Our 1st Annual Final Embrace Contributors Forum was a great success.

We started with a 30-minute formal presentation by me (Tim Totten) which described the creation of our blog and the ways it has helped grow our business.

(The sign which led folks to our Forum!)  

Not to shock you, my patient and well-educated readers, but I started the Final Embrace blog because I wanted to tell the entire industry about my quilted mortuary cot covers.  But who wants to read about those everyday?

And since I’ve got other experience in the industry (10+ years working in funeral homes, 4 years running this business and a number of articles under my belt) I know that I’ve got a few things to contribute.

So I created the Final Embrace blog to be a place for news, opinion and “how-to” articles for funeral professionals.  I built a stable of guest writers (Kim Stacey, Don Shell, Robin Richter, etc.) to fill in the areas where my own expertise is lacking and I started offering useful tips and information.

Of course, I tell you about the success and challenges of the cot cover business along the way, which reminds my audience about my great product and hopefully encourages you to buy.

Once we explained how Final Embrace works, I went over the three types of marketing that are on the edges of normal advertising plans but that, which proper implementation, our group could utilize to better reach the funeral market.

In simple numbers, the funeral industry is about 20,000 firms strong.  That’s not a lot, and yet there’s money to be made, or Batesville wouldn’t put up a booth like this one:



But how can smaller companies (like mine and like those folks who came to the Forum) compete with the advertising that the big companies can do?

So we discussed co-operative marketing, referral marketing and shared tools marketing.

Cooperative marketing is just a fancy word for joining up to split marketing costs.  Whether that means a shared mailing, shared booth space or a shared magazine ad, the costs are spread to two or more companies, allowing for more marketing on the same budgets.

Of course, this kind of advertising requires a commitment and trust from each company.  But not nearly as much as referral marketing.

This kind of advertising transfers the relationships and trust one company has built with a client to another.  In our cot cover business, we stuff each order with brochures and pamphlets of several other companies that we know and like.  Our customers, having already “bought into” our product, then find out about the other products and services we like.

Referral marketing can also include mailing lists, emailed support messages (“You already love our company.  Now let me share my latest discovery…”) and booth referrals at trade shows.

(We built some great relationships at this show, include some with folks from other booths.  It was nice to be able to pass people along to the next booth by saying “thanks for stopping by.  Don’t forget to chat with Ramona right next door.  She’s got beautiful temporary markers that are unlike anything else out there.”  In turn, Ramona, Gary, the other Gary and Becky sent people over to us.  It was a win-win, based upon the trust and relationship we’ve built!)

In fact, Final Embrace is hoping to get into the referral marketing game in a big way.  I created a convention newsletter that highlighted five exhibiting companies and included an article about common convention mistakes.

In the next few months, we’ll be creating other newsletters from the content on this blog and sending the digital files to the featured companies.  If they choose to participate, they can print the newsletters and put a copy in each outgoing order or use the newsletter for their monthly / bi-monthly mailings.

My only commitment to the process is creating the newsletter.  The company shipping the item (with the added newsletter) gets to provide interesting content (articles, interviews, new product reviews) without the hassle of creating it.  In turn, all the featured businesses reach the clients of their co-featured companies, without having to pay postage.

Here’s where I’ve got to clear up some confusion:  There is currently no cost to participate as a business.  We’re going to reevaluate the service in about six months, at which time we’ll discuss adding a small fee to pay for my time.  But it will be minimal.

Shared tools marketing is one of my favorite kinds.  If both you and I choose to market to the same industry, we offer to share tools.  If I’m good at writing and proofreading and you’re great at graphic design, let’s help each other out!

Final Embrace is creating a directory of skills, knowledge and resources.  Pooling of time, resources and skills allows for more work to be done.  So instead of reinventing the press release each time a new company starts, I can help new businesses learn how to write a press release and send it out.

I’m often stumped by easy HTML problems.  A call to a “shared” expert in the field might help.  Aren’t sure about the wording of the ad you’re going to run in next month’s American Funeral Director?  Maybe our friend, Kim Stacey, would offer short consultations (for FREE!) to review your ad and offer simple suggestions.

Besides a link library to articles about funeral marketing and “how-to” articles, Final Embrace is also going to offer a free press release review service.  Send your press release by email or post it in the comments section and I’ll review it for content, grammar and spelling.  And since I’ve got a tiny bit of experience writing these things, I’ll even tell you what changes I would make to “punch it up.”

We discussed even more in our discussion group, but I’ll leave that until next time!