About the COVID-19 Q&A Senior Living Expert Series:
While working with over 300 communities across the country, we’ve diligently been monitoring the changes that are happening rapidly — daily — during this quickly shifting marketplace. We’re all feeling the effects of the “new normal” on community operations, sales and marketing, but quick action is needed. Trust us when we say this is a marathon, not a sprint. We’ve been working around the clock to help our communities pivot to the right methods in order to sustain business, and this video series is a direct output of that thought leadership. Each week, we’ll be speaking with a new senior living marketing or sales expert as we explore ways in which you can steer your community’s occupancy efforts and facilitate change as we weather this storm. Together.
Moderator: Brandon Painter, Director of Integrated Content
Expert: Lisa Legeer, SVP of Strategic Partnerships
Q. As someone whose role is entirely tailored to fostering relationships, how has COVID-19 impacted your work? I would assume stay-at-home sanctions have limited your ability to network at the very least, but could rough times be bringing individuals closer?
A. No travel or conferences, which is how we connect with our industry colleagues to learn and network. We’re all adjusting to being off the road. I’ve been participating in “mixers” that are being held by various industry professionals and they’re providing a great opportunity to network virtually, share what we’re hearing and establish new connections. Everyone is looking for ways to help each other. And we’re all finding ourselves with the “desk time” we don’t typically have to really build these new relationships.
Q. With that being said, what kinds of partners are you talking to and what are you hearing? Are there other forums beside these “mixers” where you’re finding traction?
A. I’m talking with a lot of our industry colleagues – our state and national associations, investment bankers, architects, accounting firms and consultants. We’re all experiencing a business interruption that’s unprecedented. We’re still waiting for the financial markets to come back, and for some construction projects to continue to advance, while others are delayed due to state and local regulations. Some projects in the planning phases are still on track, while others are having to be put on the shelf because management is too consumed with managing the day-to-day. The stories are regional – obviously we’ve seen some of the hot spots in the news.
Many of us are in business development roles, and we’re all sensitive to the fact that the first priority of our senior living communities is the health, safety, and well-being of residents and staff. So the sales and business development people are checking in with clients and not selling to clients; instead, they’re asking what they can do to help.
I’ve been on a lot of webinars. We’re all trying to stay on top of all the information coming out from multiple industry sources and, of course, from each other. Everyone wants to know “what are you hearing?” And we’re all talking about what our world is going to look like when we emerge from this. Many are comparing the economic fallout to that of the recession we had in 2007-2008. It’s going to be more complicated than that.
Q. Although some of the larger issues are full-funnel, from your wide breadth of experience and the things you’ve picked up through the conversations you’ve had over the last two months, can you expand on what complications could surface within our industry?
A. Sure! Here at GlynnDevins, we’re talking to our clients on a daily basis so we know what’s happening in their communities. We’re seeing occupancy beginning to decline and new move-ins are slowing down for a variety of reasons. People can’t visit and tour communities, and sales counselors are having to adapt to virtual selling and new technology to do that effectively.
Much like what Sarah mentioned last week, consumer preferences are more important now than ever, as the general population is coping in a variety of ways.
We’re monitoring digital behavior and seeing fewer leads overall, and even fewer conversions of those leads to sales and on to move-ins. As we often say at GD, what worked yesterday may not work today and it certainly won’t work tomorrow.
Right now, we’re dedicated to helping our clients pivot their strategies and tactics to focus on delivering the right message, at the right time, in the right way, to cultivate personalized experiences that keep their unique situation top of mind. We’re also helping them prepare for the new reality on the other side of this.
Q. Outside of shifting more to a virtual state of being, are there other actions being taken to evaluate the health of the industry … both internally and with our partners?
A. Yes! We’re also measuring consumer confidence – in 2008, the housing market kept many people from making the decision to move to senior living communities. This time around, we’ll likely see a similar financial impact to investment portfolios, along with lingering uncertainty about whether senior living is “safe” … a significant part of that is education. It’ll depend on how effectively an individual organization has navigated the pandemic with clear, concise communication, as well as how we as an industry have communicated at large.
There’s still much to be done here to promote the benefits of living in a community during times like these. Even while residents are having to practice social distancing, they don’t have to worry about meals, prescriptions, toilet paper … and they have nearby access to care. So as an industry, as partners, we have an opportunity— even an obligation— to come together to tell this story.