How Often Do You Miss Opportunities?

How Often Do You Miss Opportunities?

This week’s Great Idea comes from my friend and client Darinda Reis, who owns and operates a Funeral Home in Dayton, Ohio. She is a smart lady who has been working hard to improve her business. I have been admittedly challenged with trying to find ways to help her market her Funeral Home. So while I’ve got your attention, if you have some suggestions on how to market a Funeral Home, post them in the comments! Here was her response to my Great Idea about the power of a compliment and one a few months ago about customer service:

Hi, Marty!
I read your Great Idea for 1/25 regarding compliments. I am guilty of not sharing my appreciation sometimes and it is a goal to work on that. As I read your thoughts, I was reminded of something you shared as a Great Idea story, at least a few months ago, maybe longer. In that message, you shared how Lisa (Marty’s wife) received an email from a fellow teacher “warning” about terrible customer service from a local restaurant. This email went out to all of the staff at the school and who knows how many others letting them know how the business made a mistake and, then, missed the opportunity to make things right with the customer. The email, not only conveyed the mistake, but also the arrogance and rude attitude of the management to numerous customers and potential customers. The passion of the writer was more than apparent and would be a motivator for me. (I must admit I am curious as to the name of restaurant.)

I can’t help but wonder how many times I have missed the opportunity to send a message to countless others in an urgent fashion, the way the teacher did, sharing my experience with great customer service. I am embarrassed to think about how I might have helped another business attract more customers without the business spending a dime. In addition, a message sent might make a difference in the attitude and actions of the business to validate their actions. Shouldn’t I be as passionate about excellent customer service as I am about poor service? Nothing helps us more, as business owners, than positive comments conveyed to others from satisfied customers.
Having said that, thank you again for taking an interest in me and my business. Thank you for your thoughts and suggestions. I do appreciate you. Perhaps you might motivate others to take the time to send an email or memo about a positive experience with a business.

Darinda….what you said there is so well put. We all do need to try and spend some time compliments those who do a good job.

Talk to you next week. And if you have an idea for Darinda, please post it below!

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  1. Jeremy Loukinas Reply

    Gosh I can imagine how hard it would be to market a company that serves such a sensitive issue. The only thing I can come up with is get deeply ingrained in community services. Passive advertising is probably the only way to respectfully advertise a business like this. When you think of a funeral home its usually not at your most clear thinking moments and you usually default to tradition. I know my family has used the same funeral home for just about everybody I know.

    I also wonder what reconnecting old clients would do? Stay fresh in their minds.. are they doing the thank cards? Those are a hit for me keeping customers engaged. I could save a cat from a burning building but will only be thanked for the card I sent thanking them for the opportunity of letting me save their cat:)

    In a business where flashy marketing like Darinda For the Dead signs all over town won’t work you almost just have to rely on servicing the heck out the clients who do come and ask them for referrals. It really is a business that operates to make a profit. I think engaging old clients and keeping a sharp facility and top notch people on the front line will help the most. Does this company have a website? How does it rank on google?

    Like you say.. this is a hard one. There has to be some peers in that business that can be pulled in for some advice.

    I ran a couple of google searches and found the location and website etc. The website seems a bit lack luster it’s also missing some keywords in the html headers. However the listing shows up 3rd in the maps on google which is great. The company does not show up in the organic listings or in any sponsored ads. A Google business listing with extra txt and pictures is free. Its a very cheap marketing tool that does drive real results. The website also doesn’t have any analytic’s running to see where the traffic is coming from. After typing and looking my final answers are..drum role.

    1. Community service
    2. Existing customer relationships
    3. Online presence. This is a media rich culture right now. That website should have a caring video message to pull people into this business.

    I am getting to the age where this is going to be a topic for me as my older family passes on. I want to say I am the generation X crowd.. we are the future customer base for businesses like this. I have to be honest I can’t think of the name of one funeral home other than the few I drive by on a daily basis.? Doing that google search “funeral home dayton ohio” didn’t yield 1 result that I felt compelled to click on?

  2. Jeff Friend Reply

    I agree with Jeremy that the website should be kicked up a few notches. Showing up on page 1 in Google, Yahoo, and BING is extremely important, and there are many ways to get there that cost little to no money. Also, keep in mind that your website is a research tool. People are searching for information, and the more great information you can provide via your website in regards to planning, preparation, and like, the higher you will rank in the search engines (providing you have some basic SEO taken care of). I think a free download on “The top 10 things to consider when planning for a funeral” would also be a good lead generation tool on your home page. Simply require some basic contact information on a form before giving it to them. That way you can build up a database of contacts to continue to market to.

  3. Dirk Bakhuyzen Reply

    I have been marketing Funeral Homes for landscape maintenance services by emphasizing the extra touch that gets noticed. Annual color around the sign and at the entrance to the building is what sets them and you apart. Extra crisp sidewalk and bed edges, clean sidewalks, deep green turf with straight mowing lines. Our winter service allows for the Funeral home to call 3 hours before a viewing or funeral and request extra plowing or shoveling service. Rise above and beyond the call of duty. They understand this philosophy becase this is what sets them apart also.

  4. Stan Reply

    Here’s an idea to avoid… A local funeral home runs this obnoxious billboard all over town.

    A picture of an old woman wearing an extremely ugly dress. The caption says, “I wouldn’t be caught dead in that dress.” Then it says, “Oh really? Let’s talk about it now.” Call (name of funeral home).

    I’m sure referrals are huge in this industry. Who would I ask for a referral? The pastor at our church. My suggestion: Host an event for local pastors. A fishing trip… Monthly breakfast, etc. Send cheery birthday cards to their kids, spouse etc.

  5. Randy Schmitz Reply

    I think most of us could agree that discussing “death” is not a favorable subject. Perhaps consider collaborating with a local attorney that works on estate plans / wills for refferals. We had a local funeral home that chose to have a booth at our Home Show… they had excellent results. Typical attendees of the show are looking to upgrade or downsize their homes- their booth became well promoted by other vendors at the show primarily because we have a local builder whos tag line is “from your first home to your dream home…” Everyone was talking about the booth that featured “from your first home to your LAST home…”

  6. Cheryl Isaac Reply

    Calling a local church and requesting to pay for the printing job of their newsletters in exchange for including an insert/ad of your funeral home in it might help. Also, seeing if the local newspapers could include an insert with their papers could be worth the try (not sure how much they would want to charge though).

    Also, she could look into partnering with life insurance agents or financial planners to give a 15-minute presentation to their group. Usually, they will want you to pay for the lunch or something, so you may end up being advertised as a “sponsor” of the event. With this, you could possibly talk about how preparing for a funeral is also a crucial part of the financial planning process. (I know Merril Lynch in the Columbus area does a few of these kind of presentations and partner with complementary small businesses).

    This suggestion is sort of “out there” but will a form of “rewards” for family members work? Meaning, something similar to how Kroger gives you a reward card or Barnes & Nobles etc. Don’t mean to sound funny here but what if there was a small fee (included in a family’s funeral packaging price) that entitled them to a “privilege client card” so that if any other deaths occur, they know that they can return to your funeral home at say a 10% discount? So the key won’t be to make money on the card, but to get them to return. If they had a way to tie them to your funeral home, it could make them spread the word like wildfire to their family or friends whenever there’s a death. You could get residual sales from it; won’t work in the short-run but may in the long run.

    Just some thoughts…hope it helps. I wish you much success.

  7. Tom Grosh Reply

    Good afternoon Darinda & Marty,

    I just came from a meeting and when it was over I was talking with the owners and they started to discuss there parent (Mother) passing. They then went on to tell me that in November they received a card from the Funeral Home (FH) that handled the services for her mother. In this card it stated that at this time of year we remember with fondness our loved one who will not be here to share this Christmas season with us.

    The FH stated that on December 1, they would have a remembrance tree up in the lobby for all families to put remembrance cards of the love one that passed that year. The card was printed with the deceased persons name on it in Gold writing. They then had a special night for all families to come to the FH to fill out there cards with a special thought, prayer, etc. and the pen wrote Gold also. The FH then had a short prayer service and a 3 person choir sing two hymns (were not sad ones)but uplifting ones. The FH then had a catered meal for all guests to enjoy and a time to remember there loved ones. In speaking with them about the meal they said that any kind of food would have been nice, finger sandwiches, meat trays, etc. but that what this FH did really made this evening very special for them.

    They were so overwhelmed with this kind gesture especially during the Christmas Season. This couple also stated that they would only use this Funeral Home for now on. This is not a big city that we live in. We have a total 5 Funeral Homes in this city and 7 in the little towns outside of the city.

    I was talking this past Friday 2/19/2010 with a FH owner about the passing of her husband (51 years old) and she mentioned that when family & friends stop talking about your loved one that is when it hurts the most because it feels like they have been forgotten. You could send a card to the family on the date of there loved ones passing to let them know that you remembered and the card could have some kind of inspirational message.

    Another thing that you could do in the winter season is conduct a coat/ food drive for the homeless and homeless shelters and notify the local newspaper & TV stations about it and show the community that you care about the local community and the less fortunate

    During the Easter and Christmas Season you could offer to supply flowers and install them on graves for families that live out of town.

    Do you send a personnel thank you note to all the family thanking them for trusting your FH during there time of need.

    Marty Grunder Say’s that you should always send a survey to find out what you could do better or some new service you could offer. Will that work for you after some time has passed (no pun) of course. What do you & Marty think about how this will work. My mother has passed 6/30/08 and I would not feel bad at all filling out a survey to help make the FH better for future clients.

    Our local paper has FH advertising under the Obituaries does yours? For FH, Memorial Stones, Hospice etc,

    Our local FH does give a discount if you pay the total invoice the day before the start of the viewing. Would this work for you? Do the other FH offer that discount?

    You could have a Pastor/Priest & Hospice come to FH each year (Spring) to to have a service to remember all loved ones that passed away from cancer and have a balled & burlap Redbud tree that is ready to bloom and have then hang cards like Christmas. If your property does not allow for the tree to be planted there you could donate it to a local park.

    You could also offer a candle light service for all families or families that have loved ones that passed away from cancer. A Pastor or Priest would assist with a celebration of life. I would contact your local high school show choir or a church choir that you might be able to work with and sing some inspirational songs as well.

    Have you ever offered anything like A Celebration of Life!

  8. Jeremy Loukinas Reply

    This is social media at it’s finest! Great advice. Tom G. has a lot of good ideas packed into his post.

    I noticed on their website they had 7 or 8 obits for the month of January. Each one of those funerals had at least 10 people attend. I would do just about anything to have 80 people in one month come to my business and let me wow them with what we have to offer.

    Customers who use this service seemed to be turned off by flashy tv and billboard media ads.

    It pretty much comes down to grass roots person to person follow up and coming out of the gate with over the top caring service.

    Great thread!

  9. mike Reply

    When dealing with the death of a loved one you want someone you can trust to handle the end of life tasks. I personally have a friend that owns a funeral home. Both of us were EMTs’ on a fire dept so I trust him to begin with. Because of this I would bring my buisness to him price isnt the issue on this one.
    One thing marketing wise that comes to mind is that a funeral home owner needs to get out in their commuinity and donate their time, put a face to the service.
    Another thing that they might due is publish on their website copies of any thank you cards that they may have received from clients explaining their gratitude for going the extra mile just block out their last name and address. Just my 2 cents worth

  10. Darinda Reis Reply

    Wow, you guys are awesome! I am overwhelmed by your willingness to offer MEANINGFUL and thoughtful suggestions. I am going to work on the website immediately and I will be implementing some of your other suggestions in the next few weeks. We, do, work really hard at being involved in our community, but I, always, feel I should do more.
    I am a Paramedic, but I don’t actively run with a department right now. Great suggestion on reconnecting with the FD and PD Mike.
    If I may ever assist any of you with your business, please give me a call. Thank you, again, and thanks to you MARTY!

  11. Phil Sarros Reply

    I think is reasonable to say you have an extremely targeted audience and incredibly large audience at the exact same time. Nearly everyone in your local market will, at some point, have a need for your service. However, at any given time, there is likely to be just a small percentage of people actively looking, perhaps a slightly larger percentage of people who are open to the idea and the rest who are not ready to even consider it. Then, I’d further suspect that there are those who are prepared and have spent years planning for this inevitability to take the burdens off their families and children and afford them the necessary time to grieve rather than deal with making these arrangements. Some still, will be tragic stories of unexpected events and will need your service on extremely short notice.

    In both cases, I’d think people don’t take a lot of time to actually drive to funeral homes “shopping”, if you will, like they would when buying a home, car or furniture. I have two young daughters and that was our motivation to recently complete our family Trust and do some estate planning. In the next 10 years, I too will begin making arrangements for my wife and I to relieve our children of that burden. I will look to my trusted peers such as my accountant, attorney or other network of business professional for a referral. I will also do a significant amount of looking on the internet. This is what would make a huge difference…have a company shoot a video and a 360 degree virtual tour. Both are cheap these days but a professionally done commercial (30 second and 1-minute) can be a great way to reach your audience. Don’t air it on cable networks but post it to your site, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets. 99% of the time it’s completely free. Then, having a 360 virtual tour (contact a real estate agent for a referral to a good photographer with the right equipment…they should have a fisheye lens)gives people the opportunity to see how spacious, clean, calming and inviting your facility is without having to leave their home. Knowing what your place looks like on the inside is probably very important to people but actually taking the time to go see it might get put off as they tend to more urgent items in their busy lives.

    I would join a good networking group and work to develop great connections with Estate Planning attorney’s and/or CPA’s. Lastly, when you are having a showing, those in attendance are likely to ponder their own life and the preparations they have, or have not, yet made with respect to it. Of course subtly is key but it’s still a marketing opportunity. Sure, you’re not going to do a sales pitch right there but a well designed piece of literature with a folder and a CD-ROM of your videos for people to take would be acceptable and can be done very professionally.

    In my opinion, every business has one way to advertise that tends to create results better than others. If you were a family restaurant, coupons would be king but as a funeral home, I’d think testimonials would communicate a very strong message for you. In fact, if you do the commercial, have the company “theme” it by interjecting maybe one or two family stories. The commercial can start by a daughter or son telling the story of what happened…maybe 5 seconds worth…then the camera guides the viewer through the home with audio in the background and again, back to the person and a continuation of their story. It’s gentle and conveys the comfort your facility provides in the presence of a family’s pain.

    Best of luck and “knock em dead”…okay okay…bad joke…just trying to interject some humor. Seriously..I wish you the best!

  12. JEFFREY K. BROWN Reply

    Marty I sent these ideas direct to Daninda & thought you would like to see them.
    There are two funeral homes in the Lexington area that have great marketing strategies and
    reputations in the Lexington, KY area. I am going to give you the name of the business and why I think they are setting themselves apart from everybody else.

    Milward’s Funeral Home (Since 1825)

    Oldest in Lexington, Family owned, family owns Insurance Co, Stock Brokerage Co.,
    and two funeral locations. Money is not an object and they reinvest in marketing.

    Check out the site along with Pet Loss Center a full funeral for the pet to build brand.
    While you take care of the pet, you pitch pre planning for the family. You meet the kids during the pet planning and you have them for their human needs later in life. They
    also will do bronze head stone for pets and have links to Vets & pet psychologists on the
    site (I would think they get a referral fee)

    Green Funerals to meet the demand of earth friendly.


    The name even gets away from the negative image and sadness you think of with a funeral home.

    I did not see Pet Loss at this one. However it is a Legacy Center and they will do receptions of
    other kinds and supply the food and drink. How many funeral home use their building for
    other events (Gets people in the door when they are happy and build trust. When they are sad and emotional who will get the first call. Building the Brand Name & Trust)

    Location in Lexington & surrounding small towns.

    Hope these ideas help. I would suggest you drive to Lexington and visit each one to see how
    They sell these services in person.

    If you want me to pick up literature from them and send to you I will be glad to.

    If you coming to Lexington call me and maybe we can go a restaruant for dinner with my family.

    I was at GROW 2010

    Jeff Brown (Trim Masters Lawn Care) 859-402-1307

    I think you can see these Funeral homes think outside the box and I watch them just like I do the Super Bowl Commercial just to see what they will come up with next. Check out the Legacy Center website & click
    on NEWS you will see them hyping on OPEN HOUSE with free food at a funeral home. They got all the new station to do interviews & promote it.

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