With just one sentence the speaker painted a vivid picture in my mind.
“Most people are walking around in life with their umbilical cord in hand, looking for a place to plug in.”
I was in the audience along with a thousand other seminar attendees. The speaker was Dan Kennedy, Marketing Guru, author of 20+ excellent marketing books, and one of my personal mentors.
Dan’s statement was crude but very accurate. Most people are looking for a place to plug in.
They are looking to be led, to be inspired, to recharge, and to be safe.
It’s important to understand that there is absolutely nothing wrong with “plugging in”. Even natural born leaders have someone they can turn to when they feel the need. It’s a normal human instinct and something we all do.
The instinct to plug in is even stronger when faced with a crisis. You seek out someone who knows how to navigate the storm and can help you reach solid ground again.
A crisis can come in many forms but one of the hardest to navigate is the loss of a loved one. I am sure there are exceptions but for the most part I think it is pretty rare to have someone face this kind of crisis, stand up confidently, and announce “I’ve got this”.
No, this is the type of crisis that causes even the best of us to seek out someone’s help. We’re looking for someone to care for our loved one, someone to tell us what to do next, someone to tell us where to stand, and someone to tell us how to politely deal with rude inquiries about what happened to the deceased.
That’s where you, the Funeral Service Professional, comes in. You’re the person that other people want to plug into. They connect to your empathy, your knowledge, and most importantly, your leadership.
Now add a COVID-19 crisis to the situation. The family isn’t just seeking help, they’re desperate. More than any time in recent memory, families NEED your help.
Two weeks ago I wrote a newsletter discussing how to build trust with a family. Last week I wrote about how to engage price shoppers. You can read both of those newsletters on my blog.
If you build trust correctly and help price shoppers understand that price is only one thing to consider, then you are ready for the Guided Arrangements step in my Funeral Business Builder process.
Families will metaphorically “plug in” to you and you will have the opportunity to guide them through the experience.
Here are three suggestions for you to consider when guiding a family.
Suggestion #1 – Be prepared with options
Clients have often described to me how, when making arrangements, a family member will often say something like “so how do we do this?”. They know they need to do something, they just don’t know how to do it, and are looking to you to guide them.
Add COVID to the situation and the same family member is completely lost. They don’t know what’s possible and if you can’t show them a safe option they will often choose to do nothing.
That’s why it’s so important for you to have thought through your options. Can you offer a socially distanced visitation at the funeral home? How about a virtual visitation? Maybe a drive through visitation? Or an open-air visitation?
Can you live-stream the funeral ceremony? The graveside ceremony?
Be prepared to present these options as soon as you see puzzled looks on the faces of the family members. They don’t know what’s possible but you do. Be the guide.
Suggestion #2 – Describe the steps you will take them through
The secret to leading anyone anywhere is to show them the plan or roadmap. They are at point A and want to get to point B. If you show them the steps they need to take to get from A to B they will see you as the expert and feel confident following your plan (kind of like my Funeral Business Builder master plan).
When a family comes into your funeral home to make arrangements you are already overwhelmed so you do not want to make things worse by showing them a large plan. Instead, just keep it simple by saying something like the following.
“Let’s first talk about what you would have wanted to do if COVID wasn’t a factor, then we can discuss the limitations and your options, and from that we can develop a plan for the next few days. Is that ok with you?”
Step 1 – talk about when things were normal to reduce the stress level
Step 2 – talk about your options so they see you as the guide
Step 3 – create a plan so they will follow you
Suggestion #3 – Leave your personal views out of it
This may annoy some of you but it needs to be said.
You need to keep your personal view about the pandemic and the government’s response to yourself. You’re certainly entitled to your own view but you must not share that with families. The same goes for every person working at your funeral home.
The reason is that COVID has become an extremely polarizing issue. People are taking sides and are willing to fight (sometimes literally) to defend their viewpoint. If you align yourself with one side you will lose the other side.
Maybe you’re thinking that this is obvious but I’ve heard stories of Funeral Directors saying that COVID is a hoax to a family that just lost their mother…to COVID. Of course there were other factors involved but that’s what the death certificate says so that’s what they believe.
By the way, this extends to social media as well. I’ve seen some posts from funeral home employees that have made me cringe. As my mother used to say…if you can’t find something good to say don’t say anything at all.
At a time like this it is important that you be completely neutral on this issue. Do not take a side in this battle or you’ll lose in the long run.
Families faced with the loss of a loved one always look for a safe place to “plug in”. If you follow the suggestions I’ve outlined above you will be that safe place and you will win the opportunity to serve the family.
You’ve gained their trust, handled their price questions, and guided them through the arrangement process. Now it’s time to deliver a valuable funeral experience which is the next step in my Funeral Business Builder process.
I’ll outline how COVID has impacted the funeral experience and what today’s exhausted families value next week.
Until next time
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