Softer Selling for Stronger Results

GUEST POINT OF VIEW:  Christine A. Withwein is the President of New York- based Wirthwein Marketing, a senior living marketing and advertising firm. Christine understands the role of PR in the process of attracting and marketing to new clients. She shares with us some of her tips for bringing prospects through the doors, and some pointers on how to market your community in ways that reduce the pressure and anxiety people often feel in that situation.

Although some areas of the country are still facing economic and housing challenges, older adults remain curious as to what retirement communities have to offer. Unfortunately, they are often reluctant to call or come in, thinking they’ll get a “hard sell.” There are a few things I’ve learned over the years that help to bring in prospective clients in a way that takes a lot of the pressure off their minds and puts them in a better position to properly evaluate your community.

Workshops and seminars, for example, offer a less threatening atmosphere for prospects to learn more about your community. Seminars are an extremely valuable way to overcome the commonly encountered sales barrier of “I’m not ready yet.” If you think about it, your real competition isn’t the community down the road, it’s the prospects’ existing residences. You must be more appealing than their “home sweet home” if you want to secure a sale.

Not all of your seminars need to have hard, head-spinning subjects. Why not host workshops as a series of “solution” programs to address objections, such as selling the house? Or your foodservice staff could teach attendees how to whip up heart-healthy meals, which would also serve to spotlight their expertise and the fine cuisine at your community. And don’t forget that current residents are a valuable source for sharing the how-to’s of their varied hobbies and interests.

Social events, such as holiday celebrations, art shows, luncheons, Sunday brunches and open houses, are very popular with marketers and the market alike. From the retirement community standpoint, social events are somewhat easier to plan and execute than seminars, but don’t let the bigger number of attendees fool you into thinking that the stampede can be counted on to generate qualified leads. In this case, bigger is not always better.There have been impressive results from the “lunch and learn” concept, in which attendees learn about their possible housing choices.  Whether they are called “Food for Thought”, “Lunch and Learn”, “Dine and Discover” or “Dinner and Dialogue,” they have probably accounted for more move-ins the past three years than most forms of paid advertising.

Whether you’re planning educational or social events, your topic should be creative, contemporary and unbiased in tone. Present optimistic subjects that reinforce the positive aspects of growing older. Instead of a seminar on “Bunions, Backaches, and Bursitis,” how about “The Secrets of a 50-Year Marriage,” in which resident couples share serious and humorous insights into what it takes to make a long-lasting marriage work.

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