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Do Retirement Home Communities Need a Social Media Strategy? (Part 1)

Mar 29, 2012   //   by admin   //   Features, Industry News, News & Events, Uncategorized  //  No Comments

“Social Media isn’t a nuisance – it’s one of the greatest gifts your business could ask for.”  The Little Blue Book of Social Enterprise Transformation – An Essential Guide for Executives - Salesforce.com

Retirement home community operators frequently question the significance and need of a social media strategy. After all, since most communities already have an effective online presence, many sales and marketing managers believe that they have sufficiently addressed their virtual objectives.   In reality, though, the mountain of evidence continues to build towards the conclusion that retirement home communities cannot afford to ignore social media any longer. Simply put, social media is a tool that takes an organization’s most valuable marketing assets – word of mouth, referrals and public relations – packages them and magnifies them exponentially.  Since your company has likely invested heavily in creating an online presence, a primary benefit of adopting a social media strategy is that it directly drives your audience to your website and enables your retirement home to benefit indirectly from enhanced generic search results.

A second factor attesting to the urgency of a social media strategy stems from the statistics continually released by social media research firms.  In a recent survey conducted by Pew Research, researchers indicated that internet users over the age of fifty constitute the fastest growing demographic for Facebook.  They further revealed that this surge is led by women 55+.  Considering that this demographic represents the prime influencer in the decision-making process regarding retirement home selection, such findings are indeed compelling!   By launching marketing strategies designed to capitalize on such precise information, effective social media marketing is delivering a positive impact to some of the leading senior housing and retirement home communities across North America.

For an owner or manager of a retirement community, the reality is that your brand is the sum of the conversations that people are having about your organization – and today, many of these conversations are taking place online, inside social networks.    As a sales and marketing professional, you must engage in these conversations.  If you are not actively participating in these conversations with your existing and future customers, then someone else certainly will!

Fortunately, social media tools and practices can be readily learned and adopted by your organization.   The effective use of these new marketing channels can exponentially broaden your reach and allow you to communicate with speed and immediacy, driving substantial traffic to your local retirement community websites.  However, before rushing into the “nuts and bolts” of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and blogging, it is critical to start with your business objectives and marketing strategy.   As expressed by Chris Kirubi in the following quote, a clearly integrated marketing strategy is essential to ensure that you differentiate yourself from your competitors.

“You don’t need a social media strategy – You need a brand strategy that leverages social media. Don’t get off the brand strategy just because there’s a new communication channel; that’s how you lose the plot as a brand. Technology is the tail, not the dog.”

Chris Kirubi, Chairman of Coca Cola Nairobi

The first step in developing your marketing and social media strategy is to thoroughly understand the online audience.   To begin, you must determine where your audience is online and listen intently to its sentiments and discussions regarding your brand.  Listening is a key element of effective online conversations.   Only by listening first can you appreciate the appropriate tone and frequency for your audience.   Free tools such as Klout and Google Alerts are all essential to monitor online chatter regarding your brand.   More elaborate tools such as Radian6 are also available from forward thinking companies such as Salesforce.com.   These tools can help you listen and tune in to the conversations that are relevant to your customers.

Just as you would in building your marketing plan, an effective social media plan must consider customer segmentation – the types of people that participate in your online community.   As you start to listen to these online conversations, you will notice that your audience participates in online conversations in different ways.  According to Forrester Research, a market research firm that tracks the adoption of social media across categories, there are ‘creators’ who write content and produce podcasts and videos, ‘critics’ who post comments, ratings and reviews, ‘joiners’ who create profiles and participate in these sites, ‘spectators’ who read, listen and watch the content created by others, and ‘inactives’ who do not actively participate in online conversations.   Finally, any good social media strategy should include measurable targets, such as daily story feedback, blog analytics, share-of-voice, search volume and inbound links.

With a social media strategy in hand, you are now ready to create or participate in an online community.    If you are new to this, like many retirement home managers, I advise the ‘Crawl…Walk…Run’ approach.   Start slowly with low-risk, low-volume experiments, regularly measuring results and assessing the impact on your business. Based on these indicators, broaden your strategy accordingly.

In conclusion, social media is about creating and fostering a vibrant online community and participating in live conversations with your customers.   In the next issue we will look at: the choice of social media platforms, specialized senior living groups, and the benefits that retirement homes can derive from social media.

I look forward to having you join our discussions over the next few months!

Follow us on Twitter @LarryWieskopf


 

The Occupancy Challenge (Part 2) – How to Evaluate Reporting Tools for your Retirement Home Community

Nov 21, 2011   //   by admin   //   Features, Industry News  //  No Comments

What gets measured gets done

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage” – Jack Welch

A key factor critical to the success of any retirement home is management’s ability to generate, retrieve and act upon reliable and timely information. This is especially true for new communities facing stiff ramp-up targets and more established communities facing 25% plus attrition rates. However, whenever I meet with owners and managers of Retirement Home Communities, they repeatedly reveal that measurement and reporting are often manual, frequently inaccurate and always the most painful part of their jobs!

While most retirement home managers are well aware of their occupancy rates, resident days, close rates and overall cost of operations, major shortcomings exist in the scope and way that operational data is accessed and used:

  • Data generated is usually restricted to financial data, with the exclusion of key metric information required to make operational decisions
  • Reports are only available periodically, such as at month and year end
  • Data is accumulated in several isolated systems that require extensive manual reconciliation and duplicate entry prior to allowing for any analysis; in most companies, this preparation time leaves little or no time for the analytical function
  • Information is geared to “what happened” as opposed to “what should happen” and “how do we achieve results”

When evaluating the reporting capacity of retirement home software, there are numerous factors to consider at both the community and corporate levels that can significantly increase close rates, occupancy levels and marketing effectiveness.

Community Requirements

Quick Adoption - Rapid sales team adoption is essential to the success of any new system. To ensure sales staff support, team members must believe that the new reporting system will save them time. In essence, the best salespeople despise manual reporting, as they intuitively understand that arduous manual documentation deprives them of face-to-face or phone time with prospective residents. Given that manual processes and reporting diminish valuable selling time, the benefits of automated daily, weekly and monthly reporting cannot be overstated.

Improved Sales Process – Sales reporting allows users to track sales performance over time and evaluate the impact of procedures designed to improve sales effectiveness. By tracking specific metrics at every step of the sales cycle, management can pinpoint the exact stage where the sales process breaks down. For example, if many prospective seniors take tours but few return for revisits or leave a deposit, sales personnel should take a serious look at the tour process. By analysing tour feedback, managers may discover certain areas of their communities that require further attention, and/or gain insight into which areas of the tour are most attractive to seniors and require greater marketing emphasis. The availability of this information allows the sales and marketing team to focus on areas that directly affect sales.

Marketing Performance Analysis - In addition to reporting on overall event performance, such as responses by event, new residents signed, and comparative costs of acquisition, marketing event planning allows for seamless coordination of the multitude of tasks required to host promotional events during the year. Constant monitoring allows management to track progress and make adjustments accordingly.

Dashboards and Activity Reports – Regardless of the metrics requested by management, dashboards provide constant visibility to relevant data. When compared with traditional reporting distributed at the end of the week or month, dashboards continually display the sales pipeline, hot prospects and action items in real-time, enabling the sales team to focus its efforts on key opportunities. Activity reports further enhance the sales process by identifying neglected prospects, providing follow-up reminders and automating numerous manual tasks.

Easy to use report writers – Simple, user friendly reporting software empowers your sales and marketing personnel to access information when they need it and in the format that they require. Designed for the average business user, these tools allow for the quick creation of reports and dashboards, enabling users to personally access and monitor the business metrics that are important to them.

When evaluating reporting software for your sales team, select a system that reduces manual entry, is simple to use and provides constant visibility to real-time marketing and sales information.

Corporate Requirements

Cross Community Reporting – It is essential to determine whether the new system is capable of combining and comparing data from multiple communities on one report. Although cross community reporting would seem to be a logical requirement, many communities still depend on antiquated reporting systems incapable of generating cross community metrics. To succeed in today’s fast-moving, highly competitive marketplace, one integrated system is the only solution. For example, a cross community comparison of conversion rates between initial calls to tours, to revisits, to deposits, to move-ins can highlight areas of lead breakage. Similarly, cross community lead-time analysis can determine which homes employ a more efficient sales process, with the result that the underperforming sales teams implement the necessary changes to boost efficiency.

Sales Process Compliance - The most successful retirement home managers understand that sales effectiveness is a result of consistently following an appropriate process in conjunction with a predetermined activity level (i.e. prospect calls or community tours). Accordingly, the new reporting system should track staff activities and document whether team members are following the appropriate sales and marketing processes. A strong reporting system provides detailed feedback on the quality and completeness of the data entered. To demonstrate, it reveals whether all interview questions are completed, if prospect hot buttons and needs are documented, etc. Key elements of a corporate reporting package should include activity reporting, budget comparisons and the highlighting of special areas of interest (i.e. neglected prospects).

Marketing Investment Analysis – In today’s economy, stringent use of a marketing budget is mandatory in all retirement communities. Beyond providing statistics on leads generated per marketing dollar, marketing ROI reports should evaluate closing ratios and assess the effects of the multiple touch-points involved in closing a sale.

Ad hoc reporting – Retirement home managers often complain that they cannot create their own reports without involving the IT department or a third-party vendor to develop a new report or modify an existing one. A strong reporting system should empower users to build their own reports quickly and easily.

Automatic Report Generation and Distribution Well-designed reporting software should provide the option of viewing information in real-time or exporting information to spreadsheets for further analysis. Automated daily reports can be emailed to managers, owners and salespeople first thing every morning, with exception reports forwarded as necessary.  In today’s world of connected devices, it is also reasonable to evaluate a system’s ability to access data remotely from home and elsewhere, and from devices such as smartphones and tablets.

When evaluating reporting software for your sales and marketing department, select a system with enhanced metrics and reporting tools that display the real-time performance of your communities and promote the rapid implementation of any sales and marketing process improvements required to increase occupancy levels. 

Contact us today for three sample reports that every Retirement Home Corporate Office must have!

Reporting and business measurement are not painful when you work with the right tools. A well-designed system provides users with real-time information essential to increase occupancy, profits and resident satisfaction.



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