There is no question: we are in a highly visual culture. It takes a quick glance on Facebook or Instagram to know that people are attracted to attractive things — from people to destinations, from family portraits to delicious food. So, you may be asking yourself: how can we compete against new, beautiful senior living facilities when we have not invested in our building in the last decade (or more)? How do we get past the “shiny new” disadvantage?
Earn their trust through honesty
The first and most important thing you can do is to remain honest. In marketing, you earn leads when you earn trust. Trust from adult children to care for their parent, trust from a potential resident to provide an environment of comfort and compassion.
When you are offering a first impression that is less-than-perfect, it’s easy to think: “If I ignore it during my tour, or ignore it on my website, my prospect may not notice.” But, we all know this isn’t true. You are in competition with newer, more beautiful facilities, and your prospect knows it.
So, go ahead: address the elephant in the room.
DOs in discussing a facility disadvantage:
- Consider the history: If your facility has historical value, be sure to talk about it. Was your facility an estate? Did it used to be significant to the community? This is less about turning a negative into a positive, and more about letting your building become part of your story.
- Give the “we make up for it” line: If your facilities are the wrong kind of old, but your culture or service offerings are vibrant, discuss this on your website and in your tours. Things like “…our facilities, last updated in 1998, may not have all the bells and whistles of a newer establishment, but their halls are filled with endless activities and opportunities…”
- Admit that you may not be the right fit for everyone: We know, this is hard. But, the truth is that if a prospective resident values state-of-the-art facilities more than anything else, they will not be a great fit for your community. And that’s ok. Take this opportunity to outline areas that make a resident the right and wrong fit. This will not only earn you major trust points, but it will help you spend time on more qualified leads.
People will appreciate that you are self-aware. Allowing for open conversation around a known disadvantage will earn you trust.
DONTs in discussing a facility disadvantage:
- Don’t draw a target on your back: Meaning, it’s important to address a disadvantage. But, when you begin making yourself the butt of a joke (i.e. self-deprecating humour), you will only earn concern. Be sure those giving tours have the right tone and language around this discussion.
- Don’t try to turn a negative into a positive: When a brand calls a problem a solution, it’s very transparent. Saying your facilities “have character” or a “rustic charm” doesn’t magically make it so. This will seem dishonest to your prospects, and you’ll lose credibility.
In photography, focus on people, not facilities
This is advice we give all senior living facilities, whether they have “next year’s model” of senior apartment or not. Scientifically speaking, when the human brain looks at an image the first thing it scans for is eyes. Your audience is desperate for a connection. They want to see themselves mirrored; they want to see an aspirational lifestyle portrayed in images throughout your marketing materials.
By putting up a large image of your building on your website’s homepage or on the cover of your brochure, you are missing an important opportunity to draw people in.
In stock photography, choose hero shots
If you are using stock photography, focus on showing experiences. Choose hero images that feature a resident actively living the way your residents do. What do we mean by hero image? We mean an image that pulls focus on a single person, even if there are other people around them. Below are a few examples:
- Here, only one gentleman is featured. He is not looking straight at the camera (this is ideal!), but he is engaged in a conversation with someone who is quite blurry and mostly out of frame.
- This is not strictly a hero shot, but there is a clear focus toward the woman. The shot is framed in a way to draw attention to her. And look how genuine her expression is!
- This third example is an unlikely hero shot, but again features one woman very clearly. The other subjects are really “extras” in this frame, and lend themselves to telling her story.
Better yet, run a branded photo shoot
Branded photography involves purposefully setting up a photo shoot so that you can capture imagery that is unique to your brand. The goal is to start a collection of iconic shots you can use over and over again.
During this session, you can feature some of your most vibrant residents doing activities that feature the best parts of your senior living culture. Again, we don’t recommend setting up a photo shoot to capture images of facilities (although, we recognize that when talking about amenities this can be necessary). But, a branded shoot is all about capturing people living the brand story you want to portray.
Use building shots as if they were sprinkles on a cupcake. This is not an attempt to hide an out-of-date building. It is, however, the best way to invite people to experience the community you are selling.
Remember: what people really want is community
The vast majority of future residents want a community, first and foremost. And, their adult children just want to know their parents will be well-cared for. If these are things you can provide, then tell those stories!
Spend time thinking through your best features and service offerings, then gather stories from your current residents around these important benefits. Spend time crafting your messaging, photography, videos, etc. around these experiences.
Yes, seniors want to spend their sunset years in a beautiful environment, but more than that, they want to spend their time with great people — and having a blast while they’re at it! Invest your efforts telling these stories, and be honest about the state of your facilities.