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. 

Good Listening Makes Great Marketing – Part I

Good Listening Makes Great Marketing – Part I

People buy a story, not a brand. In the current age of content marketing, this has never been more true, yet so many tasked with hearing their audiences fail to truly connect with them. Why? Because they fail to listen, and no matter how much time and money is spent in the effort, meaningful consumer engagement is compromised. There can be no good storytelling without good listening.

Effective listening applies to everything from big business to private conversations. Hearing is a physical ability; listening is a skill.

While Marketing 101 traditionally dictates a focus on the positive, sometimes we understand better what to do when we know what not to do, especially if we recognize the undesirable behavior in ourselves. (What’s more, neuroscience suggests that humans are more influenced by bad than good.) Therefore, let’s outline some qualities of poor listening that can also translate into poor marketing.

How to Lose an Audience in 10 Seconds

  • Push your own agenda. Angling for your own motive or gain, whether you’re embarking upon a widespread campaign or simply chatting with your neighbor, is not listening. It conveys that you’re not really interested in the needs, desires or concerns of whomever you’re communicating with; you’re mainly in it for yourself.
  • Steal the thunder. We all know that person who barely lets you get a word out before they jump into their own experience. Marketing efforts can have the same self-preoccupied effect. Brands that boast about the sales they’ve made or lists they’ve topped demonstrate that they’re more interested in touting their own accomplishments than knowing and meeting consumers’ needs.
  • Preach/judge/mock. Few people share a story or experience with someone so that person can shame them or tell them what they should have done instead. Yet, some folks take that opportunity to chide, advise or even ridicule, rather than to simply listen, sympathize or offer real solutions. That mentality has infiltrated more than a few marketing campaigns, too, particularly those that showcase clueless fools whom others can laugh at or feel superior to. Intelligent, thoughtful consumers are turned off by these cheap shots that appeal to the lowest common denominator.
  • Be ingenuine. Consider the many ads featuring actors saying things no one would really say, least of all consumers. Contrived, out-of-touch messaging does not resonate with real audiences. It is insincere, ineffective and shows that you have little grasp on your target market. Perhaps this is why campaigns that humorize true self (think Progressive’s “we can’t save you from becoming your parents” and CitiBank’s voice-throwing identity theft campaigns) are so well-received.
  • Rush things along. Has anyone ever checked their watch or a text while you were talking? Likely, you were less apt to continue at all than to continue more quickly. Marketing and sales efforts that push people to act before they’re ready have the same dissociating effect. Issuing a call-to-action is an important feature of a solid campaign, but it must be done with a keen sensitivity to where people are on the customer journey. That can only be accomplished by listening to what they’re saying – and sometimes what they’re not. For those with the opportunity to meet prospects in person, body language says a lot.
  • Trivialize. Just as it’s rarely wise to tell someone “it’s not that bad,” or “you’re making too much of this,” it’s equally isolating to make light of consumers’ needs and concerns. Consumers respond to brands that acknowledge the gravity of a pain point and don’t try to pretty it up, as if all is right with the world. Any brand that promises they hold the key to eternal happiness will likely be met with great skepticism. As prescription drug campaigns have increased dramatically, it’s hard not to notice the litany of side effects, some arguably worse than the original condition, juxtaposed against all those “shiny, happy people.”
  • Interrupt. Cutting in on someone who’s talking implies many things, first of which is, “what you’re saying is so unimportant, I’m just going to rail right over you.” Indeed, modern consumers can feel railroaded by the barrage of sponsored content, particularly online, that yanks them away from their train of thought. A much more effective approach is to create content that is intrinsically meaningful, customer-centric and organically share-worthy.

In Part II of this blog, our team of experts will share how to employ the good listening tactics that define not only healthy personal connections, but also outstanding storytelling and successful consumer relationships.

IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.

 

 

 

 

 

10 Truths for Content Marketing in 2019

10 Truths for Content Marketing in 2019

  1. Content Marketing IS Marketing
    Of all the developments on the horizon for content marketing in 2019, it is perhaps a shift in paradigm that is most significant. Simply put, content marketing is marketing. Whereas 10 years ago, content was a good thing for marketers to have as an aside to traditional strategies, it is now synonymous with marketing as a whole. Without quality content, marketers cannot establish the two-way communication that is essential to today’s successful consumer relationships.
  2. Video Is Vital
    Video has enormous capacity to capture and keep consumers’ attention. Marketers of the future cannot survive without it. In particular, YouTube (where all marketing videos should land first) has become the second largest search engine, with Google in the first place position.Consider these recent statistics:

 

Clearly, the production and distribution of video content is vital to a viable content marketing campaign. Even if your content is generated by a smart phone, any “action!” is better than none. You can become more sophisticated when time and funds allow, but get rolling now!

  1. Personalization Is Paramount
    According to Psychology Todayfeeling understood is even more important than feeling loved. Knowing who your audience is and what makes them tick is the heart and soul of successful marketing. Marketers who employ highly targeted content are far more likely to create lasting relationships with their customers and prospects than those who are taking stabs in the dark. A 2017 study showed that 79% of companies that exceeded their revenue goals had a personalized digital media strategy in place.No matter how things change in the digital marketing realm, the guiding principle is sure to stay the same: reach the right audience with the right message at the right time in the right way. Personalized content does that best, and not only do consumers welcome targeted messages, they expect it.
  2. Artificial Intelligence Fosters Real Relationships
    While it may seem counter-intuitive that a machine could help form real bonds, nothing could be truer when it comes to marketing with artificial intelligence. Not only does AI (robots, chatbots, algorithms and, eventually, the Internet of Things) shoulder a lot of the “grunt work” traditional marketers had to do, freeing them up to focus on consumer relationships, it also facilitates a more personal, “human” customer experience.Among other capabilities, AI-based marketing can:

    • Customize one-to-one with consumers’ demographics, timing and intent
    • Offer audiences personalized website and social media experiences
    • Enable natural language processing (voice search)
    • Gather and catalog large quantities of data to create accurate customer profiles
    • Identify valuable leads
    • Personalize up-sells and cross-sells
    • Serve relevant messages to prospective customers
    • Generate personalized emails based on customer preferences
    • Judge and respond to human emotions in real time through affective computing technology
  1. Data Is Compulsory
    Analytics will play an even greater role in 2019, as increasingly sophisticated tracking reveals pinpointed consumer insights that marketing budgeters have come to demand. Knowing exactly who is engaging with what content, for how long, on which platform or pages, and when, is invaluable information that businesses now require in determining their marketing ROI. Marketers of the future must be able to supply this information on a regular basis, not only to produce the highly personalized content discussed above but to satisfy client expectations.
  2. Strategy Is Key
    As marketers come to embrace the reality that content marketing is marketing itself, they must also define goals specific to their content. This calls for a guiding, documented strategy. Sixty-five percent of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy, identifying goals such as lead generation, thought leadership, and SEO. But, as different companies have different goals, no one content strategy fits all. Once unique goals are identified, a documented plan keeps content on task, on track, and intentional about achieving objectives. A documented strategy also allows team members to see what content is and is not working. “Documented strategy is self-correcting,” says content strategist Michael Brenner.
  3. Customer Journey Leads the Way
    Have you ever engaged with a brand to the point of purchase, only to feel abandoned after your wallet entered the picture? That’s a common experience among consumers and one that content marketers must eliminate. The traditional marketing funnel that starts with anyone and everyone and ends with a monetary transaction is moving toward a more fluid, sustainable model. This new version emphasizes customer success throughout the buyer journey, regardless of purchase. It’s about relationships; appropriate content allows marketers to transition from vendors to partners, earning lasting consumer trust and loyalty.
  4. Topic Clusters Boost SEO and Consumer Trust
    As much is known about search engine optimization, there is still so much to learn and understand. (Read our two-part primer on SEO.) But one trend is emerging that deserves particular attention: topic clusters. For brands to position themselves as trusted, respected thought leaders, they need to build content around certain core topics. Deliberate information architecture clearly and methodically demonstrates that owned content is authoritative and attention-worthy – gaining valuable notice from both search engines and consumers.Topic clusters center upon pillar, or hub, content to which more granular sub-topics are connected via hyperlinks. As for SEO, when one cog in the wheel does well, the entire cluster gets a boost in the rankings.

    Source: hubspot.com

  5. Distribution Drives Success
    What good is great content if no one sees it? Distribution is as important as content itself. As long as there are multiple channels of dissemination, casting a wide net continues to be good practice. While social media has gotten the lion’s share of powerful reach, marketers need to remain proactive, open and enthusiastic to all forms of distribution. Perhaps your content could benefit from email marketing, special events, speaking engagements, print, TV or radio ads, or even direct mail (yes, it’s still worth the cost and effort). As author and marketing expert John Hall puts it, “Passive distribution – or worse, distribution you do as an afterthought once you realize no one is engaging with your content – won’t cut it.”
  6. Quality Content Is King
    “Content Is King” is well on its way to becoming a cliché. But just because a glut of content is out there doesn’t mean it’s all good. In fact, much of it is not good at all. No matter how far technology takes us, there is still no substitute for quality content creation and sensitive application to products, services and niche expertise. Just as poor, irrelevant content will drive a wedge between B2B and B2C possibilities, truly meaningful, engaging content that speaks to audiences where they are – or where they want to be – will build bridges that lead to lasting consumer relationships.

 

Our team of experts is here to help you navigate the future of content marketing – today.

IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US. 

Everyone Has a Story, And Video Tells Yours Best

Everyone Has a Story, And Video Tells Yours Best

 

Consider these compelling facts and figures about the power of video marketing:

  • There are over 73 million video viewers every year
  • 50% of online traffic comes from video viewing
  • 92% of video viewers share videos with others
  • Consumers are at least 64% more likely to purchase a product or service with video representation
  • 75% of business professionals watch promotional videos of relevant products and services at least once a week
  • Videos bring a clearer understanding of product and service benefits
  • Facebook’s algorithm is said to favor videos over other content marketing
  • Videos offer an immediate association to and connection with products and services
  • Visual media gives consumers greater confidence in their purchases
  • Videos lend trust and credibility to the companies and organizations that display them
  • Video content increases sales conversion rates

IVY’s team of experts can create live-action or animated videos like the one here to tell your unique story and bring more traffic to, and engagement with, your website, social media and marketing collateral.

Top photo credit: Complete Business Online

IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.

Modern Content Marketing: A World of Possibilities

Modern Content Marketing: A World of Possibilities

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.

 

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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