John O'Connor illustration
McKnight’s Editorial Director John O’Connor

Given what the senior living field has endured over the past two years, marketing is perhaps more essential than ever. Yet it’s amazing how many operators still don’t do it particularly well.

Fortunately, many of the most common mistakes can be remedied. They include things such as weak underlying marketing strategies, focusing on the wrong benefits and budget trimming when revenue drops.

But mistakes are one thing. Marketing sins are quite another. For more on the latter, I kindly direct your attention to the late Peter Drucker, who just might just be the smartest business strategist who ever lived.

Fortunately for us mere mortals, he was generous with his ideas, which tended to refute common wisdom while being spot on.

In “The Practical Drucker,” author William A. Cohen lays out the five great marketing sins many businesses commit. To say they are relevant to senior living operators in 2022 would be an extreme understatement. Here they are:

1. Seeking high profit margins and premium pricing

Drucker felt this was the worst marketing sin of all. Why? Because the practice invariably creates a market for the competition — and can result in complete loss.

2. Charging what the market will bear

Many consider this a proven strategy. So what’s wrong with this approach? Well, for starters, it pretty much ensures you will lose your customers, possibly a lot sooner than you imagine.

3. Using cost-driven pricing

Under this approach, you add up your costs and tuck in the desired profit. Drucker said this amounts to putting the cart before the proverbial horse. Instead, start with the right price, and then work backwards to determine your allowable costs.

4. Focusing on past winners

Drucker described this practice as “slaughtering tomorrow’s opportunity on the altar of yesterday.” Yes, previous successes helped get you where you are. But don’t count on them to take you to new heights.

5. Prioritizing problems over opportunities

Are your best people focused on solving old problems with solutions that are on their way out? Just as bad, are you assigning new opportunities to those who have little experience or ability? Well, then, you are simply asking for trouble. Don’t be surprised if that new game changing opportunity is exploited by a competitor.

It’s no coincidence Drucker referred to these five flaws as sins rather than mistakes. If you’re guilty of committing any, there’s no need for a confession. But you might want to consider a more virtuous path.

John O’Connor is editorial director of McKnight’s Senior Living and its sister media brands, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, which focuses on skilled nursing, and McKnight’s Home Care.

Read more editors’ columns here. Read more senior living marketing articles here.