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.
The viral advantages of online marketing are undisputed, but, until recently, most seniors were not regular Internet or social media users. Today, 67% of people 65+ use the Internet, and 62% are on Facebook, and those numbers are rising all the time. In fact, 82% of Baby Boomers belong to at least one social media site and spend two hours more per week online than those aged 16-34.
Despite seniors’ increasing adoption of the Internet into their daily lives, events are still the most effective way to generate relationships with customers and leads across all populations, particularly among people 65 and above. Eighty percent of marketers believe that event marketing is the single most effective marketing channel, and seniors have more time and opportunity than other demographics to attend events.
Let’s examine how to take full advantage of event marketing for the senior housing arena.
Why an Event?
Ask yourself what you’re trying to accomplish by hosting an event. Are you aiming to raise awareness of your senior community within the greater community (appropriate for a guest list of 50+ people); are you hoping to reach a smaller group of marketing qualified or sales accepted leads? Whatever your purpose, your event should conform to your overarching objective in every way—whether it is to raise awareness, gather contact information, clinch interested leads, raise funds, strengthen bonds with community partners, or simply entertain.
Live and In Person
Regardless of the reason for your event, there is no substitute for face-to-face communication, live and in the flesh. No amount of technological advancement or social media connections can change that. Live events provide invaluable opportunities to showcase your mission in action, property(ies)/services and foster lasting relationships with your prospects and stakeholders. Older adults who haven’t been glued to their electronic devices all their lives are likely to appreciate that more than most.
What Kind of Event?
The reason you’re having an event must govern the kind of event to host, with every detail falling in line with your primary goal. That said, because older adults generally have more breathing room in their lives, events that encourage lingering and facilitate learning and/or provide quality entertainment are especially effective. Seniors are seasoned, savvy and wise, but they are also continuously seeking new experiences.
Events should not only showcase your community inside and out (fair weather is best for outside events and tours); they should also feature speakers or presentations on topics of special interest to older adults and their families or cultural enlightenment. Even if they’re not yet ready for a move, your guests will remember the senior community that provided them with a memorable day or evening, and they’ll be much more likely to contact you when they are ready. Keep in mind, too, that older adults are accustomed to and motivated by incentives such as discounts for “early bird” registration, raffles and giveaways. Unless your overhead is considerable or you’re trying to raise charitable funds, offer free events instead of those that impose a cost to attend.
Your community is the ideal location to host an event, because it invites guests directly into the space you want them to call home. There, you can let them experience not only your residences, but your fabulous dining and amenities, too. Larger venues are appropriate if you’re partnering with other sponsors in a conference or trade show setting that is focused on your industry rather than your senior living community(ies) per se, or if you’re celebrating a grand occasion or milestone with a sizable guest list and require more space.
How Many and Whom to Invite?
First, invite no more than your community can very comfortably accommodate. There should be plenty of dining space and food/beverages (including seconds), mingling areas, manned check-in stations, commodious seating/staging arranged appropriately for your focus activity, adequate lighting, handicap accessibility, apartments to tour, restroom accommodations, amenities/common areas to showcase or try out, and friendly staff to handle all of these offerings and answer any questions. As for whom to invite, check your goals again. Most senior event guest lists include resident prospects first and foremost, their adult children, friends, caregivers, grandchildren (if appropriate), your marketing and sales teams, community partners, donors, and any key players in the life of your community.
Watch for “Mature Audiences Only: Event Marketing for Senior Housing Part II” next week (or next month, in the case of our newsletter), when we will examine how to promote your event and assess results.