May 16th, 2017
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:
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.
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.
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.