In December 2012, The Cheesecake Factory launched an experiential marketing campaign featuring balloons infused with scented oil. They hired a street team to interact with holiday shoppers, distributing the balloons on busy streets, at local bus stops and in nearby malls. When popped, the balloons filled the air with the smell of one of the restaurant’s most popular cheesecake flavors. Each balloon also included an invitation to visit the nearest Cheesecake Factory location for a free slice of its signature dessert.
The California-based company filmed their multi-sensory efforts and compiled the footage into a short promotional video. To date, it has been viewed on YouTube nearly 800,000 times – high visibility with limited up-front cost.
This type of creative customer experience is a great example of marketing on a shoestring budget – something many of our funeral home partners can appreciate. Facility maintenance, staff salaries and licensing fees demand a large portion of your annual overhead, leaving little left over for new initiatives. Fortunately, funeral home marketing doesn’t have to cost a lot. In fact, today’s digital landscape rewards imagination far more often than expense.
Not sure where to start? Try a few of these ideas.
Marketing through Aftercare
Aftercare is the easiest place to implement a more cost-effective funeral home marketing strategy. You’ve already served these families, so you don’t have any initial investment in lead generation or fostering brand awareness. Plus, satisfied customers serve as compelling brand ambassadors.
Take a careful look at your current aftercare offerings. How are you reaching these families after the time of need? Consider ways you can build community among these clients. Try hosting a weekly social club, a monthly grief support group or even an annual memorial service. By introducing these families to one another you’ll provide connections to others who are also experiencing grief, while simultaneously creating a community of brand advocates. As the value of their relationships with one another builds, the value they place on your services will correspondingly increase.
Marketing through Sponsorship
As funeral professionals, you are likely familiar with basic sponsorship opportunities. You donate to the local booster club, and your logo appears on the back of the jerseys, in the game-day programs or on a sponsorship banner. This type of funeral home marketing benefits your community, but it might not be the most cost-effective way to use your resources.
When I was growing up, my dad sponsored the local high school basketball team. Rather than a monetary donation, he offered up the funeral home facilities and technology once a month so the players and coaches could review game footage and enjoy a team meal. The financial investment was small: the parents provided the food and the team always cleaned up before they left. The return was significant: by opening the funeral home to those athletes, parents and coaches, my dad established comfortable relationships with some high-profile community members. He contributed in a tangible and memorable way rather than being one of many on a long list of small business sponsors. And, as an added bonus, he recruited some of the players to wash cars and help with lawn care.
Creative sponsorships like this have a more significant and lasting impact than simple monetary donations because they’re focused on building relationships. I doubt any of those players could list the logos on the back of their game-day programs. But, over a decade later, they still come up to my dad and talk about their memories of team bonding at the funeral home. That is the type of cost-effective funeral home marketing that truly pays off.
Marketing through Fundraising
As the aging population becomes increasingly secular, more and more families are relying on funeral homes to host end-of-life services that were traditionally held at the local churches. Greater emphasis is being placed on customized celebration of life services, transforming traditional funeral luncheons into much more elaborate receptions. Your client families want to feel at home in your facility and comfortable with your competence. What better way to foster that comfort than by offering up your funeral home to local events?
Hosting fundraising events in your funeral home sheds light on your firm’s altruistic aims while simultaneously showcasing your facilities and expertise. Illustrating your ability to host fundraising banquets and receptions is a subtle, cost-effective way to demonstrate your ability to host end-of-life services.
Marketing through Education
In my hometown, the seventh-grade health class visits a local funeral home as part of their life cycle unit. A funeral director takes students on a tour of the chapel, selection room, conference space and office, sharing stories of creative memorial services and explaining the value of a life worth celebrating. Then, the staff serves lunch and assigns some homework: think about how you want to be remembered and set goals to make it happen.
Part of your responsibility as funeral professionals is to educate your community on the value of life, death and funeral service. Consider reaching out to your local school board to see if there are opportunities for you to serve their students. Put together talking points parents can use to speak to their kids about death and dying. Encourage teachers to have students write about their own experiences with grief. Offer to visit class after the tour to hear feedback and address questions. As a funeral professional, you are uniquely equipped to demonstrate your firm’s value to your community. The greatest investment with these services is time, not money, and they offer an effective way to tell your story while also getting to know members of your community.
Marketing through Social Media
Too often, funeral professionals rely on auto-published obituaries to drive their funeral home social media content. While that’s important information to include on your pages, it’s not the only thing you can contribute to the digital conversation.
Social media is essentially marketing for all other marketing. When you engage in funeral home marketing in and around your community, you can double the impact by posting your efforts on social media. Just like The Cheesecake Factory was able to capitalize on its balloon campaign by producing a viral video, social media can serve as a vehicle to raise awareness for your own marketing efforts.
Consider ways you can leverage your marketing to generate social media content. Then, commit to posting regularly and engaging your followers. Are you hosting a weekly social group? Post a photo on Facebook. Do you sponsor a local sports team? Snap a shot of your family supporting them in the playoffs. Are you planning a fundraising event? Invite your Facebook followers to attend, donate or share. Posting regularly and sharing information about your outreach efforts helps underscore your involvement while simultaneously fostering a strong sense of community among your followers.