John O'Connor

For more than a decade, students learning about senior housing administration at George Mason University have been “mystery shopping” operators via phone calls. The latest results are just in. And believe me, they are nothing to call home about.

Here’s what our mystery callers discovered:

• They were asked for their name only 62% of the time

• They were asked for their move-in timeline only 26% of the time

• They were asked about their ability to pay less than one-third (32%) of the time

• They were offered a brochure by mail (rather than a tour invitation) 21% of the time.

To Andrew Carle, who runs the senior housing program at George Mason, these less-than-optimal practices translate to lost opportunity. He noted that a single move-in can represent a sale of more than $100,000.

My view is that what’s really needed is a change in perspective. Operators in this field need to start behaving more like marketers. But not just like any marketers. We’re talking world-class marketers.

I know what you’re thinking: OK, Mister Smartypants, what do world-class marketers do differently? 

Funny you should ask. As it turns out, this exact question was recently tackled in a joint Marketing2020 study by EffectiveBrands and the Association of National Advertisers.

After examining more than 10,000 marketers across 92 nations, they found that the best of the best distinguished themselves from the pack in three distinct ways:

First, they were better at integrating data about what customers are doing with an understanding of why they are doing it. Second, they communicated a brand purpose (its functional, emotional, and societal payoffs). Finally, they delivered a “total experience” to their customers. 

Yes, I realize those three objectives are easier said than done. In fact, very few companies in the study were able to do them all.

But imagine if your organization could. Chances are you’d be spending a lot less time wondering why full occupancy remains such a mystery.