How Market Research Creates a Strong, Differentiated Brand

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by | Mar 11, 2015 | Marketing & Branding

If you’ve ever taken a marketing course, you’ve probably learned about the definition of “the 4 P’s of marketing”: product (or service), placement, price and promotion. Next, you were likely taught about the importance of market segmentation.

Are You Special in the Eyes of Prospective Customers?

As you moved upward through the marketing learning curve, you heard about the power and competitive value of product/brand “differentiation.” Brand differentiation is a fundamental marketing principle which answers the following key questions that your senior living customers typically have: What makes you stand out in the marketplace? Why should I entrust the life of a parent, spouse or other loved one to you and not someone else? What unique advantages or benefits can you offer to me that no else can?

When considering how to be viewed as unique in the marketplace, it is important to look beyond basic pricing options and packages. Today, various lifestyle factors have emerged as “must haves” in the senior living decision making process. For example, a recent national survey by The University of Michigan, Growing Older in America: the Health and Retirement Study, found that social environment and opportunities for social engagement are now top drivers for community preference and selection.

The first rule of effective marketing (i.e. “know your market”) assumes a thorough and up-to-date knowledge of how your customers think and act. Do you know? Are you viewed as being highly responsive to your customers’ needs and preferences? Do they find your brand messages compelling and focused on solutions to their problems and concerns? Is what your competitors are offering and doing different from you? Do you know how they are selling against your community?

Building Differentiation Through Market Research

Malissa Illiano, Director of Market Research for SageAge Strategies, says, “In an increasingly competitive marketplace, many communities are achieving significant ROI through research that is used to transform or refine their positioning in the competitive market and improve their appeal to consumers.”

“To aid communities in creating a distinctive, stand-apart brand, we frequently conduct competitive analysis, including both internal and competitor mystery shopping, to provide a deeper understanding of consumer preferences and the competitive environment. We have also found that a detailed sales and marketing assessment can add significant value for communities seeking to achieve their full potential.”

“By defining your brand in the context of true customer attitudes and preferences, you can create a brand strategy that speaks to your prospects in the most responsive and compelling manner possible. My personal experience has always been that when communities conduct consumer research, they always identify some ‘gems of wisdom’ that were unexpected and provide greater insight into how their prospects think.”

Don’t Wait for Potential Customers to Tell You…

Because they won’t.

To create the most market-responsive brand, it is essential to take the initiative. Your prospects aren’t going to come to you to tell you what your community is missing or why they prefer a competitor. To create a strong and effectively differentiated brand, you have to go to them.

Consumer-focused surveys provide real value by answering the questions: Who are they? What do they really want? What are their key issues? Are their needs and preferences changing? Are their key sub-segments within your general market? Do adult children think differently? Are there service gaps in the market that you could profitably fill?

Additionally, competitive intelligence is very helpful in enabling you to understand how other communities are engaging the same prospective customers. Competitive analysis enables you to:

  • Understand competitors’ benefits, potential advantages and approaches to sales – not just their rates.

  • Utilize mystery shoppers to get a more accurate picture of your competition’s philosophy, strategic approach and customer focus.

To help you complete the overall picture of your brand, conduct an internal SWOT Analysis and provide an honest assessment of your own community. Combined with consumer input and competitive “intel,” this will provide you with a 360-degree profile of your brand as it exists today.

Brand-Strengthening Research Resources That Help You Grow

In addition to a variety of proven consumer research techniques that provide clear guidance for brand enhancement and customer preference, SageAge Strategies also excels in “mystery shopping” and in-depth competitor research.

Mystery Shopping – Mystery shopping services provide senior living communities with valuable, objective evaluations of the services offered by competitors and/or those provided by your own community. We produce insights into critical components of the Sales and Marketing program, such as customer service reception, sales discovery techniques, tour and brand presentation and the provision of collateral materials, database management and follow-up activities.

Trained research professionals report on each aspect of their experience, including initial telephone interaction, the interpersonal skills of staff, the accuracy of information they provide and physical surroundings, as well as those intangible factors that affect your ability to attract new residents and retain the residents you have.

We provide both on-site and telephone mystery shopping services to help you:

  • Utilize an in-depth narrative, based on actual verbatim comments that provide valuable human feedback, in addition to the quantitative data

  • Identify marketing, sales and service Opportunities For Improvement (OFIs)

  • Optimize each resident’s experience

  • Demonstrate to potential residents, current residents and their loved ones that you’re truly interested in their complete satisfaction

  • Reward employees who perform with excellence, aiding staff retention

  • Identify employees who require coaching or retraining

  • Evaluate your competition, so you have an edge in the marketplace

Competitive Analysis Competitive Intelligence (CI) is a vital element in the environmental assessment process used by leading organizations to update and sharpen their business plans. It identifies not only what is happening in your market, but also your competitive position in the marketplace. More importantly, it also helps to identify opportunities for advantage and growth.

Competitive analysis involves more than simply identifying your competitors and gathering data. It is a formal, dynamic process that assesses your competitors’ capabilities, strategies, activities and behaviors to support and improve your decision making. Whether you are a single community or a large provider, our CI services provide you with essential information for strategic planning, marketing, pricing, advertising, restructuring, mergers, acquisitions and research and development.

An in-depth knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors, as well as your own organization, is an essential ingredient for optimizing your own brand equity and performance in the marketplace. As a key element in the strategic planning and business development process, our competitive analysis and mystery shopping services provide you with the market intelligence you need to mitigate competitive threats; institute counter-measures; identify opportunities to use competitor shortcomings to your advantage; strengthen your own business processes and meet unfulfilled needs in the marketplace. Our experienced staff does this work on a regular basis and is highly adept at uncovering valuable information that becomes an essential part of your organizational planning and business strategy.

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions on the value of market research in shaping your brand, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any experiences you’ve had in this area, whether they have been successful or not. Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

Proven Market Research Expertise Is Available to Guide Your Growth Strategy

If you are a senior living community considering the need for assistance in assessing your competitive marketplace to identify strategies to enhance your census and brand strength, we encourage you to contact us for more information. SageAge Strategies is an award-winning strategic growth and marketing organization that operates exclusively in the senior living industry, and was recently named one of Inc. Magazine’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America. For more information, please call or e-mail Adrienne Mansfield Straub at 570-601-1720 ext. 202 / adrienne@sageagestrategies.com.

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