I think even those of us who grew up in the world before smart phones and the internet understand that funeral homes can gain in their marketing efforts by being actively involved in the social media world. However, common sense dictates that marketing dollars should be spread around. . .even to the point of doing what I would call “Out of the Box” marketing.
For many eventual clients in the funeral/cremation business it will be their children who decide which funeral home or crematory to use at the time of need. I’ve served as the chairman of a large senior living company that also has branches in the home care business and hospice care. We serve in about 25 counties of Minnesota and North Dakota and we understand that the “star rating system”, accessed by the internet, is observed by many children who have to make the difficult living decisions for their parents.
It’s important to have this electronic rating system and comments from others about how we conduct business to allow a scorecard for the people that have to make these decisions. They are important. . . . and we strive for the highest possible ratings . . . .but so is good old fashioned one-to-one marketing. . .whether it be for living accommodations or funeral arrangements. Not every senior adult will let their children make these decisions for them carte blanche.
That is why it is so important for funeral homes to have respectable staffs that know their communities and are willing to visit with the people in that community. Many times seniors feel left out of the conversation and want to be a part of the community that they live in. They crave it. . . and social media, alone without human contact, many times leaves them frustrated and disappointed.
Building an allegiance with the senior members of the community is important — whether it be for a living community or a funeral home. That allegiance will, many times in the funeral business, lead to pre-arrangements and the choice of their funeral provider prior to the children getting involved. . The children can research social media all they want to find a provider. . . . but in those preneed cases the provider of final rites has already been chosen and the children and star ratings won’t make a difference.
In my opinion, it is important for funeral homes to embrace the seniors in their community to build this sense of belonging. Many times it is marketing that is “out of the box” that builds this rapport. Forsyth County in Georgia is one of the fastest growing counties in the country for the senior population. As a matter of fact, at least one publication has rated it the second best county in America for the senior population and retirement.
The McDonald Family Funeral Homes, the family owned firm that serves that county, is not waiting for the children of this new senior population to discover them via social media. They have jumped out of the box and purchased a 25 passenger bus that they use to provide free transportation to the county’s seniors. According to this article and news video from 11 Alive News, the bus is equipped with a large screen television and safety cameras.
At our funeral home many years ago we worked with local musicians and provided free concerts on the courthouse lawn every Thursday night from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Much of the community jumped on to the concept and there is now a local non-profit group, with a board of directors, that was started for the simple purpose of maintaining and operating this event. Our funeral home continues to be the major sponsor and every Thursday in the summer 500-1000 people, mostly seniors, enjoy the show!! Even though I am no longer involved I never go a week in the summer without someone thanking me for the concert series.
So, my point is. . . . continue to give great service so you rank as high on the 5-star system as you can. However, be like the McDonald Family Funeral Homes and don’t be afraid to go “out of the box” in serving your community. My hunch, is that if you can do that right, then every thing else, including the rating system will fall into place.