five people talking on a video conference

As senior living operators consider strategies for 2021 amid the ongoing pandemic, several marketing executives say their firms are focused mainly on the soft skills of problem-solving and serving as support systems for potential residents and their families. 

“Honestly, the biggest thing we’re focusing on is just getting back to basics and making sure we’re doing the small, meaningful things in the sales process that made us successful in the first place,” said Kris Gillen, vice president of sales and marketing at Bethesda Senior Living Communities. Her comments came during a webinar last week focusing on what the senior living industry can expect in 2021. “That means being better listeners and better problem solvers for our potential families and focusing on those soft skills, including follow-up, follow-through and handwritten notes.”

During the webinar, which was organized by senior living technology firm OneDay, panelists also explored creative ways operators have kept brand recognition going, even when in-person tours and programming had ceased.

Portland, OR-based Radiant Senior Living, for example, hosts grab-and-go events for both its professional referral sources and prospective residents and their families, including passing out pies and a Halloween trick-or-treating event.

“One of the hard things has been that people are a little reluctant to come on to the property given the current stigma around senior living and everything happening with COVID,” said Brooke Saxon-Spencer, vice president of sales and marketing at Radiant. “These events allowed us to invite people to our campuses in a very nonthreatening way, and reminded our referral partners that we’re still trying to do what we do. This way, maybe next time when our doors are open they will be willing to come inside and then eventually take a tour.”

Saxon-Spender added that one event led to a community member signing move-in paperwork that evening. 

“It’s been a great way for people to get a comfort level of who we are and what we do,” she said. Radiant also has been offering what Saxon-Spencer called “peek-a-boo” tours, where prospective residents and family members can view a model apartment on the ground floor through the windows, without ever entering the facility. Although not ideal in winter weather, it has been a helpful addition to virtual and FaceTime tours the firm already has been offering, she said. 

Many operators, rightly, also have had to up the ante when it comes to their use of technology. Avanti Senior Living, for example, has greatly increased the technology it has available for residents to conduct video chats with their family members. The operator also established the use of technology to allow residents and prospective residents to sign leases electronically — something they plan to continue in 2021 and beyond.

“It’s really been about not letting COVID get in the way of how we’re running our business,” said Dawn Bare, national sales director for Avanti. “Our industry hasn’t changed. It’s still very needs-driven. We’re really focusing on not letting COVID be a barrier in 2021.”