Measuring the Success of Funeral Home Marketing Efforts (Part 1)

What’s the secret to funeral home marketing success? While there’s no single activity that can guarantee success, one thing is certain: The effectiveness of your future marketing initiatives will be more elusive if you don’t take time to track the results of your current efforts. In this post and in the upcoming second installment, we’ll share measurement methods to help you spend your marketing dollars wisely.

You can’t replicate a successful funeral home marketing campaign if you don’t understand why or how it happened. You can’t fix an underperforming effort if you don’t understand how – or more importantly, where – it’s broken. When evaluating marketing efforts there is often a tendency to judge the cumulative success or failure of a given program. For example, a direct marketing program either generated a lot of leads or it didn’t. A public relations event either led to increased sales or it didn’t.

You can track almost any type of marketing activity, but it’s best to start with programs that have specific goals, timelines and activities. Stay focused on efforts that can be measured with relative ease, which will make it easier to establish a pattern of evaluation and provide a clearer picture of successes and challenges.

Most likely, there will be multiple points at which you can experience success or failure. We’ll refer to these as “decision points.” When evaluating the effectiveness of your marketing programs, you must identify these decision points and track your program’s performance at each one. This type of analysis can help you pinpoint where your program is succeeding or failing.

As an example of how analyzing various points of a campaign can help improve marketing performance, let’s examine direct mail programs. A typical preneed direct mail program can be one of the easiest marketing efforts to evaluate if you simply set up a tracking plan early and commit to the process. Rod Wood of Ad Direct, Inc., in Barberton, OH, who is well-known for his direct marketing expertise, offered the following as an example of a marketing campaign that could be considered successful:

  • Mail quantity = 5,000
  • Responses = 100 (2% response rate)
  • Responses resulting in an appointment = 50%
  • Contracts written from the appointments = 35 (The 50% used above assumes some appointments result in two contracts due to spouses both prearranging.)

This example shows three potential decision points: responding to the mailing, accepting an appointment and choosing to prearrange. Using the information gathered by tracking each decision point can help you better determine where successes and challenges occur, and then design appropriate responses.

In this case, let’s say all other things stayed the same and you mailed a letter with a proven track record, but the response to the mail program was less than 0.75%. Here are two possible mistakes that could cause this scenario:

  • Attempting to extend the funeral home’s brand by mailing to ZIP codes where the brand is weak. Direct mail benefits from a strong brand, and brand-building is best left to a strong and active public relations program that makes your staff members and services accessible to those you desire to serve.
  • Attempting to broaden the reach by mailing to an overly wide demographic group. Mailing to people who are in younger age groups may seem like a good idea, but experience tells us that people in these groups can be less likely to value or respond to direct marketing that shares the benefits of advance funeral planning. Direct mail is more likely to succeed when focused on the people who are similar to the ones you have served in the past.

“Identifying similarities within the response audience will reduce the cost of your next mailing since it allows us to refine the database and mail fewer pieces while still achieving similar sales,” Wood explained. “Another benefit of tracking is that it will give you a baseline to measure against. Then, you can test against your baseline and tweak the mailing to achieve even better results.”

In an upcoming blog post, we’ll continue to examine the direct mail campaign and other marketing efforts with measurable preneed “decision points.”

This post has been adapted from an article that originally appeared in the myHomesteaders newsletter.


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