A Retirement Community: Product Awareness or Sales Issue?

A beautiful new upscale retirement community was failing to meet its occupancy objectives while several of its competitors were filled to capacity and enjoying waiting lists. Was the problem due to a lack of awareness or acceptance by the local community? Was it perhaps due to sales effectiveness — or some combination of all of these?

The community, which consists of both independent and assisted living residents, was new to the area, and the owners were aware they were competing against established communities with proven track records. In an attempt to make local residents aware of what the community had to offer, the owners hired a dynamic local community relations person. But it would take time for her to make a significant impact, and the owners were concerned that something else might be contributing to the problem.

Therefore, they decided to let a fresh pair of eyes assess the situation. They hired Devon Hill Associates to conduct an abbreviated market audit to review the company’s marketing communications, its community relations activities, and its sales effectiveness.

Devon Hill reviewed the retirement community’s promotional materials and community relations activities, and conducted a mystery shopping assessment of the hard and soft sales skills of the marketing staff. A detailed report was then submitted to management. According to one corporate senior manager, the report “really opened our eyes.” It was the “catalyst” that helped the community to achieve its occupancy and financial objectives.

The owners had assumed that local residents were simply unaware the retirement community existed — something that would solve itself over time, especially after the hiring of the community relations employee. But the report identified the sales force as the more significant problem. If the marketing audit had not been done, the owners might have focused their energies in the wrong place.

According to the senior manager, “We found out that awareness was not our sole problem, and so, we focused our energies in the sales area. We made changes in staff. We got better at hiring experienced people with the right skills and personalities to relate to the residents and reflect our corporate expectations. We enhanced our training. We made some changes in the promotional material, too. All that was a result of Devon Hill’s report.”

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Devon Hill Associates is a mystery shopping, marketing and sales training company that focuses on the healthcare and long-term care industries. We specialize in mystery shopping for hospitals, HMOs, clinics, nursing homes, assisted living and retirement communities nationwide. Devon Hill Associates is located in La Jolla, California. For information on mystery shopping and other services, call 1-858-456-7800.

For more information on our Senior Living & Long-Term Care Mystery Shopping capabilities, contact us.

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