Skip to content

Let Me Sell You Some Assisted Living

Last week I went with two friends to visit an assisted living facility they were considering for their mother. A warm, welcoming man shook hands with us and led us into his office. As we entered, I noticed the door plate. It said Sales and Marketing. 

We were not there for sales and marketing. We were looking for a home for their mother, who needs special care. 

This visit reminded me of going through the same situation with my elderly father a few years ago in Florida. He and I visited the facility, and the Director of Sales and Marketing led us into her office. 

Sales and Marketing–that label simply doesn't match the experience of the potential customers. Such visitors don't even think of themselves as customers but as people seeking a home for someone who needs extra help 

Sales and Marketing is internal language. But it's jarring in this situation, where it's not what people expect. If I am buying a car, an entertainment system, or a timeshare, yes, send me to Sales and Marketing. But here, the label focuses too much on the institution's goal rather than the visitors' needs. 

What's a better name for Sales and Marketing, one that would match the expectations of the visiting adults and their elderly parents? Resident Enrollment? New Resident Welcome? New Resident Information? 

And beyond this situation, have you noticed business terms that just don't match the experience you seek?

I welcome your suggestions and reactions. 

Syntax Training

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

18 comments on “Let Me Sell You Some Assisted Living”

  • Hello Lynn,
    You are consistent in providing great writing tips and at the same time creating awareness. Sometimes it is something small that inadvertently equates to something so obviously awry. I am a more conscientious writer thanks to your sharing and great writing tips!
    Thank you!

  • I completely agree with you. I am a writer for a nonprofit organization and I have always disliked that charitable organizations have often retained the business world’s “Marketing Dept.” titles. Makes me cringe. No one likes to be “marketed to.” Especially for important causes – and sensitive, personal life decisions like your friends’.

    I like your suggestions. I also thought of Prospective Residency as a department name.

  • Hi JC,

    I’m glad you brought up the wider issue of nonprofits. I too have seen some overly corporate titles in community organizations.

    “Prospective” is a good word in our new titles for the department.

    Thanks for stopping by.


  • My daughters and I recently stayed at a hotel that had this sign on the check-in desk – “We’re sorry we do not allow pets”. I thought it was oddly worded.

  • How about a short mission statement on the door? Nomenclature like “department of”, “director of”, “office of” are just titles for the egos of people.

    Business terms that don’t match the experience: whenever I’ve seen “Integrity” in the name, integrity seems to be lacking i.e. neglected promises, missed deadlines without notice or apology.

  • Hi all,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    Becky, I’m not sure how I would word that message differently. Do you have ideas?

    George, you’re right. “Sales and Marketing” certainly communicates that message.

    Robbye, I like Resident Experience. My guess is that an institution would not use it because the individual in that job would not want to focus on the ongoing experience, just on the initial one.

    Bart, I like your ideas. Interesting observation about integrity. I’ll be watching for that.


  • Right or wrong, skilled nursing facilities have such a horrible reputation for high cost and often (unfortunately) poor care. So, you would think they would be a bit more sensitive in this area.

    Why not something like Care Facility Advisor?

  • Amy, I like your suggestion. Thanks!

    Cathy, thanks for stopping by! I like “advisor” and “care” a lot. Somehow, though, I stumble over the full string, wondering whether “care” applies to the facility or the advisor. “Care Advisor” or “Resident Care Advisor” might be clearer to me.


  • While using Google Search, l happened upon your blog! I applied for a mortgage modification from my Bank and much to my horror, received a second letter requesting more documentation. This letter contained 13 single spaced bullet points ( not numbered) as a list of items still needed to complete the modification packet! Wow! I replied by assigning a number and letter to each bullet question followed by a corresponding number and letter for each answer, with the reply. Then I got a third letter with 7 ( non numbered) bullet points asking for the same documents!! Wow! Confusing!

  • What about Certified Service Animals Only. No Pets Allowed. Why are they apologizing for their policy?

    Also, regarding Sales and Marketing, it’s what they do. It’s on their resume. It is their job function, and everyone who is not a resident customer needs to know that (vendors, media, state regulators, etc.) If they softened their title to “Prospective Resident Advisor,” wouldn’t you feel misled later when you find out it was really the sales guy–that you weren’t advised but rather sold? Maybe they should just remove the sign altogether and customers can work with Jill Smith, as opposed to Jill Smith, Sales and Marketing. You don’t need to know her title. You need to know what the facility offers for your loved one. Just my two cents (or four because of inflation and this is a long comment).

  • Hi Andrea,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Regarding Sales and Marketing, I always judge the effectiveness of communication by whether it connects with the audience. My experience twice going through this process with elderly people is that the Sales and Marketing label is jarring. Because of how it feels to me in the target audience, I’m not going to recommend it. Maybe it’s semantics, maybe more.

    I like your suggestion of Certified Service Animals Only. No Pets Allowed. I think people apologize in this case not because they have done anything wrong but because they are sorry to disappoint.

    I appreciate your four cents!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *