By: Joe Weigel

If you’re like many funeral home owners out there, the coronavirus pandemic has rocked your world. COVID-19 has changed the lives of families and businesses alike. And, with this major change and a “new normal” comes a new way to market to families.

To pivot your marketing amidst the coronavirus and help keep your funeral home thriving during trying times, consider using these ten pandemic marketing tips:

1. Be Nimble—but Don’t Drastically Cutback
It may make sense to remove some of your scheduled marketing activities; in other cases, it may make sense to revise them to make them more relevant or to show how your funeral home is supporting your families and the community in challenging times. But remember, extensive withdrawal in marketing efforts can create opportunities for competitors who are more nimble to adjust messages and take market share from you.

The key is to be smart about your marketing mix and message; adjusting efforts as needed, while maintaining adequate levels of marketing to support your business objectives. A hyper-reactionary pull-back in marketing during a pandemic can not only create an opportunity for your competitors, it can send the wrong message to your families. Being perceived as stable, conscientious, and available is key when families may feel broader national circumstances are unstable.

2. Revise Your Content and Message if it’s Appropriate
Know that your families are adjusting to a new set of conditions. Your marketing mix and message may need to adjust accordingly (sometimes very quickly). Apparent examples of adjustment exist for local businesses directly impacted by COVID-19, such as funeral homes.

If scheduled social media posts or planned communications are affected by virus concerns, content should be appropriately re-worked. However, social marketing activities (and really most marketing activities) should continue. Along these lines, be sure to check information on business listing sites like Google My Business to ensure they reflect what is going on at your funeral home. (And make sure that once the crisis has passed, this contact is again updated if warranted.)

Make sure your social media team is able to monitor and react to posts and communicate effectively with your market. Do what you can to keep your service levels high and your families happy even in troubling time. Be cautious that you don’t appear to be callous or ignorant of difficulties your families fact that are caused by the crisis. Remember, how you react to a crisis can impact how your funeral home is seen well into the future.

3. Remove Your Marketing From Preset Mode
In a crisis situation, the timing and content of your marketing messages to your families are more important than ever. You do not want to appear to be either insensitive or an alarmist. Automated emails, tweets, blogs, and social posts may need to be adjusted for timing and message. You want to avoid appearing flippant in a time where media posts are serious and families are focused on more important things.

How you communicate in a crisis shows your families and prospective families who you are as a company. It may make sense to stop some activities and increase others. As mentioned earlier, I don’t suggest you stop marketing; rather you have firm control of what you are putting out and when you are putting it out.

Aggressively evaluate the message you are sending to your families to ensure it is supportive, appropriate, and well-timed.

4. Postpone Testing or Manage Test Expectations
Because the market place is not functioning the same way it normally would, you can expect marketing campaigns may produce results that are not likely to be predictive of future results when the crisis is over. It may be better to push testing efforts out to a time when the market is more stable and more “normal”. Instead, increase efforts toward proven techniques or specific communications opportunities directly related to the state of the market.

5. Reassure Your Families
No doubt your funeral home will be receiving additional calls at this time. It’s vital to train your staff members who answer the phones on how to best answer questions, offer solutions, and calm concerns. Callers who may have just lost a loved one now are concerned not only about their care, but unsure what can be done to memorialize their loved one. In uncertain times like a pandemic, they need empathy and reassurance from a trusted resource more than ever. You and your staff should be there to provide this care and compassion.

6. Consider All Media Channels
In-home advertising such as television, direct mail and newspaper can be a real winner during this time as folks “shelter at home”. In a pandemic, families are staying put and increasing their news consumption on a daily basis as they seek the latest information about the virus. With more audiences watching than normal, TV is more critical than ever before. Out-of-home advertising such as event advertising, transit and outdoor will not be as effective. If you can adjust your ad spend to move your marketing out of those channels and into in-home media channels, you should.

7. Steer Clear of Exploiting the News to Promote Your Funeral Home
Don’t be the funeral home that jumps on every headline to stir up hype for your own benefit. That lack of authenticity and the long-term impact of acting opportunistically will be far more negative to your company than simply acting with integrity and respect in the near term.

Also, this is not time to be cute with your message. Ensure that your communications are appropriate for the times. Families look to funeral homes as a caring and compassionate resource. Don’t disappoint them with advertising or posts that are insensitive and indifferent to the situation.

8. Investigate New Marketing Tools
Think about the latest innovation in digital marketing. For one, video continues to grow as a means of communications. Videos are much more personal than some of the other communication options. And you can us video on your website, as content for emails to families and use them on a YouTube page that you create for your funeral home.

No doubt you’ve added livestreaming to the services you offer. In addition to using it for families who must curtail their visitations, why not create a weekly update with the latest news on the pandemic and stream it to your community?

9. Evaluate Using Public Relations and Publicity
As the pandemic spreads, there’s going to be a market for stories that take people’s minds off their troubles. Instead of worrying about protecting themselves or when toilet paper will be available again, people will seek out interesting stories as a means of relief.

As people get burned out and begin to turn away from the bad news, the media will be looking for ways to change the narrative so they can keep their audience engaged. You may be able to provide just such a lift with a positive news story about something going on at your firm or a community outreach program you are doing.

10. Utilize Communications Inside Your Funeral Home
In addition to signage that explains that your firm is following the guidance of the government on topics such as social distancing, this is a chance to reiterate what safeguards you have instituted in your operations. Ensure that the messaging is clear but also compassionate. This is a good time to explain how your normal cleaning routine and other similar procedures have been enhanced during the pandemic.

In conclusion: Pandemic or not, marketing to your families is always an important aspect of running your funeral home. Now is not the time to put the brakes on your marketing efforts. It’s your opportunity to be more strategic than ever, put yourself in your customers’ shoes, and better market to your families. FBA


Joe Weigel is the owner of Weigel Strategic Marketing, a marketing firm that delivers expertise and results across three interrelated disciplines: strategy, branding, and communications. You can visit his website at weigelstrategicmarketing.webs.com. He also can be reached at 317-608-8914 or [email protected]