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2013 was a year of ups and downs in the news: the Boston Marathon Bombing and the Red Sox winning the World Series, Barack Obama beginning his second term versus the most recent passing of Nelson Mandela. Fortunately at Creating Results, we’ve had more ups than downs to report, including the celebration of our 20th year in business. I’d like to take this time to reflect on this past year and five of the most exciting trends/downward slopes in marketing to seniors from 2013.

1. Web 2.013 – This year, Creating Results revisited its national research of seniors and their web usage. The biggest change is the level of frustration that seniors have with company websites. The top three pet peeves are:

– Poor navigation (59% of all respondents)
– Hard to find contact information (59% of all)
– Required registration (79% of all ages)

The upside is that despite the growing number of frustrations, the number of people ages 65-plus using the Internet to research also is on the rise. So, if you understand and avoid the frustrations of this ever-growing group, then you will gain their trust and earn their business. To learn more about our research on Social, Silver Surfers, you can purchase the ebook on Amazon.

Chart - Older Internet users are more frustrated with websites than ever

2. Conversations, not content – Company websites aren’t the only medium growing more popular with the mature audience. Email has grown significantly within this past year as well. According to Pew research, nearly 86% of Americans over the age of 65 are using email. But how are they responding to email? That all depends on what you’re saying.

North Hill Communities in Needham, MA has done a wonderful job of finding the balance between supplying content and having a conversation with their email subscribers. For example a typical email includes a story about the top news from the community, a fitness tip, a recipe from their esteemed chef and a featured floor plan. This is why they find so much success in their open rates (list avg. 40%) and click rates (list avg. 11%) — both have consistently been above industry standards.

Sample email - senior marketing

3. Try it before you buy it – I may not be a senior, but I recently had the pleasure of dealing with a company that believes in the power of this mantra of ‘try it before you buy it’. We are fortunate enough to have a lovely milk delivery service in our state, Munroe Dairy. I have always wondered how much better it is than regular store-bought milk. Unfortunately, the price premium could never be justified for my family and me to make the leap.

That is until recently when they contacted me (by text, no less) with the opportunity to sample not one, but three bottles of their milk (most importantly, the chocolate version). They justified it on their end as this is how they are spending their advertising – not in flashy print or radio, but in having their hopeful customers sample the milk. Munroe Dairy feels if you experience milk delivery for yourself then you would sign up for their service.

This also has been a growing trend in marketing senior living. By sampling the lifestyle before you commit to the apartment home or townhouse, you have a better understanding of the community as a whole. Event marketing is just as important and sometimes more effective in driving sales because the prospect is not only able to “try before they buy” but also to meet their future neighbors. At Westminster at Lake Ridge, a retirement community outside of DC, their “Life in Bloom” program includes a course catalog so that both residents and the general public can choose from a variety of events.

Events catalog - senior living marketing

4. Super Sales Experience – If you’re providing opportunities to experience the lifestyle in new and exciting ways that same feeling should be evoked in the sales experience as well. Having a stellar sales team isn’t always enough. A positive trend that we’ve seen in the past year or so is developing sales centers that are more than offices.

Just recently, over 55 community developer Traditions of America opened a sales showroom where the vision was a cross between a kitchen & bath store and a Starbucks. The warmth of a boutique coffee shop with the ability to see, touch and feel the finishes that could exist in a prospect’s new home. This experience has proven to be successful not only in new communities, but also those that are looking to change the way their sales teams are engaging with prospects.

New welcome center at Traditions of America over 55 community in PA

5. Anti-Trendy – We’ve talked so much about what is new in the world of marketing, but sometimes lose sight of what has already been proven to work with the mature audience.

A focus group of recent senior living move-ins explored whether or not movers used the internet as part of their research and to what extent. Only one out of eight of those in the room had used the web extensively. All others relied on the tried and true: direct mail, print and referrals.

This is why at Creating Results we stress that while the web is an extremely important element of an integrated marketing plan it’s not the only element. A vast majority of senior living leads come from direct mail, print and referrals. These have a lasting impression on the senior demographic.

Fairing Way, an active adult community in South Weymouth, Massachusetts consistently delivers a quarterly print newsletter which offers information about the community, highlights special events and lifestyle information relevant subscribers. That mix of information is the reason the newsletter has been one of the largest sources of their leads. And when coupled with both online and offline advertising, it adds more trust and credibility in the product.

Newsletter marketing active adult community Fairing Way

What trends did you see this year in senior marketing? What were the ups and downs? Share your ideas and thoughts with us below.

About The Author

Jessica Ruhle

As Sales Strategist & Project Director, she accepts the responsibility of meeting client goals fully and dives into projects head first. Jessica concentrates on New England continuing care retirement community clients, helping them build occupancy, drive leads and reduce marketing costs through an integrated marketing approach.