“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” — Peter Drucker
When reaching out to families needing funeral services, it is essential that your firm is the one that comes to mind when a family is seeking a memorable experience at an affordable cost. There is so much more to building awareness about your funeral home and its value offering than simply price alone. The most essential elements are planning for and offering a value experience, knowing your target audience, understanding how to reach them through messaging, knowing where to reach them with your message, and ultimately providing an unforgettable service where families are not burdened by the weight of cost.
Here are a few practical tips that can help you think through the first steps of adding a value offering to you firm:
• You can offer a less formal, more storefront atmosphere – not a funeral home. You may also provide a lower cost (not the lowest cost), and full service with fewer options. The value offering will be driven primarily by cremation (70%+), but you can also offer traditional burial as well. You may consider providing smaller capacity for memorial services.
• The facility itself can have the look and feel of a traditional funeral home but may be much smaller in square footage and much less of an investment for the owner.
• Consider having service restrictions. These services should be held more through the week and during normal business hours. Extra charges can apply for evenings and weekends if services are allowed during other non-business hours.
• Arrangements may be offered only during the week during normal hours, limiting staff expense.
• May not be the “coat and tie” experience, less formal attire might be the norm.
Once you have determined the type of experience you want to provide, the next step in creating a value offering is knowing and understanding the target audience. In the funeral industry, while we serve both male and female audiences of all ages, we understand our target audience is primarily female Baby Boomers ages 55+. Within this demographic, it is important to identify psychographics that provide insight into what lifestyle and motivations this specific target group values. For those searching for a value offering we know they are likely:
• More practical decision makers
• Price sensitive, more likely to shop around. That being the case, cost itself may not be an impediment, it might be the value perceived in a higher price offering.
• Interested in a traditional funeral service, just not at the price of a typical funeral home
• Considering or utilizing other services that do not involve the funeral home, such as hotels, family homes, or other non-traditional locations
Once you have determined your primary target audience’s demographic and psychographics, you need to evaluate the messaging that will best reach them. This message should focus on the value being offered and connect in a way that resonates and stands the test of time. Good messaging strategies may include:
• Excellent and compassionate care for you and your family through difficult days at an affordable price.
• Emotionally connecting with the target audience. Rather than pictures of cemeteries, funeral home buildings, and caskets, take time to craft a heartfelt message with images of family enjoying time together. Keep in mind you are selling more than a physical location or product – you are selling an experience that uniquely honors a loved one, no matter what the price.
• Communicating, “Why pay more for a funeral and pay for services or products you don’t need?” or “Buy only the services you need or want to honor your loved one.”
• Providing prepackaged options with up front pricing to make decisions easier for families.
• Offering event planning expertise to assist families in creating a personalized and unique service that best honors a loved one.
• Communicating any “do-it-yourself” aftercare resources and simple community bereavement events available to those who are dealing with grief.
The overall tone in the messaging should connect authentically and emotionally, while driving home a special price point offer. A sense of urgency can be created by offering specials on funeral services, burial plots, or niches with a deadline attached. Again, this should tie together value, authenticity, and compassionate care.
After determining whom your target audience is and what you want your messaging to be, you need to identify the most effective places to reach this specific demographic with a value offering. Here are a few marketing options to effectively reach the female Baby Boomer demographic:
• Your Website – Your website is the front door to your company and should be appealing and up to date with all current value offerings. When a family sees your ad in a variety of places, it should drive them to your website where the value offering or promotion should be listed with any pertinent details along with a call to action with your contact information listed prominently.
• Facebook – While there are a variety of social media outlets to advertise your offering, the most effective outlet is going to be Facebook, as it is the most utilized platform for Baby Boomers, both male and female. For a minimal advertising budget, Facebook allows specific, geo-targeted ads that will allow you to produce compelling content and place ads directly in front of the specific audience you want to target. The target audience can be categorized by personal interests, geographic location, age, as well as a variety of other specifications. In addition, having the ability to direct people to your website through Facebook will help build Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on your current site and provide families with more information about your firm. Social media will provide information about your promotion and direct the target audience to the website where they can receive comprehensive information about your services.
• Television – While Boomers get more of their information online, television is still a large part of where they receive their information. When promoting a special offering, a :30 second commercial allows the target audience to engage with your firm visually while building the overall name and brand within the local market. Through Baby Boomer targeted television shows, as well as targeted cable or broadcast channels, you can customize who receives your advertising message.
• Direct Mailers – Direct mailers allow you to target your audience geographically and demographically. You can specifically target Baby Boomers efficiently with brief information and a call to action to visit your firm’s webpage. It is easy to target by zip code in the areas you want to reach specifically.
• Radio Advertising – Radio provides a way to spread the message of your value offering within the local community. Specific radio stations that target Boomers should be considered.
• Newspaper Advertising – Newspaper interest is waning, but it still tends to be successful for the Baby Boomer demographic with approximately 44% of Baby Boomers 55-64 reading the newspaper, according to 2016 Nielsen Scarborough data.
• Community Events – A more non-traditional way to spread the news about your firm’s value offering is through senior events in the community. If the timing of a community event coincides with your promotion, it is a great way to spread your firm’s information face-to-face with your target audience.
There are a variety of ways to provide exceptional value offerings to the families you serve. By evaluating how your firm can best offer compassionate care with an affordable cost, you can ease the burden that hinders so many families, while increasing the number of families you serve. Learning who your target audience is, what messaging best reaches them, and where you can reach them helps you create an effective strategy that will meet the needs of a market that is quickly changing. The quote from educator and author, Peter Drucker rings especially true even in the funeral industry. If you know and understand the customer so well, what their needs are and how you can best meet those needs – even in the midst of a shifting market – the service you offer to the families you serve will sell itself. FBA
Jim Ford has been involved in key management positions in operations, sales and marketing in all facets of the funeral industry for over 25 years. He is currently SVP, Chief Customer Officer of Foundation Partners Group. He had also served as COO and Senior Vice President of Operations for the Neptune Society for 9 years. Earlier, he was with Service Corporation International (SCI) and served in senior management positions during his 16 years with the company. During that time he served on the Boards of Directors of the Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin Cemetery Associations and the Board of Directors of the Indiana Funeral Directors Association. He is a native of Southern California, was a licensed Funeral Director in California, and attended Loyola University in Los Angeles. Jim can be reached at 407-680-2777 or email [email protected]