The One Place Where Your Funeral Home’s Dropping The BallDecember 14th, 2016
No business professional enjoys having to sell someone on the value of what they do. In an ideal world, all of the families in our community would fully understand the healing power that a funeral service can bring during a time of loss. They would be running to us, excited for the possibility to celebrate their loved one’s life and give them a meaningful send-off. But unfortunately, that doesn’t happen (especially in the funeral profession) so we’re left trying to market and advertise our services to people who would rather not have to think about a funeral at all.
And while digital and social marketing has completely revolutionized the way that many small businesses reach their communities, funeral professionals are still hesitant about connecting with families online. They instead prefer to stay focused on traditional marketing tactics, like word-of-mouth advertising and referrals… but even these strategies leave much to be desired.
To learn more about what funeral directors can do to better connect with their communities, we connected with one of our favorite funeral innovators, Doug Gober, last month. And we were surprised to learn that the place where most funeral directors currently fall short when it comes to marketing their services is right inside of their funeral home.
“The most underutilized opportunity in funeral service is the gathering,” Doug said. “Whether that gathering takes place at a church, in a funeral home, on a beach… wherever it might be.” And what opportunity exactly is he talking about? The chance to explain to people with no grief (namely, the people coming into your funeral home solely to support their friends and family) what we as funeral professionals can do.
Opportunities Where Funeral Professionals Fall Short
What are some of the most valuable marketing and advertising opportunities out there that most funeral professionals are currently ignoring? For starters, falling short in these three areas of a funeral service…
1. Not marketing yourself to guests
According to Doug, one of the most ignored opportunities in funeral service today is not marketing yourself to the funeral guests who are walking through your doors. “We have people walking in our front door for free,” he said. “They usually have have to initiate almost any other contact with us, but on this occasion, we literally have people flooding into our doors without paying any money for advertising… We are creating traffic, and that’s what advertising is about, right? If we can create traffic in our store, a certain number of those people are likely to purchase something from us. But we create traffic by default and then ignore it.”
2. Not showcasing the value of your services
When people walk into a funeral home, they typically have one of two responses. You could have something like, “Oh, I’m really glad I came today because the service was really cool. What they did was really neat, and I liked it.” Or, they will get in their car after the service and look over to their loved one and say, “I don’t know what I want to do when it’s my time, but I sure as heck don’t want it to be like this.”
According to Doug, that’s when you’ve lost them. Once they have decided that they saw nothing of value or meaning inside of a funeral service, “all they’re going to do instead is go directly to cremation. Because they didn’t see any real value in what occurred, nor did they see something they would like to have when it’s their time.”
3. Not helping people imagine their own possibilities
The people who are walking into your funeral home as guests — especially those who do not have any grief and are there just to support their friend or family member — are doing a mental evaluation of everything they see at a funeral service. “When you get to around 60 to 65-years-old, you start attending more funerals, and they’re not all at the same place,” Doug said. “People are on kind of a 10-year buying mission. They’re evaluating all of these different places that they’ve gone to and they’re making mental notes.”
They may be thinking about what they would have done differently if they were the host, rather than they guest. Would they go to where they have always gone, or would they come to this new place because of what they see happening? “We may not hear from them and they may not have a current need for what we offer them, but they evaluating all of the choices that are out there.”
How To Better Market Yourself To Funeral Guests
So now that you know all about the places where most funeral professionals fall short in reaching their community members, what can you do to fill the gap? Well, we’re glad you asked…
1. Use visuals to communicate to guests the possibilities for services
The best time to educate people on their funeral service options and possibilities is when they are walking around your funeral home with no grief. Therefore, take advantage of visual elements around your funeral home to communicate to people what the possibilities are for their future, when it’s their time to be a host. “There should never be a black, blank screen on a TV. Show off visuals about what you can do, what you do at your funeral home, your offerings, what you want people to know about you,” Doug said.
“Every time you do something cool at a graveside service or on the beach, take pictures. Drop those pictures into a slideshow or into a scrapbook, and turn it into a visual portfolio of your offerings. ‘Here is stuff we have done for other families, and we can do things like this for your own family.’”
2. Show off the importance of what you do
Marketing the value of your services while friends and family are walking through your funeral home is one of the most underutilized opportunities for funeral service marketing today, and it has been forever. “If you do the same damn thing at every event, families are going to know what they are going to get before they even sit down,” Doug said.
But what if instead, they were blown away by the emotional value and healing experience they got from your service? “People start standing up and talking about John, and we have a powerful video about John and his life. We have music that’s appropriate and it’s all just really well done… better than any wedding you’ve ever been do. That is the kind of stuff that will cause people to come back to you, rather than potentially going to where they’ve been in the past.”
3. Focus on personalization and customization
According to Doug (and nearly every other successful funeral professional out there), there is no such thing as a fill-in-the-blank funeral service anymore… even though a lot of funeral homes still operate that way. “The consumer of today gets it their way everywhere else they go. They get to make the decision, and they make the choices,” Doug said. “They choose what they’re going to buy and what they’re not going to buy. People are picking and choosing what part of our offer they’re going to kick off and do without you [the funeral director] being around.” So you need to create a unique personalization package that fits the needs of today’s mix-and-match family.
One great way to show off your unique services and educate families on the value of what you do is to share your service information on your funeral home website. That way, families can begin learning about why funerals are so important before they even walk through your doors.
To learn more about how to set your funeral home website up for success, click here to talk to one of our web experts.
Also be sure to check out Doug Gober’s website, Gober Strategic Capital, to learn where you can go to hear Doug speak more about how to find long-term success in the funeral profession.