Follow Up Cards


Last Friday was one of those days. A day that was incredibly important to me but just another Friday for most people.

Friday was the sixth anniversary of the passing of someone very close to me. The period after her loss was rough (understatement of a lifetime).

Eventually, that phase passed, and I started to hit the dates. The first month, her birthday, six months, and then the big one…the one-year anniversary.

On those special dates, grief stopped by to pay a visit. It’s as if some evil entity rips open your emotional wound and peers inside to see how the healing is progressing. Then it applies a small Band-Aid and retreats into the darkness until the next date.

What helped me the most during the first year was when other people noticed the date as well. It was the message from a friend or family member saying something as simple as, “I know this will might be a hard week, and just want you to know I’m thinking of you.”

Gestures like that meant the world to me.

Many years ago, one of my funeral home clients had a straightforward system for providing similar heartwarming gestures to families. They called it their 3-touch system.

Thirty days after the death, a “Thinking of You” card was sent to the primary contact. Another card was sent on the deceased person’s birthday, and a third card was sent to acknowledge the first anniversary.

The goodwill this created with families was tremendous. It was common for them to receive phone calls thanking them for the cards.

As I started working with other funeral homes, this type of card-based system was often on my recommendations list. It is cheap, easy to implement, and appreciated by families. It sounds like a winner to me!

These days, Aftercare.com provides an outsourced way to deliver these kinds of cards. I like the concept, but I’m not convinced that an outsourced service is something I would recommend to my clients.

The main reason is that it’s easy to run a card system like this yourself. If you don’t have a good CRM system, here’s how you can do it with a spreadsheet.

  1. After serving a family, write out three Thinking of You cards and put them in the customer’s file.
  2. Create a spreadsheet with three columns; date, name, and address.
  3. Add three entries into the spreadsheet for every call; the one-month anniversary, the first birthday after their passing, and the first anniversary. Sort the spreadsheet by the date column.
  4. Once a week, have your office staff look at the spreadsheet and mail the upcoming cards.

A spreadsheet and a box of cards is a pretty simple system!

This approach has four main advantages over an outsourced service.

  1. Cards are handwritten, which is always better.
  2. Cards are mailed with a real stamp from your local post office, so it doesn’t look like a mass mailing.
  3. The message can be personalized with something you learned while caring for the family.
  4. The dates can be personalized. For example, if someone loses their spouse and you find out their wedding anniversary date, you might want to add in an extra card because that will be a hard day for them.

Sending a follow-up card on an important date is always appreciated. It’s your way of being there to help on those predictable dates when grief stops by and rips open the wound once again.

Keep in mind that this is not just a kind gesture, it’s also a powerful marketing strategy.

In the past, once you served a family, you were pretty much guaranteed that you would win every call that came from that family. That’s not the case anymore.

Dan Kennedy, one of my mentors, always talks about the importance of building a fence around your herd (i.e., customers). You need to fend off poachers and keep the herd in your field.

A follow-up card program, like what I’ve described in this newsletter, strengthens your relationship with families and builds a fence around your herd.

When you spend thousands of dollars on TV ads, you are trying to win new customers or, in other words, add to your herd. There’s nothing wrong with that unless you haven’t built a fence around your existing herd.

Send cards and build a fence. It’s the right thing to do, and it makes good business sense too.

Until next time

John

John Callaghan

Fractional Chief Marketing Officer for Funeral Business Builders

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