37 Years and 37 Pieces of Sage Advice


Aug 4, 2020 | Marketing & Branding

2020 has had a lot of … well, let’s just say interesting occurrences. For us at SageAge Strategies, we have an occurrence that we’re actually excited to share and celebrate: our 37th anniversary. In honor of our 37 years of delivering strategic marketing and business growth strategies to the senior living space, we asked members of our leadership team to reflect on their experiences and share bits of valuable knowledge and advice with our client-partners. So, without further ado, we present 37 Pieces of Sage Advice.

  1. Use and trust the experts.
    “This may sound self-serving, but our data shows results and return on investment are higher when communities utilize industry marketing experts. So it doesn’t have to be us, but for goodness sakes – get yourself a marketing company that knows seniors!” – Melinda Schmitz
  1. Have a marketing playbook, but be flexible.
    “It’s important to work closely with the community and to explain what marketing is doing and why. Having a playbook helps to formulate better strategy questions.” – Sean Ochester
  1. Set goals for the year.
    “This helps uncover challenges or pain points to make sure you set opportunities for overcoming key difficulties and drive success throughout your sales year.” – Cristina Mank
  1. Stop and take note.
    “If you measure, evaluate and review performance of ideas and tactics, you can take note of what was successful and is worth repeating. If it didn’t go as planned, adjust where necessary and try again.” – Cristina Mank
  1. Have a plan.
    “There are many sources clamoring for your advertising dollars. Have a plan that ensures your dollars are being spent towards achieving your goals.” – Melinda Schmitz
  1. Do your research.
    “Sometimes the old adage “trust your gut” just isn’t enough … especially when you are making huge product decisions. Whether you do a market study or consumer research – or a combination of both – it is important to be sure your plans will be supported by the market.” – Malissa Illiano
  1. Mystery shop your team.
    “Everyone knows that no matter how good you are, there is always room for improvement. Even though you may think your sales team is doing a great job, mystery shopping them gives you the insights you need to keep training, coaching and improving.” – Malissa Illiano
  1. Analyze your buyer data.
    “So often the focus is on where our leads come from. This can lead us to forget the wealth of information our historical buyer data tells us. Tap into this data to ensure your marketing plan is targeting your next set of future residents.” – Melinda Schmitz
  1. Know your competition.
    “One of the best ways to ensure you are effectively marketing your community in your marketplace is to know and understand your competition – including their pricing and how they position and market their community.” – Malissa Illiano
  1. Continue lead generating while lead researching.
    “Find out about your prospects and still generate leads using surveys, questionnaires, focus groups and more. Seniors love to give their opinions, so use this information to help shape your campaigns.” – Lori Colhouer
  1. Be data-driven.
    “Use the data collected from market research, digital reporting and other sources to drive your marketing. Know your prospect and what they are looking for. Design your tactical plan, brand and messaging to meet those needs.” – Rachel Fox
  1. Think outside the box.
    “Don’t get stuck in the same old, same old when it comes to your marketing events. Consider new options, like lead generation focus groups, to stir up some new interest in your community.” – Malissa Illiano
  1. Build brand consistency across all social media channels.
    “This includes using consistency with tone and messaging, frequency of posting and branding efforts so all tactics across all platforms are integrated and unified with strategy.” – Debra Gawet
  1. Focus on original photography.
    “Your own photography will always do a better job of speaking for your community and current residents than any stock photography can. And with a photoshoot, you control the images, and can be assured none of your competitors have the same imagery.” – Rachel Fox
  1. Be authentic.
    “As Maya Angelou famously said, ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ Your marketing should convey the vibrant, bright, warm lifestyle found within your community. People respond to authenticity.” – Rachel Fox
  1. Build a strong brand.
    “A strong brand sets the foundation of all of your communications.” – Rachel Fox
  1. Own your unique differentiators.
    “Are you in a rural or urban setting? Are you a large company, or a small, family-run boutique? What’s your philosophy, and what makes you different from your competitors? By uncovering your unique differentiators, you can better position yourself to break through the sea of messaging and creatively attract prospects.” – Lori Colhouer
  1. Use video.
    “Video is one of the best tools you can use to share the look, feel, sound and experience of your community. As they say, show, don’t tell, and a well-crafted video that showcases your residents and your community will do more than anything else to help prospects and leads understand what you bring to the table.” – Rachel Fox
  1. Show off your lifestyle.
    “Remember to share the community lifestyle on social media. Prospective residents want to get a sense of what it would be like to live in your community, what the residents and staff are like and what their personal stories are.” – Sean Ochester
  1. Don’t drop your lead.
    “With all the data we now have and all the tools and technology available, we can now know a lot more about a prospect than ever before. Through a combination of automation and customization, there is no reason any lead should be left unattended.” – Sean Ochester
  1. Develop integrated campaigns.
    “It’s important to carry your message across multiple channels to create the farthest reach possible among prospects.” – Rachel Fox
  1. Humanize your brand with social media.
    “Social media is the perfect vehicle for senior living operators to showcase the heart and soul of their organization to others: residents, caregivers, prospects and the local community. This helps to demonstrate authenticity, compassion and understanding. By doing so, you’re able to connect with others on a meaningful and deeper level.” – Debra Gawet
  1. Follow the social media thirds.
    “Share your content, share others’ content and connect with others by responding in an authentic and meaningful way.” – Debra Gawet
  1. Be consistent with your social media posting efforts.
    “Consistency is key to build a relationship with followers and by doing so, others will see that the services are also consistent, reliable and trustworthy.” – Debra Gawet
  1. Don’t ignore your online reviews.
    “We all know the importance digital plays on someone’s perception of your community as they research their options. Even a negative review that has a strong, timely community response can leave someone with a positive impression.” – Cristina Mank
  1. Find and use your champions.
    “We all know some of the best referrals are new residents with a great experience. Make sure new residents are getting settled in and offer them experiences at the community they can share with their friends.  And, if they want to share their experience online – even better!” – Cristina Mank
  1. Track and take note of a prospect’s community engagement.
    “How many times they’ve interacted and how (appointment, tour, event, etc.) says a lot about their interest and where they are in the senior living journey. Tailoring your approach to their next engagement will help them take the next step toward residency.” – Cristina Mank
  1. Showcase unique ways for people to give you information and to learn more.
    “Letters with fulfillment pieces for those who want to learn, but not ready for that in person meeting. educational events, social events.” – Lori Colhouer
  1. Live your brand.
    “If you talk about living well, showcase that from the front door to moving in to build brand consistency.” – Lori Coulhouer
  1. Engage with visitors to your social media channel.
    “This includes responding to comments, reviews and messages. This will help promote social authenticity, build trust, and increase rapport.” – Debra Gawet
  1. Utilize your residents.
    “Your residents are your best assets! They can advocate and campaign for you, and there is no more genuine source of vocal advertisement. Use their wisdom, experiences, and stories in your marketing.” – Melinda Schmitz
  1. Rethink your mail list.
    “It’s very easy to order a mail list with a simple five mile radius and a more-than-adequate income qualification. But if you take a step back and actually analyze your list and qualifications, you may find you are excluding key prospective clients.” – Malissa Illiano
  1. Have fun.
    “Seniors are fun too and some of the most successful marketing campaigns are those that elicit laughter so don’t be afraid to incorporate levity and creativity in your marketing.” – Melinda Schmitz
  1. Don’t forget your existing leads.
    “It’s easy to say, ‘I need more leads’ but don’t forget about the gold mine in your database and use lead advancement tactics as part of your marketing plan.” – Melinda Schmitz
  1. Use clear, concise messaging.
    “Reach the prospect where they are, and clearly convey the feeling of your community.” – Rachel Fox
  1. Have a strong call to action.
    “Be specific in the next steps you want your prospect to take.” – Rachel Fox


And the final, most important piece of Sage Advice…

  1. Bring it all together with an overall integrated marketing strategy.
    “All of these pieces of sage advice are great on their own, but when they’re combined into an integrated marketing strategy, they become greater than the sum of their parts. And, not to brag, but SageAge Strategies has been helping communities in the senior living space build, grow, develop and improve their marketing for 37 years … and we’re looking forward to continuing on through the next 37 years and further.” – Melinda Schmitz

SageAge Strategies is a multiple-award-winning, strategic growth, marketing and consulting organization that operates exclusively in the unique senior living marketplace. For more information, please call or email Melinda Schmitz at (816) 349-0464 or info@sageage.com. You can also visit us on our website at sageage.com.


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