- Navigating the Adult Child of Elderly Parents (ACEP) Digital Buyer’s Journey, By Devin O’Connor
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Navigating the Adult Child of Elderly Parents (ACEP) Digital Buyer’s Journey, By Devin O’Connor
The Beatles’ song lyric “One is the loneliest number” is an accurate perspective
when applied to the person searching for occupancy solutions for their aging parents. Statistically speaking, this family member is often a middle-aged Adult Child of an Elderly Parent (or ACEP) who must balance multiple commitments including child rearing, a demanding job and their own health and wellness challenges. These competing obligations have been exacerbated by a seemingly endless COVID-19 pandemic, which has only added to the ACEP’s collective burdens and sense of solitude.
Furthermore, 65% of elderly persons requiring medium to long-term care rely on family members and a small circle of friends to provide necessary assistance. This support system is provided by a disproportionate large number of women in comparison to men:
- Approximately 66% of ACEP caregivers are women
- The average age of an ACEP caregiver is 55+ and this person may need to provide up to twenty hours per week of unpaid parental care
- While often rewarding, the financial impact on a caregiving ACEP men and women can exceed $300,000 in lost wages and Social Security benefits over their lifetime
- ACEP’s providing care for an elderly parent tend to experience significant physical and mental strain which can result in chronic illness, depression and anxiety
The statistics tell us that the very same people whose role is described above must also play a key role in searching, financing and eventually selecting a senior living community. We know that approximately 73% of the ACEP population is deeply involved in making this all-important and life changing decision and that number will most likely increase in lockstep with an aging population of retiring Boomers.
Senior Living sales teams must consider a wide-range of emotional triggers when marketing their communities to ACEPs who are ultimately the “first movers” when it comes to making a recommendation.
Marketing to the ACEP can be divided into three distinct stages of the customer journey, with each stage presenting specific and unique challenges. Developing an effective phased marketing strategy requires that we consider the ACEP’s needs first and foremost. This approach should be thought of as a guiding principle and applied to campaign scope, KPIs and budgeting. Bypassing any of these considerations can lead to poor lead volume, reduced conversion rates, wasted budgets and missed opportunities.
When considering the ACEP’s emotional needs it’s also critical to consider which content formats and delivery platforms will generate awareness and drive top of the funnel traffic, and which will be more effective at building trust and driving census.
Stage 1: Awareness
The first stage coincides with the ACEP’s growing awareness of the challenges facing their aging parent, as well as their own limitations in providing an extended support system. The ACEP’s concerns are not limited to the physical toll aging is taking on their loved ones and must also account for a desire for regular companionship and a regular regimen of activities that stimulate positive interactions and longevity.
Stage 1 is pivotal to establishing realistic engagement metrics since it’s generally the time when the ACEP must first confront the real-world realities facing their loved ones. Whether it’s a fall, a longer than usual bout with a cold or increasing forgetfulness, these ‘triggers’ or red flags often lead to the ACEP formally considering the need and cost of a senior living community.
The initial research and discovery stage typically begins with an informal online search using popular keywords such as assisted living, senior living and senior care (the use of nursing home for example is on the decline). Senior Living SEO specialists must plan for a prospect’s search-specific parameters while ensuring their website speaks to the ACEP’s most important considerations. Stage 1 ‘Top of the Funnel’ content such as search optimized short-form blogs (2–5-minute reads), short social media videos and one-page infographics that highlight empathy are an ideal content strategy to build awareness. Stage 1 ACEPs are often low-intent and tend to characterize themselves as people and not prospects who are ‘just looking’.
According to Pew Research, today’s ACEP will navigate up to 70% of their purchase path with no one else to rely on but themselves. Therefore, Stage 1 content should account for this factor across all communications.
Stage 2: Consideration
According to G5 data, Senior Living cost-per-click (CPC) grew by a staggering 19% YOY in Q1 2021. This factor should especially concern marketers who are budgeting for the ACEP’s extended customer journey which can take months if not years.
At this point, the ACEP probably has a broad understanding of the Senior Living occupancy landscape and may begin to feel somewhat more confidence in their ability to communicate next steps to their parent.
“How-to” content should include articles and videos optimized for social media which directly corelate to a community’s unique attributes. The ACEP is searching for a credible solution and is poised to begin narrowing down their search, therefore this is the ideal timeframe to build trust by providing easy to navigate research.
A gated product guide which includes tips on coping with stress may be exactly what the ACEP is searching for and is a highly effective format when combined with a carefully thought-out email automation strategy. Building trust with an ACEP can be generated through engaging Question and Answer style content which speaks directly to their objectives.
Stage 2 content must definitively establish why your community should be the ACEP’s most logical choice. As we noted previously, the ACEP is navigating a dizzying array of personal and professional challenges. If your calls to action, website and testimonials don’t touch the right notes this prospect will quickly pivot to other options. For some ACEPs, this is an especially time-sensitive stage since the aging parent may have a different and potentially competing perspective on their ultimate destination and move-in timeframe.
Stage 3: Decision Time
After hours of diligent research and more than a few sleepless nights, the ACEP is ready to commit to a buying decision. This stage is typically characterized by specific behaviors including scheduling personal visits and locking in financing options. As of late 2021, we remain in a low occupancy market, so prospects have the luxury of selecting at their discretion without some of the pressure points that would have been the norm just two years ago.
Stage 3 marketing content must speak directly to the prospect about a community’s ability to help the ACEP feel a sense of calm after holding their breath for what is typically a period of weeks if not months of research and consideration.
The ACEP now has clearly defined expectations, and their buying decision is unlikely to waver. Final candidates are typically down to one or two communities, with a third as a backup option. Therefore, the need for a rapid response to any further queries is mission critical. Inbound leads will not wait long to be contacted and response times must not exceed 24 hours.
At Canopy, we also advise regular and close monitoring of call tracking performance since this data often yields a treasure trove of behavioral information that can optimize the prospect pipeline by reducing lost leads.
The current occupancy landscape is fragile. Annual absorption in Q2 2021 in comparison to Q2 in 2020 paints a dire picture. In short, absorption has decreased while inventory has increased. This trend will be reversed in the coming years, but in the interim, it’s critical that marketing and sales leadership account for the ongoing impact of the pandemic while homing in on the ACEP’s needs.
Senior Living providers are now armed with an arsenal of powerful digital tools and platforms which they can use to reach prospects. In fact, 31% of all ACEPs will engage with digital advertising at one point during the customer journey. Those prospects, many of them women, will interact with up to 20 touchpoints while they research their options. To succeed in the emerging digital landscape, providers should become familiar with the tools that are proven to reach prospects at their unique point of interest. Research into ROI-positive solutions such as Addressable Geofencing, Programmatic Display, Mobile Device Tracking, Keyword Search and more have never been simpler to use.
If executed effectively, the combination of Stage 1-3 sales enablement resources, high-converting landing pages, customer testimonials and straightforward case studies that highlight successful outcomes will play a significant and measurable role in improving census.
 Next Wave Care
 Kinsey and Associates
 Next Wave Care
 Forbes Magazine
 LeadingAge news
 G5 “Four Headwinds Facing Senior Living”, 2021 State of the Industry Report
 American Seniors Housing Association
 Brookes Adams Research