Every reputable retirement community wants to employ ethical senior living marketing. Unfortunately, unethical practices are often used by outside marketing companies, and they do harm. Ethical marketing permeates everything from your advertising to your website design.
An unethical marketing technique is one that decreases the ability of seniors to find high quality retirement living options. Unethical marketing techniques include any misrepresentation (whether intentional or accidental) of independent or assisted living amenities, healthcare options or fees. The following represent some of the more common unethical senior living marketing techniques that exist:
Market Research that is Irresponsible
Market research that has been conducted improperly can lead to all kinds of stereotypes and generalizations that distort attitudes and affects marketing language in a negative way. For example, it’s obviously a mistake to generalize about what kind of seniors seek senior communities. A marketing campaign launched by a senior living community based on faulty assumptions about seniors can be detrimental to the senior living community and the whole concept of senior living in general.
Targeting a Very Narrow Audience
Known as “selective marketing,” this process weeds out those consumers considered less-than-ideal prospects by a company. Such a process frequently leads to shaming individuals and other negative consequences. An example of this type of practice would be when Victoria’s Secrets put out its “Perfect Body Campaign” and suffered a backlash due to their attempts to consciously exclude any woman who wasn’t painfully thin, had long legs and was well endowed.
In the retirement community space, it can be tempting for some marketers to stereotype seniors and target only a small demographic. In reality, seniors aren’t so easy to stereotype. True ethical senior living marketing will take a more nuanced approach to seniors and not generalize.
Making False or Exaggerated Claims
Doing this to increase profit tends to haunt businesses eventually. A good example would be if marketers made it look like a senior living community is next to a beach when it’s actually many miles away. If the marketing shows photos of residents on the beach and the content implies the beach is close by, a very false impression is created to lure people looking for that amenity. They will be disappointed when they realize the truth. Such a manipulative and unethical senior living marketing technique damages a senior living community’s reputation and the reputation of all CCRCs and life plan communities as a whole.
Unscrupulous Deliver Channel Practices
Cold calls through a telemarketing company would be a good example. Most people consider such calls to be disruptive and annoying. They also consider the product or service in question as untrustworthy as a result. Unsolicited calls bring a tainted reputation to many companies that try to make use of them. In the same vein would be unsolicited emails and direct mail. In a sense, unsolicited sales calls, emails and direct mail make the sender an uninvited and unwelcome guest into someone’s home. Proper, focused content marketing is both ethical and effective.
Disparaging the Competition
Some communities try to do this sooner or later. It’s a dangerous practice in many ways, however. There’s an enormous difference between extolling your community’s competitive advantages and insulting those of your competitors. A senior living community that resorts to mudslinging is jeopardizing its integrity by doing so. Even if your community clearly possesses finer amenities or a more comprehensive continuum of healthcare, don’t resort to name calling, even if a competitor is bad-mouthing your community either directly or indirectly. Never sink to their level. Ethical senior living marketing calls for a more dignified approach to senior living branding strategy.
Trying to undercut the fees of competing communities makes enemies. With ethical senior living marketing, there’s room for you and your competitors in this field. Remember also that there will be times when you can theoretically help each other. For example, it’s possible that you may recommend another community to a senior if you don’t have what he or she wants in terms of amenities. Later on, that competitor may return the favor if they don’t have what a prospective resident is looking for. This is a better situation than starting a fee war that no one really wins.
Dishonest Social Media Presence
Many people enjoy social media. However, they are very quick to smell a rat when a business offers nothing on social media but hype and self-promotion. Sometimes, companies pose as individuals on social media and never admit that they’re actually representing a business and trying their best to put that business in a good light day and day out. Such practices can make a company look deceptive and dishonest—hardly the desired result. Never allow a marketer to place fake comments on social media about your community by pretending they live there. Such unethical senior living marketing often backfires spectacularly when others realize the post is bogus.
The Importance of Ethical Senior Living Marketing
A CCRC, life plan community or assisted living facility depends on its excellent reputation. Your marketing should always advance, nor hurt that reputation. Consequently, you need to make sure your marketing company is onboard with this concept.
Dreamscape Marketing is a committed advocate of ethical senior living marketing. We’ve worked with hundreds of healthcare clients, and we understand their unique needs. Call us today at 888.307.7304 or email us at [email protected] and let’s discuss your next marketing plan.