By: Dan Isard
I am a third-generation owner of a mid-size funeral business. My child came into the business a few years back, and we bump heads on many things transgenerational. She just returned from a seminar and is yapping on about social media, click-throughs, Google AdWords and SEO. I have no idea what the heck she’s talking about! When she started talking about “impressions,” I thought she was about to discuss Rich Little. I was befuddled over “inbound marketing,” as I thought it had something to do with the signs on our driveway. Then, just before I said I needed to change the battery on my hearing aid, she said she needed $20,000 to rebrand our business. Help me, please!
Signed, What Happened to the Yellow Pages in Akron?
Dear What Happened,
Your child is just like you. I’ll bet you once came home from a seminar and tried to get your parents to make changes as well. Whereas the 1990s focus was on the shift from merchandise-based pricing to a service fee emphasis, today the issue is marketing.
I bet that you and your parents went to different churches so more people would see you. That was a very important method of marketing 25 years ago. Back then, using color in the Yellow Pages was the most premium way to get noticed without increasing the size of your ad.
Well, the world is different today, and your daughter is just trying to persuade you to join the present era. Specifically, she’s talking about you discovering digital marketing.
In what seemed like the blink of an eye, we went from no one having a home computer to everyone having at least one computer, and today, we have “smart technology” for integrated phones, pads and tablets. Our modern means of communication have transcended computers and all of the previous tools. Today, we use fewer pens, even fewer notepads and can have one mouse pad for a lifetime. We wouldn’t dare print up hand fans as marketing anymore. Not too long ago, I saw a Rolodex in an antique shop, and my child asked me, “What was that used for in your day?”
Asking me to translate these key phrases is not the issue. The issue is to understand how to market your business in the present age. In 1960, much of our marketing was based on community-centric themes such as church, community organizations and social groups. I recall fondly when I held seminars in Hawaii and needed to identify the days the Rotary held its lunch meetings, as some attendees didn’t want to break their consecutive attendance records. Today, while they are still noble pursuits, they are no longer effective marketing tools.
Two out of three people own a smartphone or other device. This means that our emails and internet are available to us 24 hours a day regardless of where we are. It used to be we would check obituary information once a day when the afternoon paper came out. Therefore, funeral homes were driven to have obits in by a certain time each day.
With smartphones, there is no deadline on death lines. You can post obituaries and update them 24 hours a day by placing them on your own website. This has changed the way of announcing a death, and our reliance on newspapers has ended; the average person now spends less than 30 minutes a day reading a newspaper. On the other hand, the average smartphone user looks at his or her smartphone 195 minutes a day, which is more than three hours of time!
Doesn’t it make sense that if people have contraptions in their possession 24 hours a day and are viewing it for three of their waking 16 hours that you want to market your business via that contraption? Well, Mr. Yellow Pages lover, this is what your child is trying to get you to do.
Digital marketing is growing, and there are three key points to marketing online:
Internet marketing is also very accounting friendly. We can see the costs and results clearly. For example, if you have a preneed campaign targeted to business ZIP codes and targeted to ages 55 and over, we can see the true cost. Say you spend $1,000 and get 100 people to click through to your website – that’s a cost of $10 per click. Maybe half of these people take data from you – that’s about $20 per person getting data. If you track this and follow up with these people, maybe you will make five preneed sales. In that case, it is a cost of about $200 per sale. Contrasting this to direct-mail results, it’s about half the cost and takes about three weeks less time!
Frankly, my third-generation friend, your child may or may not be correct in what she wants to try. However, ask yourself this: If she were a key person and not your child and she brought you this idea, would you try it or at least look into it? Don’t think of this person as the kid who borrowed the limo on prom night and brought it back without gas. Think of her as an adult who may be your successor.
Dan Isard, MSFS, is president of The Foresight Companies, a Phoenix-based business and management consulting firm specializing in mergers and acquisitions, valuations, accounting, financing and consumer surveys. Isard can be reached at 800-426-0165 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For copies of this article and other educational information, visit theforesightcompanies.com.
Financial and tax advice contained in this article is for informational purposes only and may or may not apply to your individual position. Readers are strongly encouraged to seek the counsel of qualified advisors before undertaking any action based on this information.