been engaging closely with your lead as they’ve evaluated your property, so you should already have a good idea about their primary concerns. Share testimonial content that addresses these concerns, such as information from a medical professional on health care access or a resident video discussing activity options and care benefits.
Finally, remember that there may be other people, like adult children or health care professionals, who will be weighing in on the final decision. You may not know whether their opinion will play a major role in the final decision, but it’s still a good idea to share content aimed specifically at their potential concerns. Doing so eliminates decision-maker friction and drives group consensus in your community’s favor.