In February, I went with our social media team-lead Madi Harker and video marketing specialist Sky Bonner to San Diego for Social Media Marketing World 2018 hosted by the Social Media Examiner. It was quite the experience. From the eventful trip down there to attending sessions hosted by some of the premier speakers and thought leaders, we had an absolute blast! There was so much going on and over the course of our trip, we learned so much about the way marketing and social media are changing the business landscape. It had us saying “wouldn’t this work for our clients” or “that would be a great strategy to connect with families” at every chance we got. So we have put together some of our most valuable and actionable takeaways from the conference to help improve your funeral home marketing this year.
Below are a list of the major lessons we learned at Social Media Marketing World 2018 and what your funeral home needs to know about them.
Start showing how much you care and surprise your customers with the unexpected. People expect to hear from you in a marketing or sales capacity – try reaching out with something more memorable. Put personality in your brand, show families in the community that they mean the world to you and don’t forget to give them a little extra love at unexpected times. Doing this will build an unbreakable bond and turn them into huge fans of your firm. And believe me, there is no better marketing strategy than having advocates for your business. I loved hearing this and thought it would be so useful for funeral homes. There is no better salesperson than a happy and satisfied customer – start creating these, not more marketing messages.
There was no end to the discussion about the importance of super fans and making your audience feel like they are part of the action. I mean, it makes perfect sense. Super fans are basically a free marketing team that will do their best to help your business succeed. Think of them as cheerleaders who are glad to offer positive feedback to anyone who asks. Even better, some people can become so passionate about a business that they actively tell others about their positive experience. In many ways, there is nothing better than having an army of dedicated ambassadors for your funeral home – all you have to do is make sure that the families you serve have the best possible experience with your staff and facility. There is no marketing tactic that will get you further.
This one may sound funny from the title, but it actually makes tons of sense. The Bologna Principle came up during a session about how to market on a tight budget – or as I understood it, not wasting any time on stuff that doesn’t work. Essentially, the Bologna Principle is founded on the idea that you should never serve bologna without the cheese. The bologna being what you are selling and the cheese being the value it provides. In other words, always educate people on the value of your products or services before you sell it to them. They should know why what you are selling is great and what it does for them before you offer them promotions, savings or any other sales-driven incentive. I mean, who doesn’t love bologna and cheese? Just remember to always give the families in your community both.
One of the most important takeaways from the conference was the power of turning ideas into action. Bringing creativity to life. Far too often, we think of an amazing idea and do nothing to bring it to life. After this trip we have been inspired to quit leaving ideas scribbled on a piece of paper or written in a word doc. For our marketing department we are going to figure out new ways of turning creative I am going to create a plan and taking the time to just do it! For funeral homes, there is value in this approach as well. Think of all the times you have sat back and said “you know what would be great?” or “imagine if we”. Next time you have one of those moments, write it down and then take a few minutes, or however long it takes, to make an action plan for how you can actually make those great ideas happen. Believe me, it is not only a more organized way to plan for the future – but you may find yourself more inspired too.
Trying to take on too much often leads to failure. Especially nowadays. We all want to do 300 things in a day but physically, it is impossible. However, there are ways strategies and tools that can help you out. For me, it was nice hearing that huge marketing people say they experience the same issues share what they’ve done to make it easier was really neat to hear. Their biggest pieces of advice? Give yourself permission to not do everything and prioritize your to-dos. Also, they suggest that you use tools to make your life and your job easier.
Everyone is so scared of tools. We live in a super busy world so we hear about different tools and we’re like “yeah, more work” and we shut it out. I sat for three days and heard of probably 25 tools that leading marketers use to do their job better. I was actually blown away to sit with no distractions and hear what these tools actually do for people and companies. I will share some cool ones with you in a later post.
You have probably noticed in TV commercials and other advertising platforms that storytelling has now become extremely popular. Following the bologna principle, many businesses have elected to build narratives around their products and services instead of providing detailed information. Sometimes, specific products or services aren’t even mentioned in the content. Because connecting with people is not as easy as it used to be – these brands have made every effort to stand out from the pack. Instead of “buy this” or “here’s how we’re better”, you get to see an actual human experience with the product or service. Even better, sometimes all you see is a visual representation of the sensory experience evoked by happy customers. Especially in the death care industry – there is plenty of patchwork that can be done to help funeral homes be more approachable to the public. It has never been more important to tell people the story of your funeral home for this reason.
Be you. Always be you. No matter what you are doing or what message you want to send to the community – make sure you always be yourself. By now, your funeral home has a reputation to uphold and surely you do not want to colour outside those lines. However, being authentic is not about changing what you do – it is about making sure that people feel a sense of relatable connection with your funeral home. The bottom line is that people will easily pick up whether or not you are being real with them or not. So when you market your services, staff or facilities – remember to not put on a show. Just be who you are and that will result in trust. People who trust you will ultimately develop into loyal customers.
We even got to hear Mari Smith speak about the future of Facebook! It was great actually listening to someone who worked at Facebook. Almost daily, you read articles and hear opinions about what is changing but this was really neat to see in person from the source. Where Facebook has been is nowhere near where it is going to be. For the world’s largest social network, and all social media channels for that matter, the near future is going to be filled with change. It actually made me smile a bit, because funeral directors always ask me if social media is a trend and if it will go away. I tell them that social media will continue to evolve and that’s what they need to know, it’s not going anywhere. In fact, it is only going to become a more prominent part of our lives Facebook is going to start competing in the subscription video and on-demand space alongside brands like Netflix or Hulu. SO cool!
We had such a blast at Social Media World, that it is almost too much for us to handle. In such a short time, we got a glimpse of what the future will look like – and for marketing nerds like us, there is no better gift. In sharing this with you, I did not want to overwhelm you. But the world of marketing and technology is changing, and changing fast. The way things are today are not going to be the same in even 6 weeks time. Being prepared is no longer enough – if you are simply keeping up, you are falling behind. These days, you need to make every effort to stay ahead of the curve. But don’t stress, we love helping funeral homes find innovative ways to connect with their community.
If you want to know more about marketing, social media or how to keep up with the constant changes, get in touch and we will gladly help you get on track. Our trip to San Diego gave us a newfound perspective on how we should be doing things and there is still so much I wasn’t able to share in this post. But now that you have a little bit of inspiration – its time to start making magic this year.
Ashley Montroy, Marketing Director at FrontRunner Professional, has committed herself to helping funeral professionals understand and excel in today’s digital age. With a long-standing history in the funeral business and her father being a licensed funeral director for over 30 years; she grew up learning the family funeral business. Ashley holds a bachelor’s degree from Carleton University and diploma from Algonquin College. Today, she continues to speak to over 15 state and provincial funeral association groups each year on funeral marketing in the digital age and protecting funeral firms online using experiences and examples from working with thousands of funeral homes in North America through FrontRunner Professional.