Printed in The FCCFA Chronicle – Winter 2018

The year 2018 will be an exciting year for marketers in the Death Care Industry, particularly in terms of blending media and using multiple channels.  As new trends, technology and customer behaviors continue to emerge, the key to success will be in continually learning and staying up-to-date.

Marketers in the Death Care Industry need to experiment with new tools, tactics and marketing campaign ideas and continue to monitor each project so they can discover where their greatest return on investment can be made.

Expanding the Marketing Mix

2018 will be a year of blended media. This is where the old adage – different strokes for different folks – really holds true. Different people respond differently to different marketing channels. We fast forward through commercials on TV; we’ve dropped print newspaper subscriptions in favor of digital editions.

Even though we are all focused on electronic media, it’s important to realize that over 27% of computer users now use ad blockers. That means that marketers need to rethink their ad spend on non-digital forms of advertising, like direct mail, if they really want to get their message into their prospects’ hands.

The Rise of “Web-rooming”

This is a new phenomenon which occurs when consumers start the shopping experience online but go to a Brick & Mortar location to complete their purchase. Exactly the opposite of what is called “show-rooming”, where consumers go to a store to do their research and make their purchase on-line.

This means Death Care Industry marketers need to have a comprehensive service menu with price lists available for those comparison shoppers who are either trolling on-line or calling around before they are ready to walk-in to your Funeral Home or Chapel to finalize their arrangements.

Mobile

The time spent on mobile now consists of over two-thirds of digital media time, compared to just one third for desktop. Website speed is a critical area which marketers need to get right, particularly as it is all too easy to bloat a site with un-optimized images, code and excessive JavaScript tags. Google has said it will penalize marketers who are directing traffic to a slow-moving mobile site so marketers really need to pay attention to the loading speed of their websites.

When it comes to At-Need, mobile usability and consumer convenience are definitely the #1 priority. It’s vital to have a solid SEO/PPC (search engine optimization / pay per click program). It’s important to be linked to other meaningful websites that can bring you traffic, such as the Better Business Bureau or local Chamber of Commerce.

Make sure you are properly signed up with Google local. The listing is free but you need to add or claim your business. Be sure to take advantage of click for directions/maps, hours, and click to call button options. I hate to tell you how many cemeteries or funeral homes are not set up properly and are therefore losing a vital source of traffic and exposure.

Do a self-test and type “funeral home” into Google on your phone. If you don’t come up near the top, you need to take action immediately.

Print

We are seeing a resurgence of print options for direct mail. Marketers can stand out from the crowd with unique shapes, sizes and virtual QR codes that take readers to a new reality. Experiment with textured envelopes or the new satin feel.

Millennials continue to be a surprise strong mail market segment with seniors relying heavily on the channel for information and offers.

For pre-need offers, high caliber printing on quality paper stock is a must.  Mail should be personalized (did you know that 86% of consumers prefer personalization?)

One of my new favorite direct mailers is mail-able virtual reality glasses. Imagine mailing your top prospects a set of VR glasses that allow them to actually see available plot locations in the comfort of their own homes. This is brand new in the world of print & mail.

Bottom line with print – if it’s great, people will read it and save it.

Direct Mail

According to the 2017 Media Usage Survey results – Direct mail is not only holding steady, but it’s growing. Nearly one-third (31%) of marketers responding to the survey are increasing their use of direct mail this year, and 33% are keeping it the same.  The U.S. Post Office has upgraded their own technology and is working closely with mailers, offering discounts and promotions and suggestions that can save your company money.

In the Death Care Industry, direct mail is a top marketing channel. Many funeral homes market lunch and learn programs with direct mail campaigns.  Statistics continue to highlight the response rate for direct mail for the age 65+ segment, which is a key market group for funeral and cemetery marketers.

Other top direct mail segments include birthday marketing lists, veterans, and older adults in the household.

In 2018, the key is making it easy for the prospect to respond to your direct mail. Business Reply Mail is still effective. Make sure the phone # on your mailer is large and easy-to-read.  Consider using one of the new visual QR codes to brand your funeral home and drive visitors to your website, where you can capture their information and generate your own leads online for your sales people.

Social Influencers

In the world of social media, some humans matter more than others –we call them influencers.  When it comes to social media, marketers are increasingly accepting the new world where they have to “pay to play” and find recognizable talent to appear in their newsfeeds, blog posts and ads (Sure, I’d like Brad Pitt to appear in my posts too) but because this is becoming a high cost, marketers are looking for new solutions.

See if you can’t find a recognizable persona in your area, maybe a retired athlete or mini-celebrity. If not, experiment with a company spokesperson, anime or animal who can become your influencer.

Facebook Marketing

Advertising on Facebook is way different than posting pictures of puppies on social media. This is about paying for ads and sponsored posts that show up directly on people’s newsfeeds. Since 2018 will be all about blended media, the key here is to match direct mail to Facebook ads with customized match programs that let Funeral Home and Cemetery marketers reach their key audiences.  The more times a consumer sees an ad and the more channels they see it through, the better the branding and the higher the response.

The cost of Facebook marketing is relatively low. The key here is creating a strategic program that blends with your other marketing channels.

Your Database

Your own database can be a goldmine. A well-tuned database is a great source of referrals and continuous business.

Your job is to keep it in tip-top shape. In 2018, we are seeing new technology that will make list hygiene processes cost-effective for small businesses. There are new options that can correct and append telephone numbers to your database. There are other processes to add email addresses to your list.

Your goal is to continue the dialogue with your customers and prospects via multiple channels. Remember, your job it to engage them in a myriad of ways.

Conclusion

While we all want to showcase our companies across every marketing channel, from a cost perspective, it’s not just feasible. Death Care industry marketers need to test their message in the different marketing channels to find the special formula that’s right for them.