10 ways to serve a diverse population

There's a lot of talk about diversity these days. Most often, the long-term care (LTC) industry talks about diversity in the form of race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. But diversity also includes language, life stage, core values, hobbies, socioeconomic status, education, political views, personality and religion. It even includes whether you're a dog lover or cat lover.  
Serving a diverse population encompasses nearly  every facet of a person's life. That's no small–or simple–task, says Kelly McDonald in a educational session at the 2016 Argentum Senior Living Executive conference in Denver. "A lot of people think simple and easy are the same," McDonald says. "It's not. You have to identify what people want, then give it to them."
LTC facilities must take a conscientious and proactive approach to know their population first so they can provide personalized, appropriate care. 
McDonald, best-selling author and owner of McDonald Marketing, knows providers may need to train staff to become more inclusive. They may also need help capitalizing on their successes or sharing their story with potential customers. Here are 10 ways McDonald says LTC facilities can better serve a more diverse population. 

1. Be relevant 

"If I'm talking about something that's not relevant to you, I may as well be saying blah blah blah," McDonald says. 
Everyone wants a deal, but it's the value that make the difference. LTC facilities need to decide what their features, attributes and benefits (FAB) are in order to market to their target audience. A car manufacturer could offer Bluetooth technology, which allows for hands-free talking, but safety is the ultimate benefit. 

2. Build your infrastructure

Is your facility equipped to offer diversity? Who does it cater to? Who could it cater to?
The Angelika Theatre in Dallas recognized mornings as dead movie time. The theater targeted new moms who wanted to see a film but couldn't find child care. The theater marketed the 11 a.m. screenings as crybaby matinees. The theater set up baby changing stations and dimmed the lights so women could see the screen and  their children. Based on feedback and popular demand, the theater also added a roped-off stroller lot in the lobby. 

3. Do your homework

Identify a potential target market audience and learn about them. For example, affluent baby boomer women are empowered. They either made their money through their careers and investments or from inheritances from parents or husbands. What's more, women over 50 are the healthiest, wealthiest and most active generation of women in history. 
"Affluent women and moms pale the highest priority on experiences and making memories," McDonald says. "They care about security, convenience and the environment."

4. Adapt to differences

Cultural barriers may exist. So how do can providers convince diverse populations that long-term care is OK, sometimes, even the best option? By tweaking the message so they can understand and relate, McDonald says. It can be as simple as including values, ideas or language words germane to that diverse population,  such as mujer, Spanish for woman. And sometimes, it's not what you say but how you say it.
"In Hispanic culture, it is unthinkable to put a family member in a nursing home," McDonald says. "But we know family isn't always the best caretaker."

5. Use consumer insights

Selling to men and selling to women require two different strategies. Women are more confident decision makers if they have been given choices. Men, however, want choices simplified. Adjust the message accordingly.
Selling to baby boomers also requires positive language, as they have been influenced by decades of talk radio, self-help books and continuous learning. "I'm smart enough to figure out what you're telling me, but I want positive messaging," McDonald says. "It  doesn't need to be all unicorns and rainbows, but it needs to be positive. Hope is the ultimate motivator."

6. Tap into values

Studies have shown women value customer reviews and testimonials–and that they trust what Becky from Minneapolis has to say even if they will never meet. "We think our sisters won't lie to us," McDonald says. Women spend more time researching online and crave more than what a facility's marketing and communication professionals have to say. They want to hear from real people. Offer testimonials. 
Two income households are busy and demanding. Spouses value anything that makes their life simpler or easier. Do whatever possible to make a decision easier. Offer alternative ways to stay connected and involved with their loved one.

7. Customize products or experiences 

Fast-food chain McDonald's noticed that Generation Y isn't going to Mickey D's. Neither are there kids. The chain is experimenting with a self-serve kiosk of customizable sandwich options. "By the time you're done, you've ordered a $9 sandwich and completed a nine minute transaction," she says. "That's unheard of in the industry."
Last week, a story about Sunny Vista made the news for its customizable menu options and highlighted how a resident of Asian background wanted Thai-style soup with fresh ginger and thin-sliced beef. Menus that reflect the cultural, religious and ethnic needs and preferences are the future. Get cooking, McDonald says.

8. Hire diversity

It matters. Hire bilingual or multi-lingual employees to serve diverse customers. Consider hiring for a diversity of work approach, too.
An insurance agent hired someone in her 20s to help generate ledes. Instead of picking up the phone and calling, she picked up her phone to text and use social media to spread the word. It was effective, and the twenty-something was one of the most productive employees at the office. 

9. Pay attention to the trends

"Don't pay attention to fads that come and go but do pay attention to trends," McDonald says.
Social is everything. Look for ways to surprise and delight. Now that we have started sharing our lives, we will never stop, McDonald says. New products and offerings must meet that demand for connecting with others. 
Be authentic with marketing. Show people as they are and recognize that families are no longer nuclear or one size fits all through contemporary imagery. 

10. Helping beats selling

The information about assisted living is out there. People are not always thinking rationally or clearly when they start looking, and time is of the essence.
"We don't need more information. We need advice." McDonald says. "If you help me, you don't have to sell me."

Topics: Articles , Executive Leadership , Facility management