Over the years I learned a lot about marketing. When sales reps for different advertising mediums came into our business to either sell or re-new our programs I always looked at them as extensions of our business and not sales people. I figured that if I could learn from them I could use that knowledge to get a better “bang for my buck” on the advertising front.
One of my conversations that I remember very well is a conversation with a billboard representative who had formerly worked for AT & T selling yellow page advertising. Not so much anymore, but 10-20 years ago, yellow page advertising was considered vital to the funeral home industry. Remember the big full page ads with photos that funeral homes purchased? Sometimes, you still see law firms doing that today. We were one of those firms that spent the money to do that and thought we needed it.
Well, in visiting with this gentleman, who now advocated billboard advertising (which by the way we use and believe it is very effective as a “consistent” message), he told me that studies showed that a 2-inch column ad with your logo in the yellow pages was actually more effective than the full-page ad and cost less than 10% of the cost of the full-page.
He explained that studies showed that when people wanted a service such as funerals, they would alphabetically look up “funerals” and then start running their fingers down the columns to find information. A 2-inch column ad gave you the opportunity to mention key things about your funeral home — “serving all faiths”, “conveniently located”, “handicap accessible”, and the like – along with a logo that they recognized. He also pointed out what consumers did not do. . . . they did not start turning the pages looking at big ads of staffs and buildings.
I bought his pitch. . . not that day, but with a little studying. For the record, I never made large purchases without a great deal of thought and talking to staff. . . I wanted to know as much as I could before making the decision. However, we dropped the full-page ad and started using the column ads in the yellow pages, added a cremation yellow page ad, and signed long-term leases for two billboards in town and did that while paying less than we had been paying for only the “full-page” yellow pages ad. We saw absolutely no drop off in business and actually heard so many good comments about the billboards. To this day we continue that strategy, albeit with even a smaller yellow page ad.
Top of Mind Awareness (TOMA): I also at one time attended a seminar our local newspaper did on Top of Mind Awareness or TOMA. They indicated that there are certain business that need to strive for top of mind awareness by the consumer. This means that when I ask you about a industry — let’s say “fast food” — what comes to your mind first. Is it McDonalds or Burger King or something else? Being that “top of mind” thought by the consumer can lead to increased market share.
I realized that funeral services is really, for many of our clientele, a top of mind decision. Think of the many sudden deaths at the emergency room when the nurse eventually comes over and tells the family they need to call a funeral home – whom should they call? Families are probably not looking in the yellow pages or at a phone at that time for a funeral home and name the business that first comes to mind. It can also happen in less stressful situations when families visit about making pre-arrangements. . . one of the family members may just pipe up and say something like, “Let’s go visit with ABC Funeral Home tomorrow about the subject”. Being top of mind there will probably get you the eventual death call.
Our firm worked hard on a consistent strategy to be “Top of Mind”. It consisted of consistently advertising in/on mediums where we believed our future clientele would be — local morning drive time radio and local newspapers (which now includes their on-line version). And, being highly visible with our logo on billboards on major routes in our community. To increase business for your funeral home or supply company. . how can you be in the “top of mind” of your potential customer?