Good news: vaccines. Here in Pennsylvania, we are in Phase 1A of the state’s rollout, which means that healthcare workers and people age 65 and older are eligible to register for vaccination against COVID-19. Bear in mind that vaccinations and herd immunity are not a Holy Grail that’s magically going to turn sales around. The reality is that, in many cases, the pandemic merely accelerated trends that were already well underway. But here’s more good news: if you take steps to strengthen your marketing and sales processes now, you will be better positioned to move forward once we are looking at the virus in the rearview mirror. Here are some key questions to ask yourself and your organization.
Are you visible?
Once upon a time, your prospects might have been out for a drive, seen your community and stopped in to learn more. That’s not happening so much during the pandemic. In fact, you may have noticed it happening less long before any lock-downs or travel restrictions. A 2018 report by the National Association of REALTORS® found that 44 percent of all buyers first looked for their next home online, and that 90 percent of what they call “Older Boomers” (born 1946–1954) used online websites to find information. That increases to 99 percent for Millennials/GenY (born 1980–1998). With that trend in mind, it’s critically important that your prospects be able to find you when they search the internet. If they’ve never heard of you, they won’t be searching for you by name. Do you have a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy that helps ensure that your community’s website will up prominently in their search results? Are you using the right keywords? Are other communities showing up higher on the list? Are you using digital ads and other search engine marketing (SEM) tools and techniques? If you don’t have this specialized expertise in house, can you take on a digital marketing partner to help you increase your visibility?
Are you inviting?
Once you attract prospects to your website, are you making the best first impression possible? Remember that now and probably into the future, people are going to visit your website before they have a conversation with you, rather than the other way around. Are you using great professional photography that shows your community—the grounds, common areas, living spaces—at their best? What about video? Are you telling an exciting story? Are you providing enough detail to entice your prospects without bogging them down in big blocks of text? Are you bringing the community to life?Have you made it easy for site visitors to find the information they need, with clear navigation? Does your site load quickly and look good regardless of whether your prospect is using a computer or a mobile device? It’s all part of the impression you make.
Are you using all the channels that your prospects are: Facebook? Instagram? YouTube? The NAR report notes that both Younger Boomers (born 1955–1964) and Older Boomers use online video sites more frequently than other age groups.
Are you connecting?
A website has to be more than just a digital brochure. Are you giving first-time site visitors a reason to come back? Are you staying in touch with all your prospects? What are you doing to keep your community top of mind? Prior to the pandemic, lots of communities were using a variety of educational programs as a reason to reach out to prospects on their mailing lists and to invite neighbors nearby to visit the campus. If you were offering such programs, have you migrated them to a digital platform like Zoom or WebEx? What about holding a virtual open house to introduce those living nearby to what you have to offer—and perhaps involving current residents who can speak positively about their experience? What else might work in your specific market?
Are you flexing your story line?
It is important that your messaging and storytelling reflect your value proposition. The value proposition is what ties together the stories you tell in your marketing collaterals and the stories that your sales people tell during one-on-one interactions all of which should support your mission. A consistent storyline supports and enriches your culture. It is important to sustain the integrity of your value proposition by telling fresh stories that demonstrate how you lived up to your value proposition throughout COVID.
Are you selling your strengths?
When the novel coronavirus first started spreading, congregate living got a bad rap. However, after months of pandemic-related restrictions, many people are discovering a new appreciation for the advantages of living in community where others are looking out for them. Can you make ease of getting a COVID-19 vaccination part of your community’s story? The availability of other healthcare services? Freedom from cooking and other chores? Even the joy of just having someone different to talk to….
Are you closing the sale?
The pandemic has thrown a wrench into a lot of operations in many different industries, but businesses have rebounded by embracing adopting new technologies that make it possible to handle the sales process remotely. Videoconferencing apps like Zoom, Skype, FaceTime and others make it possible to have “face-to-face” walk-throughs and design appointments with prospects at a distance. Remember that sales agents representing new construction have long had to obtain a commitment without a physical walk-through. Those skills can be learned. And when it comes to the commitment, secure online document vaults like DocuSign make it possible to handle all transaction paperwork, including signatures, remotely.
Are you asking the right questions?
The right answers will depend on a wide variety of considerations, including community size and structure, geographic location, target market, available resources and more. If you’d like to build a bridge between where you are now and the post-pandemic world, we’d love to hear from you.