A Guide to Senior Housing & Assisted Living Digital Marketing

Senior Marketing and the Growing Demand for Assisted Living

The Senior Living industry, especially Assisted Living retirement communities, is becoming more popular as seniors seek a safe, comfortable, and supportive environment.

As the Boomer Generation ages, the need for health and home care is rising. In Canada, the oldest members of this large generation will reach 85 years of age in 2031, which is typically an age associated with physical limitations and a decline in autonomy.

We are already seeing an increase of Senior Living communities that provide vital levels of care and support for elderly individuals who require assistance with daily living activities.

It’s not enough to rely on traditional (non-digital) marketing. Today’s older adult is being dubbed the “Digital Senior” for good reason. Seniors and their adult children extensively use digital channels to help research and choose their residence.

A majority of seniors spend at least six hours a day online and own an average of five devices.

Kelly Twohig

Think with Google

It’s essential that these communities have an effective digital marketing strategy in place in order to reach potential residents, attract qualified leads and retain current residents.

This article provides insight into the most effective digital marketing strategies for assisted living communities, such as targeting the right audience, optimizing for search engines, creating a budget for marketing teams, and utilizing both traditional and digital advertising channels.

We’ll also explore how to measure the success of your digital marketing efforts and stay up to date with the latest trends in Senior Care industry.

By following these tips, Senior Living Communities can effectively reach their target audience, attract potential customers, nurture interest, generate more leads, book more tours, increase resident satisfaction, and grow occupancy.

1. Target Audience & Senior Living Avatars

The first step in devising a digital marketing strategy for an assisted living residence is to understand the target audience and their customer journey.

Assisted living communities are typically geared towards seniors who may need help with everyday tasks such as taking medications, preparing meals and bathing.

Knowing this information allows marketing teams to better tailor their messaging and determine which channels will be most effective for reaching prospective residents.

It’s also important to consider the demographic of both the prospective resident and the adult child who is often very involved in the research and decision-making process.

For example, older adults are more likely to respond to print advertisements than younger generations, so it may be beneficial to include traditional advertising in addition to digital strategies when specifically speaking to the senior parent.

They are also more likely to resort to phone calls, read a blog post on topics like “The Power of Long-Term Thinking in Retirement”, and respond to informative email marketing campaigns.

Adult children are often juggling a number of things and don’t necessarily have time to read blogs or remember to open an email when their inbox is flooded daily.

They may respond better to an engaging Meta Ad (Facebook Ad), do research on Google (where organic search optimization is key), or watch a virtual tour of a residence.

However, one of the mistakes we often see in Senior Living Marketing is a shallow and rudimentary target audience. It is difficult to stand out from the competition when your ideal customer is described in generic demographic data such as: “We are targeting mostly female seniors ages 65-80, in the downtown area who need assistance with daily routines.”

Digital marketing accounts for an average of 70% of leads for our Senior Living clients.

Anneline Breetzke

President & CEO of Digital Seniority

Effective digital marketing efforts demand a breadth and depth for each persona involved in the research and decision-making process.

Spend time diving deep into your ideal resident profile, think of nuances, interests, specific pain-points they have that your unique residence solves, and what their customer journey would be.

Then dive into the adult child who is often a key player in the process. Who is he or she? What do they do? What are their stressors and concerns? What is their customer journey?

Then ask if there are any other players that play a role in the potential resident’s move-in journey?

Each persona needs to be spoken to in a different way. Each have different problems that need solving.

Effective digital marketing is able to speak the language of their target audience, where the persona feels as if they are known and understood, which opens them up the solutions you have to offer.

2. Customer Journey & Marketing Strategy

How many touchpoints does it take to get a senior living lead to move in?

Senior housing leads require many more touches than your marketing and sales teams likely even realize. Much higher than other industries.

Senior housing leads need a minimum of 22 touches for independent living, assisted living, and memory care and 28 touches for comprehensive tiered care communities.

Not only does your residence need to create multiple opportunities for potential customers to have a positive encounter with your brand, but it needs to ensure there are touch points for all the buyer personas at each key step in the customer journey.

You cannot achieve this with traditional marketing alone, you have to invest in a well-planned digital strategy.

Digital marketing accounts for an average of 70% of leads for our Senior Living clients.

Anneline Breetzke

President & CEO of Digital Seniority

Effective marketing strategies map an execution plan:

  • based on key points in the customer journey
  • of all identified personas
  • delivering your unique selling proposition in the market
  • aligned with your business goals and budget

This over-arching lead generation ‘map’ informs all the advertising you do – whether it’s paid social, organic social, PPC Google Ads, a blog post, an email drip sequence, or lead magnet.

Everything finds its place within the framework.

Without this framework, your digital marketing efforts are ‘shooting in the dark’ hoping you hit your target, or ‘throwing spaghetti to the wall’ hoping it sticks.

No framework is a recipe for wasting time and money.

An intelligent framework that is continually being optimized is like a snowball that keeps growing and gaining momentum, knocking competitors out of the way, and setting you up for both short-term and long-term success.

Don’t settle for less!

3. Optimized Assisted Living Website

A crucial part of effective online marketing for assisted living facilities is creating a website that accurately (and quickly) portrays the residence and its offerings.

A website that is optimized for search engine results pages (SERPs) to ensure the community appears at the top of relevant searches, and is structured for a good user experience where it is easy to contact you, book a tour, or download a brochure.

You can have the best organic social media strategy, Facebook Ads or Google Ads campaign, but with a poor website, those efforts are ineffective.

I often suggest my clients pause their paid digital advertising until they have a website – or landing page – that can take the people the ads send and convert them into leads.

You must invest in what is called a “conversion-rate optimized website” that is “built for marketing” with an Search Engine Optimization (SEO) implementation plan.

Some key factors to consider when optimizing your website include:

  • Mobile Responsiveness: With the majority of senior living web traffic coming from mobile devices (specifically iOS), it’s essential to ensure your website is optimized for mobile devices.
Mobile Responsiveness
  • Page Speed: Slow page speed can impact user experience and search engine rankings. At the very least, optimize images and remove unnecessary plugins to improve page speed.
  • Content: Ensure your website contains high-quality content that speaks to the needs and concerns of potential residents and their adult children. Include information about levels of care, services, amenities, testimonials from satisfied clients, and what makes your residence unique.
  • Conversion Assets: Make forms easily accessible, including your phone number. Add and place conversion assets on your site to be conducive for visitors to take action easily.
  • Web Accessibility: Websites for Senior Living & Care must also prioritize accessibility. Older adults often need extra features to properly read and engage with your website.

An Important Note On Web Accessibility

Making your website accessible is much more than just increasing font size, or improving contrast on contact forms. A beautiful website doesn’t mean it’s a compliant website.

I believe we owe it to our seniors to make it as easy as possible to get the information they need. It builds trust and helps with SEO, too. (Read about the benefits of having an accessible website)

Web accessibility is not just the right thing to do, it is also a matter of legal compliance regardless of whether your website is geared to seniors or not.

Most countries have adopted the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), and websites need to comply or legal action can be taken.

There are applications to help your website attain compliance, such as AccessiBe which used AI to detect issues and automatically fix them, along with providing visitors some incredible tools.

Want to know if your website is compliant? Get a free Accessibility Audit.

4. Choosing Your Digital Marketing Mix

Should you invest in Facebook Ads (Meta Ads) or Google Ads? Should you invest in Email Marketing or Content Marketing? What about LinkedIn Ads, organic social media marketing, reputation management, an interactive lead magnet like a cost calculator? So many questions, and so many options.

When it comes to selecting your marketing mix you need to reference your budget, business goals, geography, single-or-multi location, and marketing strategy (the framework mentioned in point #2).

Start with the basics and then add other channels. Magic words here are “add, test, optimize”.

Every marketing strategy should be malleable, fluid, and flexible – always looking for new opportunities, ways to improve what’s already working, and staying “in-the-know” of new trends that can benefit the mix.

For example, your marketing mix will (should) change as you move from pre-open, to newly opened, to established. Or as you grow from a single residence to a multi-residence brand, or as positive ROI from your marketing efforts increases your digital budget to tap into other online channels (like YouTube) where future residents are spending time.

There are so many options.

However, it’s better to do a few channels really well than spread yourself too thinly trying to do everything. It’s pointless buying a car if you don’t have enough gas to drive to your destination.

A good digital partner will not only help you determine the optimal marketing mix you need for where you are today but will also consider where you want to go to make sure you get there.

It’s pointless buying a car if you don’t have enough gas to drive to your destination.

Anneline Breetzke

President & CEO of Digital Seniority

It’s important for assisted living, independent living, memory care, and other levels of care communities to stay up-to-date with the latest digital marketing trends in senior care.

This includes incorporating technology into daily operations, using virtual tours or video walkthroughs of the residence, utilizing online scheduling tools, and engaging in content marketing to build relationships with potential residents.

By staying informed of industry trends, assisted living communities can remain competitive and ensure they’re providing the best quality of life for their residents.

5. Determine Your Digital Marketing Budget

We’re often asked, “What should we allocate for digital marketing?” I wish there was a one-size-fits-all, easy answer.

From our experience, assisted living facilities and retirement homes need to increase their allocation of resources toward online advertising, pay-per-click campaigns, search engine optimization (SEO) and other digital channels.

It’s important to ensure the budget is realistic and, as mentioned in point #4, is allocated in such a way to optimize each online marketing channel.

There are some important questions that will help determine your budget. Questions like:

  • “What is your average revenue per suite?”
  • “How long is your sales cycle?”
  • “What is the conversion rate from inquiries to deposits?”
  • “How much is it costing you in ad spend for a lead?”
  • “How much are you prepare to spend to acquire a lead?”

Again, a good digital partner will be able to work through these questions with you, along with other business objectives, and budget considerations.

Meeting with senior housing operators who see little-to-no value in digital marketing is disheartening.

Quite often, they’ve had a dismal experience with a marketing agency or digital “expert”, that produced no measurable results that led to an increase in occupancy.

Or they have an outdated mindset that hasn’t progressed with the advancement of technology and seniors’ adoption of online channels.

Here are some common marketing budget mistakes:

  • Expecting increased leads and occupancy (big revenue) with a meager investment.
  • Rigid budget allocation to each channel which limits results.
  • Not believing the positive ROI value of effective digital marketing.
  • Thinking cheaper service fees are better when you have limited knowledge of how to evaluate effective marketing.

Some channels are more costly than others, and depending on your business goals, you may defer some channels in favor of a smaller initial investment. Or you might be at the point of scaling your residence and investing more heavily.

Work with your digital team to rightly allocate budget against an intelligent digital marketing execution framework. Have this in place before you start spend the dollars.

6. Measure Digital Marketing Success

Only implement digital marketing when you have a clear grid for measuring it’s performance.

You need to know what metrics actually make a difference in occupancy, and not let fancy charts and “vanity” metrics make you think your marketer is doing a good job.

For example, ‘Website Traffic’ is a helpful indicator, but traffic that doesn’t convert into move-ins does not matter.

You would be better off with a marketer sending less people who are more qualified to your website, than impress you with big traffic numbers that don’t have any interest in your residence.

Senior housing marketers can track metrics such as website visits, page views and time spent on site to gauge interest in the facility.

However, it’s the conversion metrics that should be the goal of your digital channels, namely – form fills, phone calls, inquiries, tour bookings, and deposits.

Monitor the conversion rates and duration from leads to inquiries, inquiries to tours, and from tours to move-ins.

This requires closed-loop reporting, where Sales provides feedback to Marketing (and vice versa), to gain a full picture of what’s working and what isn’t.

Marketing automation tools, tracking software, and analytics programs are critical to help determine success and uncover missed opportunities.

Measure performance against KPIs that make a difference to occupancy.

Anneline Breetzke

President & CEO of Digital Seniority

Measuring performance is critical to finding opportunities, gaps in the funnel, areas for improvement, which channels to push and which to pull back on, where to allocate marketing spend, and more.

As Peter Drucker aptly said, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” You don’t want to measure for measurement sake. Your analysis needs to have intent and results in action steps to improve performance even further.

It’s important to note that different channels are best evaluated over different time frames.

For example, SEO is best evaluated year-over-year. An investment you make today in SEO might take 6 months to start to show in search rankings.

When you launch a Meta Ads campaign, it will take time for the algorithm to optimize based on the newness of your ad account, your campaign objective, how big your audience is, how much ad spend you’re allocating, and other factors.

Unless you’re running a ‘shot-gun’ campaign (short-term with a specific intent such as a Facebook Ad campaign to generate RSVPs for an Open House), digital strategies that build the marketing engine are longer-term. Each campaign increases the impact and momentum of the ‘digital snowball’.

7. Marketing Automation Solutions

There’s an age-old war between the sales team and marketing team. Sales blames Marketing for not producing enough qualified leads. Marketing blames Sales for not doing a good job at closing the leads they send.

Essentially they’re both trying to solve the same problem. They want better results, but can’t see what the other is doing.

How do you know what the most common customer journey is to a move-in if you don’t know who placed a deposit and actually moved in?

Solution: Closed-Loop Reporting Tools (aka automation platforms)

By “closed-loop reporting”, I am referring to the method that makes available to both marketing and sales teams the data and information they have collected on a resident.

For example, Marketing can see which channels result in more move-ins. Sales can see where leads are coming from to know how best to communicate with them.

Closed-Loop Reporting means sales and marketing can work together to get better results.

Anneline Breetzke

President & CEO of Digital Seniority

There are a lot of automation platforms to choose from. They range in price, features, use-case, and integrations.

CRMs like Yardi, Sherpa, and Enquire have strong Senior Housing applications. PointClickCare is used in some Assisted Living residences as a healthcare software solution. Others like SharpSpring, Keap, and HubSpot, have a strong marketing and sales automation component. Others are weighted more toward marketing (e.g. Agewise MAP, MailerLite), or sales (e.g. Salesforce).

Most often we see residences integrate applications that work best for their needs as opposed to an “all-in-one” solution that can be costly, bulky, with low user adoption.

As helpful as these tools are, they come with challenges, such as:

  • Choosing the right tool for your needs and budget
  • Implementing and learning a new platform
  • Consistent adoption of the program

We often hear this: "We have a CRM but the sales team doesn’t have time to enter the date it requires.”

Before investing in a program, ensure you understand the needs of your organization, the sales team, and the marketing team.

Contact us if you need guidance in selecting a marketing automation platform.

8. Choosing a Digital Agency / Partner

We’ve only scratched the surface of Senior Housing and Assisted Living digital marketing.

Choosing the right digital marketing partner or employee is the difference between poor, average, and powerful ROI.

We’ve done numerous senior living marketing digital audits, and in almost every instance, have been discouraged by the lack of digital expertise in this space.

There are too many cases of, “my cousin can do Facebook ads for $200”, or “our print/direct mail company now also does digital and it’s only $500 extra”, or “our agency charges us $$$ but we aren’t getting a positive return on our investment.”

So, how do you know if someone is truly an expert? How do you compare one agency to another?

We’re working on an article that covers this in more detail, but here are some big ones:

  • Do they just boost posts and call it Facebook Ads?
  • What do they track for conversions – is it form fills and phone calls or supporting metrics like traffic?
  • Are they wasting more than 30% of ad spend on Google Ads?
  • Have they set up proper conversion tracking on your website and related assets?
  • Do they see the bigger picture and create an integrated marketing plan?

Assessing an agency’s competency is tricky – especially if you’re speaking with an expert during the hiring process but end up having a junior working on your account.

You must have the right metrics in place to assess performance as you work with them.

If you’re already working with an agency or an in-house team, we strongly encourage you to undergo an in-depth audit of your website and digital marketing.

We offer both free and paid digital audits.

Conclusion

Digital marketing is essential to any senior living marketing strategy.

Optimizing your website, leveraging social media, investing in paid advertising, implementing SEO best practices, and utilizing marketing automation platforms can improve your online presence and reach more potential clients.

Remember to monitor your results and adjust your strategies as needed to achieve the best possible outcomes.

Work with a digital partner/agency that knows your industry and has credible skill in all key areas of digital marketing. Don’t just take their word for it, make sure they have proof of the success they achieve for their Senior Housing clients.

About the author 

Anneline Breetzke

Anneline Breetzke is the key strategist at Digital Seniority, specializing in digital marketing for the Senior Living & Care industry. Her deep understanding and innovative approach make her invaluable to those seeking expert insights in senior care digital communications.

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