Automation is a Must in Modern Senior Living Sales Process, Say Webinar Panelists

The sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic sent many seniors housing operators scrambling to find new technologies that could help them adjust to quickly changing market needs.

“Over the last nine months, COVID forced seniors housing to accelerate its implementation of technology,” said Russ Horowitz of sales call analytics company Marchex. “It created a reactive need for how to adopt technology around things like safety and security, and how to support leads with things like virtual tours.”

However, there may be a long-term silver lining. As operators adjust to their new programs, they may switch to a proactive approach and discover key technologies to grow their businesses.

The comments came on an exclusive Seniors Housing Business webinar titled “Conversation Technology As A Game Changer: Increasing Sales Effectiveness in Seniors Housing.” Horowitz moderated the panel, which also included Julie Podewitz of Vitality Living, Cindy Longfellow of Juniper Communities and Fran Palma of Covenant Living Communities.

All three operators were in different stages of implementing marketing automation — technology designed to market a community across multiple platforms, such as email, website, social media and search. Covenant is just rolling out its platform, while Vitality is two years into marketing automation and Juniper is four years in.

“The biggest thing we hope it overcomes is the fragmentation of marketing and advertising in general,” said Palma. “Where 10 years ago we saw the majority of our leads come from a few sources, we now see that we’re really drawing leads from an aggregate of dozens and dozens of channels. How do you afford to be in all those channels all the time and make sure your message meets their need at that intersection?”

Podewitz said the company differentiates between “marketing-qualified leads” who have interacted with the company online in some way and “sales-qualified leads” who have actively contacted Vitality about a potential move-in. This allows the company to track potential residents without overloading the sales team or scaring away a sale by being too aggressive.

“Marketing automation is designed to engage customers that don’t want to speak to a sales counselor,” said Podewitz. “The work on the front end will pay off hugely on the back end.”

Longfellow, newer to the technology than Podewitz, echoed her concerns about separating leads within the sales process. She also noted that marketing automation requires a lot of fine tuning before it works perfectly.

“There’s a lot of tweaking that goes along with that process and you’re going to make a lot of mistakes on the front end,” said Longfellow. “You’re going to let way too many leads go through and overwhelm your sales counselors at first. It’s a process that is really essential to get to that right point so that your sales teams are not constantly telling you how bad the online leads are.”

At the end of the day, this type of technology will soon be essential, if it isn’t already, according to Horowitz.

“A lot of sales goals you just can’t accomplish without sophisticated technology. Consumers increasingly touch your business a whole bunch of different ways — they could call, they could go to your website, they could respond to an email. It’s important to be able to stitch together that individual consumer so you can have an understanding of their intent and needs. If you handle them thoughtfully, they have the best experience and that leads to the highest likelihood of an outcome.”

To view the full webinar, click here.

Jeff Shaw