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How Does Marketing Automation Work in the Senior Living Space & Can You Do it With Empathy?

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How Does Marketing Automation Work in the Senior Living Space & Can You Do it With Empathy?

Vector image of marketing automation with computers and phones

Being successful in the senior living industry requires empathetic communication with potential residents and their families. This message needs to tell people that you care and that your senior living community is trustworthy. 

COVID has created new challenges that have shifted the sales process for senior living communities. Marketing automation is one of the tools your business can use to help refine lead data and guide clients through the decision-making process. 

Using marketing automation effectively, requires smart tactics and an empathetic approach. Let’s explore how the right digital marketing strategy can lead to an improved ROI and lower your community vacancy rate.

Book a demo with our marketing experts at CITIZEN to explore the ways you can increase your online exposure and website conversion rates, and download this free eGuide for more information on how marketing automation helps senior living communities.

How COVID Changed Senior Living Marketing

Senior living communities have been especially vulnerable to COVID, from both a physical health and financial sustainability perspective. Face-to-face engagements, personal meetings, and physical tours have all been diminished (if not removed) during the time of COVID. Your online presence has become your community’s greatest sales resource.

Although the methods to connect and engage with future residents have changed, buyer decision-making behaviors have not. Those looking for an assisted living community will be characterized by:  

  • A long buying process.
  • Emotional purchasing decisions.
  • Educated decision making.
  • High-touch engagement before purchasing.

Post-Pandemic Marketing Adjustments

Everything has gone virtual. It’s now common for personal meetings or physical tours to be limited to those near the end of the buying cycle. So how has the industry responded from a marketing perspective? Some of the adjustments being made to combat record-low occupancy rates include:

  • An increase in sales and marketing budgets. Up 40% from pre-pandemic numbers. This is mostly allocated to digital marketing.
  • Less dependence on third-party referrals, as leads are sent directly through to the community’s CRM.
  • More virtual tours and more integrated relevant technology.
  • Increased online information sessions and webinars.
  • Raising tech budgets for future years. 87% of communities surveyed are increasing tech budgets in 2022.

What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation is the process of automating marketing with the help of software to make tasks more scalable and repeatable. This includes email marketing, social media, advertising, lead nurturing, and customer relationship management (CRM). 

The goal of this system is to save time by doing repetitive tasks automatically. It also helps you make data-driven decisions for increasing return on investment (ROI).

A complete marketing automation approach is comprehensive. It tracks all of a user’s online touches to your business and manages your next marketing actions. All this can be programmed to occur automatically, which in turn can help your community save time and money.

What Does Marketing Automation Have To Do With Senior Living?

Marketing automation improves the overall efficiency and effectiveness of your senior living marketing efforts. This is accomplished by:

  • Letting tools and technology execute marketing strategies automatically.
  • Using machines to do labor-intensive tasks so humans can be more creative.
  • Improving precision and quality with fewer mistakes from human error.

Because the buying cycle is between 1-2 years for senior living residents, it’s important to have an online presence that guides decision-makers towards your business. You must also make it easy for them to engage with your sales team and progress towards a conversion. 

Marketing automation has the potential to do all this for your senior living community.

An Example of Marketing Automation in Senior Living

Imagine a potential resident or adult child influencer is funneled to your website from a pay-per-click (PPC) ad on a search engine. They engage with your website by filling out a form for a free eGuide. 

You can now track where this user came from (PPC, organic search result, social media link, etc.), and connect their information with your CRM. You begin dripping content to the user based on the type and level of care they engaged with, encouraging more interaction with your business.

If your marketing automation is successful, the user is converted and a new resident moves in. Over time, ROI is analyzed for each marketing activity, and campaigns are adjusted to reflect your highest success rates.

Why Should Your Senior Living Community Use Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation takes on the responsibility of doing repetitive tasks and manages data collection for all the leads you’re generating. This allows your senior community to:

  • Easily scale your marketing so that human resources can be used elsewhere.
  • Increase your ROI for marketing budgets, improving your bottom line.

There are many features and functions that you can integrate into automated marketing that will benefit your sales process and lead conversions:

  • You can combine your CRM with marketing automation. 
  • Salespeople can see all the communication with a potential client in one place. 
  • The ability to track phone calls by assigning specific phone numbers to each type of advertising.
  • Increase your reach by automating emails and scheduling social media posts. 
  • You can send personalized post-tour and post-move-in surveys.

Using Drip Campaigns to Increase Conversions

A drip campaign is a marketing strategy that sends a series of strategic automated messages to potential customers. Drip campaigns target your leads at different stages of the buying cycle, providing automatic and constant communication. 

Drip campaigns are especially useful in the senior living industry, where buyers have a long decision-making cycle. These campaigns help educate and empower prospective residents and keep your community top-of-mind.

Some rules for successful drip campaigns:

  • Subject matter should focus on the well-being of the client.
  • Content should “come from the salesperson” in the eyes of the potential resident.
  • Personalize drip campaigns for different types of leads with different concerns (e.g. an adult child vs a senior).
  • Focus on the user’s needs and provide meaningful communication.

Targeting the Right Leads

Different types of consumer behavior have different implications about the consumer’s likelihood to buy from you. Lead scoring is a method that allows you to rank prospects based on the perceived value of their online actions and engagements.

Clicking on a display ad and signing up for newsletters from your website contribute to a positive lead score. So do direct phone calls from your ads and web pages. When a user, or lead, stops visiting your site or engaging, the lead score goes down.

Marketing automation allows you to manage leads with this type of scoring and ranking system. This means that your salespeople can focus time and resources on closing with people ready to buy, instead of wading through a sea of semi-interested online visitors.

Replacing Third-Party Referrals

While referrals and referral partners are a valuable source of leads, they are costly compared to organic online conversions. This is more important than ever in the post-pandemic era.

The senior living industry is changing, and marketing automation is playing a key role in this transition. If you can prove through marketing automation that a potential lead is already in your system, you can reject a third-party referral. Some CRMs can even prompt your sales team when someone with a low lead score in your system is reactivated by a third-party referral company. 

An effective CRM saves you commissions that would be going to third-party referrals. Senior living communities that use marketing automation improve their ROIs and can better react to families that need assistance.

An Empathetic Approach to Marketing Automation

The key element of any empathetic communication is trust. This is no different from the messages you send through marketing automation. Your marketing automation success will depend on your ability to come across as authentic and empathetic in your messaging.

Make sure that every piece of content that a lead receives helps the potential resident or family influencer: 

  • Trust the person sending the communication.
  • Trust your business as a thought leader and reliable resource for help and information.
  • Trust that your senior community is committed to quality, engagement, and longevity.
  • Trust that your senior living community will always be there for a resident’s needs.

How to Digitally Communicate with Empathy

Marketing automation may seem like an abstract medium when discussing empathetic communication. But when it’s done the right way, leads and potential residents will learn that your living space is an expert in senior care and a trustworthy resource for information.

When developing and designing messages and content, always keep these best practices in mind:

  • Educate the end user. Give them tools and information they can use to support the person they love.
  • Remove the sales aspect of a drip campaign. Don’t push things like same-day tours or rushed commitments in your messaging. 
  • The tone of your message should be to help the end-user. Provide expertise and be a reliable and trusted source of information first and foremost.
  • Learn what questions decision-makers are asking and make the answers available to everyone.
  • Give universal tips that go beyond just your community. What will help people manage encounters with your competitors, too?
  • Use automation to personalize messages for the people involved in the decision-making process. (e.g. Hi Cindy, it was wonderful to see you and your mom Mary again…).
  • Show care in your process by providing added information. Explain how families managed this transition in the past or how problems they may be facing have been solved before.
  • Touch every contact in your CRM every 2-3 weeks. Sustain trust by consistently communicating.
  • Clearly define your communication at every step of the journey.

Marketing Automation Bad Habits

You can build trust with the right communication strategy. But communication mishaps can erode trust with potential clients. These marketing automation mistakes can harm efforts to build a trustworthy relationship.

  • No communication. Especially during COVID times, a lack of communication is harmful to trust-building.
  • Messaging inconsistency. Be reliable with your communication patterns and reply rates.
  • Providing irrelevant communication that does not answer questions a person has about senior living.
  • Marketing automation that sounds and looks robotic and impersonal. Communication should look like it comes directly from salespeople and have the same tone as a community representative.

Take Back Time & Money with Marketing Automation

The senior living communities that prosper most after COVID are the ones that embrace marketing automation. Adapting to changes in senior care marketing and sales is the first step in reducing vacancy and increasing ROI.

Increasing online marketing budgets is wise, but your communication must remain empathetic and trustworthy. Empathetic messaging that focuses on your most eligible leads is an effective way to counter unforeseen challenges of the last 2 years.

Click here for a free comprehensive eGuide on overcoming senior living challenges with marketing automation. Or schedule a free demo to learn the ways CITIZEN can help your online reputation shine.

The pandemic has been a trying time for all of us. Through it all, your organization has supported seniors & their families. Ours exists to support you.

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