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Speak to ME: Turning LTC advertising into engagement

November 6, 2015
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
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Long gone are the days when static advertising and single-track marketing alone got the job done, and the sooner long-term care (LTC) communities realize that, the better, said a panel presenting at the LeadingAge Annual Meeting and Expo in Boston. LTC marketing is all about individual engagement now, and traditional advertising alone is seeing its limits.

"Advertising is mainly pushed out to everyone in the same form. Engagement is about turning people on in a customer-oriented way," said Beth Spohn, Director of Business Development at Creating Results-Strategic Marketing, Woodbridge, Va. "Engagement requires you to get to know each target person. What are their preferred platforms or channels? How do they like to communicate?"

Engagement strategies are two-way by nature, Spohn added. Communities can learn a lot from how their outreach is received, and how people might interact back. That can include everything from online feedback boxes to an analysis of wat search terms they're using on your website. Being able to gather feedback on marketing strategies can provide crucial value alignment for LTC communities, including how to communicate with potential residents in the future, she said.

Viewing long-term care community living as a "pain-based journey" is passé now, because today’s seniors don’t view their own aging process that way anymore, she said. Instead, today’s seniors want to hear about "gain-based journeys," which means your marketing language may need a tune-up.

Kim Daly Nobbs, chief marketing officer at Willow Valley Communities, a provider in Willow Street, Penn., had some suggestions on what terms should be in or out: "Words have power. Get rid of the 'F' word [facilities]--use 'community.' And please stop using the word 'dietary.' Try using 'culinary services' or 'dining' instead." Daly Nobbs even suggests rethinking the term "assisted living,” since "Assisted living is ultimately going to become the biggest part of the continuum. Maybe we should call it 'supportive living.'"

Continuity is crucial when it comes to courting potential move-ins at marketing events, said Todd Harff, President of Creating Results-Strategic Marketing. If you host an event, make sure the accoutrements you offer accurately reflect real life at the community. "It’s the classic 'are the shrimp served in the dining room the same size as they were at the marketing event?' Those things really matter to people."

Online tools for marketing, especially on web sites, and becoming excellent tools. But don’t irritate potential clients by giving them everything on the web site except what they really want, Harff warned. "Lack of pricing is the #1 pet peeve," he said. "If they're looking for pricing information, they should be able to find it."

And on LeadingAge’s new initiative to change the term "CCRC" to "Life Plan Community"? The idea is great, Harff said, "but don't replace the word 'CCRC' on your website content tabs right away. I don’t think people will be looking for that term just yet."