Creative Direct Mail for Senior Living Communities

Donovan Cronkhite
President, RJM

Posted On December 2, 2019

It’s easy to knock direct mail. Associated with incredibly low response rates, rising postage costs, and customer frustrations, direct mail fell to the bottom of the marketing mix in favor of more digital executions. For the senior living market, however, direct mail remains a crucial part of the marketing plan – with the right creative spin.

However, direct mail still receives the highest response rate of the marketing mix at 5.1%. This is an increase from past years as direct mail gets coupled with business intelligence data, making this a platform that not only generates attention, but results. In 2016, direct mail as a percentage of all mail went up even as the volume of direct mail dropped by 149.4 billion pieces. With our transition to paperless statements, email and online payments, our mailbox becomes more of a marketing vehicle. This makes standing out here even more important.

For the active community

The first step in standing out with direct mail is matching your unique features with the media. For Broadmead, a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) located just outside Baltimore, Maryland, this meant capitalizing on their active and diverse resident community. Recognizing the power in this community, RJM matched the vast amount of content created naturally through their events and resident association with a format that seniors have fond memories of – the newspaper. And thus, the Broadmead Insider was born.

A direct mail piece was created that echoed a newspaper, both in design and size. Unfolded, the Insider was a full 22 x 17” publication of 16 pages that featured stories about the community – campus speakers, resident travels, events, and testimonials – as well as marketing articles such as how to downsize from your home, floor plans, a financial planner, and priority list information.

The result? A tremendous response that not only kept the phones at Broadmead ringing, but caused us to publish a second edition the next year.

Marking an anniversary

Marking a major anniversary with a campus event is not a new concept. So when Vista Grande Villa, a CCRC located in Jackson, Michigan, approached RJM about marking their 40th anniversary, we knew that a simple festivity wasn’t what was in order. Instead, we partnered with Vista Grande Villa and the local history museum, Ella Sharp Museum, to create a documentary film.

Over the course of several months, RJM taped the living history of the residents. From life during the war, love stories on how they met their spouses, Jackson history, and their childhood memories, we recorded hours of historical footage. Each resident was also provided a professional portrait photograph. This was then cut into a 40 minute documentary film and professionally pressed onto DVD.

At the end of the process, resident families and prospective residents received a mailed invitation to the VIP party where the documentary was screened on campus. After the party, individual clips of the film were posted on the Vista Grande Villa website and used on social media. The professional portraits – those were used in a gallery showing for the months following the documentary release at Ella Sharp Museum. But we didn’t stop there. Another direct mail piece was created for the prospect list to send a copy of the documentary DVD wrapped with information on the community.

The result? An anniversary event that delivered results for the whole year by utilizing direct mail to draw in prospective residents to various media and public relations.

Creative printing techniques

You don’t need a reason to get creative. Turning a simple event invite or survey into a high returning piece can be as easy as thinking beyond the postcard. With Broadmead, RJM has utilized several innovative printing techniques to create attention. We ushered in spring with a mailer that smelled of flowers. With a special coating that didn’t require a single scratch, recipients were greeted with the sweet smell of spring when they opened the mailer envelope.

Speaking of envelopes, why require people to open them to see inside? With the announcement of new pricing, we knew that the contents of the mailer were much more important than the envelope. To ensure that the message was seen, RJM utilized a transparent envelope to make sure the pricing message was received. We’ve also used the opposite technique, covering the envelope with a full bleed, four color photograph to stand out. From the envelope to what’s inside, there exists a printing technique to stand out.

Better returns for your direct mail?

Are you looking to get better returns from your direct mail? RJM is looking for our next creative project. With over 20 years of experience working with senior living communities, we have the staff and experience to turn your direct mail campaign into inquiries and reservations. Interested in what we could create together? Get in contact with us!