I do my best to keep these posts short. I know your time is important. But, on your behalf, I am a little shook up. One of the benefits of age is wisdom. I have seen so many things come and go that i don’t shake up easily. Yesterday, I was introduced to one more $#%@ Bottom Feeder. But this one is doing some things that need to be noticed and preempted by conventional funeral homes. Sorry for the alarmism, and sorry for the length of this post but I gotta tell the story.
I was one of the founding partners of Trust 100. Trust 100 started out as an advertising co-op where we “co-oped” the cost of TV advertising in markets like Detroit, Cleveland, Toledo, Toronto and New York City. Very little “moves the market share needle” in funeral service but that advertising did. In recent years I have had several old Trust 100 affiliates approach me to share how successful it really was. Several years ago former NFDA President, Jack Hogan, wheeled up to me at a convention to tell me, “That Trust 100 advertising increased my volume 40%!”
So, what happened? You should be asking: why Trust 100 isn’t doing that anymore?
As with any success credit can be given to numerous factors, not the least of which is acknowledging the quality of the funeral homes we had as affiliates. That said, however, and, in my mind, it is a big however, I believe a lot of the success for actually moving market share lies with the original series of ads we used. They were “in-your-face” and humorous. Virtually all our affiliates reported that they “made the phone ring.” Unfortunately, the “in-your-face” and humorous approach was directly contrary to the persona most of our affiliates preferred to see themselves in. Despite the acknowledged success we were under constant and relatively universal pressure to change the ads to something more “fitting.” In other words Persona (as it so often does in funeral service) won out over effectiveness. After several years of literally fighting with our own affiliates we bowed to the pressure and replaced the ads with something more in keeping with the persona our affiliates preferred. Instantly, the phones stopped ringing. and eventually that strategy fizzled out and we transformed ourselves into a preneed marketer.
This is why I reprinted Patrick Lencioni’s remarks in a recent post “Are you too proud to succeed?”
Here is why I tell you this story: I know from experience what to do to move that market share needle. At the same time I wore out on “pushing strings uphill” and decided I would stop trying to get Funeral Directors to do what they will not do. “In-your-face” humor worked extremely well for Trust 100 affiliates in an incredibly affordable format. It made Forest Lawn in Los Angeles a nationally known brand. I even witnessed a weird combination of sex and humor successfully used to sell hearing aids for Hearex. I also used humor to increase our call-in volume at my flower shop by 400%!
But now some of you will be threatened by what I see as enormously effective advertising and you need to know. Yesterday “Connecting Directors” shared a link to a commercial on youtube for a nonconventional funeral home in Canada: Basic Funerals. Click to view the ad inside Connecting Director’s website. you will need to scroll down to view. Then come back to learn what I would do to compete with it.
This ad will work, it will be effective and it will move the Market Share Needle. Trust me.
So, here is what I woud do. I believe the ad agencies specializing in funeral service need to help preempt this by developing “In-your-face” humorous advertising and funeral homes need to own this category of advertising in their local market. It will easily pay for itself through increased business and it will enable you to respond to anyone who comes into the market using this genre of advertising. Nothing is as effective in undermining humorous ads as humorous ads but you need to own that category first otherwise it will backfire.
Based on my experience here is what will happen if you do this: Your mother will be horrified. Your staff will be embarrassed. You will get a few complaints. Your friends will tease you and…your market share will grow. It will be painful and maybe you are too proud to succeed but it is much more painful to lose market share than it is to gain it…and more embarrassing as well.