As the Silver Tsunami continues to grow larger on our shores and more investors are seizing the opportunities in assisted living, owners and operators of residential assisted living homes need to find additional ways to set themselves apart from the rest. Sterile hospital-like big-box facilities are sprouting up all across the country and while this may seem to pose a greater challenge for smaller RAL owners, we know that the residential assisted living environment is a far superior service. Although, what we have to offer seniors is generally much better quality at more competitive price points, sometimes smaller RAL businesses get lost when it comes to marketing their brand.
One method to consider is for RAL owners to think of marketing their homes in a more contemporary way and adopt practices that have been incredibly successful for retailers over the years. There are number of ways that seniors find themselves in assisted living; some are place there by family members who are too busy or unavailable to help assist their loved ones with basic activities of daily living; some have experienced chronic or acute health issues that leaves them to rely on assistance from others; and some seniors have opted into assisted living for the nurturing and loving environment that these communities have to offer.
Regardless of how seniors have been brought to assisted living in the past, as RAL owners, we know that we provide an amazing service with exceptional staff who care deeply for the seniors in their homes, and we want to use that fact to bring attention to our businesses. How amazing would it be if, over the next decade, we could transition the residential assisted living industry from one where seniors are pushed into assisted living to one where we are able to pull seniors into our assisted living homes because what we have to offer is more attractive than any other option out there. By establishing higher standards in our homes and providing exceptional care services, together we can help change the mindset of American seniors and their families.
So many RAL owners and operators get started in this business because they have a heart for people, they genuinely want to provide superior care for the elderly. I would also venture that most of these people probably don’t have a significant background in marketing, if any, and so their homes, while providing a great product and service, are going overlooked by the general public because they don’t have the time, resources or know-how to generate a successful marketing plan.
Any company or organization that provides a superior product or service doesn’t always need to have a 30-person team of marketing professionals to be successful, but it is helpful to look to those large organizations that do employees these teams and adopt some of their ideas. One way to do this is to look at residential assisted living like a large mainstream retailer might. And how do big retailers like Apple or Amazon view their potential customers? It is not just the fact that we have something to offer customers, but recognizing that we have competition, and unlike our competition… we are different.
“We Are Different”
What we provide is of better quality and at a better price point. And in order to be able to market to our communities effectively we have to know our competition. Whether it is researching online or making secret shopper visits to large and successful assisted living facilities in your area, knowing what competitors are doing, the services they are providing and the costs for those services can go a long way to helping you set yourself apart and getting your brand out there as a better choice. This may not sound like a major paradigm shift, but it is a change in the current mindset of both those who are providing senior care homes and those consumers who are looking for them.
There are a number of practical ways that RAL owners can market their brand directly to seniors and the baby boomer generation with a more retail-like approach. If you’ve spent any time in the residential assisted living industry you understand that the demographics in this country are shifting dramatically and that the baby boomer generation is set to revolutionize aging and the products and services associated with aging. In the coming years the baby boomer generation will be the primary residents in assisted living and the marketing strategies that have worked in the past will not be the same that are effective for this generation.
Throughout the history of modern assisted living, most senior residents were driven to the need for assistance due to the result of health events that precluded the loss of independent function. But today, and in the coming decades, prospective residents will likely be drawn into the assisted living environment as a positive instead of a negative.
First world prosperity has brought about extraordinary levels of technology and convenience, which has led to consumers being much more driven by their wants than their needs. This shows a complete change in the decision-making process of consumers and has compelled retailers and service providers to change their inquiry of customers from “what is the matter with you and what do you need?” to “what matters to you and what you want?”
Changing our approach in marketing to baby boomers will prove to be more successful as, instead of simply aligning to their needs, we help encourage the adoption of our healthy and vibrant communities as a place they want to be… a place they feel at home.
Along with the shift to a more modern approach of marketing your RAL home to current and future seniors, don’t be afraid to embrace technology that relates to the assisted living space. As these next few decades unfold, bringing waves of new seniors to the assisted living environment, there will be more of an expectation to adopt relevant technology and getting in on the ground floor will set you apart from other assisted living facilities.
Take advantage of opportunities to modernize, like keeping track of senior’s information, personal preferences and medical history in an easily accessible digital format, which will also make it easier to monitor and communicate any issues with resident’s families. Consider digitizing and automating aspects of your recruitment process as well. This will serve to simplify the process and save you time. Plus, most people looking for assisted living for a loved one are going to be looking online and if all of your admissions processes require paperwork and face-to-face interaction, you might be missing out on a significant portion of potential residents.
Many in the assisted living industry are already embracing technology and they are helping the residents respond to it as well. Just remember to weigh the pros and cons and be selective about how you are incorporating technology. Evaluate each element of your RAL business and decide where personal touch is necessary and where you can automate things.
Tomorrow’s seniors will have spent much of their adult life embracing technology, so make sure that you and your team are catering to those opportunities as well. And while there will be some uncertainties about the preferences of the incoming baby boomer population, there are some effective practices that can be implemented now to deliver an experience or a series of experiences that today’s seniors desire.
Finally, another way to set your RAL business apart is to understand, not only the competition, but the alternatives that seniors and their families are looking at when they are making the inquiry into assisted living. It can be very easy for an individual to dismiss residential assisted living based on the sticker price, but when they look through an actual cost analysis of the alternatives, the better financial option becomes patently clear.
The following is a chart created by ‘A Place for Mom’ and illustrates the difference between a senior living at home and one who is living in an average-priced assisted living home. (These numbers are based on national averages, as specific states and areas have higher and lower relative costs)
There is quite a stark difference in the cost of assisted living compared to a senior staying in their own home and receiving assistance there. Also, many of you will know that there is a significant difference in the costs of a big-box assisted living facility compared to a typical residential assisted living facility. And as more people become aware of these vast differences, the marketing of our RAL homes will become even more effective, pulling seniors joyfully into our communities, as opposed to waiting for families to push them into assisted living. The reality is, like most things in life, it is all about perspective. If we can educate those around us about the opportunities and benefits we provide in our RAL homes, compared to the alternatives, we will help revolutionize the assisted living industry and the general public’s overall view of it.
If you would like to learn more about specific opportunities in the residential assisted living space, or if you are interested in other ways to market and promote your RAL business, check out our amazing training resources and let us help you get to where you want to be in this amazing industry.
And don’t forget to save the date this year for RAL NAT CON 2019. Join hundreds of others in this amazing industry who are working together to meet the needs of the growing elderly population in this country. This incredible convention provides the chance to get more plugged into the residential assisted living industry and networking with other RAL owners, investors, lenders, equipment suppliers and support service providers that can help your RAL business grow. Be a part of the solution!
*Statistics source: www.aplaceformom.com/planning-and-advice/articles/assisted-living-in-home-care-compared