Live From NFDA 2014: Building Your Funeral Home’s Brand

This week, the FuneralOne team is down in Nashville, Tennessee for the annual National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) conference. While many of the leading funeral professionals from around the world will be gathering this week to share the latest and greatest industry happenings, we understand that not everyone could make it to this year’s convention. Luckily for you, we’re live-blogging our favorite sessions at NFDA 2014!

Monday, October 13th, kicked off the first official day of the NFDA 2014 conference and expo hall! While the rest of the FuneralOne team was busy putting the finishing touches on our booth experience (stay tuned for pictures), I started the day off by joining business marketing experts Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender for a session that gets right to the heart of what all of us are trying to do in the funeral service industry – help elevate a family’s experience when they enter funeral homes.


The session, titled “Building Your Brand: How to Distinguish Your Funeral Home From The Competition” touched on the importance of your customer’s experience in the overall branding process. After all, at the end of the day, it’s all about your families and what they share about your funeral home with their own family members, their friends and the community. Unfortunately, many people mistake branding as simply a logo, your business colors, the name of your funeral home, and other surface level details. But branding should be so much more than that. “When your customers are so loyal and supportive of your business that they would tattoo your name on their body, you have yourself a solid brand,” said Kizer, citing Harley Davidson as an example.

The goal, of course, with branding is to eventually achieve “top of the mind awareness.” Meaning, when your families are asked whether or not they know of any good funeral homes in town, yours should be the first that pops in their head. This is because there is a value to being the first home your families think of. If you were not the first answer, what is that funeral home doing that you are not?

Chances are, whatever name that came up first on the last has achieved something called “spaced repetition.” This is basically the idea that you did something good that made your customers smile, or something wonderful that a family continues to talk about, and those actions have helped your brand climb up that recognition ladder.  When you do the right thing for your customers, it sticks.

However, if you are looking to increase your spot on that recognition ladder (hopefully into first place), here are five C’s of branding that you can follow to help your families relate better to your business:

Creation – Create your story. People need to understand why you chose this profession, and once an emotional connection is created, you have instilled that “heartshare” moment into your story. This story should answer the questions “What do you do that makes a difference?” “Why should your customers care?” “Why should someone choose your funeral home over someone else?” They key to creating your creation story is that the message should be truly heartfelt. Not the same emotive adjectives that you see on everyone else’s funeral home.

Once you have crafted the perfect story, write it and repeat it enough so your customers can repeat it to others when searching for a funeral home. Next, put this story on your website, your social media, your brochures – get it out to your community.

Connectivity – A brand is what you feel. What is going to connect your customers to your business? The goal is to get people to take ownership of your brand, which will create an incredible bond between you and your customer, while also making them a part of your “club.” People love to join in on something. We do it all the time with our favorite restaurants or salons: “That’s my place. I go there, my family goes there, and we’ve always gone there.”

A good way to test whether or not your branding helps to connect your audience to your funeral home is to take one of your cards or pamphlets and black out all of your names, branding and logos. Can you read it and still know that it’s your funeral home? If not, you are not giving your families anything specific to connect with.

Another important part of connectivity is connecting with your families outside of your funeral home, as well. For instance, creating an interesting, easily-accessible website that shares as much information as possible about your funeral home and services. Also create a blog that shares customization options with your audience, as well as a FAQ page that answers common questions your average family may have. Social media is also an important part of connecting with your audience – particularly the younger generation who is looking for information fast.

Culture – You should look at your funeral home as its own country with its own language, customs and culture. You need the right people to live in your country in order to make up the culture that you want. In the same way that that we go to certain restaurants for the experience, or salons for the people that work there, families will come to your funeral home because they like the culture and the “vibe” that they get from it. To achieve this culture, be sure to constantly share your expectations with your team, ask for your team’s opinions and ideas, and never stop training and growing.

Customer Centricity – All throughout each industry, there is a “generic brand experience” among businesses. These are the absolute basic things that you company has do to in order to be in business. The things that you HAVE to do in order to stay competitive. However, there is also a “designed brand experience.” This is all of the things that take you above and beyond the rest of the people in the market. All of the little things that set you apart. What makes you the Disneyworld compared to the local county fair? You don’t necessarily HAVE to do these things, but they certainly enhance the experience for your families and create the emotional connection to your brand.

However, it’s important to note that something that may have once been a “designed brand experience” can eventually turn into a “generic brand experience” if you have been doing it for years, it’s a regular part of your service that has never changed, and others in your community have begun mirroring it. Therefore, you need to have a regular conversation about new ways that you can set yourself a part from others.

Crafting Your Screen – Lastly, the most important thing to do throughout all of these branding exercises is to send all of your new ideas through your “branding screen.” This is the screen that represents who you are and how you want to be presented. How you want your customers to think of you. Any time you do a new marketing or promotion, it has to go through this brand screen so you can be sure that every action you take represents the heart and soul of who you are.

How does your funeral home branding set you apart from other funeral homes out there? Do you practice the 5 ‘s of Branding in your funeral home? Be sure to share your thoughts with us in the comments below! Also stay tuned for more live blogs from NFDA 2014!

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