Senior living operators might be exhaling a collective sigh of relief with the widespread availability of the vaccines. But the industry is also facing tighter budgets and pressure to boost residency rates. We’ve all been changed by challenges we’ve faced over the last 18 months. What worked in the past isn’t working as well today for many marketing teams. If you’re looking for inspiration and insight on the best way to move forward, I believe we need to consider the lessons small business owners have to teach us.

Start-ups and small businesses owners have had to translate creative thinking into action, especially because of limited resources. Each decision they make usually means they’re saying no to another option. They’re also faced with a steep learning curve to discover what will work with their new audience and what doesn’t. As you ramp up your post-COVID marketing strategies, take a page out of the playbook for small business owners with these four lessons to reinvigorate your approach.

Make frugality a virtue.

Start-up founders recognize that cash is king, and they do their best to operate within their means. One of the best lessons they have to teach us is to capitalize on short-term gains to maintain their cash flow and build momentum for long-term gains. By working within a lean budget, tactics that require time to produce results are out of reach. For example, optimizing your website for search can be effective in driving traffic over time.

Instead, focus on tactics that can deliver quick results. Look at your past successes and ask yourself why each prospective resident became an actual resident. It will only cost you a little time to literally ask them what was the tipping point. As you collect their answers, you’re gaining priceless insight into what worked (and why) and collecting data to refine your value proposition. This will help you develop small scale tactics with the potential for strong ROI.

Play to your strengths.

Small business owners are constantly trying to find more hours in the day to get everything done that needs to be done. They quickly learn that tasks that aren’t mission-critical, don’t contribute to the bottom line, or produce revenue should be delegated to someone else. You need to do the same.

Take a hard look at your workload. Are you spending your time doing things only you can do or are you trying to do every task yourself. Learning to delegate and/or outsource specific tasks to qualified people can make you a better leader.

Get market feedback.

What prospective residents needed or wanted in 2020 has changed for 2021. That’s why it’s important to know what your audience really wants. The best way to do that is by talking to them. Small business owners know their survival hinges on their ability to deliver what customers want. Instead of assuming your current list of amenities and policies are exactly what your audience wants, ask them.

For instance, COVID-19 put senior healthcare on the radar for everyone. The CDC reported a 154% increase in telehealth visits in 2020 compared to 2019. Other studies found similar increases in the use of telemedicine for a full range of healthcare concerns. Before you consider how to frame and position your telehealth and other healthcare initiatives in your messaging, why not schedule a session with current residents to discuss it? Learning how they and their families think about these topics, what they might want, and what has changed for them can help you develop a more persuasive pitch.

Build the right network.

Every successful start-up and small business owner can tell you about a single connection that changed the course of their business. We all need a helping hand, but we seldom ask for help. Having a strong network of individuals from a broad range of industries, with different perspectives and experiences is essential. By reaching out to your network for support, suggestions, and ideas, you can reap the benefit of their experience.

Building a network takes time but costs very little when you consider the benefits. You can reach out on LinkedIn (we’d love to say hello to you), participate in community-oriented groups such as the Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club, or create a group of senior living professionals in your area. When the funds are there, make a point of attending regional and national conferences to widen your network. Just remember to actively engage with the members in your network. A phone call or email can be just the support someone else needs to get through their own challenges.

Don’t be afraid to try something new.

Small business owners don’t succeed without trying new ideas. They’ve demonstrated the power of a coupon, free samples, word of mouth, and viral social media posts. Frugal start-ups know the value of making every dollar do the work of two. If your last email campaign wasn’t successful, another built along similar lines isn’t likely to succeed. Instead, think about the last thing you received that made you take action. Was it a phone call? A clever email? A different style of direct mail? A coupon? A personal invitation? We all make decisions to take a chance that becomes someone’s conversion every day. What worked on you is a new possibility for your audience.

Small business owners understand the reality of doing more with less. Every decision they make directly affects their chances for success. The cost of every ad and direct mail piece is a dollar they worked hard to earn. They learn not to make decisions without the right information. Because, above all, they’re totally invested in what they do. Sabal Group promises to take the same approach as your data partner. We’re here to support you and your senior living community. Why not reach out today to learn how we can help you.