Market Positioning: Conveying Your Message

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Communication is obviously a critical element in marketing seniors housing and it is accomplished through various channels. Back in the day it was advertisements in newspapers, selected periodicals and direct mail. Now it includes social media such as Facebook, YouTube, Google, LinkedIn and others. We know that prospective residents and their families want the basic information about what you offer – independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing – what it costs and the financial structure. But is that enough? In order to capture the segment of the market that will find your community most compatible with their lifestyle, its important to establish your market position. Here are some examples of market positioning statements from several existing communities serving seniors.
* Setting Standards of Excellence in Retirement Living Since 1967
* Tradition of Quality Healthcare
* Artful Living
* Together Transforming the Experience of Aging
These simple statements say a great deal about the four communities they represent. The first emphasizes the sense of continuity and reliability. The second stresses that the community is a health care provider (as opposed to one that offers a continuum of care). The third suggests that “art” in its many ways is part of the community’s identity. And, in fact, its collection of art which is displayed throughout is a feature that distinguishes it. And finally, the last suggests that aging is a dynamic process.
So going beyond the basics is a must in conveying your community’s message and identity.

A New Year – 30 Years of BAI

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We want to take this opportunity to wish all of our friends and associates a wonderful 2020. It’s been an interesting year full of varied engagements taking us from New Orleans to Connecticut and many places in between. At Brecht Associates our team has gone through some changes and we anticipate bringing on new consultants and growing the capabilities of many of our existing staff. I have enjoyed writing the blogs on a regular basis and they have ranged from an inspiring poem by an 89 year old friend of mine to a call for knowing who your competition really is. The latter was received by an organization whose Board had just agreed they needed to know more about the competition which led to a study to help them learn what they faced. Much has been written by periodicals including the Wall Street Journal on whether the “boomers” will want to move to senior housing. I’m one of those boomers and I’m not sure myself, but I think if we shift the psychology of the model to one that enhances the opportunities for older adult to continue to grow and engage in the outside community we’re headed in the right direction. Let’s make the “Activities Director” the “Director of Resident Engagement”.
We look forward to 2020 during which we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Brecht Associates, Inc. Help us celebrate that milestone.

The Competitive Landscape is always Changing

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When was the last time you updated information on your competition? Do you know what’s in the planning cycle? Knowing what your competitors are up to is so important to your own marketing and positioning efforts. Whether they are making minor changes like converting some traditional AL units to Memory Care, expanding their independent living or combining smaller units to make larger more marketable apartments or developing a satellite campus, you need to know what’s going on. Updating information on competitors can be done with telephone calls or some on-site visits and should be done routinely about every 18 months. And this update should definitely include finding out what new communities are being planned. Brecht Associates has a 30 year history of obtaining reliable and accurate competitor information for its clients. Let us help you with that.

A Poem by a Dear Friend

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My dear friend, Jean Billetter

I believe that music is a blessing I can hear. I believe that the time will never come when I am not filled with awesome wonder by the sun rising, the sun setting, the changing of the seasons, mighty mountains with peaks crowned by clouds. I believe that strong winds, lightning and thunder, sudden storms will always frighten and fascinate me.

I believe that I have an unending quantity of love that must be given unconditionally and with no restrictions or reservations. I believe that all life is a freely given gift, precious beyond measure, meant to be treasured, and treated with tenderness.

I believe that the better way to begin every day is with a prayerful petition for guidance and a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

I believe that my life has a purpose. I believe that what I say and don’t say matters. I believe that what I do and don’t do, what I think and don’t think matters. And I believe that if I am willing to try and live by what I believe, my Almighty God will make me more able. And finally, I believe that every beginning has an ending.

By Jean Billetter

Market Research – Due Diligence for Lenders

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More than ever, professional market research provides a sound foundation not only for planning purposes but as part of the lender’s due diligence process. While it may seem that by the time the lending decision is reached, the market research has been done, it is still an important element in the lender’s decision to finance a senior housing development. And as the developer pursues financing options, they are likely to include the market study in their presentation package. If it’s not there, needless to say, a lender experienced in seniors housing will ask for it. Aaron Rulnick, Managing Partner at HJ Sims says “An independent market study is a critical element of our due diligence process when we are considering providing financing for a senior living project.  Whether the project is a start-up or expansion, we advise that the market study should be completed in the initial planning stages to guide other critical decisions in the development and financing process.”

Is Active Adult part of the Future of Senior Living?

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In a recent article in Senior Living News, architect David Dillard talked about active adult community development being on the upswing. Why is this happening, and what are the implications for the senior living industry? One obvious reason is the size and timing of the baby boomer generation. As boomers (and many others) no longer need the 3,500+ square foot home in which they raised their families, they are looking for the next step in their living arrangements. For many, Active Adult Communities (AACs) are the answer. They offer smaller, but well- designed residential options with all the bells and whistles that a couple are looking for in their new home. These communities frequently include such amenities as clubhouses with fitness centers, swimming pools, gathering spaces for social activities, and even kitchens where group meals can be prepared. Once primarily structured on a for-sale basis, many new AACs are available for rent, a growing market choice for older adults once they sell their homes. The growth of rental housing for seniors was the subject in the April 1 issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The article, entitled “More Older Adults are Relocating to Rentals Around Philly – Sometimes Close to Where They Owned a Home” cites the flexibility and freedom being enjoyed by the couple interviewed. There is no reason why traditional senior housing providers can’t enter this segment of the market. While AAC residents are not looking for the “continuum” which implies “need” rather than “want”, the physical disconnection but organizational connection may offer the best of both worlds.

An Exciting Night at a CCRC

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I had the pleasure of attending a fantastic program at a CCRC a few weeks ago. You may recall the blog I wrote about my sister-in-law called “It’s the Best Things We’ve Ever Done”. She was referring to their move to one of the retirement communities in Pennsylvania. Well the program was called “Love is in the Air” and it included musical performances and comedy routines all presented by the residents. It should have been called “enthusiasm, talent and joy is in the air” because that’s what it felt like for the performers and audience alike. We still are burdened by the belief that it’s only “care” that’s in the air, but It’s so much more than that. My sister –in-law (about to turn 81) said “we don’t feel old around here”! And the show that we enjoyed proved that over and over again. Hats off to you, Barbara Parsons, and to all of your pals.

Strategic Planning: How Important is it to Know Your Competition?

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Strategic planning is an important and complex process designed to create an implementable game plan for enhancing your organization’s future success.  It involves key personnel, an internal assessment, a financial review of operating results and financial position, a review of resident services and utilization.  This all leads to visioning and setting goals and strategies. What about your competition?  It is critical to understand who and what you are competing against, the competitors’ market positioning and the details of what they offer.  Only then can your organization have a full understanding of your community’s current market position relative to your competitors’ product offering and pricing.  Don’t let this important element be overlooked as you and your team delve deeply into the other critical steps in the strategic planning process.  An outsider’s ability to gather and  interpret this information for you will add  immeasurable value.

The Value of Lost Prospects

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Your staff spend time talking to a prospect by phone and then even more time giving them a tour and learning what they can about that them. And then it goes nowhere – it doesn’t turn into a sale. It feels like a waste of time. But it doesn’t have to be. A lost prospect survey conducted by telephone can yield information that has great value to your organization. Let some time go by and then reach out to see what you can learn. First, be respectful and send a letter or an email to that prospect to ask permission to have an independent consultant conduct a brief telephone interview with them. If they say yes, then include questions such as what they liked and what they didn’t like about your community ranging from design to services, staff interactions and pricing. Then ask whether they looked at other communities and how yours compared. And finally, find out whether they decided to move to any retirement community and if not, why not. This kind of information can help you consider what changes are possible that may enhance the appeal of your community. And it will sharpen the knowledge of your staff, as well.

High Tech or High Touch

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There is no question that high tech devices are becoming prevalent in resident accommodations in all sorts of senior housing. It’s not unusual to find Alexa answering questions like “what’s the weather like today?” Or even facilitating communication with staff. And technology is a more efficient way to determine whether a resident has taken a fall in their room and needs help. In a recent Senior Housing News article, Alexis Ohanion, an American internet investor and entrepreneur, emphatically indicated that robots will not replace human caregivers as these staff members are less replaceable than many other types of workers. Caregivers are able to create an empathetic human connection. Steven Moran, in the March 20 issue of Senior Housing Forum points out that when senior housing team members are introduced to new technology, they may already “feel overburdened with what they have to do right now”. One of the greatest challenges our industry faces today is finding and retaining qualified staff such as aides and caregivers. Their ability to develop relationships with residents reinforces their perception of their value and the importance of their jobs. So high tech has its value but it will never replace high touch.