Grace Ridge Retirement Community
Located in Morganton, N.C., Grace Ridge is a Life Plan Community owned and managed by Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge. With panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Catawba River Valley, Grace Ridge promoted a healthy lifestyle and “life with a view.” Yet despite dedicated marketing efforts and renovations to its 28-year-old campus, the community struggled with lagging occupancy rates.
The Blue Ridge region is a popular retirement destination with a very high concentration of senior living communities, many of which are positioned around their “views.” Further compounded by aging facilities, lack of an onsite wellness center, pool and other amenities touted by the competition, Grace Ridge was experiencing low awareness and interest. Walker Marketing was challenged with developing a brand identity that would differentiate Grace Ridge and create interest, while generating a lead base large enough to achieve sales goals and elevate occupancy above 90%. Further, the community needed to attract younger prospects and better position itself as a retirement destination.
Though the regional market is highly saturated, lack of competition in the immediate area presented an opportunity. Walker Marketing developed a strategy to redefine and boost the community’s image by integrating the cultural and outdoor assets in and around Morganton. The new brand strategy also provided an opportunity to better package amenities, services, facility upgrades, programming and events, and serve as the platform for all messaging and marketing strategies.
To ensure marketing expenditures were allocated to markets offering the greatest opportunity for success, the primary market area (PMA) was sized based on resident draw and competition, and expanded to a one-hour drive market. All marketing would target age- and income-qualified homeowners interested in a vibrant, active retirement lifestyle.
Formalizing and branding Grace Ridge’s wellness program was a key strategy to elevate competitive positioning and increase marketing opportunities. Leveraging the area’s assets, including art, music, wine, history and outdoor recreation, “Good Moods” was created. Good Moods would serve not only as a wellness and events program, but also a creative platform, encompassing Grace Ridge’s positive culture, location and total approach to healthy living. All programming was realigned to the wellness domains of mind, body and mood.
Lead Generating Events
Events were designed to integrate local destination assets, offer greater appeal to prospects, and leverage Grace Ridge’s affiliation with Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS). A wine tasting featured selections from local vineyards, sampled in Grace Ridge’s rooftop solarium. A wellness speaker series offered insightful presentations by CHS health care experts. A chamber concert shared sounds from the Western Piedmont Symphony’s string quartet. And an arts exhibit showcased the region’s thriving arts and culture scene.
Public relations tactics comprised media relations and content designed to complement marketing and advertising initiatives, encourage event attendance and reinforce the brand strategy throughout the PMA. Media outreach included a combination of press releases to promote upcoming events and related story pitches to tie in Good Moods messaging.
Website & Content Marketing
A website incorporated the Good Moods brand into the design, while adhering to SEO best practices. The new site highlighted the sightseeing, outdoor recreation, educational and cultural options available in western North Carolina. Blogs were posted on a “Good Thoughts” page and provided editorial content around Good Moods initiatives. And events were promoted on a “Good Times” page, through which visitors could RSVP. Conversion-centered design ensured easy event registration and lead capture on the home page, which seamlessly integrated with a CRM.
Newspaper, magazine and digital advertising was utilized to support lead generation efforts. Creative encouraged seniors to experience theGood Moods program and lifestyle, focusing on mind, body and mood, as well as the full offerings of the Blue Ridge foothills. This created widespread awareness of Grace Ridge as a destination retirement community with so much more than just a “good view.”
Direct mail targeted age- and income-qualified prospects within the PMA. Multi-panel mailers introduced the Good Moods brand and emphasized the fulfilling lifestyle afforded by Grace Ridge’s programming and location. Subsequent mailers recruited event attendance while calls to action in copy served to capture and convert leads. Unique call tracking numbers recorded all inbound calls, creating a mechanism for measuring response.
Success was linked to the creative brand platform, which differentiated Grace Ridge in a crowded market by showcasing its location in “Nature’s Playground” and incorporating regional assets and partnerships into programming and events. Within six months of launch, event attendance and weekly tours more than doubled, and new community partnerships were formed. Hundreds of leads were generated for sales follow-up and occupancy rates bubbled up above the national average.