While October ushers in fall, the end of daylight savings and Halloween, it’s also budget season.
Developing marketing budgets was not my favorite job responsibility while I was vice president of marketing at Levitt Homes but over the course of time, budgets became easier to plan because there was historical data to draw upon and my experience grew opening assisted living and continuing care communities.
If you are responsible for your assisted living or continuing care community’s marketing budget, this may be a good time to plan for some marketing strategies you may not have considered.
Here are ten line items you may want to include in your 2016 budget:
1. Marketing assessment
It’s worthwhile each year to conduct a marketing assessment and have your community seen from a third party and critiqued. Basically, a marketing assessment audits customer first impressions and experiences. It better helps you understand if there are areas of weakness needing improvement. Marketing assessments may include resident and family focus groups, reputation analysis, and media awareness. Our marketing assessments include analysis of the website and ease in using it, ability to request information, speed in internet responses and more. We assess telephone experiences between a customer and the community, sales peoples’ skills and their face-to-face interactions and follow-up. The community’s collateral is studied too. A Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis is included too involving staff and external resources.
2. Telephone mystery shopping
While there may not be a need for a full marketing assessment, telephone mystery shopping may be good to consider. A customer’s telephone experience is so vital to building relationships with adult children and prospective residents. Our telephone mystery shopping critiques include both an audio version as well as a written transcript. Both are so useful to helping a sales person improve their skills. They’ve made an investment in your company, telephone mystery shopping helps make an investment in a sales person.
3. Competitive studies
Do you know what your competition is saying about your community? Undertaking a competitive study provides an excellent snapshot of a market area. While your own sales team may think they know competitors, they may not be aware of special discounts and incentives and the impressions a community may make to customers. Learning how your community stacks up against the competition should be undertaken once a year.
4. Competitive studies for explanations and acquisitions
Having a collaborative partner that can quickly respond if an acquisition or expansion is being contemplated is so helpful even before site visits. Competitive research can quickly be conducted to compile data of a marketplace allowing you to have a clearer picture of the competitive environment.
5. Public relations
Print media continues to offer an excellent vehicle to get your community’s name in the news and in front of potential customers and adult children. These are generations that continue to read a newspaper. Press releases which are part of public relations can also be used to keep a community’s website updated with community news and offer reprint potential. Your assisted living and continuing care community may be a wealth of public relations opportunities that are being missed. When you consider that an article has a 70% greater retention rate than an ad, it’s well worth considering in 2016 marketing budgets.
Websites are so different than brochures since they need to be continually freshened. It may be time for a new look as your community has matured. Creating a website that offers newsrooms and blogs are wonderful outlets to generate fresh content for search engine optimization (SEO) while providing interesting information for those visiting your site. We know consumers are using websites first in their search for information regarding an assisted living community or life care community; therefore, you need to make sure your site is making their visit worthwhile. It’s also critical your community’s site be mobile friendly since our cell phones often take precedence in searching.
Is your community optimizing everything the Internet offers for search engine optimization? It’s worthwhile to have a website analysis performed on a regular basis. It may not be necessary to redo a website but optimize the content with key words. There are many opportunities to improve web presence without paid advertising.
Your competitors have great compelling content for Facebook but do your blurbs compare? Engaging Facebook content is vital. Often the responsibility of posting falls to someone who may not be a great writer or understand the overall marketing role Facebook plays in the marketing of assisted living and continuing care communities. Putting a small amount of your marketing budget aside for Facebook content writing and management can greatly improve your community’s visibility. More and more adult children as well as seniors are using Facebook. It’s important they find Facebook content worth reading.
You may want to consider budgeting in 2016 for blogs. Why blog? A blog posted on your community’s website allows you to control and frequently post content without redoing a website or a brochure. It is worthwhile and inexpensive. Rather than burden your Executive Director or Sales Director with blogging, regular blog writing and posting can be outsourced. This assures you that your community’s story is promoted on a regular basis and content appeals to people on your community’s website.
Are your assisted living and continuing care community’s events attracting the right customers and are they putting your best foot forward? Outsourcing assistance with events can be so worthwhile. By kicking up a residents’ activity, improving the educational Lunch & Learns, expanding the reach of direct mail and other communication, you can give your community a new opportunity to connect with customers.
We hope you will consider services provided by The Ehlers Group in your 2016 marketing budget. If you need any quotes on services, please call 954-726-9228 and to learn more about The Ehlers Group, visit www.TheEhlersGroup.com.
# # #