fbpx

Latest News

Latest News
2017 NFDA International Convention & Expo

2017 NFDA International Convention & Expo

Uncategorized

The Express Funeral Funding sales and marketing team traveled to Boston this October for the 2017 National Funeral Director Association (NFDA) International Convention and Expo ! The team began the week, at Stow Acres Country Club in Stow, MA for the Funeral Service Foundation Annual Golf Scramble. Express Funeral Funding was proud to sponsor the 12th hole as an Eagle-level sponsor, donating $3,000 to the event. While the day was scattered with cold winds and rain showers, this did not slow the foursome down! Andy Buckman, Adam Setty, Deanna Dydynski, and Jay Tiesing, brought home the trophy, winning the golf tournament with the best gross score of the day, 16 under! Later that evening the entire team had a chance to catch-up with fellow colleagues and old friends at the NFDA college-alumni-themed welcome party.

The next three days were jam-packed with motivational key-note speakers, educational seminars and NFDA campfire sessions! With the NFDA convention falling on Halloween, the Express team brought out their best for the October holiday. Suited, in khaki and neon orange-striped jumpsuits,  black boots, elbow pads and the necessary proton-pack, the team made sure the convention center was “all clear” in their Ghostbuster costumes! Not to go unnoticed, Adam Setty, customer relations manager completed the Ghostbuster group with his Stay Puft Marshmallow Man suit.

The remaining time at the national convention gave Express Funeral Funding a chance to thank funeral homes and cemeteries nationwide with amazing Express giveaways! The team gave away hundreds of gifts, from custom designed Boston t-shirts, and EFF Ozark koozies, to Apple Watches, Yeti coolers and much more! Now home in Clarksville, IN the Express team is gearing up for next year’s National Funeral Director Association convention in Salt Lake City!

Take a look below at some of the memories from the NFDA Convention & Expo!

      

      

      

      

    

Brand Like A Blooming Onion

Brand Like A Blooming Onion

Publications

Featured in the Funeral Business Advisor: October 2017

By: Deanna Dydynski, marketing & public relations manager

An onion, because of its many layers, is no stranger to deeper-thinking analogies, as with each layer you pull back, another reveals itself. Branding, much like an onion holds the same theory. Your business is the onion as a whole and each layer you uncover is an essential piece of your brand. This onion however, is a blooming one because as each layer appears, they remain connected, opening up to the heart of the onion, or the heart of your business.

So, how do you get your brand to bloom? Let’s flip the script and get down to some basic branding elements.

Branding is essential in building a business, as it gives your company a unique personality and perception in the marketplace. As the age-old saying goes, perception is reality.  Brand perception is everything to marketing professionals. How consumers think but most importantly feel about your brand, service or product can ultimately determine the fate of your business.

In today’s millennial, tech-savvy, opinion-driven, online world, the ability to share your thoughts, feelings and perceptions of a business, product or service is easier than ever. With online rating companies such as: Yelp!, Angie’s List, Facebook Reviews, Consumer Reports, Insider Pages and Funeral Home Ratingz your business has more outlets than ever for consumer brand-perception reviews.

So, how do create positive perception? You build a better brand. Your brand is not just your logo or your funeral home mission statement. Your brand is everything. It is your: Facebook page, website, staff dress code, landscaping, service options, showroom, marketing materials, hearse, partnering companies, the color of your arrangement room and more. All of these layers, or elements of your business are a reflection of your brand and you can believe that every person that has an interaction with your funeral home is going to formulate a perception.

While there is a long list of branding principals, ranging from moral code to design, we will focus on three. Why only three? In true onion analogy form, there are three parts to an onion, the outer layer, the inner layer and the heart. Let’s start with the outer layer and work our way in to the heart:

Outer Layer: Choose Imagery & Colors Carefully

Whether you are developing a logo, creating grief literature or designing the interior of your funeral home the colors and images you choose are essential and a direct reflection of your brand.

First however, you have to actually use imagery. Too many funeral professionals resist the opportunity to better brand their business through custom marketing materials. Did you know that we process images 60,000 times faster than text and that 93% of the information sent to the brain is visual? Feel free to speak to your families about your service selections without any marketing material, or go to a community event without any brand specific promotional items, but your families are only going to remember 10% of what you said to them three days later. Now, pair your GPL with imagery or create promotional items with your logo and they will retain 65% of the information you said to them (John Medina, 2017).

To marketing and advertising professionals, this is not groundbreaking news as most of our work is built around the appropriate development of imagery and color. So while it can be important to outsource to marketing professionals for brand specific materials, it is still important to have a basic knowledge of imagery.

As a previous marketing executive in the mental health industry, my understanding of the human mind and how it works plays a large part in the work I develop today. Successful imagery should have purpose, simplicity, symbolism and should stand out from your competition. Color psychology is a large portion of having successful imagery and it is critical in branding. It is no accident that companies like McDonalds, KFC, Wendy’s and Pizza Hut use red as a primary color as this increases appetite, or that Apple’s brand color is white which is associated with innovation.

So, what does your funeral home’s primary color say about your brand or even the color of your arrangement room? Color can evoke certain emotions, feelings and thoughts and in such an emotionally sensitive industry like ours, selecting appropriate colors is crucial. Take a look at this color marketing guide by the Fast Company:

It can take time and effort to develop successful imagery to enhance your brand. Choose carefully and you will find that it is necessary for the long-term success of your business.

 Inner Layer: Develop A Relationship

Now that we have uncovered the first layer and have knowledge of the impact that imagery and color can have on your brand, it is time to get a little deeper and develop a brand relationship with your families.

Jim Stengel, former global marketing officer of Proctor and Gamble, says that “We’re seeing more of an emphasis on brands building emotional relationships with consumers because it’s powerful and it works,” (Entrepreneur.com, 2012).

As funeral professionals you build emotional relationships with the families you serve every day, because in the most trying of times, you are their greatest support system. However, with a shift in industry preference and religious affiliation, funeral homes can be left vulnerable. Consumers are expecting more from brands, so developing a relationship is more important than ever.

So how do you connect with consumers and establish relationships? Take some tips from some of America’s most trusted brands!

Amazon – Make It Personal

Amazon has created an online empire of shopping, saving consumers time, money and providing endless products. Fostering relationships with consumers by helping them make decisions with the “recommendation tool” has helped forge a bond and helped establish trust in the brand.

A 2017 Consumer Awareness and Preferences study conducted by NFDA, indicated that end-of-life services are becoming increasingly personal and families are wanting new and unique ways to celebrate their loved ones. Provide multiple  options and help families develop the perfect service to honor their loved one, this will help you develop a greater relationship.

FedEx – Live Up To Your Promise

There is nothing worse than being overpromised and under delivered, or not delivered at all. FedEx has developed an immensely trustworthy relationship with consumers by delivering packages on time but they reached customers on an entirely new level with their “We Understand” campaign, which recognized that the content inside of those packages were just as important as receiving them.

According to findings in an NFDA study, the most desired qualities when choosing a funeral director were honesty and trustworthiness.  Families want to trust you and they want brands to go above and beyond to establish relationships and show that you care about them. What additional services can you provide to develop more trust with your families?

Nordstrom- Focus On The Customer

Professor of Marketing at Northwestern, Tim Calkin says, “Nordstrom is all about the power of delivering exceptional customer service that goes above and beyond a typical service experience,” (Forbes, 2017).

Nordstrom is not known for having the lowest prices and they do not pretend to. They have developed a relationship with their consumers, where they know they may pay a little more but they are going to receive exemplarily service.

While consumers do want funeral directors to be conscious of their budget, it is not the main concern (NFDA, 2017). Has your competitor down the street ever cut their prices down to bring in the bargain funeral shopper? Let them, as long as you have developed a relationship with your customers and have established a trustworthy brand your business will not suffer.

While there are multiple ways you can establish relationships with your consumers, it is important to remain consistent and true to your brand, which leads us into the heart of the onion.

The Heart – Know Yourself

Know yourself and know your brand, seems obvious enough, right? Well, many businesses have difficulty explaining their brand. Can you describe your funeral home or cemetery’s brand in three seconds? Would your receptionist, funeral director staff or florist be able to describe it the same way?

Not having a uniform vision of your brand can have an effect on the consumers perception. After all, if your own staff cannot define your brand, how can  you expect your families to as well? It all starts with knowing yourself, your mission and your vision. While it can be difficult to define your brand there are some exercises Entrepenuer.com recommends to better acquaint yourself.

1. Create A Character

Imagine yourself as a fictional character as it is easier to assign traits to a character rather than a business entity.  What is this person like? How do they behave? What are their best qualities and their worst? What does this person want to accomplish?

2. Compare & Contrast

Focus on differentiating factors that make you stand out from your competitors. Do you offer different services? Are your service costs lower? Does your location play a factor in your customer base? Try to think of a message that communicates your brand differently than any of your competitors.

3. Create A Feature

Many times businesses will establish a feature item or culture touchstone to better define your brand. Would landscaping a beautiful garden for you families to walk through or placing a fountain in your funeral home help develop a peaceful and warm brand perception? Sometimes having a feature item can help describe your brand better than any marketing material can.

Whether you know it or not, your funeral home or cemetery has a brand. Developing a strong brand and maintaining it takes commitment and planning.  The heart of your business is surrounded by your brand.  If you continually improve each layer of your business, you are on your way to branding like a blooming onion!

The A-Team Takes Over At The Independent Funeral Group Fall Festival

The A-Team Takes Over At The Independent Funeral Group Fall Festival

Uncategorized

Fun Times In Chattanooga!

Aaron  Calloway, Express Funeral Funding’s vice president, along with director of sales, Andy Buckman and customer relations manager, Adam Setty traveled to Chattanooga, Tennessee late September for the Independent Funeral Group’s Fall Festival.

Proudly serving as the Independent Funeral Group’s sole endorsed insurance assignment funding provider, Express Funeral Funding was thrilled to support the organization’s conference along with sponsoring the festival’s closing-event river boat cruise. From the opening golf tournament to the educational seminars and amazing presenters, Lacy Robinson and Doug Gober, the conference was a complete success!

Express Funeral Funding is the largest privately held insurance assignment funding company in the industry! Since 2002 we have been providing funeral homes and cemeteries nationwide the FASTEST. EASIEST.® administration of life insurance assignments. We eliminate the challenges of working with insurance companies by limiting administration, providing immediate payment and advancing complete policy funds. All of these services can be provided at no cost to funeral homes and cemeteries.

As the sole endorsed insurance assignment funding provider for the Independent Funeral Group we offer competitive processing rates for members and are continuously improving our services to provide you and your families the FASTEST. EASIEST.® services. We want you to know we are here whenever you need us! Providing open communication through our newly designed website, our Facebook page and our personal cell phone numbers, we encourage you to reach out to us regarding any matter.

Check Out Some Of The Memories…

     


    


    


    


   


  

 

Sales Team Heads to Myrtle Beach for NFDMA Convention

Sales Team Heads to Myrtle Beach for NFDMA Convention

Publications

Express Funeral Funding is traveling to Myrtle Beach, SC this weekend for the National Funeral Directors & Morticians Association’s 80th Annual Convention. Visit the team at Booth 132 and enter in the Express Giveaway, you will be entered to win a: GoPro5, Apple Watch, Yeti Cooler, Yeti Rambler or Beats Solo Headphones!

Have you LIKED us on Facebook? You will have double the chance to win in the Express Giveaway just by “LIKING” our Facebook page. We will keep you up to date on industry trends and Express news, plus you’ll receive exclusive entry into every Express Giveaway. 

Meet the team going to Myrtle Beach:
Andy_Buckman Deanna_Dydynski

 

GET THE DOG WITHOUT THE FLEAS | 7 THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE PURSUING AN ACQUISITION OR MERGER

GET THE DOG WITHOUT THE FLEAS | 7 THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE PURSUING AN ACQUISITION OR MERGER

Publications

Featured in Southern Funeral Director: May 2017

By: Deanna Dydynski, marketing & public relations manager

The funeral industry, while it is incredibly unique in practice, the principals of business are no different than any other. In every industry, as businesses grow, they expand, acquire and merge. The funeral industry is no stranger to an acquisition or merger. Does the nation’s largest funeral home operator, Service Corporation International (SCI) ring a bell or the Matthews-Aurora acquisition of 2015? Whether a business is attempting to grow or survive, the development of strategic alliances and consolidation is key.

Mergers and acquisitions can be great for business as they can: create diversification of products and service offerings, increase capacity, create a larger market share, eliminate competition or improve financing and cost efficiencies by conjoining operations. As business owners, you know all too well there can be risks with any major decision. Forbes’s, Frank Vermeulen suggests that 70 percent of acquisitions and merger deals fail, whether due to clashes in culture, potential increases in debt or apprehension among employees during consolidation, there is no guarantee for success.

If you are debating on buying, selling or merging, there are several considerations you must take into account. A good friend and acquisitions lawyer of mine told me, “when pursuing an acquisition or merger, you want to get the dog but you want to make sure you get the dog without the fleas.” Meaning, if you are wanting to expand or join with a business you want to be sure you get the right one, as you do not want any unexpected surprises. A business effort such as a merger or acquisition is just that, an effort and before moving forward you will have to complete a series of due diligence and gather an extensive amount of information. After all would you really buy or sell anything without doing your research?

Let’s begin with the basics, and clarify the difference between a merger and an acquisition. While they are often uttered in the same sentence, they have slight differentiating factors. An acquisition occurs when one company purchases the business of another entity  and clearly establishes itself as the new owner. A merger, refers to a mutual consolidation of two or more businesses to form a new enterprise including the integration of operations, and the sharing of control and profits. Once you have a clear understanding of how acquisitions differentiate from mergers you can evaluate how either may affect your business.

While there is an almost insurmountable amount of time, effort and research that goes into such a great business deal, here are the 7 things you need to consider before pursuing an acquisition or merger:

1. Finances

This is an obvious one, investigating further into the company’s financial history, metrics and targeted projections is crucial. You will want to gather financial records such as the company’s annual, quarterly and monthly financial statements for the last three to five years, as this will give you a better understanding of the performance and financial condition. Additionally, information such as any aging accounts receivables, tax returns, depreciation schedules, debt payoffs or if the EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) has been appropriately calculated. Let’s be honest, money is what keeps a business going and whether you are looking to buy, sell, or merge, financial matters are going to be a top priority

2. Customers

Understanding the company’s current and targeted customer base will be key in order to maintain and recognize growth opportunities. If you are planning to acquire another business, keeping the prior company’s customer base, and keeping them happy, should be a priority. As a potential buyer you will want to know the top customers, any specific terms created, customer backlog  or if there will be any issues retaining customers following an acquisition. On the flip side if you are planning to sell, you, will want to see that your customers fall into good hands. As any good business owner knows, a loyal customer base is important and if you are wanting to expand then you will make an effort to understand the ins and outs of your new potential clientele.

3. Employees and Management

You will have serious decisions to make based on the current employee base of the company you are planning to acquire or merge with. Gathering information on appropriate treatment of personal, employment and consulting agreements, incentive arrangements, bonus programs and compliance obligations will be points of focus when moving forward in a merge or acquisition. Aside from having happy customers, a happy staff is just as important, as your employees are the foundation of your business.

4. Litigation

Before making any significant investment you need a clear overview on litigation. Necessary legal  documentation you will want to uncover may include any filed, pending or settled litigation, threatened claims, consent decrees, injunctions, attorneys letters, arbitration matters or any government proceedings against the company. As you are funeral directors and most likely not experts on law, having a lawyer who specializes in mergers and acquisitions will be your best asset. Merging, selling or acquiring requires an extensive amount of legal documentation and involvement so you should be sure to engross yourself in any legal proceedings as much as possible.

5. Property

If you are wanting to merge with or acquire another funeral home, you are going to need a legitimate outline of all physical, technological and intellectual properties and confirm appropriate steps have been taken to protect these. Intellectual properties may include confidentiality and invention agreements. Is the seller infringing on these rights or is a third party infringing on them?  Does the funeral home you want to acquire have any copyrighted products or materials? What about crematory facilities, caskets, hearses, rental properties or additional real estate? If you are selling your business, the buyer is going to be extremely interested in the quality of your properties, so be prepared to encounter an extensive list of due diligence inquiries.

6. Competition

Knowing the competitive landscape for a business you are going to acquire or merge with is almost as important as knowing the business itself. Understanding the competitive environment a business operates in is crucial, as every marketplace is different. You would analyze another businesses’ competition just the same as you would analyze your own competitive market. Uncovering the different service offerings, pricing structures, advantages, history and customer base are all key pieces of information you will want to gather about the potential businesses’ competition.

7. Marketing

Determining how to integrate a new company into an existing infrastructure and make a brand transition smooth is a difficult task. While marketing and sales initiatives of another company may not be a top priority during the process of a merger or acquisition, this information will be key for future endeavors. Understanding the target company’s marketing strategies and arrangements will help uncover branding and growth opportunities. Marketing includes sales, promotions, communications and public relations, ultimately making up a large part of any business. So why would you not want to have a foundation of the existing companies marketing information? Did the funeral home conduct a survey and have valuable marketing information for the target area demographic? Do you have a list of all the stakeholders and a plan to properly communicate the transition? What about sales representatives, marketing literature, GPL’s and catalogs? These are all materials that will need to be gathered and assessed before moving forward with an acquisition or merger.

While these are just a few of the necessary elements of due diligence in moving forward with an acquisition or merger, ultimately, you are going to need a qualified team to assist you in getting “the dog without the fleas.”

 

Three Times You Should Spend Money to Make Money

Three Times You Should Spend Money to Make Money

Publications

Featured in the Funeral Business Advisor: February 2017

By: Aaron Calloway, vice president

Unless your funeral home has a never-ending supply of money or investors with extremely generous pockets, knowing exactly where to invest in your business can be a challenge. Yes, you should save money by avoiding unnecessary costs, but there are some expenses that are necessary to the growth and success of your business and knowing the difference is essential. Here are three times you should absolutely spend money to make money:

1. Technology 
While it may seem obvious to invest in new technologies, many funeral homes nationwide are continually avoiding technological advancement costs. Time is money and investing in new technologies is essential to improve business efficiencies. Overseeing information technologies and being part-owner of a funeral funding company, I know this to be most accurate. Investing in technology to improve our online claims processing systems alone,  has increased the speed at which our funeral homes are funded, not to mention all the internal processes that have improved. In business, time is measured by value and what you can accomplish in your nine-hour day, if not longer. Could your funeral home create more value in your day by investing in an accounting program, software updates, an answering service or tablets for your staff to take to home visitations? Yes, spending money on technology can vastly improve the efficiency of your staff, after all they are the life-force behind your business. However, investing in technology to improve internal business processes is only half of the equation.

While at times the funeral industry may seem to be stuck in the past, your consumer is not. Investing in technologies for the families you serve is essential. Families coming to you now to plan their loved ones service, have been immersed in technology from a young age and they are expecting you to be also. Planning arrangements in a classic showroom or selecting a casket from a book is not going to cut it anymore. Purchase the 65” television and iPad to show your families their options, invest and partner with companies that can develop unique memorial videos or purchase the sound system for your viewing room, that will create the “Rock n Roll” themed service your next family always wanted for their father. As the preferences of your families change and less are choosing to not have religious affiliated services, you must adapt. Your consumer wants the latest and greatest, and advancements in technology can provide you with that while giving you an edge over your competition.

Improve the services you provide, create a better work day for your employees and spend money on technology, you will be happy you did.

2. Marketing

It is difficult to determine the affect a marketing campaign has on a company’s growth as there are many factors that combine to create a successful business. However, without marketing a company gets little, if any, exposure. You may offer the best services or the best prices in your community, but how would anyone know if you do not market it?

Peter Drucker, a leading expert on management theory, wrote: Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two and only two basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.

Marketing is the fuel running your business, it is not just creating costly advertisements, its public relations, creating a recognizable brand and reputation, sales, promotions and more.

Drucker continues with: Marketing encompasses the entire business. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of its final result, that is from the customer’s point of view.

How is a customer supposed to have a point of view if they do not know you exist? According to the Entrepreneur (2016), 46% of small business still do not have a website and it is reported that over 80 percent of Americans do research on the web before selecting a company or making a purchase. There are funeral homes all across the country that still do not have websites. Not marketing yourself online or having an outdated web presence can have severe consequences. The fact is, you are losing customers.

Developing a website is just one avenue of marketing your business. As the industry evolves, you must find ways to reach your customer and if you do not know how to, then hire someone who does. My business is no exception to this, whether we are investing in expert sales and marketing staff to join the team or hiring outside website, brand management companies, we are doing it and it is working.

Invest in a new website, commercial advertising or an industry social media specialist, you must spend money on marketing, and the successful businessperson is already doing so.

3. Education

Running a business aside, the most successful people in life are those who are continuously learning. In business, continuing education is crucial, there are always new skills, techniques and innovations for us to adopt and the best business owners know this.  As funeral professionals you are required by your state to earn a minimum amount of Continuing Education credits, so while furthering education is not a foreign concept, there are educational opportunities you are missing out on.

Conventions, Conferences and Expos, the triple threat of funeral industry education. These types of educational gatherings are packed with t­­rainings, speeches, events, innovative products and services and professionals eager to transfer knowledge to you! As convention season approaches, I ask our funeral home’s if they will be attending the upcoming trade shows and repeatedly I hear, “You know, I have been in the industry for a long time and have never gone to a convention, they are just too expensive.”

The costs of travel, hotel, entertainment, food and exhibit passes can add up, but these are all advantageous costs. Imagine this; you are in the hotel, heading down the elevator, it stops on the eighth floor and one of the industry’s most respected business consultants gets on. You shuffle to the left and they catch your expo badge, you begin to talk and realize you are both headed to the same seminar. The elevator stops on the lobby floor and you both begin to walk to the same hotel breakfast café, where you sit and end up discussing unique ways to merchandise your showroom to increase profitability. Just being in the right place at the right time, not only did you gain a new industry friend and try a new breakfast spot but you gained invaluable knowledge to better your business. These instances occur all of the time. When hundreds to thousands of funeral professionals are gathered in one location great opportunities will continually present themselves! Regardless if you choose to attend a convention to educate you and your staff, you must spend money on education, there is always something you can learn to improve your business.

Most funeral homes and cemeteries at this point in the year have already developed a budget and plan in mind for 2017. Hopefully yours includes investments in technology, marketing and education. If it does, your business should be able to look towards a successful 2018.