As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to take a bite out of seniors housing occupancy, communities should put the pedal down on lead generation in order to survive, according to seniors housing marketing firm The Roche Associates.
“There could be an occupancy time bomb waiting. You don’t feel the effect right now, but you might soon,” said Joseph Roche, president and CEO of the Wilbraham, Massachusetts-based company. “During the Great Recession, the communities that kept marketing even though they were getting clocked were the ones that came out and did the best. Don’t stop marketing — that’s a big mistake.”
The comments came on a free webinar that took place on Wednesday, May 20. Presented by France Media and Seniors Housing Business and sponsored by Roche Associates, the program drew 657 registrants. Other speakers included Joan Roche, clinical director of Roche Associates, and Scott Lilly, principal for Bridgeport, Connecticut-based digital advertising firm Hatch 130.
Joan Roche noted the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, saying “we are building a bridge as we’re walking on it.” Because of this, she said, operators must stay constantly up to date on the best infection control methods and communicate clear updates to residents and their families.
“Your protocols need to be accurate and update. Someone needs to update your protocols daily. You need to communicate frequently, accurately and consistently. Things are changing and residents need to know how it’s changing.”
Operators should have a slate of activities planned that don’t require physical contact. These can include scheduled video calls with family, virtual concerts and video games like Wii Bowling,
Lilly echoed the sentiment that operators should continue marketing and building leads, but warned that staying positive in the advertising is critical.
“Your messaging and tone are critical. People are a lot more sensitive. Stay away from the doom and gloom — the news media’s doing a good enough job of that.”
“Everybody is extremely preoccupied,” continued Lilly. “People’s attention spans are very short. Everything in your marketing should focus on the future. Everybody loves hope and optimism.”
Other suggestions from the panel included:
- Fully commit to social media as a way to communicate quickly and directly.
- Start producing videos or live streams, even if just from a smartphone.
- Host “information session” webinars on important topics to help educate potential residents and their families.
- Set up a model apartment accessible by a patio door, so prospects can take a “tour” without coming into contact with staff or residents.
- Make non-sales “goodwill” calls to leads, even long-cold ones, just to make sure they are okay.
- Solicit testimonials from satisfied residents and spread them far and wide.
- Prepare a crisis management plan and hire an articulate spokesperson to speak to the media.
- Be open and transparent about any cases of COVID-19 in communities.
Click here to watch the webinar recording.
— Jeff Shaw