“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”
As a senior living community, gaining a solid and loyal customer base can be delicate; families rightly expect the best when a loved one’s health and happiness are at stake. In the residential assisted living world, there is fierce debate over the most effective ways to increase return on investment (ROI) and keep prospective residents coming through the door for years.
In our experience as senior living and healthcare marketing experts at SMCG®, here’s the ONE definitive answer to this that we’ve found to work repeatedly: Build a strong brand.
“Branding” might sound tough for a senior care organization but think about this – emotional factors play a huge role in residential assisted living decisions; family caregivers are looking for a community they can trust with their loved one’s health, safety, and happiness.
If you don’t build a strong brand and do only what others are doing, you put yourself at risk of becoming just another business that can only compete on price. But you’re not marketing an inconsequential product, and families are seeking much more than value for money. They’re looking for a community they can deeply trust, and one whose core values align with their own. Hence, branding is the key.
Buy Versus Build: Ways Businesses Build A Customer Base
There are a whole host of avenues businesses use to gain a customer base, and no one method is perfect. Many organizations are quick to jump to paid acquisition – and it has its benefits. Paying for advertising (for example on social media), sponsorship or search engine marketing can produce results that are both speedy and impressive by targeting potential clients that fit your consumer persona.
And while paid acquisition can be a valuable way to get things off the ground, it’s often better used as a short-term strategy. Conversely, focusing on creating a strong brand can be more cost-effective in the long run, as it will continue to generate leads and conversions for years to come. With a great reputation and solid brand, your future residents and their families will find you without cost per click (CPC) that can slash your return on investment (ROI) over time.
Why Building A Strong Brand Is Important In Senior Living
Building a brand is about so much more than opening a fancy new building or developing a great tagline and logo. As a senior living or healthcare organization, building trust with your audience is paramount, and your community’s branding can play a key role in this. While paid acquisition might get you so far, its efficacy will be limited if not supported by a strong brand. When your business revolves around the health and wellbeing of cherished family members, striking an emotional connection with your target audience is vital. This is much more effectively done by carefully curating a brand and reputation that speaks for itself, rather than forking out thousands of dollars for impersonal advertising.
15 Important Ways To Build A Strong Brand
Building a strong brand with the help of expert senior living consults will allow you to appear more authentic and trustworthy, effectively communicate your values, and yield the long-term results you deserve. SMCG’s® senior living consultants address the following areas to help communities like yours market their brand effectively.
- Social Media Marketing
- Public Relations
- Website Development
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Consumer Personas
- Sales Coaching
- Video Production
- Graphic Design
- Email Marketing
- Direct Mail
- Conversion Analysis
- Social Media Marketing
Nearly 4 billion people use social media. In 2023 more seniors and family caregiver’s frequent social media platforms than ever before. If you’re not harnessing this, you’re missing out on a powerful (and potentially free) way to share your brand.
The power of a social media strategy amplifies when it aligns with your brand values. To ensure your brand is instantly recognizable, posts can be designed using your signature brand colors, fonts or style.
2. Public Relations (PR)
PR and branding are closely linked; both are concerned with honing your business’ reputation and making sure you’re recognized widely, by the right people and for the right reasons. Ensure your PR and sales teams are as well versed in the importance of branding as your marketing team; if your PR contradicts your brand’s values, you risk appearing ingenuine.
The best way to approach this is to start with four to five core values you want to emphasize and let your press releases reflect that.
3. Website Development
Less than 15 seconds.
That’s the average time spent on a website. And that’s how long you have to capture someone’s attention on your website.
Since your website sits right at the heart of your marketing and sales strategy, make it the perfect place to showcase your brand. But when a potential client clicks on your site, it won’t take them long to make a judgement.
Without a functional website that immediately makes your brand values clear, you risk losing leads in seconds. With clever development, your website can be tailored to fit your brand and become instantly recognizable using elements like color, design, copywriting, and graphics.
4. Search Engine Optimization
Your SEO can impact your brand, and vice versa. For a brand to become recognizable, it must be seen, and a smart SEO strategy will help you reach your audience. On the flipside, strong branding can improve your place in search engine results; if you can cultivate a brand that people are searching for directly, this positions your organization as credible, trusted and in demand.
5. Consumer Personas
Any great brand is driven by an in-depth knowledge of its target customer. By creating detailed consumer personas and getting to know the people who need you, your branding can be finetuned and improved. Identify their pain points and consider how you can create strong brand values based on these. If you don’t know your customer well enough, you risk wasting valuable time and money creating branding that won’t drive the right results.
6. Sales Coaching
For your organization to appear genuine, your sales team must be able to successfully communicate your brand values. A strong sales coaching program will allow your team to demonstrate that your brand and mission is deeply woven into every avenue of your organization. Without dynamic sales coaching, successfully converting hard earned leads into residents may be much harder.
7. Video Production
Branded video content is a powerful marketing tool to increase brand awareness. Creating quality content that humanizes your brand adds an extra layer of authenticity to your claims. For example, adding testimonials to your videos can help you demonstrate how you live out your brand values day to day. With a high proportion of consumers preferring video to text content, leaving this out of your strategy may well reduce the number of potential customers you’re able to reach.
Providing genuinely useful information related to your industry is a great way to show you truly care about the population you serve. Informative and compassionate blog posts can help eloquently communicate your brand values, while also positioning your organization as a trusted expert in the industry. If your website doesn’t currently have a blog section, you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity to build authority, improve SEO, drive leads and make conversions.
Branded digital content will help you build your senior care organization into an instantly recognizable and trusted expert in your industry. Creating visually unique custom content that aims to educate, solve a relevant problem, or evoke specific emotions will allow you to stand out as a true authority. Without genuinely helpful digital content, your marketing may be seen to focus too much on selling and less on your values, potentially damaging your brand.
Perhaps surprisingly, branded print content remains valuable even in the digital age. While digital marketing is undoubtedly powerful, printed materials still hold some unique benefits over online content. For example, printed content does not disappear as quickly, and allows for better information retention. Vitally, print advertising is considered more trustworthy than its online counterpart. In an industry where trust is non-negotiable, and with an older audience who are not all on the web, keeping your branding efforts 100% online may well lead to missed opportunities.
It’s not enough to muddle together a quick summary of your services. Copywriting is an artform and done correctly is a powerful way to communicate the essence of your brand. Expertly crafted copy will create an emotional connection with the reader, using the right tone of voice and staying carefully aligned with your brand values throughout.
12. Graphic Design
Consistent graphic design will allow your brand to become more recognizable. When combined with genuinely informative and useful content, your company’s unique visuals will be associated with trustworthiness and expertise. If your print and digital content has no clear graphic design and uses inconsistent colors, layouts or fonts, your valuable content will be less easily linked to your brand by the customer.
13. Email Marketing
Email marketing is a powerful and personal way to build brand identity and connect with current and prospective residents. For example, sending a regular newsletter with consistent visuals and tone will allow you to share valuable resources, generate website leads and position your community as a trusted expert, while simultaneously strengthening your brand’s presence.
14. Direct Mail
Despite web access becoming more common amongst seniors, direct mail still offers a range of benefits that online marketing can’t deliver (and vice versa). Therefore, a campaign that incorporates both online marketing and direct mail is often most effective. Using direct mail, you can personally and accurately target the individuals who need you most, and who identify with your brand values. As we’ve already touched upon, physical copies often stick around much longer than their online counterparts and are typically viewed as more reliable.
15. Conversion Analysis
Conversion analysis can offer a valuable insight into your customer, establishing what exactly is driving them to take further action. The aim of conversion analysis is ultimately conversion rate optimization (CRO), which guides your leads on a funnel-like journey from entering your website and researching at the top, down to taking further action at the bottom (e.g., arranging a tour). If a customer can see that their values clearly align with your brand, they may feel more inclined to follow the buying process and ultimately become a resident.
How to Build an Excellent Brand
Most businesses know the basics of building a brand: things like using a consistent logo, colors and theme across all platforms can help make your organization instantly recognizable. But your brand is about much more than being noticeable – it should also encompass what your senior care organization is known for above and beyond your competitors. A good brand will immediately evoke strong positive feelings in your target customer, allowing them to recognize values that align with their own. Conducting market research and filling the gaps your competitors have left is a great starting point, but the 15 areas we’ve outlined will help you build a strong brand that stands up to the test of time.
Don’t Lose the Personal Touch
When you’re carefully reviewing and analyzing metrics like clicks and conversions to increase ROI, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters to your customers. Above all else, your target audience of seniors and adult children need to know that you truly care. When you start to think about building your brand, take some time to really consider what your audience wants from you. Be sure to convey how you will meet their needs every time, and why you can be trusted within your branding and marketing materials. Similarly, aim to build connections through your social media channels, rather than pushing multiple impersonal ads. Simple gestures like replying to every comment (good or bad) are a great place to start.
Deliver on Your Promises
Make sure you don’t simply SAY the best – you also must BE the best and practice what you preach. A brand is nothing without a reputation that matches, and when you’re in an industry trusted with the health of people’s loved ones, families will see straight through empty promises and bold claims that aren’t based on evidence. One of the simplest ways to build a strong brand, therefore, is to remain focused on providing care that reflects the mission you talk about. Consider your long-term goals and the values upon which your community was built and strive to reflect these in everything you do.
The care you provide will become your reputation, and that reputation will become part of your brand. Your residents and their family members can be your greatest asset, and word of mouth recommendations will always mean more to prospective residents than any fancy paid marketing effort. Be sure to ask for testimonials or Google reviews from current residents. Real evidence of your actions aligning with what you say is a much better tactic than trying to hop on every fleeting trend for clicks and short-term engagement.
In summary, the benefits of building a strong brand include:
- Increasing your authenticity and trustworthiness.
- Communicating your true values.
- Building a loyal customer base who will recommend your services.
- Long-term strategies and long-term results.
- Potentially lower cost and greater ROI than paid acquisition in the long run.
How We Help Senior Living Communities Build A Brand
SMCG® is experienced in helping senior living providers build a unique and effective brand. With decades of collective experience, our senior living consulting experts will work alongside your organization to create unique branding reflected in your digital and print content, social media, website, direct mail, collateral, video and more. Our powerful workforce is comprised of senior living marketing and sales experts, alongside a rich creative team including copywriters and graphic designers.
To make an inquiry about our senior living consulting services, get in touch via our contact form today.