Virtual Doors Open Literal Doors:
 10 Characteristics of a Truly Outstanding Senior Community Website

Virtual Doors Open Literal Doors:
 10 Characteristics of a Truly Outstanding Senior Community Website

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

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.  
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.  
  6. 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. 
  7. 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. 
  8. 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. 
  9. 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. 
  10. 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. 

Responsive Design Brings Your Site Back to Life

Responsive Design Brings Your Site Back to Life

If what scientists are saying about human adaptive evolution is true – that it’s accelerating – then perhaps the future of homosapien development means that people will be born with downward-bent necks due to our prolific use of mobile devices.

Okay, so maybe that’s a bit out there, but fading fast are the days of folks accessing the Internet predominantly from their desktop computers. Since 2014, the number of mobile-only Internet users in the U.S. has grown from 24.6 to 37.3 percent. That rate is expected to grow to 42 percent, or 279 million, by 2020.

Websites can no longer survive with design that does not fit consumers wherever they are – literally. Coined “responsive design” by Ethan Marcotte back in 2010, the ability for one website to quickly and automatically adapt to whatever device one is using (whether desktop/laptop, phone, tablet, watch) is paramount to successful online customer experiences.

Before the development of responsive design moved into the mainstream, mobile users had to pinch, scroll, swipe, pan, zoom, and all but jump through hoops to get the information they wanted from websites that weren’t built to respond to their online environment. They became frustrated and quickly moved on.

Websites without responsive design leave visitors frustrated and likely to move on to other sites.

To mitigate the problem, web designers created mobile templates, whereby a second website or subdomain was built in addition to the primary site to respond to mobile use. But, given the new generations of devices cropping up all the time, the time and cost involved in creating separate templates for each would be astronomical, and the effort impractical.

Responsive design is coded such that one website adapts seamlessly and expediently to all screen sizes, resolutions and platforms. The benefits of responsive design are many, and websites without it are undeniably suffering:

  • Positive user experience – If visitors to your site can easily and quickly find what they’re looking for, they’re going to stay longer and engage more. Bounce rates will dramatically decrease.
  • Competitive Edge – The absence of responsive design is glaringly apparent to anyone visiting your site. Implementing responsive design gives you an immense and immediate advantage over the competition.
  • Increased social involvement – Nearly 80 percent of social media engagement happens on a mobile device. If your site is not easily seen or navigable from all platforms, audiences will be much less able to share and engage in the viral ways that are vital to your brand.
  • Better conversions – A responsive website smoothly facilitates the actions you wish your visitors to take, whether it is to read a blog, respond to a CTA, make a comment…all the things that foster engagement with your brand and, ultimately, satisfy your ROI.
  • Better SEO Search engines rank websites with responsive design higher than those without. Responsive design is perceived as more relevant and more able to give searchers precisely what they’re looking for, whatever their online environment.
  • Better branding – Because responsive design draws from one main website, as opposed to several templates or subdomains, displays across all devices are unified in look, style and brand identity.
  • Speedier loads Google PageSpeed standards recommend that pages designed for mobile users load in under two seconds. A website without responsive design rarely loads in a mobile environment in this amount of time. Waiting too long for a page to load often causes consumers to leave a site.
  • Lower costs – Creating multiple templates and subdomains for all the many devices on the market costs time and money. Responsive design professionals can program one website to adapt to several platforms, resulting in considerable savings.
  • Sustainability – Technically speaking, responsive design is based on screen size, not device. This has significant ramifications for the future, including the Internet of Things, because whether one’s field of view occupies an inch of space or a whole square block, your website will still look properly proportioned and attractive.

If your website is dying in the Digital Age, revitalize it with truly responsive design. Let our team of experts show you all that responsive design can do for your website, and your business as a whole.

Does your website have responsive design? Let us know how we can help improve or implement this technology on your company’s site.

IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.

 

 

Responsive Design Brings Your Site Back to Life

Slay the Competition With a Killer Home Page

Have you ever wondered what might have been had you made one move differently? Say in one scenario, you fall asleep and miss your train stop home from a nowhere job. At the next stop, the doors open and you’re the first to get off. The next train back isn’t for a few hours, so you wait it out in a coffee shop, where you meet someone who offers you an exciting new job opportunity. In the other scenario, you get off the train at your usual stop and remain where you are for the next 10 years. Yawn.

Website home pages are kind of like those two scenarios. A weak home page is the marketing equivalent of a shut door, and you miss the chance at a great prospect or conversion. Forever. A killer home page, on the other hand, will open all kinds of doors and invite a whole new world of possibilities into your company.

Not only is your home page that critical, and only, chance to make a first impression, it’s also the oldest, most advertised URL on your site with the most accumulated inbound links and direct visits.

So how do you get a killer home page? It’s not easy, let’s start with that.

PRE-FAB IS NOT FAB
Sure, there are all kinds of pre-fabricated web templates out there that will cost you little at first and, very likely, a lot in the end. In addition to being insufferably generic, cookie cutter websites are highly susceptible to hackers, spammers and myriad security issues. They are also frustratingly restrictive in that they do not, cannot, consider your individual needs because they have no customization abilities, unless you’re willing to pay a lot for new code or wrangle with it yourself. Ugh.

Plain and simple, a custom website designed by a professional working with your company and tending to your needs – and yours alone – is vital to a successful business gateway.

8 ESSENTIALS OF A KILLER HOME PAGE
Here are some non-negotiables that every website, particularly its home page, must possess to attract visitors and get them to stay more than three seconds. (Three seconds is the lowest bar, of course; you want visitors to stick around for hours and return time and again.)

Curb appeal: First and foremost, your home page must create a positive emotional response in visitors. A clean, uncluttered layout, compelling graphics reflective of who you really are, and digestible copy that is well-written, easily understood, convincing, and engaging – all at once – will capture consumers psychologically and inspire them to explore your site further.
Clear value proposition: What does your business do for customers that others do not? This question must be answered immediately, succinctly, and without hyperbole. A web-skilled marketing team can help you identify exactly what differentiates you in the marketplace and most benefits your target audience.
Orderly navigation: Nothing is more aggravating for visitors than hunting and pecking for answers on your site, and they’re likely to give up trying. Your marketing experts can help you anticipate your audiences’ needs and determine which menu options belong on the home page and how best to organize them upfront and sub-categorically throughout your site.
Calls-to-action: Steer your visitors in what to do on your site with clear calls-to-action on the home page, whether it is to contact you, schedule a tour, view your pricing, etc.
Blog: Blogs build trust in your brand in a way that other marketing communications cannot. They don’t push a sale; rather, they offer information that is meaningful to visitors in some way, whether or not they ever engage in a purchase. If your company has a blog – and it should – put it on your home page, where it can’t be missed. Your marketing team can help you develop and create the right content for your blog.
Content offers: Like blogs, content offers of an e-book, white paper or supplementary resources answer questions or solve problems for consumers without directly leading them to a sale. They build trust and foster connections that are indelibly associated with your company, laying the groundwork for future interaction with you.
Testimonials or social proof: Leverage existing clients’ positive experiences with your company with a few outstanding testimonials on your home page. Include any social media icons, too, so that visitors can follow you and see further evidence of customer satisfaction.
Promising images: Quite literally, icons and images can convey your company’s promises to consumers and should appear on your home page. In addition, trust builders such as star ratings, business accreditations and special awards should be prominently displayed in graphic format. Your marketing experts can create icons and images tailor-made to your unique company pledges.

The right marketing team can take your home page from “never had a chance” to broad new horizons you might never have known.

IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.

How To Create Your Online Newsroom

How To Create Your Online Newsroom

Sample online newsroom courtesy of Press-Feed.

Nearly 80% of people access an organization’s website before engaging further with a company.  The numbers are even higher for media journalists and producers.

In a Norman/Nielson Study, over 99% of journalists and producers search your website first, before calling you, asking for quotes to include in their aritcles or publishing your press releases.  Not only are journalists seriously time crunched, they have been very direct and specific about the way they want to be able to gain initial access and information about your organizaiton — through your website, according to Sally Falkow, president of Press-Feed.

From your home or landing page,media and other people wanting to know about your organization, its leadership, mission, position, etc. should be able to access your online newsroom.  Press-Feed has designed a news room that looks and feels like your website but allows the media,customers and prospects to access the background, facts, news and philosophical informaiton about our organization from a single page.

Your news room should have these individual sections accessible from the news page in an easily readable format:

Media Contact Information with the name, all phone numbers and email addresss with the best times to readh the contact, if needed.

Current Articles prominently displayed with complete facts in bullet points:

  • Quotes from outside the organization pertaining to the article subject (including contact information so comments can be verified)
  • Photos pertaining to the aritcle subject
  • Video (if possible and appropriate) pertai8ning to the aritcle subject

 

A full background of your organization in bullet points:

  • Date established
  • Address of the main headquarters and business extensions
  • Comapny affiliations
  • Governing structure
  • Organizational management (at least names, photos and contact information for the Executive Committee)
  • Board of Directors (names, company names, email addresses)

 

Photos that define your services and graphics that can be downloaded, such as your logo

 

Who You Serve

  • By industry
  • By geography
  • By demographics
  • Any other relevant identifier

 

A list of your articles and White Papers

  • Possible video of the CEO talking about the industry and hos his-her organization is making a difference

 

 

It’s addicting!  The fast-paced, ever changing world of public relations and marketing captures your interest and keeps you charged up to learn more everyday.  I love to find the best ways to tell our client’s stories and man, they have awesome stories!

It’s my job to discover our client’s goals and then match the best processes to achieve them, within their budgets, of course.  I get to explore traditional, digital and every manner of communication to determine which tactics, whether it is direct mail or TV advertising, a new website or PPC (to name just a few) will efficiently and effectively capture the attention of prospects. 

I also get to work with great people at IVY – they’re creative, fun, caring and super smart.  We’ve all been around the industry a while so there is not a novice among us.  Our clients are very cool too and totally passionate about the services they offer.  We’ve been working with most of them for years so we know they truly care about being innovative and responsible to the markets they service.  I have great admiration for all of them and look forward to every day. 

It’s true what “they” say, if you love what you do, you won’t work a day of your life!

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IVY was established in 1990 with a basic premise to offer professional, ethical and highly creative marketing, advertising and public relations services. We have successfully maintained our core values and have been part of many amazing projects, client growth and changes in the world of marketing that continue to happen at lightening speed. Most of our clients serve older adults in some capacity so we keep abreast of the opportunities and challenges they face.   Each day, we keep it real and fun and consistently deliver positive results to our clients and their markets.

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As a hybrid graphic and digital designer/web developer with over 17 years of experience, I am always on the lookout for innovative digital and print visual communications. IVY Marketing Group’s broad range of projects keeps my job challenging and rewarding, as each campaign is a new and exciting opportunity to effectively communicate our clients’ messages and help them achieve their goals. It’s my passion!

My body of work encompasses a diverse design style and wide base of clients, ranging from national associations, small businesses and big name brands like Hyatt and LiftMaster. I firmly believe that form follows function and highly value the communicative power of simplicity. 

Areas of professional expertise include Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Word Press, Responsive Design, CSS3, and HTML5. The industries I’ve served include senior living, health care, hospitality and finance.

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All my life, I have loved writing. As a child, I could often be found in my room “writing a book.” While “novelist” is not (yet) on my resume, I am a storyteller. I believe that everyone and everything has a great story, and it is my joy to find that story and share it with the world.

After earning my bachelor’s degree in journalism and completing my master’s studies in the same field, I joined a small advertising agency with powerhouse clients in the hospitality industry, such as Hyatt, Hilton International and Carnival Cruise Lines. I began as a proofreader and achieved the position of senior copy writer within a year.

After my first son was born, followed by two more, I started a freelance writing business that included (among several others) such clients as Advocate Health Care and Coldwell-Banker Realty. Clients in the education arena included DeVry University’s Becker CPA and Stalla CFA Reviews, DePaul University, and Naperville School District 203, for which I won two state public relations awards.

For nine years, I was employed as Communications Director for a large faith community, where I managed all aspects of internal and external communications. I was writer, editor, designer, web master, and content manager.

As such, I am experienced and comfortable writing multimedia for a broad variety of industries, products and services.

I joined IVY Marketing Group in 2013, when I began writing client press releases on a freelance basis. I loved the work—and my teammates—so much, I was thrilled when I was invited to come on board in a greater capacity.

I have immensely enjoyed getting to know our valued clients in the senior housing industry, the people they serve, and telling the many wonderful stories that come out of content marketing done right—with the love and care our IVY teams puts into everything we do.

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It all starts with one idea. Working with the Ivy creative team for over two decades has always meant taking one great idea and bringing it to life to help our clients meet their goals. We enjoy the challenges offered with every creative opportunity and try to make the design process itself enjoyable for our clients.

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Making certain that the projects IVY produces are word- and picture-perfect is my specialty. But I also love implementing marketing campaigns and programs that bring our clients success. Details are my thing, so it is a pleasure to have worked with IVY twice now, first after college four years ago and, recently, for the past two years.

The IVY Group is a terrific team of creative, positive and talented professionals that I love working with and, judging from the length of stay of our clients, I think they love our team, too!

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Rock-climbing, training for an 80-floor stair climb event, running a 5K…This is just a tiny peek into what people 20 and even 30 years older than I am, are doing on a fairly regular basis at some of the retirement communities that IVY represents.

I’m of the generation that still has reoccurring nightmares about what the next step looked like when my grandmother could no longer live by herself. The very best option at that time was living at a “facility” and  included eating rubbery chicken and playing an occasional game of BINGO. Period. That’s why my parent’s generation begged us not to ever put them into “one of those places.”

I am so proud that IVY’s clients are at the very forefront of an industry that creates opportunities, challenges, and most of all freedom for seniors, allowing them to explore hobbies, interests, passions…the next chapter of their very full lives.

I feel reassured for my own future. Even more, I feel honored to be able to share the impactful stories about this paradigm shift in the world of senior housing. What we hear and see at our clients’ communities is fascinating and inspiring!

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Keeping up to date on new public relations strategies, online engagement tactics, and promotional tools is my passion.

With my hospitality background in marketing top Chicago restaurants and hotels, I was eager to bring fresh concepts and communication strategies to our clients and have really enjoyed learning various industries.

Our clients have such exciting and unique events and programs, which really makes it motivating for me to make the most of their content.  Results like increased sales leads, website visits and social media connections make everyday rewarding and interesting.

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I oversee, plan and implement projects and processes at IVY.  Often,  I am the conduit between our writers and designers, with printers, and other vendors to fulfill the marketing needs for our clients. I also manage media buys and coordinate production of advertisements.

Working for a flexible and fluid company that is constantly growing, changing and evolving is fun and rewarding. There is always something new to learn.

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My bio has a big blank in the beginning—Mom and Dad rescued me in Wisconsin, and no one really knows my origins. They were probably ruff. What matters though is where I am now, running IVY Marketing Group. There are humans here who think they’re in charge. In truth, they do actually have amazing experience in content marketing and public relations, but I’m super important and the center of attention. I mean, look at this face. Right? And I know I’m the top dog because honestly, I’m the only one allowed to sleep through staff meetings and eat things that people drop on the floor.

The fact is though that I truly love staying awake at staff meetings. Everyone talks and laughs and they’re always excited. That surprises me a little because it’s not like anyone has thrown a ball to play fetch or anything. But I guess what gets my pack of peoples’ tails wagging is their work and their clients. I don’t know what a website or a blog is, but I do know that my pack must be good at them because they’ve earned all sorts of awards for these and other things. My bed had to be moved because the framed certificates were taking up so much room. Despite the inconvenience, I’m proud of these awards!

I serve several important purposes at IVY. I always let Mom (and the world) know when the mailman is here. When people come into the office, just one (usually) quick non-invasive (usually) sniff, allows me to determine important characteristics…like if they had anything good for breakfast, own any pets (pet owners are the best!) or if they stepped in anything on the way in. (It’s sort of like me conducting a first job interview.) I generously share my tummy because I know people like to give it a good scratch. I always give kisses, whether one is feeling lonely or not. And I’m always happy to share someone’s meal, especially if they’re trying to lose weight. My pack describes me as being engaging, amusing, and entertaining. (When I hear a siren, I “sing” along and it makes them laugh.) NPR talks about the benefits of having a pet at the workplace. Studies show pets lower stress hormones and improve morale and productivity. I wholeheartedly agree that a dog in the workplace is the best thing since rawhide bones.

As for my pack of people at IVY…they are amazing and always make my tail wag!

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I could not be more thrilled to work alongside the IVY team.

For over 25 years, I have been employed in top executive positions across the Chicago area and have consistently built profitable businesses, generated sales, and developed and launched new product lines.

Strategically positioning companies and commodities for growth is a strong suit I’m eager to bring to ResponderHub™, IVY’s new crisis communications solution. I’m also excited to help expand IVY’s reach in the senior marketing industry.

I believe people are more open than ever to thinking outside the box and looking at new ways to reach their customer base, while at the same time reducing their cost of sale. The senior industry is exploding, and IVY is perfectly positioned to respond to the need for innovative, quality content marketing services and effective crisis communications.

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I love being able to use my skills to help improve other people’s lives, and with a growing elderly population, it’s important to create meaningful and user-friendly digital solutions to aid the senior living industry.I have a wide range of technology and design skills with a deep interest in Human-Computer Interaction– helping IVY provide outstanding web design and print design services. IVY has a long-proven track record of excellence, and I’m proud to be able to help carry on that tradition. 

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