I’m tempted to say, “we’ve heard it ALL!” but I know that can’t be true. Even after hundreds of war stories, it still hurts to hear someone’s sad tale about a bad decision they made that cost them money, time, heartache and (worse yet!) lost sales.
That’s why I decided to collect and share some of these questions and pointers, in the hopes of saving someone (maybe even you) from making a mistake that could be avoided simply by asking the right questions.
So without further ado, let’s dive into those 12 questions. Pay particular attention to the answers you get or red flags that you uncover along the way.
1. Will my people use it? (Especially if they haven’t used the old one). What assurance do I have that my people will adopt the new system?
There are essentially 3 reasons people don’t use their systems:
- People are afraid and/or haven’t been properly trained. Perhaps they got “stuck” and can’t get the help they need to get past it. Eventually they give up.
- They don’t have to. Management hasn’t made it required and isn’t enforcing or monitoring usage (sometimes for the same reasons as #1!).
- Missing their WIIFM radio station. There’s no compelling answer to “What’s In It For Me”? It’s more of a burden, difficulty, hassle to use the system than what it will do to help them be successful. This is the real reason why most software goes unused and is abandoned.
Makes you kind of sad, huh?
Thorough and ongoing training is a MUST! Do not skimp on training!
A Support Team that chases your people down to help them would be nice, too. Our Support Team calls our client’s marketing staff individually every 2 weeks to see how they can help…until our client’s “cry uncle” because they know it as well as we do.
Management has to be committed. Executive Briefings are a perfect opportunity to review usage, activity, productivity, reports and issues with our client’s management team. They are now equipped and informed to monitor, enforce the practices that will make their organization successful on a consistent basis. We have Executive Briefings once or twice a month with almost every client. Talk about keeping your finger on the pulse of your organization!
Now about that WIIFM radio station! We think the best way to answer that station is by tucking hidden $$ into the system. Seriously…embedding nuggets that make marketing people look good, get ahead and make more money in less time is our strategy. Our goal is be a virtual sales assistant: lay everything out to remind you of what you need to do today and even do what makes sense automatically.
Bonus: Make it easy to use and easy on the eyes! Think like a busy marketing person. Less clicks = more time. PhD stands for Push here, Dear (in our world!)
2. What does this (new) system replace that I’m currently using now?
Wow…you’ve done your homework! Let’s make a checklist.
What does your current system do for you now? Does it do anything more than replace a rolodex (essentially)?
What are you using now OUTSIDE of your current lead management system?
- Email campaign system?
- Internet/website marketing and lead generation?
- Sticky notes for reminders and follow up of the important leads?
- Spreadsheets for tracking move-ins, activity and cost per lead of your marketing efforts?
What is all the extra outside systems add up to cost you every month in money or time or mistakes or (heavens forbid!) lost move-ins?
If your new system can incorporate all of those things in one system and replace all those extra costs and tools, you will be far ahead financially and time wise.
What will you do with all that extra time & money? May I suggest a well-deserved vacation? :)
3. Is there a way to start with what we need and “grow” into more advanced functionality?
Do you need a Lexus? Or will a Hyundai do for now?
Currently, you may only need “the basics”, but as you grow, add new communities and add more sophisticated marketing, you may need a more powerful system with advanced horsepower.
The challenge is, when you do get to the point of needing more, you’re (once again) faced with the hassles of making a change. You’ve got to “divest” yourself of the Hyundai and start over with the Lexus.
Ideally, your best bet is to find a solution that can “grow” with you – start off with the basics at a price you can afford, and allow you to “grow” into more horsepower and advanced functionality with minimal new training.
4. Does this (new) system address current challenges in senior marketing?
Unfortunately, many of the available software is as old as the seniors we serve. They were built during a time when clumsy navigation and useless features were the norm.
Today, the Internet has changed the way we do business. Email, website and social media have drastically changed the way we communicate, research and collect leads. If your old system can’t keep up, you won’t be able to either.
What’s even more important, is the ability to slice and dice your Contacts by Category (potential residents, family members, referral sources) so that you can communicate to them with relevant messages; and track the effectiveness of your marketing efforts (online and offline) to best spend your next round of marketing dollars.
If like most communities, follow up is your biggest challenge, the old process of tasks and tracking is actually cost you move-ins, occupancy and revenue.
It’s a new era and you need updated tools to stay remain competitive. It’s more than just luck or heart. This is another example of “he who has the best system wins”.
That is the million dollar question! Because at the end of the day, after all is said and done, it comes down to a financial decision.
People calculate the ROI different ways. One is to compare existing current costs (tangible and intangible). The other is to identify how much revenue will be generated by a system (based on your costs). Either way, we have an ROI calculator to help you compare your current costs and a calculator that will help you calculate your increase in revenue based on your numbers.
6. What is my TCO (Total Cost of Ownership)? What hidden costs are there?
Beware the trap. Many well-known names offer low or free monthly subscription rates to get you to bite. Unfortunately, the “gotcha’s” are expensive and well hidden until you are committed. One of the surprising “gotcha’s” we just heard from a well-known lead management software was, “oh, you want to access it from a mobile device? That will be an extra $20/month.” (on top of their already costly monthly fee). Ouch!
Find out the details. What does it cost (time and money) to integrate it with your website to capture web leads? What is the cost for a bridge to your back office (accounting, patient care, etc.)? What about those extra features you need, how much extra do you have to pay?
A common “gotcha” is reporting add ons. You may find out later that a reporting module costs extra or reports are not included.
Assume nothing. Get the facts, before you jump for the “low” entry price. Those extras add up to way more than you may have bargained for.
7. What is the learning curve?
There’s always a learning curve. Learning to drive a new car, use a new phone, or learn a new system is a fact of life. That being said, learning curves don’t have to be painful – especially if the new system (or phone, or car) is natural and thinks like a human does.
Remember the PhD (Push here, Dear) philosophy.)
With proper training, helpful support and daily usage, your learning curve should be low for a simple, well designed system. Not sure? Ask for access to a demo to play around with. Find out if it feels natural & intuitive.
8. What does this (new) system offer that the old one doesn’t…really?
You don’t want to swap one software for another one of equal value. You want to trade up!
Look for expandability, more sophisticated functionality, and automation of mundane tasks, internet integration and other features that will make your team more successful.
Make yourself a checklist of “must haves” and “wish list”. Involve your teams in the decision and make sure you’re getting significant value with your new system.
9. What are the reporting capabilities?
At the end of the day, it’s all about the numbers. As a Manager, the number one thing you want to see is ACCURATE, ACCESSIBLE, & ACTIONABLE reports.
- Accurate – Data that is factual is dependable to make directives (data that is spotty is useless).
- Accessible – Information must be available in real-time 24/7/365.
- Actionable – Reports that let you drill down to details means you get to the root of questions.
Make absolutely sure your reports are already built in or can be configured for you. That means that the information required for the reports is being captured in the system. And it means that the reports are useable for making those all important decisions about marketing $$, census, conversion, staff productivity, referrals, marketing effectiveness, etc.
10. Will this (new) system be able to bridge to my other systems (accounting, medical management, etc.)?
There are 2 philosophies: “best of breed” or “all in one” solutions. The argument of which is better continues, but I would suggest that you want both!
What I mean by that is that NO system can have EVERYTHING to address your entire business (for example sales & marketing, accounting and patient management) in one system and be really good at everything. That’s been proven over and over again! However, you DO want a system that picks an area of specialty (for example, sales, marketing & follow up) and is comprehensive in that specialty with every tool you need built in to make you successful.
Here’s the caveat: Once you’re confident of its expertise in an area of specialty, ask if the company can build a bridge to your accounting or patient management system (give names).
And PLEASE ask for proof or references you can call. I can’t tell you how many times I hear that integration was promised, but never delivered – for whatever reason!
11. Is a new system going to make the hassle of change worth it?
Nobody likes change! Especially change without a clear benefit.
Conversely, if the change means you benefit significantly (in productivity, revenue, census, better reporting and less hassles), you are willing to make a change. Sometimes making a change is necessary to success – and even survival!
We have a great article on this subject about a bear sitting on a log with a nail called “Lessons from a Bear”. It really makes you think. You’ll be sure to enjoy it!
12. Tell me everything about the company I’m considering.
This is probably one of THE most important questions you can ask. Think of this as a long term marriage that you enter fully informed with full disclosure.
Pay special attention to important details such as “how is their reputation for support?”, “what is their internal culture like?” (that will give you an idea of what your partnership with them will be like), and “where are they on the continuum?” (are they old school with a product that is nearing end of life or in touch with today’s market needs?). Are they healthy and growing, or stale and in decline?
If you can visit their office, or experience their team, that’s even better. Talk to their technical support and get a feel for what it would be like to work with them “after the marriage”.
After all, if they aren’t friendly and helpful during the “dating” stage, your marriage may be on the rocks!
Mona G. Hilton is the president of Genesis Global Technologies, authors of Occupancy Advantage, a lead generation, automated follow up and reporting product.