May 4, 2020
By Jessica Vionas-Singer
Senior living communities across the world have been hit harder by COVID-19 than any other sector. Ads have been paused indefinitely, budgets have been cut, and marketers are focused almost solely on damage control.
As marketers consider how the pandemic will affect occupancy rates throughout the rest of 2020 and beyond, they’re also staring down the uncertainty that comes with a recession. Historically, senior housing providers that offer needs-based assisted living and memory care services have fared better than most industries in recessionary periods. However, it’s hard to say what the industry will look like next month, let alone next year.
As you look at your marketing plan heading into an uncertain future, it’s time to turn your focus away from promotion and occupancy rates and focus on trust, transparency, and education—and this is where inbound marketing shines.
What Is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing meets the customer where they are by providing useful, tailored content and experiences. Whereas traditional, outbound marketing reaches customers through impersonal TV and radio ads, cold calls and emails, billboards, and direct mail, inbound marketing uses blog articles, personalized email campaigns, e-books and guides, webinars, and more to guide prospects along the Buyer’s Journey.
Businesses leverage inbound marketing to help customers better understand their problems, guide them through the available solutions, and—hopefully—win the day as the best company to meet their needs. In the senior living industry, this means helping seniors and their loved ones overcome fears about community living in order to help them decide if becoming a resident at your community is right for them.
Inbound Marketing and Buyer Personas
Inbound marketing strategy starts with buyer personas, which are the semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on real data from real customers. Your buyer persona research will tell you your customers’ pain points and challenges, how they get their information, demographic details, and more. In the senior living industry, prospects can usually be split into three general buyer personas:
- Adult child/loved one
- Caretaker/social worker
Among these three personas, there may yet be additional personas. Some seniors are eager for the next stage of life and downsizing, while others are hesitant to consider the options. Adult children can also have conflicting pain points, with some eager about Mom and Dad moving to an all-inclusive community and others wanting them to stay where they are—especially considering the impact of COVID-19 on senior living communities. The better you understand your buyer personas, the better you’ll be able to reach, nurture, and eventually convert them into your next happy residents.
Growing Share of Voice with Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing strategies can help senior housing providers stay top of mind and relevant—during and after a crisis. Although 90 percent of marketers are delaying or reviewing their marketing budgets in the wake of COVID-19, the truth is that the only things about your budget that need to change are your messaging and where the spend is going. Cutting your budget will only give your competitors a greater share of voice, which historically has been a strategic failure for some very well-known brands.
Share of voice is a measure of the market that your brand owns in visibility and how much you dominate the conversation when compared to your competitors. The greater your share of voice—through paid advertising, social media, SEO, and more—the greater authority and name recognition you have among prospects.
As your competitors inevitably cut back their advertising and marketing budgets because of concerns about being tone deaf in light of COVID-19 and fears about the recession, it’s important that you keep marketing and advertising in order to grow your share of voice. Not only will you be providing value to prospects, but you’ll also be building trust so that when the time is right, those prospects will feel comfortable becoming residents.
How Inbound Marketing Can Help Senior Living Providers
During recessionary periods and times of crisis, consumers do whatever they can to ensure financial security and stability. Although many senior living services are needs-based, for older adults who may have been considering moving to an all-inclusive independent living community, the pandemic has likely stalled these plans.
Because inbound marketing is about education and helping people how they need it when they need it, you can continue nurturing prospects with content that speaks to the challenges they are facing now. Here are some ways that you can use inbound marketing strategies to prepare for a post-COVID-19 world:
- Create content that acknowledges what’s going on and combats the uncertainty and doubt that seniors and their families may be feeling about the senior living industry.
- Educate prospects about the benefits of senior living by ensuring you have assets to help people at every stage of the Buyer’s Journey, including webinars and virtual tours for those still uncertain about visiting once your community has reopened to the public.
- Share what your business has done to address COVID-19—and what you will do in future crises—and where they can find more information.
- Collect testimonials that family members and seniors are posting on their own to social media, review sites, or other channels about the care they received and security they felt during the ;pandemic. Then, when the time is right, you can use testimonials for paid campaigns or in an e-book about the benefits of living in a senior living environment during a crisis. (Do not solicit reviews during difficult times, but do collect those that are being posted.)
- Audit your website and spend time refining your site’s SEO, cleaning up your forms, testing out live chat functionality, and focusing on strategies for enhancing conversion-rate optimization.
Remember that sometime in the not-so-distant future, people will be ready to move forward quickly with moving into senior living communities. If you want to be ready to meet the demand, you have to start now with inbound marketing strategies that prioritize your prospects and what they need during these difficult times.
About the Author: Jessica Vionas-Singer is a Marketing Strategist and Team Lead at SmartBug Media, where she specializes in running inbound marketing campaigns for several senior care operators. Jessica fell in love with marketing at her first job and now has nearly 20 years of experience in content creation and lead-driving tactics, promotional campaigns, budgeting, event management, and analytics.