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Latest News
Messenger Acquires the Fastest Growing Funding Company in the U.S., Express Funeral Funding

Messenger Acquires the Fastest Growing Funding Company in the U.S., Express Funeral Funding

Express News

AUBURN, IN – Messenger, a leading provider in stationery, funeral service items and personalization solutions, is pleased to announce the acquisition of Express Funeral Funding.

“After careful consideration, we sought the opportunity to acquire one of the fastest growing companies in the funeral profession,” commented Kevin Keane, president of Messenger. “This will allow Messenger to broaden our existing product line and services to funeral homes and cemeteries, while providing innovative solutions for families during their most difficult time of need.”

As the largest privately held and FASTEST. EASIEST.® insurance assignment funding company in the nation, Express Funeral Funding has been providing funeral homes and cemeteries the ultimate funding experience since 2002.

“Our focus from the beginning was to be the best in the industry, not necessarily the biggest,” said Steve Calloway, president and co-founder of Express Funeral Funding. “We strongly believe this acquisition will provide our partnering funeral homes and cemeteries an even greater funding experience.”

Both organizations remain dedicated to continually providing world-class solutions to funeral homes, cemeteries and their families.

“This is great for our customers. We are thrilled to have aligned with an organization which shares our same mission, to provide the funeral profession with unparalleled services,” explained Aaron Calloway, executive vice president and co-founder of Express Funeral Funding. “Our goal has always been to provide leading-edge solutions and total customer satisfaction to our funeral homes and cemeteries, and I am confident this acquisition will achieve this on a greater scale.” Express Funeral Funding utilized Midwest based investment bank Periculum Capital Company as advisor for the sale of the company.

All sales and customer service inquiries will continue to be handled by the respective companies. To reach Messenger, please call 1.800.827.5151 or email messenger@messengerllc.com. To reach Express Funeral Funding, please call 1.812.949.9011 or email contact@expff.com.

Messenger LLC, headquartered in Auburn, Indiana, was founded in 1913 by Frank Messenger who started in the religious calendar business and has since become the leading provider of stationery, funeral service items and personalization services. Focused on being a trusted partner to funeral professionals, Messenger delivers time saving solutions to increase customer satisfaction and add value. Messenger provides quality product and technology solutions with quick lead times and exemplary service, an extensive line-up of well-known brands and licensed artists, exclusive partnerships and one of the most experienced and extensive sales teams in the funeral industry. For more information about Messenger, visit www.messengerllc.com or call 1.800.827.5151.

Express Funeral Funding has been providing funeral homes and cemeteries nationwide the ultimate funding experience since 2002. Express Funeral Funding eliminates the challenges of working with insurance companies by limiting administration, providing immediate payment and advancing complete policy funds. For more information on Express Funeral Funding, please visit www.expressfuneralfunding.com, email contact@expff.com or call 1.812.949.9011.

Contact Information:

Deanna_Dydynski

Deanna Dydynski | Marketing & Public Relations Manager
Express Funeral Funding
deanna.dydynski@expff.com | 812.949.9011 ext 108

 

Tracy Fetters | Marketing & Communications Supervisor
Messenger
tfetters@messengerllc.com |800.827.5151 ext 230

 

Express Funeral Funding becomes the endorsed provider for the Kansas Funeral Director Association

Express Funeral Funding becomes the endorsed provider for the Kansas Funeral Director Association

Express News

Express Funeral Funding Becomes the Exclusive Endorsed Insurance Assignment Funding Provider For The Kansas Funeral Director Association

CLARKSVILLE, IN – Express Funeral Funding, the FASTEST. EASIEST.® and largest privately held insurance assignment funding company in the nation is pleased to announced they are the exclusive endorsed insurance assignment funding provider for the Kansas Funeral Director Association (KFDA).

According to Pam Scott, KFDA’s Executive Director, “the KFDA is pleased to announce that it has chosen Express Funeral Funding as the KFDA’s preferred provider of insurance assignment processing and funding. We believe they will handle our members insurance claims in a professional and efficient manner”.

“We are honored to have been selected for the endorsement and are excited for our partnership with the Kansas Funeral Director Association,” said Steve Calloway, President of Express Funeral Funding.

Since 2002 Express Funeral Funding has been providing funeral homes and cemeteries nationwide, the FASTEST. EASIEST.® administration of life insurance assignments by eliminating the challenges of working with insurance companies, providing immediate payment and advancing complete policy funds.

For more information on Express Funeral Funding, please visit www.expressfuneralfunding.com or call 812.949.9011.

 

 

Larry McCracken receives Supplier of the Year from the Southern Texas Funeral Director Association

Larry McCracken receives Supplier of the Year from the Southern Texas Funeral Director Association

Express News

Express Funeral Funding is beyond excited and proud to announce, Larry McCracken, national account manager, received Supplier of the Year from the Southern Texas Funeral Director Association.

Larry McCracken, proud Texan and the most interesting man in the funeral profession has been serving families, funeral homes and cemeteries since 1971.

McCracken has over 17 years of funeral home ownership, 22 years managing one the nation’s most successful pre-need sales teams and over 10 years as a pillar in insurance assignment funding, currently serving as a lead national account manager for Express Funeral Funding.

A man of integrity and sincerity, with the spirit of a 21- year-old, Larry is an expert sailor, wonderful husband, father, grandfather, colleague and friend to many.

Dedicating his passion for funeral service, McCracken has been a spearhead and influential leader in the funeral profession for nearly 50 years, with no intentions of slowing down.

The #Social Media Guide | 10 Tips to Learning Social Media Language & Culture

The #Social Media Guide | 10 Tips to Learning Social Media Language & Culture

Publications

Featured in the Funeral Business Advisor: May- June 2019

By: Deanna Dydynski, marketing & public relations manager

Have you ever read something on Facebook and been completely perplexed or heard an employee or coworker say something and you have absolutely no clue what it means? If you answered yes to either of these, then this is the guide for you.

Undoubtedly, social media is changing the way we communicate, socialize and interact as humans. The English language is evolving every day, from acronyms (LOL) and abbreviations (Totes) to the #hashtags, Emojis 😉 and new Oxford Dictionary recognized words like: Selfie, Tweet, Gif and Photobomb. We have social media to thank for all of these changes and if you do not wake up in the morning and immediately check your notifications, know how to “Dougie” or do not feel #blessed, then you are missing out on a serious culture movement.

As a marketing professional, understanding social media is absolutely necessary and I will admit, I have an upper hand in this arena, because I had a Myspace (2003 social media platform which is essentially obsolete) and am a part of a generation that grew up interacting on many of the first online social media platforms.

Business consultants stress the importance of utilizing social media in your marketing efforts and present how likes, shares, tweets and comments can help brand your business and gain you clientele, however they rarely provide an informational guide on what any of it means.

Understanding the sometimes-complex language and culture of social media can be confusing but if you want to stay engaged in your children’s, nephew’s, wife’s or your current/potential customer base, it is important to learn social media language and these ten tips will help.

1. Get a Smartphone

While it sounds extremely basic, and some enjoy living the “simple life,” getting a Smartphone is probably the most important tool needed in your quest for understanding social media. Afterall, nearly all of the social media applications, known as “Apps,” such as Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are mobile friendly and can be viewed anywhere your phone has internet access, which is also key when maintaining a consistent social media presence.

2. Learn the QUAD

We are not talking quadrangles, groups of four people or an architectural structure with four sides. We are talking about the power-four, quad of social media networking sites, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. These four are the essential and bare necessity social media platforms to learn.

 Facebook, the largest social media platform and allows you to connect with friends, family and acquaintances across the world.

 YouTube, the largest and most popular video sharing platform which allows for sharing music, videos and live streaming content.

 Twitter, a platform allowing users to communicate with 280 characters or less and also home to the first use of the #hashtag.

 Instagram, now owned by Facebook is a social media platform allowing users to share photos, videos and live streaming footage with              unique image #filters.

3. Create social media accounts

Obviously, if you want to learn and communicate the language of social media you will need to have access to them, which will require you to create accounts. Start by going to the “App Store” on your smart device and downloading for FREE, the QUAD and creating user accounts for each social media.

4. Interact on social media

Learning requires a conscious effort and interacting on social media is required in order to learn the language and culture. Each social media platform has “its own thing.”

Facebook the originator of the “LIKE” allows you to post images, videos and text. You can share posts and it offers the ability to interact with other’s posts with a thumbs up, heart, laughing face, wow face, sad tear drop face, mad face, or you can leave a comment.

Instagram is known for the infamous “double tap,” which allows you to ❤️ (love) a post. On Instagram you can share 24-hour lasting live streams, share photos and videos with a large selection of appearance filters such as Rise, Hudson, Lo-fi and my personal favorite Mayfair.

Twitter you can ❤️ (love), comment, retweet or TWEET your own content, images, GIFS or videos.

It is important to note that while these capabilities are available now, each social media platform has evolved and changed overtime. They have added and taken away specific features, so it is important to “update” your Apps when recommended on your smartphone to keep up-to-date with the latest changes.

5. Learn your Emojis

Emojis are digital icons used to express an idea or emotion. At this point in time, Emojis have surpassed social media platforms and have become a crucial tool in everyday communication. There are even toys and a movie made about Emojis. Most smartphones now automatically include the Emoji keyboard as an option to use when sending any written communication, so use them. There over 3,000 Emojis and according to Brandwatch and Twitter some of the world’s most popular include:

  1. Face with tears of joy/laughter 😂
  2. Loud crying face 😭
  3. Smiling face with heart eyes 😍
  4. Red heart ❤️
  5. Backhand index pointing finger 👉

6. Use MEMES and GIFS to communicate

They say laugher is the best medicine and at times nothing can be funnier than a well-crafted MEME. MEMES are essentially captioned photos intended to be funny and play a large role in today’s communicative culture and comedic relief. Anyone can make a meme now with the multiple MEME creators available online. To create you simply use a picture and write content in the standard MEME white-block letter font, Impact. A couple well-known and commonly repeated MEME subjects you may know would be Grumpy Cat or The Success Kid, see MEMES below:

   

GIFS, vary in their meaning and are essentially expressive, short, soundless videos used to communicate a range of emotions. Myself, my friends, family and coworkers all use GIFS to communicate with each other. GIFS can often communicate a thought or feeling much better than a standard text or Emoji and smartphones have added a GIF option as well on your keyboard when texting.

As the world becomes more embedded in their smart devices, MEMES and GIFS help to create a sense of animation you may have if you were communicating in-person and are essential in social media culture and language.

7. Use online translation systems and dictionaries

As mentioned before abbreviations and acronyms have played a large role in today’s everyday communication and it can be difficult to keep up with the daily creations. Some standard abbreviations and acronyms are:

TTYL: Talk to you Later

Totes: Totally

DM: Direct message

LOL: Laugh out loud

B4: Before

BRB: Be right back

Obvi: Obviously

Cray: Crazy

NBD: No big deal

Jelly: Jealous

Fab: Fabulous

F2F: Face to face

Redic: Ridiculous

The best thing you can do if unsure of an acronym or abbreviation is GOOGLE the meaning, use Urban Dictionary or ask a friend.

8. Speak the language

When learning a new language, any linguistics professional will tell you to practice and try to use what you have learned in everyday communication. The same goes with social media language. It may feel weird to step outside your comfort zone and use acronyms or abbreviations to communicate, however it may be how your next family communicates and you may seem unrelatable and totes redic.

9. Create your own hashtags or phrases

Your funeral home or cemetery staff may have a common phrase you use amongst each other, use it in your next social media post or create a new hashtag and keep using it.  You can make anything a hashtag and it could be the next viral sensation.

10. Appreciate social media and its ability to connect others

Social media has altered our lives and changed our culture in many ways. Some feel it is ridiculous, a waste of time and is ruining human interaction. In some degree these feelings are true, however social media can bring people together and it has proven to do so. Something so simple as a post of a dress in 2015, brought the world together in an ongoing debate. Is the dress black and blue or white and gold?

Millions of people voted and spoke on their belief of the dress’s colors, including scientists, psychologists, newspapers, radio hosts, television shows, news stations, online blogs and social media platforms, and all because of a post on Reddit, which is a social media American news aggregation. The dress proved to be black and blue after finding an actual listing of the dress online, however this started a worldly debate. If you are not familiar with the dress then maybe the #IceBucketChallenge rings a bell, which brought tremendous awareness to ALS, all because of a Facebook post of a gentleman dumping a bucket of ice water on his head. By the end of 2016 the social media sensation, Ice Bucket Challenge raised over 115 million for ALS research.

Say what you will about social media but it is here now and will probably exist, grow and thrive throughout our lifetime. Embrace this cultural change and expand your knowledge on its language and you may find it extremely useful in the future.

Kevin Smith Joins Express Funeral Funding as a National Account Manager

Kevin Smith Joins Express Funeral Funding as a National Account Manager

Express News

Kevin Smith Joins Express Funeral Funding as a National Account Manger

CLARKSVILLE, IN – Express Funeral Funding, the nation’s FASTEST, EASIEST® and largest privately-owned insurance assignment funding company is excited to welcome Kevin Smith as a national account manager.

Smith will develop and maintain relationships with funeral homes and cemeteries nationwide to promote Express Funeral Funding’s fast and easy insurance assignment funding.

“We are excited to have Kevin join the Express family. He brings expert industry knowledge along with several long-standing relationships with funeral homes and cemeteries,” said Steve Calloway, president of Express Funeral Funding.

Smith comes to Express Funeral Funding, having over 20 years in the funeral profession, of which he spent in insurance assignment funding, providing invaluable experience.

“I am very excited to join forces with Express Funeral Funding. They are the fastest, easiest, friendliest funding company on the planet. I want all my past clients and future customers to try us out on your next assignment,” said Smith.

Express Funeral Funding has been providing funeral homes and cemeteries nationwide the ultimate funding experience since 2002. Express Funeral Funding eliminated the challenges of working with insurance companies by limiting administration, providing immediate payment and advancing complete policy funds.

For more information on Express Funeral Funding, please visit www.expressfuneralfunding.com or call 812.949.9011.

Kevin Smith
Hidden Costs of Accounts Receivables. How waiting for your money is costing you money.

Hidden Costs of Accounts Receivables. How waiting for your money is costing you money.

Publications

Featured in American Funeral Director, Financial Touch Point: September 2018

By: Deanna Dydynski, marketing & public relations manager

Accounts Receivable Department:  “Hi Jim, we have your order, but we will not be able to ship it to you until you pay for your last three orders.”

Jim: “I can’t wait that long, cancel the order.”

I figured a bit of accounting humor would lighten the mood for this not-so-laughing matter of accounts receivables. At one point or another you have probably encountered a similar situation as above. Whether you are a supplier, funeral home owner or outside-industry businessperson, most likely hearing “accounts receivables” makes you cringe just a little. If you are not cringing now you may be after reading the next several paragraphs unfolding all of the additional costs associated with receivables.

We all know the number one business killer is having no cash, as you cannot meet financial obligations, explore growth opportunities or even have a business. You may have the best services and funeral director staff in town, but if you cannot collect payment for those services then your business will ultimately struggle. Before we dive into how accounts receivables are crippling your business, we must identify if you have an accounts receivable problem and why it is there in the first place.

You may have accounts receivable problem if…

  • You call past due accounts when you need to make payroll You stop trying to collect after 90 days
  • You are waiting 30, 60, 90 days or beyond for insurance company payment
  • You have no idea what your Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) is
  • You have to increase your credit terms in order to reduce DSO
  • You have more accounts receivables over 30 days than current

Some funeral home/cemetery owners simply have poor accounts receivables because of bad paying customers.  Many funeral professionals go to great lengths to extend payment leeway for struggling families, but in the end, this has severe consequences on their business. Additionally, insurance companies are posing multiple challenges to funeral professionals, including delay of payment. Funeral homes are often waiting 30, 60, 90 days or beyond for payment on services, and sometimes getting shorted on payment or not receiving payment at all.

Sadly, many funeral home/cemetery owners are unaware they have an account receivable “problem” as they may have year-round business consistency, which is the ultimate goal. If you have enough money to cover overhead expenses, payroll, and your suppliers then you are set, right? Technically yes, however many funeral home owners who remain uninvolved in their business’s finances may not be aware there are outstanding receivables or room for improvement.

Whether you know you have an accounts receivables problem or are in the dark on your business’s finances, realizing the hidden costs involved in outstanding receivables will provide you the knowledge to improve your receivables, cash flow and bottom line.

Based on a study done by the Harvard Business review, the most common hidden costs of receivables are:

1. Time of Cost

The cost of carrying receivables is often equated with time of cost. Believe it or not time of cost can be estimated by your accountant and is calculated using discounted cash flow (DCF), which is a valuation method used to estimate investment and cash flow opportunities. While “time is money,” this is only one of six cost elements affecting your receivables.

2. Administrative Costs:

Telephone calls, follow-up letters, record keeping and general collection processes are cost intensive and only grow larger the older the age of the receivable. You may have a rock star accounts receivable team but sometimes even Janice, your MVP cannot even collect from families, creating additional administrative cost when she has to turn the bill over to a collection agency.

3. Bad Debt

The cost of debt relates directly with the age of the receivables. The longer a receivable ages, the more unlikely the full amount will be covered, ultimately costing your funeral home money.

4. Financing Cost

If your business is having difficulty collecting receivables to pay for general overhead and business expenses you may need to finance and borrow money until you are able to collect from your own customers.

5. Predictability

Without a consistency of collections, it is difficult for a business to forecast financing. This factor is especially pressing in the funeral profession where seasonality and death rates can make business unpredictable.

6. Opportunity

When your money is tied up in accounts receivables you have no potential funding for expansion, marketing, investments or the opportunity to take advantage of supplier promotions and discounts.

The 2009 Harvard Business Review Cost Elements of Accounts Receivables Analysis:

Though this study is nearly 10 years old the valuation method to determine the cost of each element is current.

Factoring in each cost element, this chart reveals if you were to have a $5,000 invoice outstanding for 60 days, you are losing an additional $450, and $1,350 for 120 days overdue. Are you cringing now?

You are probably wondering what solutions are available to improve your accounts receivables.

1. Payment Terms

While this profession is unique in practice, how you are paid should not be. You should set clear payment policies/terms and provide services only after receiving valid forms of payment.

2. Offer Multiple Payment Methods

With an average funeral cost of $7,000 (NFDA, 2016) and 63% of Americans without $500 in their savings to cover an emergency (Forbes, 2016), families are looking for alternative options for funeral payment. Allow your families to pay with life insurance policies but be certain to outsource to a reputable insurance assignment funding company. Funeral homes processing life insurance assignments in-house are experiencing multiple challenges and are waiting extensive periods of time to get paid for services, which effects your accounts receivables. Utilizing a funding company can help free your receivables and help you maintain consistent cash flow.

3. Consider Hiring An Accounting Company

As a business owner it is important to know when to outsource. As a funeral professional you are responsible for multiple roles, you are grief counselors, event planners, embalmers, florists, caretakers and beyond. One aspect of your business you definitely want to manage properly is your accounting. Money keeps the business going and hiring a team of number-savvy professionals will allow you to focus on what matters most, running your funeral home/cemetery.

As a business owner, positive cash flow management is essential for your firm’s long-term survival and not managing your accounts receivables properly can have severe effects on your business. Communicate with your staff and develop solutions to improve your accounts receivables, your business will thank you.

References: Tom Green, AmerAssist AR Solutions, Inc., (2014). Harvard Business Review (2009).

Tech Yes! 3 Times You Should Say Yes to Technology Upgrades at Your Funeral Home/Cemetery

Tech Yes! 3 Times You Should Say Yes to Technology Upgrades at Your Funeral Home/Cemetery

Publications

Featured in the Funeral Business Advisor: September- October 2018

By: Deanna Dydynski, marketing & public relations manager

Technology can be daunting for some generations. Some find it expensive and confusing, and others would prefer, “not to reinvent the wheel.” However, with a potential of four generations working under one roof, and more tech-savvy families coming to your funeral home, it is essential to improve how your funeral home/cemetery utilizes technology.

Introducing new technologies to your business can improve speed, efficiency and employee productivity. Technology can also give you a competitive edge over the funeral home down the street and can save you money in the long run. Technology is continually evolving, and it can be challenging deciding what implementations should be made to improve your funeral home/cemetery. Here are three times you should say, “TECH YES!” to technology upgrades.

1.Your Website

Unfortunately, several funeral homes and cemeteries across the nation still do not have websites. Even though you may have an established funeral home/cemetery that has been successful through word-of-mouth marketing and community loyalty, there are several reasons why your business needs a website. A recent study by BIA Advisory Services indicated 97% of consumers look online first to find local businesses (2018). If you do not have an online presence, you essentially do not exist, and are missing an entire market of potential business. Consumers are searching online for solutions, comparing prices and general information on businesses and their services. A website is running 24 hours and 365 days a year, so that 32-year-old millennial who is searching online for funeral homes at 2 a.m., is going to see your funeral home as a potential place of service for his father. Having a website not only establishes credibility but also lets the world know your funeral home/cemetery exists!

Now, it is one thing to have a website and another to have a really great website. Because the majority of consumer’s first impression of your funeral home/cemetery will be online, it is critical you make a great first impression for your brand. I have seen funeral homes with the most beautiful establishment, the most professional and caring staff, along with innovative service options, have THE WORST websites.  Your brand is everything, from your staff’s attire, your funeral home’s foliage and interior design, to the marketing materials and definitely your website. If a consumer clicks on your website and it is slow to load, looks outdated, is not easy to navigate, has poor image quality and design layout, is not mobile-friendly or provides zero information on your service offerings, they are moving on to the next funeral home.

The days of “set it and forget it” on your website are over. Now more than ever, the funeral profession is changing, family’s preferences are changing, and your business should be changing and evolving along with these. Your website should be consistently updated with fresh content and images on your services and offerings. Invest in quality images of your staff and funeral home, hire a freelance content writer if needed, but be sure to create a professional and accurate impression of your brand through your website.

As a small business owner, you probably think you cannot afford a professional website but the reality is you cannot afford not to have one. When you breakdown the costs of advertising or promotional materials and compare them to the cost of having a professional website; long-term having a website is one of the most cost-effective ways to continually market your funeral home/cemetery. So, say, “TECH YES!” to updating your 10-year-old website.

2.Remote Working Tools

Millennials are currently the largest living generation and have been transforming the workplace for the past decade. In today’s modern world, technology has made the range of communication almost limitless with the internet, cloud storage and mobile devices. With an increasing number of millennials joining your staff, they are expecting you, their employers to not only invest in technologies to make their jobs easier, but also to make their jobs remote accessible.

As funeral directors, you have around-the-clock obligations and you are not always at the funeral home. You may be performing removals at midnight, making house calls on weekends, or attending community events to network and market your funeral home/cemetery. Business operations are changing and 43% of the US workforce worked remotely in 2016 and 77% of those, found they were more productive. Overall, remote employees reported they felt more valued and happier with their employer. Multiple studies including those from Forbes and Stanford University found research proving working remotely is the most desired flexible work option people want in a job (2018). As an owner, providing your employees the opportunity to work remotely can decrease overhead costs tremendously and according to research improve your employee’s happiness.

Family preferences are changing from less traditional funeral services, so if your funeral home is adapting then your staff may be working remotely to plan funerals at a family’s home or scheduling pre-need appointments at Starbucks for the 29-year-old who finds your funeral home intimidating. Imagine if your staff could attend community events and show potential families all the services your funeral home offers while collecting contact information on their iPad. Additionally, consider that families may want to utilize your services but not at your funeral home. Your funeral directors may need a wireless Bluetooth speaker to travel with them offsite to play music. Investing in remote technologies such as laptops, tablets, cell phones, and remote communication tools for your staff to work offsite and to stay connected is going to be essential for the well-being of your employees and the success of your business.

Your employees are your greatest asset, having happier employees leads to greater retention and team morale. If your staff feels the need to connect with families outside of the funeral home, say, “TECH YES!” to the technological tools that can help them get the job done.

3. Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM)

Customer relationship management software helps businesses build stronger relationships with customers. It can boost conversation and helps you track data coming from multiple communication channels such as, phone calls, website visits and social media interactions.

As funeral professionals it can be difficult to stay in touch with potential families or generate new business, because marketing funeral services and death care is challenging. However, investing in technologies designed to be engaging, personalized, and trackable can help you not only keep in touch with families you have served but also help you to reach new families. CRM’s are valuable because they help you keep track of what is working! Investing in this technology for your funeral home will allow you to see who has clicked on your website, where they are clicking, how they got there, if they interacted with you on social media, if they read your email and beyond! Large companies rely on CRM software but there are CRM software companies that specialize for small businesses. If you are wanting to reach new families and keep in touch with your current customer base, invest in this technology and you will see how beneficial it is for your funeral home/cemetery.

Technology is changing our everyday lives and it can improve your funeral home/cemetery if you allow it to. Encourage your staff to embrace technology and provide training, especially to those it may intimidate. Ultimately your business will remain stagnant if you do not start saying, “TECH YES!” to new technologies.

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Maintaining Positive Cash Flow On Your Merger & Acquisition

Maintaining Positive Cash Flow On Your Merger & Acquisition

Publications

Featured in Southern Funeral Director Magazine : May 2018

By: Deanna Dydynski, marketing & public relations manager

Acquisitions, mergers, partnerships, regional consolidation and other joint ventures are changing business and have become essential to gaining competitive advantages. These joint business collaborations have multiple benefits from obtaining quality staff and valuable assets to reducing competition and overhead costs. With various financial resources available today, the ability to increase market share and expand your business is more attainable than ever.

Once you merge with or acquire another business, there are multiple considerations which must be taken into account such as: company cultural dynamics, management and employee placement, company-wide communication, strategic business and marketing strategies and of course financial management. Successful financial modeling and management is essential for any business but proves critical especially for mergers and acquisitions. Modeling your financial plan during an acquisition or merger is key in projecting cash flow and profitability.

Positive cash flow is what keeps your business going, it gives you the capacity to meet your financial obligations along with flexibility to explore growth opportunities. Maintaining positive cash flow can be challenging especially in this profession, as multiple variables including seasonality and death rates make it difficult to predict business. An additional challenge this profession faces in regards to managing positive cash flow is customer payment. Traditional methods include cash, check or credit card however, with an average funeral cost of $7,000 and over 63% of Americans without $500 in their savings to cover an emergency (Forbes, 2016), families are looking for alternative options for funeral payment. While it is true that funeral professionals do not have to accept life insurance as a form of payment, most do, because three in five Americans have some form of life insurance. So, if your funeral homes or cemeteries are not accepting life insurance as a form of payment you are eliminating a large portion of potential business. Additionally, for funeral homes accepting life insurance as payment, but processing the life insurance assignments in-house, they often face several challenges from countless administrative tasks to delayed payments.

If you have acquired or merged and now manage multiple businesses, maintaining positive cash flow can prove to be even more challenging as you are now fiscally responsible for more than one entity. You need money to pay your employees, investors, suppliers, overhead expenses and beyond. Owning multiple businesses, adds additional challenges when striving to maximize the efficiency of your resources and employees. You risk maintaining positive cash flow and reducing employee productivity if you are processing life insurance assignments in-house versus using a professional funding company.

How can your businesses maintain positive cash flow, let alone operate when you are waiting 30, 60 and sometimes 90 days and beyond after a funeral service to be paid? There are over 800 insurance companies in the United States and whether you own one location or several locations, they will not discriminate and you will be waiting on payment. Your investors and your bank are not going to accept payment 30, 60 or 90 days later, so as a funeral home owner, why are you? You are not a bank, but every time you process life insurance assignments in-house you are essentially giving away free loans. As an owner of multiple funeral homes, you do not have time to wait on your money. Insurance assignment funding companies will not only obtain the receivables you are waiting on but they can help you maintain positive cash flow. Instead of waiting an extended period of time to get paid on your services, imagine having payment sent straight to your funeral home bank account within the same day. Imagine having money on hand to pay your employees and overhead costs. Imagine freeing your accounts receivables. Imagine getting paid on pending death certificate and coroner cases. Imagine having additional money to take advantage of supplier discounts and promotions. Imagine having additional money for your cash reserves. Imagine being able to invest and acquire another funeral home. Partnering with an insurance assignment funding company can make all of those “imaginations” come to fruition! I often hear funeral directors say, “This sounds great, but what does it cost?” It does not have to cost anything. A small processing fee is taken from the family’s life insurance benefit, so there are no out-of-pocket expenses for the funeral home or cemetery. A typical rebuttal to this I hear is, “I do not want the family to have to pay for this.” While it is the standard to pass the fee along to the family, funding companies do make it possible for the funeral home to absorb the processing fee if they desire to. Funding companies can provide the positive cash flow essential for your businesses and enable you to redirect employee resources to other value-added services.

In this profession, connecting with families and providing services second to none is essential for continued business and is what differentiates you from your competitors. For funeral homes processing insurance in-house, how can you expect your funeral staff to give families the attention they deserve if they have to sit on hold with insurance companies for hours, complete endless amounts of paperwork or have to call families back into the funeral home after a service to complete additional forms? There are costs to these administrative tasks and if you could eliminate those and position your staff to other areas of increased revenue streams, wouldn’t you want to? While all funding companies can improve cash flow, there are different levels of service each provide. While you are seeking a partnership with a funding company it is essential you partner with one that provides the fastest and easiest services and can eliminate the administrative claim paperwork portion of the process.

As a regional consolidator each of your funeral homes are likely paying a salary for someone, we will call her “Sally,” to sit on hold and complete paperwork. However, the landscape of this profession is changing and as funeral directors you are being pushed to your creative limits to expand your services for changing demands. Instead of hiring another employee to manage new revenue opportunities, what if you could utilize Sally and have her manage and explore new service options? Imagine eliminating nonproductive claim administrative time for a “Sally” at each of your locations, now you have an even greater opportunity to increase productivity and revenue.

Every funeral home and cemetery can benefit from using a funding company but for investors and owners of multi-location firms, the benefits are multiplied. In fact, a majority of funeral home groups and corporations require each location to use a funding company, for improved positive cash flow and productivity of staff.

You are an entrepreneur, investor and owner, you are not a life insurance expert and you should not expect your staff to be. Maintaining positive cash flow and effective utilization of resources is crucial for the success of your merger or acquisition. If you partner with a funding company that can provide 360 degrees of support, you will see first hand how essential their services can be for the success of your businesses.

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Marketing 2 Millennials

Marketing 2 Millennials

Publications

Featured in the Funeral Business Advisor: May – June 2018

By: Deanna Dydynski, marketing & public relations manager

Move over baby boomers, millennials have officially become the largest living generation and are also the primary demographic every brand is trying to charm. Effective marketing to millennials poses challenges for many companies, but if you can master some of these expert strategies you will be well on your way to attracting and retaining the millennial consumer.

*Spoiler Alert* I am a millennial.

Tip 1. Be Authentic: Half of the battle when marketing to a millennial is getting their attention, the other half is getting them to respond. Millennials spend an average of 25 hours per week online tweeting, liking, sharing, pinning, double-tapping and commenting on content-driven websites. We do our research and get our information from blogs, websites and social media platforms, because we trust the source. Millennials have an unusually strong nonsense detector, and majority of the time we can instantly tell when something is phony, fake or unauthentic. We “don’t have time for that,” and will x-out, skip, scroll and slide right pass content or messages that do not have authentic value. Millennials feel empowered to make their own choices and appreciate expertise but they are only influenced by genuine content from trusted sources. We want our interests to be considered and not our wallets.

Courtyard by Marriott hit the nail on the head with their most recent ad campaign, geared to target millennials. Rather than highlighting all of the services they offer; they focused on the passions and lifestyles of their millennial guests. The campaign’s commercial highlights a young woman traveling to multiple destinations for her profession. It shows her purchasing fabric in other countries, interacting with weavers in a rural setting, sketching on a coaster in a bar, while also staying at multiple Courtyard hotels. The commercial is narrated by her father who is explaining how proud he is of her for following her passions and proving him wrong when he said “work is clocking-in and clocking-out.” Ending the commercial is a message stating, “Passion moves us forward. It is how you think. It is how we think.” The commercial tells a story without selling, it makes one feel inspired and gives the Courtyard by Marriott an amazing brand perception.

How can you apply this marketing strategy to your funeral home or cemetery? The next service you have, really watch how the family reacts to every element of the funeral. What moved them? What seemed off? Listen to what people are saying and sponge all of this in. Funerals are naturally difficult to portray in a positive light because they are tragic times, but if you can capture an emotion of passion, love, sincerity or hope and portray it in a video, your service will sell itself, and you will appeal to the millennial generation.

Informative content marketing has been effective for hundreds of years. In 1895 John Deere introduced a free publication with dozens of farming tips called, The Furrow. The intent was to provide farmers with tips and farming techniques to improve their farming and become more profitable. The Furrow, is available in more than 40 countries and is offered in 12 different languages. Jell-O circulated free copies of a cookbook displaying creative ways to use the product in 1904 and saw an annual sales increase of one million dollars. In 1966 Nike released a 19-page booklet titled Jogging, filled with advice on enjoying running as a recreational activity and included specific running and posture tips. The booklet brought running as a sport to America and never once mentioned a Nike shoe.

Millennials are supportive of businesses dedicated to improving their customers lives with informative content but we want it in the form of e-books, blog posts and videos. As you apply this strategy to your funeral home, do not focus on how you can sell millennials on your services, instead create a blog or monthly video sequence with informative information about the funeral planning process, grief management, or a how-to-continually honor your loved one. Really consider every element of losing a loved one and incorporate this in your content.

Tip 2. Engage & Speak The Language: Traditional outbound marketing such as radio spot ads, direct mail campaigns, newspaper advertisements or pop-up web ads, are not effective to the millennial demographic. We view these as disruptive, annoying and unsolicited. So, what do millennials like? Millennials like engaging brands, that are creating educational, informative content without being pushy or broadcasting their services. Sixty-two percent of millennials say if a brand engages with them on social media platforms, they are more likely to become a loyal customer (Forbes,2017). Millennials trust brands that are connected on multiple communication platforms, so if your funeral home is no where to be seen on the internet, you have zero chance of reaching them.

It is not just enough to be engaging, you also need to speak the language of millennials. Creating content your audience would proudly share helps build the brand-customer relationship. Before you begin to push content, it is important you and your funeral staff brush-up on your millennial lingo. Taco Bell, found an ingenious way to communicate millennial slang to their executive staff with their “Word Of The Week,” which features popular modern-day words. Taco Bell assembled a team of employees in their 20’s to curate popular words, define and use in a sentence to distribute in company emails.

Example: Lit. adjective. Used to describe a certain situation, person, place or thing as awesome/crazy or just ‘happening’ in general.

Used in a sentence: “Taco Bell was so lit last night. I had to wait in line for 15 minutes before I could order.”

Taco Bell has done a phenomenal job engaging with its millennial consumers through their social media platforms and the key to their success is having the entire team familiar and learning the millennial language. One resource I would recommend you and your staff use to keep-up with millennial slang would be Urban Dictionary, which is an online crowdsourced dictionary that defines modern day slang words and phrases. As a millennial, Urbandictionary.com is my go-to for any unfamiliar term I cannot use context clues to figure out.

Tip 3. Create An Experience: Millennials just want to have fun! We crave an experience and find researching and browsing for a purchase more compelling than the actual transaction itself. Online exploration has become a form of entertainment, it is the new window shopping. Pinterest is the perfect example of how the journey of shopping can become a personalized experience. If you are not familiar, Pinterest is a social networking site that allows users to discover interests from weddings and camping to do-it-yourself projects and beyond, then you “pin” it to your digital “board” to share with followers. Pinterest works because it is personalized and engaging. Millennials are not loyal by default, they stay with a brand when the experience is rewarding each time. As funeral directors you know if a family has a positive experience they will come back. For the millennial consumer, creating a positive experience is essential because they are judging every time and will have no problem trying another brand or your competitor down the street if they did not enjoy their last experience with you.

A millennial is a sucker for brands that are improving lives, supporting the planet, giving back to communities or adding value. As funeral directors you are already connected and involved with your communities, so share your involvement on social media, recycle at your funeral home or start a donation bank for stray animals in your community. Trust me, millennials will love you for this.

Lastly, give away free stuff. T-shirts, pens, chip-clips, water bottles, koozies, pizza-cutters, put your funeral home name on it and give it away! Don’t you love receiving free things? Well so do millennials. As a marketing and public relations professional, I find promotional items and giveaways essential to connecting with an audience, because of the positive perception your brand receives along with the ability to be in front of your audience when you cannot be. It is rewarding and a great ice breaker when someone recognizes your brand because they just tightly closed their bag of Cheetos with your company chip-clip last night.

Millennials can be difficult to market to, but the more your brand interacts with them the better you will become at hook, line and sinking this young demographic. FBA

I Hope I Outlive Her, Just So I Can Go To Her Funeral…

I Hope I Outlive Her, Just So I Can Go To Her Funeral…

Publications

Featured in the Funeral Business Advisor: March – April 2018

By: Deanna Dydynski, marketing & public relations manager

This season on Vanderpump Rules, a Bravo network reality television show, socialite Stassi Schroeder was featured describing her future funeral plans while ironically, planning her 29th birthday.

“At my wake I am going to have a glass of wine in my hand and people can come in a photo booth and take photos of me,” said Schroeder candidly.

In a later interview clip her friend Katie Maloney responded saying, “I hope I outlive her, just so I can go to her funeral.”

Naturally, working in the funeral industry this sparked my attention and got me thinking, what would I want at my funeral and would it be something my friends would want to outlive me for?

Personalization is for funerals as wheels are for cars, they are essential. The future generations coming into your funeral home will be expecting personalization on another level. Not the kind of personalization where a favorite bible verse is stitched into the casket panel or catering Chick- fil-A after the services because Aunt Sue loved chicken nuggets. We are talking a unique, one-of-a kind, truly personal, experience. From a compelling life-story obituary all the way down to funeral guest “swag bags.”

This January Terry Ward’s obituary went viral. Why? Because his daughter Jean wrote an obituary that made readers miss a man they never even knew. The obituary was full of humor and whit but was also authentic and genuine and it captivated readers everywhere.

“He enjoyed many, many things.  Among those things were hunting, fishing, golfing, snorkeling, ABBA, hiking Turkey Run, chopping wood, shooting guns, Bed Bath & Beyond, starlight mints, cold beer, free beer, The History Channel, CCR, war movies, discussing who makes the best pizza, The Chicago White Sox, old Buicks, and above all, his family.” 

These were just a few of the personal touches Ward’s daughter wrote in his obituary. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune Jean mentioned she was happy the humor resonated with readers, and working in the funeral industry herself, has seen “when families can come together, celebrate a life and truly laugh, it helps them heal.”  After all, is this not what a funeral is for, a way to heal?

Dictionary.com defines “funeral” as; the ceremonies honoring a dead person. There is no right or wrong way to honor a loved one but if you can create a service that helps families heal even more, wouldn’t you want to?

(Image Source, bbc.com)
(Image Source, bbc.com)

Earlier I mentioned TV personality, Stassi Schroeder describing her funeral, and how she wants to have a photo booth at her wake, for her guests to take pictures with her in. While this may not be a typical request, Schroeder was not so far off the grid, as post-mortem photography was extremely common in Great Britain’s, Victorian Era. Having several epidemics, the Victorian era was plagued with death. During this time, post-mortem photography became a way of commemorating loved ones and healing grief.  After researching I found several images from this era, including pictures of young children posing with their dead mother, siblings posing with their dead sister even an entire family with their pet cat surrounding their dead child.

Photography studios would take pictures and print them on cards to be delivered to friends and relatizves as mementos. Additionally, lockets and rings were often distributed with locks of hair cut from the dead. While some of the images are unsettling and the concept is taboo, this was just another way for families to morn their loved ones.

Memorialization and personalization has come in all forms from different cultures for decades. In Ghana, people want to be buried in coffins that represent something they loved or which represents their life’s work and passions. BUZZFEED highlighted this in a “29 Insanely Elaborate Custom Coffins From Ghana,” feature which showcased a Mercedes Benz coffin, several animal inspired coffins, an airplane, cinema projector, an ear of corn coffin and many more. This definitely moves personalization up another level.

(Image Source, BUZZFEED.com)
(Image Source, BUZZFEED.com)
(Image Source, BUZZFEED.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ever heard of a Balinese cremation? In Balinese tradition, cremation is a sacred tradition and is believed to release the soul to inhabit a new body. The island’s cremation ceremonies are nothing short of extravagant.

(Image Source, Justin Mott for New York Times)

In 2008 the island performed its most lavish cremation for a royal family member and 68 commoners. Thousands carried a giant bamboo platform, wooden bull and dragon in an all-day procession and then placed the royal family member in the bull and burned it as the wooden dragon “stood witness.”

Of course, with each religion and culture come different personalization methods and ways to memorialize. Here in America as religious preferences change, ways to honor loved ones must evolve. Families are requesting unique funerals and pushing the boundaries on the “typical service,” and some funeral homes are adapting. Some have invested in catering and event spaces so funerals or “life celebrations” can include live music or dance performances. One funeral home even transformed their service and space into a complete custom Star Wars theme, including Storm Trooper pallbearers and Jedi word-shaped flower arrangements. With a new shift in demand for one-of-a kind personalization, a new event planning window has opened. Harper’s BAZAAR recently featured a funeral event planning company, Going Out In Style, which is comprised of women with backgrounds in wedding planning, editorial stylists, event designs, florists and art directors from top publications and designers. These women plan every detail from parting gift bags, gold wrapped fast food and monogrammed napkins down to a hair and make-up tutorial with a mortuary cosmetologist.

The new generations coming to your funeral home want an EXPERIENCE, one that helps them heal. However, this new trend offers some challenges to funeral professionals.

Challenge 1: Creativity. Some funeral professionals simply do not have a creative bone in their body.

Solution: Have trouble thinking outside of the box? The internet can help with that. GOOGLE, “unique funerals,” you will be surprised what comes up. Additionally, consider hiring a new team member that has event-planning experience or send one of your best to an outside-industry event planning seminar!

Challenge 2: Space and money. Most funeral homes are stretched for space, so where are you supposed to host large events? ­­­

Solution: Community or recreation centers, local schools, churches, or possibly a friend with a large event space? Network, you are already a pillar of your community so reach out to other leaders and friends and see what spaces you can use for free or rent! You could negotiate a win-win option to rent the space for free, if their event planning or catering services are used by your family. The funeral industry is full of comradery. Is there a funeral home in a nearby town that would partner on an event center with you? Want to add on to your existing building but do not have the money? There are several respected funeral industry leaders specializing in financing and loans for funeral homes to contact.

Challenge 3: Payment. You are probably thinking  these ideas sound great, but the reality is, families are struggling to pay for basic services or cutting service options to save money.

Solution: Outsource to an insurance assignment funding company. For starters three in five people walking into your funeral home will have some form of life insurance. Additionally, did you know families will pay 31% more for a service if they have a life insurance policy? It is money they already have and if you work with a funding company that can get you accurate information and fund the money within 24 hours, why not? Most funding companies can advance policy funds beyond funeral costs within a day as well. So, you are covered for the deposit you need to put down immediately for the Cirque du Soleil performer the family wants. The best part, funding companies are no cost to funeral professionals and there is no out-of-pocket expense to the family.

Memorialization does not have to stop after the funeral service is over. As we saw after this year’s Super Bowl, parade attendees brought their loved one’s ashes with them to events and some even scattered remains. When families leave your funeral home, they do not stop thinking about their loved one. What if you could play a part in this remembrance, to continually aid in the healing process? Chances are you have celebrated a five, ten or 20-year high school reunion. What are you celebrating? The memories of high school and how you have grown as individuals. Well, what if you did the same thing for your families and offered an option for them to come back and continually celebrate, such as an annual remembrance service?

Families come back to your funeral home when you have created a positive experience during their difficult time. Research new ideas, talk with your staff about what they have seen, read and heard, have brainstorming sessions and strategize plans to continually evolve the services you offer so you can meet the demands of the families of the future.

After researching ways to personalize funerals, while I do not have a complete plan for my funeral, I do have some ideas I think would make my friends want to outlive me for.