By Juli Durante
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When marketing multiple senior living communities, it often makes sense to introduce as much consistency as possible across locations. As a marketer, this is hugely appealing to me. The mantra “Find what works, then do it again” is one that I have shared more times than I can count.
But as a marketer, I’ve seen some funny things happen, particularly for senior living communities, when marketing becomes too cookie-cutter—even for communities under the same brand. Here are some scenarios that the SmartBug Media™ team has run into over the years.
1. Language that resonates on a few communities didn’t make a difference at scale.
Once, when working with a client with about 20 locations, we tested changing the language on a contact form from “Contact us” to “We’re here to help.” Conventional wisdom dictates that the simplest, most straightforward, and most actionable landing page language will win, which made this test a bit of a risk. But we hypothesized that this language would lead to more conversions because it was more conversational, thoughtful, and, well, helpful. We were right … kind of.
We initially piloted this test at three communities and saw great, statistically significant results. With that in mind, we rolled the test out to the remaining communities and saw a mostly flat improvement. Why was our test flat? There can be many reasons, ranging from the source of traffic to one community’s page versus another all the way through community location and demographics.
Although this test fell flat, we did learn something important for the client: We could use softer, less sales-y, and more on-brand language WITHOUT sacrificing conversion rates. In this case, in the face of a failed hypothesis, we did have a significant outcome.
2. Conversion rates on templated community landing pages vary greatly.
In another case, we found that community landing pages—which all used identical templates—ranged from 1 percent to 5 percent visit-to-new-contact rates. Although we didn’t mind seeing 5 percent, 1 percent just felt too low, and the difference in rates between pages on the same template wasn’t what we expected to see.
Here, we dug a little deeper and found that each community had a different traffic profile: Some received a lot of mostly high-converting traffic from organic search, while others got most of their traffic from email marketing. Email marketing traffic tends not to create new contacts, because you’re emailing people who are already in your database. Although these communities had the same overall approach and strategy when it came to digital:
- Some were running more in-person events than others
- Some were running more print ads than others
- Some had a bit of extra budget for their PPC spend
What we learned was that some communities will need slightly different landing pages based on their traffic profile.
3. A community that has yet to open, a community that has recently opened, and a community that has been open for a long time are very different.
Often, when we test conversion metrics on website pages in the senior living industry, we need to keep in mind where that community is in relation to its opening date. A community that has yet to open is often pushing visitors to a conversion opportunity such as “Join our information list.” This type of top-of-the-funnel call to action (CTA) should typically deliver a higher conversion rate than a community pushing a bottom-of-the-funnel conversion opportunity, such as “Contact us” or “Schedule a tour.”
Similarly, a community that is executing promotional tactics as part of a grand opening plan may see large jumps in traffic that—while great for the brand—may look like reductions in conversion rate because those new visitors need to conduct more research. A community that has been open for some time, on the other hand, should have more of a site-average conversion rate.
Establishing your average community conversion rate is important: It provides a baseline number to which you can compare preopenings, new communities, and individual communities. When you have below-average performers, you’ll know where to start your conversion rate optimization (CRO) efforts.
4. The competitive landscape matters—even when you’re competing against yourself.
I’ve yet to see a senior community with no competition nearby—most often, there are multiple competitors in the area. These competitors matter when it comes to testing and measuring your marketing, especially if your company has more than one community in the same geographical area. If you find yourself saying things such as, “It’s hard for the sales team to compete because they’re selling against a similar community right down the street that was more recently renovated,” it’s time to think through a localized marketing plan. The things that “work for everyone else” may not work in this community.
If you’re competing against yourself, the same rule applies, but you may need to get even more creative. You can’t market against your own community the way you might market against a competitor—it just wouldn’t be good for your brand. In this case, we typically recommend focusing on combining efforts (and marketing power) and creating content around the geography and providing the right differentiating information (e.g., community culture, features, levels of care) to help your potential residents and families make the right choice.
5. The effects of direct mail aren’t always the same.
In one analysis, we looked at changes in traffic to corporate and community websites in the days following a direct mail drop. In this case, contacts received templated direct mail pieces that were personalized for each community. The results were interesting: For some communities, there was a high correlation between direct mail and web traffic, and for others, the direct mail pieces didn’t seem to make much of a difference.
Although there are many factors to consider with direct mail—from creative to list quality to list size and beyond—it confirms for us that it’s not always wise to assume one community’s golden tactic will be the same for another.
What’s a Marketer to Do?
Never fear, you can still see success in senior living marketing if you focus on implementing localized strategies and adopting a CRO mindset. Look for opportunities to improve low performers and run additional tests, then roll them out at scale. Don’t be dismayed if a successful tactic for one community isn’t equally as successful for another. Instead, ask why, learn from it, and add another test to your tracker.