Marketing assisted living facilities

Today I had the pleasure of talking with executive directors and marketing directors of assisted living facilities at the annual Mass. Assisted Living Facilities Association Conference. And I got to walk the floor of the exhibit hall and be “marketed to.”

Unlike many industries, assisted living facilities and nursing homes start at a tough place. Older people are angry that they need to move, their children are nervous and skeptical about the facilities’ marketing claims (and emotionally fraught from trying to help an angry parent). Plus just a little online research turns up scary articles like this one in Smart Money, “The 10 Things Your Assisted Living Facility Won’t Tell You.”

When a prospect’s context is one of distrust and skepticism the worst marketing approach is to come on as glib and salesy. ” (A got a whiff of that walking the trade show floor.) That canned spiel fosters distrust in a business where the only thing you’re marketing is trust. People really don’t care whether the facility has a pool, and yoga is offered as well as bridge every oFriday. People want a relationship with an organization that they can trust. They’re not buying the facility, they’re buying a relationship.

As we discussed today, that means:

  • Offering frank and genuine advice, insights, and perspectives to people. Instead of the usual blah blah about being “committed to fostering an environment of quality, independent living,” tell me that these types of people are usually happy at your facility, but it’s not right for these types. Be honest, be real, help me vs. sell me.
  • Sharing the names and contact information of people who have been in similar situations with one of their parents. and have first hand experience with a facility. People rather talk with people like them than a marketing or sales associated.
  • Making the commitment to find different kinds of stories, and make those stories the most important part of marketing. I sat down to lunch with some nurses and heard some amazing stories from them in just 15 minutes. I also experienced how passionately and genuinely they feel about their patients. There’s some amazing marketing value in stories like these.
  • Asking patients, families, nurses and aids for their ideas on what makes the facility so special. My guess is that they want to be heard, have a say, and would provide invaluable ideas. It’s important here to hear the negative as well as the positive, respectfully acknowledging the negative and learning from it. At the end of the day, the better the patient and family’s experience, the easier the marketing.
  • Changing the selling model. Traditional features-and-benefits sales types hurt the industry more than help. Perhaps people with traditional sales backgrounds are the exact profile of people NOT to hire. (Those nurses might be great.)

Applause for these marketing folks who were open-minded and soaking up new ideas today. Theirs is a very difficult job — especially considering the trust hangover from the unscrupulous few who give the industry a really bad image.