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5 Steps to Higher ROI with Senior Living Referral Sources

by | September 16, 2019

5-Step formula for building profitable relationships with high-quality senior living referral sources. 

News Flash – The number of senior living referral sources in your data bank doesn’t matter!  It’s the number of referral sources that actually refer that counts! This statement seems incredibly obvious but in reality, many Senior Living Marketing professionals spend hours knocking on doors that are never answered or worse, waste precious time nurturing relationships with referral sources that don’t refer.   

Because of this, many senior living providers have come to rely on paid referral sources, such as A Place For Mom, to fill their pipeline. This approach not only costs your community thousands of dollars in lost revenue, but it may ultimately cost you your job!  Let’s face it, a single move-in from A Place For Mom costs between $2,000-$5,000. So, why pay someone to market your senior living community if you are paying for your referrals? 

The good news is it only takes 5 to 8 “high quality” referral sources to keep your community’s sales-pipeline full.  However, building profitable relationships with quality senior living referral sources – who will actually refer to you – can be a challenge.  It also takes a lot of time.  So, how do you break through these challenges?  

Here is a proven 5-Step formula to achieving high ROI with senior living referral sources. We’ve also included some “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for connecting with those hard to reach yet ideal referral sources. 

1. Analyze Your Data to Target Your Best Referral Sources 

Conduct a thorough analysis of your lead source a data to determine the strength of your current referral relationships, where to your best opportunities lie, and where you should simply move on. (A majority of senior living marketing professionals miss the boat on this one! ) 

1.   Review your lead source and move-in data to determine which referral sources provide the highest number of leads and the most qualified leads.  

2.   Determine which referral sources produce the highest number of move-ins, both past and present.  

3.   Determine which referral sources have not been referring or send you unqualified prospect.  


  • Develop a detailed picture of the perfect prospect (customer persona) for your senior living community – then identify professionals who can refer those ideal prospects to your community. (are they are on your list)? 
  • Create a customized marketing strategy to reach each of your ideal professional referral sources. These may vary based on the senior living and care options your community offers.  
  • Rank your list in order of potential then focus on the top 5 to 8 sources. These are your target referral sources. 
  • Think Differently! There is often high-quality referral potential from sources outside of those traditional places.  Who are the leaders and influencers in your market that have the potential to send people your way? 
  • Determine why a targeted referral source is not referring or is referring prospects who are not qualified for your community. Work to rectify this immediately. 


  • Stick to the “same-old, same-old.” Senior Living lead sources continually change and so must you! 
  • Try to squeeze blood from a turnip. If old referral sources no longer produce results OR refuse to meet with you, MOVE ON! 

2. Make Contact! Be present! Be listening! 


  • Identify the best places to get in front of your target referral sources, show up and be present. 
  • Visit networking meetings and associations that your target referral sources attend. Hang out where they hang out and stick around to “listen.” 
  • Read what they read (professional journals, association newsletters, city council minutes, etc.) Learn about their industry trends and challenges and consider how can you help. Know what is happening in your local community and how you/your community/your residents can take part.  
  • Offer to speak or lead a presentation at their networking or professional group. Professional networks and organizations are always looking for good presenters. 
  • Reach out with a targeted mail campaign. 
  • Connect on Social Media. Offer helpful advice when needed. 
  • “Like” their business/organization’s Facebook page. 


  • Do what you’ve always done if you don’t get results. 
  • Drive-by with cookies, coffee, and trinkets and believe you are “in a relationship.” 
  • Believe the only place to connect is their place of business! 

3. Be A Senior Living Resource! 

Becoming a senior living resource is much more powerful than sales and marketing. Your referral sources will pay attention if they believe what you say and do has value. 


  • Provide value! 
  • Give your referral sources everything they want and need about senior living, care, services, trends, and news. 
  • Provide advice or help even when it won’t result in a referral for your community. 
  • Be willing to give of yourself. 


  • Be all about you. 
  • Be all about your community. 

4. Give Senior Living Referral Sources What They Want  

Determine your target referral sources’ wants and needs by listening.  


  • Ask, listen, and learn! 
  • Offer them only what they want and need. Don’t muddle the message with a bunch of other “stuff” that is less important to them. 
  • Make their lives easier. 
  • Provide the best way to reach you or your team for fast referrals – especially during weekends and evenings 
  • Conduct a survey: What overwhelms them? What are their roadblocks? What do they need to make referrals to you easier? 
  • Offer scripts, FAQs, cost calculators, and helpful resource links they can use when needed. 
  • Deliver, Deliver, Deliver! 


  • Drop off brochures and business cards and believe you have helped them. 
  • Believe you “know” what is helpful to your referral sources. 

5. Be Consistent! 

The person who wins is the person who is consistent.  


  • Talk to your target referral sources at least one or more times per week with progress reports on past referrals, current availability, programs and events, and helpful articles, blogs, newsletters,  (Judge appropriate level per audience). 
  • Follow up from each and every contact. 
  • Send hand-written correspondence. 
  • Dedicate time to make it happen. 


  • Believe reaching out once a month to say “Hi” is being consistent. 
  • Think of yourself as a “Pest.” Believe in your value by being a true resource who can offer genuine support to your referral sources. 

Remember, most senior living communities and senior care providers only need 5 to 8 great referral sources to keep their sales pipeline full. So select wisely, be consistent, and cultivate a relationship of trust by being a true resource. Only then will your return on this investment be at it’s highest. 

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Deena K. Neste

Deena K. Neste has worked in the Senior Living Industry since 1987. She has held Senior Management Positions in operations and sales for National Senior Living Companies including Sunrise Senior Living, Brookdale Senior Living, Leisure Care, and Leading Age. Deena is dedicated to helping Senior Living Communities, Assisted Living Communities, and Investors increase occupancy and build a strong bottom line.

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