Hot Trends and Top Opportunities for Senior Care Marketers

Bailey Beken, Managing Director, Senior Care Summits, SMASH - SHINE
May 10, 2018

Receive notifications of new blogs and podcasts!

So much is changing in the senior care industry. Sometimes it’s helpful to get some perspective from someone who sees the full landscape and can identify opportunities for growth.

On this episode of the Senior Care Growth Show, Bailey Beeken, Managing Director of Senior Care Summits (SMASH – SHINE), shares her insights on what trends are impacting the senior living industry and discusses top opportunities for marketing and sales professionals. Listen now or read the full transcript below.

How do your marketing and sales activities stack up to other communities? Download the Senior Care Sales and Marketing Report to find out now!

Hot Trends and Top Opportunities for Senior Care Marketers

Bailey Beken, Managing Director, Senior Care Summits, SMASH - SHINE



Winston: All right, welcome to this episode of the Senior Care Growth Show where senior care sales and marketing professionals come to grow. My name is Winston and I’m super excited today to be joined by Bailey Beeken. She is the Managing Director for the Senior Care Summits who put on the SMASH Conference every year. Welcome Bailey to the Senior Care Growth Show.

Bailey: Thank you so much Winston, and thanks so much for asking me to join you today. I’m excited.

Winston: Yeah, absolutely. So just by way of introduction, maybe you could tell the audience a little bit about who you are and what it is that you do.

Bailey: Sure. Senior Care Summits produces two events a year, but the one we’re going to talk about today is the Senior Care Marketing And Sales Summit called SMASH. Most of your audience has probably heard something about it, if not have attended. Our community, what we do at SMASH is bringing together really the best and the brightest is the way that I look at it and those that really want to learn to change their organizational strategy for sentence occupancies. So the primary audience for us are the c-suite executives, again, chief strategists who are for multi-site organizations from across the continuum of care, starting with independent living on the senior housing side all the way memory care and then over to the poacute side from skilled nursing to transitional rehab and home health.

Winston: Great. Yeah. And so the SMASH conference has been going for a few years now. Tell me a little bit about how that community has evolved? Who’s attending a recent SMASH events versus when you started?

Bailey: Sure. So I love talking about the provenance and the history of SMASH. I actually had started in senior care about eight years ago and did predominantly CEO conferences. Great group! I would always do a few marketing sessions, in particular the rooms would be filled and I’d see them come out and I think, wow, none of this is getting back to your teams. So, and I’m a sales and marketer at heart at the conference producers. So, I started SMASH after talking to a number of my colleagues on the senior care side that this was something that was really needed in the industries. So in year one, we’re going to year five by the way, year one, I think we had 85 people, 85 provider organizations represented and it was really exciting, you know, just nothing like it had happened before and you know, in those first, I would say in the first two years we’ve really, from a participant point of view, what we tried to focus on was a 30,000 foot view across the spectrum of marketing and sales.

Bailey: Although we were less focused on sales at that point. So we were learning together about content digital, you know, marketing technology. So we were very focused on that. And really even at that time people were very hungry for the basic information What are my counterparts doing? What should I be doing? And there was really no need at that point to, in any way, kind of change up the sessions for more advanced or less advanced. Everyone was kind of at the core level. And I think two things came out of that first SMASH, which were three things that were very clear. One, we committed ourselves to bring in at least 75 percent of our speakers from outside the industry, the experts in content, experts in digital, the experts in paid so that our community could get an outside point of view.

Bailey: There’s a bit of an echo chamber in any industry that you’re in. So we wanted to make sure to break through that barrier. Also there are no other conferences in senior care that go across the continuum from there. It’s a very siloed industry from not for profit to, for profit from post acute to housing. And we felt very strongly as did my wonderful advisory board who had to give a shout out to. They have been, not only instrumental, but have really been directional in everything that; how SMASH is developed. And it was so exciting. Even in that first year for people to talk to their counterparts who they’d never met who were selling different services but to the same customer. And that was eye opening and exciting; networking for everyone involved. And of course, through all this, we also bring our solution partners to the table again, many of whom, Our participants are not familiar with a lot of what they do.

Bailey: And we’re really grateful to be able to be introduced in a very low key yet high thought leadership way. So those were the things that launched SMASH and I would say what’s really evolved over time, in not so much in terms of topics, although we cover all those things we have, we’ve added tracks, we’ve enhanced it. So by year three, we saw there was a real need for our own sales management track so that our SVP of sales, our regional directors of sales in these multi-site organizations really had deep dive information on how they could be doing their playbooks better. And really the also being able to have that handshake with marketing, which in today’s world of sales and marketing, if you’re not doing that, you’re probably behind the curve.

Bailey: So that was really important. Post acute became much more important, not because they weren’t in the first place, they’re selling has really shifted dramatically in the last five, six years. And I’ll talk more about their challenges in a bit. So we’ve added some very specific topics around post acute and then we have, while they’re multi-site we have what you call a small team, a small team track. And the small team isn’t because they’re small organizations. You’d be surprised how the various, some very, very large organizations have small teams and they have I won’t say a different of challenges, but they’re challenges can be many because of resources. And so we’ve continued to evolve. And then the final thing that we’ve done is, kept our core focus so that we’re always bringing things forward that are very new and interesting to people.

Bailey: We have a very aspirational audience they are on every marketing and sales site you can imagine. And they are like, oh my God, we have to learn more about AI in marketing because that’s where change our world, you know, and it may not for five years, but we get right on it and try and find the leading speaker in AI. I mean that’s an example for this year. So along with the core, what we’ve done over the last really two years, but are much more focused on it this year is we are bringing in number of what we call advanced sessions because what started in 2014 is everyone kind of being at the core and just having developed websites or they haven’t touched their sites in four years we’ve now got experts in SEO and SEM within the industry. And content, while that was people wanted to know all about it in the first year and now we, we put that into advanced tracks about how to use it, when to use it, how much to use it, how to really fashion for each a customer that may be coming to your site.

Bailey: So that’s become very important. And finally, I would say the changing audience has been one. We’re up to over 300, well over 300 provider organizations that attend. So it’s a big conference for this industry. A lot of people, a lot of sharing, great networking. I go back to that from across the continuum. But the titles have also shifted. We still get the head of SVP of sales and marketing, the chief marketing officer or the VP of sales, but they have started to bring their teams, their regional directors of sales. First year, I don’t think in the first three years we had a digital director. By last year we had 15. So clearly there has been growth, a lot of these organization have decided even though most use agency help and still use traditional marketing, digital marketing has really taken a much bigger footprint in their plans both on the marketing and sales side. And so even when they’re working with agencies that do digital, they really need that expertise in house to manage, as you well know, Winston, a very complicated function, not just from how it gets done, but how to really analyze the results. Here, you’re going to change and, and what you’re gonna do with that. So that’s been a very interesting shift as well.

Winston: Yeah, that’s really interesting. And it’s cool to hear the interest on these complex topics now that sort of the, the marketing and sales side of the industry has evolved and is really excited about these new technologies and these new opportunities. I think, last year when I spoke at SMASH was on how to handle web leads and the fact that they’re digital marketing directors that are in attendance so that they work for senior living communities is, it’s awesome to see and I think really, really exciting.

Bailey: Yeah. And again, there are our c-suite folks. What they are doing and how they’re beginning to understand about lead management and helping their heads of sales or their regional heads of sales, take that marketing information and tell a story to their teams on the ground and how to handle different leads different ways. I would say one of the big, if I two words, if I saw once I saw it probably 50 times, whether it was surveys or independent phone calls and we stay very close to the SMASH community throughout the year and a number of ways to really keep our ear to the ground and what they’re most interested in. One is lead conversion and you know, I mean it’s, which is an interesting evolution because lead generation in 2014 was the word was the buzzword. Right now we’ve got a conversion and so that’s an evolution in of itself and the other is competition. So you can think it means one thing, but I’ll tell you, it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people and I believe that that’s one of the reasons SMASH has grown because this is, to know about these two vital areas in any organization and to be able to do a deep dive is really the only solution to competition. But we can talk again about those challenges in a bit.

Winston: Yeah. I think that leads me right into my next question, which are what are some of the challenges that you see senior care organization’s facing because if lead conversion and competition are two buzzwords, those things are right. They’re hand in hand really when you think about it because how are you going to convert the lead if you’ve got a lot of other competition. And I’ve heard from so many other speakers on this show and the podcast about speed to lead and just the challenges of being first to respond and all those things I think are sort of intermingled. What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing senior care organizations right now?

Bailey: Well, certainly on the senior housing side, the changing demographic is one, you’ve got an older, a different customer, I don’t want to say frailer, but in many cases that is the case because the changing demographic. If they have an older consumer on the senior housing side, it also means they have more stakeholders and the stakeholders are often the caregivers. They’re the adult daughter, we call them the decider in chief in the industry. So, how to be able to understand how to reach all of the audiences, speak to all of their concerns because they often have two sets of concerns, is a challenge. And, when many of our participants talk about competition, there’s been a huge amount of building in senior housing. So when the recession hit, while there had already picked up quite a bit of renewed interest, you know, real estate investment trusts, this became one of the safest bets in town and so there was a lot of money that went into the venture capital side as well as the banking side to be able to build and people did see the demographic trend.

Bailey: So, there’s been a lot of increase in building and housing. So many, many markets are really in a killer competitive environment and so that’s a huge challenge. Talent is a huge challenge and I’m, I’m saying that even for the sales side, talent certainly on the service delivery on the side is difficult to keep and retain and engage talent. But on the sales side, again, with all of the changes that have taken place in sales and marketing in general, you really need a different, if not different people, a different mindset. And so trying to keep them engaged, keeping them challenged, hiring the right people. It’s very different today than it was even eight years ago. And so that’s a big challenge and especially now with 3.9% unemployment, everyone’s feeling that pain. And again, just how quickly the marketing landscape is changing is affecting both the marketing and sales side. So if people aren’t staying up on what’s Facebook doing and how much privacy is it, where are my ads going, and are they being effective? And I just use Facebook as an example, it’s just so fast paced.

Bailey: It’s a challenge. On the post acute side, what they have, their challenges are since the recession last administration putting in, trying to put in rails to bend the cost curve on medical care for seniors or 80 percent of that care, certainly Medicare has, is trying hundred million different pilots to do that. But really the overarching theme is value from volume. You know, there was always, really a pay for service fee for service, what they called it. And now it’s about bundling the payment. And so everyone’s responsible to some degree for outcomes; to get paid. And so it’s a much more networked environment, it’s much more of a straight line, B to B sale but at a much higher level. It was always a referral market in terms of working the discharge planners and that group.

Bailey: But now these networks from either managed care organizations or affordable accountable care organizations, ACO is bundled payments, hospitals, physicians groups, all of them are looking for a narrow network of partners who they know can really deliver. And that requires a much higher level of selling, of understanding data from your company, how you can ensure that there won’t be some of the dings for re hospitalization and other things. So it’s a much more complicated sale for post acute in that is a challenge. This is a bit of the minutia, but less people are going into the hospital as a result of these rails, right? They’re trying to keep them out of hospitals. And if you keep them out of hospitals, you’d probably not referring them to the post acute space. And that’s a challenge. And so their competitive landscape has changed entirely because they’re just less consumers who using the post acute product, whether it’s home health or a sniff or rehab.

Bailey: I go back to data and execution even though I would say that the post acute side uses less marketing data because they are a B to B. Although, my contention is they should have more of a B to C pay thing worldview and I think that’s certainly true for some of the larger providers. They have a lot of internal data that they have to put out in such a way for each one of these partners. They’re looking for a different set of data. So these sellers who are being managed by different groups in the C Suite, really have to understand data and be able to put out what a particular provider partner needs versus just, here are the four touch points to everybody. So we know that B to B is often a more complicated sale, a lot more stakeholder. So they’ve got a ton of challenges too.

Winston: I know. Challenges all around. Well, you mentioned data too. I think the data on both sides, on the senior housing and on the post acute side in different ways because the with any marketing now the that data that’s accessible, the more you sorta have to become a data scientist to understand where your leads coming from, what’s the conversion rate, and what conversion rate really matters, and what’s the right cost per lead because there’s so much data now, I feel like marketing and sales teams need to almost become data scientists to understand it all.

Bailey: I absolutely agree. We’ve had a couple of sessions over the years on the white lab coat and the data scientists and that’s still, by the way, an extremely important topic. And again, as they become, as the senior housing industry becomes more comfortable with what they’re doing, I think the need for this kind of predictive analytics or the understanding of the analytics is just looking at Google analytics and trying to figure out what’s going on is not the end game. I think anymore for a lot of our organizations and I want to give a shout out to the senior care community in that, again, when we started in 2014, I think the watchword was, we’re so behind the times and what I can say from attending many, many marketing conferences myself so that we can go poach speakers and ideas, which is what we do on our end. They’re not that behind every business is trying, is running to catch up with what it all means and how they can grab that consumer before somebody else does. Right. So, the data is really important. There is an element of needing data scientists. I think therefore, that’s why we see more, you know, VP’s of digital in these organizations, whether it’s on the referral side where they’re trying to take organizational data and be able to put that back out to their customer that hospital a physician group ACO or whether it’s our senior housing folks who really are trying then day by day, certainly looking at the back end of their web, what’s happening, what do they have to shift, what do they have to change.

Winston: Yeah. And I do think, I mean, all those challenges also come with opportunities. We’ll touch on those in a little bit but I was just blown away at the enthusiasm last year at the folks from Google who came to speak about artificial intelligence and home assistance and being able to talk to your Google home and get information. And I thought, man, this is a senior care conference. Like this was the first I had gone to and I was like, this is so progressive. And it was like very cutting edge and people were so excited about it. I just think that it’s a resilient group. These are a lot of challenges, but I think they’re up to the task.

Bailey: Oh totally. These are some of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with in sales and marketing and they just need to be given the tools and the ideas for the tools and as I said, they’re very aspirational. They will find the money in their budget to go try something. Most of the time, if they can’t do it this year, they’ll do it the following year. So absolutely. I agree with that. It’s interesting, when you, well, we’ll talk about the benchmark study in a little bit, but what where people were at, as I said, if you talk to them in 2014, they would have said they were completely behind the eight ball and I would say today that they don’t only not necessarily feel that way, but it’s absolutely not the case.

Winston: So on that note we did, we partnered last year we worked on a benchmark study to understand really what was important to marketing and sales folks in the industry and identify some trends. What stood out to you about that study and what have you heard from the SMASH community about the study? What was important to them?

Bailey: Well, I think, what was interesting to people as we were doing it, we had a great, again, subcommittee from our wonderful advisory board who just, I can’t thank them enough and they take a lot of time to really be able to give back to the sales and marketing community across senior care that I think people had a misconception about where not only the dollars were being spent, but where the opportunities were to be able to do better, to be able to connect better with their leads. And I think the most interesting, the question that we asked and got answered was what were the top sources for lead generation and then what was most effective and where are they spending their money? And it really wasn’t aligned. Not to say that it was all traditional and they should’ve been spending it in digital.

Bailey: Actually, there were some very real statistics that said they can’t walk away from traditional selling and whether that means print or chores or this is a very. People have to trust you to want to either put themselves into your care or if you’re, the family member wants to say, yes, this is where we want mom to live there. It’s a big trust factor. So that personal one on one or that traditional media can really, I think put that forward in a different way. But digital certainly in and people are at a very different point with that. So almost everyone has CRM that’s a given. But marketing automation, which again can help personalize the digital experience is something that I think the statistic was last year that over 60 percent of our attendees were really looking to add marketing automation to the mix this year because they, again, going back to content in the first year, the content can be a lot of things in a lot of different places.

Bailey: But that’s marketing automation is one of those main kind of hubs for that. So that was interesting. And then websites, I’ll go back to speed to lead, right? If you want to be found. Certainly many, many on the senior housing side do use a lead aggregators or a referral, sources and that’s great. And they capture all the keywords and they often fall to the top. But most websites or the majority were over two years old. And so that means, and as many of our participants know and our community knows now that this is often talked about at SMASH is that it really puts them down the rankings. Their SEO, their SEM. It’s not functioning in the same way. And so their competitor will get that call first and you know, that’s a big part of speed to lead. So going back to a big part of SMASH is trying to get sales and marketing aligned so they understand how the other can really help up the census and occupancy for each of their organizations. So we try and keep them really close. We do because all the rooms are packed. So there you go.

Winston: Great. I think that some of the stuff you touched on there, I mean the automation side, really does help I think with some of the challenges that we talked about with lead conversion and competition because not everybody is using a marketing automation right now. Your competitors might not be there yet, so you have an opportunity to automate some of those activities and actually improve your speed to lead so that you can deliver a personalized experience quickly. I think that that is just a massive opportunity to beat out some competitions, use those automation tools.

Bailey: I actually think that’s one of the reasons people are so excited about AI. I think that’s from the sales side as well. I’ve been diving into it this year because when people ask, but I don’t, I’m thinking to myself other than Alexa, I don’t know anything about AI. Now I’ve learned a little bit more and I see that it both from call center or helping the call center and automating some of the press to free up your sales team to do the more traditional work of tours and making sure you’re not missing the call the lead and making sure that people are remaining engaged with you it will be a game changer. It’s still not quite, but I think as we all continue to look at it together, that’s going to be an interesting one.

Winston: Yeah, I think so for sure. And and the fact that so many people’s websites or over two years old, is a little bit surprising. I mean, it’s not surprising, but I think that that is kind of a startling statistic because actually I’m publishing an article, it’ll be out by the time this podcast goes live about this very thing, but when you think about it, your website should really be your top salesperson. It gets the most exposure to the largest audience and it works 24/7 yet people launch it and then just let it sit for several years at a time. It’s like you want to give that salesperson the right tools, making sure that they’re well equipped. And so I think, yeah, definitely a focus on your website. It’s oftentimes the first impression for folks of your organizations. It’s so important.

Bailey: And I think again, anecdotally from talking to a lot of people, it’s really not the money, although it’s always hard to find a big chunk of money to do a complete website redesign. It’s understandable. But there are price points all along the way. Our folks are very busy. As I said, people think of our small team track as, oh, that’s for smaller organizations, almost everyone has a small team in this industry and so they’re wearing a hundred million hats and to find the kind of time that you really need to think about the way that websites are your 24 hours salesperson today is a huge investment of time. And I think sometimes that’s the almost the hardest thing for them to take on.

Winston: Yeah, I would agree with you for sure. That can be a big time suck. But it also can be really easy if you partner with the right folks.

Bailey: Yes, Winston. It’s true.

Winston: Those shameless plugs. I promised myself I wouldn’t do it anyway. So tell me this. We’ve talked a little bit about the challenges that SMASH community is facing in just the general senior living industry challenges that they’re faced with. Tell me a little bit about what are you most excited about or what opportunities do you think are the biggest opportunities for this community?

Bailey: Well, I think for our sales and marketers, because they sit in the executive suite, here are two huge opportunities for them and it’s exciting. First of all, it’s funny, I’ll just, anecdotally say that when I tell people what I do, I conference producer, I work in the senior care industry and they’re like, oh my God, that must be the sleepiest industry like you’ve mentioned when you came to the conference, you were really surprised at how cutting edge, not just the conference but the people there. How they were thinking. I’m like, Oh my God, this is the most dynamic industry I’ve worked in a long, long time. So before I say what opportunities there are, I want to say that for the sales and marketing folks, they are thinking all the time about how to get ahead of the competition and how to be able to do that so that their organizations and everyone is passionate about the way that their organization, particularly serve seniors.

Bailey: So, I think part of the opportunity is for sales and marketers, if they are on the front lines both on the sales side and the marketing side about the kind of data and information at every organization needs to be able to understand what the consumer is really saying, versus what they think they want It’s almost the features and benefits. So if people are trained to listen well and there is a pipeline in the way that information flows both from the salespeople on the ground to the regional then up through marketing and what kind of data’s coming in and what they’re clicking on and what, are they getting a hundred clicks on dining or a thousand or are they getting a hundred or thousand clicks on a care caregiving being overwhelming? Well, doesn’t that change the message depending on what you know, what’s being said?

Bailey: So I think the opportunity is really to be the eyes and ears for the organization about how they can begin to differentiate, gave not only what they do and I think that’s a huge opportunity. That’s not really being taken advantage of in most organizations that our folks are really the pipeline to that, but also to how they message and that is certainly at the very least they can be that pipeline. And so that’s, I think a really exciting place for all are SMASH community to be thinking about. And on the post acute side, similarly they are the front lines talking to those referral professional referral organizations. They are on the front lines when consumers call or the decider in chief who the hospital’s called, you thought mom was getting out Friday. She’s cutting, they call on Wednesday and these issues getting out tomorrow, here are five places we recommend.

Bailey: If you have no idea, the adult daughter has no idea what to do. She’s calling three places, you know, who is answering that phone, what are they saying, what questions are being asked. So that again the turnaround to that is the organization begins to know what’s a real concern to the consumer as well as to their professional referral partners. And I think that’s a great opportunity to be able to drive organizational success. So that’s what we hope to be able to do through thinking about data and how it comes in and how it’s, how it’s leaving. I mean, one of the things in the professional referral market is the data that is available for most markets about how hospitals are discharging their patients and who they’re discharging them too. So all of the hips, right, are going to this sniff, that sniff. Well, the old guard, I would tell you the marketer so much, but certainly the salespeople were not necessarily paying attention that day by day they now are, and if they aren’t, they’re figuring out a way to make sure that’s happening. And so there’s a lot of opportunity in all of that to be able to really shift the organization’s message and their service to differentiate, which is a huge issue for them because people do feel that it’s a bit of a commoditized service.

Winston: Yeah, definitely. You’ve mentioned so many good things I think people can think about. And man, Bailey, Thank you so much for taking the time today to chat with me. This has been just a an excellent conversation. I think there’s a lot of tidbits people can can take and think about and opportunities to look forward to and thank you so much for being on the show. I really appreciate it

Bailey: Winston, thanks so much for asking me. It was a great time. Thanks. Take care.

Winston: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much.

Winston: Once again, like to thank our guests, Bailey Beacon for being on the show. The Smash Senior Care Sales and Marketing Summit is happening October 1-3 in Chicago. For more information and to register, visit For a limited time, you can save $400 when you register for SMASH and use Code Seg400. Visit our website at for more Senior Care Growth Show Podcast as well as other helpful resources including the state of senior care sales and marketing report that Bailey and I discussed in this episode. Again, that’s Thanks so much for tuning in to the Senior Care Growth Show where senior care sales and marketing professionals come to grow. My name is Winston and I will talk to you soon.

Receive notifications of new blogs and podcasts!