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Getting to Know Cumulus Communications...

Updated: Dec 19, 2022

We sat down with Michelle Metzger, the founder of Cumulus Communications to learn more about the company’s vision and how it plans to help clients with their marketing communications programs. Read her story and get a peek behind the scenes in the article below.

Q: It’s week two for Cumulus Communications… why did you start the company last week?

Metzger: Earlier this month, I left my dream job in the long-term-care industry and decided that I could provide more value as an outside consultant than going back into a full-time position. Senior living operators and companies that service them must be very frugal with their marketing spend, so hiring a traditional marketing agency or a full-time seasoned marketing pro typically would be far outside their budget. That said, many operators desperately need someone with deep industry experience who didn’t just finish their degree last week, so I founded Cumulus Communications to bridge that gap.

Q: What are some of the main marcom challenges you saw for these companies?

Metzger: Wow… it just depends. Typically, I’ve walked in the door of a company to find they are spending an obscene amount of money with expensive agencies and getting very little value for the money spent. This happens for two reasons.

First, the agency may have very little experience in the healthcare and specifically the senior living space. It’s much more complex than one may realize, and that becomes blatantly obvious with just a few simple questions.

The second reason is because the standard agency practice is to use the seasoned group of gray-haired executives to win a piece of business but then turn the actual business over to the recent 22-year-old college graduate who still doesn’t know what they are doing. While some tasks do warrant a distribution of work based on skill level and billing rate, I’ve been with agencies who had very junior-level people attempting to do high level strategy programs, which can be a total disaster.

Q: Coming from a high-tech background, what was your biggest surprise in the senior living space?

Metzger: When I led marketing and communications for a publicly traded security software company, our budget lived and died with how much ROI we generated with our marketing programs and campaigns. We had to follow a lead from acquisition through nurturing, into the sales funnel and all the way through to the final sale. Our CEO would preach, “For every dollar you’re spending, Michelle, I need to see four dollars of revenue!”

When I came onboard with my first healthcare company, it surprised me how little they knew about the marketing sales funnel, but I realized this was because in the skilled nursing industry, patient “leads” come into the sales process very far down in the sales funnel. Doctors and hospitals give a warm referral or even a directive for a patient to discharge to a specific SNF operator, which leaves very little need for activities higher up the sales funnel. Also, the sales “cycle” for a patient is extremely short as they typically go from receiving a name or list of names of SNFs to discharging in a matter of hours.

However, because the decision-making process is so compressed, it puts a lot of pressure on otherwise superficial marketing pieces that operators may not realize are mission critical.

Q. What are some of those programs senior living operators need help with the most?

Metzger: Sitting in a hospital bed, patients typically have a phone and possibly a tablet. Many also have friends or family who are helping make this critical decision with them or even for them – usually within an hour or two. This compressed decision-making process puts a company’s website, social media, Google listing and reviews center stage.

Facility video tours, ‘shiny happy people’ on a social media feed, positive reviews and testimonials, professionally-designed collateral – all of these can lift a facility to the top of the consideration pile or knock them out before any admission coordinator walks in the door.

Q: Besides growing census, what is another big challenge for the senior living space?

Metzger: Recruiting… hands down. Finding good caregivers already was a challenge before the pandemic, and now, it has become a crisis! Employee engagement and culture-building programs were “nice to haves” before 2020, but now, operators and other providers need to take a serious look at how they are attracting and retaining top talent. For people in healthcare, loyalty goes far beyond a paycheck and benefits package. That said, when a company has financial challenges and does a staff reduction, pay cut or misses payroll – these are damaging beyond repair in some cases.

This doesn’t mean a company needs to start serving lunch every day or bring in the massage therapists and ping pong tables to build culture though. Implementing a simple anniversary service program, employee spotlight or another award recognition program to express gratitude can go a long way in building employee loyalty. And on the flip side, not having these programs when your competitors do can escalate an exodus or revolving door.

Q: So it’s week two… what’s on deck next?

Metzger: I’m grateful to my husband and my close network for all the support I’ve had the last week and a half. There are a couple of potential clients we are talking with about programs, and we may launch a newsletter in the coming weeks to help bridge the gap on one of the issues I mentioned earlier. My husband accuses me of being too optimistic sometimes, but I’ve always found the best way to attract good things into my universe is to expect them.

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