Archive for the ‘Nursing Home Marketing’ Category

Assisted Living vs. Nursing Home Care

ALvsNH

As a family caregiver you may find yourself limited in the level of care you can offer your aging loved one. It’s not uncommon for caregivers to find at some point that they can no longer provide the emotional, physical or social support their loved one needs and deserves on a daily basis. But, deciding where the next best place for them to go is can be difficult. Here’s a few things to consider about assisted living facilities and nursing homes (also known as skilled nursing facilities).

Know What They Don’t Offer

While assisted living facilities are supervised communities that offer services such as meals, social activities, and assistance with activities of daily living (e.g. bathing and dressing), one focus at these communities is to provide a healthy social environment so that elders don’t become socially isolated.

“Assisted living by definition is a lesser level of care [than a nursing home] and typically a more home-like environment often looking like an apartment. It is for someone whose prior living arrangement is no longer adequate,” says Jan L. Welsh, an Aging Life Care Manager and owner of Special Care for Older Adults, in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Because assisted living communities are considered non-medical facilities and are not licensed by Medicare or Medicaid to provide skilled care, they are not required by law to have a licensed nurse on staff. Even if a nurse is employed by the assisted living facility, which is often the case, the nurse cannot give residents hands-on skilled nursing care, which is defined by the federal and state governments and includes dressing wounds, administering insulin and oxygen, and more.

Assisted living facilities do not have the same safety or administrative requirements as a skilled nursing facility, and they are prohibited from providing any types of care they are not licensed to give.

“Some assisted living programs offer enhanced services, so you can receive a similar level of care that a nursing home would offer, as long as the family can pay for the services in addition to the room and board,” says Nancy E. Avitabile, who, like Jan, is an Aging Life Care Manager and owner of Urban Eldercare, LLC​​​, a care management practice based in Manhattan. “With this option, as the person becomes more immobile and eventually bedbound he or she could continue living there.”

Is Skilled Care a Must?

Nursing homes are set up like hospitals and staffed with registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and certified nursing assistants who are licensed to provide skilled care. Skilled nursing facilities are regulated by the Department of Health and can bill Medicare and Medicaid for skilled nursing care, so they must comply with many complex legal regulations and requirements. For elders who need round-the-clock supervision, or who may need that level of monitoring in the near future, a nursing home may be the best option.

“When a caretaker can no longer provide what’s needed for their loved one, for instance, if the person needs ongoing dialysis or is bed-bound or needs a ventilator, those are appropriate times to consider nursing home,” says Avitabile.

While a senior’s health will inevitably decline over time, knowing which type of care your loved one will need in the future is hard to predict, adds Avitabile.

One thought is that your loved one may choose an independent living community first, then assisted living and then move to a nursing home when more advanced care is needed.

“That order works well for some people, but some people don’t necessarily have to enter assisted living even if they’re chronically ill,” says Avitabile. “We get conditioned to think that ‘OK, now my parent is older and becoming more frail and they can’t fully take care of themselves so now let’s move to assisted living.’ That’s not always the next step. Sometimes it’s less expensive to have an elder stay in their home and provide services for them there.”

Welsh adds that sometimes a person’s health actually improves when they are placed into a facility because they are in a more stable or healthy environment and at other times it declines. If a person was missing medications or eating poorly, those things can be easily stabilized in a nursing (or assisted living) environment. On the other hand, if the facility care is less than the care the person was receiving at home, or the person has a difficult time adjusting, they can go downhill quickly, she notes.

Major Factors for Nursing Home Placement 

Determining whether a loved one should move into a nursing home will be based on several factors unique to each individual. However, Welsh says the following are major indicators:

  • Increase in falls and wandering around dangerously
  • Medication management becomes complicated
  • Incontinence
  • Family fears the risks of being responsible for the aging loved one
  • When aging loved ones become victims of phone, mail or door-to-door scams
  • Sudden change in health (particularly diabetes, stroke, etc.) and independence of the aging person
  • Diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
  • The senior’s personal preferences, whether expressed in Healthcare Power of Attorney documents or based on prior life style

Think Long-Term

Before deciding on a long-term residence, think about the long run.

“Moving is stressful. Moving an older adult who then decides they don’t want to be there is incredibly stressful for them. If you’re interested in a place, after looking at several and meeting with staff, I’d suggest having your loved one stay for a weekend, or at the least a whole weekday to get a sense of how it is day to day,” notes Avitabile.

Besides the health and lifestyle care your loved one will need, Avitabile says consider the following before making a decision:

  • Cost
  • Flexibility
  • Proximity to family
  • How easily your loved one will acclimate in the environment
  • How easily your loved one connects with new faces and other people

No matter where your loved one lives, Avitabile says to keep the following in mind. “It’s very important that family finds ways to engage with the elder and arrange for visitors,” she says. “You can’t assume anything. Nursing homes have improved over the years, but the more present family members, aging care coordinator or caregivers are, the more the nursing home is aware that other people are looking out for your loved one.”

 

Promoting Wildlife-Friendly Habitat at Retirement Communities

Wildlife-friendly habitat at retirement communities benefits both seniors and wildlife alike—from providing relaxing scenery to offering a much needed green oasis for birds in an urban environment. For seniors considering creating wildlife-friendly habitat at their community, there are several of organizations that provide expertise  and certification.

In Rethinking the Value of Your Community’s Landscapes, posted on Assisted Living Federation of America’s Member to Member Solution page, I highlight the benefits of wildlife-friendly habitat and senior living provider, Erickson Senior Living, whose residents and staff embrace the idea of creating wildlife-friendly habitat at their communities.

These are photos of Oak Crest in Parkville, Maryland showing wildlife-friendly habitat in action.

Oak Crest Village Parkville, Maryland

Wildlife-certified habitat that residents enjoy every day while strolling through the campus.

Cherry Trees on Oak Crest Village's Campus

Wildlife-friendly habitat adds to the beauty found on the Oak Crest campus.

Residents and Staff Participating in Spring Clean up

Residents and staff participating in the annual spring clean up of the garden area.

Green Roofs on an Oak Crest Village building

Other sustainable practices include green roofs on several campus buildings.

A Trend Toward Living Green in Retirement

Free-range chickens, organic gardens, certified wildlife habitats and ENERGY STAR© certification are just a few of the sustainable features increasingly being found in retirement communities across the United States. In spite of the debate as to whether the upfront costs of building green are worth the investment, the senior living industry is trending toward developing more green retirement communities—which is good news for seniors who want to continue a green lifestyle during their retirement.

“All the modeling show significant savings” said Senior Lifestyle Corporation’s Vice President of Development & Acquisitions, Bob Gawronski, but he cautions that there isn’t the history available yet to show the actual savings. He saw the move toward building green senior communities begin in 2006-2007 as a result of public financing requirements, with the government promoting the addition of green features in affordable housing.

A Helping Hand From Uncle Sam

Senior Suites of Fay’s Points uses a geo-thermal system to provide heat for the community.

Senior Lifestyle Corporation’s Senior Suites of Fay’s Point is one such community that has the green features required to receive public financing. Heating and cooling is provided by 28 geothermal wells and with its flexible, two-pipe heating and cooling system, the geo-thermal system uses less energy and costs less than other HVAC systems to maintain. “To those who understand the technology, our project is exciting, but for most of our residents, the geothermal heating is more of a mystery because they can’t see it,” Gawronski said.

Because of the upfront building costs, Senior Suites of Fay’s Point was a project Senior Lifestyle Corporation wouldn’t have pursed had the public financing provided by the Illinois Housing Development Authority not been available. This public-private partnership resulted in a senior community that is not only affordable but also meets LEED certification design standards, though it wasn’t certified at the time of construction. Gawronski said they chose not to pursue LEED certification at the time, something he would change in hindsight because people do recognize the LEED designation and its usefulness as a marketing tool.

A Little Education Goes A Long Way

Green senior communities require an educational component. While Baby Boomers are savvy in recognizing the value of green building elements, their parents may be unfamiliar with these features, which may defeat the purpose of building green. “Our residents were confused by the green stuff,” Grawronski admitted. The permeable asphalt was greeted with comments of the developer being “full of hot air” and the native grasses were considered weeds that weren’t being cut. “You do have to have an educational program for residents and staff so they understand the building’s design, such as how it is cooled and heated and why native prairies grasses are used,” he said.

With three Senior Lifestyle Corporation communities scheduled for LEED certification next year, Gawronski has learned that it is a lot easier to be green and meet certification requirements than people realize. But while being LEED certified may be the most prestigious designation to showcase sustainability, there are other certifications or recognitions available that demonstrate a community’s commitment to being a responsible steward of the environment, even in well-established communities.

An Influential National Brand

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR program is an “influential brand recognized by over 85 percent of Americans” and certifies more than just energy–using devices, said National Program Manager Clark Reed. Since the Environmental Protection Agency created the ENERGY STAR program in 1992, it has morphed from focusing on energy-efficient computers to certifying energy-efficient buildings. Administrative offices were the first of 16 building types receiving certification in 1999.

In 2009, the EPA reached out to the Assisted Living Federation Association (ALFA) to develop a partnership that encouraged ENERGY STAR certification of the senior care communities sector. An energy survey conducted in 2010 identified the energy drivers, which weren’t known prior to 2010 according to Clark.

Using the survey’s results, Reed’s office developed a rating system that launched in 2011; the rating system accounts for variables such as location and size of the community. To achieve ENERGY STAR certification, a senior care community must earn 75 or better out of a 100 rating score. To ensure that the rating system is applied equally, if a community consists of 50 percent or more independent living units, it may not be eligible for ENERGY STAR certification depending on metering. “Since the energy performance scale’s launch in 2011, it became possible to identify the senior living industry leaders in the country,” Reed said.

Gaining Recognition With Industry Leaders

These industry leaders include Sunrise Senior Living and HorizonBay (now owned by Brookdale Senior Living) who were among the first participants in the ENERGY STAR program. Becoming a leader and recognizing the value of energy efficiency within operations is why Sunrise Senior Living joined the program. “We had the systems in place to collect the data required to achieve certification and 30 communities were certified in 2011,” said Jim Shaffer, Director of Maintenance and Capital Programs at Sunrise Senior Living. At the end of 2013, 33 communities became ENERGY STAR certified, and Sunrise’s 248 communities in the United States are now entered into the EPA’s Portfolio Manager®.

“The early efforts of Sunrise Senior Living and HorizonBay were recognized at the 2011 ALFA conference,” said Acting Vice President, Marketing & Membership, Jaclyn Allmon. ALFA also added a “Going Green, Saving Green: Energy, Recycling, and Expense Reduction Strategies” category to their Best of the Best contest in 2013, and awardees included Orchards at Southington, Benchmark Senior Living and Brightview Senior Living. These companies are making valuable improvements to their operations and doing what we hope all senior communities will do to develop and implement green programs, Allmon said.

Sunrise of Edmonds was the EPA’s Top in Category for Senior Care Facilities in 2013 and was also their internal Sunrise Energy Star winner.

Sunrise Senior Living developed an internal energy reduction competition modeled after the EPA’s national Battle of the Buildings competition which rewards communities that achieve the highest reduction in energy usage. “When the competition was unveiled in 2011, the reaction was positive, with communities seeing the competition as a way of being recognized within Sunrise as a top performer,” Shaffer said. Last year, the company recognized the top 2 performers, and for the 2012-2013 competition cycle, the top 3 performers will receive recognition. He too emphasizes that education is key to encouraging staff and residents to adopt energy-saving best practices. “[It’s] changing everyone’s mindset as it comes to your daily routine,” Shaffer said.

How to Find Sustainably-Built Retirement Communities

For seniors seeking future retirement communities for themselves or their parents, there are a number of searches available to find communities practicing sustainability. The U.S. Green Building Council has a directory of certified projects, and searching under the terms “retirement communities” or “senior living” displays the communities that have achieved LEED certification. Searching in the ENERGY STAR directory under “senior care communities,” displays the communities who have achieved ENERGY STAR certification and their annual ranking. The National Wildlife Federation also provides a list of certified communities so seniors can see if a retirement community’s surrounding grounds are providing habitat for wildlife. Other national recognition programs include the International Council on Active Aging® Green Award that recognizes a community’s environmental stewardship practices.

Allmon sees the possibility of prospective residents and their families seeking out LEED or ENERGY STAR certification, but it’s just a question of whether it will be in their top list of priorities for selecting a community. For Clark, he is optimistic this will be the case with retiring baby boomers having a very strong environmental ethic, and this sentiment isn’t just limited to the United States’ seniors. In the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)’s October 2013 report, A Sustainable Community for Older People:  Case Studies of Green Retirement Village in Australia, authors found that “most retirement village residents understand and recognize the importance of sustainability in their lifestyle.”

Over 2,300 Senior Care Communities Benchmarked by the EPA

This might prompt more communities in the United States to apply for awards that recognize their green efforts. For ALFA’s 2014 Best of the Best award, there weren’t any submissions in the “Going Green, Saving Green: Energy, Recycling, and Expense Reduction Strategies” category. “Senior living companies are likely integrating best energy practices, but out of nearly 100 Best of the Best submissions, we unfortunately didn’t receive any submissions in the green category this year,” Allmon said.

What is known is that over 2,300 senior care communities (188 million square feet in size) have been benchmarked in the EPA’s Portfolio Manager®, according to Clark. And both Shaffer and Gawronski also said that during renovations at their communities, efforts are made to incorporate sustainable materials and energy-reducing designs. “During capital improvements, we partner with the building’s owners to replace outdated assets with higher energy-efficient models and are willing to invest more upfront in capital expenditures that will yield significant energy savings,” Shaffer said.

One example he cited is installing a white, reflective roofing system with a high insulation rating to reduce the cooling costs during the summer and keep heat inside the community in the winter, consequently decreasing the energy usage of the community. For Senior Lifestyle Corporation communities, Gawronski said that when they renovate existing communities, recycled content and FSC-certified products are used.

The Green Choice in Town

In Australia, the retirement village industry is now realizing the need of providing sustainable communities for seniors, and in the United States, Gawronski anticipates many communities will be marketing themselves as the “green choice in town” within five years. With market-rate investors expressing more interest in green development, seniors can expect to see the sustainable practices found in affordable housing becoming commonplace in market-rate communities.

Andrea Watts is a Seattle-based freelance writer who covers sustainable forestry and agriculture issues. Her writings have appeared in publications that include TimberWestThe Forestry Source and Acres U.S.A.

Fill Your Empty Rooms This December With Help From SeniorHomes.com

With Thanksgiving now officially behind us, there are only four more weeks until the end of 2013 and the pressure to fill those empty rooms in your community by the end of the year is starting to build. While year’s end may not be the most popular time for move-ins, a little creativity and some inspiration from Black Friday can help you reach your sales goals.

Here are some examples of what our clients are doing this month to fill their communities:

1. Discounts

By far the most popular tactic to rent apartments late in the year is to offer significant discounts for those who sign a lease and/or take possession in December. From waiving move-in fees to locking in rental rates to a free month (or two or three) of rent, the key word consumers hear is “savings”!

2. Promotional Add-Ons

Some communities create additional value for prospective residents by offering concierge services, such as moving, packing or decorating, for free. Handing out gift cards, upgrading apartment finishes and even giving away free appliances are just some of the incentives we’ve seen communities use to entice new residents.

3. Respite Stays

Another approach to increasing occupancy at the end of the year is to encourage more short-term respite stays. By doing this, you are not only able to increase residency at the end of the year, but also build a solid pipeline of prospective residents for the next year. Our experience has shown that consumers who complete respite stays convert more frequently into permanent residents than consumers who come in sight unseen.

4. Holiday Events

Organizing a holiday-themed event for the public is a great way to get people in your front door and see what your community has to offer. Popular events have included fundraisers, raffles, silent auctions, food donation drives and photos with Santa.

If you have a featured listing with SeniorHomes.com, don’t hesitate to publicize your community promotions and events! Contact your Account Manager to take advantage of this free service.

If you are not currently working with SeniorHomes.com, find out how to list your business with us today!

Putting Assisted Living Reviews in Their Place

ReviewsThe senior living industry has gone gaga over reviews. In the last year and a half, there has been much published about the value of assisted living reviews, much discussion at industry trade shows about the need for providers to gather reviews, as well as numerous websites vying to become the preeminent source of reviews.

Before we get too far, let’s put assisted living reviews in their proper place… Our belief is that consumer reviews will never have the same impact in assisted living as they do in other consumer markets because we will not reach a critical mass of reviews. Consumer reviews do serve a purpose and do provide value to assisted living decision makers, but will never become a key decision making element. Let’s go get reviews… We want them on SeniorHomes.com too. But let’s be clear about their role.

By the way, we launched the SeniorHomes Rating to fill the need that reviews will never fill, to provide consumers an objective resource to narrow down the many choices they face. We’ll talk more about that later.

Let’s start by looking at some other industries… Sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor have significantly impacted how consumers select restaurants, hotels, and more. By aggregating a significant number of consumer reviews, shoppers are given a resource to help guide them through their purchase decision. Nowadays, an estimate of the quality of a restaurant can quickly be garnered from your computer or mobile phone for free, in an instant. In these markets, many people make choices solely based on the reviews they read and the average review scores.

Let’s look closer at Tripadvisor to see how this works… Check out the EPIC Hotel in Miami: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34438-d1149365-Reviews-EPIC_Hotel_a_Kimpton_Hotel-Miami_Florida.html With (as of the date I wrote this) 1,482 reviews, you can rest assured that the average review score as well as the distribution of reviews will provide a reliable opinion on the quality of the hotel as well as a metric which you can use for comparison with other hotels nearby.

In fact, in looking at all 130 hotels listed on Tripadvisor in Miami, only 40-50 have fewer than 100 reviews and most of these are small independent hotels. The other 80-90 hotels have more than 100 reviews, many with 500, 1000 or more. With such a critical mass of reviews, TripAdvisor has become a reliable, essential element in deciding where to stay. A study commissioned by Tripadvisor this year showed that “Travel review websites” were rated as the “most useful” source of information and “online reviews” are the third most important decision making factor behind “location” and “price”.1

How did Tripadvisor get to such a critical mass of ratings? Some data:

  • The average larger hotel has over 250 rooms. Occupancy on average is 40-70% depending on the time of year. With simple calculations you can see that on average a large hotel might have anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000, to 10,000 customers or more visit the hotel per year
  • Yelp studies indicate of all Yelp users, only 1-2% actually post reviews.2
  • With such a large potential review writing audience, you can see how TripAdvisor could aggregate from 20 – 200+ new reviews per year per hotel, getting to a critical mass.

Reviews have clearly become a valuable resource across many purchase types, but can consumer reviews meet the needs of families seeking assisted living? Will consumer reviews become a critical element in the decision making process?

Consumer reviews will never have this kind of impact in assisted living.

Let’s look at equivalent numbers in assisted living…

  • The average number of residents in a senior living community is roughly 125. Add in 2 family members per resident as potential reviewers, which gets us to 375 potential reviewers per year.
  • The average stay in assisted living is 18 months. So 375 possible reviewers per year shrinks to 250.
  • With 1-2% of consumers actually posting reviews that gets us to between 2-5 reviews per year.

But wait, looking at the audience of residents, it’s highly unlikely we’ll hit even these numbers. Residents average age is 82 and many don’t have a computer or smartphone. Also, the transactional nature of a restaurant or hotel, creates a natural timeframe to post a review following a meal or a stay. Does it seem natural for a resident that has moved out after 18 months to a higher level of care to post a review? I think we have to cut our projections down even further.

What about visitors? There are potentially hundreds of visitors a year to any assisted living community. We believe that visitors are an unreliable source for reviews. If you knew that most restaurant reviews on Yelp where from people that walked into the restaurant, but didn’t taste the food or experience the service, would you rely on Yelp? We think not.

So what is the value of reviews in assisted living? Assisted living reviews do provide value, but will not become as influential a data source as in other markets. Reviews, especially ones that share someone’s personal story, can help show the personality of an assisted living community. Readers of reviews can get a sense for the culture of the community, the activities offered, and the personality of the staff. So we believe that reviews are valuable and can influence someone’s decision, but never to the extent in other markets. Reviews will certainly influence decisions, but won’t likely drive decisions.

Reviews are also beneficial to providers because the presence of reviews on a website helps improve conversion rate from website visitor to inquirer.

Let’s go get reviews as an industry, but let’s just be clear about the role they will play.

It is because of the our viewpoint on reviews and the fact that in assisted living there is not yet a reliable information source to help consumers make decisions, that we launched the SeniorHomes Rating.

The SeniorHomes Rating brings together opinions of local experts (people whose working lives take them in and out of senior living communities every day and every week), state inspection data, and consumer reviews into one simple number which reflects the overall quality of a senior living community. Our goal for SeniorHomes rating is to have the same sort of impact on decision making and becomes as valuable a resource to consumers as are Tripadvisor reviews.

Interested in sharing with others your experience with an assisted living community? Visit our Post a Senior Living Review page to find the community and submit your review.

Footnotes:

  1.  TripAdvisor: Travel review websites most influential source of information: http://www.tripadvisor.com/PressCenter-i5794-c1-Press_Releases.html
  2. Yelp blog: http://officialblog.yelp.com/2011/06/yelp-and-the-1990-rule.html

Announcing the launch of the SeniorHomes Rating system

We are excited to announce today the launch of the SeniorHomes Rating system.

Our rating system is the first of its kind in the senior living space, providing seniors and their families an objective quality metric to help guide them through decisions. Using a simple 10 point scale, the SeniorHomes Rating provides an assessment of the overall quality of a senior living provider.

Leveraging the opinions of local experts who know the communities near them well, as well as resident and family reviews, and state inspection data, we’ve simplified the process of finding a new home for families by providing them an objective, consistent quality metric.

Today our ratings launched in the Phoenix, Portland and Seattle metropolitan markets. We’ve rated most of the independent living, assisted living, and memory care communities in those locations. If you browse the pages in our directory in these locations, you’ll find ratings published both on search result pages and community profile pages.

Today we also are announcing the details of the national roll out of our rating system. Starting today in the Western US, we’ll be gathering information to create ratings in the Western metropolitan markets and working our way east until, later this year, our rating system will cover most of the senior living communities in the US.

If you’d like to learn more, please visit our ratings overview page.

The Social Web: Shifting the Focus to Senior Living Reputation Management

What’s the first thing many of us do when ourselves or a loved one is given a new diagnosis by a physician or other healthcare professional? Head straight for the keyboard and Google it. Why? Even if it’s something we’re somewhat familiar with, we want to know what to expect. We want to know what treatment options are available. And we want to know how other people have coped under the same circumstances.

The Internet continues to be a vast collection of information about anything you ever want to know about. And caregivers continue to use the Web to find information and connect with other people who have had similar experiences for support.

Caregivers tap into the social power of the Web

The past several years have reflected this trend, and research results indicate that caregivers are using the Internet for information more so than any other group. Pew Internet’s latest survey shows that 8 out of 10 caregivers have access to the Web, and 90 percent of those with Internet access use it to find health information for someone other than themselves.

Caregivers are more likely than non-caregivers to seek out and follow another person’s health situation and progress online. This trend is made possible by the increasing number of individuals who choose to make their personal health circumstances public, via a blog or a public Facebook page, as a means of self-coping, creating a community of supporters or providing a resource for others going through similar circumstances.

Caregivers connect on the Web

Image via ilco on Stock.xchng

Caregivers are more likely to seek out others’ opinions or read about another person’s experience with a specific drug or treatment, medical facility or provider. The Internet is evolving into a highly social platform, opposed to the static source of factual information it once was.

Reputation management: A top priority for senior living providers

This poses an interesting challenge to senior living providers, who not only have to ensure that they’re putting high-quality information on the Web but also must monitor and maintain positive feedback among social communities.

Providers no longer have complete control over what’s out there on the Internet about themselves or their organizations. A commitment to top-quality service, continuous reputation monitoring and rapid resolutions to problems are the foundation of reputation management in today’s highly connected, social environment.

Online reputation management is increasingly complex

As caregivers adopt more social networks and capitalize on the social aspects of the World Wide Web, online reputation management becomes increasingly complex. Consumers have a greater impact on the purchasing decisions of others than ever before; it’s far simpler to share both positive and negative opinions with thousands of people instead of just a few.

G5, a provider of digital experience management software and services to senior living owners and operators, recently shared some survey results indicating that 75 percent of consumers don’t trust the information that companies put out there about themselves in marketing and advertising messages. “Consumer reviews are 12 times more trusted than descriptions that come from the business or manufacturer,” the company reveals.

First steps: Taking charge of your online reputation

Monitoring consumer opinions is only the first step. Encouraging consumers to provide positive feedback in a public forum can increase trust–but you first must engage them. Like it or not, there will be information about your company on the Web, whether you initiate it or someone else does. The only way to maintain control over your online reputation is to embrace it.

  1. Claim your company’s brand name across popular social networks.
  2. Don’t just monitor the conversation; take an active role in engaging your audience.
  3. Set up Google Alerts for your brand name and other relevant terms to find out when new content is posted about your company.
  4. Be responsive to comments and feedback and strive to create a positive community.
  5. Encourage open discussion, solicit feedback and input and provide useful and relevant information.

Have you embraced your online presence? How does your company manage its online reputation? Share your tips with us in the comments below or visit our Facebook page to join the conversation.

Pin It: 9 Tricks for Using Pinterest as a Senior Living Marketing Tool

By now, you’ve heard of Pinterest–that crafty, women-focused social networking site based largely around posting photographs to crafts and recipes. At first glance, Pinterest probably doesn’t strike you as the next big social channel you should be using to market your senior living facility. But could it be? Let’s take a look at some stats.

Who’s using Pinterest?

As of February 2012, Pinterest was already boasting more than 10.4 million unique monthly visitors, making it the third most popular social network in the U.S. in terms of traffic. Around that same time, users were spending an average of 97.8 minutes on Pinterest–a decent chunk of time considering U.S. users were spending an average of 3.3 minutes on Google+ during that same period.

Women between 25 and 34 years old are the primary user demographic on Pinterest. But many of those women are the primary household decision-makers, and they have parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who could require senior housing either now or in the coming years.

(Our thanks to HubSpot for rounding up these great stats.)

Why Pinterest?

So why Pinterest? Should you bother?

More than 80 percent of pins are repins–that means there’s a strong tendency towards sharing content posted by others. We’re always looking for ways to get more likes and shares on Facebook, but it’s harder to do there. With Pinterest, your content is more likely to be shared.

Another interesting Facebook tie is that about 20 percent of Facebook users visit Pinterest daily.  With Pinterest’s easy Facebook connect and auto-sharing capabilities, it’s likely that percentage will increase as users head to Pinterest by clicking on Pins that appear in their Facebook news feeds.

With the emphasis on sharing content and the strong ties with Facebook users, it’s clear you could gain a lot of exposure for your senior living facility by using Pinterest.

There are a few leading providers already capitalizing on the power of Pinterest:

SeniorHomes.com on Pinterest

How to use Pinterest to market your senior living facility

So you’ve decided the evidence is convincing enough to at least give Pinterest a shot. What should you pin? Many users think they’re limited to posting crafty creations or images of food, but there are tons of other possibilities.

  1. Show off your facility. Sure, you’re limited in the images you can make public because of privacy laws. But you can post images of your facility, the grounds, activities rooms and more–including videos. How about a virtual tour?
  2. Make it a tutorial. Tutorial, guide and how-to pins have a 42 percent higher click-through rate than any other type of pin. Doing a fun activity with residents? Write a quick how-to planning article with a quality image and pin it.
  3. Use high-quality images in your blog posts. Make sure your blog posts contain high-quality images; that makes them easily pinnable.
  4. Highlight events. Just be careful that you have the proper permissions before you pin any images including residents.
  5. Introduce your staff. No need to worry about resident privacy if you’re simply showing off your activities staff dressed as Santa’s eight flying reindeer.
  6. Follow the trends. Pins related to trending topics have a 94 percent increase in click-throughs. Find out what’s trending, craft some content around it and pin it.
  7. Brag about your fine dining services. Does your facility have the best chefs in town? Go ahead and share a couple special recipes with photos of your delicious food. Dining is a big decision-making factor when it comes to choosing a senior living provider, so don’t be shy about showing off your dietary department’s culinary prowess.
  8. Use a call-to-action. Research shows that pins with a call-to-action in the description see an 80 percent increase in engagement. Your CTA doesn’t have to be sales-focused; something as simple as “Click to see more photos of our facility,” can be enough to drive visitors to your Website.
  9. Pin in the afternoons. The best time to use Pinterest is between 2 and 4pm Eastern Time. Between 8pm and 1am Eastern Time is also a good time to be pinning. Not inclined to sit in front of your Pinterest boards every evening? Good news: Pins can be scheduled, just like you can schedule your Facebook posts. Jeff Bullas recommends a tool called Pingraphy for doing so, and Reachli is another option.

Pinterest continues to grow. As users develop ever-more-creative ways to use this platform to market all types of products and services, Pinterest is quickly reaching the ranks of Facebook and Twitter as a must-have piece of the social marketing pie.

Are You Ready for the Post-Holiday Season?

Tis the season! The time of year for family gatherings is here and for senior care providers that means a significant increase in inquiries from the web and families that want to tour your communities.  Maybe the signs appear during challenging travel days, or forgetting simple chores, but the winter holidays have proven for years to be the time when seniors, or their family members, realize that life is not how it used to be or that it is simply time to research future care plans.

Holiday Trends 

SeniorHomes.com data from 2009 through 2011 indicate a significant trend: immediately following Christmas day there is a large spike in inquiry volume that continues through the month of January. As shown in the graph from 2011, last year December 26th and 27th were peak volume days for internet inquiries. And as the graph shows, seasonality continues into January. The average weekly inquiry volume in the weeks following Christmas is 58% greater than the weeks leading up to the holiday.

Time to Prepare

Is your community prepared for this busy season? Based on our data, senior care communities should expect an increase in calls and inquiries, so this is a great opportunity to ensure your sales department is adequately staffed to respond to inquiries in a timely manner from potential residents.  And don’t forget, the holiday season is the perfect time to show your community spirit to potential residents during tours. Now is the time to prepare for a successful holiday season!

Happy Holidays from the SeniorHomes.com team!

Lead Generation in the Senior Living Vertical: CEO Chris Rodde Shares Insight with DomainSherpa.com

Our CEO, Chris Rodde, shares some valuable insight, particularly in the senior living vertical, on starting a lead generation business with DomainSherpa.com. But these insights can be applied to any vertical, and many of the tips shared can be utilized by any startup entrepreneur. Here are a few of the musts to get you started:

  • Conduct market research. If you plan on pursuing a specific business model in a given vertical, it’s imperative to research the competition and uncover an unmet need. It’s true that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but some of the most successful startups have attributed their success to taking a different “spin” on the wheel (pun intended).
  • Know — and capitalize on — the individual skillsets of your partners. SeniorHomes.com was founded by Chris Rodde, Jay Goldstein and Tom Blumer, each of whom had prior experience in the lead generation industry in different capacities. Part of what has made SeniorHomes.com so successful is that each founding member was able to bring his own unique background and skillsets to the table, and each member did what he does best. The result? An incredibly productive, functional team.
  • Contracts, contracts, contracts. No matter what business you’re in, you know the importance of a contractual agreement. Chris talks about how contracts were developed for more than 2,300 senior living communities to create a win-win for both parties.
  • Pricing: The one area many entrepreneurs struggle with. How do you set a price per lead? And how much revenue will each lead produce? Finally, how do you ensure the leads you deliver are quality, making them more valuable to the customer?

    SeniorHomes.com Lead Generation

    Image by jayofboy on Stock.xchng

  • Marketing and SEO: Both are incredibly important for the success of any venture, particularly a web-based business, such as internet lead generation. SeniorHomes.com generates more than 200,000+ visitors per month, thanks to a solid marketing and SEO plan.
  • Where do we go from here? There comes a point in each business venture where things start to get stagnant. But if you have a plan for long-term growth, you’ll already know where you’re headed. Chris talks affiliate partnerships as one way to continue to grow a lead generation business and boost revenues.

Determining a profitable lead generation niche

One of the most important market research aspects that should be accounted for before considering entering any vertical in the lead generation industry is the lifetime value of a customer: In the higher education vertical, for instance, a single customer (an enrolled student, in this case) would provide a college or university with anywhere from $10,000 to $60,000 over the student’s education years. So paying a nominal fee for a lead is often well worth it to colleges and universities. In other words, as long as the conversion rates (number of leads purchased to number of students who actually enroll) are decent. Rodde suggests the following industries as good candidates for lead generation:

  • Adventure travel
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Real estate
  • Automotive
  • Insurance

It breaks down like this: Most companies, whatever the vertical, must dedicate a portion of their profits to marketing. So if they’re spending 25% of their profits (not net sales, but profits) on highly-qualified leads, without having to dedicate a lot of time and money to “traditional” marketing methods, it makes sense. Still, companies — senior living communities, universities, and so on, still must have admissions representatives capable of closing deals once a lead is received.

Beyond doing your research and undertaking thorough planning, you’ve got to have the right people in place. As Chris, Tom and Jay quickly realized, it was beneficial to get people involved who had different skillsets. Chris and Jay were the marketing and business guys; Tom is a developer who had participated in several successful startups prior to getting involved with SeniorHomes.com.

Start small and prove your model

When SeniorHomes.com first launched, we had listings in only two states: Washington and Oregon. By starting small, building out the development work necessary for the primary search platform, and allowing Jay the opportunity to go out and secure business, SeniorHomes.com was able to really test out its business model on a small scale for six to eight months.

The challenge in this case is that with a directory that’s live and recently launched in only two states, there’s no real proof to demonstrate to potential customers that it’s worth listing on the site. But with lead generation, it’s a win-win situation; there’s no startup or signup cost for communities, they pay only when they receive a qualified lead.

Want to know more about internet lead generation and how the founding members of SeniorHomes.com built the company from startup? Chris talks more about marketing, SEO and SEM in the full interview. Be sure to check it out at DomainSherpa.com.