“Hey, you’re doing a good job,” said Keith, a hurried executive director over his shoulder to a nurse in a senior living community. The nurse welcomes the compliment in this fictitious scenario, but she’s left with questions. What exactly am I doing well?…Is he just saying that?…Does he even know my name?
“Mary, I wanted to tell you how much we appreciate you here,” said director of nursing Rob, stopping Mary in the hallway and looking her directly in the eyes. “Your warmth with residents and ability to see to their needs even before they ask is truly a gift. We are so fortunate to have you on our team, and you’re really helping us achieve our goals.”
As we well know at this point, almost a year to the day since the pandemic turned our lives upside down, those who care for others are some of the most dedicated, overworked people. They are the most deserving of truthful, positive, and specific recognition of their efforts – on a regular basis.
As leaders in the senior living space, we must be less like Keith, tossing out general platitudes while rushing on to the next thing, and more like Rob. At least Keith said something, right? Doesn’t that count? Yes, but now more than ever, we need to be intentional, genuine, and explicit in our praise of our treasured human resources. It’s interesting to note here that 67 percent of managers think they are above average in offering recognition, but only 23 percent of their employees agree, according to the authors of Leading with Gratitude.
Honing in on skills and gifts particular to each individual and recognizing the whole person in relation to work, home and family has tremendous impact on employee retention – more even than the almighty dollar. Indeed, a Gallup survey revealed that the top three things team members say they need to stay with a company are 1) appreciation; 2) help with personal problems; and 3) feeling “in” on things. Money was not among the top three.
But let’s not complicate things. While ceremonies and dinners and plaques in the lunchroom are nice, they’re impractical until herd immunity is achieved and can also feel a bit exclusive. Singular focus on one or two employees risks alienating others, especially the “silent heroes” among us.
Rather, it’s the micro-recognitions – the small, organic and consistent acknowledgments across the board – that pack the biggest punch in helping staff feel truly valued and appreciated. And while it’s certainly not rocket science, there are some practices leaders can employ that are especially effective.
Given that March is employee appreciation month, and senior living is an industry suffering staff turnover rates as high as 36 percent per year, now is an appropriate time to look at how we can inspire employees to stay.
Open Your Eyes
The bedrock of robust employee recognition is noticing the specific ways in which each individual team member is contributing to the health and mission of your organization. If telling your employees that you appreciate what they’re doing at the time they’re doing it isn’t possible or practical, keep a notebook of names and details that you can express to each person at a later time – but not too much later. How you express your gratitude, whether verbally, in a text, email, note, on social media (with permission), isn’t as important as what you say. Be specific, and praise often!
Open Your Ears
A huge part of feeling valued is feeling heard. Your employees are some of your best resources for ideas on how to improve programs and practices and implement new ones. Solicit and listen to their ideas, then really put them to use. Lip service will cause discouragement and motivation to find a more fulfilling work experience. And don’t forget to offer positive feedback on employees’ suggestions that are working well.
An “ivory tower” culture breeds contempt. Whether literal or figurative, separation between C-suite personnel and hands-on workers creates a barrier of exclusiveness that alienates and disheartens essential employees. Include all levels of staff in company-wide initiatives, changes, decisions, and solicit their ideas, feelings and feedback. Beware of optics too: posting photos of your fabulous vacations on social media or staying away from your community during COVID upticks or other threats sends the wrong message.
Brush Up on Soft Skills
Some leaders (even in an industry anchored in care) don’t naturally prioritize the “warm fuzzy” stuff that means so much to individual team members. Identifying those who need a little help with soft skills and offering them tools or training could go a long way toward keeping vital human resources for the long haul. The SAIL acronym might be useful for these folks: identify the Situation an employee was in; the Action they took; the Impact it had; then Link it back to the overall purpose of your organization.
Modern technology offers several platforms to help managers offer consistent positive feedback to staff and regularly gauge employee satisfaction. These platforms do for staff retention what other software does for meeting deadlines and sales goals.
Offer Special Perks
Essential workers need time off more than ever before. Offering rotating half days, covering a portion of gas or transportation fees to work, sending monthly goodies to their homes, inquiring about their families and where help at home may be needed…these are all meaningful ways to say “we appreciate you” to your staff. Of course, even a small raise or holiday bonus sends a big message of thanks.
Focus on Success
It’s easy to dwell on dwindling census, ailing residents, demanding safety procedures, low resident and family morale, but there is still much good news in senior living – even during a pandemic. Sharing with staff the little victories, innovations, triumphs and successes they made happen not only mitigates employee burnout, it sends a message of hope, resilience and recovery. This too shall pass, and when it does, your team will be stronger, more confident, and better able to serve current and future residents to the best of their amazing ability.
We at IVY are proud of our clients’ efforts to recognize their valued employees. We are also here to help them achieve the staff longevity that is so important to prospective residents and their families. With 30 years of marketing and public relations experience in the senior living space, our team of experts can help you craft intentional employee communications programs, incentives and initiatives tailored to your unique community, culture and common causes.
And because past and current staff members sometimes turn to employee websites to air grievances in the workplace, it is important to monitor those sites to stay apprised and ahead of potential conflict. We can help you with that, too.
Employee appreciation doesn’t end with the close of this month. It should be a priority every day of the year. Contact IVY Marketing Group to help you keep it top of your list.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
In today’s digital world, data-driven marketing has become the be-all, end-all. There is so much to gain from sophisticated data, we are sometimes overwhelmed. “Analysis paralysis,” if you will.
But if you think about it, what is data in the marketing realm? People. Each piece of a pie graph, each line on a bar graph, every shade, pattern, number, percentage, decimal point, etc. represents a person or persons — real, live, flesh and blood human beings. Thinking of data as people is especially appropriate during the holidays, when our loved ones are even more on our hearts and minds.
While we don’t typically consider data in this deeply personal way, perhaps we should. Maybe it would do us good to keep in mind the human element behind the plethora of quantifiable information available to us. As we’re beginning to ponder what Johnny wants for Christmas, or Sarah hopes for during Hanukkah, or what that person who has everything might actually need, what if we analyzed data in the same way?
More importantly, how might this way of thinking improve sales prospecting and customer satisfaction? According to Mark Flaharty, executive vice president of advertising at SundaySky, a vendor of marketing videos, “The most important evolution in the history of marketing is the ability to understand what data you have, what data you can get, how to organize and, ultimately, how to activate the data.”
If one were to replace the word “person” for every “data” in Flaharty’s comment, how might that change our perspective in marketing to senior living prospects? “The most important evolution in the history of marketing is the ability to understand what person you have, what person you can get, how to organize (reach) and, ultimately, how to activate (move) the person.”
In the particularly person-centric arena of senior living, where the priceless quality of life is what is being marketed, the “data equals people” equation is even more significant. Because needs and wants are so much more substantial in this domain than they would be in, say, the potato chip industry, senior living professionals cannot afford to miss any avenues to invaluable data (that is, invaluable people).
While data gathering and analysis are ever-evolving, ever complex, and increasingly ubiquitous (one can barely make a move these days without it being noted and leveraged for future appeals to that individual), these advances in data are also ever-enlightening and tremendously powerful in understanding, attracting and acquiring senior residents and their families.
The right marketing team can help you comprehend, navigate and employ the vital channels you need to engage and move viable senior housing prospects. What’s more, your team of experts can help you lead with the realization that, underneath all the technology, data means people — not just during the holidays, but all year long.
On behalf of the entire IVY Marketing team, we wish you and all the special people in your lives a holiday season filled with peace and joy.
IVY Marketing. Come Grow With Us.
Our clients in the senior housing industry know first-hand how difficult it is for seniors and their families to come to a decision about whether they should move from their own dwelling to a senior living community. Whether those decisions must be made quickly, based on a crisis or sudden change in health, or families can take their time exploring options, constructive conversations – ideally in advance of acute developments – are key to a smooth transition.
As niche specialists in marketing in senior living (and adult children of aging/ailing parents ourselves), we at IVY would like to share what we’ve learned about signs that an older loved one might need help and how to have productive conversations that include the whole family – first and foremost, our beloved seniors.
I. Signs Your Aging Loved One Might Need Help
- Personal neglect: Have they slowed or stopped carrying out their everyday hygiene, dressing and grooming?
- Mobility issues: Do they appear to have difficulty getting around or lack steadiness? Do they have trouble standing up from a seated position? Are there any bruises or scrapes that may indicate that they’ve fallen or bumped into furniture?
- Memory impairment: Do they exhibit signs of memory loss at a level that is concerning? Do they seem uncertain or confused when performing once-familiar tasks? Are they missing important dates or getting lost in conversations?
- Poor housekeeping: How does their home look? Are there piles of laundry lying around or spoiled food in the refrigerator? It’s unhealthy to live in a household that’s dirty and unsafe to live in a home that is cluttered.
- Dramatic weight loss: Have they lost a noticeable amount of weight? Weight loss in the elderly is not uncommon. However, if it’s dramatic, it might indicate a serious health issue, depression, a loss of ability to prepare meals, or worry about budgeting for food.
- Social inactivity: Are they socially withdrawn? Isolation is terrible for both physical and mental health. As one ages, positive social engagement is still crucial. It just becomes more difficult to find.
- Questionable judgment: Are they exhibiting poor judgment, such as excessive spending or making uncharacteristic purchases? Are they easily taken in by phone/mail/online scams?
- Social miscues: Are they making uncharacteristic comments or responding inappropriately to friends, family or strangers? Do they seem to lack a “filter” in social situations that is unusual for them?
- Driving incidents: Are they safe driving? Are there unexplained dents and scratches on the car?
- Money mishaps: Do they seem to have difficulty managing money and finances? Are there unpaid bills, late payment notices, bounced checks or calls from bill collectors?
- Medication missteps: Are they taking medications properly? Check your parents’ prescriptions to make sure they’re being taken regularly and at the correct dosages.
- Chronic health issues: Are they struggling with frequent problems, such as urinary tract infections (UTI’s), dizziness, “seeing things” that aren’t there? Hallucinations and light-headedness are common symptoms of nutritional and/or electrolyte deficiencies, often due to dehydration. UTI’s are a common result of dehydration.
If you notice any of these signs on a persistent basis, it may be time to talk with your parent and/or their healthcare advisor. A good benchmark is the presence of any one or more of these indicators at least half of the time you’re with your parent. Pay attention to reports of these signs from others who spend time with your parent as well, such as friends or neighbors. If possible, stay in touch with these people for confidential updates, particularly if you’re not able to be with your parent often.
II. How to Have Constructive Conversations
Given that your parent is probably aware that they are “slipping” and that their world is narrowing, discussions about their future are likely to be laden with emotion. More than anything, you will need to approach these talks with compassion and understanding. Here are some further suggestions for beginning the conversation:
Don’t delay: The optimal time to broach the subject is as soon as you notice something’s “different” about mom or dad—before things begin to decline even further or a crisis situation arises.
Have a plan: Now is not the time to improvise. It’s important to consider the things you wish to discuss with your parent in advance. Rehearse or even “role play” what you will say and how you’ll bring up certain topics. Come prepared with key points to raise and ask yourself in advance what you wish to gain from the conversation. Try to anticipate how your parent will react and how you’ll respond to each possible scenario.
Enlist family members: Don’t go this potentially rough road alone. Join with other family members (your parent’s spouse included, if applicable) in formulating a discussion plan ahead of time. It’s crucial for everyone to be on the same page and present a united front. It may also be helpful to designate a certain family member as “leader” of conversations, one who can keep the process going and make sure that everyone agrees to and understands it.
Empower your parent: While you’re rallying your family team, keep in mind that your parent is the most influential member of the conversation. Listen to them attentively and compassionately; ask them questions about their desires, concerns and fears, while also impressing upon them that a comprehensive plan is essential. Assure them that the entire family is part of the decision process, and you’re all in this together.
Be straightforward: Don’t complicate things by hiding negative information or “sugarcoating” realities. Be honest and forthcoming about changes, concerns, limitations and possibilities. Be sure to also offer hope in the foundation of your support and strength as a family unit.
Offer to accompany your parent on doctor visits: “Four ears are better than two” is a great rule of thumb for anyone having a medical consultation, particularly an aging loved one. Offer to help your parent schedule doctor or healthcare visits and commit to attending them with him or her. This may be assuring to your parent as well as helpful in gathering and grasping important information.
Take it in stages: If time allows and you are not in an immediately critical situation, be careful not to overwhelm your parent with too much discussion at once. Respect their wishes to take a break from the topic, while gently stressing that the conversations need to continue. Agree upon an appropriate time and place to meet again before you part ways and remind your parent ahead of time of your next discussion.
We at IVY understand that the seniors in our midst are precious – our most valuable human assets. Our clients in the senior living arena ensure the best living for older adults, and we are honored to be their partners in telling the world what that really means.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
As marketing and public relations professionals in the senior housing niche, we at IVY are intimately aware of the unique challenges and rewards of the journey from individual homeownership to retirement community living.
Not only have we nearly 30 years of experience crafting the right messages and communications for those seniors and their loved ones contemplating a move to a senior living environment, we have personal and very deeply felt connections to this life transition in our own families.
Choice or Necessity?
What are the “right messages” for this monumental decision? Let’s start by saying that sometimes it’s not a decision at all. All too often, people are forced into a situation that requires care beyond what they or their family can provide, and they must “go somewhere” on a dime. In such cases, the sales cycle is short, and decisions are based principally on price and proximity to the primary family care taker.
A move to community senior living, however, should not be a dire necessity. This is not how our clients wish to welcome new residents. Still, that predicament is likely and understandable, as many of us are hesitant to move from the perceived independence associated with managing our own homes unless we have to.
The Beautiful Truth
Indeed, while senior living has evolved dramatically over the past decade, much slower to change is the perception by the aging population of their options. It’s extremely difficult to get past seniors’ preconceived notions of what “those places” are like and share the reality of the vibrant, engaging, carefree lifestyle that awaits them.
But share we must. The absolute truth is that our retirement community clients offer opportunities and freedom that older adults never dared imagine. The messages we help our clients to convey are, quite simply, that a senior living environment is an optimal choice.
Today’s senior living communities are stunning – not only in their physical accommodations, but in all they have to offer their residents – endless possibilities they would never have had the chance or inclination to experience before, and the liberty to pursue them without the burdens of managing a household.
Friendships blossom and flourish in senior living communities; loneliness and depression fade like the stress and fear associated with the move in the first place.
Undeniably, fear and stress are realities for most people contemplating a move to a retirement community. For most potential buyers of senior housing, the move signals that they are aging, an acknowledgment few relish. It is also one of the most expensive decisions to make and has a sense of finality to it, because many assume that a senior community is the last place they will ever live.
This is not something we or our clients try to downplay or disguise. We know that effective marketing for senior living must include honest addressing of prospects’ concerns as well as profound understanding of just how different this industry is from others. Rarely is an offering as life-altering as senior housing, and most markets are not subjected to such intellectual or emotional disconnect.
Bridging the head and heart can take a very long time for independent living accommodations where residents do not need assisted or skilled care. It also takes many visits, calls and assurances from a trusted source, usually the sales person, as well as other residents to close the deal. It is not uncommon for there to be 12-14 interactions with a potential resident prior to making the sale of an independent senior living residence. Once the decision to buy into or rent at an independent senior living community is made, it becomes a logical, well-planned transition without the emotional acceptance.
Sharing the Truth
We are as excited to tell everyone about our clients’ amazing communities as they are!
Strong is the bond we have with our clients in senior housing, and great are its rewards. Our team has true partnerships with those we serve, bringing talent, skill and the latest trends and technology to the table as well as regular presence in their communities (telling the wonderful stories of both staff and residents), constant encouragement and enthusiasm, and in-depth knowledge of the exceptionally unique process of marketing senior living.
Our niche expertise in senior housing helps guide the lengthy process of making sales, all the while ensuring that messaging is relevant, useful and consistent. Our experience in the market also helps new clients determine their brand positioning – how they’re going to stand out among competitors.
Because we’re so entrenched in senior living, we can steer our clients in campaigns with fresh content, creative advertising and a blend of up-to-the-minute digital and traditional strategies to keep them top of mind and eventually drive sales into target markets.
We at IVY Marketing have the distinct challenge, and joy, of helping shift misconceptions and, in doing so, helping seniors discover what should and truly can be their golden years.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that the Baby Boom generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) is coming into retirement. The oldest Boomers are expected to move into a retirement community within the next 10 years, with the youngest about 30 years away. Ten years ago, there were nearly 40,000 senior living communities in the U.S. (including all levels of care). Given the coming “boom,” that number is sure to rise dramatically. According to the New York Times, there will be 71 million Americans over the age of 65 by the year 2030.
Undoubtedly, the competition among new senior housing communities stands to be fierce as supply meets growing demand. These developments will have to announce themselves early and often to be heard above the jackhammers and power saws building more and more senior housing. While new construction projects create a literal “buzz” on their own, there is much more to successful marketing than hulking cranes and a few signs heralding a fabulous new community on the rise.
Indeed, the time to think about marketing for new senior housing is well before the foundation is laid, beginning with a market study and plan after building is approved by the city. Then creative should enter the picture for logo, look, website and message, followed by community mailings and awareness at least three months in advance of your grand opening.
The elements of a successful marketing strategy in modern times are varied and many, and several experts agree that attempting to achieve success without an agency is costly and ultimately inefficient. That may seem counter-intuitive, but the average annual expense of hiring a marketing manager is roughly $80,000 more than contracting with an agency, not to mention that an agency can offer all the necessary talent and services that a single person simply cannot handle.
Marketing for new construction senior housing is considerably more granular, requiring niche expertise and “ground up” tactics unique to the industry. It’s interesting to note too that because senior housing is associated with health care, retirement communities are freer to build than, say, hotels or residential high-rises, as lending and government entities are less wary of financial failure if the economy turns.
Robust marketing strategies for new senior housing (as well as commercial property, health care and non-profit organizations) can be encapsulated in IVY Marketing’s M.A.P.S. approach. M.A.P.S. is a comprehensive, turn-key marketing solution based on solid market research identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT).
Market Study discovers opportunities based on field and statistical examination of existing market needs, cultures and competitors.
Advertising encompasses the development of your marketing plan, name, logo and brand identity, providing the cornerstone of your outdoor and trailer signage, digital and print collateral, website, direct mail, and all consumer awareness strategies, including publicity and media pitches.
Online content marketing will not only create consumer awareness with messages that are strategic, seductive and strong, it will also build SEO that drives traffic to your website long before residents move in.
Few industries benefit from special events like senior housing. Seeing is believing, and you can show prospects the unique features of your community even before building is complete by hosting pre- or mid-construction events, on or offsite, that pave the way for future residents. Panoramic photos, architectural renderings and wallboards are just some of the materials you can use to help prospects envision life at your community. (Food and beverages are a must, too!) And just imagine the event possibilities when your doors officially open!
As your marketing partners from the ground up, IVY provides you with the market analysis, advertising, public relations and special events (M.A.P.S.) you need to occupy your fabulous new community with equally fabulous new friends.
Did you know? IVY’s comprehensive M.A.P.S. approach can also help launch your commercial property, health care or not-for-profit organization.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Last week, we examined the who, why, what and where of event marketing. Here, we will look at how to promote your event and measure its results.
How to Promote?
Here’s where your senior marketing experts can be your heroes. In addition to creating awesome collateral and content around your event (your event is content!) and utilizing all available online, print and (if applicable) broadcast channels to promote your event, your marketing professionals can help you monitor registration, ticketing, tracking, and timelines.
Print materials such as direct mail, newspapers and magazines as well as radio and TV, if your budget supports it, and phone calls work particularly well with seniors. However, online avenues such as websites, hashtags, SEO, email campaigns and blogs should also be employed, and social media platforms (particularly Facebook) provide golden opportunities to highlight your event before, during and after.
*Smart Tip: Don’t publicize the time of your event online, requiring guests who have not received an invitation to call you for further details. This creates a “buzz” about your active community and attracts people you wouldn’t know to intentionally invite. Set up extra seating to accommodate this audience and be sure to seize the opportunity to gather their contact information and offer them a tour of your community on the day of your event.
ROI is perhaps more important to event marketing than any other form of marketing, given the time and effort that goes into planning, execution and post-event analysis. Here are some metrics by which you can measure success before, during and after your event:
- Total registrations let you know in advance who your event is attracting and how many will be attending (you’ll need to determine if there is a close date for registrations or if any walk-ins will be welcome; see “Smart Tip” above). As a general rule, paid events guarantee fewer no-shows, while free events may render your final numbers a little trickier. But don’t despair; registration yields a lot of advance insight. Slicing information provides even more, such as which months/weeks saw the highest registration/ticket activity, which types of tickets (if applicable) were the most popular, etc. Various event marketing technologies are particularly helpful in assessing event success.
- Total check-ins offer valuable insights as well, particularly if there is a high discrepancy between check-ins and registrations. Any such disparity would be worth investigating by following up with absent registrants.
- Social media engagement allows attendees to share comments and photos with their friends and family (remember, the majority of seniors are on Facebook) about your event, even as it’s happening. Social media fosters enthusiasm before, during and after your event and sharing with others. If your keynote speakers, entertainers, etc. have social media pages, be sure to encourage attendees to comment on them, too. This will also encourage your speakers, musicians, etc. and their followers to engage with your community as well.
- Survey your attendees – Provide a convenient way for attendees to offer feedback on their satisfaction with your event, preferably before they leave your doors, although additional follow-up phone calls, direct mail or emails are also wise tactics. Soliciting open-ended comments is insightful, as is a Net Promoter Score, measuring how likely guests are to recommend your event or community to someone else:
- Cost to revenue ratio – Even if your event is free, costs to you will certainly be incurred. Measuring what your event costs against what it garnered in terms of your goals is crucial to assessing whether this kind of event is worth repeating or, if not, what can be done differently.
- Customer acquisition – The gold standard of ROI, acquiring customers is the end goal in any sales-oriented industry. Senior housing is unique, however, in that you’re providing a lifestyle; indeed, quality of life. Positively reaching prospects through your event is paramount. First and foremost, unless a guest refuses to provide it, make sure to get all visitors’ contact information, including an active email address, at the very least (this can be achieved at registration as well) and any other information they’re willing to share. Be sure to be honest and straightforward as to why you’re gathering information about your guests, as vague, cagey answers are a turn-off and counterproductive. A short survey asking such things as why they attended your event and how likely they are to move to a senior community and when, for example, will instruct you in how to target these prospects in the future. And, DO reach out to them again in the future! Don’t waste the opportunity to capture someone’s attention – on your turf – only to let them go because of lackluster follow-through.
- Whom NOT to invite – All senior communities have people come to their events who will never become residents. If you have had personal discussions with such guests and are certain they will never be residents, remove them from your invitation list. They already know enough about your community to recommend it to others.
Seniors are the perfect demographic for event marketing, and senior living communities are the ideal venue to get a taste (literally!) of life at your community. Let our team of experts help you make the most of your events – before, during and after.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.