Marketing “Your Community” And “Senior Living” Can Lead To Terminal Failure

First off, let me clear the air by saying I am not dismissing the idea of marketing. In fact, quite the opposite, I love marketing! But it is important to know the truth about marketing and how to create an effective message.

The other day I was visiting my parents, and sitting on the kitchen table, was a direct mailer from a nearby senior living community. As soon as I saw the mailer, I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I knew this community was throwing away good money.

I need to be blunt about something. A successful senior living community is dependent on cash flow, which comes from residents in your market…not from your community.

Can you guess the terminal mistake this community made?

They talked about THEIR community and what THEY do. Success does not come from your community. Marketing is about your prospect’s NEEDS, WANTS and DESIRES and never about your specific community.

This entire promotion was trying to sell the community right in the mailer. There was so much information packed in, my eyes didn’t know where to start. The headline was boring, it talked about features, amenities, the residential care, the continuum care, convalescent care. There was also no call to action, so if I happened to be an interested prospect I would have no idea what to do next.

I’m sorry to say, but seniors and caregivers only care about themselves and their needs. When this community talked about how they have convalescent care, residential care, and lists out the amenities, most people probably tossed out the mailer because they are focused on themselves and what is going on in their lives.

I won’t reproduce the headline, but it went something like, “We Have Assisted Living All Under One Roof” – This doesn’t interrupt your prospects, it isn’t about their needs, and only attracts the person who is currently thinking about assisted living. Then there was an image of a very old man sitting on the couch looking down and reading a book. It was depressing looking at this mailer.

Having a real understanding of your target market, and the sales process of getting a senior to become a resident is crucially important to senior living success. A promotion needs to hit a senior or caregiver right in their emotional hot buttons, and then inspire them to take action.

For example, talk about how a caregiver can get their life back. How they can become a son or daughter again. Go into dramatic detail of the pain they’re experiencing and then tie in the solution with your community. Then offer something good enough to get them to take the next step.

Here’s what I would have done.

Because the senior living sales cycle is usually a long one, a soft sell would get a much better response. The entire purpose of this mailer is to get people to come and visit the community. So a better approach would have been to offer a 4 course meal, to come and see an upcoming event like a quintet, or an invitation to an upcoming class about fall prevention. The entire mailer would have been about the meal, the band, or the class and at the end mention some brief information about the community.


This way, instead of going for a hard sell with cold prospects, you’re enticing them with the “soft sell” of food or music, and getting them to explore. This puts your community at much greater chances of getting your target market to take the next step.

Every exposure should build an emotional commitment between your prospects and your community. Break it down into a multi step process of building emotional relationships, catering to their needs, wants, and desires, and you are sure to beat your competitors who are making the terminal mistake of just talking about their community.