If there is one thing that can be said about 30+
eager-to-learn funeral directors in a single room, it is that great ideas flow. As one of the presenters on this year’s Funeral Business & Technology Workshop Cruise, I have to say that I am thrilled with the amount of excellent ideas that came from such a great group of funeral directors. They joined us from all over North America – from Florida, Connecticut, Massachusetts; and all parts of Canada and some even further afield. So much was learned—I want to share just a few things that our great group came up with!
You are probably wondering what happens on a “funeral business” workshop cruise. Commonly, tropical drinks, incredible islands and vacation are what come to mind. And don’t get me wrong—this is, for many, a common theme for their “vacation”. However, we give funeral directors the option to take that vacation while still learning how to better their business—and that they do!
We hear it day-in-and-day-out; funeral professionals are now having to do more with less. So, let me give you some insight into what this year’s group of cruisers learned.
A focus of many conversations had to do with how they can they navigate through a downward economy. And there’s another thing that all funeral directors on the cruise got a great understanding of: changing times and their changing audiences.
Whether a funeral director is dealing with someone from the Silent Generation (born 1925-1942), Baby Boomers (1943-1960), Generation X (born 1961-1981) or Generation Y (Born after 1982), there are so many things to consider. Each generation is very different from the next, and all have different expectations in the way they are communicated with to the services that they prefer. Do you have a grasp on what each of those generations prefers?
Most funeral directors asked, simply respond with “no”. So here’s a basic outline of the way things are:
Members of each generations aren’t getting any younger, andtechnology is playing more and more of a role in the lives of today’s consumers. Today’s consumers not only turn to the Internet for the answers they are looking for, but are easily frustrated when they do not find what they need online. It is no wonder why many funeral professionals are confused on just what they must do to change with their changing audience. Let’s look at a few Internet Marketing opportunities brings to a business in these times of change:
Does your firm currently have a website? If no, you need to get one. We are in the “just Google it” time and your consumers are going to Google to find the answers they are looking for. If you do not have a website, or don’t have a well-optimized website, but your competitor does; well then you likely just gave away what could have been your business.
I am sure you have heard the saying “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”. Working with your local businesses is a no-brainer. I don’t need to convince you on this. But surprisingly, when I asked the group on this year’s cruise how many of them showcased their local business relationships on their website (such as their local flower shop or newspaper), there was an overwhelmingly lack of hands raised. Putting a link from your website to a local business is not only important for networking and building those oh-so-important relationships, but it also tells Google that your site is connected to other sites online. If you can work with the business and have them place a reciprocal link on their website pointing to yours, you’ve just scored big with the search engines.
As I shared with the group on the cruise, using the Internet to their advantage can save them money in their marketing department. I spoke with a member of a funeral home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; Neil Bardal Inc. This gentleman told me that he was able to save $1000 per month on his “traditional” forms of marketing by truly embracing the Internet. I see the technology and online initiatives he regularly puts in place, and have to tip my hat off to him for a great job in growing his business.
I have now made presentations to many audiences from state associations, workshops, and online webinars and all these presentations come back to one major point: funeral homes need to adapt to their changing consumers in order to realize a successful future. With all of the forces affecting a business today; the changing economy, the significant changes in generational expectations, and even in the shift from traditional to 21st century marketing; funeral professionals see a common thread: they need to adapt.
So, after learning about their target audiences and all the reasons why their business is changing; and more importantly what to do about it, what did this great group of thinkers come up with? Here are just a few things:
Treat Your Funeral Business Like Any Other Business
When you launch a new product at the funeral home, offer a new service or are holding a community event, write an announcement or press release on it. Let the community know what this great offer is that you now have at the funeral home. Post this in your local newspapers, on your website and spread it through your social media channels and blogging platform.
Create a Community Advisory Board
Select members of the community that you would like to have on an advisory board for the funeral home. Tell them that you would like to get their feedback on services that you could offer because you want to provide the best possible service to the community. Hold in-house events or even webinars to talk these ideas out with this group.
Become the Go-To-Resource for Education
Use your website to educate your community. A lot can be done with a funeral home website from an education standpoint. Make sure you are becoming the go-to-source for your community when it comes to death in the family. You can even include downloadable guides to help members of the community pre-plan, or plan a funeral at the time of need. These resources help position your firm as that helpful hand, when they need it.
Include Staff in the Decision-Making Process
Let’s talk technology. You likely have a person from each generation working in your funeral home, and if not, I am sure you know what I am talking about. Including staff members in decisions such as implementing a new website, adding webcasting to the services lineup, or starting a funeral home blog, will take your firm a long way. Too many businesses operate on an “owner decides” model, without staff input, until after the decision is made. Many funeral directors on the cruise mentioned they include their staff in new services and decisions and it helps tremendously in the implementation of the new product or services.
As you can see, although FrontRunner Professional is a funeral technology provider, the Funeral Business and Technology Workshop cruise is solely focused on bettering a funeral business with some technology, some marketing, and some business strategy. With the help of my co-presenter; Brian Kasler from the American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service, we not only taught but also learned so much from each and every one of the workshop attendees. While we hosted the workshops, the ideas that were generated (a few mentioned above) are what really takes a business from good to great.
Being in a room full of talented, experienced funeral professionals is one of the most beneficial things I have seen for a funeral business. It allows them to discover what is working, what isn’t; and gives them new ideas for their brighter future. I want to sincerely thank each and every one of our funeral business & technology workshop cruisers for joining us this year and you, for reading just a little bit of what came out of this year’s sessions.
If you are interested in joining me, the FrontRunner crew and AAMI on the 2014 Funeral Business & Technology Workshop Cruise, click here for all of the details. Courses are accredited by the state, so if you need your funeral director education credits or want to get away while learning how to better your business, we would love to have you!
Please leave your comments below with any ideas that were sparked while reading, thoughts on the post or things that you have implemented with the changing times.
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.