40 Years and 40 Pieces of Sage Advice


Aug 25, 2023 | Industry Trends

2023 has been a year full of new ideas, growth, and planning for the future. At SageAge, 2023 brings a significant milestone for our company – our 40th anniversary.

In honor of our 40 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 40 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 sake – get yourself a marketing company that knows seniors!” – Melinda Schmitz

2. 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

3. 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

4. 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

5. Have a plan.

“There are many sources clamoring for your advertising dollars. Have a plan that ensures your dollars are being spent toward achieving your goals.” – Melinda Schmitz

6. 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

7. 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 gives you the insights you need to keep training, coaching and improving.” – Malissa Illiano

8. 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

9. 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

10. 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

11. 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.” – Jason Williams

12. 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

13. Be open to regularly refreshing your content.

“Your hottest leads are watching you on a regular basis, so make sure to share all the news that’s happening as close to real time as possible through social and digital content updates.” Kendra Belzer

14. 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.” – Sean Ochester

15. 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 photo shoot, you control the images and can be assured none of your competitors have the same imagery.” – Brandon Temple

16. 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.” – Jason Williams

17. Build a strong brand.

“A strong brand sets the foundation for all your communications.” – Brandon Temple

18. 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

19. 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.” – Jason Williams

20. 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

21. 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

22. Develop integrated campaigns.

“It’s important to carry your message across multiple channels to create the furthest reach possible among prospects.” – Brandon Temple

23. 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.” – Sean Ochester

24. Follow the social media thirds.

“Share your content, share others’ content, and connect with others by responding in an authentic and meaningful way.” – Sean Ochester

25. Be consistent with your social media posting efforts.

“Consistency is key to building a relationship with followers, and by doing so, others will see that the services are also consistent, reliable and trustworthy.” – Sean Ochester

26. Pay attention to your online reviews.

“We all know the important role digital plays in shaping 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

27. 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

28. 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

29. Showcase unique ways for people to give you information and to learn more.

“Send out letters with fulfillment pieces for those who want to learn but are not yet ready for that in-person meeting. Consider hosting educational events and social events, which can offer wonderful opportunities to collect information from those who attend.” – Lori Colhouer

30. Live your brand.

“If you talk about living well, showcase that – from the front door to moving in – to build brand consistency.” – Lori Coulhouer

31. Be willing to pivot a strategy.

“If something is not working, trust your agency to guide you accordingly.” Kendra Belzer

32. 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.” – Sean Ochester

33. 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

34. Rethink your mail list.

“It’s very easy to order a mail list with a simple 5-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

35. 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

36. Remember your existing leads.

“It’s easy to say, ‘I need more leads,’ but it’s important to remember the gold mine in your database and use lead advancement tactics as part of your marketing plan.” – Melinda Schmitz

37. Use clear, concise messaging.

“Reach the prospect where they are, and clearly convey the feeling of your community.” – Brandon Temple

38. Have a strong call to action.

“Be specific in the next steps you want your prospect to take.” – Jason Williams

39. Communicate all that is happening with your community with your agency.

“Share with them the good, the bad, the ugly. They are there to support, help and promote, so ensure you are in good communication along the way.” Kendra Belzer


And the final, most important piece of Sage Advice … 

40. Bring it all together with an overall integrated marketing strategy.

“All these pieces of Sage Advice are great on their own, but when they’re combined into an integrated marketing strategy, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. SageAge has been helping communities in the senior living space build, grow, develop and improve their marketing for 40 years … and we’re looking forward to continuing on through the next 40 years and beyond.” – Melinda Schmitz

We’d Love To Chat With You

SageAge is a multiple-award-winning, strategic growth marketing and consulting organization that operates exclusively in the unique senior living marketplace. Contact us today for more information about senior living marketing solutions that work.

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