The Marketing Catch-22

blogpic_grantI recently attended the Senior Housing News Summit in Dallas, where I met people from every facet of the industry, from finance and construction to marketers, owner-operators, and more. As someone who deals specifically with senior living marketing, the panel on sales and marketing was what interested me the most. They had some great ideas, tips and strategies, but I think the thing that struck me the most were the responses to a question from the audience.

The question was basically this: if you are a small senior living company or perhaps a single community, does it make sense to keep a marketing person on staff if you are at capacity?

All of the panelists had a slightly different take on the answer, but they all agreed on the main point: yes, you should keep a marketing person on staff. There were several reasons posited as to why this was a good practice, but three stood out in my mind.

First, good marketing people are not a dime a dozen in the senior living industry. There are a lot of subtle nuances to the industry that can make it a minefield for someone who is not familiar with the territory. It was said that it’s easier to take a person who is familiar with the senior living industry and teach them marketing and sales than it is to take a great marketing person and try to teach them about the senior living industry.

Second, if there is no one doing any marketing, you will very likely begin to lose ground when it comes to brand recognition and awareness. This can have ripple effects, leading to decreased community engagement, which in turn leads to less brand awareness – creating a cycle. Another thing to remember is that while you may be at capacity today, the nature of senior housing dictates that you will have turnover. Maybe you are at capacity and you have a waiting list. Great. Keep it that way.

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Sometimes, bringing in an outside agency can alleviate marketing troubles.

Finally, senior living communities and companies need to remember that the Executive Director, Administrator, CEO or whoever is in charge of the community already has a lot to keep track of without being sidled with marketing and sales responsibilities as well. It can mean the difference between doing one job well, as opposed to doing two jobs poorly, and it can lead to undo stress on the ED, Administrator, etc.

This is the catch-22 of senior living marketing: you could fire your marketing person/s when your community is at full capacity, which will save you money in the short term, but you may lose prospects, which will hurt you in the long term.

There are ways around this. For instance, you could hire an agency to handle simple marketing/public relations efforts. This is a nice alternative to dedicated marketing staff, as an agency can consult with just one or a few people at the community or company to do as much or as little work is needed to keep you in your prospect’s sights.

The important thing to remember, to always keep in mind with marketing in the senior living sphere, is that the sales cycle can be long—like three to five years kind of long in some cases. Brand awareness and recognition is what will keep your company or community at the top of someone’s list, and if you stop sending marketing materials or discontinue advertising, you may get lost in the shuffle.

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