Prospects for senior living communities and their families respond very well to existing resident testimonials as a marketing communication strategy.  A key market positioning point sound bite for prospects can be “Seniors like yourself told us how they made the very important decision to move to our community.” A carefully planned and executed resident panel is an excellent way to get these messages to prospects. The resident panel addresses a broad spectrum of issues and can be especially effective in overcoming specific financial concerns that can deal with price, value, affordability and prudent financial planning.  

A resident panel works like this:  Invite about 12 articulate residents and several immediate family members for a discussion session. Tell them the meeting will last about 90 minutes and they will be discussing how they went through the decision process to move to your community.  They will also discuss their current lifestyle experiences. In their own words, residents will be asked to offer their true, unbiased opinions on a number of other important decision issues.  

Tell them the 90-minute discussion will be moderated by a professional. You want them to help other seniors and their families in making important retirement living decisions for the future.  A moderator introduces the subject matter, but should not influence the residents’ objective responses.  You will ask them to sign a release giving you permission to share their experiences with other seniors who are considering moving to their community. The 90-minute session will be recorded and will be edited in DVD format to an efficient 12- to 15-minute summary.  

A carefully planned moderator discussion guide could contain a broad spectrum of up to 25 important issues. Let’s focus on senior living prospects’ concerns and misconceptions regarding financial issues that the resident panels should discuss. These include the following:

  1. What was your first reaction when you discussed pricing?
  2. How did this pricing seem to initially compare with your current cost of living?
  3. What was your initial reaction regarding pricing versus affordability versus value? Did it change during your decision process?
  4. How do you now define the “value” of your community?
  5. Were you concerned about future monthly fee increases (then and now)?
  6. Did you have to reduce your current savings portfolio or did you use some of your newly acquired home sale proceeds?
  7. Did you experience some new favorable income tax deductions?
  8. Do you now consider living here a sound financial planning decision? Why?
  9. What advice would you give other seniors like yourselves as they go through the financial evaluation process for your community?

The 12- to 15-minute DVD can be used in a number of innovative ways: 1) shown during a sales and marketing encounter and tour, 2) a handout/giveaway for prospects or their adult children to take home and view, 3) show and provide DVD copies to attendees at planned community events.  This presentation can perhaps be integrated with other campus event central themes, 4) distribute as a communication resource to key agencies and referral sources, 5) offer viewing access on your web page (require that they register by providing their email address) and 6) use as a theme for a targeted broadcast email.

The resident panel can be a new innovative sales and marketing initiative using electronic media. The DVD provides permanent retention of a very innovative message, and can effectively communicate with some prospects and family members that you might not initially meet face-to-face.