Senior Living Providers – Are You Saying What Your Customers Want to Hear?


Dec 27, 2012 | Marketing & Branding

Like most consumers in today’s challenging economy, individuals and families considering a senior living community for an aging loved one are looking for value. Typically led by a female adult child, these consumers are doing their homework and weighing the costs and benefits of various alternatives. What are the tangibles that each community offers? Which one provides the best solution to the family’s particular need? How does their pricing compare?

State the Benefit

From a marketing strategy perspective, the operative word here is “benefit”. While emotions certainly surround decisions involving the move of a loved one out of their home to an environment where they will be less stressed, safer, or healthier, emotional pitches alone don’t typically translate into sales. Rather, the evidence of the marketplace demonstrates that those businesses that focus on tangible benefits that are relevant to the customer and then articulate them well in their marketing strategies are most effective in making sales.

In his article, “Emotional Attributes May Give C-Suite the Warm Fuzzies, But Do Nothing for Sales”, author Al Ries, owner of an Atlanta-based marketing strategy firm, says, “The focus today is on soft, emotional attributes that may stir the hearts and minds of the people inside the building, but do nothing to touch prospects on the outside of the building.” In his article, Mr. Ries provides many telling examples of soft, emotional messages that satisfied company executives, but failed to connect with prospective customers.

The Apple Example

One example deals with the iconic Apple brand. “Think different” was Apple’s soft, emotional slogan created in 1997 by Steve Jobs, with the help of an advertising agency. While Apple’s slogan was widely admired, the numbers tell a different story. In 1997, Apple had revenues of $7.1 billion. Five years later (in 2001) Apple’s revenue was $5.4 billion. After five years of “Think different,” sales were down 24%.

It wasn’t until Oct. 23, 2001, the date the iPod was launched, that Apple moved to a more benefit-oriented messaging strategy and really began to grow. Instead of thinking different, Apple finally got around to acting different and stating the primary benefit of its new product. The new slogan: “A thousand songs in your pocket,” was much more effective than the vague, “Think different, buy an iPod.”

Messaging Winners and Losers

According to Ries, while soft, emotional slogans might be memorable, they don’t drive sales unless they are also motivational. You need both to be effective. He calls it the M&M approach: memorable and motivational. He says the automobile industry is particularly guilty of creating soft, emotional slogans. Some examples include:

  • Acura . . . “Advance.”
  • Dodge . . . “Grab life.”
  • Ford . . . “Go further.”
  • Honda . . . “The power of dreams.”
  • Hyundai . . . “New thinking. New possibilities.”

What makes a slogan or message effective is its degree of tangibility. As Ries says, “An effective slogan is one you can literally reach out and touch.” Some examples of tangible, benefit-driven messages include:

  • Clinique . . . “Allergy tested. 100% fragrance free.”
  • Enterprise . . . “We’ll pick you up.”
  • M&M’s . . . “Melts in your mouth. Not in your hands.”
  • Michelob Ultra . . . “Lose the carbs. Not the taste.”
  • Zappos . . . “Free shipping. Both ways.”

The Lesson for Senior Living Providers

A powerful marketing program focused on solid attributes and tangible solutions allows a business to imprint its benefits in consumers’ minds, e.g. Volvo with “safety.” The lesson for senior living providers is to make sure your value proposition, and the various attributes and benefits that comprise it, is truly relevant to your prospective clients. Once you have established the useful solutions to your customers’ problems and needs, then it is a matter of developing a creative strategy that delivers your message to your customers in the most compelling manner possible.

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