A senior care executive approached me after a talk recently to correct something I said. “We don’t ever say ‘put mom or dad in a home,’” he explained. “We prefer to use phrasing like, ‘helping them select a care facility.”

But I’m not a senior care executive. I’m not even in the industry. I study what consumers say online when they’re talking about brands, products, issues and more. So I wasn’t privy to the industry jargon.

And that is why I then corrected him.

“I’m not the one using the terminology, sir. Your customers are. I’m simply repeating what they say, which is one major reason why you’re not connecting with them. You don’t speak their language.”

It’s one thing to have a marketing message and consistent talking points to promote your senior living facility. You can flower up your letters, brochures, websites and sales pitches all you want. But if you don’t understand how your customer talks about you, then you’re just another company trying to sell them something they don’t understand.

Listening to Consumers Leads to Insights

In February, the Conversation Research Institute published our findings after analyzing conversations about senior living and senior care we found in online conversations over the course of a one-year period. The single most important insight that came out of the research: you don’t speak your consumer’s language.

Two-thirds of all conversations online about the senior care space call out nursing homes as the facility in question. However, many of those conversations aren’t actually about nursing homes at all. They’re about assisted living facilities, independent living facilities and rehabilitation centers. The consumer doesn’t distinguish — and often is completely unaware of — the products the industry has to offer.

The majority of adult children searching for senior care for their aging parent would explain what they’re doing by saying, “I’m trying to find a nursing home to put mom in.”

You can believe your own industry speak and spin all you want, but the average person looking for what you sell still calls it putting mom in a home. That tells a third-party analyst like me a couple of things:

  • Senior living brands need to get to know their customers better.
  • The variety of products and options available to seniors aren’t being well communicated to the decision-makers purchasing the services.
  • Consumers still think of senior living and senior care with a negative stigma. More needs to be done to illustrate it can be a very positive experience for the patient and family.

Do You Believe Your Own Hype?

How does your company talk about itself and the products it offers to patients and their families? Do you steer completely clear of the term “nursing home?” There’s a better than average chance they do not, which illustrates a disconnect. While certainly the industry has moved far ahead in the last 20 years in terms of what options are available to seniors and their families, today’s seniors and their families may not have.

Our research uncovered a vast disconnect between the industry and its consumers. And that’s just one of many areas we found interesting in what consumers say in online conversations about the senior living space. Explore the research in From Independent Living to Nursing Homes: Understanding the Buyer Journey in Senior Care from CRI. There, you’ll find out what family members say about everything from selecting a facility to dealing with the staff and experience after enrollment. You’ll learn interesting insights into what patients think versus their families. And you’ll even discover consumer interest in content you can provide, but likely are not.

Jason Falls

Members of the Caring.com community can receive a 50% discount on the research report by using the discount code CARING when ordering.

Editor’s Note: Jason Falls is a presenter at this year’s SMASH Senior Care Marketing Sales Summit. He’ll be sharing lots more information about his study, and SMASH has provided a $400 registration discount for members of the Caring network. Use the discount code “CARING400” upon registration for SMASH.  

See also our Digital Marketing Academy webinar archive for June 2017 to watch the recording of Jason’s webinar on this subject, or peruse the slides.

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is one of the most widely read and respected voices in the digital marketing and social media industries. He spends much of his time analyzing online conversations for consumer insights for clients of the Conversation Research Institute and consulting on broad digital marketing issues for a number of B2C and B2B clients. His company's most recent industry report is focused on the senior care space.

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