That’s the message of Melinda Schmitz, Executive Vice President & Senior Consultant for SageAge Strategies.
Melinda says, “Personal tours are a powerful tool for showcasing your community and directly connecting your prospect’s primary needs and concerns with your various assets (i.e. services, programs, amenities, policies and culture). By tying your prospect’s key motivators to your community’s relevant solutions, you are closing the loop between ‘This is what I’m looking for’ and ‘How can you help me?’
“This type of personalization has proven significantly more effective than the standard tour of the premises and the general features and services ‘dump’. Dumping every aspect of your product onto the prospective resident is simply overwhelming. It can also serve to hide or minimize the value of those specific services they are most interested in. Remember, keep the tour about them, not you.”
Survey Says … There Is Much Room for Improvement
Melinda’s advice is reinforced by the results of a recent national survey conducted by Caring.com that assessed the attitudes of 1,181 female baby boomers who had been on community tours in the past six months. Says Katie Roper, Vice President of Advertising Sales and Marketing at Caring.com, “People who schedule a tour move in three-and-a-half times more frequently than those who don’t and they move in 25 percent more quickly. So clearly the data shows that tours are drivers of move-ins.”
However, when not done correctly, tours can have the opposite effect. They can be a major “turn off” to prospective customers. The tour-taker survey found that 20 percent of survey respondents said the tour was “too much of a sales pitch.” Instead of being a driver for move-ins, a poorly organized tour can actually drive your prospects away.
Competition is another major reason why conducting your tours effectively is critical. The fact is that many of your tour-takers will also tour other communities. According to the Caring.com survey, only 17 percent of survey respondents visited just one community, while 25 percent visited two, 24 percent visited three and 34 percent visited four or more.
5 Key Ingredients for Optimizing Your Tour Strategy
Melinda adds, “So often when we assess a community – particularly as a mystery shopper – the sales team doesn’t take the time to learn about the family before beginning the tour. In today’s world of content marketing, where communities should address each prospect’s specific needs, this is a huge and very costly mistake.”
Based on her extensive consulting and training experience, Melinda offers the following proven tips for maximizing the ROI for your tours:
- Use the Discovery Process Effectively – A great tour should always begin with discovery, even before the prospect or family arrives (via phone, if possible). Use this time to find out about their unique story, specific needs and lifestyle preferences, including hobbies, daily habits and even what they like to eat and drink.
All too often the tour leader has not done a sufficient job of identifying the primary triggers as to why the prospect or the adult child is considering senior living. This typically results in an inefficient tour from the prospect’s perspective that leaves them with unresolved questions about the “fit.”
- Personalize, Personalize, Personalize – Once you have completed a comprehensive discovery process, you can begin to customize your tour plan. The key is to optimize the amount of time you spend with the prospect in areas that match their unique needs, interests and lifestyle preferences.
For example, does the prospective resident like coffee? Start the experience with a chat and a cup of coffee. Do they walk daily? Show them the walking paths but don’t focus on the pool if they don’t like being in the water. Do they have a pet? Show them the designated pet areas or apartments that would work well for a pet owner. Do they eat a healthy diet? If so, don’t focus on the great cookies the dining room makes, instead focus on the fresh, healthy meal options that are available.
At the end of the tour, be sure to ask if there are other areas of the community that they’d like to see or discuss. You will also want to make sure they have an up-to-date community brochure in hand that covers all of your current services and solutions.
- Make Introductions –As you make your personalized tour rounds, be sure to introduce your prospect to key staff members in your prospect’s various areas of special interest (e.g. directors or supervisors of community programming/lifestyle enrichment, dining services, wellness, rehabilitation, etc). Your prospect might be interested in speaking with them directly and asking specific questions. Also, your staff members can be very effective promoters of their service areas. They can often provide compelling examples of how their services have benefitted residents with similar needs and interests.
- Manage Resident Connections –It is also wise toconnect your prospects with other residents who have similar interest when possible. Are you touring a single gentleman? Arrange for him to visit with a group of men who meet for lunch each day or at least tour him through the dining room when the group of men is eating. Do you have a female prospect that enjoys playing cards? Be sure to schedule her for a day when card games are going on. You can make similar connections for prospects that enjoy group fitness classes, cooking, gardening, educational programs and more. Test out your “match-making” skills! Your prospects will appreciate getting an inside view of the lifestyle in your community and will already be familiar with it when they move in.
- Follow up – Don’t just call your prospect post-tour and ask if they have any questions. Have a personalized action plan for your follow up that will interest the particular prospect. Make it about them, not the community or the building.
In keeping with making resident connections, provide a complementary lunch with residents who have similar backgrounds and interests, offer a seat at the card table with residents who enjoy playing cards or invite them to a fitness class or an interesting lecture. If you provide memory care, invite the caregiver or adult child to attend one of your social engagement programs to experience first hand the life-affirming interactions.
To that point, the Caring.com survey found that close to 20 percent of people who visited a community said they were never contacted post-tour. Always follow up, but make it worth your prospects’ time. Otherwise, it’s just another sales call in their mind.
We’ve devoted substantial space in our blog posts to the importance of content marketing. By applying the content marketing principals to your tour strategy, you will increase its value and improve the end-results. Customizing your tours to the unique needs, concerns and preference of each prospect will greatly enhance the relevance, appeal and livability of your community in your customer’s mind.
Says Melinda, “Because successful tours are often the gateway to move-ins, I do a considerable amount of consulting and training in the areas of sales and census enhancement.”
Learn More About Growth-Based Marketing Best Practices Today
SageAge Strategies is the ideal partner for strategically growing your sales and building your census. If you are a senior living provider considering the need for assistance in growing your community through content marketing, best-practice digital strategies, social media, integrated marketing and creative design, contact us today for more information.
SageAge Strategies is a multiple award-winning, strategic growth and marketing organization that operates exclusively in the senior living industry and was recently named one of Inc. Magazine’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America. For more information, please call or email Adrienne Mansfield Straub today at 570-601-1720 ext. 100 / firstname.lastname@example.org.