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The senior living industry has a voice. You can hear it on Bridge the Gap podcast!

239: Jeff Gronemeyer

Creating vibrancy and passion through a brand’s story is what Jeff Gronemeyer, VP of New Business Development at Conversion Logix, continues to strive to push in the senior living industry. 

Conversion Logix was a Gold Sponsor at the VIP Ignite Experience: View Here

Lucas

Welcome to Bridge the Gap podcast, this senior living podcast with Josh and Lucas. We’ve got a great guest on today. We want to welcome Jeff Gronemeyer. He’s Vice President of New Business Development at Conversion Logix. Welcome to the show.

Jeff Gronemeyer

Thanks, great to be here.

Lucas 

Jeff. It is great to see you again because we just saw you at Dream Again, and you guys were huge supporters of Bridge the Gap there, very appreciative of that. I loved catching up with you over how that event impacted your life personally. Talk us through kind of, what was your takeaway as you kinda rode the VIP Ignite roller coaster in Nashville

Jeff Gronemeyer 01:27

After I figured out how to stay awake with the nonstop events and fun, it was a great takeaway. You know, it reminded me again, that the people that work in this industry are just wildly passionate. You get it a little bit when you’re in communities. For me now on the vendor side, I think I hadn’t remembered anymore what it was like to be in the buildings. It had been a few years since the pandemic that I had had the chance to work with, you know, community team. So just feeding off that passion that we all have was awesome. My big takeaway, you know, we talked about dreams and what do you want to hold onto? And I really want to hold onto that keynote speaker dream, with Inky, the guy that you guys brought in; probably the most powerful, statement story I’ve heard maybe ever, and share it with my team, and getting back that Friday as well.

Jeff Gronemeyer 02:29

And, it reminded me that, as we work our day to day lives and we do all these things, whether it’s personally, professionally, we feel, we feel pressures, we feel obstacles, we feel all that stuff. And then if you compartmentalize your stuff and compare it to his, you’re just like, man, I’m having ice cream and sitting out in the sun compared to what he’s had to go through with the adversity and then just his incredible drive to not let it saddle him down. I mean, if there was ever a guy who could have said, “I quit,” and people would’ve accepted it, maybe it would’ve certainly been him. So that’s my goal. I just, I don’t ever want to lose the perspective that I felt sitting in that room, listening to him talk.

Josh 03:13

Well, it was certainly impactful to me and Lucas, our teams as well. It sounds like it was to you and hopefully it was to everyone. We’ve heard so much buzz about that. And when we heard Inky, we knew he’d be the perfect way to wrap up an amazing event. And, speaking of that, it, it would be so much fun. Jeff, I think you even made this comment if all of senior living and all of those that are even in the market, even looking for some housing, senior housing options, senior living option, if they could have all been there with us experiencing how awesome senior living is. And it’s amazing, you know, we talk so much about that, how cool this industry is, but there’s this whole world outside of senior living that is so confused.

Josh 04:07

<Laugh> by what is senior living and how do I find what I’m looking for? And from the outside, looking in, it’s always not as cool. They don’t get to experience it. You’re in the marketing and sales professional world. Your company helps companies boost their occupancy through lead generation. You’ve been an operator, so you’re an expert on marketing and sales. And I think one of the cool things that we thought we would talk to you a little bit about is kind of what your lens is on where our industry is right now, as far as that big word that we all like to talk about, occupancy. And over your, however many, years you’ve been doing this you know, which is a lot, how you’ve seen the progression of where we are today, maybe where we need to move the needle to. Could you get us started on that topic today?

Jeff Gronemeyer 04:58

Sure. Yeah. I’d love to. I mean, I think about it every day, right? That’s the stuff that keeps me awake at night. And occupancy,for me, occupancy’s always been, you want people to experience it. We hear that all the time after a person moves in, “I wish it would’ve done this sooner.” And you’re right. The idea that people could really understand who the industry is, what the industry is by seeing the people that are in it. I mean, senior living is an industry, and I’ve worked in others where people are just committed with a level of passion that you don’t find in other industries. It is a true, there’s a true heart. And it comes out in communities. I think that’s why seniors do in fact, love being in a community once they make it through the doors is they are embraced by that passion and that love and all the things that are out there.

Jeff Gronemeyer 05:50

And you feel at any time, there’s a conference, anytime there’s an event you know, like we just had in Nashville, it just exudes. And you wish you could bottle it up, how do you, how do you create something that could capture it all and, and inject it into other people like a cupid’s arrow kind of thing would be great. But I think we’ve gotten trapped a little bit, in my opinion, in the care model piece. We are providing care. There is a medical component to certain things that is sometimes there. And that’s how the customer sees us. Unfortunately, at this point they see us as a solution to an event. Something that is now unsolvable for them, untenable, and they come to us kind of the way you come to aspirin.

Jeff Gronemeyer 06:42

I’m like, I love the fact that there’s acetaminophen and ibuprofen, but I don’t like the fact that I have the headache. So I don’t, you know, I don’t embrace it or love it. And we’ve got to flip that. We’ve got to have people looking at us like you know, like bourbon, right. People love a nice bourbon, even though it’s gonna cause the headache. So, you know, how do we create that? How do we create tools and messages that ultimately bring that vibrancy and passion and create that piece as the brand versus it just being care and it being care and kind of a health model, even though that is, you know, a backbone part of it.

Josh 07:24

Well, I think it’s a great point. And I hear, oftentimes, operators, communities kind of describe when they talk about senior living and how it has evolved over the last 10, 15, 20 years to where it was a residential more lifestyle, social model, to now it’s a healthcare model. It’s a care decision. Just kind of like what you were mentioning when they have a life event when son and daughter can no longer care for mom, dad at home, or they can’t care for themselves, that’s where you go. And it’s really interesting. I think it’s probably something that is very confusing to the consumer because there’s so many flavors, so many different care models, if you will. So many different hospitality models, so many different real estate models to what we call, “senior living.” I’m sure that, you know, we probably confused the consumer to death at all of our different mixed messaging on what it really is.

And you’re right. I think we’ve allowed that one model, which is the healthcare component to creep in and really dominate the conversation. And I think that’s probably skewed us to where now probably the average consumer and I hear it called us all the time, lumps us in with just a nursing home. And so I’m sure you guys see that a lot. Well, you know, so if we identify that that’s, what’s happening a lot now, what do you suggest as a pathway to help providers, operators, management companies, communities, rally, to begin to change that narrative a little bit? What do we do?

Jeff Gronemeyer 09:06

Yeah. I mean, I like the way you pointed that out. It reminds me of, kind of how I’ve discussed it with sales teams in the field. Which is we sell senior living by the tool. We talk about senior living and so we got dementia. We’ve got assisted living, we’ve got independent. And that’s analog just to me like trying to sell you a set of tools by saying, well, here’s the wrench and here’s the screwdriver and the hammer and all the different reasons that you should have one of them, versus the idea saying, “hey, these are Snap-On tools, or these are Craftsmen, or these are DeWalt or whatever brand that you feel engaged by. And what does that brand mean to you? I think all of us have things where we can look in our heads and say, “well,  this means this brand means I’m a professional,” or this brand means it’s luxury, or this brand is a great value.

I think we need to look at ourselves in market and talk about ourselves in that more holistic cultural concept, meaning look at yourself as an operator management company and say, “what am I? What is my culture?” Okay, I’m the culture of veterans. And we’re going to make living in our communities, a veteran-centric culture. We’re going do flag raising and we’re going to have all the holidays and we’re going to let people share their love and experience of their service in the military, whatever that may be and create bonds with the, the active duty or the national guards and create that kind of culture. And, and maybe another one is a culture of people who like to do day trips to you know, antique stores and those kinds of things, because that’s how we live our lives.

Now I look at my own mom and she loves wine. So she’s a member of a wine club and she goes up to these tastings and she likes to go on little trips to historic towns. And she likes to travel to warm places and do some things on the beach. And I think, “well, what kind of community could give her that and have people in it that were similar to it?” I think we just have, like I said, we’ve gotten into that care piece. We’ve gotten into the, into the tools that takes, to make it up, but we’ve lost the idea that we can be that bigger culture. And then that culture becomes your brand, right? You’re the fun brand, you’re the travel brand, you’re the best value brand. You’re the card player’s, the gambler brand, whatever it may be, we all have, you know, those groups of hobbies that really kind of define our legacy. I think teachers are another good example of places where you could create a brand around teachers and having them giving back to the community and different things like that. So I  hope that’s something that we can start to try to do. Maybe stop selling the service as much and, and sell more of the bigger picture of what we are as people.

Josh 12:11

Well, and it seems like we have such a huge opportunity. Obviously in the time we live in, the pandemic that we went through, we’ve got a lot of challenges, right. But we have so many opportunities. And one of the things I think of is just the accessibility of information at our disposable and the ability to push information out more than ever in history to basically every consumer almost has something they carry around in their hand to receive information potentially about your brand, your flavor, as you were talking about. And it seems like we’re doing less and less than we ever have with the tools that are actually at our disposal. I do think the seniors and their families, they get hit with a lot of things, but I’ve heard you and your team mention the senior journey and how that’s not necessarily maybe like it once was, was a very defined journey into senior housing. It was a very defined, well defined product. And that was a very straight line at one point, but now it seems much more scribbled, maybe dotted. What do you mean by that?

Jeff Gronemeyer 13:31

Yeah. We’ve been fortunate enough to have, you know, some tools that allow us to see what that is that looks like from a journey standpoint. And the reality is people do check out senior living at a time when there isn’t a need. I mean, you see buildings, my own father-in-law gets things in the mail that say, “Hey, this is what we do.” And it looks fun. They invite him to a dinner or whatever it may be. And it’s that moment in time. But we don’t have anything that captures people in that space. We’re waiting again for that true conversion moment where it’s like, “I really need to do this. I can’t live alone, or I don’t want to live alone because of these other purposes, versus, I want to live here because it’s going to be more fun. It’s going to make me happier.

Jeff Gronemeyer 14:19

It’s going to allow me to do things that I always wanted to do.” Which could be travel, or getting back out like my father-in-law would love to be able to have a group of guys that he could go play golf with on a regular basis. And creating an environment that has that. So what we’ve been able to do and hopefully help our customers with, seeing that more scribbled journey is carving out a little bit of the budget to market that pre-enjoyment phase of their lives saying, “be involved with our community for these things. Value us because we can connect you with people that want to golf. Value us because we can connect you with people that want to take a day trip to a local winery. That inclusiveness that people can get involved with, and leave the care piece out of it. Leave the messaging about, is it…I don’t wanna say, is it the right time, do you need this right now, type of thing. More of a want, a want message versus a need message. And there’s opportunity for that, because we know that people are visiting the sites a long, long time before they convert. We see ’em pop in and out and, and they can be, there can be months and months, sometimes, even years before they get back to you.

But it means that they’re interested. They’re just, we just don’t have the message early on in the funnel that makes them say, you know, here I am, I’ve raised my hand, let’s chat, but we’re working to change that as best we can.

Josh 15:51

Well, you know, Lucas, you’re in a ton of communities I guess every day of your life you know, renovating communities and seeing the things that operators are doing creatively probably a really unique way of doing that because you’re not necessarily representing one operator. You get to see a lot of different operators and a lot of different types of communities. What are your thoughts on this topic?

Lucas 16:20

I have a lot of outside thoughts on this because you’re right. I get to experience and see a bunch of different operators all over the Southeast. And my experience is, they’re all the same. From kind of your first kind of approach, especially the websites. It’s like literally the same stock footage actors that they brought in at one time, you know, it’s like, oh, she lives there too. Like, “oh, that guy with the gray beard, he lives there too.” Oh okay. But here’s what the difference is that I noticed, it’s the people inside the buildings, right? It’s that connection that you have. And I think Jeff, that’s really what you’re getting at. And I guess I wonder well, so my take on like going hard on this one thing and saying, “we really do this one thing well.”

I imagine the pushback is like,” oh no, we’re going to go way too narrow. And we’re gonna miss these other people.” I would argue that you don’t actually, you gain more by going narrow. And then the people, like, let’s just say, you’re not a golfer, but when you see that you, you think like, “wow, they do this really well. They must do other things well, too. They’re about something they’re not just vanilla,” I think when you try to drain the ocean, it’s just too, it’s just too big. You just miss it. You’re just kind of like taking little parts and pieces, but when you define yourself, which is all about building a brand, I think that’s really where the magic is.

Josh 17:59

Well, you know, I’ve, I’ve had some crazy thoughts lately. I won’t share all my crazy thoughts. So this is a, I think a PG rated show, but maybe. I know I just got producer Sara’s heart rate going, when I said I was about to share some of my crazy thoughts. It’s okay. I’m not gonna be censored today. No, what I was thinking is, and we just came off of this event that was very experiential event, right? I just think more and more, let’s just call it the population, the population that’s out there, that’s aging is looking for experiences. We hear that. I mean, even us, even at our age, I think we’re looking for when we go to work, what kind of experience are we going to have today while we’re serving others while we’re working with our team members?

What’s that going to be like? I think more and more people are looking for the unique experience that appeals to them. And we know that there’s a million flavors out there too, so to your point, Lucas, there’s so much diversity and I think, Jeff to your points, creating the brand and asking what is our brand? What do we do uniquely better than anyone else out there? And why do we do that? Knowing our, “why” behind it? Like, why are we here? Why is our community? Then I think once you understand that, then you have a very specific story to tell. And then it’s amazing. I think once you know that and understand that, probably how your marketing pictures begin to not look like the same person that’s on every other website, right? So that has that impact. Your lead generation activities start to look and feel a lot different than yes, the competitor that’s right down the street from you, because they’re” why,” and their unique experience is just a little bit different than yours.

It may be very similar, but it’s gonna be a little bit different because the team and the people composition in that community is going to be different than yours. So I, that’s kind of what my randomness, my thoughts have been lately is like this experiential aspect of our communities. They are really, if we treat them like it’s a living organism that has something very unique inside of it. It’s a uniquely baked cake with special ingredients, which is those special individuals inside. So I would, I would love it if this conversation that we’re having with you today, Jeff just like starts permeating the industry. Because I think honestly, if people start asking those questions that you’re saying that will define some different answers that lead to some different results. So it’s so good to have you on today.

Jeff Gronemeyer 21:02

Well, I appreciate it. Yeah. It’s fun to have my role, especially. I mean, that’s what I love about what I’m doing now is truly the chance to have that conversation. To kind of get it out there, put it out into people’s minds that when we’re in the conference room, to your point about narrowness that we can do this. I mean, the world’s already that way. Look at, there’s more than enough people to support a lot of different narrowness inside a brand. I use soda as an example. Senior living is soda. It’s a thing, but it’s not the brand. The type of soda’s the brand. And there is a lot of space, a lot of seniors and more coming <laugh> right? Will it support a huge national brand? I don’t know. I don’t know if I was a gigantic, you know, one of the top two, if how you work that you maybe have to break yourself up a little bit regionally, but there’s so many more operators out there that are what, 30 down to 16 types of communities size-wise where that narrowness fits perfect.

It’s competitive differentiation. But it is, it’s a new conversation. It’s not what we typically do. You know, the typical conversation is how do I get more people in? What kind of incentive do I have to have? You know, I need more views, more clicks. So that turns into more marketing qualified, more sales qualified. And then we talk speed lead and some of these basics. And I don’t know, I don’t think you can…I think you have to stop selling senior living and you have to start marketing and branding senior living, and then people want it. And then all you’re selling is your brand. I hope I’m in the business long enough, one day that I get a chance to sell that brand, where I’m saying, “you want to be a part of this because we are the the wine and whiskey trail brand, or we’re the golf brand or the baseball or whatever sports brand, whatever it is.”

It would be fun to see what that would feel like, because I think to your point, people would do it. And I think you’d have people that just like to you hear it all the time, “I don’t like to play baseball, but I like to be around people who do.” You would just have all those things happening and in what fun. And you know, the underside of it. Yeah. We’re going take good care of you. We’re going to feed you. We’re going to do stuff, but man, I’d move into the ballpark themed senior living community and heartbeat. If I was 75 years old, you know, just going to games, history, having old ball players come by and sign autographs. I mean, my brain can just start running on how many cool things you could start to do with that. And, and the people it could, it could attract. And these kinds of conversations, I think, are the ones that will start to open people back up to it because, who we are and our legacy is what’s most important to us. If we can align building cultures and brands to the legacies versus aligning to people being seniors. I think then we’ve got a real winner on our hands.

Josh 24:09

Well, you know, Jeff I would agree with you and, and just, you know, a moment to thank you and Conversion Logix for pushing us out of our comfort zones and talking about these conversations. It was awesome to be with you in Nashville. Our listeners need to know that it’s folks like you that help make the information, education, content that comes out on the Bridge the Gap network possible. And it was awesome having so many kind of like-minded individuals that are all rallying behind making senior living better together in one place not concerned about, “hey, where’s our booth going to be? Not worried about how many business cards can I collect from this event, but truly interested in having conversations like we’re having on this show today. So thanks to you and Conversion Logix team and Lucas, what an awesome conversation! 

Lucas 25:12

Yes, absolutely. And we’re going to continue this conversation. People that are joining us today. You can continue this conversation with us on social. You can go to BTGvoice.com. You can collect and access all of our content. And then we’d like to hear from you on places like LinkedIn, where this conversation can take place. Jeff, thank you so much for spending time with us today.

Jeff Gronemeyer

It’s been my pleasure, my honor. Thanks for letting us be involved and look forward to seeing again soon.

Lucas

And thanks to everyone for listening to another great episode of Bridge the Gap.

239: Jeff Gronemeyer