Communicate online and prosper

An engaging website will open up the channels of communication between residents and RV operators, and between the village residents themselves, a marketing expert said.

Above: Strategic director at SAE Creative, Christopher Rooke, presents at the 2011 RVA National Conference this week.

By Yasmin Noone

Most retirement village operators fail to fully utilise the communication opportunities now available through the worldwide web and as a result, are falling behind the game which they should be leading, an advertising and marketing expert said at the Retirement Villages Association (RVA) 2011 National Conference earlier this week.

On day one of the conference, the strategic director at SAE Creative, Christopher Rooke, urged attendees to advance their retirement living businesses by opening up the channels of web-based communication and advancing their online marketing techniques.

According to Mr Rooke, websites act as a “conduit between retirement village operators and residents, and between the residents themselves”.

A two-way dialogue, facilitated either by an interactive website or a range of social networks, enables residents to engage with their retirement living provider, gain an understanding of what the company’s brand stands for, and find out valuable information that might be otherwise unattainable.

Good, socially engaging websites which further communication between resident and provider will also rise in importance as time goes on, given the Productivity Commission’s focus on social connectedness and technology in its recent Caring for Older Australians inquiry report.

“Yet communication in [retirement villages] is the domain of notice boards and flyers left under doors,” Mr Rooke said.

“Only a handful of operators have an appropriate website which [meets the needs] of the multi-million dollar businesses each of you are running.

“…And the cost [of creating a good website] is not much more than a couple of full page ads…

“As an industry, we are falling behind and are failing to see how significant [technology and good websites] will be in the next few years…Otherwise we’d be doing more.”

In an attempt to answer why this is so, Mr Rooke concluded that some operators currently “underestimate” residents and hence, fail to create a leading website which actively engages older people, even if they have the resources and means to do so. 

Older adults can be dismissed as one sole demographic, even though there are vast differences between the care preferences and capabilities of generations and individuals.

Take for example, he said, the future possible candidates for retirement living – former Prime Minister, Paul Keating; current Prime Minister, Julia Gillard; feminist and activist, Germaine Greer; and media mogul, Rupert Murdoch.

Mr Rooke also reminded the audience that the ‘silent generation’ (those born between 1925 and 1945) and baby boomers are going online at an increasing rate. With the rise of tablets and social media networks, many people currently aged over 50 years are also expected to boost their online capabilities and presence.

“Waiting this long [to bring your website up to speed] is wrong as generational change is happening now.

“We are seeing a generational shift and not preparing as much [online] as we should be doing.”

Yet, he said, “there is no more effective medium for customers to have year-round access to your brand…than the worldwide web.

“So the critical first step in maximising sales online is to get online.”

The RVA 2011 National Conference, held in Melbourne, is the key annual conference in the retirement village industry.

It ran for three days and featured six masterclasses aimed at sales and marketing professionals, senior executives and operations/village managers.

2 thoughts on “Communicate online and prosper

  1. I could not agree more as I have been an early user of computers and communication.
    Many older people have chosen not to become computer literate and miss out on many advantages. They are often lonely.
    I will be interested in the outcome of the national conference.

  2. What a good idea! But the problem at my village is not that their is no communicaation but that the proprietors don’t actually listen or engage in a dialogue with residents. A mind-set change, as well as a change in ways of communicating,is necessary on the part of proprietors

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