Recently, ForgeWorks addressed the New York Association of Long-Term Care Administrators regarding the changing market, the new realities, and how to respond. ForgeWorks draws upon experiences of Garden Spot Communities to ensure that, as we come alongside organizations to help work through some of their most critical situations, our guidance is grounded in practical front-line practices. ForgeWorks is sponsored by an operator, which provides a unique perspective.
Staying Ahead of Inventory
Changing markets, new realities and innovative responses are consistently at the forefront of Garden Spot’s sales and marketing team’s thinking. With 626 houses and apartments, Garden Spot’s sales director commented at a recent meeting, “We have nothing to sell.” In other words, Garden Spot is at 100% sales occupancy. That will change in the next day or two when a few residences vacate. However, the community’s pipeline is deep enough and the processes are optimized so the sales team already knows who will sign an agreement within the next two weeks.
Garden Spot can stay ahead of the consistently turning inventory because the sales team thinks about, and prepares for changing markets and emerging realities.
For the past fifteen years, we’ve tracked and monitored the character of the various market segments, which include:
The GI Generation: people born between 1901 and 1927
The Silent Generation: people born between 1928 and 1945
The Baby Boom Generation: 77 million people born between 1946 and 1964
Generation X: people born between 1965 and 1980
The Millennials: people born between 1981 and 1996
Generation Z: people born between 1997 and 2012
There is talk of post-generational marketing, which is the idea that regardless of age, people buy the same things and they often want the newest, coolest things available. There is truth to that statement. Consider the travel industry. Baby boomers say the number one thing they want to do in retirement is travel. Someone who is retired doesn’t need to plan for a vacation from work to get the time off to travel. Retirees can leave for a cruise at the drop of a hat, because cruise lines drop their prices to fill empty cabins at the last minute. Someone in their 30s who wants to take a cruise makes their decision in a very different way. While all ages may want the same things, their approach to them is very different. This concept is critical to understand.
In the current market, baby boomers are making their own retirement decisions, while at the same time making healthcare decisions for their silent generation parents. Generation X is starting to make healthcare decisions for their aging baby boomer parents while starting to think about retirement themselves. The appeal is very different.
The dominant retirement generation is baby boomers. Boomers do not subscribe to the “fall in line, accept and respect authority, grateful for three hots and a cot” mindset of previous generations. They say, “I built a career, I know what I want and I want it. Plus, I’m going to change the world in retirement.” They typically do not take “no” for an answer. While the previous generations were personally flexible and accepting of policies and rules of organizations, the boomers expect organizations to be flexible and adjust their policies and rules to fit their preferences. They expect the same when making healthcare decisions for their parents.
Boomers have also adopted the “ghosting” tendencies of younger generations. In other words, they only become visible when they want to be visible. It is very difficult to get a boomer on the telephone if: they are not expecting a call, they do not recognize your phone number, or they do not want to talk with you. They simply let you go to voicemail and never call back. If they get your cell phone they are happy to text you at 2:00 in the morning. It is a very different world and requires very different sales and marketing approaches.
COVID-19 didn’t so much change the game, as accelerate it. For example, boomers are already technology savvy and they want to do research online. Because we could not bring people on campus during the height of the pandemic, many retirement communities beefed up their websites with virtual tours, maps, online brochures, videos and podcasts. As a result, a new bar has been set. If your website is not robust enough for consumers to get a good feel for your organization online, chances are you will never hear from them. We think of our website as a sales person. It used to be that sales people educated the consumer. Not anymore. The consumer wants to self-educate. This is critical to understand. People are coming through our doors considerably more educated, and we need to respond appropriately.
Considering the changing markets and the new realities, organizations need to think deeply about what is happening around them and respond innovatively. For example, the question is no longer, “How do I get phone numbers so I can call people?” We used to buy lists of phone numbers to call age and income-qualified people. That simply does not work in the new reality. The question has become, “How can I reach the right people, inspire them to visit our website, and when they do, get them to call or e-mail us?” One of the strategies we’ve started using is to ask: “Where are the types of people that we want to touch?” Then we throw a geofence around them and serve them ads on their mobile devices to draw them to our website.
In the new and changing realities, now more than ever as marketers, we need to understand how to best appeal to the generations and meet them where they are, as opposed to expecting them to adapt to the way we do business.
To brainstorm innovative opportunities that apply to your community, contact us today.