Guest Columns

Superior marketing success: It's NOT about your community

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Kevin Williams
Kevin Williams

Let's break this down to the very basics right out of the gate.

The success of your senior living community is dependent on cash flow. Cash flow comes from residents in your target market; not from your community. Marketing is ALWAYS about your target market and never about your community.

I don't mean to sound condescending, because that's not my intent. I just want this point to be very clear. Focusing on your community is one of the biggest marketing mistakes made in the senior living industry.

In order for me to be a responsible writer, I have to break some bad news. I hope you're sitting down…

Your market doesn't care if you have the equivalent of the Taj Mahal of features and amenities for your community. They don't care about your water fountain out front. They don't care about your great management software or how the place was founded by a blind pastor 300 years ago.

They care about THEMSELVES and THEIR needs and wants.

So, focusing your marketing on how great your community is, rather than getting in the mind of the consumer and focusing on their desires can be deadly to your business.

You must know and understand your market as best you can, because they're the ones reaching into their wallet and paying you money.

Your community can't give you a credit card number or cash. That would be great if it could, but the truth is only your market can do that.

So, what I want to do in this article is teach you how to really understand your market. I want to teach you how to get inside their heads so that your marketing and sales messages can become infinitely more powerful and persuasive. This means higher income and occupancy for you with less money spent on marketing.

Gaining a real understanding of your target market is more crucial today than it ever has been before. With increased competition and tighter budgets, you must know how to best spend your dollars and get the maximum return possible on that marketing investment.

5-10 Miles Is NOT Your Target Market!


It's very common in this industry to believe your target market is seniors who live 5-10 miles from your community. While, in some cases, this may be a proper geographic representation of your target market, it only scratches the surface of who your target market really is. More often than not, 5-10 miles isn't even an accurate geographic trend. Your geographic target market could be 1 mile or 25 miles from your community. Whatever it is, it's very important you know your exact target market so that when you spend money on marketing it is targeted to the most effective and responsive audience.

Before we go any further I'd like to talk a little bit about human behavior. Somebody once said to pay attention to people's actions, not to what they say - which is a great way to determine one's character. The same thinking is true for determining your target market.

By doing this, you're able to leverage what people are actually willing to spend money on, not just what they say they'll spend money on. The same is true for selecting your target market.

We want to know exactly who, in your market, is willing to become a resident at your community. Many of us fall into the trap of assuming or hoping that our residents will be a certain type of person from a certain neighborhood. Unfortunately, this can be an expensive wish. Rather than wish or guess who our residents should be, we need to find out who our residents actually are and target more of the same in our marketing efforts.

Determining who our residents actually are requires doing a reverse analysis of our resident database. In other words, analyzing who is actually paying us money on a monthly basis.

By doing this we learn trends about our customers:

  • Age
  • Income
  • Household Type
  • Home Value
  • Children
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Credit Score
  • Where they live


After you do a reverse analysis on your resident database it's important to look at the invaluable trends within the results.

From there we need to put on our 80/20 rule/Pareto Principle hat, which allows us to think in terms of inequality. When you notice the inequality among your resident database you can then begin to target your market a lot smarter. For example: let's say that after running a reverse analysis on your resident database you notice that 80% of your residents are between the ages of 75 and 84, are Caucasian, female, have two children and have lived at their former residence for over 15 years.

Now, that data example is not a majority of any target market; however it is a majority of people who are attracted to your community for some reason…and THAT is what's important. Now that we have that data, we can more intelligently select our marketing channels based on who our target market really is.

When considering marketing mediums simply compare those demographic and psychographic traits with the geographic data. You can then target your marketing to people that fit this very specific criteria and pull a much stronger response. Most marketing channels allow you to target based on selections like this.

Now, before we continue, I want to make one distinction very clear: I'm not talking about doing a demographic, psychographic and geographic analysis on the city your community is located. I'm talking about doing this analysis on your actual paying residents. Going back to human behavior, these are people actually paying you money as a resident at your community. Truly understanding your target market can help you increase occupancy and spend less money at the same time.

There's one more element to understand before we can wrap up defining your target market. Most of what we've talked about has been very black and white and data driven. This information will help us define who our target market is, but it's not worth much at all when it comes to communicating and connecting with them as human beings.

To do that, we need to have empathy and an emotional understanding as to what makes them tick as human beings.

This is not as easy to identify but still crucial. To do this, we need to understand the emotional and psychological reasons our residents and their adult children consider a senior living community versus staying at home or some other alternative.

To do that, you must put yourself in their shoes at that particular moment in their life. Are they stressed? Overwhelmed? Scared? Excited? Just had a medical emergency? I think you get the point. In senior living (particularly assisted living and skilled care) future residents are in the middle of something stressful like a medical condition, trouble with daily living, their caregiver is overwhelmed, etc. It's important to have empathy and create a profile for these emotions. When you do this, you're fully able to connect and communicate with them.

Determining the emotional state of your target market is hard to do but must be considered when crafting each of your marketing messages. As you create these messages, remember to put yourself in their shoes and have empathy for their situation.

However you do move forward, I hope this gives you a clear idea as to how detailed your target market can and should be. Not only will it help you improve your marketing efforts, but it will help you make other decisions throughout your operations.

Kevin M. Williams is the President of™. For more information, call (888) 523-3311 or visit

Guest Columns

Guest columns are written by long-term care industry experts, ranging from academics and thought leaders to administrators and CEOs.