Following 2020, video conferencing, video email messaging and virtual tours have become more commonplace tools and tactics for sales and marketing teams. But what about milestone marketing? During a time when many senior living communities were forced to go into lockdown or restrict outside access, there came a need to rethink our clients’ marketing and sales approaches.
In this post, you’ll learn what milestone marketing is, and get insights and best practices for implementing it so that your community can maintain momentum in the push towards achieving its sales and marketing goals.
What is Milestone Marketing?
Even in the face of a pandemic, businesses can’t afford to go dark when it comes to sales and marketing. This is especially true for senior living communities that are census challenged. Milestone-based marketing offers the flexibility to move back and forth through various stages of accepting deposits, or even visitors, while still focusing on lead generation or awareness. The phase you occupy in your milestone marketing plan is dependent on your community’s policies at any given point.
Essentially, there are three phases of a plan. There are different approaches for sales and marketing if you are working under a stay-at-home order or locked down, versus if you are back to normal — or as we like to call it, “Business as New-sual.” If your community is somewhere in between — for example, in a soft re-opening phase — the approach you take will be unique to that part of your milestone marketing plan.
Here is a quick breakdown of the three phases:
PHASE ONE: a phase that many senior living communities have experienced since the beginning of the pandemic; it means no visitors, complete lockdown and residents having to quarantine in their rooms.
In this stage, we recommend focusing inward versus outward. Your strategy should be implemented to protect and enhance your brand’s reputation; Open and honest communication is key during this phase! You shouldn’t be focused on acquiring new leads, but rather on awareness tactics and nurturing any existing leads and prospects in your database. Sales team members will have to rely on virtual tours only since you cannot not have visitors to the community during this phase.
PHASE TWO: the soft reopening phase; Communities in this phase should continue to focus on brand reputation and the ways in which they can safely re-open to the public on a limited basis. As you enter Phase Two, parts of your milestone marketing plan will shift from focusing solely on awareness to including some lead generation tactics as well. When settling into this phase, your sales team will be using a hybrid approach of both virtual and in-person tours. The safety of residents and their families should be the priority before welcoming new prospects for in-person meetings.
PHASE THREE: business as usual; this is when you get to reinstitute your marketing plan as it was prior to the pandemic, as well as resume full in-person activities/tours. Keep in mind that there may be some adjustments that need to be made to rebuild your brand and the trust that the public has in your community, and in the industry as a whole. As vaccines have been rolling out, many communities have advanced to this phase or the latter portions of soft re-opening, depending on the extent to which they’ve been affected by Covid-19.
3 Keys for All Stages of Milestone Marketing
1. Be Empathetic
Rather than focusing on the hard sell and risking sounding tone deaf to prospects, we recommended that our clients shift their messaging to focus more on their frontline workers and all they were doing to keep residents safe. It was not about the features, benefits and lifestyle of the community (much of which was shut down anyway), but the safety and security that residential living offers to seniors.
2. Go With the Technology Flow
According to research conducted by New Parks Associates, during the height of the pandemic, 29% of US seniors ages 65 and older have used video conferencing services; 27% have used telehealth/remote consultation services; 22% have used a grocery store delivery or pick up service and 55% have used an online video streaming subscription. The bottom line is that seniors are adopting technology at the fastest rate yet. This means your sales and marketing teams should as well. Don’t be afraid to ask prospects to connect virtually as a means of nurturing them on their sales journeys.
3. You Can Still Host Events
Another area that saw great growth in 2020 was the webinar and virtual events space. Whether lifestyle- or conversion-focused, webinars and virtual events offer ways to continue connecting with prospects during times when it’s advised not to meet in person. Prior to Covid-19, many communities relied on in-person events to drive leads and nurture them through the sales journey. The communities that adjusted and adapted their in-person events into virtual opportunities are the ones that we noticed saw the most success in acquiring and retaining prospects.
We Can See the Light at the End of the Tunnel
Our clients who adopted our guidance on milestone marketing are now seeing its impact on their censuses. The current census across the industry, according to the most recent NIC data, is 80%. Whereas most of our clients are averaging a census of 85% or higher.
Even during a time when the industry as a whole had been impacted negatively, many of our clients were still able to meet and exceed their inquiry and lead goals. For those that did not, it was an intentional shift to focus more inward; rather than generate more leads, there was an increased focus on nurturing existing leads and community outreach.