The very first web page went live 30 years ago. It was dedicated to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web project. While it was bland and uninviting, in retrospect, we know that this first URL opened the door to today’s websites, which virtually open the door to the whole wide world.
With nearly two billion websites in existence, the competition to attract the attention of the 4.72 billion web users across the globe is staggering. Unless you’re Craigslist or Wikipedia, whose unattractive physical look is so embedded in public awareness it would be foolish to change design, a modern website needs some curb appeal – and a whole lot more.
Four years ago, we blogged about the all-important home page. A killer home page is still paramount, but let’s take a fresh look at the multiple characteristics of a truly outstanding website – one that visitors will remember and return to time and again, one that builds trust in your brand and leads visitors to take action.
For the purpose of this blog, we will focus on the senior living industry. Indeed, most of the features that make a great senior community site apply to all websites, but the onus on the senior space to provide an exceptional online experience is particularly great. As literal doors have been closed to visitors, virtual doors must do the lion’s share of the work attracting prospects.
Ten Things That Make Your Website Outshine the Rest
- Virtual tours. Because COVID has severely restricted (if not completely prohibited) in-person tours of senior communities, virtual tours of indoor and outdoor spaces, common areas, amenities, and individual apartments are absolutely essential. Engaging online tours are more than still photographs; they are interactive, three-dimensional, and offer a 360-degree perspective – as close to the real thing as if one were walking through your property.
- Navigability. Getting lost in an illogical, disorganized website is like driving in a strange city and not knowing your way around – with one major difference: you can immediately click out of a website, never to return again. A move to senior living is one of life’s major decisions and, unfortunately, one that is sometimes made during crisis. The first point of entry should be an easy, orderly glide through your community. Studies have shown that the eye tracks text in a certain pattern, and visual hierarchy in the arrangement of your site’s elements points to what is most important and how to seamlessly find subsequent content. Main and sub-tabs designed with first-time visitors in mind guide prospects through a well-organized, stress-free visit.
- Clean, simple design. An unfussy, uncluttered design throughout your entire site, but especially on the home page, makes for a pleasant, positive user experience. Simplicity in design is fresh, timeless and soothing. There’s also great business benefit in a simple design, as several studies have shown that minimalism garners more conversions by establishing legitimacy and confidence in a brand. Endless clicking and scrolling is distracting and comes off as amateurish and “salesy.” On that note, if at all possible, avoid sponsored ads on your site.
- Uniform branding. Along with a clean design goes visual uniformity across your entire site, including color schemes, typography, logo, and other graphic elements unique to your brand. “Cookie cutter” designs are a dime a dozen and will do nothing to distinguish you from the nearly 30,000 other senior communities in the U.S.
- Animation and interactivity. Today’s Internet users are seeking an “experience,” particularly now when in-person visits and events at your senior community are limited. Animated and user-driven interactive elements bring life to your site and create memorable journeys throughout your pages and in your visitors’ minds. These elements also increase engagement with your community and more clicks to discover what’s around the next corner, so to speak.
- Readability. Small type and hard-to-read fonts are a no for any website, especially those serving older adults whose eyesight may be compromised. A simple, legible font scheme (consistent across your entire site) will serve your visitors’ needs and keep them engaged. It will also lend a more professional, sophisticated appearance, establishing trust and credibility in your brand.
- Great Content. You can use the most awesome typestyle and graphics in the world, but without great content on your site, it may as well be gobbledegook. At its core, the “king” – content – is information that benefits your audiences on its own merit – a takeaway, so to speak, that is meaningful regardless of a lead. Great content creates a positive connection between you and your visitors, the ripple effects of which can be boundless.
- Response Time. Sites that load slowly will be abandoned quickly. Optimal load speed is under three seconds; 40 percent of consumers will reportedly abandon a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load. Response time is a function of underlying infrastructure (e.g., a good content delivery network) and design element choices, among other things, and it is essential not only to keeping visitors on your site, but good SEO.
- Mobile friendly. A whopping 90 percent of Internet users across the globe access the web from their mobile devices. Websites that adapt to whatever device one is using allow for significantly greater reach and more shareability among visitors. In essence, you can’t survive without a mobile friendly website.
- Expert designers. Achieving all of the above is a tall, but very necessary order. It is not a layman’s endeavor, nor the work of a pre-fab template. Professionals trained in web design and management on both the front and back ends are a must for a truly outstanding website.
IVY’s team of experts in the senior living space can bring excellent web content and design to life, bringing prospects to your virtual community and in your literal doors.
Contact us today at 630-790-2531 or visit www.ivymarketing.com.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
If we could have foreseen what was coming in 2020, we might not have believed our eyes.
But, as hindsight is 20/20, we have a long and clear view of a year like no other – and we can use that perspective to enter 2021 focused on what needs to happen in senior living.
But first, let’s take a look back at the remarkable achievements in senior communities across the country.
Professionals in senior living have created countless ways to keep residents active and engaged. They’ve adapted to restrictions and limitations with novelty and inspiration. They’ve learned to utilize technology in far-reaching ways and proven that not only is necessity the mother of invention, it is the springboard for programming that doesn’t stagnate in the face of sudden change; it flourishes.
Staff in senior communities were unsung heroes long before that became the standard praise. They have continued to come to work, day and night, keeping residents safe, entertained, cared for, and loved. They’ve rolled up their sleeves and taken on roles and responsibilities unique to this unprecedented time.
So, what does informed retrospection mean for your community in 2021?
- Your good news needs to be shared.
The media have not been kind to the senior living industry during the pandemic. Negative stories and statistics have flooded the news, reflecting senior living in an unflattering light, largely unfairly. The good happening in senior communities far outweighs the bad, and that message needs to shine for all to see.Change the narrative by telling your positive stories! Share your news of ever-vigilant safety measures, security and healthcare…of continued high quality of life amidst an unfathomable turn of events, intense scrutiny and epic challenges…of connections made and kept strong.Content marketing comes with a fully stocked toolbox of print and digital communications. By definition, this type of marketing does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services. Whether you’re targeting a hand-picked group of just a few or the broadest of audiences, quality content marketing can reach your prospects with impact and personal relevance.
The tools of the content marketing trade run the gamut from social media, press releases, feature stories and videos to blogs, podcasts, webinars, e-blasts, print and electronic newsletters, infographics, direct mail, ads, white papers, case studies, and more.
Leveraging the various channels of content marketing will counteract the steady stream of negativity surrounding senior living and put your good news in the spotlight.
- Your staff needs to feel valued and appreciated.
Staff longevity is a key criterion for prospective residents and their families looking for a senior living community. Happy staff members stay, and happy staff members are those who feel heard, respected, engaged, recognized, and cherished.The pandemic has presented unparalleled opportunities for stress and burnout. Letting your team know that you truly value them requires more than a smile or a passing word of thanks (though that’s certainly a good start). Intentional employee communications programs boost all-important staff retention, especially if they’re tailored to your unique community, culture and common causes. Regular incentives, initiatives and department/individual recognition tactics created specifically for your human resources will improve your bottom line by honoring your top employees.Because past and current staff members sometimes turn to employee websites to air grievances in the workplace, it is paramount to monitor those sites to stay apprised and ahead of potential conflict.
- Reputational damage must be mitigated.
“All the world’s a stage” is a line from a Shakespearean play, but it could also describe the endless opportunities social media affords anyone, anywhere, to speak their mind. Often, these words are not particularly praiseful. COVID-19 presents an even greater reputational risk to senior living communities, and appropriate response to reviews or comments on employee sites or social media is crucial to mitigating reluctance to move in or a drop in census.An even greater risk is actual crisis of any kind in a senior community, such as fire, contagion, cyberattack, etc., or a smoldering crisis (the most common), such as neglect, mismanagement, scandal, and the like.Regardless of the severity of onsite crisis or online reputational harm, negative attention on your community requires trained communication with all stakeholders. Crisis response is an art that cannot be ad-libbed or issued extemporaneously, lest even further damage be inflicted.
2021 is just around the corner. With 20/20 vision looking forward and 30 years of experience behind us, IVY Marketing Group can tell your great stories, inspire your teams, and provide trained response to – and monitoring of – reputational risk.
Let us start changing the sightlines of your community today! And watch for our new video about our 20/20 vision for 2021!
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
We at IVY are thrilled to announce that three of our team members were recently certified by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) in content marketing. Congratulations to Wendy, Bridget and Barb for successfully completing this six-week, comprehensive program! From October through December 2018, they learned more about:
• Developing a content marketing strategy
• Editorial planning and team structure
• Storytelling strategies for success
• Gaining exposure for content marketing
• Using social media and influencer tactics to boost effectives
• Content marketing measurement and analytics
But most of all, they learned the importance of what we at IVY have known for the nearly 30 years we’ve been in business: people buy a story. Why? Because it’s our most powerful source of persuasion and good will, according to course panelist Joe Gura.
Presented by the largest professional organization devoted to communications in the nation (PRSA), the certification program featured leading marketing experts from such companies as Microsoft and Mayo Clinic.
Which is all fine and good, but what’s the real value of being certified in content marketing? Why should our clients and prospects care? Why should you, dear reader, care?
Why Choose Certified Content Marketers?
Certification is education. Just as college graduates are likely to be more qualified for the careers they enter, so are those who’ve been certified in a particular area of professional development. Clients and business partners literally have a badge of confidence in the team they hire, knowing that they are specially trained in their industry and held to the highest professional standards.
Consider the investment. Certification from a preeminent organization like PRSA is not cheap. In fact, it’s darned expensive. Any business willing to make the financial investment is one that is committed to being among the most informed, resourceful and effective in its field. In addition to the monetary expenditure, there’s a considerable amount of time involved in completing such a comprehensive study. On top of work and personal lives, students devote several hours across several weeks to course participation, and there’s no slacking in the process (there’s a test at the end!).
Happy employees, happy clients. Professionals whose company has invested in their continuing education know that they are deeply valued. That knowledge translates to broader skill sets, greater confidence, productivity and work ethic, and longer employment tenure. That’s great for their prospects and customers, too!
Today’s communications demand education. Few industries have evolved so radically over so few years as communications. The digital world and ever-advancing, data-driven technology have made it challenging to keep up with the countless and ubiquitous ways in which messages can now be conveyed. Continuing education in content marketing is essential to modern-day, enlightened marketing, advertising and public relations. Professionals without leading edge instruction on the changing landscape risk being left in the dark.
Certification benefits are immediately applicable. Unlike traditional, multi-year educational programs, professional certification programs allow participants to apply what they’ve learned to the real world right away. Certified employees are already entrenched in their careers. Thus, they have the privilege and opportunity to take what they’re discovering and bring it to work as soon as it’s imparted by thought leaders in the field.
Everyone Loves a Story
For nearly three decades, the IVY team has known – and put into practice – that the surest way to the consumer’s heart is through storytelling. It’s in humankind’s DNA to love a good story. Our team continues to thirst for new knowledge, new tools and new ways to tell our clients’ unique and wonderful stories. That’s how they grow, and how we grow.
Let our team of certified content marketers bring our education, investment, commitment and endless curiosity to your marketing campaigns.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Last week, we explored the psychology behind highly personalized content (why it works) as well as the technology (how it works). This week, we look at the application of personalized content (methodology) and why it’s good practice for both marketers and consumers (ideology).
The Methodology of Personalized Content
Today’s technology affords us insightful data like we’ve never seen before. The ability to track and analyze that data is what allows us to pinpoint not only demographics, but also consumers’ behaviors (including the key search words and phrases they use), habits, interests, preferences, pain points and personal causes.
Marketers who don’t leverage that kind of information with relevant content on social media, in email campaigns and with key Google AdWords are wasting precious opportunities to engage and connect with their digital audiences. Considering that there are now more electronic devices in the world than people, that’s a monumental misstep.
Segmented marketing further personalizes content by allowing marketers to categorize consumers by common needs and responses to specific marketing strategies. Segmentation is guided by intelligent, accumulated consumer data and allows more time and money to be spent on crafting the most relevant messages for each segment. This is not to say that individuals are not considered in content marketing; quite the contrary. Segmented marketing simply eliminates the effort expended on those single individuals who will not respond to your message, no matter how well it’s crafted.
Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, and customized re-targeting campaigns allow marketers to create new messages based previous actions. Consider, for example, Amazon’s ability to show consumers entire catalogs of product recommendations based on past purchases or items that were put in their cart without a completed sale. In our culture of information overload and decision fatigue, that’s like having a personal shopper at our fingertips, one who knows just what we want.
Re-engagement campaigns are more effective with personalized content as well. A message of “It’s been awhile; we’ve missed you,” feels more special, because it’s clear the sender knows the recipient has engaged with them before. One charitable organization recently asked donors who hadn’t contributed in some time “Did We Do Something Wrong?”, going so far as to cast possible doubt on themselves and, thus, really – and genuinely – play on the heart strings.
Facebook knows a thing or two about the power of re-engagement. When it’s not engaging users with those quizzes (which vegetable would you be?), it’s re-engaging them with “best” photos, moments and memories of the year. Brilliant!
The Ideology of Personalized Content
Today’s responsible content marketers strive to provide customers and prospects with sincerely meaningful messages that help them, enlighten them, inspire them, encourage them, entertain them, better them. Long gone are the days of the self-serving, in-your-face hard sale. Highly personalized content serves the dual purpose of increasing consumers’ trust and engagement in your brand and strengthening your valued relationships with them.
Let our team of experts show you how to reach your prospects on a new – and very personal – level.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Have you noticed when you’re on your various social media platforms that the sponsored messages you’re getting are more and more personal and relevant to you in particular? A few years ago, users were getting content that had little or nothing to do with their tastes or interests – stuff that could have been sent to anyone. But now, it’s laser-focused on individuals or (more accurately), segments of individuals, right down to the type of shoes they like and the way they prefer to spend their free time.
Personalized content is certainly no accident, and more and more, consumers are welcoming it rather than feeling like they’re being invaded by Big Brother. As we grow more comfortable with and accustomed to highly targeted content, we’re not only okay with it, we expect it.
The Psychology of Personalized Content
Instead of feeling intruded upon by digital content that has little or no relevance to us, consumers are feeling understood. What could be better than that? According to Psychology Today, feeling understood is even more important than feeling loved, because if people don’t get who we are or what we’re about, all other needs can feel pretty meaningless.
Knowing who we are and what we’re about. That’s the very heart and soul of successful marketing, isn’t it? Marketers who know their audience and what makes them tick are far more likely to create lasting relationships with their prospects than those who are taking stabs in the dark. In fact, a 2017 study showed that 79% of companies that exceeded their revenue goals had a personalized digital media strategy in place.
The Technology of Personalized Content
What is to credit for extremely personalized content and, more importantly, its ability to engage consumers in truly meaningful ways? In a word, technology. In two words, advancing technology. As we know, technology is constantly ushering us into the future, and content marketers are benefiting considerably from the move. Reaching the right people at the right time with the right approach on the right media channel is increasingly possible. As data-rich tools and platforms become more and more sophisticated, content marketers are poised to thrive in their ability to identify audiences, track and characterize their behavior, and purposefully analyze it to create galvanizing content.
The Internet of Things may seem like high-tech on steroids now, but in less than 10 years, it stands to be as routine as getting directions from your smart phone. In a nutshell, the Internet of Things will allow us to have real-time, interactive media experiences on more than just our electronic devices. By way of trillions of sensors providing data streams on everyday items and products, marketers will be able to reach people in more private, personal spaces.
Creepy? Not if content marketers provide messages and experiences that feel welcome instead of invasive. Think of it this way: the technology that affords such intensely keen knowledge of individual consumers will also be the blueprint for precisely how to effectively reach them.
Next week, we’ll examine how to bring psychology and technology together in methodology and ideology. In the meantime, contact our team of experts to find out how to reach your prospects on a new – and very personal – level.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
IVY Marketing Group was beyond excited to attend the 2018 Content Marketing World Conference and Expo September 4-7 in Cleveland.
While Tina Fey was the main keynote attraction, sharing about her award-winning work as a producer, writer and actor, more striking was the amazing scope of possibilities surrounding content marketing today.
It was electrifying to experience it all in one place. With over 120 session leaders on as many different topics, 30 some “lunch and learn” opportunities, and seven inspiring keynote speakers, the three-day event pulsed with energy and endless potential for content marketers – and their clients.
IVY is eager to share with those seeking top-quality marketing and PR all that we’ve learned, not only through our own experience over the past nearly 30 years, but by engaging in such world-class events as the CM World conference and other wonderful educational opportunities. Our finger is always on the pulse of the ever-evolving realm of content marketing.
According to CM World, “Content marketing is no longer a bright, shiny object. It’s an innovative and sustainable practice that connects brands with audiences in meaningful ways.”
We at IVY make content marketing our practice, and our passion, each and every day. We know that compelling content is the foundation of every successful brand, and we are committed to telling our clients’ unique stories through all the amazing doors modern content marketing opens to us.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.