Senior Living Budget Cut? Don’t Get Mad, Get Smarter!

Valerie Whitman is the vice president of senior living at LeadingResponse. She has worked in the industry since 2004, and she knows her way around a budget.

Valerie Whitman

How is your marketing budget holding up? That might be a tough question to answer, since the pandemic has changed the game plan for so many senior living communities. For most marketers, it’s all about doing more with less.

Certainly, digital has taken a central role, as most of your prospects are spending more time online. Virtual events and webinars are the new tools of engagement. So as we enter the fourth quarter of this year and 2021 dollars are being allocated, it makes sense to take another look at your budget.

At LeadingResponse, years of collecting and analyzing data have given us a vantage point in terms of optimizing marketing ROI. Here is an actual budget from a client of ours.

The sizable budget cut you see here is common these days for senior living communities. Let’s look at a few key items in this budget and see how you might use them while staying within your own budget.

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Direct Mail: Don’t take a scatter-shot approach to direct marketing. We now have the ability to hyper-target prospects via familial relationships, ailment data, various financial criteria, and other key information. This can actually make your direct mail programs less expensive, which is good for your budget. Why? Because you’re not sending mailers to people who don’t meet your qualifications. Direct mail is highly cost effective if you use hyper-targeting. And, more importantly, your conversion rate will go up!

Retarget to keep your brand visible

Digital Advertising: The ability to re-target those who have already visited your site but have not signed up for more information, lets you continue to engage with them. It’s a better use of your digital dollars and your overall budget, because you are targeting those who already showed an interest! While they may not be ready yet, keeping your brand in front of them will keep your community top-of-mind when they’re ready to make a decision. Retargeting using direct mail that appends their demographic data allows you to capture missed opportunities from those qualified site visitors.

Budget for educational webinars

Events: We know educational events are one of the most effective ways to acquire highly qualified prospects. While nothing tops an in-person educational event for conversions, virtual events and webinars are an economical way to keep your prospects informed and engaged with your brand. And, if you use hyper-targeting, a well-executed webinar can garner solid leads and follow up appointments.  However, the webinar platform is critical for user experience and engagement.  Use a platform that incorporates poll questions, offers, next steps, and downloadable content. 

Here are a few more things you need to look at to make sure you are optimizing the budget you still have.

What is the quality of your lead base?

This will have a great bearing on your cost per conversion. The better the lead, the more likely it is to convert. Fewer, but more highly targeted leads will yield a higher conversion rate. It also frees up your sales team to focus on higher quality leads with more chance to convert. That saves both time and money!

Know your cost per conversion for each channel

That means doing a deep dive into some numbers, but it’s key to understanding the real value of each channel, especially with a tighter budget. Remember, not all leads are going to convert at the same rate.  You need a healthy mix of leads that are in various stages of the customer journey.

Evaluate your current mix of tools

In the chart above, take a look at where are you spending most of your marketing dollars. For instance, notice the spend for referral agencies is $57,000. That’s still over half the total budget. What kind of return are you getting? And when doing the math, factor in the cost of sales contacting unqualified leads.

Be smart with your budget

Yes, budgets are tight right now. But use this as an opportunity to explore things like hyper-targeting and how you can best connect and engage with your prospects. When the pandemic eventually lifts, you’ll be glad you did. If you’d like to discuss any of the topics I’ve covered, feel free to email me at valeriew@leadingresponse.com, or call me at 813-885-8287.

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