It’s safe to say that most people are wondering what the impacts of the pandemic on senior living will be—as are we. We spoke with Lesli Knee, Vice President, Director of Client Services, to get her take on what lasting changes we can expect.
How did you transition into the senior living industry?
The first 16 years of my career were in marketing and advertising, primarily in client services. I started out at an agency in Seattle, and I worked with companies all over the United States but all of them were non-profits. From there, I went to work as a consultant for a prominent fortune 500 company and was there for 11 years. It was quite a big change moving to the senior living industry. However, the marketing and advertising principles still apply to this industry.
There is something about working with non-profits that I’ve always enjoyed, which formed a natural bridge into the senior living field. At first, I really emerged myself in senior living by spending time at as many communities as I could. What I found was that they are all so very different. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to expand into both for-profits and developing communities. It’s been amazing to be a part of helping seniors find the right community fit that complements their way of life.
Since you started working in senior living, have you noticed any changes in that time?
Actually quite a lot of change in five years. I would say the biggest change is digital and social media. When I started, I would say maybe 40-50% of our clients had some aspect of digital, but a really small percentage of their budget was digital. I remember being so shocked when I was working with communities and they didn’t have Facebook pages.
Now looking at where we are in 2021, all of our clients are in the digital space and social media. It’s been an exciting opportunity to help communities understand and utilize digital in new ways. Plus, our team has evolved and adapted to suit our clients’ changing needs as well. We’re now offering more digital services and more robust reporting capabilities than ever before to better serve our communities.
What surprised you the most when you started working in senior living?
That it’s more fascinating than most people might think. Especially the new developments because I think a lot of these developments are speaking to the needs of baby boomers, who expect better and more amenities. So when you look at a community like The Variel, it’s a very high-end, luxurious lifestyle that the silent generation didn’t really expect or necessarily really want.
The other thing that is changing is that there are just going to be more and more communities because of the number of baby boomers growing into our target market now. We have to continue to build communities in order to be ready for the number of baby boomers. So our industry is growing and it’s going to continue to grow to keep up with the demand that will be here soon.
As a marketer, how do you recommend communities differentiate themselves with the growing influx of communities they now have to compete with?
It’s just that they have to differentiate themselves. They have to stand out. Because there will be so much competition, they’ll have to be unique and stand out. As for how they do it, you can be unique and different in many different ways. For example, one of our communities is very high-end, modern, and has lots of amenities. You could go the opposite route and be more homey and casual and speak to a different type of audience.
How do you think the senior living industry will need to evolve for baby boomers?
Communities will need to evolve internally. Alexa is a perfect example. Baby boomers are using those technologies in their homes now, and so they are going to expect it or want it when they move into a senior living community. So I think really just staying up on all of the technology that’s out there that makes life simpler for seniors.
What has the the pandemic taught you as a marketer? will there be lasting impacts of the pandemic on senior living?
It’s important to diversify and to not put all of your eggs in one basket. So an omnichannel approach of having your marketing strategy touch the target audience from many different standpoints or many different tactics. So whether that’s SEO, SEM, Facebook, LinkedIn, direct mail, you know they all work together. And you can’t stop your marketing, you have to continue to market. You just have to pivot and change your messaging. Because there is so much unknown, it’s really important to do testing, and not just testing during the pandemic, but to always be testing because then you will have data to support your decisions.
The third thing is that every market is different and responds to different messages or different tactics. So for example, one community is located in Redmond, Washington, which is a very tech-savvy part of Washington. Their audience was very responsive to webinars and zoom meetings and using technology to learn about the community. However, another community that’s maybe just 10 or 15 miles away on an island with a little bit more of a small-town feel, they were not as responsive to those types of online presentations.
Want to learn more about Angell Marketing?
There’s always more to discover about the Angell Marketing staff. More importantly, how can we help find solutions for your community’s challenges? To learn more about our team, visit our about us page or follow us on LinkedIn. You can also view some examples of our work or contact us to learn more.
Did you miss the first two blogs in our Angell Marketing Answers series? Be sure to check out our conversations with Wynne Angell and Dawn Sigmen.
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