How linking data sets has paved the way for digital advertising success at this retirement provider

Village Retirement Group and ad agency, Audience Group, share how they're capitalising on data for creative and ad success


With the dominance of digital in today’s marketing conversations, it is easy to forget that for many mid-tier Australian organisations, their digital journey is still in its infancy.

But if you can take advantage of two decades of learning to achieve spectacular results, it’s not always a bad thing.

This was the case for Village Retirement Group (VRG), a family-owned, Queensland-based developer of integrated retirement communities. Working with full-service communications and media agency, Audience Group, VRG was able to use digital channels to quickly achieve results that are well beyond the norms for its industry.

According to VRG managing director, Justin Harrison, the retirement industry has been heavily reliant on traditional marketing methods such as print advertising, direct mail, display and referrals.

“We had run that business very well for 15 years without too much digital work, so our websites were in a pretty poor state,” he told CMO. “But we noticed a fairly large changing market we needed to get on top of to stay where we needed to stay.

“We didn’t want to go to a big agency. We had been there before, and the results were not great. We had to search for a specialist in the area in which we wanted to go.”

According to Audience Group managing director, Tom Evans, VRG already had a significant data asset to work with in the form of its CRM system. But there were no linkages to other data sources, such as its Web traffic and ad serving data.

“We joined that data together, so we have a better attribution model of leads that came into the business,” Evans said. “We can now understand the channels that generate leads most cost effectively, what our tolerable cost per acquisition is from within those channels, and how many leads we need at the top of that funnel to get sales out at the bottom.”

Harrison said this has made a significant difference to VRG’s costs for generating inquiries.

“We try to work on at least 40 to 50 inquiries a month to generate the four to five sales we require for our projects to be continuous,” he said. “In print media, it was roughly about $950 a lead. We have brought that down to about $120 to $150 per inquiry, which obviously is pretty dramatic.”

Importantly, Evans said insight into the data has given Audience Group a better understanding of the brand message and communications that resonate most strongly with VRG’s audience, which in turn has informed its creative and brand communications work.

It also saw a flip on the traditional model of ‘attract, engage, sell and retain’ to one of ‘attract, engage, retain and sell’ to better reflect the buyer’s path. And by focusing spending on acquisition first, Evans said Audience Group was then better able to tell the right audience the richer VRG brand story.

“The data has enabled us over time to understand what matters to people at different parts of the business journey, and to shift some of that conversation depending on when they are at,” Evans continued. “In the ad serving data, we can see where they are on that path to purchase. And that helps to understand when to talk about lifestyle and brand and when to talk about price and transactional information.”

The media program avoided placement where competing aged care and related services were advertising, based on rationale about the brand and its differentiators. Instead, it focused on appearing in what the data indicated were places that reflected other interests of its target audience.

This approach also helped VRG sell 100 units off the plan in just 100 days, with data analysis including previous customer behaviours and responses informing the design and price of product, as well as the sales conversations.

Harrison said working with Audience Group has enabled VRG to achieve an average cost per sale well below the industry average.

“The average retirement village would probably sell two and a half units per month,” he said. “Across our whole portfolio we average four and half sales a month, so we are significantly better than our direct competition in Australia.”

More of CMO's coverage of brands using data and technology to life their digital advertising game:

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