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Heritage Communities applies Omnichannel Marketing to Better Meet the Needs of Families


Like many adult children, Kent Lewis had a frustrating time researching senior care options when his father suffered a minor stroke a couple years ago. What stood out most for Lewis, president and founder of Anvil Media in Portland, Oregon, were the multiple times he was asked to provide the same basic information when touring facilities.

“I didn’t feel like they were gathering data from my first contact with their communities,” Lewis told Senior Housing News. “They kept asking us to fill out forms and provide the same information.”

Lewis’ experiences have informed his research in bringing omnichannel marketing to senior care. Omnichannel marketing is a streamlined, consistent process of marketing to a customer base through multiple means. It takes the essential information about a community to potential customers and ensures the messaging is identical, regardless of whether it is on printed marketing materials, online, face-to-face, via text or email.

Omnichannel marketing has been embraced in retail and hospitality settings because it can be used to quantify a customer’s journey from first contact to sale and satisfaction. Lewis, as well as other senior living marketers and providers, believe omnichannel can and should be leveraged in senior living, as well.

Building on a multichannel foundation

At its foundation, omnichannel marketing is about the customer experience, personalization and how communities can assist and educate consumers with solutions to their wants/needs, GlynnDevins Chief Innovation Officer Janel Wait told SHN. GlynnDevins is a data-driven, technology-enabled marketing firm focused on senior living with offices in Kansas City, Missouri and Richmond, Virginia.

“Omnichannel is 100% about the customer,” Wait said. 

Providers who embrace technology and data to uncover insights and behaviors can deliver a true omnichannel marketing solution enabling them to create personal relationships with prospects, leads and even residents with relevant messaging based on their individual journey.

In short, it is not only about the channel delivering the message, it is about the message itself.

“The biggest shortcoming with senior care is most are not doing multichannel marketing well, and very few are doing omnichannel well,” Lewis said. “You have a bunch of marketing messaging going out that is hopefully consistent across channels. With omnichannel, communities are connecting a customer’s various journeys through those channels, particularly on digital, that is seamless and personalized.”

According to the 2018 Simplicity Index from brand strategy firm Siegel+Gale, 55% of the 15,000 respondents surveyed are willing to pay more for simpler customer experiences and 64% are more likely to recommend a brand that delivers simple experience. 

Companies that have mastered omnichannel marketing include Disney. The entertainment giant’s strategy starts with a customer’s first visit to its user-intuitive website and continues through its trip planner and associated apps, tailoring a trip to Disneyland or Walt Disney World to the user’s specifications, and keeping a vacation on track. Other companieswith exceptional omnichannel marketing strategies include Starbucks, Chipotle, REI and Walgreens.

Embracing an omnichannel strategy also allows a provider to identify the point person making the buying decision and focus on assisting the buyer — and in the case of senior living, that might involve multiple parties.

“Creating relationships has always been personal,” Wait said. “We have the ability to unify all the touchpoints a customer has with our brand and to leverage data to better communicate with residents, prospects and families.”

Heritage moves toward omnichannel

Embracing an omnichannel approach means providers must streamline messaging for the channels that are already in place, Heritage Communities Director of Sales and Marketing Lacy Jungman told SHN. Omaha, Nebraska-based Heritage operates 13 communities in Arizona, Nebraska and Iowa.

Heritage already has a strong multichannel approach. From an online perspective, Jungman uses Google My Business to enhance its online presence. A free service, Google My Business lets companies share information about operations including photos and updates, allows customers to leave reviews and book services directly from a business profile, and let providers connect directly with potential leads. Heritage employs search engine optimization (SEO) best practices such as keyword tracking to examine who is visiting their Google My Business profile, where they are logging on from, and the nature of their searches.

Heritage also works with video platform OneDay to create content that can be easily branded and pushed out via social media. And yet one of the company’s most high-profile marketing efforts last year was decidedly old-school. Jungman and Heritage President Nate Underwood co-wrote a book, In a Good Place, that is a fictionalized account of an adult daughter’s journey to placing her mother in senior living. Heritage has been distributing free copies via its communities, and sales and marketing team members can use it a tool for discussing the challenges and concerns that crop up for the adult children they work with

Heritage’s sales and marketing approach has been successful, earning the company plaudits like the recent “Best of the Best” award from Argentum. But Jungman recognizes the need to adapt omnichannel into its approach.

Heritage hired a consultant to help with its omnichannel and digital efforts to ensure consistency in message and branding. The company is also exploring using artificial intelligence which could be used to listen to calls, and decipher customer questions and responses, Jungman told SHN.

This could be leveraged to train sales teams better based on the responses and map consumer journey, allowing the team to tailor efforts directly to what is being asked, as well as highlight what is important in the sales journey.

Big-picture, it’s crucial for senior living providers to recognize whether they are doing multichannel marketing or have elevated to a true omnichannel approach.

“Omnichannel is multichannel, but multichannel is not omnichannel,” Lewis said.