Plan Strategically to Avoid a Slow Death
Successful marketing and growth don’t happen by accident. You need a funeral home marketing plan that has clear goals and actionable steps to get you there. A need for a plan is hardly unique to funeral homes, but the funeral industry faces a particular set of challenges. Death is a touchy topic for most people, so your approach to marketing needs to take that into account. The worst thing, though, is to use this is as an excuse to not market your funeral home. You know the consolidators in your area are marketing heavily. You need to be proactive to fight off the competition and maintain a funeral home that not only survives but thrives.
Basics of a Funeral Home Marketing Plan
A strategic plan needs to start with a sober assessment of your funeral home’s current market position. Next it should be built around a specific goal. The most critical part is determining concrete steps to get there. This is not particularly novel advice, yet people often overlook it. For example, some funeral homes are guilty of devoting a lot of time and resources to increasing their visibility on Facebook. But if this isn’t done with some greater goal in mind, it might result in some appealing vanity metrics without increasing your calls. As another example, you might try to increase traffic to your website. But if all of the traffic just ends up at your obituaries pages, that is unlikely to efficiently grow your business.
Different goals will require different approaches to marketing. That’s why it’s crucial to first define your marketing goals and then lay out a measurable pathway to achieving them.
How much should I spend on marketing?
Unsurprisingly, marketing budgets vary significantly across industries. They also vary substantially from market to market. For small businesses in general, a marketing budget of 7-8% of revenue is often recommended. The U.S. Small Business Administration notes that B2C companies will often spend above this range. Depending on the market, many funeral homes can get away with spending closer to 5% of revenue on marketing. As a rule, the more competitive your market is, the more you will need to spend on marketing. Some funeral homes spend too much on marketing. This usually comes from overspending on ineffective forms of advertising (think ads in the yellow pages, calendars, many newspaper ads).
Which channels should I focus on?
Once again, this comes down to your funeral home’s strategic goals. If you are launching a new brand or entirely new funeral home, creating name recognition will be crucial at the beginning. A marketing strategy might focus more on the funeral home’s visibility and its services. That could include running ads on Facebook, billboards, the local newspaper, or other traditional media that show off who you are. These types of ads are good for raising awareness in general throughout the community. But it can be difficult to know how effective some of these channels are. Digital channels like Google Ads and social media are some of the most effective and measurable ways to advertise your funeral home. Facebook is best for raising awareness of products and services. Google Ads are best when someone is about to make a decision.
Different Strategies to Meet Different Goals
Most established funeral homes already have a reputation and name recognition in the community. Their marketing goals should be more narrowly defined. The goal of most marketing is to grow your business. For funeral homes, that usually falls into a few main categories:
- Growing at-need cases
- Selling more of a particular service
- Increasing average price per case
- Increasing pre-need sales
Growing at-need cases
To increase at-need cases, your funeral home needs to be in front of client families when they are choosing a funeral home. The fastest way to achieve this is through Google Ads and SEO. When people search “funeral homes near me,” you want your ad and your website to appear at the top of the results page. Writing ad copy that is engaging and has the information families need will help more people to click on your ads. These ads should focus on a family’s immediate or imminent need. A strategic approach to SEO will make sure your website ranks well for the keywords relating to the funeral services you provide.
There is also a slower, and much more traditional, approach to growing at-need cases. You can cultivate relationships with hospices, churches, and others in the community involved in end of life decisions. Referrals from people who have seen the quality care you provide are the best advertising you can get. Unless you are in a small town, it is unlikely that these relationships alone will significantly grow your business.
Selling more of a particular service
This is a more targeted version of the above idea. If you’re trying to increase the number of full-service cremations you provide, your Google Ads should be heavily-weighted toward that end. In this case, a brand awareness campaign won’t get you toward your goal even if it does increase your recognition in town. Targeted results require targeted actions.
Increasing average price per case
The simplest way to increase revenue is to upsell as much as possible to the customers who come through your door. There are obvious ethical and moral problems with this approach, though. Nobody wants to be accused of taking advantage of grieving costumers. There are some ways to market your services in a way that is helpful to clients and good for your bottom line.
Digital marketing tools make it simple to target specific (wealthy) demographics and ZIP codes. However, if you don’t currently serve many families from those areas, it can be difficult to expand into these attractive markets. What can work in the existing areas you serve is increasing awareness of the services and facilities you offer. Your ads can emphasize the cremation options that are available. You can show off your chapel or event space that is perfect for celebrations of life. Many families don’t know all the options that are available to them. Effective ads can help to attract more families who are interested in utilizing a fuller array of your services.
Increasing pre-need sales
It isn’t always easy to communicate the value of prearranging your own funeral. Part of a plan to increase pre-need sales needs to focus on raising awareness. Facebook is the ideal place for this. Sponsored posts can explain the pre-planning experience and can be sent to targeted audiences. That makes it easy for them see important content and answer questions about the process. This can be a lengthy process. Achieving meaningful growth in pre-need sales will take a long-running campaign. But if it’s done right it can have a major impact on your funeral home. Don’t forget the importance of Google Ads for pre-planning. Even if your Facebook posts did most of the work in helping someone decide to pre-plan, you should still have a presence on Google. You don’t want to do all the work to pre-qualify a person just to have them go to your competitors.
Create a Funeral Home Marketing Plan
Every funeral home is different. So is every market. You need to create a unique marketing plan that works for you and your team. And then you need to follow it. That takes effort and isn’t always easy if you’re a busy funeral director. But a well-crafted and well-executed plan has the potential to create significant growth for your funeral home.