September 24, 2015
Case Study

B2C Marketing: Senior living provider drives a 12% lift in online leads with questionnaire

SUMMARY: Visitors to Sunrise Senior Living’s website are often looking for immediate care options and answers for loved ones. Through user experience testing, the team at Sunrise learned that most users needed simple and clear education on available options.

To tailor information to users' specific needs, the team created a Care Questionnaire that provided relevant information based on a series of strategic questions. Read on to learn how this questionnaire caused Sunrise to see a 12% lift in online leads.
by Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content


"Sunrise is so different from what the industry was 30 years ago. Everything was thought of as a nursing home … When you walk into one of our communities, it doesn't feel like a clinical nursing home. It feels like home," Abby See, Director of Online Marketing, Sunrise Senior Living, said.

Sunrise Senior Living is a senior living provider with approximately 303 locations in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, including 15 Gracewell Healthcare communities in the U.K.

"We offer a variety of personalized care … It depends on that person, their needs and their preferences," she said.

Sunrise strives to provide assisted and independent living services that are unique for each individual.

"Our mission statement is to champion the quality of life for all seniors. That includes seniors that are currently our residents and seniors outside of our communities," See said.

When asked about her everyday efforts, See said, "my mission is not just to champion the quality of life for all seniors, but also my goal is to bring Sunrise to more families. I'm able to do that through our website and digital efforts as people are searching more and more online every day."

Sunrise's marketing is a combination of digital and traditional marketing methods, such as brochures, television ads and direct mailers. However, See focuses on digital marketing, including social media, email marketing and SEO.

"We also support our communities through very distinct branding collateral, which is specific to each community because we have so many different locations," she said.


"We found through user testing … that our customers were not sure what type of care they needed," See said.

The term "assisted living" doesn't necessarily resonate with people. Because it is usually a once-in-a-lifetime decision, people have a lot of questions about what it really means, how to begin and the options open to them.

"We realized we could make it much easier in at least helping them determine what type of care they might need because, again, people really aren't sure where to start. They don't know what memory care or assisted living means. These are industry terms. People don't really recognize what that is," she said.

Those are just some of the things that See said her team has come to learn about their customers and what they are going through at the time they're approaching Sunrise.

"We just wanted to let them know you're not in this alone," she said.


It was from that sentiment that the Care Questionnaire was born. The Care Questionnaire was designed to help customers determine what type of care they need for themselves or a loved one.

"It might be the springboard to your research. There's so much information out there. If we could just point them in one clear direction, we felt like it was a supportive and resourceful type of thing to do for our customers," See said.

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The Care Questionnaire helps patients determine the type of care they need, the type of care environment they most prefer, where to find a Sunrise community near them and acts as a connection point to a Sunrise Resource Counselor.

See and her team wanted to help people find the best solution and information, which would help them come to an informed decision without Sunrise being pushed onto them.

"Even if one can glean the terminology from your results — whether it be memory care or assisted living or independent living — you can at least use that as your springboard even to go to Google and start the research," she said.

Step #1. Design website to be responsive

Sunrise redesigned its website for responsive design in 2013.

"The senior living industry, especially as it pertains to online, tends to be a little behind the curve in terms of the latest and greatest in digital," See said.

It was a risk, she added, but as the team was seeing mobile visits climb, they decided the site needed to be responsive if customers were going to start using tablets and mobile devices in greater quantity.

"We just need to build our website to meet that demand," she said.

After adapting the site to be responsive, the team wanted to know how it was being received by customers, so they conducted a user test.

"In user testing, we selected our demographic [to be] our largest audience, which is the adult child who tends to be female, age 50 to 65," See said.

The team had this group use the website and share their thoughts about it, and the team asked questions as well.

Examples of questions asked include, "'How do you feel about it? Secondly, were you able to find the information you needed? Let's say you were shopping for your mom or dad or a loved one. Did you find it easy to find what you needed?' That's really all that matters to us," See said.

Every user tested had a similarly positive response, See said, but the team discovered an awareness challenge. According to See, people "really don't know what type of care we need. We're not sure if my mom or dad would need assisted living or memory care. Although you define the different types of care, I am still not certain as to what my mom or dad might need."

Step #2. Build based on customer response

Several of the users suggested that it would be nice for Sunrise to have some sort of survey or questionnaire to help customers figure out the best type of care for their situation.

"We really were just answering their suggestion. This wasn't even our idea. It was our users' idea," See said.

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The team began the development of the Care Questionnaire, which was difficult internally, she said, because they had to figure out how it fit into the current sales process with the sales team. Also, this questionnaire had to be vetted through the Care team to ensure it wasn't — implied or otherwise — making a diagnosis online.

"We're merely suggesting, based on the way that you answered these questions, it's indicating you may need X type of care," she said.

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The team also had to ensure that users understood the next step after getting their care results, which was to validate these results through a full assessment at a Sunrise community.

"There was a lot of hesitation. Initially, [team members] felt like it could create an influx of people needing an assessment, and assessments at the community are a very intricate, detailed process — a minimum of two to three hours. We just wanted to make sure people coming in for an assessment really, truly felt like that's what they needed and this was their next step," she said.

What helped with this concern was tapping into another Sunrise audience of medical professionals. There are many instances, See said, of patients being discharged after an incident — like a senior falling and breaking their hip — where that person's caretaker is suddenly overwhelmed by their need for full-time care.

"By getting the care questionnaire in front of some of these professionals, and because it's in responsive design, right there in the hospital they can pull out their tablet or their phone or an iPad and guide someone to the Care Questionnaire," she said.

This was a way to ensure that a large portion of people taking the questionnaire could truly benefit from an assessment and were getting information exactly when they needed it. Right then and there someone can reach out, set up their appointment and have a tour scheduled for the next day, where Sunrise can fully assess the senior's needs, See said.

"Doctors and social workers, they've done their job when they're discharging somebody, but so many times that patient turns to them and says, 'Where do I go from here?,'" she said. "This is a really nice answer to that question as well as it pertains to the professional field."

Step #3. Assess efforts with customers

Launching at the end of September 2014, See said the team was happy with the results after slowly rolling out the Care Questionnaire.

"All we saw was a positive response. People were completing the questionnaire. People were converting to leads. People were picking up the phone and calling our Internet sales team," she said.

Eventually, the team pushed it out on all paid search ads as a site link. They also added it to all community pages. That way, if a customer was at a specific touchpoint and wasn't sure if they needed Sunrise's services or not, they would have that immediate check.

The team also decided to follow up the Care Questionnaire with assisted living resources. To implement this, they sent out an email that gave specifics about what the journey might look like for each user. For instance, tips for downsizing and affording care.

They also offer assistance for the smaller percentage of people who qualify for independent living care, for which Sunrise has 12 to 13 communities that offer that.

"We also give them some really great articles on the blog about independent living, saving after retirement — things that are more focused to that audience," she said.

Memory care is the service where Sunrise can be the most impactful, See said. It is especially helpful because many people don't know if their loved one needs this type of care or not.

"The email that we follow up with is chock-full of memory care resources. We've got things like a lot of great memory care videos. We also have top 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's disease. That happens to be one of the most trafficked pages on our entire website," she said.

The whole questionnaire process is currently "very tailored to what their results are and to what their journey might be," she said.


"What I love the most is that the tool continues to be used to this day. We're almost a year out, and people are still using it. They're still converting," See said. "Even if they don't use the tool to move into a Sunrise, we're happy to have helped someone make the decision."

With over 20,000 users completing the survey at a 63% completion rate, the results Sunrise has gotten from this effort are:
  • A 5.8% conversion rate by questionnaire completers who submitted their information to be contacted by a Sunrise representative

  • An 8% lift in users to the site through targeted paid media campaigns that directed searchers to the questionnaire

  • The exit rate from the results page of the questionnaire is 65% lower than site average

  • A 12% lift in on-site leads

  • A 4% lift in total site conversion rate

"There was an urgent need there, which, that tends to be the case with 50% of people that contact us. They have an immediate need; within the first 30 days they need to move their mom or dad. Most of the time people wait until it's an emergency situation," See said.

One customer who took the survey was given an appointment that night — which she was unable to secure from other care provider — and See said it is a sign of knowing that the questionnaire helped Sunrise "meet that need within 12 hours of her taking the Care Questionnaire. At least she could go to bed that night and know that she had a plan for her mom. That was a really good feeling."

Since launching the Care Questionnaire, "there have been 70 people who directly said, 'I used the Care Questionnaire,' and they moved in. That's a huge success in my opinion," she said.

Sunrise Senior Care will be speaking on this campaign at MarketingSherpa Summit 2016, held February 22-24 in Las Vegas.

This case study has also been selected as one of five finalists for the MarketingSherpa Award — Readers' Choice Campaign.

Keep reading MarketingSherpa newsletters to see case studies from other finalists, and then in a few weeks, we'll ask you to vote for your favorite on the MarketingSherpa blog.


Sunrise Senior Living

Creative Samples

  1. Care Questionnaire

  2. Development of the Care Questionnaire

  3. Next steps

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