While research shows many senior living organizations have recovered post-pandemic with census numbers up, those same organizations are now bracing themselves for what’s next as the economy stands on wobbly legs.
“While the U.S. economy may be headed for an outcome resting between ‘stagflation’ and recession, investors still see senior living as a good bet so long as the moves are smart,” Mary Ludgin, managing director and head of global research at Heitman, says in this Senior Housing News article.
But what does it mean to “move smart” when marketing senior living in an unstable economy? Our senior living marketing expert weighs in.
How the Economic Situation Is Affecting Senior Living
“We work with senior living organizations daily at Marketing Essentials, and we hear the challenges marketing directors are facing today,” says Melissa Smalley, a marketing strategist at Marketing Essentials with more than 20 years of experience in health care. “Just like what most companies are facing in today’s economy, senior living is no different. Expenses are higher than normal, while staffing is a continuous challenge. Marketing directors are being pulled in many directions, and no one knows what is on the horizon.”
Though average occupancy has rebounded across the industry this year, margins for many operators have been compressed. Expenses are higher-than-normal, with the cost of labor and staff onboarding a big driver of expense growth.
Senior Housing News reports that many operators are looking to increase rates in 2023. At the same time, many older adults can sell their homes at higher costs due to the high housing market, yet they are spending more on weekly expenses due to inflation.
Will this impact their willingness to pay higher rates down the road? Will a potential recession cause them to pull back the trigger on making a move?
“We all wish we had a crystal ball with those answers,” Smalley says. “A recession is never a good thing, but there are ways you can market smart through it.”
Don’t Stop Marketing, Pivot Your Marketing
First and foremost, don’t completely stop marketing during a recession. Making drastic cuts in your marketing budget when your competitors don’t will put you at a disadvantage. Also, you won’t recover as easily after the recession if you have an empty pipeline and lots of lost ground to make up.
A smarter move is to adjust based on your target audience’s buyer behaviors and where your sales fall on the risks associated with a downturn.
In the linked chart, you can find the four segments of buyer behaviors (coined by the Harvard Business Review) and recommendations on how to market products or services based on where they fall in the risks category.
For example, suppose your target audience falls into the “slam-on-the-brakes” behavior during a recession. In that case, you will want to pivot your marketing to promote exceptional deals or lower-cost floorplans. You may want to challenge what they consider penny-wise behavior. Ultimately, you are not going to change how they react to a recession, but you can change how you market to them.
Senior Living Marketing in 2023
At the outset of the pandemic, many senior living operators increased their marketing budgets as they shifted to new digital marketing strategies, tactics and tools. The importance of digital marketing for the senior living industry will be no different in 2023 as the growing baby boomer generation continues to become more tech-savvy.
Successful senior living marketers will also keep these four tips in mind.
1. Show Value
In 2023, you’ll want to focus more on showing, not just telling. When people get in the mindset of watching dollars, marketing cannot just talk about value. You must show it to prove it.
Social media and video marketing will be key strategies for “show, don’t tell.” Use these strategies to show what makes your senior living organization the best in the area. Show the amenities you have that those other communities don’t.
2. Build Relationships
In 2023, you’ll want to create content that spurs more interactions and enhances your brand’s personality. Use digital content to build trust and increase a sense of wanting to belong.
Video is key for this too! Personalized video emails, videos of social events and videos from sales answering top questions are great ways to build trust and personal relationships, while also taking the approach of “show, don’t tell.”
3. Stay Focused on ROI
With the uncertainties of the economy, you can expect more scrutiny over your marketing budget. Therefore, it’s important not only to continue your marketing but also to track the data, know the key metrics and know how to report ROI to the C-suite or board.
It’ll be key to know what’s working and what’s not working. This data should fuel the strategy you implement. For example, if one of your most visited pages on the website shows your floor plans, use your budget to optimize this page further to achieve results that impact ROI.
Does the page create an experience for the visitor? Is the page interactive and engaging? Does the page answer top questions about selecting a floor plan and what to expect moving in? Does the page guide them to sales to easily obtain more information? Can you track what visitors are doing on this page and the steps they are taking next?
It’s not uncommon to struggle with collecting this kind of data and knowing what to do with it. This is often one of the top reasons an organization looks for a digital marketing agency.
An agency can provide a marketing team with a broad skill set, including data analysts, who can support your entire marketing plan — from strategy recommendations and tactical implementation to data reports and continuous optimizations that get results. With an agency team at your fingertips, you can also be more agile and pivot quicker when needed than you likely can as a small — or even solo — marketing team.
4. Create an Internal Culture of Trust
Lastly, stay in communication with human resources on staffing as labor shortages are expected to continue into 2023 for senior living organizations. Look for ways marketing can support human resources for recruitment marketing strategies that help fill the candidate pipeline and build an internal culture of trust.
With uncertainty in the world, keep the lines of communication open. Continue to send internal emails to staff to keep them in the loop. Transparency goes a long way in building trust.
No matter what happens with the economy, as you plan for 2023, it’s a good idea to review your strategy and ask what’s working, what’s not working, and what you want to try to earn the best return. Be sure to check out our recession planning resource to help you plan ahead.
Partnering with a Digital Marketing Agency
One of the biggest benefits of partnering with a marketing agency today is the stability they can bring to your program. Additionally, an agency can bring a fresh perspective to your marketing strategy and give you an entire team with specialized skill sets across many digital and traditional marketing areas.
At Marketing Essentials, we are a full-service digital marketing agency with 25+ years of expertise in the senior living industry. We work as a strategic partner with your team to map out digital marketing strategies and campaigns across the full continuum of care.