7 Digital Marketing Challenges Leaders Will Face in 2017


Providers of aging services face challenges posed by continual shifts in technology, consumer behavior and search engine algorithms as they evaluate their approach to digital marketing.

As a CEO, VP of Marketing or Sales, or Director of Marketing, anticipate that marketing will continue to become more complex. Your organization’s expectations for higher ROI (return on investment) will only increase as overall profit margins continue to shrink.

What digital marketing challenges affect the outcome of your 2017 occupancy and census goals?

Looking through the Lens of a Senior Living Marketing Leader

I believe it’s critical to understand the digital marketing challenges of today and the future by viewing them through the eyes of the individual most impacted by digital marketing—the Marketing Director or VP of Marketing, the individual responsible for strategic oversight of occupancy and census.
Who is this person? The senior living marketing leader may work solo and be responsible for both marketing and sales. If the corporation is enterprise level, they may have one to one-and-a-half support team members, dependent upon the number of communities and services. Each support team member will also have focused roles of either marketing or sales. Because of this, the Marketing Director or VP may only be able to utilize part of their time. In addition, the expertise of support staff may be limited to their focus.
Typically, senior living marketing leaders outsource traditional (outbound) marketing and digital marketing services—predominantly for tactical assistance—to varying degrees from outside vendors. This approach makes it difficult to measure exactly what they contribute to marketing efforts. Are their efforts driving prospecting, engagement or conversions? It may be impossible to gather sufficient data to know.
With backgrounds rooted in traditional marketing where data was not readily available, senior living marketers may not be able to analyze and interpret digital marketing data to guide meaningful decisions.
Marketing leaders routinely need to justify the outcome of their marketing and sales endeavors to other leaders or a board of directors. In many cases, though, they do not have the technological systems to support collection of this data.
Overall, they are stretched thin, because they spend much of their time on tactical work instead of strategic planning and research. They may also be assigned to building development or renovation projects, anniversary celebrations, and other projects, all of which take them away from their core responsibilities of generating occupancy or census.
They probably did not grow up with technology and may feel overwhelmed by digital marketing terminology, tactics, channels, and system integrations, as well as how to start and manage a digital program.
Marketing leaders may also work with other executive leaders who do not understand digital marketing principles and methodologies. As a result, gaining support and resources for digital marketing may be a struggle.

Key Digital Marketing Challenges that Shouldn’t Be Overlooked

Now that you have perspective on the marketing leader’s position, there shouldn’t be any surprise when the following challenges are discussed within your leadership circle.

Keep in mind that the approach to attracting and connecting with your leads has shifted, because the Internet and technology have changed the way consumers seek information. The longer it takes for your senior living organization to recognize and understand these challenges, the stronger the foothold your competition gains online.

Challenges to acknowledge include:

  • Tools & System Utilization – Fully leveraging  systems such as CRM (Customer Relationship Management), automated marketing, and website performance tools facilitates data collection, analysis and sound decision-making. Ensure that systems are fully integrated to create a seamless user experience, reduce duplication and improve efficiency, training and support resources. Integrating systems maximizes limited staff resources and provides ROI on marketing efforts.

Are your systems integrated? Are your systems fully and consistently utilized?

  • Using Data to Drive Decisions – Justify your marketing investment by collecting and analyzing data. Then, determine how the data aligns with your organization’s goals. Obtain total leadership agreement on which goals and key performance indicators to measure to facilitate productive marketing discussions and decisions,. Understanding how to analyze user behavior data is key to developing and executing a successful inbound digital marketing program.
What are your top three goals and how will digital marketing contribute to achieving those goals? How will you measure that contribution?
  • Strategy First, Tactics Second – The days of spontaneous marketing decisions and tactics are gone. Data-based strategy is the core ingredient of any successful digital marketing program. Consumer behavior and competitor data should drive the development of strategy, which, in turn, dictates the appropriate tactics (social media, blogs, campaigns, emails, video, content, etc.) to use in each level of the sales funnel. Posting on Facebook because someone thought it was a good idea is not a strategy. Conducting a direct mail campaign without integrating it into your digital program is not a strategy.
Do you have a strategic digital marketing plan? Can you easily and confidently explain it to your peers and support team?
  • Targeting and Promoting Content – Strategically plan digital content, such as white papers, infographics, blogs, social media, email, and videos, for the appropriate stage of the buyer’s journey, based upon the intent and interest of your prospective senior or adult child. Content must provide relevant and unique answers to their questions. Repurpose highly converting content, leverage video, and create interactive content to cut through the clutter of thousands of pieces of content your target audience gets every day.
Creating content is not sufficient. You must promote content to attract and capture the attention of prospective leads. Utilize social advertising to eliminate the shotgun approach by targeting the ideal prospective senior or adult child you are trying to attract.
What resources have you allocated for content development and optimization in your budget? Do you have a sufficient social advertising budget?
  • Depth of Knowledge – Marketing leaders must be equipped with a varied and vast level of knowledge to meet today’s expectations. You need to possess behavioral-based analytical skills and technology fluency, understand segmented marketing, apply brand storytelling, incorporate agile methodology, know how to break down silos among stakeholders and approach digital marketing strategically. More importantly, you must constantly add to your knowledge as technology, laws, customer demographics, and the marketplace change.
Your team also must be trained. And that training must be constantly updated as your organization’s needs and the marketing environment change.
Do you have adequate educational resources to meet the needs of your organization? Is your team held accountable for their professional development?
  • Adapting Traditional Websites – The website is your new front door, often the first “moment-of-truth” touch a prospect experiences with your brand. On average, a prospect makes 5 to 7 visits to your site over time and consumes 7 to 11 pieces of content before taking action. Fresh, unique, up-to-date content must fuel return visits. The basic design-it-and-forget-it mentality for websites results in lost lead opportunities, because your prospects will abandon a stale website.
To prevent lost leads, implement a performance-based website with sales funnel-oriented goals, data collection tools and analysis of user experience and usability. Employ real-time changes to remove any barriers or “friction” that prevents visitors from converting to leads. In addition, A/B test proposed changes for the website and your entire digital marketing program to determine the best way to close the cap on lost lead opportunity.
Have you established a performance-based program for your website?
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Outsource – Working with a vendor for tactical support is not a new concept. However, selecting and working with a strategic, data-driven digital partner is.
With the right partner, order-focused conversations are supplanted by documented deep data-driven performance-based outcomes and consistent strategic conversations. Managing and understanding the realistic expectations for a digital marketing program replace inconsistent and mood-of-the-day measurements. You will receive information you need to accomplish your goals, as opposed to information you may expect to hear from vendors.
What criteria are you using to ensure you have the best strategical digital marketing partner to help you reach your goals?
What Expectations Do You Have For Your 2017 Digital Marketing Program?
Discuss this question with your leadership team to gain perspective on how your organization views digital marketing. Digital marketing will only become more critical to your organization’s success as your prospective senior and their adult children grow in their understanding and use of the Internet and other technologies. They are already easily able to access senior living and care options on the Internet, closing the gap on how much education your sales and marketing team will have to provide during first contact, but also offering opportunities for competitors to attract them.

Will your senior living and care organization be able to meet the needs and expectations of prospects through your digital marketing strategy? Or will they be easily swayed by your competition’s innovative, data-driven and progressive approach to digital marketing?

About the Author:

As founder of Marketing Essentials, Patty’s continual quest to and drive for helping businesses grow are her passions. With over 30 years of strategic business management and leadership experience, she is known as a catalyst in the industry. Speaking engagements and seminars throughout the year give her unique insights into the marketplace and the people in it. She understands the challenges CEOs and marketing leaders face in executing inbound digital marketing and sales strategies that yield results. No surprise you will find her feeding her hunger for lifelong learning with a good book and latté!