Profits Through Publicity

Date Published: 
September, 1940
Original Author: 
J.F. Eubank
Houston, Texas
Original Publication: 
1940-1941 Cemetery Handbook & Buyers' Guide

Gentlemen, the title of "Profits Through Publicity" and the subject itself is really so broad that you might say it would be more or less correct to feel that every branch of the cemetery business comes more or less under publicity.

Never having had a publicity department connected with my property, I will touch upon and explain briefly several of the different branches of my business, the activities of which could be more or less classified under publicity, inviting any of you to interrupt me at any time to ask questions about anything you wish.

The generally accepted form of publicity or what we all call publicity, that is the mortuary notices, news articles with reference to prominent people who have died, the dedication of flag poles, fountains, public memorials and so forth and so forth as well as the use of sign boards, radio, paid newspaper advertising, both black and white and rotogravure, and the use of hand-out pieces of literature have produced results of course, but these results have been of a rather intangible value and so extremely hard to measure that I will not attempt to go into that in detail.

We have in the past used direct-by-mail canvass with more or less favorable results but it seems that the public is only susceptible to this type of publicity at irregular Intervals and the results of even this type of publicity are somewhat hard to measure.

My experience however has been that there are a few types of what might be called publicity, the value of which can be more or less accurately measured from a profitable standpoint and of course all of us already know that "volume of sales" is the answer between profit and loss, providing that volume can be created without too much expense.

Now all of this, as I see it, boils itself down to one basic principal, that basic principal is personal contact. This personal contact may be had in quite a number of variations, some of which I will explain but the basis of any successful campaign in this business I believe is fundamen¬tally personal contact. Now, that personal contact of course can be more effective if it is assisted by such things as a good piece of literature, fine improvements in your cemetery, large Endowment Funds well regulated, moving picture lectures, historical record contacts, prizes for prospective purchasers to visit the grounds, recommendations or introductory cards introducing representatives to prospective lot buyers, Easter Morning services, Memorial Day services and so forth and so forth.

After all of the outlined above activities and publicity has been used along with many other things I have forgotten to mention, just how much business walks in your front door wanting to buy a cemetery lot-not much-in fact, we would all starve to death if we did not go out and beat the bushes and follow up by personal contact. Recently one of my salesmen said that he was the third man to canvass a certain territory and he got more business out of it than the other two combined. He thought it was strange but I did not think so-that is the natural result of per¬sonal contact publicity. The first man through that territory only picked up a very few prospects but started the people to thinking-the next man through picked up a few more but refreshed the minds of those people to the fact that they should own their cemetery lot and by the time the third man came through that territory, it had been called to their attention and they had given it serious thought, making them cemetery conscious. That is one type of publicity seldom recognized as such but certainly one that pays dividends.

The ones who make these personal contacts of course must be trained in the particular type of contact they are to make or they must be par¬ticularly gifted in some particular line of personality so that the all impor¬tant fundamental of selling, will be immediately evident, that fundamental being the ability to inspire confidence on short acquaintance.

Now I ask you, can any representative, associate or employee of a cemetery organization inspire confidence unless he is confident, knows his business and is thoroughly sold on it himself; therefore I say to you, the point of beginning is to sell every member of your own organization first. If you see you cannot sell them, invite them to get other employment. The different types of personal contact which produce the best profits and best results are not always the methods of operation that the salesmen like the best. By this, I remind you as managers and sales managers that in hiring salesmen many potential salesmen would not even go to work for you if you told them immediately they must canvass but if after a period of months each salesman turns in a report showing where each sale originated and that report develops that about 70% of all sales originate from canvassing, then the salesmen sell themselves on canvassing as being the best method to produce the most results.

The historical record which has been explained to this Association creates good will among the lot owners and produces the names of friends, relatives and business associates at a time when they are cem¬etery conscious and therefore it produces steadily a volume of business that can be measured in dollars and cents.

One other medium of publicity has recently been developed and the ideas I am using have principally been copied from you gentlemen listening to me, so I will not go into detail at this point on the program in connection with the colored moving picture lecture system, however I have brought with me my colored moving pictures and my charts and before this convention is over, I will show those pictures and give my lecture which I use before church sponsored groups and I will give this just for the benefit of those few who may wish to hear it. It will not be a regular part on this program.

This lecture system however which we have now used for just about three months is a form of publicity which can be used in two or three different ways and the value of each one of these methods can be meas¬ured in dollar volume of business. In fact, the second month we used this lecture system, the month of July, it produced a very satisfactory volume of business which could be traced direct to the lectures themselves. This lecture system which is based on a very nice entertainment in our own chapel in the center of our cemetery property gives the sales¬man an opportunity to bring out their prospects at a definite time and in most cases where these prospects come to these lectures a sale is made immediately following.

Now getting back to selling the salesman which is more or less indirect publicity. I do not believe that a sales organization can have too much system and from my observation the system most generally used is to pat the representative on the back, wish him well and hope that he will make a sale. This will produce only modest results, if any. Certainly the training of sales people is essential and then after they are trained they must be advised with at regular intervals-in fact their entire day must be more or less laid out for them-they must be furnished with sales kits and literature of course but from time to time the sales manager must sit down with each one individually and refresh their memory on things they already know but have not been using. Recently in one of our sales meetings I asked each representative to take a piece of paper, write a personal inventory of their own methods, ability, how much time they were putting in on new contacts and at what time of day and so forth and to complete these personal inventories by criticizing their own methods. The results are fine. Of course I pretty well knew what the criticism of each man should be anyway and each man knew it himself but in writing it down and then sitting down with me for a half hour or an hour and going over their entire program and their prospects schedule for the coming 60 days, "it had the same effect that a school boy who misspelled a word and is required to write it on the board fifty times-he just does not misspell it again and the salesman who has been contacting 3 or 4 new contacts a day on the average begins to set aside 3 or 4 hours a day for new contacts and systematically make 25 or 30 new contacts a day. Several of my men who had apparently worked them¬selves into a rut immediately began to become enthusiastic, their mental attitude was changed, they began to produce and again I say to you that the first and most important publicity is the foundation work in your own organization.

CHAIRMAN HATTEN: Does anyone have any questions now? I would like to ask Mr. Eubank if he would describe two things in the form of publicity with respect to his perpetual care fund. One is billboards and the other is advertisements in a general church paper showing the growth of his fund from nothing up to the present amount.

PRESIDENT EUBANK: There is a chart of that growth which will appear in the lecture tomorrow morning, starting out with nothing and growing to over a quarter million dollars, dates taken two or three years apart and the amount of money in the endowment fund as of different dates. That explains that part.

We used lighted signboards scattered all over the country. We didn't get many results from them. We didn't get any-results that we could trace, so I just quit all of those and contracted for one lighted signboard on our grounds. We happen to be located on the main highway between Houston and Galveston and we are right in town. The main traffic to the Bay goes right through our property. We are on both sides of the road. We built a fifty-foot signboard lighted with Neon, and every four months we changed the color scheme on that signboard. The same mes¬sage from an advertising standpoint is always on the board and the one thing that is featured is the amount of dollars in the perpetual care trust fund endowment, perpetual care and endowment funds of so much money-that is in dollars and figures. That is the one big thing. Below that "Ask your banker." And the date is put on there and the amount of money in the endowment fund as of that date.

We actually traced $2,000 in sales the first 90 days that came in our front door from that signboard. Does that answer your question?

CHAIRMAN HATTEN: Then about the church paper.

PRESIDENT EUBANK: The church paper is a list of dates, the amount of money in the trust fund as of each of these dates, starting out with small type and gradually building up, just like the insurance figures do.

MR. C. E. BRYAN (Pasadena, CA): I would like to ask a question. I notice that it is getting to be quite a fad to advertise your perpetual care fund. Now I have analyzed that a little bit in our territory because we have one concern "Forest Lawn," which makes quite a show of it, and it has actually been my experience that has been bad advertising.

Now here are the results: There isn't a man in this room that can tell how much money ought to be put aside for perpetual care fund, and we use it actually against the cemetery. We say to them that the law of our state compels you to put up 25 cents a foot for a grave, which we can show absolutely isn’t enough. It requires us to put up $15.00 for a crypt that is more than four times as much in proportion as 25 cents for the grave.

Now, the only thing I am making the point of is that if you can simply say you have a perpetual care fund and anyone who is interested in it can be given the full information, but to tell the public about the perpetual care, you have raised the question that is an obstacle to your sale.

PRESIDENT EUBANK: We have found it just the opposite. Every banker in town knows about the trust fund and we advertise the amount of money in it. We don't talk about how much a square foot just about the amount of money, just saying "Ask your banker."

MR. GALL (Cleveland): Over how long a period did it take you to develop the trust fund you have today?

PRESIDENT EUBANK: Eighteen years. We have about $276,000 or $277,000.

MR. GALL: $278,000 is some trust fund!

MR. YELLAND: We put aside 10 percent.

PRESIDENT EUBANK: Ours is a good deal in excess of the require¬ments of the law, but the percentage basis I think is wrong. It ought to be based on so much per square foot. Ours is created that way and is irrevocable. If it doesn’t comply with the law, we will put up whatever does.

MR. COWAN: I should like to ask, does the amount you put in your perpetual care fund which you advertise, represent the actual amount or the value of the securities in which the money has been invested.

PRESIDENT EUBANK: That represents the actual amount that has been put in. At this time we have it in one railroad bond that is under par. Practically all the rest is in government and municipal bonds, and cash. Any bonuses or premiums are taken out of income.

MR. SPARKS (Philadelphia): Did you find those city maps you put out were good publicity?

PRESIDENT EUBANK: Excellent. We put out 35,000 and we had to reach another medium because so many of the people of the town had those.

MR. S. WHEELER (San Antonio, Texas): I would like to ask if, after all, the perpetual care that you give your cemetery isn't what you base your sales on. If it isn't the perpetual care you are giving, what have you to give over the hone-care cemetery and isn't it good business to advertise it? There are some cemeteries today that say they have a perpetual care fund. It is not an irrevocable fund and it is not a trust fund. It is managed and controlled by the cemetery owners or boards, and after all, outside of the perpetual care fund, what have we to offer?

PRESIDENT EUBANK: I think a perpetual care fund is one of the biggest selling assets in the cemetery. That is the way I have always looked at it. I think any perpetual trust fund should be an irrevocable trust.

CHAIRMAN HATTEN: Mr. Shea of Houston voiced a question to Mr. McBride, which seems to me is very important, and I am going to precede it for just a moment. How many here have chapels in their cemetery, any kind of chapel? (Several) Let me see the hands of those that have 60 percent of their services in the chapel. (Two) How many 50 percent? (None) How many 40 percent? (None) How many 30 percent? (None) How many 20 percent? (None) How many 10 percent? (Five) This question of Mr. Shea's to Mr. McBride is rather pertinent. We find in some places the funeral directors resent the use of the cemetery chapels and Mr. McBride must have developed something to reach that percentage and I wish he would tell us what it is.

MR. McBRIDE: Mr. Shea, we don't attempt to hold or try to get the people to hold the entire service in the chapel. We don't want to take anything away from the undertaker. They have their service at the funeral home, as usual. The people call at the funeral home. The service that I talk about as being 60 percent held in the chapel is that service that is normally held at the grave. The percentage of the services held in our chapel of the entire service, I wouldn't be able to tell you. It is probably insignificant.

MR. SHEA: But the main services are held at the undertaker's?

MR. McBRIDE: The services are held as usual at the funeral home and the normal service that would be held at the grave is the service I refer to as being held in our chapel.

MR. HOEFGEN: Do you sell him the idea that that is more comfortable than at the grave?

MR. MCBRIDE: I do. Our superintendent is a very sympathetic man and kindly man to meet, and just the type of person for that particular occasion, and our success, if it has been a success, and I think it has, due to the fact the people like it, is almost entirely due to him. We had some objections first from the undertakers, they not understanding that we were not trying to take anything away from them. They also felt that it required them to handle the casket twice, but when we got over the idea that we were not attempting to take anything away from them in the form of usurping any part of their service and also the fact that we take the casket from the chapel to the grave, and that they are through once it is delivered in the chapel by themselves, their responsibility ceases, we have overcome to a great extent that objection, and that is the part of the service we hold at the grave normally. Sixty percent of it is now held in our chapel rather than at the grave.

CHAIRMAN HATTEN: Do you find a drift of the families toward having a complete service?

MR. McBRIDE: No, I would say not.

MR. HOEFGEN: You are fortunate, Earl, in being able to contact your lot owner and client, which most cemeteries don't have the opportunity of doing?

MR. McBRIDE: Almost entirely we invariably insist, unless it is on special occasions, that we interview and make the entire arrangements that are to be conducted at the cemetery with the individual.

MR. HOEFGEN: Most cemeteries don't have that opportunity.

MR. HOWARD T. OTT (Milwaukee): I was wondering what means of conveyance you use to transfer the body from the chapel to the grave. You said you dismiss the hearse.

MR. McBRIDE: Ordinarily that has been conducted on one of these little rubber-tired buggies. We are just now considering the purchase of a proper vehicle for that. Our cemetery is not so large and our chapel is located almost in the center of the cemetery, so they don't have more than about 1,000 feet in the long direction and 400 or 500 feet in the shorter directions from any place. That is a great advantage.

MR. OTT: In some places, particularly in Milwaukee, they have rather objected to the idea of the chapel. It necessitates handling of the casket twice.

MR. McBRIDE: We have overcome that.

MR. OTT: The idea surprises me that you will get an undertaker to depart without completing his service, to leave the body with you, an unlicensed individual, as far as the handling is concerned. I had one occasion where an undertaker in Milwaukee became very much vexed with the idea. It began to rain and because it rained the family elected to use the chapel and he handed me the papers in a rather rough manner, if I may say so and said, “There are your papers and there is the body” and away he went. We didn’t do much about it until about a half hour later when we were sure he got way back home. I called him up and asked him if he wanted me to tell the family we were going to haul it or whether he would send his hearse. We wouldn’t do it unless the family knew what we were doing.” In 17 minutes he was back in the hearse and he called it off. After that we are getting along all right.

MR. A.H. BIGELOW (Omaha, NE): Do I understand the undertaker is the master of ceremonies in your chapel exercises as well as the funeral home?

MR. McBRIDE: In our town the undertakers don’t participate much in the actual service. They are there, but the services are generally conducted by a pastor or somebody of that sort and our people look after whatever is necessary in the chapel, bringing the flowers and the undertaker is in attendance at all funerals but invariably they depart after the service.

From the publication:
“1940-1941 Cemetery Handbook & Buyers’ Guide”
ACOA 11th Annual Convention & Exposition
Hotel Statler, Buffalo, New York
September 8-11, 1940