It will be if you don’t give your families the experience of a lifetime. And it is just that—a lifetime. This is what they will remember regarding their loved one for years to come. When their loved one comes up in conversation, how they feel doing business with you today will be memorialized with their loved one forever. Think about the last ten services you did. How memorable was their experience doing business with you? Some funeral homes may already know this based on what I’m going to talk about in a bit. For others, not knowing the answer to that question is your wake up call. Did they have a bad, pleasant or unforgettable experience? Based on those three options the only one you should be settling for is unforgettable. Giving your families an unforgettable experience will keep your home open past your days into your kids, grandkids and even great-grandkids’ generation. This is why you need to be conscious, no, obsessed with the brand experience your home delivers to families.
Families are already stressed. They already have a loaded task list in preparing to lay their loved one in their final resting place. Their goal is to make sure that they honor their loved one both in the way the loved one would want to be remembered and in a way that will ease the grief they are suffering.
In order to do so you have to be conscious of the stages required by both you and the family in laying their loved one to rest. Even more important is how your funeral home will brand that experience so families will continue to come back. This happens in three stages: before, during and after.
Step 1: Before
When their loved one passes naturally they will be looking for a funeral home. When choosing one funeral home over another they will be looking for the one whose brand appears to deliver the experience they are looking for regarding their loved one. As a firm you need to make sure you are where they are looking. One of the most obvious places is search engines. Are you on the first page? Second page doesn’t cut it. NO ONE goes to the second page unless they’re desperate. Paid advertising like Google Adwords definitely helps. But you want to dominate the rankings. Being there at the top as a paid ad and being listed as one of the first organic rankings in addition to a Google places listing means you’re dominating the page and subconsciously it says to the client that you’re one of the best funeral homes that can give my loved one the send-off they deserve. Additionally though, people don’t just search for “funeral homes”, they search, “funeral homes near me”, “the best funeral home in (your town)”, “I lost my loved one what do I do next?” Your reviews, content on your website, as well as social media all contribute to the fact that you are the best choice and boosts your search engine rankings. This is why search engine optimization (SEO) is so crucial.
While search engines are the primary source, people also look on YELP, social media, and other sites when making a decision. These other sources should add validation that you are the best choice. That means you need to make sure that in all those areas you’re listed you’re branding the same top shelf experience. Does your Google places listing have pictures of your location, interior and exterior? Are there pictures that show the level of customization your funeral home delivers? Do you have reviews? Are they plentiful? Having 3, 5-star reviews isn’t as strong as 50, 4.7-star reviews. More reviews means you’ve been tested and can deliver the same experience people want for their loved ones over and over again.
Have you noticed one overwhelmingly obvious thing in this “before” step? They haven’t even called you yet. That’s the strength in having a strong brand experience, it does all the selling for you when you’re not around and by the time they are ready to call, they are ready to be sold and ready for you to validate your brand experience and the price tag that goes with it in step two.
Step 2: During
The “during” stage takes place from the moment they call or email to the time the actual service is concluded. Families shouldn’t be choosing you as the cheapest choice. While that can be a unique selling proposition your firm has, it usually doesn’t stand up over time, especially if you want longevity for your firm. If you charge more than others then the value of the experience you deliver should be equivalent to if not beyond their expectations. This is done from the moment they walk through your doors, preview the ambiance and see your level of customer service. From the size of your salons, to the technology that’s visible such as large TVS and other customized services you provide the family is given validation and assurance that you can deliver the experience of a lifetime.
When it comes to customized services do they need any assistance or direction with other tasks needed to lay their loved one to rest? While you don’t have to do it for them, providing them with a trusted source goes a very long way in their minds and underscores the value they are getting. Further, do they have keepsakes customized of their loved one? Are you making sure they have enough for the service and afterward? Do you have processes in place to proof the keepsakes knowing that due to the overwhelming circumstances the family won’t be thorough in proofing their keepsakes? Nothing embarrasses a family or gets them angrier more than running out of keepsakes for the service or misspelling someone’s name on it when they’re trusting you to take care of it. When these happen it makes attendees think that they didn’t truly love their recently departed. We’re far from over here.
On the day of the service did you pick everyone up on time? They can be late you can’t. Was the car clean, no blemishes, etc.? Inside the car, do they have everything they need, tissues, water, small trash bin, mirrors to fix their makeup, even extra sunglasses? It’s your job to anticipate and provide the solution they need to make the service experience truly unforgettable all down to the smallest details. It’s those small details that are truly remembered and set your funeral home apart from others. This level of brand service guarantees you’re not closing anytime soon. Once the service is concluded your brand experience doesn’t end there.
Step 3: After
Naturally, there are other loose ends that need to be tied up or the family may need assistance with. Are you checking in with the family about it or just waiting for the final check? When my wife bought her car from a Mercedes dealership they had a person call a week or two afterward to find out about the experience she had buying from them. The rep wanted to make sure of several things:
• She was seen quickly
• The salesman treated her right and wasn’t pushy
• The car was clean, washed and shined upon pick up
• There were no mechanical issues that came up in the first two weeks of driving
• Would she come back or refer others to their dealership, why or why not
Anything that was reported was dealt with quickly and efficiently. The reps’ primary job was to ensure that the brand experience the dealership purports is the one experienced by my wife. The rep was there to deal with anyone or anything that disrupted that experience, which in itself is validating their brand experience.
As a funeral home do you have a similar model? Are you following up the family asking how the service was? What comments did those attending make? Did they have enough keepsakes? Do they need more to send to family and friends that didn’t make the service? Was the car clean? Did they have enough supplies inside? Was the priest comforting (if you recommended him)? Would you refer us to other families? How would you rate the overall service your received? Would you be willing to shoot a brief video testimonial or even provide a Google review? Is there anything else you need help or direction with now to finalize the process of laying your loved one to rest? As icing on the cake, if you’re a really good funeral home, you’re providing grief support for weeks, even months afterward.
Is this a lot? Yes. Running a business is a lot of work, but if you want to keep your doors open you need to ensure that your brand experience is truly unforgettable. That means going over every detail of your brand experience before, during and after to ensure that your families are getting the experience of a lifetime. FBA
George Paul III is the Principal and Founder of Cherished Keepsakes, a premier 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. 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. He currently oversees the creative and strategic direction of GP3 Creative and its in-house brands. To connect with George, call 617-971-8590 or email him [email protected]