5 Tips to Help Your Funeral Home Get Back to the Basics

Posted June 7, 2017

6 min read

In part one of our series with Kitty Alexander, we looked at 5 ways to get back to the basics when marketing to, connecting with, and serving your families. Alexander is the Director of Community Outreach and Marketing for Foundation Partners Group. In part two we look at 4 tips to accelerate your ability to get back to the basics.

1. Look for fresh new events to host or co-sponsor

As you look to create engaging events within the community, consider teaming up with another organization or an existing event. Doing so can help manage the event execution and can also help you reach a broader or fresh new base of people in your area.

It can also push you out of your comfort zone with the kinds of community events you get involved with, which can be a good change for your firm.

“I really think we’re at an advantage because we can do things that are inter-generational with this approach as well,” explains Alexander. “If you are able to hold an inter-generational event or co-sponsor an event with another group, then obviously you’re touching several generations in the process,” says Alexander

Also, don’t believe that every event you have to be a part of has to be tied to what you did in the past, or tied specifically to death and/or dying.

Part of the benefit of doing an event completely unrelated to the funeral profession is that families see your brand in an entirely different setting. For example, Alexander says one place to start is holding an event around holidays where families come together to celebrate.

One funeral home did an Easter egg hunt for the community and held it at one of their locations. “We had over 100 kids and when you have the children, you have the parents and the grandparents, too,” explains Alexander. It was a very effective way to give back to the community, but it was also a great way for people to see the funeral home in a different setting.

“Then it’s not just a place where you go when there’s a funeral,” explains Alexander. “We are the experts, but we’re going to give back to our community. And that’s really what’s been most effective with these kinds of events, is shifting the mindset with families in this way,” she explains.

2. …But start small

When it comes to getting back to the basics,one of Alexander’s biggest tips is to simply start small.

That’s why, when it comes to hosting or holding events specifically, doing it with another organization is so ideal.

“When you do a partnership or co-sponsorship with another organization that has already been having an event or supporting a cause, you are able to help them.” Another clear benefit is that you have greater resources to help you orchestrate, market, and then execute the event itself. Some funeral home owners even start by asking employees to have a certain number of touch points, or visits, per week in the community.

If you asked employees to have at least 5 contacts per week in the community, that would be at least 20 contacts per month, per employee.

“This process then gets employees comfortable with other organizations—and possible organizations to work with—and they are out in the community. Start small, get your feet wet, and get to know decision makers for those types of organizations you want to be involved with. Then if and when we decide to do something larger [with such an organization], the comfort level is there.”

3. Listen more effectively

When it comes to getting back to the basics, remember just how much you need to listen to your families to guide your relationship with them.

“Remember to listen to them. You don’t go in with a cookie cutter idea,” says Alexander. “You gather as many details on the front end as you can, and part of that is with your questions and listening. You ask them about their loved one’s hobbies, what they enjoyed, how long they were in the community, and more,” adds Alexander.

Funeral professionals know how important it is to listen to families but sometimes effective listening skills have to be cultivated or further developed in your employees. Don’t hesitate to make the investment in your employees (in education, training or seminars) to help them facilitate better conversations with your families.

“The number one thing is making it about your families and shifting it off of the traditional way funerals can be pulled together.” It may be a subtle shift, but gently nudging your families with open-ended questions can make a critical difference in creating a much more meaningful, memorable celebration.

4. Remember context is key

When you do volunteer, hold an event, or make connections out in the community, take into account the environment around you. One of Alexander’s biggest tips for funeral professionals is to re-examine what you wear when going to such events in the community.

For much of the country, “business casual” has shifted. In the past, it may have made sense to show up to work events in a suit, but more and more, a suit stands out, adds Alexander.

It may be surprising to hear, but re-consider wearing a suit to that next community engagement. “The idea is that you don’t want to go to a retirement community or nursing community or networking event, as examples, like you are coming from a funeral or going to a funeral,” explains Alexander.

“Get on their level, and aim to make them comfortable. The same thing with co-sponsoring an event or putting on an event,” she says. You can be professional, but you don’t have to be dressed in a way so that they think about funerals or that someone has just died when they see you, or when they find out your profession.

“If that is how they feel, people can automatically tense up,” adds Alexander. “Look at your venue. Look at where you are going and dress appropriately, just as you would act appropriately.”

The result: they will have a different level of comfort with you. “It just makes all the difference. I’ve seen it first-hand,” says Alexander.

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About Kitty Alexander

Kitty Alexander is the Director of Community Outreach and Marketing for Foundation Partners Group (FPG), a leading provider of innovative funeral, cemetery and cremation experiences and products.  As one of the largest privately owned funeral operators, FPG owns and operates funeral homes and cemeteries in 16 states, and is actively seeking to expand its locations throughout the U.S.  With headquarters in Orlando, Florida, FPG is committed to revolutionizing the funeral profession with a customer experience-centered approach that harnesses innovation and values the power of relationship and partnership.  For more information, visit the Foundation Partners Group website at www.foundationpartners.com.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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