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How Artis, Claiborne are Acing Tours to Drive Higher Memory Care Conversions 

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Succeeding in creating a meaningful tour experience can make or break a memory care community’s chance at making a new resident conversion – but doing so can feel more art than science.. 

But there are ways that operators can improve tours to drive a higher rate of move-ins. Higher acuity care like assisted living and memory care has seen strong demand since 2020, with acuity rising while length of stay remains lower than past years. How operators can succeed in making conversions consistently can make all the difference towards a community’s success or financial hardship.

That’s because margins are more narrow and expenses remain elevated across the industry as operators adjust to current market conditions.

Artis Senior Living and Claiborne Senior Living have had recent success on conversions by revamping the tour process that’s led to an influx of new residents. But the journey hasn’t come easily as while tours and inquiries are up, conversions remain lower compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Conversion ‘starts with discovery’

Senior living providers have started changing how key first impressions are made with prospects and their families, with an emphasis on immediate communication with and education.

Memory care and assisted living provider Artis Senior Living revamped its tour process to become more of an experience than a guided, stuffy tour across one of the company’s communities. But making those important connections “starts with  discovery,” said Artis Senior Living Vice President of Sales and Marketing Amy Beth DePreker 

“Gone are the days of the mini-assessment,” she added. “You really have to build that trust with families and you do that by personalizing the experience with them and understanding that human side of the sale. You create a bond with them and you’re looking to make it more human for them and then we can create that experience.

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For example, should a family or resident mention a favorite coffee place, sales teams at Artis have the ability to get small denomination gift cards for a prospect to add that personal touch. Recently a prospect mentioned enjoying Motown-inspired music, with Artis getting tickets to a local Motown-themed event for a prospective resident and loved ones.

“You have to really get to the heart of what’s going on with the family and who that person is,” DePreker said. 

Merz Photography on behalf of Senior Housing News and WTWH Media Merz Photography on behalf of Senior Housing News and WTWH Media
Artis Senior Living Vice President of Sales and Marketing Amy Beth DePreker speaks during a panel discussion at the Senior Housing News Sales and Marketing Summit in Tampa, Florida.

Virtual tours have become commonplace since 2020 in the industry, and DePreker said Artis and other providers were caught flat-footed in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic to support the internet speeds needed to succeed on virtual tours.

“We just weren’t ready infrastructurally,” DePreker said in reference to the industry updating systems to support a more digital-focused sales process.

For Claiborne, Vice President of Marketing Brooke Saxon-Spencer said succeeding on creating a successful tour experience that can lead to a conversion starts with “out of the box personalization,” with an emphasis on connecting with prospects prior to the tour. That means demystifying the process, informing prospects of what to expect and personal touches like a reserved parking space.

“We have to make sure that people are comfortable coming in from the very beginning,” Saxon-Spencer said. “Stop calling it a tour and call it an experience.” 

Claiborne started taking tours to unconventional places and made the tour less scripted. That freed up those on a tour to get an authentic insight into daily life at a community, she added.

Artis team members create shadow boxes for new memory care residents with photographs and artwork to add another personal touch in the sometimes drawn-out move-in process. By creating “wow moments” that build trust between staff and prospects, Artis is able to personalize a sales process, DePreker said.

“It shows that we listened and it shows that we understand what they’re going through and that we care about them,” DePreker said.

Christine Hansen, a senior living sales expert who previously worked with Erickson Senior Living and Lifespace Communities, said “failing to connect” is a symptom that could lead to the loss of a prospect.

“We’re finding that folks aren’t connecting emotionally with the folks that are coming in and we’ve encouraged them to listen more and recognize any moments that come out of those conversations that drive what the next step is,” Hansen said. “Making sure your staff feel empowered to do something like that is unique.”

Leads, inquiries remain elevated while conversions lag

With some “alarming” senior living trends emerging in early 2024 regarding conversions, it’s clear there’s a long road ahead for operators if they want to capitalize on new demand.

This trend of lowered conversions is also playing out for Artis and Claiborne. For Artis, conversions in 2023 ended with a 41% conversion rate, below the target goal of 50% while inquiry to tour rate reached 47%, up from the benchmark of 35%.

“We’re getting them in, we’re just not closing and we’re really digging into what the issues are,” DePreker said, which led to Artis identifying leadership development as a key to anchoring sales teams across communities.

Artis in recent years instituted a new sales process, something that led to redefining roles within the sales staff and creating a concierge position. While first impressions matter, DePreker said Artis would remain “compassionately aggressive” in the sales process.

“Sales leaders need to take control of the sale and they need to be the guide and they need to be the one that gives the families permissions to make this really tough decision,” DePreker said. “You have to have that empathy but help them make the decision and kind of push them off the fence to do it.”

To improve conversions, Claiborne “cut the clutter” of the tour process, digitizing aspects of a brochure packet that oftentimes was disregarded. Claiborne eliminated the use of lead aggregators and changed the discovery process.

“It’s all customized for this individual and their level of care,” Saxon-Spencer said. “We’re trying to change the face of the sales process and the way that we’re using the tools that we have.”

Another key aspect in succeeding in conversions, Saxon-Spencer said, was understanding Claiborne’s digital footprint, more specifically, its Google Business profile where an operator’s review average can change over the course of a year. 

“We’re working with the teams to ask [residents] when things are going well to leave a review,” Saxon-Spencer said. “Our vest reviews come from people post-tour so we’re trying to make it as easy as possible.”

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