To Grow Your Funeral Home, Focus On The Basics

Posted May 31, 2017

7 min read

What have you done this week, this month, or this year to remain the best death care provider for your local community?

“Consumer changes prove to be a challenge for many of us as we strive to remain the best death care provider for our communities. Often when things are changing rapidly around us, the best thing we can do is go back to the basics,” says Kitty Alexander, the Director of Community Outreach and Marketing for Foundation Partners Group.

We spoke with Alexander—captured in our two-part series with her—to talk about how funeral professionals can continue to make a difference and connect with families by doing what you do best. In part one, we look at 5 ways to get back to the basics to continue to connect with families.

1. Get back to being intentional

To be as successful as possible, funeral professionals need to be strategic, focused and intentional in efforts to serve families during all phases of the cycle of death, says Alexander. That’s before death, as a loved one is dying, when the death has occurred, and for years to come.

Looking at the entirety of this relationship helps to identify areas to connect with families (and the community at large) in a genuine, authentic and lasting way. “Right now, while some customer needs can be complex, the majority of people appreciate sincere actions,” says Alexander. She emphasizes the power of being more intentional about strategies and tactics over the long-term in order to “get back to the basics of relationship-building.”

2. Get back to your core strengths

Why do families choose your funeral home? Your customer service, quality, or the ability to serve your families are all important factors, but those are factors that just allow you to be in business. Consider the following, for example:

  • What activities do you do for families that are really unique? Is this a sustainable offering and how come?
  • What channels do you go through that are different than others? How does this help you build relationships with (other) families in the community?
  • Where are your margins the highest? What can you learn from that?
  • Where is your families’ satisfaction the highest?

These can help guide you (and your employees) as you get back to the basics of serving families, being strategic with decision-making, or as you evolve your culture.

3. Get back to relationship-building

“One of the most effective ways to grow your business is to get out and network with your community. To do so, get back to the basics of simple and effective touches within the community,” adds Alexander. The benefits don’t come overnight, as funeral professionals know, but this helps to build genuine relationships and to establish long-term trust.

“Don’t forget the night shift,” says Alexander. “For one firm, the first call team delivers survival baskets to the night shift at various institutions throughout the year. The more boots you have on the ground the better chance you have to know your community,” she explains.

“We’re seeing how businesses are not as generational as they used to be,” says Alexander. In the past, we know that families were extremely loyal across generations. In addition, we’re seeing that people are transplanted into areas, so they don’t have those same connections as they did in the past,” she says. This only increases the need for meaningful connections with people—which is a mindset shift for many, and requires constant outreach. “Remember, everywhere you go, you have the potential to build your brand and business,” says Alexander.

First, take the time to identify and evaluate all the touch points a person may have with your firm. Second, don’t be shy about showcasing the connections that you already have cultivated. “Show what you are already doing in your aftercare programs by using photos and testimonials and sharing them,” adds Alexander.

4. Get back to family-centric, relevant communication

How often are you showing appreciation for your families through digital and printed correspondence? What ways are you able to show your firm’s qualities through your communication? Do you have the resources in order to consistently do this in a compelling, authentic way?

Some firms can easily say they are consistently doing both traditional and printed forms of communication with their families. Make sure you aren’t neglecting either.

“It might be your hand-written letters, where you are thanking them for their business and asking them for their opinions. The power of a hand-written note is still there,” says Alexander. If you’ve strayed away from hand-written communication with families, consider taking the time to doing so with families you’ve served.

5. Get back to embracing better ways to manage relationships with families

Culture evolution for any firm isn’t simple. And it doesn’t happen overnight. But many aspects of how you interact with families can be simpler and easier for both parties with the adoption of modern technology.

Alexander says embracing technology is one of the most critical ways to get back to the basics of serving families well.

“Technology is changing by leaps and bounds, but technology should become your new best friend,” says Alexander. Among other benefits, technology can help you streamline the process of dealing with families during some of the most critical times in terms of their experience with your firm.

And, it can also create a more memorable experience at funeral services.

“We have a program created by our company called The ShareLife Experience. A lot of people think it’s very similar to a video tribute, but I tend to differ on that; it includes sound and smell, which is different than other tributes,” says Alexander.

A well-known baker in one community passed away, and at her celebration of life they incorporated a ShareLife Tribute for her that included the aroma of homemade cookies and apple pies. The family was pleased because they didn’t want a sad memorial. Rather, they wanted to celebrate and honor the pies and cakes she made that were so popular within the community; they wanted a positive, uplifting experience as they celebrated and honored her life. “We have the technology to do that, which was a fit,” says Alexander.

Making a Difference By Focusing On What You Do Best

Creating a more personal and lasting relationship with families is about finding and establishing basic touch points with them. It’s also about sticking with these strategies and tactics knowing that it’s not about immediate results, it’s about long-term relationships, says Alexander.

“Results happen with time. Thinking out of the box and getting out of the mindset of, ‘This is the way we’ve always done it,’ is important,” explains Alexander.

“It takes time to cultivate that experience and, it can take time to get people out of their comfort zone.”

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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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