Woman using laptop with rising line graph on the screen in a new home
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Failure to conduct community outreach and mismanaged digital leads are leading senior living operators to miss out on increasing their move-ins, according to one industry expert.

In a new white paper, Bild & Co. analyzed more than 40 senior living communities in the second quarter, focused on move-ins and their sources, move-outs and their reasons, and average length of stay. The research found that although a substantial number of move-ins, 41%, came from paid referral sources and digital leads, operators should spend more time on building a portfolio of professional referral sources.

Paid referral sources, according to the white paper, dropped from 40.51% in the first quarter to 23% in the second quarter, whereas digital leads dropped from 24.05% to 17.6%. At the same time, professional referrals grew from 10.8% in the first quarter to 16.7% in the second quarter, and family/friend/resident sources jumped from 10.72% to 12.3%.

Bild & Co. CEO Jennifer Saxman called those numbers a blessing and a curse. Paid referral sources and digital leads, she said, usually are not the result of traumatic incidents or immediate needs. Professional referrals, on the other hand, are “low-hanging fruit,” but Saxman said that operators need to spend their time in the right places.

Communities studied averaged 6.4 move-outs in the second quarter, according to the white paper. The most common reason for move-outs reported during that time, excluding deaths and unknown reasons, was residents needing higher levels of care.

Building a rapport with hospital discharge planners, local faith communities or associations, and realtors, Saxman said, will give operators a dynamic referral book and will lead to better sourced leads. But operators still seem hesitant to build that professional referral source rapport, she added.

“Even if you’re not getting immediate, direct referral traffic, how do people know about you and learn about you?” Saxman said. “We’ve seen this digital uptick happen, but if we give them multiple avenues to know about you and learn about you and know you better than the competition, you’re just making your job that much easier.”

Everyone wants to spend more marketing dollars, she said, but no one wants to make sure their salespeople have the time and the support to get out of the building.

“So many of our clients think professional sources are clinical referral sources only,” Saxman said, adding that networking with local groups creates word-of-mouth referrals that are “always the No. 1 referral source.”

“I always say it’s like campaigning — you’ve got to be shaking hands and kissing babies,” she said. “If you’re not doing that and your competition is, any time you get that lead that is anywhere near an ideal lead, they’re calling them; they’re not calling you.”

Mismanaged digital leads

Bild & Co. also found a problem with digital leads. Operators are missing sales because they are mismanaging those leads, according to Saxman.

Based on Bild’s ongoing research projects, Saxman said, one of the most alarming findings is broken links on websites. Technology, she said, is a major culprit behind mismanaged digital leads and can lead to prospective residents filing out website forms but never receiving a call back from a community.

Saxman pointed to a statistic that senior living communities averaged 10 move-ins in the second quarter, or approximately 3.3 move-ins per month per community. 

“You can get 10 move-ins if you don’t mismanage your digital leads, meaning you call them back in a timely manner,” she said. “Most of our communities actually have enough traffic to fill. The typical barrier is, we are mismanaging leads and we are not accurately tracking the leads that are mismanaged that we could have closed.”