7 ideas to put to work now

Date Published: 
March, 2006
Original Author: 
Tim Thompson
Mount Royal Commemorative Services, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Original Publication: 
ICFM Magazine, March-April 2006

Theory is all very well, but what sales managers need is a step-by-step outline for putting a sales and marketing theory into practice. Here it is.

A successful marketing effort requires a combination of theory and actionable ideas. In previous articles, I have discussed the theoretical aspects of marketing, so I thought it would be timely to offer seven ideas you can act on. These ideas can be implemented to augment your current marketing efforts or to chart a new marketing course for your funeral home or cemetery.

1. Use the power of radio. As marketers, we tend to gravitate toward the newspaper as a first choice, but research indicates consumers are spending less time with this medium. The average consumer spends only 10 percent of his or her media day with print and 44 percent with radio. Radio enables you to target a specific audience and, because of its afford ability, reach that audience with enough frequency to attain positive results.

Of course, the creative content of your commercials is ultimately what will make the difference. Radio, as with any other medium, requires a specific call to action. Tell listeners what you want them to do in no uncertain terms: "Pick up the phone and call today for your free information kit with no obligation."

Another possibility that radio offers is the PI (per inquiry). Ask your radio sales representative about a PI, which is essentially a campaign scheduled by the station based on availability and paid for by you each time your phone rings.

2. Let someone else tell your story. The use of testimonials is not a novel idea in the marketing world. Having satisfied customers telling others about the benefits of preplanning, for example, goes a long way to enhance the credibility and validation of your company.

We recently ran a television campaign highlighting three individuals who had preplanned with our company. Of course, there was a call to action at the end of the commercial. The results were incredible, with hundreds of phone calls in a relatively short period of time.

Remember, the responsibility of media outlets is to drive prospects to your business, but it's up to you to make the sale. By the way, if you are going to make a television buy, ask your television sales representative about off-peak times, as prime time can be cost prohibitive.

3. Set up a seminar series. A critical part of our marketing efforts at Mount Royal Commemorative Services involves educating the public. In the last couple of years, we have created a "portable" seminar that can take place at a house of worship, a senior association get -together or a civic group meeting.

The seminar includes three experts, since comprehensive final arrangements involve more than just funeral and cemetery preplanning. We include a notary (to discuss the importance of a will), an estate planner and one of our preplanning counselors.

It is important to gather attendees' names and contact information so you can follow up with them in the future. Last year, we did approximately 45 seminars throughout the city, resulting in a substantial amount of revenue.

4. Follow up on prospects. Most marketers do an excellent job in targeting new prospects for their business. However, many ignore the database of prospects who have expressed an interest but have not yet made a decision to purchase.

More than half of the consumers that request information from your business will eventually buy, but only if you maintain consistent contact with them. All advertising leads should be placed in a database so they can be systematically followed.

The follow-up can be in several forms, including newsletters, phone calls, personalized notes and e-mail. Statistics indicate that 80 percent of all sales are made after the fifth point of contact, so it is imperative that you stay front and center in the mind of your consumer or prospect.

5. Learn the value of public relations. Advertising is the wind; PR is the sun. The value of public relations has increased dramatically over the last decade. An article in the newspaper or an appearance on a popular radio show has greater value than a simple advertisement.

Create events that are unique in your market and will attract the attention of consumers. Today's consumer is inundated with approximately 3,000 advertising messages daily, so if you're not being different, you're in trouble. In a book called ''Differentiate or Die," Jack Trout writes about survival in an era of killer competition.

Over the last several years, Mount Royal Commemorative Services has offered the following programs to differentiate ourselves:

-    Open air gospel choir concert
-    Shakespeare in the park presentation
-    Cultural music event
-    Jazz concert in our new chapel
-    Historical walking tours
-    Art exhibition
-    Sunday brunch preplanning seminars
-    Crematorium tour

6. Track your results from advertising. "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."—John Wanamaker.

Advertising without tracking the results is an exercise in futility. The vast majority of business owners have absolutely no idea if their marketing efforts are delivering results.

According to Roy H. Williams' "The Wizard of Ads," the waste in marketing is anywhere from 50 to 90 percent. Given that knowledge, we must attempt to analyze our marketing efforts so that we can maintain what's working and get rid of what is not.

How do we track results? There are several ways; the method you use will depend to a great degree on your advertising objectives. If your goal is to get the phone to ring, use different phone numbers with different media outlets. Or, use the same basic message and theme in all of your advertising, but promote a specific benefit unique to each media. A somewhat less scientific method is to ask prospects when they call or come to your cemetery or funeral home where they saw or heard your ad.

7. Choose your words carefully.  Although it is important to target your advertising and maintain enough frequency over time, the essence of your success or failure will be based on what you say in your ad. Avoid clichés, funereal sounding music in the background, and too much time spent on your company.

Focus on the benefits to the consumer. A good ad is about the consumer; a bad ad is about the advertiser. Use a two-step approach as opposed to an approach that says "call us in a time of need." By offering a free information kit and educating consumers, you will position your company as being different from the rest.