Are You Budgeting Enough for Marketing in 2024?

October 9, 2023

Are You Budgeting Enough for Marketing in 2024?

As we move into Q4, operators across the country are finalizing comprehensive marketing strategies and budgets. Senior living leaders can expect to see increases in marketing expenses in everything from digital media spend to paper costs. Are you budgeting enough for your comprehensive marketing strategy? Here is a quick look at the major categories for marketing in senior living.

Digital Advertising

Digital advertising is the number one tactic to drive foot traffic through your doors. We find that most operators underspend on digital advertising and lose impression share, meaning they miss people searching on the keywords related to their community. Community budgets can range from $800 to more than $10,000 a month depending on goals, location, and competition. Expect media costs to rise as much as 20% in 2024. Don’t forget to include a budget for awareness campaigns across entertainment and educational media like Facebook too.

Monthly SEO Management

An often misunderstood marketing strategy is ongoing Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Search engine algorithms change constantly. Just because you ranked #1 for a keyword term today, does not mean you will maintain that ranking without work. Budget a minimum of $350 per month for content updates, new blogs, and even additional pages to signal to the search engines to re-crawl your site and re-rank it on critical keyword terms.

Website Maintenance or New Website Build

How fresh is your website? Is it backed up at least monthly? Are plug-ins and critical technology integrations up to date? Have you added new content or images to the website that are affecting its performance? Is your website mobile responsive?

At a minimum, you should be budgeting several hundred dollars for a monthly maintenance fee on your website. And, if your website is three or more years old, the technology foundation is starting to get old. That impacts your ability to keep it secure, as well as leverage newer capabilities including video, chat, text messaging, and more. New website development depends on many factors; talk to your website developer for an accurate price.

Email Marketing and Lead Nurture

Email marketing is senior living’s secret weapon when it comes to managing the middle of the funnel–you know those prospects that aren’t quite ready for a tour but will be soon. Your email strategy starts with a Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) that automates lead magnet, lead nurture, and even welcome email sequences.

Use your MAP to deliver high-performing email campaigns that include personalized and creative content and guide the buyer through the journey to yield higher ROI. Remember the MAP also integrates directly with your CRM, call tracking, and virtual assistant technology, giving your marketing team the ability to track leads from one location. The MAP setup and management will be two different fees. Budget for both if you’re adding or upgrading the MAP next year.

Marketing and Sales Content 

The original content—eBooks, checklists, videos, and even interactive tools–you offer in email and on your website, is an effective way to educate and engage prospects. They build trust and credibility while providing an opportunity to collect valuable information about the prospect that the sales team can use. This high-return content must be written, designed, promoted, and posted to your website. Budget for 3-10 pieces to create the interactions that generate qualified leads and remember that length and design impact costs.

Sales brochures still play a vital role in senior living marketing. Don’t underestimate the cost of designing and printing these materials. Budget for professional writing, design, and printing to reflect your community’s brand.

Video Development

Video content offers something printed material can’t–an actual view into your senior living experience. Choose the video type to meet your marketing goals. High-production videos are scripted, choreographed, edited, and professionally produced, and are great for sharing a corporate message. Testimonial videos help residents, family members, and even caregivers share their unique stories and experiences within a community. Explainer and animation videos help educate the viewer while virtual, 3D, interactive, and even drone-based tours showcase your community’s unique design and personality.

Video budgets vary from free (taken with a smart device) to tens of thousands of dollars. Consider your purpose and audience as you build your spreadsheets. Also budget for a platform to store and display your videos.

Technology Upgrades

As technology advances, you need to keep your marketing tools and platforms up to date. Allocate budget for marketing automation platforms, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, survey tools, call tracking software, virtual assistants, and interactive tour technology. These tools will help streamline your marketing efforts and provide valuable insights into prospect behavior. Talk to your preferred vendors for pricing.

Influencer Marketing

Influencers share their experiences about products to “sway” a buying decision. It is an effective strategy for fashion, dog food, and yes even senior living. You can collaborate with Influencers–senior lifestyle bloggers and local community leaders–to help you reach a wider audience.

Budget varies based on the reach of the Influencer; you’ll compensate them for their time, the use of their name, and most likely offer your “product” at a discount. Choose influencers wisely to match your values and brand.

Event Marketing

You already have the perfect venue for an event. Open Houses, dining events, and your standard activity and entertainment programming provide the perfect backdrop to showcase your community and all it has to offer residents. While these events provide valuable opportunities to connect with prospects and families, don’t underestimate the costs and time associated with promoting them. See our previous blog about the best ways to make the most of your events.

Digital Marketing Agency Retainer

Many senior living communities rely on digital marketing agencies to execute their marketing strategies effectively. The cost of agency retainers varies widely based on the scope of services. Do you need to augment a productive staff? Use an agency for specific functions. Do you use your agency as your marketing department? Negotiate a broad retainer with specific monthly deliverables.

Think twice about selecting an agency that doesn’t know your industry, especially if you are relying on the team to act as your marketing department. Remember that the team is an extension of you and your community brand; hire one that understands your brand, values, and your market and it will deliver a strong return on investment.

Plan the Budget, Work the Budget

Taking the time to think through your marketing goals, strategies, and budgets now will give you the ability to start the new year with your foot on the accelerator. If you know you need to budget more and don’t know where to start, request a consult.

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