Be the Big Fish: Remaining Competitive as a Small Senior Living Provider

by Dominique Abney, Marketing Manager on January 12, 2018

The geriatric population in the United States is increasing, but this isn’t new news. Estimates reveal that the nation’s median age rose from 35.3 on April 1, 2000 to 37.9 on July 1, 2016. The United States Census Bureau attributes this growth rate to the increasing baby boomer population. By year 2031, the oldest baby boomers will be turning 85 years of age. As this shift takes place, many aspects of senior living will have to shift, and smaller organizations may find it hard to remain competitive.



According to Argentum’s 2017 list of largest senior living providers, Brookdale tops the lineup with a residential capacity of 102,000, followed by Holiday Retirement at 72,748 and Life Care Services at 34,889. These organizations not only offer a complete continuum of care, but have locations set up throughout the United States. In addition, marketing efforts by these large providers are to be commended. So how do the small guys compete?

Size is Your Ally

I’ll let you in on a little secret…make the size of your organization your ally. What is it you have to offer that the big guys can’t. As a small provider in a large space, realize that there are some levels you just can’t compete on, but this doesn’t exclude you from the market. In fact, small providers are an attractive option for many families searching for senior living options. Below are some compelling characteristics small providers can use to their advantage:

  •  A homelike setting;
  • More staff to resident ratio;
  • Feeling of community; and
  • Ability to meet special care needs

However, keep in mind it’s not enough to just offer these advantages. You have to be able to effectively show your buyers that your community is the place they want to call home. Therefore, it’s important to ensure your marketing strategy and message clearly conveys a sense of home, and don’t forget to tailor your message for your audience as relating to baby boomers is quite different from relating to members of the silent generation (born between 1946 and 1964).

Developing a Compelling Value Proposition

When developing your message, remember that not all baby boomers are in the market searching for options for themselves. Oftentimes, these are the adult children searching for options for a parent—but this doesn’t mean they aren’t secretly scouting out the selection too. For Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) or what has most recently been referred to as Life Plan Communities, you’re at a marketing advantage. It’s not unheard of for an adult child, of eligible age, to reside in Independent Living while a parent resides in the nursing home—all on one campus.

The ability to allow adults the option of aging in place is a notable value proposition, but it’s not your only marketable feature. I suggest small senior living providers take full inventory of all of their services and develop a comprehensive marketing strategy. Whether you’re a CCRC, standalone Assisted Living or Skilled Nursing Facility, you can’t sell a service if you don’t know how to articulate its value or where to focus your efforts. Knowing how to convey the right message to the right audience is key in remaining competitive and visible in this space.

Want even greater advice? Stop worrying about competing with the big guys. As a small senior living provider, you have a lot to offer. Focus on being the best among providers that offer similar advantages as yourself. In other words, stop fretting over being a small fish in a big pond; be a big fish in a small pond.


Ready to be a big fish in a small pond? Inquire about LW Consulting’s complete range of marketing services for senior living providers.

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Topics: Healthcare Marketing