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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 –

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   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 Occupany Challenge (Part 3) Improve your Sales and Marketing Process!

Jan 12, 2012   //   by admin   //   Industry News, News & Events  //  No Comments

As a follow-up to our recent articles addressing the occupancy challenge faced by most Retirement Home Communities, we have received numerous inquiries as to how sales and marketing directors can evaluate their existing sales and marketing processes.

According to most sales and marketing managers, inconsistencies and inefficiencies constitute the key factors obstructing the success of their existing sales and marketing processes.  Unfortunately, one of the realities of single and multi-home retirement communities is the sheer number of interactions and dependencies that span the sales, marketing and operational functions.  So, if your sales and marketing department is experiencing frequent miscommunication, inconsistent follow-up and lost opportunities, these problems likely stem from inefficient sales and marketing processes or unclear organizational accountability.

Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem, and many of the fastest growing mid-sized businesses have overcome this challenge by formally documenting their critical processes.  Process mapping and work process charts are two of the most effective ways to document the sales and marketing process.   In fact, some of the best run and fastest growing senior care communities in North America focus on improving one critical process each quarter.  In my opinion, the primary sales and marketing process to address is the methodology your community uses for acquiring new residents.

To begin, a meeting with a clear agenda, such as “Improving our Sales Processes”, should be scheduled. The meeting should take place early in the morning, when personnel are fresh and less distracted by telephone calls and other work emergencies.   As a Sales and Marketing Director, I highly recommend that you carefully consider whom to include at this meeting.   Based on my experience, everyone involved in the process should be present, ranging from front desk administrators to sales/marketers to retirement community directors and owners.   The critical idea is to be as inclusive as possible, as this is the point where the team begins to establish a consistent understanding of – activities that work well, activities that need improvement and accountability gaps that need correction.  Typically, I begin the meeting by reiterating the purpose and outcome, and proceed by using a whiteboard or flipchart to document:  the specific activities involved (i.e. inbound phone calls, return calls, marketing campaigns), the people responsible for each activity, and the time required to complete each action.   Depending on the size of the group and the complexity of the process, a single meeting may suffice or several meetings may be required to adequately document the process.   Once the existing process is defined, I challenge the participants to suggest modifications to the process that can enhance the customer experience.    Usually, the ensuing session encourages a great deal of discussion, and frequently the team will identify new and exciting ways to modify and improve the method of acquiring a resident.

Formal documentation will often expose process inefficiencies. For example, when analyzing the sales process, you might quickly determine that a key step in the sales process is taking longer to complete than originally anticipated, or that the step is not being completed at all.  To demonstrate, I have seen sales and marketing teams amazed to discover that their process of returning inbound inquiries takes two to three days.   Not surprisingly, this is a significant problem, given that some of the best sales and marketing organizations have demonstrated that closure rates are significantly higher when a call is returned within the first fifteen minutes.

Documentation of the sales and marketing process also serves to highlight accountability and responsibility gaps.  For instance, detailed work charts may reveal that your sales and marketing staff is devoting excessive hours to non-sales/marketing activities.

The final step in the process involves transcribing the work charts and mappings from a whiteboard to a digital format.  This allows your team to revisit the process on a quarterly basis and make any changes and appropriate adaptations.  By visiting our website, you can view a sample Retirement Home Sales and Marketing Process.


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.

Ontario Retirement Homes Act – Implications for Your Business

Sep 16, 2011   //   by admin   //   Industry News, News & Events  //  No Comments

With the passage of the Retirement Homes Act, seniors in Ontario living in retirement homes will be protected for the first time under provincial legislation.  The goal of the Retirement Homes Act is to increase the quality of life for seniors in retirement homes – obviously a worthwhile objective.

However, for many retirement communities, the Act will force significant changes  in process, procedure, documentation and reporting requirements.  While 80% of the Act covers procedures and processes that most well-operated homes already address, additional documentation and audit requirements have the potential to add increased costs and administrative burden to the operation of a retirement community.

For example, retirement homes will need to redefine many of their current procedures to ensure that they accommodate the requirements of the new Act.  Many existing hard copy reports and computer printouts will have to be redesigned and possibly reworked to match the requirements of the Act.   The Act also mandates that specific new documentation be maintained and stored at the community level, and be accessible whenever homes are called upon by certified inspectors.   Like any significant change to existing operating processes, this change, if not managed appropriately, carries with it the risk of placing additional pressure and administrative workload on the important caregivers in your retirement home or senior care community.

The good news is that the Ontario Retirement Communities Association (ORCA) has been well ahead of this legislation, working with its members to prepare them for this change.   An excellent source of information on these new reports and processes will be available in the upcoming ORCA Tool Kit.

In the coming months we will examine in greater detail the implications of the Ontario Retirement Homes Act on your business.  We will also review how technology solutions can help you maintain compliance with the Act.  Specifically, we will address the extensive reporting requirements now demanded by the Act and discuss how technology and systems can improve reporting efficiency and ease the transition.

Quick Links


Ontario Retirement Homes Act – Bill 21

Ontario Retirement Home Market Analysis

Ontario Retirement Home Market Analysis – Supplementary Charts

Ontario Retirement Communities Association





Occupancy Challenge For Retirement Home Managers

Aug 16, 2011   //   by admin   //   Industry News, News & Events  //  No Comments

Occupancy is a major challenge for the retirement home industry. Whether you are dealing with a new property facing aggressive ramp-up targets set by investors, or an established community with a 25% plus attrition rate, the underlying issue remains the same – attracting and retaining residents.

Given this challenge, it is critical for retirement home communities to employ structured lead management practices. Effective lead management strategies should methodically nurture leads from beginning to end, so that prospects quickly convert to residents. Modern software technologies offer powerful, yet simple-to-use tools that empower the retirement home sales process. However, prior to selecting a software solution, defining the right process for your community is vital.

As expected, different communities follow distinct procedures in order to achieve their marketing objectives.  For example, lead management in a community that differentiates itself based on ‘high standards of resident care’ will vary greatly from a community that caters to ‘active lifestyles’. Therefore, before discussing technology, we recommend that you consider the following five steps in order to define your community’s unique sales process.

1.    Determine Problems/Opportunities

  • Identify current problems (e.g. low tour to deposit conversion rates, high resident attrition rates)
  • Uncover new opportunities (e.g. special events encouraging residents to invite friends)
  • Initiate team involvement
  • Assess the business benefits of addressing the issues
  • Quantify the business impact (e.g. improved occupancy rates, higher revenue)

Documenting problems and opportunities is the first step towards developing your optimal solution. By discussing issues and identifying areas needing improvement, participants can benefit from brainstorming sessions. To guide you through these steps, download our Free Problem Opportunity Worksheet and tutorial.

2.    Set Your Goals

  • Establish goals – financial and non-financial (e.g. set follow-up times to match lead sources, such as one-hour response time for inbound telephone inquiries and next business day for leads originating from online directories).
  • Set your goals and reach for the stars; this process is about achieving extraordinary results.

3.    Assign an Evangelist

  • Appoint the best individual to make things happen
  • Empower this individual to implement change

4.    Map Out Your Existing Sales and Marketing Processes

  • Document your community’s existing tools and processes
  • Track the typical time spans and conversion rates associated with specific stages and tasks

5.    Develop Your Ideal Process

  • Identify your lead sources – community events, mailing campaigns, local advertisements, hospitals, doctors and other influencers
  • Categorize your initial inquiries – phone, email, walk-in, web, etc.
  • Determine how sales associates build rapport with new prospects
    —  Marketing experts advise that telephone communication ranks as one of the most effective selling techniques for building rapport early on in the sales cycle
  • Focus on capturing prospect information – stipulate the data you want to capture and the appropriate format
    —  Since the initial prospect contact is typically a telephone call, prepare a questionnaire to assist you in qualifying a caller’s level of interest
  • Analyze the tour process – Document the steps required to prepare for a community tour
    —  Verify that all department heads are involved in the tour
    —  Consider whether the tour includes resident ambassadors
    —  Categorize the tour as standard “museum”, interest-based, or custom
    —  Document the methods used to capture prospect reactions to the tour
    —  Describe the means for affixing notes and comments to prospect records
    —  Investigate the handling of prospects not yet ready to tour. Contact these prospects regularly via a nurture marketing process that includes newsletter marketing, community events and periodic telephone calls. Typically, follow-up at the community level is poor.

To help readers define their ideal process download our Business Process Questionnaire

Once your community’s sales process is defined, the next consideration is technology. See our upcoming posts for a discussion on how to evaluate technology solutions for you retirement community.