The numbers are in, and they are not good. According to data from NIC Map senior living occupancy in Q1 2021 was the lowest it has ever been - 78.8%.
Unfortunately, the low occupancy created by COVID-19 is affecting all sectors of senior living. Assisted living continues to be hit hard as occupancy dropped to 75.5%. Independent living is faring better at 81.8% occupancy, but this is still 7.9% below where it was a year ago.
Great, thanks for the depressing news, Ryan. This five-minute blog read is about to turn into a 30-second blog read. Wait! Don’t go! It gets better.
Although we don’t have the Q2 2021 numbers yet, there is a growing sense of optimism for leaders in the senior living world. C-suite executives from large REITs and operators have been very consistent in their message of optimism this spring. The general consensus is that we have turned a corner. The floodgates of pent-up demand aren’t fully open, but the worst may finally be behind us.
Things are Looking Up
Preliminary April numbers appear to show that occupancy is increasing for the first time in over a year. Within our own group of partners, HarborChase Senior Living reported their company-wide move-ins in March were the most in the history of the company! Other operators are reporting similar results.
What does this tell us? It tells us the demand is there, but competition for these potential residents will be fierce.
So, how can senior living operators make sure they are reaping the benefits of this occupancy momentum we are seeing in our industry? Here are a few thoughts...
Enhance Your Digital Presence
Find a digital marketing agency that understands not only your business but also lead generation for senior living. Senior living is not hospitality. Senior living is not health care. Senior living is not multi-family. Senior living is all of these things and more. You need an agency that understands your ideal customer and can empathize with the difficult decision older adults make when moving to a senior living community.
Ensure you choose a digital marketing agency that understands the importance of growing your online brand awareness. This group should also have the strategy to generate qualified leads that convert to move-ins. Data shows that 81% of people begin their research online, and that number continues to increase since the start of the pandemic. It’s never going back, either. Despite things opening up and people being eager to interact face-to-face again, the vast majority of people will start their research online. This includes seniors themselves! Without the right digital presence, your prospects may make a decision before they even get a chance to speak with your sales team.
Try to differentiate yourself and stand out from your competition. While I probably see more senior living websites than your average adult daughter, the repetition of words, images, and templated designs is staggering. With all the options available to people searching for senior living, it is of utmost importance that you set yourself apart. Wherever possible, try to use high-quality, custom photography and videography to tell your story and avoid using stock photography. Invest in creating photo and video assets that highlight your specific brand and communities and utilize them across all your platforms. People like to see authenticity.
Invest in technology that provides a clear ROI for the money you are spending on marketing. Owners and operators sometimes feel like the return on their marketing efforts is a mystery. It doesn't have to be – and shouldn’t be!
Invest in a marketing automation platform (MAP), so you understand exactly where your leads are coming from and what content they are interacting with across all of your platforms. Integrate that MAP with your CRM, so you are not just tracking clicks and impressions but understanding which leads are actually converting to move-ins.
Employ technology like call tracking to bring traditional marketing (mailers, print ads, etc.) into the digital world and see if these investments are converting for you. Is that billboard worth $3,000/month, or would you be better served increasing your digital advertising spend? The data will tell you.
There is light at the end of the occupancy tunnel. But senior living is like a long freight train. Some cars of that train will be out of the tunnel and in the light before others. Which car will your communities be in?
If you are interested in learning more about digital marketing services for your senior living community, we invite you to reach out for a free evaluation!