“Disney makes you wait on line for a ride even if the park is empty.” Seth Godin uses this example because of the recognized marketing genius of Walt Disney and his organization. He goes on to point out that “a full restaurant is more fun than an empty one” as he emphasizes that creating demand is a complex process – because humans are complex individuals.
These concepts have several direct applications to the senior living industry. But, first, a word about the placebo effect. The past couple of years have delivered many marketing – as well as operating – challenges; and it is easy to slip into a negative attitude about the futility of your marketing efforts. Of course, this can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. On the other hand, Seth observes that just as a placebo often produces positive results: “If we believe we’re going to get better, perform better, make the sale, etc., it often occurs that we do.”
If you are the sales person (the individual interacting with a prospect), you must believe in your product and approach the tour, discussion, etc. on the basis that it WILL close! We know that the sales cycle is a process, but you have to approach each contact as though “this is the one”; otherwise, human nature will lead to just going through the motions and neither you nor the customer will be satisfied with the interaction.
But, this goes further than just the attitude of the tour guide. The attitude permeates the entire organization. A classic example is whether to set all of the tables in the dining room for every meal, even when the building has multiple vacancies. A cost-conscious manager will say to set only enough tables to seat the number of expected residents and guests for the upcoming meal. They’ll point out that the residents will spread out to all the tables causing more effort in serving the meal and requiring additional staff time in clearing and sanitizing tables and cleaning unused table settings. So, it’s certainly tempting to save time and money by setting only the minimum number of tables and place settings.
Now, let’s look at the same situation from a marketing / customer service viewpoint:
- Wouldn’t the current residents be happier having the freedom to sit anywhere they want in the dining room?
- Shouldn’t the building be TOUR READY every day? Wouldn’t you prefer to have a table already set and ready if you have guests that you would like to invite for the meal?
- Shouldn’t management convey optimism that guests will show up for a “tour and a meal” and be ready for them? Maybe, that attitude will carry through to other staff members and encourage them to demonstrate “pride of ownership” in the building.
- WHY ADVERTISE THE FACT THAT YOU’VE GOT A LOT OF VACANCIES by showcasing a “half-empty” dining room?
It’s human nature to assume something’s wrong with the choice that isn’t in demand. Think about it. When one ride at Disney World has a line and another has none, don’t you wonder what’s wrong with the one without a line? Is that the one your kids are going to want to ride? Probably not.
You create that same question in the mind of your prospective resident and their family when they see a dining room that looks empty. So, don’t shoot yourself in the foot; create a positive atmosphere and be ready to be full today.
 Seth Godin’s blog article: “Ethical placebos (stunning, but not actually surprising)” http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/02/ethical-placebos-stunning-but-not-actually-surprising.html