Staying competitive in the funeral industry has always required building strong relationships in the community. It’s a distinguished profession that requires a high degree of integrity and trust, and the cemetery director was historically a pillar in the communities they served. Reputation and word-of-mouth referrals were a strong element of their business models, as well as building a portfolio of clientele that extended through multiple generations. In this traditional environment, families in need of funeral arrangements would select the cemetery used by their family and friends or the property adjacent to their church. The cemetery director would invite them to their property for a lengthy face-to-face meeting to discuss every detail of the funeral, burial and related ceremonies. This provided cemetery directors with the opportunity to meet the grieving families and build a level of trust and rapport prior to discussing business. This face-to-face meeting also provided a safe place for families to discuss various options and come to a consensus, which positioned the cemetery director as a trusted advisor to the families they served.
Due to a variety of factors, the way consumers select a cemetery has changed significantly over the past few decades. One factor is that families are more geographically dispersed, so there’s less focus on continuity of providers. Another impactful trend is the shift in religious rituals and ceremonies associated with burials. As families become less involved in their community churches, the steady stream of congregational referrals diminishes. However, the most impactful change is associated with how technology has affected consumer’s purchase decisions. It’s estimated that over 60% of consumers use online research to make key decisions before ever speaking to a sales representative. This trend has largely impacted the funeral industry, and it’s forced cemetery directors to re-evaluate their sales methods. It’s important to understand what modern consumers are expecting from your team in the various stages of their decision process, and to adjust your property’s sales methods to align with those expectations. Whether you’re a third generation operator or a new name in the market, these methods provide an effective way to connect with the communities you serve.
Building a strong online presence is an effective way to build rapport with your community. They key is to capture the warmth and integrity of your face-to-face interactions in a digital format. This is accomplished through a variety of ways, such as including a personal welcome video or a letter from the cemetery director. You’ll also want to include articles about current topics to inform your community while positioning your property’s cemetery director as a trusted resource. Finally, the information shared during your sales process needs to be replicated for easy access on your website. The key is to be transparent and provide as much information as possible so your consumers feel confidant they’re making an informed decision.
Along with online research comes the expectation that face-to-face encounters will be brief and efficient. This reduces the time your sales team has to offer recommendations and establish credibility. Modern consumers expect a streamlined sales process to finalize the decisions they made in advance. They also expect the packages online to match the offerings on-site, which reduces the opportunity to recommend enhancements. The sales process becomes less of an exploration, and jumps straight into a consultative process where your sales team has less information about each client. One way to combat this is to request a bit of personal information during the online research phase, which positions your sales team to better serve your client’s needs.
There are many ways technology can help your team stay connected with the families you serve. Following a service, a heartfelt thank you message from the cemetery director allows families to know your business is available throughout their entire grieving process. There’s also an opportunity to provide external resources to grieving families, reinforcing your commitment to serving the members of your community beyond the sale. Finally, it provides an additional platform to share the ways your team is connected to local community, such as highlighting volunteer projects or supporting local causes. All of these techniques will keep your business top of mind with your community without feeling like a sales tactic.
At Global Bronze, we’re committed to the success of your business. That’s why we expanded our services to offer a full range of digital marketing solutions for your properties. Our industry has been slow to react to the changes in the modern marketplace, and we truly believe that embracing technology will be the single largest factor in staying competitive in the communities you serve. Digital marketing also provides a cost-effective way to leverage your internal resources to connect with more people. Our digital marketing specialists will meet with you to understand the complexities of your community and build a customized plan that suits your individual needs. If you’re ready to take that next step and you’re not sure where to begin, we invite you to schedule a meeting today!