As the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continue to soar this fall, overall, as an industry, we are now better positioned and prepared for the upsurge.  While some industry operators have opted to try and ride out the pandemic rather than invest in marketing, others have adapted a marketing strategy that has allowed them to protect their market share and increase occupancy. 

I have witnessed enormous acts of heroism and continued vigilance by those on the frontlines serving within senior living communities.  As the seasons change, these brave and compassionate individuals remain poised to deal with whatever situations they encounter, and committed to protecting the health and safety of those who call our communities home.

On the marketing and sales front, a lot of lessons have been learned as well.  While some industry operators have opted to try and ride out the pandemic rather than invest in marketing, others have adapted a marketing strategy that has allowed them to protect their market share and increase occupancy.  With senior housing occupancy reaching another record low in Q3 2020 according to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC), it’s time to prioritize marketing and plan for a recovery. 

As you look to reconfigure your marketing and sales strategy during the pandemic, here are 6 essential elements to incorporate:

  1. The pandemic provides a perfect time to invest in training to strengthen your sales team. Your potential customer’s mindset, in many cases, has changed.  Has your sales approach?
  2. Properly position your message during COVID-19. Are you communicating what prospects and influencers want to hear, particularly those who have decided to table their decision to move?  Beyond communicating COVID-19 safety protocols, and the many benefits of living in a senior living community during the pandemic (from access to services to socially-distanced social opportunities), the idea that residents of senior living communities are expected to have priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine could be a major selling point. It also may be the best time to sell a house in years, with the average price of homes in some markets fetching upwards of $20,000 to $30,000 or more than they were just a year ago. 
  3. Spend more time engaging and connecting with your depositors, prospects, and influencers (by phone, video chat, email, hand written notes, text messages, etc.). American Seniors Housing Association research conducted in June and July 2020 found that among households who have considered moving to a retirement community within the past year, the majority have not changed their timeframe for moving.  The investment in building trusting, meaningful relationships during the pandemic will more than likely pay dividends when these prospects are ready to make a change.  
  4. Leverage your referral network. Are you maximizing your opportunity to nourish and strengthen relationships with referral sources during COVID-19?  
  5. Optimize one of your greatest assets: your existing customers’ (residents and their family members) personal networks to encourage referrals.
  6. Develop a COVID-19-era event marketing plan designed to generate leads and engage prospects and referral sources. Now, you might be thinking, “event marketing during a pandemic?”  That’s right.  It takes a shift in strategy, and a little creativity, but event marketing can still be quite effective during this time.  In the last few months, our agency has conducted nearly 50 combined in-person and virtual marketing events for our clients resulting in hundreds of highly motivated sales leads, deposits and move-ins. 

While the pandemic has made its mark on the senior living landscape, these strategies can help mitigate the implications of COVID-19 and build sales and occupancy momentum.

I hope these ideas prove useful during this time and beyond.  In this new era, what marketing strategies have you employed? 

Share in the comments below.

-Bryan McKeever, Vice President of Marketing & Sales, The Roche Associates, Inc