How to Overcome the Biggest Funeral Marketing Hurdle of All TimeAugust 13th, 2013
“Well, their grandparents came to us, and their parents came to us, so when the need arises, they’ll come to us, too.”
“Why brand ourselves or get out into the community, they know who we are and what we do. It’s just not important.”
“All our marketing is word of mouth.”
Any of these statements sound familiar? The fact is, everything you do (or don’t do) is part of your marketing and branding efforts. How your funeral home is perceived and understood by your community – and how you go about relating to them – is the difference between a thriving, successful community business and a non-successful one.
Why? Because consumers have changed radically in just the past 10 – 15 years. We are part of a culture with transient and non- nuclear families with less roots and awareness of “hometown” services.
Combine this with much of the negativity in the mainstream media and confusion about services and funeral homes, and you have a recipe for disaster.
In most mainstream media outlets, the funeral home and funeral director are perceived to be as useless as the buggy whip in today’s modern society. Plus, most of the media portrays us to be creepy and scammy as well. Of course, we do have some bad apples out there, but we as an industry have done a very poor job in sharing and explaining the amazing work we do!
Typically, the marketing function at a funeral home is a “last minute thing” or a nuisance, if it’s done at all. It’s looked at as a “spend” as opposed to an investment in the success of your funeral home. To me, this is strange because there are so many funeral marketing efforts out there that cost little to nothing – and can be of tremendous value to the funeral home and the community.
To help you overcome that hurdle, here are some tips I have for increasing positive awareness and brand recognition for your funeral home:
Before you “do” anything…
Remember that your brand isn’t just some marketing gimmick. Your brand is how your firm and your firm’s employees are perceived by the public. That means this is not the place to do whatever is “cheapest” or “easiest”. No business, no matter how big, can do everything – so be selective in what you choose to do for your funeral marketing efforts, and do it well.
Designate someone to do your funeral marketing
If you don’t have the time or the expertise to manage your brand conversation and marketing initiatives, designate someone internally who can (and dictate a budget – typically two percent of annual gross revenue). Or, hire a professional firm that can manage your marketing for you. $10,000 is realistic investment for a professional marketing firm. And if you think about it, this will cost you far less than even a part-time marketing employee.
Do your research
Once you find out who is going to be in charge of your marketing, it’s time to do some research. By doing research, you can get a feel for what successful marketing looks like and check out what your competitors are doing marketing-wise. Here’s a few ways you can research marketing and branding for your firm:
– Check out marketing blogs from this comprehensive list of the 75 top marketing blogs. You can also check out free ebooks and whitepapers on marketing (Hubspot’s are the best, in my opinion).
– Go on LinkedIn and ask marketing experts questions about branding your funeral home. Join marketing groups, particularly inbound marketing ones.
– Ask questions about marketing your funeral home on Quora
– Explore how other funeral homes across the country are successfully increasing their brand awareness.
When you’re ready…
Once you’ve done your research and figured out who will be responsible for your branding and marketing efforts, it’s time to get to business! Here are a few things you can do to get started:
1. Start with your brand basics. Is your logo updated and representative of your firm? Are your business cards and collateral professional and consistent with your branding? Do you have a brand statement, what a mission or vision? If not, it’s time to invest the time and money into establishing or updating your brand. Your brand should represent what families will experience at your funeral home. For example, if you brand your funeral home staff as fully capable in creating healing experiences unique to the life lived, then every type of funeral or memorial service should carry that distinction.
2. Look at your social media presence. If you don’t have one, start by creating one. If you are already on social media, make sure your presence is uplifting and encouraging and creating shared conversations. Give reasons to engage and, perhaps most importantly, be part of the community. Also, avoid any of these mistakes.
3. Make sure your website inspires visitors to want to celebrate life, and educates them on your value rather than scaring them away. Your website is the front door to your funeral home. Just as you may have a flowers or plants, polite signage to maintain a professional, welcoming image, your website needs the same attention to detail.
4. Get involved in the community. As best you can, insist that you and members of your team each join a non-profit board, or some civic group, such as The Rotary or Chambers of Commerce and certainly at local places of worship. Find a non-profit you feel comfortable being part of and supporting. Attend meetings, pass out business cards, and be conversational. Do a float for the local parade, sponsor a little league or soccer team, have open houses regularly to assuage a genuine “fear of the reaper.”
5. Consider volunteering on a regular basis at nursing homes, assisted living facilities and senior centers. Activity directors are always in need of volunteers and very open to how you may want to give your time. Get creative with your volunteering and help foster positive experiences and memories for residents.
6. Use available (and in many cases free) tools, such as article and press release templates that share your knowledge and expertise. Send those to your local community paper, particularly if you already advertise in them.
7. Start an online newsletter or blog. You can work with your website provider in setting up a blog or use a free blogging platform such as WordPress. When blogging, remember to write items that will be helpful to your families, rather than self serving blubber about how great or how old your funeral home is.
An example of awesome funeral marketing and branding
Owen Funeral Home in Louisville, Kentucky uses their community involvement efforts to create a name for themselves. They are committed to providing meaningful experiences for everyone involved in these events. They schedule weekly aftercare meetings, road trips with support group members called “Rollin with Owen” and “Stepping Stones” social gatherings which includes lunch and gospel entertainment for attendees.
For their larger events Pam Owen, Owen Funeral Home’s Social Media Manager, and their staff plan for over 100 people on their twice a year ‘Rollin with Owen’ road trip and around 800 for ‘Stepping Stones’. For their more intimate gatherings and monthly aftercare groups they average about 10. This is just a sampling of the events they plan throughout the year, and it’s no surprise they receive the turnout they do – considering their quarterly newsletter reaches 3,300 people. For Owen Funeral Home staff, their favorite thing about these events is knowing that they bring joy to their attendees lives.
More than anything, branding is about your reputation and it needs to be created, nurtured, cultivated and protected. The act of branding is an active “do” rather than a passive “when I get around to it.” It is how you answer your phones and how you present ideas you provide to your families. Your brand is not your logo, your brand is YOU.
The key is to create positive interactions and engagements, ongoing and consistently. Start by asking yourself how you want your families to feel after an interaction with you or one of your employees, or perhaps after reading your blog. Identify what you want that feeling to be and move forward with exploring the possibilities for positive awareness and branding.
Want to kickstart your branding efforts?
It all starts with the right website. Get a free demo or chat with one of our website specialists at 800-798-2575, ext. 5 to find out how you can get our all-in-one website platform for free!
How has your funeral home used marketing and branding to create a positive reputation in your community? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lacy Robinson is a Kentucky licensed funeral director/embalmer and a certified member of the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice. As Senior Professional Development Trainer for Aurora Casket, Lacy specializes in helping funeral directors partner with families to create funerals that honor both their basic and personal needs at the time of loss. She presents continuing education programs on both the local, state and national level. Lacy is an active member of the Funeral Directors Association of Kentucky and Bluegrass Toastmasters Group. She is also a Certified Funeral Celebrant, certified Wilson Learning Facilitator and serves on the Advisory Board to the Association of Women Funeral Professionals.