The Simple Steps to Revamp Your Funeral Home: Part One
Posted July 26, 2017
6 min read
“What business are you in?”
Ron Rosenberg, of Quality Talk Inc., asks this questions to funeral professionals to gauge their mindset about how they serve families. The answer, says Rosenberg, shouldn’t be, “We’re in the funeral business.”
“That’s the profession that you’re in,” explains Rosenberg. “The business that you are in is the marketing and customer service business; there are really those two components” says Rosenberg.
Rosenberg is an award-winning speaker, author, and coach. He’s also a nationally recognized expert on marketing and customer service, has authored several books and learning systems, speaks to funeral professionals across the nation, and leads marketing and business development coaching programs across a variety of industries.
We sat down with Rosenberg to talk about 5 steps funeral directors can take to revamp their funeral home. Here’s part one of the two-part series.
1. Know—and show—your true competitive advantage
What is it that makes you different from other firms? “Or, why should somebody pick your funeral home versus all the other options they have?” explains Rosenberg.
For the great majority of families today, they have some degree of choice; they have a choice between firms, and they also have a choice across all the available offerings at any given firm.
“Start by understanding what it is that makes you unique and different, because if you are just doing the same kind of service that everybody else offers—or the same kind of experience—then you really become a commodity,” says Rosenberg.
Consider the way a family looks at your firm through their perspective. Consider examining not only your price, convenience, and availability, but look at how someone would perceive your offerings if they had no prior consideration. “If they have a relatively short period to make a very important decision, there has to be something that’s communicated that helps the family understand why they should select your firm, and forget others,” explains Rosenberg.
It may take a bit of work to find out what families are thinking and feeling, but it will be worth the research to see how they perceive your firm versus the alternatives. Look to answer these questions, among others:
- What do most families say helped them choose you over an alternative?
- What does a family member say about your firm if they are referring you to a friend or another family member?
- What kind of awareness does the community have about your funeral home (and what do they say relative to other options)?
- What can you start doing today to positively influence your efforts on those prior questions?
2. Be (more) flexible to meet the needs of your market
One way to re-examine how you are connecting with families is in how you explain your value to them. In your marketing and outward communications, don’t just list off everything you have to offer to your families. That’s an easy mistake for funeral directors to fall into because it feels natural to try to explain everything you think they should know.
“Avoid providing the bulleted list of everything you provide—here’s our chapel, here’s our visitation, here’s our parking lot,” says Rosenberg. The problem with that kind of exhaustive approach, in today’s world, is that it’s interpreted as more noise. Put another way, a clear and concise message will resonate much more deeply with families than trying to tell them every single thing you offer.
The takeaway? Consider communication that allows you to explain your higher-level offerings; don’t just focus on your care and compassion (or your customer service)—but also show the experience and the real uniqueness you can provide.
“Be sure you understand the changing demographic and what that means for the experience you can create for them. Many of your at-need cases will be Baby Boomers. These are people who did unique things like getting married in a mask and snorkel and fins on a beach in the Bahamas in the ‘60s, and they want something unique and different for their funeral, too,” says Rosenberg.
The more you can emotionally connect with families by getting to know what kinds of experiences they want, the more second nature this will become. Then, after you focus on creating that relevant, new and well-organized experience for the family, customer service will fall into place. “In other words, the marketing side of your business is driving education, awareness, and visibility. The customer service piece is creating the entire experience for families and crafting it in a way that helps with the marketing side of the business,” explains Rosenberg.
The Cowboy’s Last Ride Casket Company is one example of a company that’s responded to what consumers were looking for and craving. The company’s distinct, western-themed caskets help people celebrate their own (or a loved one’s) individuality. The caskets also help family members honor a loved one’s pioneer spirit; and, it turns out these western-themed caskets sell out quickly and are extremely popular.
“It’s one example of an offering—or an experience—that is flexible in recognizing the needs of their market,” says Rosenberg.
3. Shift your thinking about marketing
“Yes, you are in the service profession, but you are in the marketing and customer service business. That means you need to do marketing,” says Rosenberg.
Marketing tactics may happen on a day-to-day or weekly basis, but marketing itself is a long-term strategy. You have to do ongoing work in the community so that, in the long-run, people are more likely to think of you when they believe they are ready for your services. “You’re building these relationships over time,” says Rosenberg.
The problem can be that many funeral home professionals don’t feel completely comfortable with the idea of marketing. To start to feel more comfortable and to drive better results, consider your message, market, medium, and moments, says Rosenberg.
“Uncover and show the right message, to the right market, using the right medium, at the right time. If you miss on any one of these four, then you don’t get great results with families. If you can fire on all four of those cylinders, the results will be great,” says Rosenberg.
It also helps to think of marketing as educating families. Many families have forgotten or are unaware of what to expect or how to proceed when it comes to making arrangements or when planning a celebration of life. Many times, they don’t know about the options available to them. By informing them of different possibilities—and not just when a loved one has died—you are equipping them to make the best decision they can make. That’s a mindset shift about marketing, explains Rosenberg.
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