5 WAYS TO FIND LIGHT – AND LEADS – IN THE DARK FUNNEL 

September 27, 2021

First things first: What is the dark funnel? As Alice de Courcy, CMO at Cognism, explains, “It’s a term that means the places that buyers are engaging and making decisions that no attribution software or tracking can account for .”

Think word of mouth, existing reputation, online reviews posted on social media, or research conducted on third-party sites.

If you’re like most marketers, you love your hard, cold data. And why wouldn’t you? As a professional strategist, you – not to mention your corporate higher-ups – want to see your strategies working to generate leads and fill occupancy quotas. ROI and all that.

But experts advise that, while the actions of people researching your brand via the dark funnel can’t be monitored by your marketing team, the dark funnel is a place you want to be. That’s because dark funnel activity, says Brandee Sanders, a digital and tech strategist and vice president of marketing at Modal, “can impact us even if they’re not seen directly in reporting.”

In this post, we’ll shine light on the dark funnel as it applies to the senior living market, plus 5 ways your marketing and sales team can churn dark funnel activity and push out lead generation.

WHY DOES THE DARK FUNNEL MATTER TO SENIOR LIVING MARKETERS?

Think about the last time you searched for a new dentist, hair stylist or other personal service provider. If you asked a friend, colleague or family member for trusted recommendations, you were swirling in the dark funnel, finding valuable information to make your decision – and the dentists or stylists you were considering had no idea. But one of them probably still got your business thanks to word of mouth.

It makes sense that your target demographic’s research would follow a similar not-completely-trackable route. Choosing a senior living residence or care provider is, after all, a very personal decision and not one that many are willing to make based solely on information found on communities’ monitored websites. Highly valuable senior living sales tools exist in the dark funnel, like testimonials and referrals from happy residents and families who sleep peacefully knowing they or a loved one is safe and happy in a particular community.

Consider that the dark funnel is where people in need of a senior living community – or any service or product – will begin their journeys. It’s important to be active and visible where your prospects engage because it’s what families find in those channels, and whom they meet, that will steer them toward or away from your community.

68% OF THE BUYER’S JOURNEY IS COMPLETED ANONYMOUSLY ONLINE WITHOUT FILLING OUT ANY FORMS ​​ (Source: How to Connect the “Dark Funnel” for Successful Account-Based Marketing)

 

5 WAYS TO GENERATE LEADS IN THE DARK FUNNEL

1. HOST TARGETED EVENTS

The good news about dark funnel channels like in-person events is that you’re likely already active in them. Better still is that you have some power to glean insight into the demographics and other consumer data you desire to obtain about potential leads because you’ll be meeting them face to face. You can ask the oldie but goodie “how did you hear about us” and learn things like what they are researching in a community, their timeframe for a move and even what they think about competitors in your market. Sign-in sheets will get them in your database.

Caregiver education or support group events hosted by your community, webinars, speaking engagements, industry conventions and interacting with followers on social media also allow you to control the consumer experience. Present your messaging in a manner that participants will likely feel good about, remember, consider and share with others.

2. INTERACT REGULARLY AND MEANINGFULLY ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Stay relevant and active in your prospects’ world. Ask and answer questions, provide helpful information, invite them into your community with photographs and stories, and engage in ways that build trust and affirm your community is the solution they seek. Interacting with and getting to know potential leads on a more human level has unquantifiable effects, but it’s far from valueless, even among older seniors and especially adult children.

FACEBOOK IS OVERWHELMINGLY THE MOST POPULAR SOCIAL MEDIA SITE FOR NON-MILLENNIALS. 65% OF THOSE AGED 50-64 AND 41% OF 65+ USED THE SITE. THE NEXT MOST POPULAR PLATFORM WAS INSTAGRAM. (Source: Pew Research)

 

3. BE A RESOURCE

In addition to on-site and virtual support groups and educational seminars, share content via social media that has value to your audience, such as regular blog posts or daily caregiver tips. As Cognism points out, the more you educate your followers, the more they will look to you for advice, answers, and eventually, full-time residency.

4. TAP SENIOR SERVICES PROVIDERS

You’re probably already reaching out to healthcare providers, social workers, senior centers, elder law and financial planning professionals. Keeping referral sources up to date on your services, availability and special incentives will help place you at the top of their minds when a client discusses – very dark funnel-like – senior living options. Establish personal connections by inviting referral sources for private tours and fun events at your community. Call tracking numbers on printed materials can help gauge the effectiveness of direct mailers, flyers or eblasts for direct referrals, but they won’t be able to track the vital conversations these pieces can start.

5. WORD OF MOUTH

Get people talking about you – in a good way. You can’t control what they say exactly, but your organization can control their experiences with your community. Happy residents and families will be singing your praises. Guests who have good experiences will remember you and tell others about it. The resources it takes to manage your reputation on- and offline, become a trusted resource, and deliver on your commitments to current residents can pay for themselves via free positive PR.

THE LIGHT INSIDE THE DARK FUNNEL

There is clearly value in tying together multitouch attribution or stitching together a prospect’s journey. Every marketer’s dream is to have a complete picture of their visitors and potential leads, but the harsh truth is that, even with the most advanced attribution software or tracking systems, marketing reports will show only a small representation of actual engagement metrics.

“We are analog, not digital, beings, which means that the ability to track every step of our consumer journeys is arguably futile,” writes content marketer Linda Pophal. “And, in truth, traditionally depicted sales funnels of any kind have never been truly reflective of the customer journey. Companies have never had 100 percent control over messaging about their products and services. They never will, despite the greatest advances in technology.”

While the process that goes on inside the dark funnel is digitally untraceable, its value lies in what you can learn about prospects’ journeys when you join them on it. Embracing the proper dark funnel channels with a thoughtful, purposeful approach will ultimately produce quantifiable results in the form of solid lead generation and, most importantly, new resident contracts.

GET MORE TIPS FOR EFFECTIVE DARK FUNNEL NAVIGATION

Curious to learn more about making connections in the dark funnel, creating customer journeys, and evaluating your company’s metrics? Reach out to The Adage Marketing Group today and let’s start talking.