marketing Archives – Varsity Branding

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In case you couldn’t make it to our November Sales & Marketing Roundtables, here are some key takeaways from the month.

Rates Jump for 2023
Rate increases are expected to take a high leap in the upcoming year due to inflation and rising living expenses. Entrance and/or monthly fees are being raised across the board.

“Our rates are going up 7.5 to 8%, which is the biggest increase we’ve ever had that I can remember. Usually, it’s only 2 to 3%. I also heard the average rate increase in the country is 9%.” (Washington state)

“Yes, we’re raising our entrance fee as well, by roughly 10 to 15%.” (Arkansas)

GUEST SPEAKERS OF THE MONTH 

The Party is Over in Real Estate

Elias Papasavvas, CEO of Second Act Financial Services 

CElias spoke about the changing housing market and how it will likely impact the senior living industry. Seniors now have rising mortgage rates, lots of newer construction, and other factors that are putting the pressure on home sales and adding time to the selling process. This means it won’t be as easy anymore for seniors to sell their houses, and not as quickly as they did earlier in 2022 during the housing boom. Second Act is a senior-focused division of a Federal Savings Bank that offers a senior-focused Home Equity Line of Credit and bridge loan solutions. They work with senior living sales professionals to help with the home sale process for seniors looking to move into an LPC/CCRC.

“Studies show that if you embed the conversation with how to pay for senior living in the beginning of the journey, and communicate that you have the solutions if somebody can’t sell their home in time or doesn’t want to at their move-in time, it can increase sales by 6%,” says Elias.

Rethinking Resident Engagement

Shawn Richard, Vice President Strategic Accounts, Cubigo
Shawn spoke about rethinking resident engagement and the importance of resident experience overall. Senior living sales and marketing programs are shifting more toward selling a lifestyle, and how to tailor the resident experience to meet the needs of the baby boomers as they filter into the senior living space. Communities need to have programs and activities that are personalized to residents, as well as having the methods to track resident engagement and satisfaction. Cubigo is an app that residents can download on their device, where they can track events in their calendar, RSVP to activities, manage their transportation and dining, and more.

“A focus on resident experience is becoming more prevalent, and people are talking more and more about it overall,” says Shawn. “Programs are shifting to meet the needs of the new wave of seniors coming in. So we need a holistic and a personalized view on what they’re looking for, versus the broad brush we used to apply to it.”

“When looking at resident experience as a whole, it’s not just experience itself, but how you can tailor it to the individual,” Shawn says, “When you think about experience and selling lifestyle, there’s a company who does a phenomenal job of it, and that’s Margaritaville. They take their experience in resort living to apply to senior living, and these are properties pre-selling that are full before they even open.”

Selling Through the Holidays
After the slowdown of the summer and the mad rush of September/October, November is calming down but is still steady. Life Plan Community sales and marketing leaders are staying busy with planning for the upcoming new fiscal year, and preparing for the busy holiday season of events. Many are hosting open houses to invite people into their community during the holidays.

“We’re having a holiday dinner for residents, and that is always the event of the year. Anyone who is a depositor — whether they’re a resident, or not moving in for months — can come as a networking opportunity.” (Wisconsin)

“We’ve had snow the past few days, but we got in a turkey trot event before the snow came. We had residents from all levels of care doing laps on the grounds, dressed up as turkeys and other things.” (Illinois)

Many communities hosted successful Veterans Day events and invited military guest speakers, or even their own residents, to share about their military experience.

“We’re having a guest speaker from the local Air Force base coming out. We’ll recognize our veterans, of course, and we’ll do different military hymns. And the local ROTC will come out and do a presentation. We do offer a veterans’ benefit with a discount on their entrance fee.” (Arkansas)

Takeaways From SMASH
Several roundtable participants picked up new tools at the Senior Care Marketing & Sales Summit  (SMASH)

“Everything is all about local SEO, especially for standalone communities. Being local is so important, so [we’re] trying to have more of a focus that way.” (Wisconsin)

“Content is king. So much about the customer journey is having the right content, on the right platform, at the right time. Keywords aren’t the thing anymore, but key intent is, the intent of the person viewing your content.” (Washington state)

Join the conversation at our weekly Sales & Marketing Roundtables on Thursdays at noon ET, 11 a.m. CT and 9 a.m. PT.

For login information, email DDunham@varsitybranding.com.

 

September is Happy Cat Month and Responsible Dog Ownership Month! To honor these observances, we would like to introduce you to the feline friends and canine companions of our staffers. In addition to contributing to a happier, longer  life for older adults, pets have a similar impact on our team. Without further ado, we present the pets of Varsity!

Rocky the Pillow-Fort Creator
Owns: Ellie Weaver, Account Strategist

“This three-year-old boxer makes pillow forts for himself out of the couch cushions. He barks at everything that moves and sometimes at nothing at all.

Louis the Snow Bunny
Owns: Emily Runyon, Account Strategist

Two-year old Louie, a mutt, was adopted as a puppy. This big, happy lazy boy is happiest sitting on your lap (all 75 pounds of him) or in the snow.

Loki the Rodent Connoisseur
Owns: Jace Dawson, Project Manager

Adopted from Heavenly Paws, this 12-year-old feline hates to be inside too long and is the best hunter Jace has ever had. (Loki prefers rodents to birds.)

Mia the Tennis Ball Fanatic
Owns: Emily Runyon, Account Strategist

Adopted as a puppy, five-year-old Mia is obsessed with tennis balls and will do anything for a treat or to bask in the sun.

Sebastian the Cat’s Best Bud
Owns: Jace Dawson, Project Manager

An eight-year-old German Shepherd, Sebastian is loyal to a fault and loves to be vacuumed.

Mila the ZZZ-Catcher
Owns: Renee Kelly, Art Director

Adopted at a year old, ten-year-old Mila made her way to central PA from a shelter in Ohio. She lives her best life through relaxation, naps and walks.

Keno the Complainer
Owns: Jace Dawson, Project Manager

The first (and probably last) pure bred Jace has ever owned, 12-year-old Siberian Husky Keno is bullheaded and loves to complain.

Kylo the Cuddler
Owns: Jace Dawson, Project Manager

This affectionate feline loves to cuddle up on the sofa and in bed, but doesn’t like to be picked up. His snores shake the earth.

That’s our pet project. Here’s to our beloved animals – and yours!

At last week’s Sales & Marketing Roundtable, we had a very special guest. We celebrated Martha B.’s 105th birthday! Martha has been an independent living resident of Parkway Village in Little Rock, Arkansas, for over 17 years.

After we sang Happy Birthday to her, Martha shared her perspective on life at a senior living community, her fondest memories, and some wise words on how to live a vibrant life, no matter your age.

Here are some questions Martha answered from participants, who were participating virtually everywhere on zoom.

What’s your favorite thing about being 105?
“I like to watch my grandkids and great-grandkids. It’s fun to watch them and see what they do. I have seven total grandchildren, and three are married now. I like to play bridge. But my big problem is being able to see, so I can’t do that as much any longer. Getting around is harder, too, but I always make it to bingo.”

What is the secret of staying so young and vibrant?”
“Well, I’ve always been active. I was always active in organizations at church. I knew the local high school principal well. After my children were grown, I went to work over there as a secretary for 22 years. Then, my husband had a small business and I kept the books. So, I did two or three jobs over the years and kept real active. I play bridge a lot, and I’ve always loved knitting and embroidery. After I retired, I did a lot of that.”

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen over the course of your life?”
“I’ve seen the invention of radios, TV, cars — my first car was a Ford that my dad had to crank in the front to go forward! That was the first car I can remember.  I’ve also seen a lot of change in home appliances. I didn’t have a washing machine or a dryer growing up, and those kinds of things are wonderful to have around the house.”

Do you have any fond memories of the last 105 years you would like to share?
“I have just enjoyed my life. I’ve always gone to Sunday school and church, and I’ve always stayed involved there. I love knitting, I do a lot of that at church. I play lots of bridge, and they say that’s very good for your mind. And I try to play bingo! When I moved here, I was very active and knew everybody and enjoyed all of the activities. Nowadays, things have slowed down because I can’t see as well, but I would still be doing everything if I could.”

What is the biggest historical event that stands out to you in the 105 years you’ve lived?
“Oh, goodness. It’s hard to think of one … I watched our church burn. I lived close enough to see the smoke. When I went over with my family, I saw it burning. That was ‘history’ to me.”

What is life like there at Parkway Village?
“It’s great, they’ve really taken care of me here. It’s been a perfect place for me. I moved here after I developed macular degeneration and I could no longer drive, so my son said I needed to be somewhere with people. Since I moved here, everyone has been wonderful to me. We have excellent security. The maintenance team comes as soon as you call. I have a housekeeper who comes to my apartment once a week, but other than that, I take care of myself and live independently. And I hope I can keep doing so!”

Do you have any advice for us on helping people make the decision to move to a community?
“People always say, ‘I’m not ready.’ But what I try to tell them is, ‘You will never be ready.’ But you just have to pick up and move. My son is a psychiatrist, and he made sure I left home, because I wouldn’t have been able to get along when I couldn’t drive anymore. So, you need to move somewhere to be with others. I think a lot of people wait until it’s too late.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
“I wanted to mention that Boston University has contacted me. They do work for a lot of senior organizations. They asked me to volunteer for their Alzheimer’s research, so I’m working for them. They have a number of people in my age group in the process of testing.”

Happy birthday to Martha! We are so grateful that you were able to join us on the roundtable today. You are a testament to all we do!

Please join our weekly Sales & Marketing Roundtables on Thursdays at noon ET, 11 a.m. CT and 9 a.m. PT.

For login information, email DDunham@varsitybranding.com.

 

During the past quarter of the Varsity virtual roundtables, some common themes, challenges and frustrations seemed to come up over and over with our participants across the country. Here are some of the solutions they gave during our weekly brainstorming sessions.

l. How do you address staffing issues?

Many participants say staffing is a huge issue. “We have only been able to staff half the number of people that we actually need,” said one marketer. “It’s been very, very difficult to hire more people.”

      Solutions:

  • Adjust compensation/provide sign-on bonuses

“Our staffing issues seem to be getting better slowly,” said one participant. “We’ve adjusted compensation to meet demand.”

  • Brainstorm new tactics

“We have a task force that meets biweekly, and we’ve brainstormed new ways to recruit and retain,” said a marketer. “We’ve implemented gestures such as pizza parties and other events to show our appreciation to our employees.”

  • Recruit displaced food service workers

“One organization recruited by going after the displaced and unhappy food service workers and housekeepers from the service sector,” shared Seth Anthony of LW Consulting. “Their ad was basically: ‘Do you want steady hours and benefits that you’re not getting at the restaurant? Come work in senior living!’ They actually managed to really backfill a lot of their staff by using that message and hammering it home.”

  • Provide transportation

“I knew a place that offered employee transportation, where the routes were mapped in tandem with their staffing needs,” said a participant. “They provided the transport in urban areas, which allowed them to hire people who they would not have reached otherwise.”

  • Plan innovative career fairs

“I saw somebody who did a career fair with a food truck,” shared another marketer. “I thought that it was creative and fun to combine the two events.”

  • Get on TikTok

“We have a few employees at our building who graduated from dining services to becoming CNAs,” shared a participant. “They noted that being on TikTok is ideal for reaching the younger demographic.”

2. Should you put pricing on your website?

“We have put all of our pricing on our website, everything in detail for all levels of care,” a marketer shared. “We’ve done that for many, many years, and none of our competition around here has any of their pricing on the web — other than they have a ‘starting at’ or a basic range. We constantly hear from people that come in to see us that say, ‘I’m so glad you have that on your website because I knew exactly what I was getting into when I came here.’”

“I always use the analogy of when you’re going to a restaurant and you Google them, you look at the menu and they have no prices, you’re probably not going to go there,” shared another marketer. “You’re probably going to just move on until someone’s a little more transparent.”

3. How do you handle events in a changing COVID-19 landscape?

“If you have the ability to hold events in person, you may be able to offer hybrid options if people are still sensitive to the COVID-19 issue, even if regulations say that in person is safe,” shared Derek Dunham.

Another idea? Record the event. “We did a four-part dementia virtual series, and we recorded them,” said a participant from Washington state. “And we just had an email from somebody who couldn’t attend in person. They commented on how nice it was to be able to view the seminar recordings at their own pace.”

4. How do you encourage people to move from their homes when they don’t feel ready?

I’ve had my directors use the phrase, ‘Beat the clock.’ If someone is reticent, or their body language is closed off, the directors will go into the ‘beat the clock’ conversation,” said a participant from Pennsylvania. “We phrase it as such: that they have to roll the dice, and hope they do ok in the future. We give them the statistics and introduce the gamble of risk and uncertainty.”

“One of our campuses has a ridiculously long waitlist. We initiated this new program called ‘Get Ready to Say Yes,’” shared a marketer in Washington state. “We do meetings with the people on our waitlist, so that when the time comes when we call, they’re prepared to say yes. We’ve had realtors and downsizers come in. It’s a way to engage waitlisters and get them ready to go.”

5. What skill sets do you look for in a sales counselor?

“All of our sales counselors are over 60, in their sixties and seventies,” said a marketer in Washington state. “I think that having the life experience and empathy, and having gone through it with their own parents as hands-on market experience, is so valuable.”

“I agree, I think the biggest deal is with the relationship,” said another participant. “We are very lucky here to have great salespeople with diverse backgrounds. They can learn the product, but you can’t teach that relationship-building aspect.”

“A couple communities I know had luck hiring people who were previously college admission counselors,” shared Seth Anthony. “I think it’s because it’s similar, where they’re selling something big, multi-dollar, kind of intangible, and heavy on their brand that comes with a lifestyle.”

Look for our next monthly roundtable recap in your inbox. Until then, please be sure to join our weekly Sales & Marketing Roundtable on Thursdays at noon ET, 11 a.m. CT and 9 a.m. PT.

For login information, email DDunham@varsitybranding.com.

 

The Varsity team attended the 2022 LeadingAge PA Annual Conference June 22–24 in Hershey, PA. In case you weren’t able to be there, here are some of the top issues we heard about at sessions and in conversations around the conference.

1.Workforce issues

As with all other industries, the aging services field is having challenges finding good people and also retaining current staffing. Several communities noted that they have experienced situations where people have been scheduled for interviews and simply didn’t show up. Communities are looking to do outreach with students and interns, as well as expand marketing and advertising initiatives aimed at employment.

2. Transforming spaces/amenities to keep up with community expansions

Overall space planning is important. While focusing on a new expansion and new spaces, it’s an opportunity to reimagine existing spaces for new uses and to present a fresh look across the campus. For example, one community mentioned that they are opening a new building, including a new auditorium and wellness center, and they are now building out the existing fitness center and auditorium as a new dining venue and pub, as well as other common use spaces.

3. Opportunities for growth through acquisitions, affiliations and mergers

All organizations are trying to stay profitable as they navigate the current landscape. Acquisitions, affiliations and mergers may present opportunities for communities to grow and be well positioned for the future, in the face of new for-profit rental communities.

4. Compliance and IT

The technology at a senior living community, just like at any organization, is vulnerable to malware attacks. We heard about the importance of protecting the system through cybersecurity. Everything from a smart light bulb to an adult child connecting to Wi-Fi can be a gap in the armor, and can create complications for IT from a security perspective. 

5. Midyear rate increases

Annual rate increases are standard for communities, but given the current environment of inflation and need for PPE (along with other, unexpected expenses), communities are considering — and some are implementing — midyear rate increases.

6. Innovations in technology

Demonstrated technology included robot-like Roombas that serve food, in-room Wi-Fi service providers that residents can log on to, and listings of the community’s activities that families can access through their TV screens. These innovations for the future can revitalize senior living, but there are challenges in implementing them for less tech-savvy residents and communities.

7. Digital marketing techniques for generating new leads

Lifestyle assessments, surveys and quizzes can effectively reach leads who are not yet ready to communicate directly with a sales counselor. Questions can be tailored to the navigation bar of the community’s site, the blog content they accompany, etc. — and, of course, can capture user information for future engagement. Examples of survey topics include: “Is it the right time for senior living?” “Is this dementia?” “Is it still safe for you to drive?”

 

As part of a recent online conference held by Careers to Love PA, LeadingAge PA’s effort to help communities find team members, I conducted a webinar on online reputation management. Here’s a recap of the top-line thoughts I shared. I hope you find these tips helpful in enhancing your community’s image. 

The internet is the first source of information for many consumers. And because so much of what we know and learn about a retirement community is housed online, that means your community’s reputation is largely composed of the information and reviews found on the internet. That’s why having an active online reputation management program is important.

What is Online Reputation Management (ORM)? 

There are conversations happening almost every day online about your community. Some are positive, some are neutral and some are negative. ORM means getting involved in conversations to position your community in the best possible light. It can take many forms, including the management and monitoring of online reviews.

In the end, ORM is about creating balance, counteracting misleading or inaccurate opinions in reviews and allowing your community to put its best digital foot forward.

Effective online reputation management starts with a four-step program.

Step One: Monitor your reviews

The first step in any ORM program is recognizing the importance of reviewing and responding to reviews of your community and then putting into place a process to do those reviews on a regular basis.

There are two ways to conduct those reviews:

  • MANUALLY – You can scour the many different websites that collect reviews on a regular basis. With more than a dozen potential sources out there – including Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare, Caring, Senior Advisor, Zillow and many others – manually reviewing can be very time-consuming.
  • AGGREGATOR TOOLS –The easiest way to track reviews is with an aggregator tool like Reputation.com (which is what Varsity uses). Reputation.com streamlines the process and allows communities to track, manage and respond to reviews from one platform.

What we like about Reputation is that it allows you to set up alerts so that you get an email when new reviews are posted about your community. With one click from the Reputation interface, you can post a response to that review.

Step Two: Respond to your reviews 

If the first step in an effective ORM program is monitoring reviews, the second step – not far behind – is responding to reviews. Unfortunately, it’s a step many communities don’t always take.

The most important reviews any community or brand can respond to are negative reviews. There are two reasons why responding to negative reviews is vitally important:

  1. It allows you to have a one-to-one conversation with a dissatisfied customer and directly address some of their concerns. They might not EXPECT a response from your community, but giving them one could go a long way toward making them less angry and may even prevent them from leaving other negative reviews in the future.
  2. It allows you to tell your side of the story for people who might be reading the reviews. You also want your community to appear compassionate and trustworthy, and a genuinely caring response will accomplish that.

Bottom line: Responding to negative reviews is just good customer service. Addressing the concerns of unsatisfied customers shows that you care for your residents and you care about how your community and its employees are perceived.

Step Three: Solicit positive reviews 

One of the most effective ways to offset negative reviews and boost your community’s online reputation is by actively soliciting positive reviews from satisfied residents, their family members and employees.

To get those positive reviews you need to put a requesting system in place that asks for reviews on a consistent basis.

You should include requests for reviews in emails sent to community members, via signage in key places or casually in face-to-face conversations with happy residents and their family members.

Make sure to ask for honest reviews. Never try to coax reviewers into providing a positive review or submit a review that’s counter to their actual experience. Let potential reviewers know that you value their feedback and will use their input to help make the community a better place.

Step Four: Make changes in response to negative reviews  

Most negative reviews have a kernel of truth to them. The final step in your community’s ORM program is to take a hard look at negative reviews and make actual changes at your community to address those reviews.

Those planned changes can be noted in your community’s response to the review. The changes will also help create a better living environment and reduce the likelihood of similar negative reviews in the future.

The senior living industry is regaining speed after COVID-19, with some good surprises — and some challenges. One participant had a conversation recently in which she compared the current industry environment to a train, saying, “It takes a little time to get it going, but we continue to chug along, and we’re getting there.”

Read on for 7 takeaways from a month of conversations with communities across the country.

1.  Leads are flooding in, especially in independent living.

Communities are seeing a lot of activity — even if they’re not holding events yet.

2. The American Rescue Plan gives communities the opportunity to get funds from local government.

A lot of dialogue this month centered around the  American Rescue Plan and how senior living communities can get a stake of those funds. The money can go to any community, but nonprofit organizations have a strong story to tell. So if you fall into this category and serve seniors, you are positioned well to receive funding, as long as you know who to ask, according to Seth Anthony, a roundtable participant and Marketing & Business Development Manager at LW Consulting.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to receive these funds,  click here or contact Seth directly.

3. Marketing higher levels of care is a challenge.

Leads and sales for care higher up the continuum are improving, but lagging behind independent living. One reason for that is competition with communities that have lifted restrictions.

Another roadblock is staffing issues. One participant shared about having trouble hiring enough employees to meet staffing requirements for a higher level of care.

4. COVID-19 safety concerns are down.

Prospects’ concerns about safety and precautions related to COVID have lessened considerably.

5. Questions about the post-COVID experience are up.

Many prospects are now concerned about whether restrictions on dining, programming and visiting have been removed. They are ready to get back to normal. One roundtable participant said, “COVID-19 seems to be out of the picture, but our team is getting questions such as, ‘Can I visit as a prospect?,’ ‘Can family visit me if I move in?’ and ‘Are your dining rooms open?’”

6. Communities are offering incentives for staff vaccinations.

More team members have gotten the vaccine, but the percentages are still lower than for residents. Communities are using tools such as education, one-on-one meetings and incentives to boost participation rates.

7. Some communities have seen leads and move-ins skew younger.

Some participants are noticing that the average age of leads and move-ins is lower than it’s been in the past few years. One marketer said, “We’ve had several (new residents) in their 60s and early 70s. We’re definitely seeing a trend here. There is some feeling that after being cooped up during COVID-19, people are drawn to this environment.”

All in all, it’s been a great month! Sales counselors are busy, phones are ringing, events are well-attended and communities are filling apartments that have been empty for a long time. One participant even said, “I’ve been here 17 years and I can’t remember a time where we’ve seen the interest we have recently.”

Look for our next monthly roundtable recap in your inbox. Until then, please be sure to join our weekly Sales & Marketing Roundtable on Thursdays at noon ET and 11 a.m. CT.

For login information, email DDunham@varsitybranding.com.

 

 

 

 

 

The month started out on a hopeful tone, with some hesitancy mid-month, but in general, April seems to have ended quite positively for most participants of Varsity’s weekly roundtables! Restrictions have generally eased, although this varies from state to state. Many marketers are talking about a spike in leads, and a lot of success with more tours and people ready to make a move. People are indicating that they are “feeling good or great.”

Here are seven takeaways from our April roundtables:

  1. Sales are up. Way up.

Contrary to prior months when “people just weren’t ready,” the dam is breaking. Some positive words from our participants:

“We had a good month in IL and sold eight homes. There’s been so much pent-up demand, and people are ready to get out and ready to move, although spring is typically the busiest time. The real estate market is great. All of those things combined have contributed to a great month.”

“We’re doing better than we have in months for tours and move-ins.”

“The last few deposits I’ve received have been pretty quick. People have been thinking about it for a while and are ready to make a decision.”

  1. Digital is hotter than ever.

One marketer shared, “A majority of leads are coming from the internet and family referrals. Really the online space is what’s driving the most traffic.”

According to another participant, “We’ve been super busy with a lot more leads (especially email leads). We do a lot of digital ads, which direct people to our website to fill out a form. We also get a lot of requests through our autochat.” Another participant shared the love for online marketing, saying, “We have that constant flow to the website. It’s been a nice flow in light of us not making a huge effort.”

  1. Outdoor events are popular, with virtual still in the mix.

One community hosted an outdoor Earth Day event. “It’s a grab-and-go event, and the purpose of it is to get people to step on our property, get a goodie bag and say hello,” the participant explained. Another community is focusing on virtual seminars: “We had 14 people join the first one (on incontinence, promoting our short-term rehab offering) and it went really well. Tonight’s webinar is a food demo (brownies with blood orange-infused olive oil).”

  1. Staging is selling.

Many communities find staging to be a tried-and-true, but highly effective, tool that sells units faster.

“We have a flat rate with someone local who does our staging, and these apartments always go quickly when people see what she’s done,” said one participant. Another community calls the area where future residents can select their finishes their “Design Center.” New residents can pick paint colors, finishes, flooring, etc. Another participant also referenced the staging of AL apartments as a marketing tactic.

  1. Marketing AL to IL residents is working.

Some communities are finding that their best customers for AL are already living on campus in IL.

“We actually did an open house with our IL residents to showcase AL,” one marketer said. “We had four AL residents show their apartments, so residents can see what it looks like living in an AL residence. Another community had a different tactic: “Moving forward, I would consider inviting the IL family members to our next open house to showcase AL.”

  1. There are almost too many CRM choices.

Marketers have a bewildering number of choices in Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs), with a wide array of high-tech bells and whistles. One participant said, “We use Enquire and have for a little over a year. It has a marketing automation platform called MAP that we’re in the process of implementing now. It looks like a very robust platform.” Another marketer commented, “We use MatrixCare Marketing for everything. It’s a good system.” Other communities referenced using Sherpa, SharpSpring, Mailchimp, RHS, HubSpot and Yardi.

  1. Staffing issues are rampant.

Staffing in senior living has always been a challenge, but in the post-COVID environment, the competition for team members is even more competitive. One participant said, “As we’re staffing up our new building, literally no one has applied for housekeeping.” Another marketer commented, “We’ve hired a few people, but within a week or two they get paid more somewhere else. We’re having a hard time with the pay scale. They just don’t stay.”

One community has found a solution: “We’ve offered a signing bonus with a time limit, so we know that we will at least keep them until that bonus.” Another participant, who is having a particularly hard time filling CNA positions, said, “We started our own CNA school and do all of the training at our community, which has helped a lot.”

Here’s hoping May is filled with more good news, from reopenings to move-ins! Look for our next recap of our roundtable discussions in your inbox.

Until then, please be sure to join our weekly Sales & Marketing Roundtable on Thursdays at noon ET and 11 a.m. CT.

For login information, email DDunham@varsitybranding.com.

 

 

At our 2nd monthly Continuing Care at Home Roundtable, we all shared our ideas about generating leads, cross-promoting community living and overcoming objections.

Check out the highlights below, and feel free to join us for our next roundtable discussion in April.

Please join our next Continuing Care at Home Roundtable on Wednesday, April 7, at noon ET.

For login information, email DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.

 

At our 46th Sales & Marketing Roundtable, professionals around the country shared the latest news at their communities: Virtually all residents are getting the vaccine, families are impatient with CMS regulations, and prospects are slowly opening up to the idea of a move.

Please check out the recap below, and join us for our next roundtable this week.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, March 4, at noon ET. For login information, please email DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.

During our weekly Sales & Marketing Roundtable, communities shared how they are struggling to manage family and resident expectations amidst shifting state and national quarantine policies.

Check out the highlights below, and please join us for our next virtual lunchtime session this week.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, February 18, at noon ET.

For login information, email DDunham@varsitybranding.com.

 

 

 

During our 43rd Sales & Marketing Roundtable, participants from California to New Jersey shared tips for getting employees to take the vaccine, lead generation tactics and hopes for reopening.

Get the roundtable recap below, and please join us for our next 30-minute virtual lunchtime meeting this week.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, February 11, at noon ET.

For login information, please contact DDunham@varsitybranding.com.

Last Wednesday, we held our first monthly virtual Continuing Care at Home Roundtable! A group of professionals from across the country pooled their knowledge and shared sales and marketing tactics that are succeeding during COVID-19.

Please join us for our next Continuing Care at Home Roundtable on Wednesday, March 3, 2021, at noon ET.

For login information, email DDunham@varsitybranding.com. 

At our first sales & marketing roundtable of the new year, communities discussed the exciting news of the COVID-19 vaccine and shared tips for virtual events and video floor plans.

 

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, January 14, 2021, at noon ET.

For login information, please contact DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.

I’m Renee Kelly, and I’m an art director at Varsity. I design all kinds of  advertising for Varsity’s clients — including the blogs for the weekly COVID-19 sales & marketing roundtables. Attending the roundtables has impacted my point of view on the pandemic: I’ve seen up-close its effects on communities, staff and vulnerable residents. For me, the last 9+ months of roundtables have become an unofficial timeline of the COVID-19 crisis in our industry.

When the pandemic first hit, there were so many unknowns. We didn’t know how bad it would get, or how much it would impact seniors. Marketing came to a halt when everyone quickly realized that the traditional tools like tours and in-person events wouldn’t work. The focus shifted to be less on occupancy and more on keeping residents safe and healthy. At Varsity, we also had to quickly shift our focus to better suit our clients’ changing needs.

One thing that struck me from early on were concerns about isolation, especially for residents in memory care. One quote:

WEEK 3: “Those with cognitive impairment don’t understand the situation and feel that they are being punished in their rooms.”

That was specifically the quote that hit me the hardest, and has stuck with me over the last nine months.

Soon after that, communities started reporting their first cases in residents and staff:

WEEK 4: “We have our first positive case and we are working with Varsity on a communications plan.”

Through all of the uncertainty, communities (even competitors) were working together. A community on the West Coast and a community on the East Coast even planned to connect after one call to discuss a shared challenge.

We gradually got into the groove of the “new normal” and communities started to plan virtual events. At a little over three months, we realized we were probably in it for the long haul.

WEEK 14: “There is no ‘end of COVID’ that we can see.”

The issue of family, and how to safely visit, came up time and time again. From drive-by visits to video calls, communities tried everything.

WEEK 22: “Residents are lonely and want to be around family.”

The next few weeks added additional stresses to 2020.

WEEK 26: “We’re discouraged — now we have fires! One of the fires is cutting off the entrance of our new community, so people can’t visit.”

COVID-19 had crept into a few of the communities of those on the calls.

WEEK 34: “I feel blessed and fortunate. We’ve only had 6 cases, 5 of which were employees. Cases are going up around us, but we’ve managed to stay safe.”

We were hearing a broad range of emotions. People wanted to be optimistic, but were fearful of letting down their guard. And, as communities found creative ways of reaching seniors who were feeling isolated at home, occupancy began to rise.

WEEK 35: “We’ve sold four apartments in October due to concessions offered, eight since we started the concessions at the end of August.”

Where are we now? In many states, the numbers are going in the wrong direction.

WEEK 36: “We were so proud that we kept COVID-19 out of here until this last week. It’s having a whole new impact on us.”

But communities are feeling hopeful as the vaccine has received approval.

 WEEK 37: “We’re hoping that a vaccine can help us turn the corner.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel that Varsity’s roundtables have given communities a place to come together to share ideas, successes and concerns, or just vent. And the emails and survey responses people have sent seem to confirm that:

“Appreciate you and the Varsity team taking the time to coordinate these calls and share with all of us!”

“Thank you for setting up these very informative roundtable discussions. We will be applying much of what you have recapped.”

“I greatly appreciate the communication and listening to peers facing the same challenges.”

“Thank you for hosting this. Got some great ideas that I hope we can implement with the city on Safer at Home order. Nice to learn what other communities are doing.”

“This roundtable has grown into a staple for these times and I think that everyone is enjoying the opportunity to share and learn.”  

“I am buoyed by reading the notes from the meetings knowing we are all in this together.

Personally, the roundtables have had far more of an impact on me emotionally than I thought they would, and I’ve put that emotion behind the work we’re doing. With everything that our clients are now facing, I’m proud that Varsity is part of the ongoing solution. I know that my co-workers at Varsity feel similarly.

Here’s to a new year filled with happy news, and we hope you can join the conversation as we continue our roundtables in 2021. To join us on Thursdays at noon ET, email DDunham@VarsityBranding.com for login information.

 

 

 

At our 37th weekly sales and marketing roundtable, communities discussed the light at the end of the tunnel and shared how they’ll be implementing the vaccine.

Dig into the recap below, and please join us for our next roundtable this week.

Please join our last roundtable of 2020 on Thursday, December 17, at noon ET.

This will be our last discussion of the year, but we will start back up in early 2021!

For login information, please contact DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.

 

 

 

At our 35th weekly sales and marketing roundtable, communities shared the spiking COVID rates in their respective states, and how they’re marketing differently in this environment.

Please check out the recap below. We also invite you to attend our next roundtable, the Thursday after Thanksgiving Day.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, December 3, at noon ET.

For login information, please contact DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.

 

 

 

 

At our 34th sales and marketing roundtable, we shared our successes and setbacks during the pandemic. We were also fortunate to have one participant share takeaways from this year’s SMASH conference.

Check out the recap and conference takeaways below. We also invite you to attend our next roundtable this week.

Takeaways from the SMASH Conference 

Over 200 sales and marketing professionals from senior living organizations of all sizes across the U.S. participated. One of our roundtable attendees shared these takeaways:

Biggest Sales and Marketing Trends

  1. Since COVID-19, leads and occupancy have plunged across the board.
  2. The deepest occupancy decreases have been in assisted living, with the toughest objection being “Why would I move my mom into assisted living when I know I won’t be able to see her for months?”
  3. Marketing budgets are not being cut and, in many instances, they are being increased.
  4. Marketing dollars are being reallocated from events and on-site activities to digital, SEO/SEM, virtual tours, videos and webinars.
  5. Marketing automation (automated lead nurture) is by far the #2 marketing priority after digital paid search and search engine optimization (SEO/SEM).
  6. Marketing messages have pivoted for assisted living and memory care to safety and security. IL messages are still about lifestyle, with a bit of safety and security in the message mix.
  7. Website — making sure the messages are appropriate/correct for the times. For most senior living communities, COVID-19 info has recently been moved from front and center to a smaller tab on the homepage, still easily accessible.
  8. Salespeople across the board are still focusing 100% of their time on sales, including nurturing the wait list/depositors, cold calling, working through the database, delivering treats/meals to depositors, virtual tours, apartment tours, answering website/call leads, etc. Activity team members, as well as social workers and front desk team members, are taking care of all window/outside visits, temperature taking, Facetime/Skyping with family members, virtual doctor visits, etc.
  9. Sales messaging, especially for assisted living — do not lead with COVID-19. We are living with COVID-19 24/7; however, prospects are calling us because mom/dad needs more help. They want to know how we can help them first and foremost.
  10. “Backstage Pass” — can’t tour the community, but can tour individual apartments.

Interesting Sales and Marketing Stats

  • New reality — 90% of prospects do not want to talk with us. They just want more information (which they are finding digitally via Google, website, videos, Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
  • Across the U.S. in CCRCs:
    • 43% increase in cost per conversion in digital search
    • 39% decrease in goal completion (filling out a form, calling, etc.)
    • 103% increase in phone calls (these are not all sales calls)
  • 70% of adult daughters find care for their parents through digital (up from 50% not so long ago)
  • Google will drive 90% of digital leads
  • 77% of searches for senior care begin online … even for skilled nursing
  • 80% of senior living search online is Google, Facebook and individual community websites
  • 6 billion minutes of content per week are consumed via video
  • 3 connected devices per person — and we switch between them all day long
  • Average number of brand touchpoints = six per person … up from two 10 years ago.
  • 92% of consumers begin their healthcare search online — with 6,000 searches related to long-term care EVERY HOUR
  • 88% of residents overall would recommend LTC. (Perception: 24% of seniors don’t want to move to LTC. Reality: 88% who live in LTC really love it.)

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, November 19, at noon ET.

For login information, please contact DDunham@Varsitybranding.com.

 

 

At our 33rd weekly sales & marketing roundtable, we shared how we’re feeling this week. We also discussed a plastic wall that was set up by one community to allow residents and family to hug, shown below.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, November 12, at noon ET.

For login information, please contact DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.

 

At our weekly sales & marketing roundtable, we all shared creative tactics we’re using to attract prospects as COVID-19 rates spike in some areas. We’d especially like to thank Lana Peck, senior principal at the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) for sharing the latest insights from executive surveys completed since the pandemic hit.

Check out the insights and survey results below. We also invite you to our next roundtable this week.

NIC Executive Survey Insights with Lana Peck

The full report is on the NIC website. Wave 14 findings can be found here.

We had 70 organizations respond to wave 14:

  • Not the same 70 for every wave, but 60–70% are repeat takers, so there is some continuity.
  • Geographical dispersion of respondents:
    • There’s a slight underrepresentation in the Northeast compared to national coverage of the NIC map.
    • For the most part, participants are coming from all over the country.
  • We’re promoting this more strongly with operators, as we’re getting some national media exposure.
    • It is important for operators to know that, by participating in the survey, they have the opportunity to ensure that the narrative is accurate.

  • We went from ⅓ in wave 10 (early August) to just under ⅔ in the most recent wave — a lot more organizations are offering rent concessions.
  • 90% of organizations are paying overtime to mitigate staffing issues.
  • Staffing/temp agency usage has grown throughout the pandemic.
  • About ⅔ of organizations that have IL in portfolio are offering rent concessions.
  • Organizations with nursing care are less likely to offer rent concessions.
  • Discussion from the group:
    • We are giving concessions on entrance fees and support on moving services.
    • We are offering $3,000 toward moving expenses and incentives to get people to move more quickly.

  • Organizations reporting no change in pace have been growing. It’s the highest it’s been in wave 14.
  • Deceleration of move-ins is lower in IL, AL and MC in wave 14.
  • Most respondents are citing increased resident demand (increase in move-ins).
  • Fewer organizations with nursing care beds in wave 14 reported acceleration in the pace of move-ins, with the fewest respondents citing hospital placement since wave 7 surveyed mid-May — presumably due to anecdotal reports of hospitals sending patients straight home to recuperate from surgeries or illnesses with in-home health care.
  • A quarter of organizations have a backlog of residents waiting to move in.

  • Organizations may be providing incentives. The month-over-month change in occupancy has been starting to rise.
  • About ¼ of the organizations that have IL in their portfolio; ⅓ of those with AL; ½ of those with MC; and about ½ with nursing care are seeing an upward change in occupancy rates in the past 30 days.
  • Fewer folks that have IL are seeing a decrease in occupancy.
  • 48% in nursing care are seeing increases, and 37% are seeing decreases.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, November 5, at noon ET.

For login information, please contact DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.

At our 30th weekly sales and marketing roundtable, communities shared out-of-the-box, socially distanced ideas they’re using to get people to campus.

Find out how to make these ideas work at your community by checking out the recap below.

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, October 22, at noon ET.

For login information, please contact DDunham@VarsityBranding.com.