During the early onset of COVID-19, senior living communities were the first to start limiting and restricting guests. Smith Kroeger’s client, Essex Senior Living, has around 12 active senior living communities across the Midwest and Mountain West, so the organization knew it had to pivot from in-person open houses and social activities to a new strategy in order to capture its target audience and attract new residents.
Smith Kroeger began by conducted research to learn what seniors were doing to stay busy, social and safe during the lockdown. We visited social senior facility websites (such as gyms and senior centers) and discovered which virtual options were being used. This research gave us insight into how we could still communicate with potential residents while being safe.
We developed a strategy of combining direct mail, messages on each community’s website, digital ads and other various digital tactics. Combining traditional media with digital media allowed us to target a smaller audience and see how they interacted on the website by tracking increased page views when the direct mail was received. Our measurable objectives were to increase move-in leads through postcards, digital ads and paid search. All tactics led to the property’s website to increase virtual tours and move-in leads.
Our first tactic was to identify a targeting mailing list, then create a postcard and digital ads that were descriptive and informative. Once the postcard was mailed, we used addressable geofencing to continuously target our audience on their devices. We also used site retargeting to engage with website visitors, keyword retargeting to capture people in the consideration phase and paid search to attract people looking at competing communities or for relevant services.
Between mid-March and mid-July of 2020, there was an average increase of 151% in new users to the property’s site and an average increase of 447% visitors to the listed apartments available page. The results matched what we were looking for — increased visits to the property’s site from its target audience.
Overall, the Essex properties we’ve helped market through the pandemic have seen a slight increase in occupancy or have remained stable, meaning that we were able to fill units that were being turned over, even during a time when people are extremely hesitant to move into these kinds of facilities due to living limitations at the communities and bad press surrounding COVID-19 community-spread at senior living homes.