Marketing During a Pandemic: Senior Housing Looks to Online Marketing

March 27, 2020 | Rick Whittington

These are difficult times for the senior housing industry for a variety of reasons.

There is the obvious health crisis, where this novel coronavirus is affecting seniors at a higher rate than younger, healthier people. Once an infection is seen in a community, it has a tendency to infect many others.

You might be facing labor force issues as well. Workers might be forced to stay home to care for children, they might be out sick, etc.

In addition, sales and lead generation have come almost to a standstill. Social isolation and community lockdowns have forced communities to think differently about how to advertise and sell.

Here are some general recommendations for your communities as we navigate this public healthcare crisis.

We found in our recent survey of senior care sales and marketing leaders that internet searches are their 2nd best referral source, only behind move-in/admission/patient referrals. In the turbulent times that we’re in right now, it’s more important than ever that the senior housing industry focus resources to optimize their websites for search engines. It’s also critical that your community locations are listed on Google My Business, as it can give your community another listing on the coveted first page of search results, and can also help you appear on the map on some search results pages in Google.

Community and on-site events has always been a top driver of leads for your communities. In this time where social distancing prevails, that lead source has dried up and communities are relying on the internet to capture the attention of senior care searchers. The real estate industry is leveraging video tours and virtual tours to allow prospects to view homes and offices online. The senior housing industry should take notice and find ways to leverage this technology — not only during the Coronavirus pandemic, but afterwards as well.

Our survey found that less than 5% of respondents plan to decrease spending on social media, search engine optimization or spending on their websites. Only 7% of respondents planned to pull back on online paid advertising.

Our survey found that 51% of communities that optimize their websites for search engines are using external agencies for this activity. While the costs might be greater to do this, agencies will have the experience to audit and optimize a website quickly. It might be worth the investment. Expect to pay a one-time fee for initial optimization and a smaller ongoing fee, as search engines adjust ranking factors at least monthly.

Communities and organizations that have budgeted for in-person events to draw in prospects should shift temporarily to internet advertising to generate those leads. Google Ads and Facebook are popular platforms where communities can advertise. Even before the pandemic, nearly 50% of communities planned to increase spending on online paid advertising — more than any other area including events and referrals.

Communities must take steps to advertise in such a way that’s not tone-deaf to the pandemic we’re experiencing, especially since senior communities have been dramatically affected.

Our survey found that 38% of communities that are doing paid advertising on search engines are using an external agency. Paid advertising can be very difficult and wasteful from a budget standpoint if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you pay someone else to manage online advertising, look for a certified Google Ad partner. Expect to pay a one-time fee for initial setup and an ongoing fee to optimize your ad account, which involves ad testing and adjusting budgets to keywords that are most effective for lead generation.

We recently recorded a podcast that advises senior housing communities to optimize their websites and online presence for search engines. The podcast can be found here.

Communities will continue to face challenges around closing more leads and increasing occupancy. It’s important during this time to put systems and processes in place to improve lead followup speed, efficiency and frequency of helpful followup during the full length of the sales process.

If we can be helpful to your community or organization, here are some ways we invite you to engage:

  • A free strategy session where we can discuss your challenges and provide some feedback/advice
  • Optimize your website for search engines
  • Responsible management paid online advertising
  • Improve lead followup and nurturing

Let us know if we can help.

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About The Author

Rick Whittington

Rick helps senior care and senior living organizations thrive online, helping to increase census through better digital marketing and sales/CRM. He can be reached at rick[at]seniorcaregrowth.com.

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