Virtual Marketing Paved Way for Early Success During Lockdown
HEALDSBURG, Calif., Feb. 26, 2021—When the San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC) and Kendal Corporation first started the process of envisioning, designing and then offering Enso Village, a “Zen-Inspired” life-plan community located in the heart of Northern California Wine Country, the threat of a global pandemic was not part of the plan. The new 200+ residence community with assisted living and memory care, was just starting the multi-agency approval process with the City of Healdsburg and the state when California’s Stay at Home orders were taking full affect.
With a new preview center completed, SFZC and Kendal kept moving forward, taking deposits for specific residences. Early interest in the project saw a pre-reservation list swell to over 1,000 depositors by January of last year. After 8 ½ weeks on the market, Enso Village would come out at 70% reserved, a record during normal times — an astounding feat for a greenfield project during a pandemic when senior communities were seen by some as dangerous places to call home. Today, Enso Village sits at 96% reserved.
While it would be easy to assume the reason for the early successes of Enso Village rested on pent up demand for more senior housing in one of California’s most exclusive enclaves, it’s more likely that the unique partnership between Kendal, which has decades of experience in creating and managing senior communities, along with the unique perspective and authenticity of the San Francisco Zen Center, is the reason for the success. For while “Zen” has become a buzzword for everything lifestyle, to have the legitimacy of SFZC as a full partner, for the first time, creates something both unique and legitimate in the senior housing model.
Early interest in the project points to this partnership as one of the main reasons for taking the plunge on a project still two years away from move-in. Add to that the location in Healdsburg, along with being part of a larger master-planned community which when complete will include retail and service, a boutique hotel with a Charlie Palmer owned and operated restaurant, hiking and biking trails and access to the greater Sonoma Wine Country experience.
While some developers might have delayed their market offering, the decision to continue to move forward and the compelling way it was handled is credited to Greenbrier who was brought in early to develop the positioning and marketing of the new community.
The marketing approach mirrored one of the founding values of Enso Village – sustainability. Greenbrier brought the community to market with a directive to print and use as little paper as possible. While all the content is available in electronic form, there are no printed brochures, floor plans nor other collateral.
Research showed that over the life of a typical Life Plan Community development, approximately 5,000,000 sheets of paper would be printed. That equates to approximately 293 trees. Couple that with the environmental impact of transporting all of that paper to a point where it is then distributed again and, once it reaches the user’s destination is often transported yet again to a recycling center or landfill, and the environmental impact is more than substantial.
In addition, the marketing approach embraced the building of a fully virtual process for sales, including the ability for people to join the initial priority program online. After that effort proved successful, the team set about creating a capability to handle the reservation appointments and deposits virtually as well. All of this was put into place prior to the pandemic in an effort to “walk lightly” upon the land. No one had the foresight to understand how important these preparations would be to achieving a level of 70% presales within 8 ½ weeks.
When complete, Enso Village will represent the first foray into the competitive West Coast market for Kendal and the first time the SFZC focused on senior living.