Death care can arguably be one of the toughest services to market to people. At least this is the case for many funeral homes who have done things a certain way for so long. After all, it can be challenging to start a discussion with people on a topic they’re usually actively trying to avoid thinking about. As a funeral professional, you’re great at putting people’s minds at ease and ensuring that all of their needs are taken care of. Once you’re in front of a family and telling them how you can help, that’s where you really shine. The tricky part is getting face to face or just in general contact with a consumer, and this can sometimes seem out of your control. The good news is, it is very much in your control, and in this post we’re going to help you identify who your customers are and how you can use this information to get more business. Let’s make that happen!
Over this six-part blog series, The FrontRunner Marketing Team will help you develop a funeral home marketing plan to get the conversation started with families and more eyes on your business. As a speaker at many state and provincial associations and the Marketing Director with FrontRunner, I wanted to combine all that I hear, see and teach on the road and at work with the ideas from the rest of the Marketing team to give you over 30 tips to make sure your funeral home’s marketing is top-notch in 2016. We’re going to break these tips into 6 different parts with our first focus being all about understanding the audience we are trying to target.
So, the next time you’re scratching your head wondering why your phone hasn’t rang in a while or you’re wondering how to get more business from your online presence, revisit this funeral home marketing series to make sure you’ve got THE plan to dominate. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Understanding Your Funeral Home’s Customers
Some of you may be eager to jump in and start making changes in your funeral home marketing plans, and that’s great! However, you don’t want to make any drastic moves until you know who you’re actually making these changes for.
One of the biggest mistakes a funeral home can make is doing things because it’s what they want or think is right, rather than acting on their consumers’ demands or needs. Of course you need to take into account your own vision when making business decisions, but the marketing that is going to be in front of your consumers everyday needs to speak to them. So let’s dive into some important tips on how you can get into the minds of the families you serve in order to give them exactly what they’re looking for from you.
Tip #1: Spend a While in Your Customers’ Shoes
This may sound a bit general, but you need to really understand how your community thinks before you make any major funeral marketing decisions. Normally getting to know someone means introducing yourself and having some casual conversations with one another. Unfortunately you don’t always have that luxury in business, especially in our hyper-connected world. You need to know as much about your customers as possible before you say a word to them – online or offline, and on a grand scale.
It’s impossible to please everyone as every person is different, but you can get a pretty good sense of who your target market is as a whole and some of the common qualities that this group shares with one another.
For example, the Baby Boomer generation is going to be the big customer base coming up and this generation shares some values which will help you in forming your messaging. On the flip side of this, are you wanting to market to the Baby Boomers for funeral pre-planning? Or should you be targeting their Millennial children who will be the ones making the final decisions for the non-preplanners. Maybe it is a combination of both. But I encourage you to not just think about the single generation. Think about who influences that generation such as their children or grandchildren and know how to reach them as well. The visuals, wording, and mediums of your funeral home’s advertising are going to differ greatly depending on who you’re talking to, so you need to make sure you’ve got a clear understanding of who your consumer is, how they operate and what’s important to them. Having a conversation with your team or your marketing partner will go a long way in just understanding these consumers.
Tip #2: Don’t Assume Consumers Know What You Do or What You Offer
When you’re so close to something for so long, it’s hard to see it any other way. The same can be said about the profession you work in. When you’re planning funerals day in and day out, it becomes second nature to you. You know all of the important details to make one incredible service, but the families you’re serving likely don’t have a clue about all the work you put in, what’s needed when a death occurs and they may not even know about the services you offer.
In fact, when asked, over 90% of consumers say they don’t think or aren’t sure if funeral homes they had been to offer cremation. This a scary stat, but luckily it’s one that can easily be changed. How, you ask? Communication of course! Make sure that your funeral home website and the funeral home promotional materials you leave behind with families or at education sessions tells them exactly what they can expect from you. And when you think about communication, it’s pretty much all that marketing is.
If you want to reach new consumers and keep your current ones happy, you need to make sure you’re not only being upfront about the funeral services you offer, but also that they’re clearly explained. This is an example of where having individual product and services pages on your funeral home website that you can easily use to populate your social media or online and offline marketing strategy, pricing or packages on your funeral home’s website, and even a blog to answer common questions that a family asks can play a powerful role. All of these things give your families the answers they need without even having to pick up a phone or visit the funeral home. Isn’t this a great way to be THE go-to resource for your community when it comes to death care? Both you and your families will be thankful for it in the end!
Tip #3: Don’t Expect Consumers to Know What a Funeral is
This goes in the same vein as the last point. I hear too many funeral directors say “they just don’t get it” when speaking about their families and how they perceive the funeral homes services. If you find yourself saying this, then it’s time to educate your families. They don’t know all that you know when it comes to funeral arrangements or options. Make them understand what you and your team bring to the table and what a loss would be like without you. They’re not “not getting it”, they’re simply uninformed of their options.
In short, the easier you make the process for them, the more they will appreciate your business and give back to your funeral home through either future business or even a stellar online review. And who doesn’t want a stellar online review in today’s world? Making this all happen starts with your funeral home marketing plan. And teaching consumers will be a big part of your funeral home’s marketing strategy. If you’re viewed as an expert on a topic in your community, chances are people are going to come to you for advice. In this case, advice is equivalent to business.
Tip #4: Don’t Expect Consumers to Always Know What They Want
This goes hand-in-hand with consumers not knowing your offerings, but takes it even a step further. A family in your community could be aware of one of your services (or at least think they are) but may not see the full value in it. It’s up to you and your advertising to teach consumers how they can value from your product or service and why they should choose your funeral home over a competitor’s, or yours over nothing at all. But don’t make them have to come into the funeral home or pick up the phone to find out. And don’t be afraid of putting the information and answers out there because you’re competitors will see it. If they end up doing it first, trust me – you’ll be kicking yourself for it wishing you positioned your firm as the go-to resource first.
A memorial service is a good example of this. More and more families are opting for direct cremation with no service. But is this because they don’t want a service or maybe just need to be shown the value of it in a way they better understand? Or maybe they need to understand what goes into planning a service and what they will experience if they choose to do it alone. These are the types of situations where you need to try and look through the eyes of the consumer and be there for them, on their terms.
Tip #5: The Best Customer Is The One That You’ve Served Before
What this means is that it’s much easier to sell to a current customer than it is to go out and find a new one. Relationship building is key and there’s nothing as powerful for your funeral home’s brand than a loyal customer.
Now, I understand that in the death care business a satisfied family probably doesn’t mean another from them immediately after, but they can certainly influence another family to choose you over a competitor. The reality is that a customer referral will almost always go further than even your own funeral marketing can, so it’s important to keep your current ones as happy as can be. A big part of this can be following up after they’ve used your services too. Let the family know you’re still thinking of them after enough time has passed, and create yourself a good opportunity to ask for an online review or testimonial.
I’m not going to stop there. Treat every person walking through your doors as someone you want to impress so they become a future customer of yours. With every service, comes incredible opportunity to welcome sometimes hundreds or thousands of people into your building. Don’t miss any of these opportunities. Make sure your visitors feel welcome. Add personal touches such as brochures, signage, testimonials and more to the funeral home that educate visitors on what you do. Encourage them with memorial cards or digital screens to visit the memorial tribute page of the deceased on your funeral home’s website. Or even set up a station for them to interact with it while at your location. Make each and every one of them leave and say “wow, that was an incredible service”. Leave them with something to remember about you.
Remember Who Your Audience is and They’ll Remember You
You likely know your community better than anyone, it may just take some time to step back and really look at things from the perspective of a new family. Clean the slate and figure out what you’d do in their position. Do your research on who you’re marketing to and it will save you a lot of headaches and potentially wasted time down the road.
Customers are what keep a business alive, so we wanted to make sure we started the series off by outlining just who you are putting your funeral home marketing plans together for. This week, we covered who those customers are from a generational and psychological standpoint. Next week, we’ll jump into what your customers actually type into search engines and specifically what they look for from a funeral home so you can build the best online funeral marketing plan that guarantees you more website traffic and business.
Until next week!