by Wendy O’Donovan Phillips


Online survey

Voice-of-the-customer (VOC) research is a methodology used to proactively uncover trends in residents’ and families’ perceptions, preferences and motivators in seeking support from your organization. This data defines the singular, value-based position in the marketplace that only your organization can own. This is brand differentiation.

Our study reveals that 75% of your peers base brand differentiation on the company mission, vision and values and 29% base it on company history. While these assets can inform brand differentiation, your team would be taking moderate risk banking its uniqueness on past team insights alone and not including insights from VOC data.

A high-risk approach to developing and maintaining brand differentiation would be basing it upon the perceptions of the marketing team alone (26% of your peers do this) or the executive team alone (which 21% of your peers do). This inevitably leads to two-dimensional group think. When someone on the team changes their mind about the direction of brand differentiation, there is no data to support nor refute a particular path forward.

Our data also indicates that 14% of your peers take the highest-risk approach to developing and maintaining brand differentiation, which is to base it on external marketing partners’ insights. Without VOC data in hand, no agency can truly differentiate your brand for the long term.

Half of your competitors use VOC data to define brand differentiation:

  • 40% of survey respondents are currently using services to understand brand perceptions
  • 46% of survey respondents have used services in the past to understand brand perceptions

What other data are they using?

  • 58% analyze customer satisfaction surveys, which are reactive research tools to uncover what current residents and families like and dislike about the organization and its offerings. While customer satisfaction survey data reveals what to improve, it does not show how the organization is different from competitors like VOC data does.
  • 25% conduct competitor research to ensure differentiation. While competitor research is a key component of the brand differentiation process, it should come only after analysis of VOC data and development of messaging. This is when your brand analyst compares the positioning, differentiators and brand essence revealed in the data with the value propositions on competitors’ websites to ensure your messaging is truly unique in the marketplace.
  • 33% conduct meetings or focus groups with the internal marketing team to brainstorm ways to differentiate the organization and 28% conduct meetings or focus groups with external marketing partners to brainstorm ways to differentiate the organization. It’s unlikely that true brand differentiation will emerge from data generated in these group sessions alone. When coupled with the gathering and analysis of VOC data, they can be more effective.

Simply adding VOC data to your suite of marketing diagnostics will go a long way in defining true differentiation from your competition.

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Big Buzz is a marketing agency delivering a steady stream of move-in-ready leads to teams serving the senior living industry. For more than 15 years, Big Buzz has helped senior living marketing and sales teams nurture leads to increase occupancy, grow and scale. CEO Wendy O’Donovan Phillips is the author of the book Flourish!: The Method Used by Aging Services Organizations for the Ultimate Marketing Results, has been published in McKnight’s, has been a regular contributor to Forbes, and has been quoted in The Washington Post, ABC News and Chicago Tribune. The Big Buzz leadership team regularly lectures in front of audiences ranging from 25 to 3,000 attendees, including at Argentum and various LeadingAge chapters. Agency awards and accolades include recognition for excellence by the American Marketing Association, Gold Key Award Winner by the Business Marketing Association, HubSpot Academy Inbound Marketing Certification, and Top Advertising and Marketing Agency by Clutch.

by Wendy O’Donovan Phillips



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