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. 

The Unique Challenges (and Infinite Rewards) of Marketing Senior Living

The Unique Challenges (and Infinite Rewards) of Marketing Senior Living

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.

The Obstacles
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.

 

 

Mature Audiences Only: Event Marketing for Senior Housing Part I

Mature Audiences Only: Event Marketing for Senior Housing Part I

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.

Where?
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.

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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