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When we were younger, we asked “Why is the sky blue?” While the answer is scientific and quite complicated, it’s not far from the same mentality and approach we must take to blue sky marketing in active adult and senior living communities. But in marketing, it’s less about molecules, light and reflections, and more around timing, market research and earning the trust of your future residents.

What Comes First?

That depends on your goals. What milestones are you trying to reach? (For example, how many units do you need to sell and by when?) When partnering with clients, those milestones help us determine research and pieces necessary to create a successful soft launch. These often include:

• Naming of the community and/or brandingBlue sky marketing: Branding/event example
• Creative concepting
• Online ads and micro-site or landing page launch
• Charter/VIP program development
• Proposed pricing, services and amenities
• Focus group testing

That last bullet is likely going to be one of the most important in shaping your community for the future.

Timing Your Focus Groups for Blue Sky Marketing

As with life in general, timing is everything. So, what’s the right time to do a focus group, soft-launch, entry into the market? Entry into market can be anywhere from 12 to 18 months of when you’d like to hit your first milestone. Often, the first milestone is construction start and/or a percentage of your total deposits (e.g., 70 percent of total units). We typically recommend holding focus groups two to three months before you want to enter the market. By that time, you’ll ideally have decisions about product, amenities, pricing and charter club benefits tentatively made, but can be flexible enough to adjust based on your market’s feedback.

Because focus groups are often the first interaction potential prospects have with your brand, it’s important participants walk away with a positive perception of the new product. It’s likely they will share what they learned with others, so it’s an excellent opportunity to create blue sky marketing buzz for your new project.

Blue Sky Marketing: Charter Club BrochureFor several of our clients, in both 55+ and senior living, we’ve seen some great success with launching both blue-sky and expansion projects. Clark Retirement, located in Grand Rapids, MI, recently held a focus group for their new community set to open in Spring 2020: Clark at Keller Lake.

Because Clark also concentrated on the focus group’s secondary objective — a soft launch in the market — several people who attended were ready and willing to place deposits immediately following based on what they saw and heard. That’s why we recommend having a plan and deposit schedule in place before bringing your product test to market.

If your community has your sights set on bluer skies anytime in the near future and you haven’t started thinking about market research as the first step, you might want to do so before the gray clouds roll in. See more tips on marketing expansions and repositionings.

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About The Author

Jessica Ruhle

As Client Services 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.