January 18, 2023

4 Best Marketing Strategies for Assisted Living in 2024

8 minute read
A graphic of tools to represent software for assisted living communities

Occupancy is king. It’s the lifeblood of retirement communities. With it, life is good. You can grow your community, look into expansion opportunities, or build a waitlist and protect your investment. Without it, you always feel like you’re behind the eight ball. 

Before starting, Huddle, I was the marketing director for a fast-growing Canadian chain of retirement homes. I had the opportunity to manage a large marketing budget as we sought to increase occupancy in existing communities and aggressively grow our waitlist in areas where we were expanding.

As an outsider to the industry, I was surprised by my experience. They were some of the most rewarding years of my life. I built unique relationships with ultra-passionate staff, fantastic residents, and business-savvy operators. 

As a group, we achieved fantastic results, doubled occupancy for the portfolio, expanded our brand awareness to the entire province, and successfully launched three new communities. 

When I started my journey, I couldn’t find much in the way of information about senior living marketing. Anything I did find was nearly impossible to use because it was either too generic or lacked any specific strategy.

I tried dozens of strategies to reach seniors and their families, which proved harder than I expected. We advertised on local TVs and specific hospital display networks, billboards and newspapers to personal mail-outs, special events, all over the internet, and a few other nooks and crannies. I made sure to track everything I did so our results were held accountable.

This is the article I wished existed. 

So, without further ado, here are 5 strategies for your assisted living community, chock-full of my own experience, with specific examples on how to execute them.

#1 – Generate More Leads with Facebook

If senior living had a currency, it would be leads. Whether in waitlist form or potential move-ins, having a list of leads is worth its weight in gold. Building this list is critical to ensuring the future protection of your asset. 

One of the best advertising channels I’ve seen for senior living is Facebook. It beats radio, TV, newspapers, and just about any other channel I’ve seen. It’s the king.

Why? Because some of the most active users of Facebook also happen to be the target audience for retirement homes: children of seniors. Baby boomers and Gen X’ers are one of the most active groups on Facebook.

I saw more engagement on social media while working within senior living than I have ever seen in other industries. They watch videos and engage with likes, comments, and shares, improving your ads' results.

Plus, seniors are also starting to get more active on Facebook. The use of Facebook among seniors has doubled over recent years, according to Pew Research Center.

There are a ton of different ways to create ad campaigns. However, here are two strategies I would use consistently if I were making a campaign today.

Direct Promotion

A no-frills strategy, it’s straight to the point to impress clientele and then collect their information. Leads generated this way are more expensive to acquire but closer to their purchasing decision. To be successful, you’ll want to find the most appealing aspect of your retirement community and then promote it, along with a list of all the benefits your community offers (bonus points for benefits unique to your community).

For example, if I were promoting a community with fantastic greenery, I would hire a photographer to capture shots of seniors enjoying the green space around the home. I would then use those images as the centrepiece of the ads and then write copy about all the benefits, features, and care the community provides, along with testimonials. 

The key here is to lead with your community's unique value, things that make you stand out. For example, if your community isn’t necessarily new and modern, your advantage could be that you have a fantastic recreation director who plans outings and engages seniors. In this case, record a video of your next outing, showing seniors enjoying themselves and the fun places they go. 

Find your strength and use it to stand out. 

The Lead Magnet

Create a unique piece of super-appealing content for your clientele and provide it to them in exchange for their contact info. This is more on the ‘frills’ side of things. You’ll get an extensive list of leads, some of whom may not be interested, however, at a far lower cost than traditional ads. It will also earn word of mouth because of its interest appeal. 

Example: I would gather residents who like baking and write a cookbook, complete with recipes, images of the seniors and their dishes, and tons of promotional material about the home. I would offer this book in a digital format and promote it with ads, allowing people to download it in exchange for their emails. 

You can promote both of those campaigns in tandem, so on the one hand you’re opening a tonne of doors with the soft sell, and once they’ve considered you, you’re closing with a more direct approach. When done right, you’ll have a long list of leads for your sales team to start calling on.

#2 – Invest in Your Website

Ben Franklin was wrong. There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and prospects looking at your website. This is true now and will become a certainty as things become more digitized.

Yet, so many retirement home websites look dated, have poor navigation and typos, or generally don’t work well.

Your website is worth spending time and money on to improve. It’s a brochure, salesperson, and billboard wrapped into one. It promotes your business, explains to prospects why they should consider you, and acts as a bank of information they can draw from later (i.e. when someone speaks to their parents about you).

Done well, it helps inform prospective clients about what your home has to offer and how they can get in touch with you, and will collect their information so a manager or salesperson can reach out to them.

Key points you want to have nailed down.

Provide Clear Navigation for Your Visitors

Think about what the user is looking for and design your website to easily deliver that to them. Ensure they get from point A, which is usually the main page, to points B, C, and D in the most effective way possible. If they get lost on your site, they may leave and not return. 

Generally, users want to know what type of community you are (i.e. assisted living, long term, apartments, etc.), they’ll want to know what types of services you offer, photos of the rooms and facility, testimonials from current residents, and if all goes well, booking a tour or call. 

Make sure they can move seamlessly through that flow and, as our next point explains, that you collect a phone number along the way.

Ensure You Collect Visitor Information

Do this on just about every page. This can be with a contact form, brochure download, or chat pop-up. You’re leaving a lot on the table if you don’t have a way to contact interested visitors. Make sure this is clearly marked, like a bright ‘Contact Us’ button. 

For example, on our site, we have a ‘Get Demo’ call to action in yellow. We’ve used it twice because it’s the most important action for a visitor to take, it shows us they’re interested in the product. 

Have Something to Trade

What often works best for capturing visitor information is having a piece of content they’re interested in. You’re essentially bargaining, “I’ll give you this thing in exchange for your information, and hence a chance at your business”, if the thing is interesting enough to your audience, you’ll earn more sign-ups and have a chance to earn more business.

Make Sure it’s Well Designed

Your website reflects your business. If it feels dated it will give negative signals to your audience. Having a well-designed website isn’t a bonus anymore. It’s table stakes. 

It’s a digital version of your business. Having a poorly designed site would be the equivalent of having a family do a tour, and the first room you show them has shag carpeting and no windows.

If you’re building your website in-house, ensure you’re using modern sites as a reference, if you’re hiring a contractor or agency, review their past work to get a sense of their capabilities.   

#3 – Mail-Outs

Just because the last couple of points were modern marketing tactics doesn’t mean we’ve abandoned the classics. We still love the use of promotional mail to seniors and their families, and we can tell you from experience that it works.

Because everything is going digital, it feels like physical advertising is making a resurgence. If you can escape the clutter of coupons and your mail-out is well-designed and thoughtfully written, you’ll likely be greeted positively. 

But that’s the catch, you can’t blend in with junk mail, and it can’t read like a sales letter. It should be genuine and exciting. Unfortunately, people are numb to promotional mail besides coupons at places they like. 

The last time I sent out mail-outs, we designed a postcard that looked like an invitation to a Grand Opening for a high-class hotel – which was in line with a campaign we were running at the time. We curated a stunning photo for the front of the card along with the headline “You’re Invited”.

Folks couldn’t help but turn it over, where we invited them to our grand opening and explained more about our upcoming community (which was then under construction). We heard stories that people would put them on their fridges and families would come over and ask what they were invited to. The style and design of the cards created a powerful interest appeal. And, most importantly, they saved the date. 

When we did have our grand opening, it was to a packed house and a full day of tours—resulting in a lot of momentum for a new community.

One lesson learned: ask your mailer if they can send them out for you. A coworker and I were tasked with mailing over 42,000 postcards to the 200+ communities in our jurisdiction. We spent over two days inside multiple post offices, writing out the names of each community and bundling up the required number of postcards, to the amusement and frustration of employees and customers.

We later discovered that when you send an industrial quantity of mail, the post office will handle them for you at little to no cost. 

#4 – Start Offering Virtual Tours of Your Community

Suite promotion is an arms race. It started with physical tours, turned to brochures with photos of the rooms, became digital with websites and social media, and now it’s going beyond images to recreate the space in as much detail as possible with virtual tours.

We don’t think this is table stakes right now; this is a clear advantage. Most communities aren’t offering this. Those who are can share their community in a way they have never been able to before. 

It’s only a matter of time before this becomes the norm. We’re visual creatures, as are prospective residents and their family members. Oftentimes they want to see the space before considering some more impactful questions (like features and amenities). The last time I was giving tours, the first question people would ask would be if they could see the rooms.

From where I sit, there are two ways to play this. The first is to create a 3D environment where people can click around and move through your home (think Google maps for senior homes). The other is to record videos that take folks through a guided tour. It seems like the consensus right now is the Google Maps-styled 3D tour of homes, which I see most communities choose.

I’d choose the video tours. Here’s why: first, current technology isn’t smooth, I foresee a lot of users getting lost or stuck somewhere, and until it’s better, I wouldn’t want to invest in it. Second, it’s dry, impersonal, and lacks a salesperson's touch.

A video tour lets you add personality to the mix while creating a guided tour that explains more in-depth features and services than a solo tour ever could. It will show the prospect precisely what they need to see to make their buying decision while also giving them a window into who you are as an operator. 

Plus, it makes for a great touchpoint throughout the marketing and sales process: you can advertise them online, insert them in key places on your website, send them to prospects you’re emailing, or share them on social media.

Whatever You Choose to Do, Just Start Something

Too often are marketing objectives spoken about in a board room but never executed. They sound great until the rubber has to meet the road. Pick one thing you want your team to do, and make sure you execute it well. People overcomplicate marketing far too often like it’s some masterplan of an evil genius with multiple steps that all need to intertwine at an exact point. 

Focusing on one thing and doing it well will work better than spreading your efforts across multiple channels or strategies. Ensure you measure your results so you can evaluate whether they worked or not. Finding what works for you is essential, so you can nurture what does and move away from what doesn’t.

Let me know how it goes!

Enjoyed this article? Get exclusive content delivered to your inbox every month.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Schedule Your Team 10x Faster
See why retirement homes are switching to Huddle for easy team scheduling and time tracking.
Try Huddle Free
Software that helps senior living managers oversee their teams faster.
Get a 14-Day Free Trial

See how Huddle can streamline your HR.
Share your information so the team can
set up your account.

Got it! We're creating your account now. Check your email
for log-in instructions. If you don't see an email from us,
check your spam folder.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form. Try again.