As baby boomers begin aging into independent living territory and their collective assisted living needs promise limitless potential in decades to come, senior living communities of all variety might seem poised to enter the Promised Land of infinite leads and occupancy-assuring waiting lists.
The problem is, the potential hasn’t gone unnoticed by your existing competitors and scores of commercial developers, large hospitality providers and others with the capital and desire to cash in on the boomer’s upcoming living needs. The result is one you probably notice and consider daily – new competitors are opening everywhere. They are abundant, well-funded and pursuing the same prospects you are.
But you’re smarter, more established and if you implement these five strategies, you can out-market them before they even open their doors:
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM) offers the ability to target prospects by location and very specific user needs. Create a campaign directed at prospects who are geographically close to both you and an upcoming competitor, based on keywords where you directly compete.
- Create a comparison table highlighting your unique strengths – those which your competitor(s) lack. You’ve probably seen these before: horizontal rows list features/amenities and vertical columns list your community first (on the left), then your competitors, with checks marked to indicate offerings. You may choose to use your competitors’ names or generalities if you prefer (e.g. Anytown-area AL).
- Start a FUD campaign. This isn’t as cynical and devious as it sounds, but the use of “fear, uncertainty and doubt” (FUD) regarding your competitor(s)’ weaknesses is a powerful marketing tool. Are they new to the industry and therefore inexperienced? Is their location a little too close to that not-so-nice part of town? Make sure your prospects are keenly aware of your adversaries’ disadvantages.
- Increase branding in your overlapping competitive territory. First, define which areas you both are likely to draw from. A simple exercise is to identify the reasonable maximum distance between prospects’ homes and your location (this is typically 10-20 miles). Then, do the same for your upcoming competitor. Next, use a radius mapping tool (a great, free one can be found here) to plot circular marketing zones around both locations. You’ll clearly see where they overlap – this is the heart of the battle. Saturate age and income-qualified prospects in that zone with direct mail, SEM, billboards and even cable TV if the budget allows.
- Monitor their every move. Get on their mailing list, email list, like them on Facebook – if they are marketing anywhere, you want to know where and what they’re saying. This will allow you to counter their messaging and advertise in the same spaces they do so they can’t own mindshare with any single group of prospects.
Competition makes us all nervous and if you’re in senior living, chances are you’re only going to encounter more competitors in the near future. While our industry is and should always be one of relative decorum, the reality is you’re going to have to become more aggressive to thrive. With these and other strategies, you can gain a distinct advantage over newer, fancier competitors.