Do you ever wonder why it is so hard for a senior to make the move into a retirement community? Part of the problem may be the words we use to describe our communities and the senior living industry as a whole. Words can paint a strong picture in a person’s mind, and these perceptions can stay with an individual for a long time.
Think back to a time when you formed a negative opinion about something simply because of the words associated with it. We have all done this at one time or another. Some things in life we never experience first-hand, so we rely heavily on the words used to describe them. False beliefs can be formed if incorrect verbiage is used, and this can be dangerous in the world of marketing.
Some of the words and phrases we have used to market communities have changed over the years. For example, Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) evolved to being known as Life Plan, and nursing homes are now referred to as Health Centers. These changes have placed us on the right path, but there is more we can do as industry leaders to improve our target audiences’ perceptions.
Words are everything in our field of work, and the words we choose can have a significant effect on our clients and their sales. Here at Angell Marketing, we have accumulated years of experience in which we have learned which verbiage can convey a negative perception and what is preferred when talking about the senior living industry and our communities. We are happy to share some insight on this important topic.
The “Bad” & The Good
Verbiage like unit, facility, property, building, or locked memory unit are the types of words we want to avoid in our marketing efforts. Would you want to leave your home of 40 plus years to move into a unit in a facility? Most often, the answer is no. Words like these leave negative perceptions in our target audiences’ minds and essentially are “bad” for business.
It is important to gravitate away from clinical sounding words and move forward with words more associated with the hospitality industry. For example, we want to avoid words like wing and bed because they remind our audience of staying in a hospital. Instead, we want to use words like neighborhoods, accommodations, new home, or apartment home. These more accurately reflect our communities and what it is like for seniors to live in them.
We never want to describe residents as patients. Seniors who live in the communities should only be referred to as residents, members, or sometimes guests if it is a temporary situation. However, we must be mindful of the pronouns we use before these words. Seniors do not want to hear that they are “your” residents or “our” members. This takes their independence away from them with one simple word. If we must choose a word to precede the noun, all we need to say is “the” residents of the community. The communities are their homes, and we want to always reflect this in our marketing efforts.
We also want to be careful when talking about marketing efforts for future senior living communities. We do not want to refer to them as projects, rather they should be described as developments or proposed communities.
We don’t only want to use these preferred words to market communities; we want to bring them to life. It is our job to turn these words into descriptive buzzwords that will resonate with seniors and their influencers, making them think “Yes, this is a great opportunity for me!” For example, we can highlight how living in a retirement community is “vibrant living” and provides access to an “active lifestyle.” Or, how they will live in a neighborhood with “supportive living” and “personalized care” if needed. Enhancing these descriptive words will result in more positive perceptions from seniors and their influencers, and in return, more leads and inquiries will be generated.
Being The Change Moving Forward
Now that we have recognized which words help market the senior living industry and communities more productively, the next step is to incorporate these changes in our everyday work. One way to do this is to include education and resources in your marketing strategy. It is critical to educate or re-educate community leaders and staff as well as leads in what language is preferred. This will continue to switch perceptions of senior living from negative to positive.
Unfortunately, we cannot completely escape the less than sensitive or “bad” verbiage just yet. Seniors and their influencers will use these words when they type into search browsers when researching communities, simply because they do not know any better. Because of this, our digital strategies must incorporate these words into a community’s website for SEO. They should be hidden or placed creatively within the site, so they are there but do not affect the strategic marketing efforts.
The words that represent the senior living industry and communities have a great impact on the perceptions from leads and inquiries. Take a moment before you write your next email to the residents at your community, or give an apartment tour, and think about the words you are using in your marketing strategies. We have the power to influence these perceptions and how our industry moves forward into the future.