Reaching Older Adults in a Digital World: The Technology Game Changer

Fran Palma, SVP Digital Strategies, Covenant Retirement Communities
Fran Palma, SVP Digital Strategies,  <a href='' target='_blank' style='color:#00008B;'>Covenant Retirement Communities</a>

Fran Palma, SVP Digital Strategies, Covenant Retirement Communities

Within the field of senior living, it wasn’t that long ago that reaching older adults meant utilizing lots of direct mail and placing ads in local newspapers. Then as internet usage started growing, there was more of an integrated approach—basically a traditional marketing plan, plus using some online marketing strategies and tactics. Today everything is tied together digitally. There is no such thing as a “digital strategy” – it’s just strategy in a digital world.

Before the biggest marketing challenge for senior living organization seeking to reach the 62-and better audience was, what I refer to as the “intersection dilemma,” which basically means showing the right message, in front of the right prospect, at exactly the right time, in the right place. This intersection dilemma is tied directly to the ability to create a sustainable marketing presence, using frequency of messaging, which was difficult to create due to budget constraints, and the return on investment just would not have been large enough to justify the spend.

One of the greatest transformative effects that digital strategies has had on marketing to older adults is the ability to overcome the “intersection dilemma” by creating the illusion of a sustainable market presence without the cost.

With tactics like retargeting, geofencing, behavior targeting, search, intelligent display, and more, we can now almost guarantee to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right message.

This affects senior living organizations and their marketing teams as the need to be more sophisticated strategists is more important than ever before. They must always stay ahead of the competition by constantly adding and testing new tactics. Once everyone else catches up, the cost for those tactics increases and there are fewer sales leads generated.

The other way that digital technology has transformed the sales and marketing game and impacted senior living in the last couple of years is simply the speed and flow of prospect information and the data that is available. Today’s technology offers both and an unprecedented amount of insight into our potential customers’ behaviors and motivations. It also provides a level of sales accountability to build relationships faster. For example, we can now understand what a website visitor is interested in, how often they visit, and what ultimately would be the right message to get them to take action. We can track behavior today, and in the future, we can market to them based on those behaviors. We can review this information in our CRM to better understand when it is best to reach out to a prospect, as well as where they are in the sales cycle. We can also use what we know about their interests and browsing history to better align our marketing automation–this will help nurture the same prospects with educational information and news they find important.

  With tactics like retargeting, geofencing, behavior targeting, search, intelligent display, and more, we can now almost guarantee to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right message 

The age wave play and marketing to the baby boomers

The prospects of tomorrow will do the majority of their research and selection online. They will not start a dialogue until much later in the sales cycle because they will do so much research online, including exploring those senior living communities virtually through Google maps and other platforms. They will be reading reviews from current residents and perhaps even interacting with them through social networks before they ever step foot on a senior living campus. When they do visit in-person, they will be educated, demanding, and ready to move. The prospects of tomorrow will also be as interested in what is near the campus, as much as what it is on it, so we will need to tell them. Think Trulia for senior living. In terms of tactics, we will see the continued decline in the effectiveness of direct mail, as well as the stagnation, or at least leveling off, of traditional digital (that’s funny to state) and the continued increase in one-to-one automation, with an emphasis on geocentric strategies and social channels. The power of referral will not only grow, but will be a juggernaut as the boomers begin to move to senior living communities. Thanks to Facebook and other platforms, everyone they’re connected with can see where they live and what their lives are like at the community.

Boomers will want completely wired communities and be able to interface within those communities using smart devices. How technologically advanced senior living communities are will actually be, a big differentiator–technology will grow to be, not only an important amenity, but also a part of the community’s identity. Voice activation integrated assistants in communities will be standard, considering voice-activated technology has been adapted faster than the smartphone with over a third of consumers (37-percent) 50 or older say they use a voice-assistant (PEWResearch). Older prospects of tomorrow will want to be able to ask Alexa to make reservations for dinner in the community dining room, or to read aloud the specials on the menu. Imagine the application for the virtual community “beyond the wall.” This will all have an enhancing effect on the “resort lifestyle” of a community. All of these are true game changers when it comes to reaching older adults.

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