Consumers’ perceptions of a business are often influenced by messages they encounter before they experience the organization’s products or services. In an effort to ensure they’re making the best possible choice, they turn to many different resources to learn more about what the company offers – and to gather opinions from others.
How can you help ensure your funeral home business is well-positioned to be selected by potential client families? Begin building a reputation within your community as an expert funeral service resource. By making sure your firm has a strong brand, providing education and inviting members of your community to participate in a dialogue about memorialization and end-of-life issues, you’ll earn a positive public perception that will help families feel confident about choosing your firm when they need funeral services.
Build your brand.
In order to develop a preference for your firm, families must be familiar with what you do and have the opportunity to experience why your services offer greater value than alternative options. Instead of turning to traditional advertising as a way to increase awareness of your funeral home offerings, focus your attention on creative and meaningful ways to communicate with your community.
There are several reasons to place more emphasis on public relations (PR) brand-building activities rather than advertising, including:
- Volume and variety of advertising: In The Fall of Advertising & The Rise of PR, Al Ries and Laura Ries wrote, “As a result of the volume and variety [of advertising messages that we are exposed to], we tend to tune all advertising messages out.”
- One-sided messages: In today’s increasingly connected world, people expect to be able to engage companies in conversations about their products and services. “The average consumer feels that the information presented in advertisements is one-sided,” Ries and Ries wrote.
Consider conducting market research to learn more about your community’s perceptions of funeral service, your firm and your competitors. The information you uncover by asking relevant questions can help you determine the best ways to build credibility as an expert funeral service resource. You may even be able to uncover misconceptions about funeral service that exist in your community, which can help you develop communications to dispel myths about memorialization options.
Use your website to educate families.
During a recent search for a new service provider, my first stop was the provider’s website. I was greeted by a well-designed online presence with concise information that answered many of my initial questions. This positive first impression, later confirmed by recommendations from people I trust, was an important first step in my decision-making process.
My experience was certainly not unique: according to the Pew Research Center, 81% of internet users say the internet and cell phones help them be better informed about products and services to buy. Compile a list of some of the most common questions your potential client families ask about funeral service options and address them through your website’s content. Showing that you were able to anticipate families’ questions subtly conveys that you’ll also be adept at meeting their funeral planning needs.
Make your staff accessible.
How well does your community know you and the other members of your funeral home staff? For many people, personal connections are one of the biggest deciding factors when choosing a service provider. Find ways to maintain an active presence in the community by getting involved in local organizations, supporting local businesses and making yourself available to those who have questions about what you do. When members of your community personally interact with you and your staff, they come to value your expertise.
You can extend the personal reach of your funeral home’s staff members by featuring them on your funeral home website and social media channels. Include a staff page on your website with short biographies of each funeral service professional, including community involvement activities, education highlights and areas of expertise. If your website has a funeral home blog, publish posts that include interviews with staff members to help introduce them to your community. By sharing their knowledge and their passion for funeral service, you’ll help families feel more comfortable turning to them for assistance.
Offer your expertise to media sources.
“Most people determine what is best by finding out what other people think is best. And the two major sources for making that determination are the media and word of mouth.”
- The Fall of Advertising & The Rise of PR
You’ve likely already experienced the power of referrals and the impact they can have on your business. Another way to help build your reputation as a leader in funeral service is to offer your expertise to local media.
When your firm adds a new service or plans to host a public relations event, contact newspapers and TV and radio stations to make a compelling case for why they should help tell your story. Extend an offer to community newspapers to write a Q&A column to address some of the most common questions about what you do.
Today’s consumers expect more than advertising messages about why your firm is the best choice for them. The more opportunities you provide for families to interact with your firm, whether in person through community activities and events at your funeral home or through the educational content you provide via various channels, the more you’ll earn a reputation as an accessible, knowledgeable resource for funeral services.