When it comes to marketing your firm the greatest asset toward achieving the results you want is through strategy. How does the saying go, “if you fail to plan, then plan to fail.” Strategy equips you with crucial information that affects the execution of marketing, hones your target audience and can even reveal holes in your business that could be stifling your growth. Ultimately, it both saves and makes you money.

One thing we need to be clear about is that strategy is interconnected to your entire business. Implemented in one area will invariably affect another. Thus, while this article focuses on strategic marketing the principles utilized in creating such a plan are universally applicable to all areas of your business. However, you can’t harness the power strategy has without its most vital component, data.

Data, The Lifeblood of Strategy. When a family picks another funeral home in your area over you do you know why? Have you developed a unique selling proposition (USP)? Do you know the real reason why people use your firm over others? How much new business did you gain from a recent direct mail or Adwords campaign? Which social platform should your funeral home be active on? All of these questions require data to answer. Yet, you can see that such questions have a direct impact on how and where you should be marketing your firm. I’ve said it before and I will never stop saying it, you have to track EVERYTHING in your business. There’s a reason why they say know your numbers. They don’t lie even if we want to lie to ourselves. Look at it this way, if you were to sell your firm naturally you want to get the most you could for it and the only way you could get what you wanted is through tangible data. I had a client looking to acquire a local fitness business. In the meeting he asked two questions: 1. How much do you make monthly? He got the answer he wanted. Then he followed it up with question 2. Do you have bank statements to verify this? No. Deal breaker. Without that he couldn’t determine if the value the seller placed on the business is the actual return he’d get. How so?

The seller received payments via EFT, cash and check. EFT you can track, but he didn’t have a system in place to accurately verify other forms of payments. Since he was a one-man show he probably didn’t care, but as you see it made selling his business difficult because no one could really determine the true value of the business. Now, the question that I’m sure is floating through your head is how does tracking all forms of monthly revenue translate into effective strategy for both the business and marketing?

What Really Is Strategy? Well, strategy is essentially taking all the data you’ve tracked, your business metrics, demographics, psychographics and more and using it to make an honest assessment of the current state your business, the effectiveness of your marketing and collateral and the perception your firm has in the community you serve. Once this realization has taken place you can then create an effective plan to achieve business goals because your strategy has revealed where your hard earned dollars will produce the most for you.

In taking the situation above with my client, if the seller was tracking something as simple as payment history he would have been tracking other information that would both allow him to get what he wants from the sale of his business and also given my client a true assessment of the business, its clientele and how to approach marketing the potential merger in order to retain the most clients and gain new ones. But none of that happened because the seller didn’t truly know his numbers. Numbers drive strategy and those numbers have to be tracked at every stage of the marketing process.

I’m Not Only the President. I’m Also A Client. We send out direct mails to our primary target audience, funeral homes, in our biggest sectors. We first approached the pitch by leveraging what we perceived to be the reason why firms use us, the quality of our products at an incredible price. It both worked and didn’t work. While we received lots of inquiries very few actually converted into new clients for us. Thus tracking the conversion ratio revealed there was a break in the onboarding process. Then we tweaked the onboarding process and were able to convert more. However monthly retention was low causing us to research why. We saw a marked difference in orders coming from firms where we were the primary supplier and ones where we weren’t. This was responded with a two-fold plan to raise usage from low ordering firms and once again tweak our onboarding process to weed out those potential time wasters from the start. Yes, I know I’m talking about you, but you think the same thing when certain families come into your home and start haggling you over the price of your service, which you know is worth what you charge. Moving on, after several direct mails we did a year end analysis and while the results were better they weren’t were they should have been for what we paid to implement this campaign. However, direct mail gives us good results so it didn’t make sense to discontinue this form of marketing but we didn’t want to waste any more money and put it on a short-term hold until we could do another strategy session to improve the direction.

Stop Gambling and Start Winning: Conducting a strategy session requires tracking and documenting results as well as financial numbers. The translation of those numbers into a solid plan of action is your strategy and is best done on a whiteboard where you can hash everything out. On your whiteboard document both your marketing and onboarding program at each stage so you can make sure you have the numbers to analyze them all. Take this example below.
Direct Mail Program
• Number of recipients: 1000 pieces
• Creative: We provide an unforgettable experience for your loved one
• Call to Action: 10% off preplanned arrangements. Offer expires in 30 days. (Note: all marketing must
have a call to action with a compelling reason to act now rather than later.)
Onboarding Process:
1. Field calls and set appointments with families.
2. Close preplanned services.

Tracking the Program
1. How many mailers were returned or undeliverable?

2. Cost of the mailing list, postage and printing.

3. Was there an increase in website hits days after families received the mailer?

4. Which pages were most frequented? Which pages did they leave the website from? Did any submit online inquiries? (Note: the answer to these questions could indicate a break in your onboarding and conversion process which may or may not have a direct relation to the effectiveness of the mailer itself.)

5. How many called?

6. Of those who called how many appointments were made? How many were confirmed? How many were conducted?

7. Of the conducted appointments how many converted? Why did families ultimately pick you? Etc.

1. Implementation cost (cost of all expenses specific to your mailing program including the time you have to pay staff to conduct and convert appointments).

2. Total new business revenue.
3. Number of new clients.

4. Divide the number of new clients by the implementation cost. This is what it costs to gain a new client.

5. Divide the total number of clients by the total value of all the purchases they made. This is the average value of a new client. For example, if every new client spent an average of $5000 with you would you spend $500 to get one? Heck yeah you would because you got a 10x return on your investment (ROI).

The ROI to acquire new business should typically be at least three times more than what you spent to gain them. Armed with this you will be able to apply this principle to other marketing programs and reveal if you should spend more or less marketing. It can also reveal other ways to add value to your business and enhance your brand.

Empty the Gun Barrel: As you can see tracking your campaigns to this degree will continually strengthen your marketing strategy. This is the power strategy has in your business and is honed through constant monitoring. Equipped with an effective strategy you won’t guess at what works for your business, you’ll know what works and will be able to continually ensure it does. FBA

George Paul III is the Principal and Founder of Cherished Keepsakes, an award-winning provider of memorial keepsakes such as prayer cards, memorial programs, photo collages and more. Their innovative designs have been sought after by families and funeral homes across the country. Cherished Keepsakes is the in-house brand of GP3 Creative, a branding and strategy firm. George has a Bachelor’s degree in Design from Northeastern University. With over 15 years of experience in branding, strategy, marketing and design George has helped companies reach their business goals by providing them a strong brand image and strategic growth plan. To contact George, email [email protected] or phone 617-971-8590.