Las Vegas — With research showing that prospective senior living residents or their families already may have completed 60% of the decision-making process involved in a potential move before even contacting a community, website and social media efforts are crucial to operators’ success, Nicole Wagner, internet marketing director at Stevens & Tate Marketing, said Tuesday in an educational session at the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living’s 68th Annual Convention & Expo.
“We tend to be in an older market, but we still need to embrace and decide that this is an area that is becoming more powerful to us, and we have to start taking advantage of it,” she said in her talk on inbound marketing, which she described as “using information from sales in your marketing tools to help communicate out to your audience so you are addressing the exact needs that they have.”
When developing content for your website, think about the types of people you want to attract as well as the stage in the “buyer’s journey” they may be in, Wagner said.
That journey has three stages, she said: awareness, when prospects or their families are figuring out that the older adult has issues that can’t be addressed by the status quo; consideration, when they are thinking about all of their options; and decision-making. A community’s goal, she added, should be to reach prospects as early as possible in the journey to increase the pool of leads.
First, however, Wagner said, a community must make sure its website can be found by the search engine Google.
“Even if they know you, even if they just want to find your phone number, they are most likely going to type your name into Google and look for you,” she said. “And if you’re not there, they’re going to move on and find somebody else.”
Google gives preference to websites that are optimized to be viewed on desktop or laptop computers as well as tablets and smartphones, Wagner said, and Google gives preference to websites that load quickly.
“But ultimately, we’re talking about content. Google really does look at the content on your website in order to help you be found,” she said. “As long as we have content on our website that talks about what people care about, it’s actually easier to be found now on Google than it ever has been before.”
Think about what topics prospective residents are interested in and what terms they might enter into a search engine, Wagner advised. They may be searching online for information about trouble with walking or taking medication, for instance, not “assisted living” or “community.”
“They’re searching for different ways to make their lives better. They’re not searching for a solution that is you — yet,” Wagner said. Therefore, she added, some of the content on a company’s or community’s website should contain the search terms that will increase the likelihood that the pieces show up in a Google search.
Among the types of content that could address prospects’ interests and answer the questions they have are articles, blogs, topic-specific landing pages, white papers, webinars, infographics, checklists, case studies, video testimonials, questions and surveys, Wagner said. Content can be categorized and presented by buyer’s journey stage, she said.
Marketing automation software allows you to track what people are doing on your website so you can deliver tailored content.
Incorporate keywords and links to other relevant pages on your website within your content, and share the content on social media to generate traffic to the website, Wagner recommended. Be sure to monitor and interact on social media if someone comments on a post.
“Using your social media, you’re really trying to show the personalities of your communities,” Wagner said.
And just as marketing professionals use information from sales to create the content, sales, in turn, can share links after meeting with prospects as a way to follow-up, meet a stated need or answer a question, Wagner said.
Once prospective residents are engaged, communities can convert them to leads by including calls to action on their web pages, she said.
The specific call will vary by page. On a blog page, for example, a community could ask people to sign up for the blog. If someone visits a page about pricing, he or she can be asked to call to schedule a visit. “You know that they’re further down the road” in the decision-making process, Wagner said.
Communities also can post special types of content as a way to obtain information from website visitors — in order to see the content, they must provide a name, phone number, email address and/or purpose of the visit to the site — but the content must be of value or people won’t want to download it, she said.
A “thank you” page also can express gratitude to someone for visiting the website and provide the next steps to help him or her through the buyer’s journey.
It’s an opportunity to offer additional content, Wagner said. For instance, after someone has completed the contact form on the “Contact Us” page, he or she can be taken to a page that says something like: “Thank you. We understand you’ve filled out our form. Somebody will be contacting you about that. In the meantime, here are three articles that might help answer the question you had.” Or, “…in the meantime, here’s a video or an online tour of our community.”
“Instead of trying to stop the conversation, you want to keep it going,” Wagner said. “You want to keep them on your website for as long as possible.”
Alternatively, ask certain site visitors what information they are most interested in. Then you can segment visitors into similar groups and send them email messages with the types of information they want in addition to a general monthly email you might have.
A community also can use the web and social media to continue to communicate with residents and adult children, Wagner said.
“We have to remind them of all the reasons they’re at our community, and then we have to remind them why they want to refer other people to come to our communities,” she said.
Tuesday of the AHCA/NCAL meeting also included additional educational sessions, exhibit hours and a ceremony honoring the winners of the National Quality Awards. The conference concludes Wednesday with more educational sessions, a closing general session and a gala dinner and show headlined by Huey Lewis and the News.