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.” Walker Marketing was challenged with creating a strategy that would generate leads from a wide geographic range and physically get prospects to Grace Ridge. The lack of events and marketing plans for modern-day consumers challenged Walker Marketing to develop a lead-generating event marketing plan as a way to increase in-person engagement, raise brand awareness and position Grace Ridge as the ultimate retirement destination.
Though the regional market was highly saturated, lack of competition in the immediate area presented an opportunity. Grace Ridge needed a creative solution to increase exposure and leverage inperson engagement to promote itself as the regional retirement destination. Walker Marketing implemented a series of events that would be more than just staged advertisement for the brand, but would seize every opportunity to build relationships, generate goodwill and earn the trust of prospective customers.
The goals of this event marketing strategy were to build brand awareness, generate leads and appeal to wider groups of prospects in order to help achieve sales goals. The event series offered an opportunity for Grace Ridge to create an in-person connection and communicate their unique benefits while adding value to the community. The event marketing plan targeted age- and income-qualified homeowners interested in a vibrant, active retirement lifestyle within a one-hour drive of Grace Ridge.
Lead Generating Events
Destination-themed and wellness events were designed to integrate Morganton’s regional assets into the Grace Ridge image and attract prospects to the community. Four social events were designed and branded to leverage the area’s assets and align with the Grace Ridge brand: Wine and Beer Tasting, Creative Age Art Show, Antique Appraisal Show and Health Fair.
Direct mail was designed to generate new leads for Grace Ridge as well as increase event attendance and overall awareness. The campaign targeted a list of age- and income-qualified prospects within the primary market area. Call tracking was established featuring a tracking phone number that recorded all calls for the events. Calls were then appended to the prospect database to provide lead reports with qualifying data for the sales team.
A social media strategy was created in alignment with marketing initiatives to help reinforce and create awareness of the Grace Ridge brand and promote the event series. Strategies were designed with the goal of increasing outreach, elevating competitive positioning and driving traffic to the website to ultimately generate new leads.
Website and Content Marketing
The Grace Ridge website was used as a dynamic tool to highlight the community’s services and amenities and also to track event registration and capture leads. The website adhered to SEO best practices and seamlessly integrated with a CRM system. Blogging functionality helped maintain fresh and current information about the community and aid in search engine optimization. Monthly blog posts that aligned with Grace Ridge’s key initiatives and events were posted to the website and the Grace Ridge Facebook page.
Quarterly eNewsletters were delivered to prospects and other interested recipients included in the Grace Ridge CRM database. The eNewsletters were distributed to promote and recap events, educate prospects about the community, and drive traffic to the website via content sharing links.
Public relations tactics leveraged digital channels and media relations to help improve awareness, encourage event attendance and reinforce marketing initiatives. Media outreach and featured editorial about Grace Ridge events resulted in social media activity and regional and local online and print coverage, including a front page feature and photo gallery in the Morganton News.
Event videos were added to the Grace Ridge website, YouTube channel and Facebook page to help engage visitors, drive traffic, facilitate conversation, and ultimately rank higher in search.
Walker Marketing was able to demonstrate a successful and effective event marketing campaign. Using our digital tracking technologies, data collected indicated that after a year event registration was double the expected and the events resulted in hundreds of leads and dozens of move-ins. Media relations effectively enhanced awareness of the Grace Ridge brand and the activities created a lasting impression on prospects. The use of direct mail, public relations, blog posts, eNewsletters and social media were successful tools in helping increase community outreach and visibility. These platforms helped promote events, drive traffic to the website, engage visitors, increase placement in regional and local media outlets, and ultimately generate more qualified leads and move-ins.