Did you know that community outreach could be the most important component of your funeral home’s marketing plan?
According to the 2018 National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) Consumer Awareness and Preferences Survey, when planning a funeral, only 8.3% of consumers call more than one funeral home!
Further, 23.2% called one funeral home and 67.2% didn’t call any funeral homes because they already knew the one they planned to use.
When consumers called more than one funeral home, they asked about a number of things, price being chief among them:
- To compare prices: 67.3%
- To check available service options: 47.3%
- The best customer service: 29.1%
- To check availability: 20%
- To find a convenient location: 18.2%
So, it’s no surprise that cost was the main thing consumers asked about. What what is even more fascinating was why they chose the funeral home they did.
Guess what? Price wasn’t the main reason! The top five reasons an individual chose the funeral home they did were:
- Previous experience with the funeral home: 34.3%
- Location: 27.8%
- Existing relationship with funeral director: 26.7%
- Convenience: 25.6%
- Reputable: 23.5%
That’s pretty incredible – 84.5% of people select a particular funeral home because they either had a previous experience with the funeral home, had a relationship with a funeral director or the funeral home’s reputation. Price was not one of the top factors.
What this tells me is that it’s crucial that your community knows you and your firm. This makes community outreach as important as any other advertising.
So … let’s dive in! I’d like to share a few ideas for how you can connect with your community.
These 3 fresh ideas all come from community outreach programs that funeral homes that have earned an NFDA Pursuit of Excellence Award have developed to create relationships with the communities they serve:
1. Create a charity program
When a loved one dies, deciding what to do with their personal effects can be difficult. This is a frequent topic of discussion in the grief support group hosted by Worlein Funeral Home in Austin, MN. During one of these discussions, a woman shared her story: she heard a local human service agency was looking for donations of gently used winter coats. She asked her mother if she might donate some of her late-father’s coats, and her mother thought it was a wonderful idea.
This story inspired the staff at Worlein to organize a program, now called Coats of Caring, in which the funeral home collects gently used coats and other outerwear from the families they serve and distributes them to local charitable organizations. The funeral home staff shares information about this program during aftercare visits and the response has been tremendous, from both the families served by the funeral home and the organizations benefiting from their generosity.
What I love about this program: First, it didn’t really cost them anything to execute. Second, it helped the families they served deal with their loved one’s clothing; and third, it benefitted the less fortunate in the community. It’s the kind of program where everyone wins.
2. Host an event that shows off another side of your business
There are many myths that persist about funeral homes and funeral directors. To help show their community a different side to the profession and the people who serve grieving families, Weeks’ Dryer Mortuary in Tacoma, WA, hosts a quarterly family movie night.
Hosted at the funeral home, these events typically feature an animated or family-friendly movie, beverages and snacks (including popcorn), as well as crafts and activities for the children. For some, these movie nights are the first time they have been in a funeral home – or interacted with a funeral director – outside of a funeral or memorial service. The family movie nights have been very successful and attendance continues to grow.
What I love about this program: It’s great that attendees get to see their local funeral home (and funeral directors) in a new light – outside of the usual circumstances under which they might visit the funeral home or meet the funeral directors that work at Weeks’ Dryer.
3. Create a “Mailbox Memorial Service”
Moving on from the death of a loved one can be hard, especially when things have been left unsaid. In order to help people find healing, Heritage Funeral Home in Nipawin, SK, Canada, began a new tradition: a Mailbox Memorial Service. The public was encouraged to write a letter expressing their thoughts and feelings to their loved one and place it in a special mailbox at the funeral home. All the letters were kept private and confidential.
During the service, a local pastor offered words of comfort and a mother read a letter to her daughter who died 10 years prior. At the conclusion of the service, all the letters placed in the mailbox were removed and burned. The ashes from the letters were sprinkled on a flower bed created for this special service.
What I love about this program: When I first read this idea, I immediately loved it. It wasn’t terribly difficult to execute, and they included the entire community, whether Heritage Funeral Home has served them or not. The funeral home has continued unique Mailbox Memorial Service because the people in their community – no matter how recent or long ago their loss – have found it a beneficial way to deal with their grief.
When it comes down to making that decision about which funeral home they call, the difference, it seems, if your reputation and the connection you and your firm have with families and your community. And strong community outreach programs can help you build those relationships even before a family needs your firm.
These are just a few ideas that I hope will inspire you to think of new ways that you and your funeral home can connect with your community. What ideas have you come up with on your own? Tell me in the comments below!
About the Guest Blogger: Jessica Koth is the Public Relations Manager at National Funeral Directors Association.