As competition grows among senior housing communities, it is very important that the brand image of a community is understood and used to build customer relationships which positively affect leasing and sales.
In the acquisition of existing communities, it is vital to know how a community is perceived prior to purchase and in launching a new marketing campaign. Also, in developing new senior living communities, it is critical to determine what is the intent of the brand. Your senior living community branding will guide the marketing efforts in pre-leasing, lease up and beyond.
While most senior living communities offer similar amenity and services packages, branding separates a community from the competition.
Branding has evolved from early times. From the crests of the Middle Ages to branding a horse or cow to indicate ownership, this was brand identity. Today, while branding starts with a logo and name, it is also the customers’ relationship from their first encounter.
Yet with the internet at everyone’s fingertips these encounters are even harder to determine. A first impression may be from a google search to driving by and seeing a sign. Someone may say, “That’s where so and so lives” in a conversation at the hair salon. There are any numbers of first encounters which start the brand relationship.
A consumer product in a local grocery chain competes for shelf space and hotels spend thousands of dollars in pay-per-click advertising to have their website link pop up high on the first page.
Similarly, a senior community is trying to differentiate itself from a community down the street. As national chains buy up the well-established local senior living communities and change the names to a corporate entity, a community’s local brand recognition may be lost.
By undertaking a brand analysis you gain a better understanding of the brand image of a community. What does a brand analysis offer?
- Determines what is the current image of the community held by residents, employees and family members. Focus groups are part of a brand analysis which is best in soliciting feedback in determining what people think the community represents and who they think it is.
- Similarly, it questions external public such as the business community and referral sources. Do people perceive the community as being sophisticated and gracious or snobby and too fancy? Is it easy going and comfortable or old-fashioned and do elderly, frail people live there. Is it a good community citizen or unapproachable?
- Are the brand visuals fitting of the community’s image? This would include the logo, font, color, size, and standards.
- Are brand visuals used consistently? For example, wherever the logo is used, is it consistent on the menu, flags, transportation, uniforms, name badges and business cards?
- Does the media know of the community and their perceived image? Are people accessible or is there a closed door policy should a reporter want access?
- Employees contribute to the brand as they reflect the brand message by living the brand. Focus groups and surveys of employees glean important information about the community’s brand. They are delivering the level of services a community promotes. If there is a disconnect between what is promoted and what is delivered, there is a failure in the brand promise.
- Are various internet strategies tied together such as the website, email marketing, mobile application, social media and on-line advertising?
- What brand promises is your community making and are they delivered? If you promise “5-star dining” are tablecloths crisply pressed, plate’s garnished and impeccable service delivered.
- Do you have a stellar relationship with customers through customer service? Exit interviews and surveys can illustrate if the staff is dependable in response to customer service issues. Do residents and families feel the love or indifference?
- It is quite a challenge to satisfy current residents while appealing to new consumers whose vantage point may be entirely different. Branding is so important in understanding what a community conveys to potential customers. Are social clicks perceived and are there little opportunities for friendship? Is the activity program balanced? Is only one spiritual group represented or does the community feel diversified?
These are just a few of the issues a brand analysis will reveal. Branding is a specialty of The Ehlers Group. We hope you will call us to discuss a brand analysis for your assisted living, memory care or continuing care community at 954-726-9228.
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