What Would You Do?


I was on a call with a casket vendor this week, and he described a conversation he had with a funeral home owner (the vendor is on this email list, so I’m sure he’ll get a laugh out of this).

Funeral Home Owner: “My call volume in 2020 was up, but my revenues are way down because it’s mainly direct cremations.”

Casket vendor: “If you were running a grocery store and found that your customers stopped buying most of what you sold, what would you do?”

What a great analogy!! That’s exactly what it’s like in the funeral business these days.

You have a “grocery store” mainly designed to sell traditional funerals and maybe an aisle devoted to Celebration of Life services. In the corner is a small display for cremation merchandise.

At the end of 2020, you look at your sales and find that you sold lots of cremation merchandise and not much else. What do you do?

Do you need a store focused on funerals if all you are going to sell is direct cremations and some merchandise?

That’s the question many funeral home owners are facing right now. They see the 2020 sales results and are praying that Covid goes away soon so 2021 is not the same or worse.

Not all funeral home owners are in this situation. In fact, all of my clients reported that their revenues were up in 2020. The average revenue per call was off somewhat (10 to 20%), but their volume was up more than enough to make up for it.

My clients are special to me, but I don’t think they are overly unique because I’ve read stories of other funeral home businesses that have done quite well during the pandemic.

What’s the common element amongst funeral businesses that grew in 2020?

In one word….innovation.

To be clear, I’m not talking about a single innovation like getting rid of your casket selection room and turning it into a cafe or reception area. By the way, this is exactly what my vendor friend advises his clients to do because he’s found that casket sales go up when you make this change.

What I am referring to is a culture of innovation. Successful businesses treat innovation as a process instead of a single event. They continuously introduce new ideas, observe the outcome, and fine-tuning.

As the pandemic spread, innovative funeral homes started testing ideas like open-air visitations, drive-through visitations, live-streaming ceremonies, and hosting zoom receptions.

Rather than focusing on what they couldn’t do because of Covid, they concentrate on what they could do and offered new solutions to their families. As a result, their funeral business grew in 2020, while competitors declined.

I can accept that some innovations are not possible for all owners. But here is one thing all of you can do right now…start building your list.

You should collect the name and email address of every person that has contact with your funeral home. The point is to start building your list today because it will be valuable down the road.

For example, let’s say you were going to run a preplanning webinar. You could spend a lot of money running Facebook ads for the event, or you could send out an email invitation to everyone on your list for free.

I’ve tested this with a client who has an email list. We found that people who received an email invitation and registered almost always showed up to the webinar. The ones who came in from a Facebook ad showed up less than half the time.

Email marketing is powerful and very cost-effective. Yet, it’s something that very few funeral homes use.

The growth of email marketing for funeral homes is a direct byproduct of the shift from the Silent Generation to the Baby Boom Generation. Boomers are often email junkies. Yes, they spend a lot of time on social media, but they start their day checking their email inbox.

So, what would you do with a grocery store filled with products no one is buying? I would build a list of people who are buying, analyze what they are buying, and send out a survey asking for their input on some changes you’re considering.

Let your list help you decide what to do next. It’s a heck of a lot better than guessing.

In that same vein, here’s my offer for you today…

Reply to this email with your marketing questions, and I’ll try to answer them in future newsletters. If you have questions, there’s a good chance that other owners have them as well.

Remember, start building your list today. It’ll come in handy down the road.

Until next time

John

John Callaghan

Fractional Chief Marketing Officer for Funeral Business Builders

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