Senior living has taken a major hit since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic nearly two years ago. Occupancy has fallen to record lows in both independent living and assisted living, and pandemic-related staffing shortages have forced senior living operators to do more with less.
The good news is that the demand for senior living still exists, but the customer journey looks different than it did before the pandemic. It’s not business as usual, so your marketing efforts shouldn’t be either.
A community’s response to the pandemic will lay the groundwork for the trust that prospects and their families will have in the community going forward. In this post, we will look at how to address the three biggest factors currently facing senior living in order to have a thriving community in 2022 and beyond.
Lower than normal occupancy rates
According to Senior Living News, senior housing occupancy is climbing, but there is still much room for improvement. Occupancy in senior living communities increased in the third quarter of 2021 to 80.1 percent, which is a slight increase from the pandemic-related low of 78.7 percent in the second quarter.
First, recognize that there will always be a need for senior living, and this downturn is expected to ease as more Americans become vaccinated. But in the shorter term, you can help make a difference in your occupancy by investing in these tactics:
- Make your website better than your competitors. Your community’s first impression often happens online, so it’s important to ensure that it’s easy to navigate, even for those who aren’t tech-savvy; fast to load; well-optimized using solid SEO practices, and offers interesting content that’s updated regularly. Use high-quality videos and photos of the common spaces, landscaping, dining areas, available units, and amenities.
- Mix up your social media content. A prospective resident of a senior living community often has children or grandchildren who take part in the decision-making process, so keep that in mind as you plan your social media content. Facebook is great for promoting specials, sharing photos, videos, relevant articles, and blog posts. Instagram is used by a younger demographic, and it’s a great tool for giving a “slice of life” look at what it’s like to live in the community through photos and videos, helping children and grandchildren of prospects understand what your community is all about.
- Ensure that your online reviews are excellent. Senior living is competitive, and prospects and their families tend to look very carefully at all available information before making a decision. In order to build up a great reputation online, ask satisfied residents and/or their families to leave a review for your community, and respond kindly and professionally to every review you receive.
A longer than usual customer journey
Recognize that the marketing techniques your community used pre-pandemic might not be as effective at the moment. Rather than focusing on lead generation with your senior living marketing efforts, it would be worthwhile to shift to lead nurturing. Here’s how:
- Offer educational content. When it comes to blog and social media content, provide information that’s helpful rather than sales-focused or promotional, such as pieces on at-home activities that seniors can enjoy in isolation or how to stay connected during social distancing. By creating a track record of offering useful information to prospects and their loved ones, you can build trust, which is deeply motivating when it comes to making important decisions.
- Invest in artificial intelligence. Apartment chatbots and virtual leasing agents can serve as a second set of hands for your human staff when it comes to communicating with prospects. In a nutshell, an apartment chatbot’s function is to provide answers to users’ questions about an apartment community, while a virtual leasing agent nurtures an apartment lead throughout the leasing process.
Social distancing is a challenge to enforce
While vaccination, masking, and keeping your distance from others can help prevent the spread of the virus, more and more communities are investing in technology to enhance safety. Having these safeguards in place can help to stop the spread of COVID and give prospects and their families a feeling of confidence that their loved one will be safe in your community:
- Enlist the help of an amenity scheduling tool. Keeping residents socially distanced is the main goal of an apartment amenity reservation tool. Residents (or their families) can book a block of time to use the fitness center or pool, which limits the number of people who can access an amenity at any given time. It also ensures that everyone has a turn, which can help keep the peace.
- Adopt a package pickup system. Online deliveries skyrocketed during 2020 and the trend is continuing. In response, some apartment communities have changed the way they handle package pickups. In order to maintain social distance, property managers are using apps and other tools to set designated times for residents to pick up their packages from the office, front desk, or package room.