What’s unique about your senior living community? If you can’t answer that question in a sentence or two, your branding strategy may need some work.
Your brand — that sense of what your community represents to your target audiences — exists, whether you realize it or not. At the same time, your community may have additional, positive attributes that have yet to become part of your public brand.
Successful rebranding efforts build on the existing characteristics of your community’s reputation, also known as your brand equity. By uncovering additional aspects of your brand, you further differentiate your community from the competition.
The Importance of Research
If you asked your residents, their family members, employees and managers to name the ways your brand differs from the competition, would they all give the same answers? Research provides a way to measure attitudes and perceptions about your community.
To understand your own brand, it’s necessary to understand your audience, your competitors and any outside factors that may be influencing perceptions of your community.
Focus groups and other research can provide you with a sound basis for determining if your idea of your community’s brand aligns with other people’s perceptions. By first measuring where you stand, you can then begin to develop a strategy for adjusting or enhancing your existing brand to ensure differentiation in your market.
Asking questions of different audiences – such as employees, residents, family members, outside citizens, and medical and financial professionals – builds a body of knowledge about your brand. Questions to ask a focus group might include:
- What first comes to mind about the community?
- What is unique about the community that no other senior living communities in the area offer?
- What are some of the community’s best-kept secrets? What should the community let people know about?
- What comes to mind regarding each of these areas of the community – wellness, health care, dining, services, amenities, residences and common areas?
Differentiating Your Community
You can differentiate yourself from your competition through a variety of factors. After analyzing your research, consider the areas in which your audiences already feel that you have an advantage. Factors to consider may include:
- Pricing, including your entrance or monthly fees, dining, activities and transportation.
- Customer service.
- Staff experience and training.
- Quality of health care.
- Quality of wellness program.
- Dining program quality.
- Beauty and cleanliness of buildings.
- Amenities offered.
- Condition of campus grounds.
- Levels of living, including independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing.
- Services provided, including security, maintenance, transportation and housekeeping.
- Resident involvement in governance.
- Backgrounds of board members.
- Diversity of residents, staff members and board members.
- The community’s charitable contributions to the local area.
- Volunteer service by residents and staff members.
- Types and variety of programming and activities.
- Lifelong learning opportunities.
After you’ve considered the ways in which your community excels and differs from the competition, you’ll need to narrow down to a few points of differentiation on which to focus your marketing program. By concentrating on these areas, you can begin building a strong brand that sets you apart from the competition.
Revealing Your Community’s Values and Personality
If your research reveals that your public brand perception fails to make the most of your community’s attributes, it may be time for a rebranding effort. Your brand should serve as a model that allows your audiences to fully understand your community’s vision. The right strategic marketing plan provides a blueprint for incorporating your unique brand language and imagery throughout your internal and external communications.
As prospective residents research communities, your brand plays an important role in outreach. It communicates the personality of your community and helps prospective residents get an idea of what you’re all about and whether your community aligns with their own values and personal preferences.
What business goals should your brand help you accomplish? It should:
- Deliver your message in a clear and compelling way to your target audiences.
- Create feelings of loyalty to your community.
- Help prospective residents and their family members see you as providing solutions that meet their needs.
- Position you as a reputable provider of senior living services.
- Create an emotional connection between you and your target audience members.
- Motivate prospective residents to want to be a part of your community.
Is your brand different from your competitors? Most certainly. By conducting research and implementing a strategic marketing plan, you can ensure that your target audiences understand and internalize the core values that make your community unique.