How 4 Senior Living Operators Honed Marketing Strategies, Built Recovery-Ready Brands

As senior living operators continue to rebound from the Covid-19 pandemic, some are taking creative steps to invigorate their marketing or to launch new brands.

The senior living consumer of today remains the same, but reaching them has changed drastically since the pandemic began in 2020, said Janine Witte, who works as the senior vice president of sales and marketing with Chicago-based Senior Lifestyle. Through the pandemic, Witte said consumers shifted to rely heavily on online searches and information prior to making decisions about where to settle down.

“Digital outreach has a significant purpose and presence, and the stay-at-home mandates of 2020 presented the need to escalate strategy and execution quickly,” Witte told Senior Housing News. “Additionally, the need to continually work on spend efficiency has become even more intensive with the rising labor and expenses since the onset of the pandemic.”

Prospective residents and their families are also in some cases inquiring sooner now as they look to make life plans, said Dementia By Day Owner Rachael Wonderlin, who led the rollout of a new dementia care brand for senior living operator English Meadows.

“People are more interested, they’re more engaged, and they’re more educated about what type of care they are seeking,” Wonderlin told SHN. “[We are] constantly encouraging clients to talk about dementia care on their websites, because that’s what families are looking for now. The days of avoiding the word ‘dementia’ are over.’”

In response to these and other market forces, senior living providers are finding new ways to reach prospective residents. Winning entries from the recent Senior Housing News Aspect Awards provide a window in the direction that companies such as Senior Lifestyle, English Meadows and others are taking to bring in new residents and build occupancy as they recover from the pandemic in 2022.

Senior Lifestyle took home first place in the rebranding category with its website refresh, while English Meadows earned top honors in the brand launch category with the launch of its Lavender Hills dementia care program.

Other first-place winners included Discovery Senior Living, which won in the print, direct mail and billboard campaign and digital display/PPC campaign categories; and Belmont Village Senior Living, which took home the top spot in the video or TV campaign category.

Senior Lifestyle’s web refresh

Lead generation efforts in the post-Covid recovery period have been a challenge, citing new inventory and previously stable communities going back into lease-up.

“Due to the increased availability, the need to make our marketing message stand out is of the utmost importance,” Witte added.

That is the challenge Senior Lifestyle faced with regard to refreshing its website, which was showing its age. While the website performed well with regard to search visibility, and conversions, it lacked “visual excitement” and didn’t convey the vibrancy of the operator’s communities.

So, the company began mulling on ways to revamp the website for the Covid era. The company’s main goal was to refresh the company’s web brand and update the site’s modern design to showcase its communities.​ The company also sought to incorporate more interactivity and movement​ and maintain CRO and SEO performance at the same time.

During the six-month redesign, more than two dozen staff brainstormed and reshaped the company’s online branding.

“Our team was careful and vigilant around the brand pallet to keep integrity between print and digital which I thought pushed our brand to a nice place,” Witte added.

Website redesign for Senior Lifestyle, Courtesy Senior Lifestyle

In the end, the company’s marketing teams implemented a number of changes, including revamping the Senior Lifestyle home page with new designs and features; new “persona” pages that detail community information; and integrating unique designs for the company’s three sub-brands.

The benefits of having done so are already measurable, according to Witte. Costs per lead dropped 15.9% while overall lead generations jumped 31.6%, with form fills on the website increasing 10.8% since rollout in early 2021.

Additionally, the redesign helped decrease the company’s bounce rate by 9%, indicating that fewer visitors are leaving the site after clicking on a single page​. Average session duration also grew 25% and eBook requests leapt 57%, indicating that users are spending more time engaging with the website.​

“I am thrilled with the warmth that radiates from our site,” Witte said. “Our 2022 paid media strategy, coupled with the new site performance, has us excited for the rest of the year to continue producing high watermark results.”

How English Meadows launched a new memory care brand

English Meadows had always offered memory care to residents, but what the company lacked was a defined and unique memory care program that stood out to residents and their families.

Memory care is also an often-misunderstood segment of the senior living industry, with families expressing confusion over what memory care is, what it entails for residents and how staff are trained for it.

Starting in February of 2021, English Meadows began working with Dementia By Day Founder Rachael Wonderlin to develop “Lavender Hills,” a branded dementia care program.

Lavender Hills design for English Meadows, Courtesy Dementia By Day

Wonderlin said she worked with the English Meadows team closely on all aspects, from design to launch, of the Lavender Hills branding. The launch included the development of a color palette, a brand logo and various branded marketing materials.

“I want people to be able to see that English Meadows has a branded dementia care program. It’s not just memory care,” Wonderlin said. “It’s actually something they take very seriously. We wanted to portray that with the launch of Lavender Hills.”

The most challenging aspect of the design came in crafting the name for Lavender Hills. Wonderlin workshopped the idea with English Meadows staff and allowed them to vote on a range of names.

Wonderlin and the team chose the Lavender Hills name based on its thematic connection to the English Meadows name, and tailored typefaces and designs to match the operator’s broader brand standards.

“We tried to create something that makes sense and already existed within English Meadows,” Wonderlin said. “Continuity is very important. You want families and outside organizations to associate the program with English Meadows.”

With Lavender Hills, Wonderlin said it was important to highlight specific care and amenities offered through the program rather than by using vague terminology or specifying programs broadly as memory care.

“There was no structure for it before Lavender Hills,” Wonderlin said. ‘Now there’s structure, a brand, an educational process.”

As of mid-January, English Meadows had rolled out the new brand and program in five buildings.Wonderlin is staying on as consultant to help with helping to define and grow the Lavender Hills brand for years to come.

Discovery, Belmont campaigns focus on understanding

Two recent ad campaigns from Discovery Senior Living and a video campaign from Belmont Village show other ways forward for senior living marketing in 2022.

In its“SHINE a Light on Memory Care” digital advertising and content marketing campaign, Discovery Senior Living aimed to demystify memory-related diagnoses and the process of seeking care for loved ones living with dementia.

The campaign’s designers focused on simplicity in design. The campaign’s purpose was to help families identify the warning signs of dementia-related illnesses; show that they are not alone and to help them recognize the importance of seeking help for their loved ones.

Beginning in September 2021, the campaign helped generate 2,000 leads during its run time, according to documents submitted to the awards committee.

In its“Because She’s Mom/He’s Dad” campaign, Discovery Senior Living’s created print ads to appeal to adult children of prospective residents. The ads centered on understanding, and helped convey that Discovery Senior Living communities and team members are there to help.

Ads were placed in four metro areas between May and June 2021 and have so far helped the operator generate more leads.

Belmont Village’s “The Life You’ve Earned” video campaign also illustrates how senior living operators are marketing to prospects amid the pandemic recovery.

With the campaign, the Houston-based operator sought to update its TV and digital video campaigns to portray the kind of lifestyle seniors can have at Belmont Village’s 34 communities, as well as enrich its programs and activities tailored to resident health and wellness.​

The 30-second spot — which features real Belmont Village residents and employees — highlights the operator’s support for couples requiring different levels of care and its evidence-based programming; and increased awareness of its brand to help drive qualified traffic to its website.

In the end, the campaign drove more than 250,000 new visitors to the campaign’s landing pages between May and December, 2021.​ It also resulted in a nearly 66% increase in overall web traffic to the company’s website, a more than 13% increase in form submissions on community pages and 40.5% more form submissions turn into tours​ compared with the prior seven-month period.

How 4 Senior Living Operators Honed Marketing Strategies, Built Recovery-Ready Brands

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