November 2006


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Everyone has prepared for a graveside service where the family has asked for a song to be played.  What do you do?

If you already have the song or the family owns it, you’re in luck.  All you have to do is haul out the boom box and pop in a CD.

But if you don’t already own the song, you’ve either got to run to the music store and buy an entire CD, or go online to a music store to download the song (usually less than $2 on iTunes).  But then, you’ve got to get it onto a CD and all this takes precious time.

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Ask ten people who’ve quit a job why they did it, and one of them will claim a lack of proper compensation (translation:  I didn’t get paid enough).  The other nine will say they didn’t get the respect they believed they deserved.

Just wait a minute here, you say.  My people are respected.  And they always complain about the amount we pay.
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I’ve begun writing for the trade magazines (look for articles in upcoming issues of Mortuary Management and The Director) and while brainstorming, found an old outline I’d started.

I’m almost finished with the article, titled “Dump Your Yellow Pages Advertising Today!” and will be submitting it to the trades soon.

However, I’d thought you’d enjoy the basic idea behind the article that three types of people look at yellow page advertising:
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… a time to give back to the community.
… started earlier every year.
… right in the middle of the busiest time of the year.
… a royal pain in the…
… my favorite time of year.
… a reason for employees not to show up for their scheduled shift.
… ugh.  Don’t even start talking about Christmas.

So you probably won’t agree with all of these.  But we realize that many of you will face one or more of these issues during this holiday season.  And we want to reassure you:
However you celebrate (or try to forget) this time of year is perfectly appropriate.

Christmas should be a very personal time of year.  A time when we evaluate our relationships and find special ways to commemorate those special associations with gifts, cards and phone calls.

During this important time of year, make a personal gesture by reaching out to your recent clients.  Remind them of who you are and the important place you have in their lives. 

Also, make sure you thank those people who make your life better.  Have a card (and gift certificate, if you’re feeling generous) ready for your postal carrier, your UPS or FEDEX delivery person, your contracted lawn maintenance worker and anyone else who provides a service to your company.  It might pay to spend a few moments thinking about the kind of card or gift you give this person.  If your UPS guy or gal always talks about eating boiled crabs, maybe you’ll give him/her a seafood restaurant gift certificate.  Or if you’ve got an overzealous NASCAR fan as a Postal carrier, maybe local race tickets are a good bet.

Our suggestion:  give this card early.  The person you give this to will best remember the first one and the one with the most value attached.

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During this time of year, news stories are relentlessly focused on “being thankful.”   Reporters highlight people who aren’t as well off, in hopes of bringing a tear to our eye.  The local news runs stories of heater fires which destroy homes ( a very big problem this time of year) and then show us the soot-covered family member who declares that they’re just thankful that no one was hurt.

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We often hear this from merchandisers and pre-need sales consultants:  make sure you offer good, better, best.

But what does it mean exactly?

Consumers are used to the concept of levels of value and quality.  Better cellphone packages include cameras and more minutes.  Cars come in several different trim levels.  Fast food value meals are available upsized for an extra charge.

While many consumers are looking for the basic version of an item (because they have a fixed budget, only want entry level, etc.), many others will choose the next step up, or the next “best version” because they can afford it and don’t want to buy “the cheapest” or appear to be anything but affluent.

This idea helps sell not only register books, but also caskets, cremation plans and cemetery lots.

To implement the “good, better, best” (G-B-B) pricing model, first decide which item you’d like to sell most often.  This should be considered your “better” option. 

Let’s take caskets.  If you’d like to sell a stainless steel casket (for giggles, let’s say you charge $4000 for it) you’d make it your middle item, or “better” item.
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Business owners are constantly worrying that they’re not getting the best out of their business or the most of their marketing efforts.  Most often, this confusion comes from a lack of focus.  Or, more accurately, a lack of knowing how to focus on the right issues.

To help, we’ve compiled a list of the most important questions to ask yourself about your business.  Notice that there aren’t any answers here.  (Hint:  there aren’t any “right” or “wrong” answers.)

1. Who is my ideal client?
2. What does my funeral home’s identity say to my community?
3.  How can I change the identity to better reach my ideal client?
4.  How much growth (or lack of growth) can my funeral home realistically handle?
5. What services does the community really want?  (And am I offering them?)
6. Who can I meet today who will turn into an ambassador for my business?
7. What does my competitor do that I wish I could do?
8. What ideas can I “borrow” from other businesses or funeral homes to make my business better?
9. Which employees could I afford to let go if I had to?  (Don’t just consider the monetary cost.  There are also reputation and gossip repercussions to think about.)
10. What type of employee do I need to make my business take off?

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