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Sales AND Marketing, not Sales OR Marketing

I’ll begin with my conclusion – a balanced approach to marketing generates the most consistent results over time. It seems an obvious statement, but sometimes we allow our marketing programs to become unbalanced when reacting to situational conditions brought on by changes in internal or external forces.

I recently read an article that reinforced the need for balance when developing your organizational marketing program. It reviewed three different approaches to business development in any service category. I thought reviewing each would be instructive for senior living, and could provide a great point of reference as you approach or finalize your planning for 2016.

Promotional Approach

This approach puts the emphasis on lead generation, or the top of the sales funnel. It’s all a numbers game: “Get enough leads and we’re sure to generate the move-ins we desire.” With this approach, you’re still giving some thought to the quality of leads, and targeting your messages and channel selection to improve that quality. But generally, your evaluation of success is based on lead volume. What can suffer with this approach is the sales process, whether that’s in poor talent in sales positions or improper management of sales activities. Your attention is on what’s coming in the front door, while leads may be slipping out the back door. Over time, the team learns it’s all about the next new lead.

Sales Approach

Contrast a promotional approach with one hyper-focused on sales figures – the conversion rates and closing ratios – thus spending less time and money on lead generation or lead nurturing. This approach puts the emphasis on the sales team, the tools provided to them, and proactive management of the process. Organizations that take this approach tend to sell against the competition, having “something for everyone” by way of contract options and consistently using incentives as closing tools. It’s all about getting a “yes.” But what happens when you hit a dry spell? When, because of forces beyond your control, yeses are harder to come by? At these times, the sales-focused approach leaves you needing new leads and new opportunities. Your metrics have changed, and you’re scrambling to generate new activity to fill the pipeline.

The Balanced Approach

Of course, what you really want to do is maximize your investment in promotion and sales, and develop an approach that’s as efficient as possible. This balanced approach has several defining characteristics:

Targeting – The measure isn’t the number of leads you can generate, but the number of high-quality leads with a strong propensity to say yes. That requires a targeted approach and a well-defined prospect profile. It’s one-to-one, not mass media.

Lead Management – Selling senior living is a multi-step process. Once generated, a lead retains its value for a long time, if you nurture and grow that lead. Keep the lead warm, and you’re poised to benefit when life circumstances change that lead’s mindset.

Time Allocation –Your staff’s time is limited. They should be focused on the highest-propensity leads at any given time. This takes the right tools and sales management practices, using effective automation and sound customer relationship management (CRM) strategies to know which leads are hot and when.

Continuous Marketing – Bursts of marketing activity, whether that’s a “sales blitz” or a new direct mail program, are rarely as effective or efficient as a steady program of activities executed month in and month out. Bursts of new leads can overwhelm a sales team, resulting in leads being lost, while droughts in lead generation can leave teams frustrated and ineffective.

For seasoned marketers, this may be common sense and not very illuminating. However, common sense can be uncommonly practiced. Take a step back and ask objectively if your marketing success is leaning too heavily on either lead generation or sales efficiency at the expense of the other one. Any number of factors can lead to an imbalance without us taking notice.

As you approach 2016, look for balance.

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