How COVID-19 Impacts the 4 M’s of Funeral Home Marketing


funeral home marketing - changes due to covid

I recently participated in a panel webinar for ICCFA. Below is the replay of my portion of the webinar and an article I wrote from the content.

 

The 4 M’s of Marketing

 

If you open up any marketing textbook, that’s worth a darn. You’re going to find the three M’s of marketing – Market, Media, and Message.

What Market am I targeting? 

What Media can I use to reach them? 

What Message can I deliver? 

But this industry has a fourth M – Moment 

The reality is that there are only so many times that people will accept hearing from a funeral home or cemetery. People are generally in a state of denial and do not want to hear about death or funerals. 

That changes when the Moment is right such as when they’ve attended a funeral and start thinking they should make their funeral arrangements.

COVID-19 has created a global Moment. Suddenly the whole world is faced with a life-changing (or ending) event that is top of mind for practically all of us.

Not only has COVID-19 created a Moment, but it has also impacted the other 3 M’s.

Market – Did you know that online estate planning is up 100% since this started. People are actively getting their affairs in order. We have noticed a significant increase in the response rate for the preneed lead generation campaigns we run for clients.

Media – Good news! The price of media is down significantly because big corporations have canceled their campaigns. Recently, Amazon just took a billion dollars in revenue, away from Google, by pausing all of their advertising campaigns. As a result, Google advertising prices are down. Also, YouTube, Facebook, and even Television are all cheaper. 

Message – Yes, your message needs to change significantly as a result of COVID-19, and I’ll devote the rest of this newsletter to that issue.

One of the first things I always fix for my clients is their marketing message. Sadly, too many funeral homes use a marketing message that is nothing more than overused platitudes.

How do you know if you have a terrible message? Here is a straightforward test. Take any piece of your marketing material. It could be your website or a brochure or a sales script that your preneed salespeople are using. 

Now cross out your name and write in the name of a competitor. Is it still basically true? If it is, you have a terrible message. 

Your message should highlight your unique offering or your unique position in the market. If it doesn’t do that, you are wasting every dollar you invest in advertising.

Here’s something you may not know….a weak marketing message is the leading cause of price shoppers.

If a family compares you versus a competitor and does not see any important differences….the deciding criteria is always the price. 

Let’s talk about how to fix your message…

There are three layers to your messaging.

Layer 1 – unique positioning

Layer 2 – preview and social proof

Layer 3 – decision making information

The first layer is where we usually present our unique elements. What is it about your business that is truly unique? 

But today, we have to start by clearly communicating your safety protocols. Exactly how are you prepared to keep people safe if they have to make arrangements or attend a service at your funeral home?

Many funeral industry website vendors have done a decent job creating some generic content that they’ve put on websites to address this issue.

Well, guess what? The same content is on your competitor website too. Cross out your name, put in their name. It’s still the same message and you shouldn’t be using it. 

Families don’t want to hear a generic statement. They want to hear a statement specifically from you about what you’re doing to keep them safe. 

If you want to see a good example of this, go to WalkerFuneralHomes.com. They have a homepage video that we produced for them that outlines the precautions they are taking to keep everyone safe. 

Layer two of the marketing message called “Preview and Social Proof”. Normally this is where I will show, preferably in video format, some of the unique things offered by the funeral home. For example, if you use the multimedia display provided by Life Celebrations, then this is the time to present that capability. 

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has made traditional funerals impossible. For the most part, families know what is not possible (e.g., traditional visitation, church ceremony). But they do not know what is possible, so that is what we need to show them.

If you are doing webcasting, show them.

If you are doing drive through visitations, show them.

If you are arranging your chairs for social distancing, show them.

People need to see what the new experience will look like, or they will choose to do nothing.

If you want to see an excellent example of this one, go to Facebook and search for Casey’s East Side Memorial in Waterbury, Connecticut. We manage their Facebook marketing and keep a close eye on the level of engagement people have with the page.

When you go there, you’ll find that they have been live streaming almost every service since this crisis began. They’ve live-streamed every element of the service, and families love it.

In fact, their engagement level is 400% higher than their closest competitor (who does not live stream services).

Families see a service on Facebook, read the comments (social proof), and experience a new style of funeral experience. It’s not as good as a face-to-face funeral, but live streaming is a great option when that is not possible.

The third layer of your messaging is decision making information. This part of the message is intended for the person who has to make the decision between using your funeral home or a competitor.

Most people make decisions based on emotional reasons and then justify it with logical reasons. If you have done a good job with layers one and two of your message, the decision maker should be leaning towards choosing you. But now they need to see some logical reasons to justify the decision.

COVID-19 has raised the emotional level through the roof, making it even more important for you to have something to satisfy the logical part of decision making.

A good example of this can be found at this page https://www.sunsetevansville.com/ourpromise/

We created a set of content with David Shipper to give someone seven good reasons to choose their funeral home/cemetery combo. 

We did not need to update the content as a result of COVID-19 because it already addressed the primary concerns someone would have when choosing a funeral home.

So those are the three layers of the messaging that you’ve got to have in place.

1 – a COVID-19 safety response, 

2 – examples of what today’s funeral can look like, and

3 – decision making information.

You’ve got to have all three of those in place to succeed. 

Remember the 4 M’s – Market Media Message Moment. 

The Market is ripe, and the Media is cheap. It is time to fix your Message because the Moment is NOW!

 

John Callaghan

Fractional Chief Marketing Officer for Funeral Business Builders

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