A few years ago, I was working at a very stressful job. My stress manifested itself in my shoulders and kicked off daily tension headaches. I tried muscle relaxers, physical therapy and just taking pain killers and hoping for the best, but nothing seemed to work. One evening in the midst of my dilemma I met my good friend for dinner. We talked about workplace stress and realized that we were experiencing the same symptoms. However, she was managing hers with monthly massages. She explained how her masseuse, who she called by name, had helped and given her advice on how to manage the pain. She then pulled out her phone and texted me the masseuse’s phone number and website. The next morning, I called and made an appointment, giving that local business a new life-long customer.
This is word-of-mouth marketing.
Community members are much more likely to accept the referrals of a close friend or family member than an ad. Had I come across an ad for the same massage therapy business I would have been less likely to so quickly give them my business. My friend was a brand advocate. She believed in the company, has been treated well and won’t hesitate to share her positive experience. Will she take to social media to boast about her masseuse? No, probably not. But, she will give an in-person recommendation to someone when the topic arises.
Word-of-mouth marketing seems like it can happen without cause or effort. Some businesses just wait and hope their customers will be happy enough to share their experiences with friends and family. Word-of-mouth referrals don’t happen by accident, though. Luckily, there are several steps you can take to encourage this practice in your funeral business.
1. Choose Brand Advocates Wisely
If you have recently served a client family that had an exceptional experience with your funeral home, take extra steps to foster that relationship. Look for families that have expressed a positive attitude about your firm, are well-spoken and stand out in your memory. Once you have collected a group of brand advocates that you are comfortable contacting, you can work to generate testimonials with them.
2. Ask for Testimonials
Consumers are more likely to believe other community members than they are to believe business advertising. Testimonials add credibility to your communication by allowing past client families to share their positive experiences in their own words. You can use your collection of testimonials on your website, social media and marketing materials as you see fit.
3. Always be “On the Clock”
You are your brand. When a client family works with your funeral home, they aren’t working with a business, they’re working with a person. Whether you like it or not, the way you act in your community “after hours” will still reflect your business. When you’re out and about running errands, try to take time with any community members you know to foster your relationship.
4. Be Visible in Your Community
Staying top-of-mind is an important part of word-of-mouth marketing. In fact, 72% of client families only considered one funeral home when they decided to prearrange. Make sure you are frequently reminding people of your brand by sponsoring local events and presenting the value of your services to different organizations.
5. Start a Blog or Vlog
Funeral service tends to raise questions among those who aren’t familiar with it. If you notice that your client families often ask you the same easily answerable questions, make note of them. Writing (or recording) and posting a few blogs a month on your website not only shows that you care about your community members’ questions, but it also positions you as a thought leader and provides many other benefits. Not sure what to write about? You can find quick ways to get started here.
6. Work Pro Bono
I don’t know about you, but when I hear the words “pro bono,” I always think of Bono from U2. Luckily, both of those things can help your funeral business gain word-of-mouth referrals. No, not actual Bono, but what Bono stands for. The artist has made a mark on the world for his humanitarian efforts. He focuses on helping people in need, and taking the same approach could generate positive buzz in your community. If and when a case arises, consider providing your services for free. This could be for a veteran who had no living family or victims of a tragedy.
7. Ask for Suggestions
A great way to make client families feel like they’ve been heard is to ask for their opinions on the service they received. It promotes relationship building between your firm and the family (which could create brand advocates), and some constructive suggestions could help you improve your firm as a whole.
It is possible to encourage word-of-mouth referrals in your community. Get started today by following some of these tips, and download our Public Relations Guidebook to learn more about managing your image in your community.