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Village sales are booming, but now’s no time to be complacent​

The DCM Institute team regularly speaks with village professionals around the country, and we’ve been pleased to hear about the strong sales cycle experienced by many in the sector.

Some operators have reported as many as four sales per week, and many now have no vacancies.

This is great news, and supports results of a study our sister-company DCM Research conducted with Australia Online Research (AOR) from March through to July.

The study identified 43% of people aged 60+ are feeling an increased sense of vulnerability as a result of COVID, prompting 20% to reconsider the suitability of their own home.

This is a huge opportunity for retirement villages.

Complacency creeps in

While a strong sales market is a good thing, there can be some negative consequences.

It’s so easy for a sales team to fall into complacency when things are going well, and disciplined practices we implement in harder times like follow-up calls and engagement activities can easily fall by the wayside.

One of the biggest mistakes a village can make is to stop looking for process improvements or ways to engage new potential residents.

Let’s not forget, it takes potential residents up to an average 18 months to make a final decision.

So even in the good times, it’s vital to keep momentum going. 

Lead management

One key area to focus on is lead management.

Recent research indicates up to 97% of prospective clients start their search for a village on the web. Many of these people will visit your website several times before making an enquiry.

It’s worth considering how you engage with prospects who are spending time on your website, and how this knowledge may then benefit your sales process.

When a prospect enquires on a website, we collect general information – name, phone, email address and timeframe to move, for example.

This is helpful, but what if we could gain a deeper insight into the prospect?

Give a little, get a lot

The use of gated offers, the opportunity to download an e-book, interview, checklist or research, not only helps prospects make their decision to contact you, but it positions your village as the expert, and sets the tone for a helpful, transparent relationship.

You can also use this to collect further information such as housing preferences, locations of interest and hobbies/interests, to get to know the prospect on a deeper level.

This insight is gold to salespeople.

It lets them build rapport quickly and importantly provides an opportunity to tailor service and engagement activities to each prospect.

Furthermore, if a sales person is able to see the number and type of interactions a prospect has had on the website prior or during their engagement it allows them to prioritise and add further value to the client’s journey. 

Always be on the lookout for opportunities

Whether the market is booming or bust, we should always be looking for opportunities to bring the client to their decision sooner and aiming to create strong, engaged waitlists.

Investment in these types of lead management strategies always pays off.

Even when the times are good, it’s the one-percenters that count.

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Latest industry developments Things to watch

Have your village insurance premiums gone up? Fill out this survey and let us know! ​

Here’s an initiative we invite you to take part in, based on anecdotal evidence that retirement village insurance premiums are on the rise.

The Property Council Retirement Living Council (PC RLC) is seeking to collect data on reports of premiums increasing from 50-120%, driven by fires, floods, storm damage and the impact of COVID.

Insurance can be one of the larger line items in a village budget, and increases in premiums can have an impact on a village’s bottom line.

To address the problem, the PC RLC needs to understand the lay of the land.

That way they will be able to determine whether actions like recommending certain insurance providers or pursuing bespoke insurance arrangements are worthwhile.

To participate in the survey, click here.

The PC RLC is also encouraging village operators who’ve experienced serious hikes, to email direct here.

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Key things to help you everyday Things to watch

Finding new residents for your village – it’s not just a matter of being seen

Filling vacancies at your village can be a tricky task.

At the start of the village sales process you’re trying to achieve two goals – create awareness and generate interest.

The easiest way to do this is listing your village online.

I’m a firm believer in the idea that it’s not just a matter of being seen, but a matter of putting your best foot forward.

1. Understand your key messages

It’s going to be difficult to achieve a result if you don’t understand what you’re trying to say. 

A good way to get started when developing your key messages is thinking about the points of difference your village offers. This could be anything from the village’s location to its unique facilities.

Strong key messages help your village stand out.

And while it takes a bit of thought, it’s worth the effort.

2. Advertise your vacancies, establish your presence

Now that you’ve got your messages, it’s time to reach potential residents.

Typically, you’ll do this by listing your vacancies on a web portal.

But as Villages.com.au Head of Industry Sales Solutions Carmella Rowsthorne says, some web portals are more suitable than other.

“Finding the right balance between lead quantity and lead quality is a key challenge in village sales. That’s why it’s so important to list on a portal that people trust,” she said.

Once you’ve chosen your web portal, the messages you’ve developed will inform the choices you make in regards to copy and the images.

3. Put your best foot forward

So, you’ve developed your messages and found a web portal to list your vacancy.

But how do you make your village more appealing than the one down the road that’s done exactly the same thing?

Carmella says uplift options like purchasing a MREC banner or a promoted listing can be a good way to separate your village from the rest of the pack.

“On Villages.com.au promoted listings tend to deliver 30% more sales for our clients,” she said.

“With so many villages out there, it can be a great way to make your village stand out.”

Finding new residents for your village is more than just being seen.

It’s about putting your best foot forward.

With a little bit of thought and planning you can be confident you’re starting the starting the sales process on the right foot.

For more information about finding new residents for your village, you can contact Carmella here.

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Providing support when residents face the big decisions in life

“We don’t know, what we don’t know.”

This perfectly sums up the way our residents might feel when trying to tackle the significant financial and life decisions that come later in life.

Here are some typical questions a resident might ask:

  • Where can I get a Seniors Card?
  • Can I access taxi vouchers?
  • Is there a fitness class for older people nearby?
  • Who do I contact for government concessions?
  • What do I need to do to plan my will?
  • What is MyAgedCare and what do they do?

Having the answer to all these questions is almost impossible.

But we can give our residents access to information that is accurate and appropriate.

This gives them the power to make the right decisions, at the right time for themselves.

Making this information accessible, in a format that can be easily understood, is key.

Here are some ideas:

  • You might have a folder which has print outs or fact sheets about services
  • A poster with some key websites or agencies dedicated to older people
  • A village iPad which has links saved for easy access
  • Guest speakers giving presentations or one on one appointments
  • Newsletter articles on specific topics
  • Seniors card info showing special offers and discounts

Here are some useful websites you can use as a starting point:

As we’ve mentioned before, you’re not expected to have the answer to every question.

Letting our residents know where they can find the information to make their decisions is the best way to achieve a positive outcome.

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Key things to help you everyday Latest industry developments Things to watch

People – the most important investment a retirement village will make!

At LASA’s National Integrated Seniors Housing conference, I had an opportunity to conduct a poll about the topics keeping village professionals up at night.

For over 50%, it was the best way to provide support for their residents.

This discussion led me to consider two things:

  • Are we expecting too much from Village Professionals?
  • What can be done to support them in their roles?

A Village Professional is expected to be a property manager, financial analyst, social worker, meditator, allied health advisor, lifestyle coordinator, social secretary, compliance manager, administrator, communications specialist, marketer, sales consultant and often hospitality manager of food and linen services.

More often than not those that succeed as great village managers are problem solvers, people that like people, doers, charmers, givers, forgivers, ideas people and those that have strong tenacity, integrity and a huge sense of humour!

But there’s also a troubling amount of churn in the sector today, whether this is through burn out, lack of support or finding the sector is just not for them.

So, what can leaders in the sector do to support these very important professionals?

Right systems, right knowledge, right support

Nadine White (pictured right), General Manager Retirement Villages and Sales at WA sector leader Bethanie, is using the DCM Institute Professional Development Program as a content platform.

To do this, Nadine has developed a One Time One Voice training calendar.

This calendar schedules dedicated time for team meetings, combined sales and operations meetings, Policy and Procedure discussions, and importantly ongoing professional development.

This calendar schedules dedicated time for team meetings, combined sales and operations meetings, Policy and Procedure discussions, and importantly ongoing professional development.

The Bethanie team uses the DCMI Knowledge Centre as the basis for their professional development.  Nadine schedules a topic each month for the team to complete individually through the DCMI online portal.

This topic then forms the basis for the team’s professional development discussion, which assists to cement the learning and drive continuous improvement in the organisation.  

Personally, I believe this kind of initiative and commitment will drive some very important outcomes for Bethanie and the sector as a whole:

  • Increase knowledge of those serving residents at the front line
  • Continue to develop trusted relationships with residents
  • Increase retention of those within the sector
  • Drive opportunity for individual and workforce growth
  • Establish high standards amongst operators and their teams
  • Establish village professional roles as desirable careers
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Save the date – reminder!

Do not forget to register for your local Village Network meeting later this month.

It is a great opportunity to discuss important topics such as new legislation, consumer trends, workforce challenges, service offerings, and the change and evolution of the sector.

Together with your peers join the October network meetings by clicking here.

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Key things to help you everyday Things to watch

DCMI and Alison Abel talk village sales

Alison is the Sales Director of Marketability, a 20-year veteran marketing and sales consultancy in the village sector.

Alison explains she has 25 touch points in each of her customer’s journeys, including five before they first meet. Alison has 450 known prospects that she knows personally where they are on their journey. She shares how she maintains engagement from deposit to settlement and beyond.

It’s great stuff and reminds us all that the basics and hard work deliver results.

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Key things to help you everyday Things to watch

“The borders are opening, the borders are opening”: are you prepared?

The reopening of Australia will be really great news when it actually happens, but for us in Village Land there will be some unexpected challenges.

The Prime Minister wants all restrictions lifted by Christmas (and Christmas Eve is just three months from today!). We expect many residents will want to travel and many friends and families will want to visit.

We do know that we will have to be on our guard, so it is best to be thinking about it now.

For instance, COVID is likely to still be lurking, with ongoing low infections regarded as an acceptable risk for letting the country get up and going again.

Here are some things we brainstormed that we all should be thinking – and preparing for.

  1. Will you see an increase in interstate visitors in the village? 
    • Will they be allowed to stay in the village?
    • How will your existing residents react to more visitors?
    • How will your staff feel with the likely increase in visitors in and around the village?
       
  2. Will the extra visitors impact your current screening and contact tracing activities?
     
  3. Will your staff be wanting annual leave now they are able to have a holiday or visit family?
     
  4. How will you deal with the difference of opinion between residents?
    • Some may be OK with interstate visitors filling the village; some may not be OK with this?
    • Do you need to consider any new processes?
       
  5. What about the extra caravans?
    • They are likely to be parked around the village for more regular loading and unloading
    • Are you likely to have more caravans new to the village if residents who used to travel overseas are now considering more local travel plans?
       
  6. Are residents likely to want to become part of the house swap community and if so, do you have a policy to deal with that?
     
  7. What if a visitor staying in the village is found to be positive?
    • What is your organisation’s response and business continuity plan for this?
    • Will you allow them to remain in the village or will you rehouse them?
    • What extra resources/approvals might you require?
       
  8. Are you likely to have residents asking you for advice as to whether or not they should travel? 
    • What will be your organisation’s response?
    • Could you develop a guide to help them navigate the new local travel era –connect them easily with local trip options, travel advice, cancellation policy norms insurances, government health advice, etc?
    • What to do if the borders start closing?

As this situation changes and evolves so too does the need for our policy & procedures to evolve with the changing environment that might impact the way our communities once operated.

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Key things to help you everyday Things to watch

Village customers stronger than ever, despite or because of COVID

A number of Village Professionals have reached out to us to ask ‘how is the market going’ for retirement village sales.

We asked our colleague Carmella Rowsthorne at villages.com.au what is happening and she delivered the above graph for the 13 months from September last year to September 2020.

It shows that last year in September just under 3,800 people searched for a retirement village each day on villages.com.au.

This September, the same number of people are searching.

Numbers are actually up

But here is the thing. Victoria accounts for 35% of the Australian population and they have been in severe lockdown since July. They have not been able to even think of looking at villages let alone sell their homes. It was basically illegal.

So when you add this into the mix, you have to say the average number of people looking seriously at a village option has gone up in 2020.

The only changes have been multiple crises. Fires, drought and now COVID.

The family home is no longer as safe as it was last year.

Have you been receiving a higher level of enquiry? If not, perhaps you are not listing your village on villages.com.au. With 1.2M visits a year it is the No.1 village search destination.

You can find out more from Carmella by emailing her at Carmella.Rowsthorne@thedcmgroup.com.au.

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Key things to help you everyday Things to watch

December is 13 weeks away – the topic on everyone’s lips is sales

If there’s one thing we’ve been picking up in our weekly conversations with village professionals, it’s that sales across the industry are patchy, at best.

Yes, there are exceptions. Anecdotally some people say sales are holding (and in some cases even improving slightly).

But for many others sales have stalled significantly. For instance, if you were achieving one sale a month, you may be achieving only one every two months at the moment (we are talking outside of Victoria).

You would know that sales momentum is very important; it keeps everyone on their toes plus operators happy. With December 13 weeks away, do you have momentum? If not, now is the time to act rather than waiting.

What is momentum? It is a full sales pipeline and as many prospective residents nodding their heads positively. They can see they should be continuing the conversations with you.

Is the interest out there in these COVID times? What will make heads nod?

Here is a graph of 12 months traffic across Australia on our sister DCM web site, villages.com.au.

What you can see is that the number of people searching for a village is higher, in fact 7% higher, in August 2020 than in August 2019.

And remember, this includes Victoria where all the customers are in lockdown.

The customers are there. In fact, I am being told that the people who actually visit villages are far more committed than usual. They know that they need a ‘safe harbour in a storm’.

Again, our sister group DCM Research has just completed a survey of 2,200 non residents and found that COVID-19 has increased a feeling of vulnerability (43%) and isolation (31%). And this is for all people aged 60+ surveyed, not just people who have personal triggers.

So the customers are definitely out there, they are looking for options and they are committed. But how much can we do as village professionals on the front line?

If there is one thing that I’ve learned in tough sales markets, it’s that ‘one percenters’ matter. 

It’s the addition of all the little things that add up to a big impression on customers. The one percenters.

In this promotional video we have just done for this month’s deep dive topic in the DCM Institute’s Village Management Professional Development Program, I discuss the importance of having several people in the village that a prospective customer meets – not just you. These extra touch points give reassurance and also take all the reliance off you.

Check the video out as a thought starter. The challenge is to start now – the customers are there, they are willing, and December is just 13 weeks away.