Nuts and Bolts


As part of my recent articles for the trades, I’ve been investigating the world of online memorials.  While some are simply just gussied-up obituaries (Tributes.com, etc.) others are truly revolutionary.

My two favorites are Respectance.com and EternalSpace.com.

First up, www.Respectance.com:

THE IDEA.  Modeled after “social media” sites like Facebook and MySpace, Respectance provides a place to remember someone who has died.  Their site is designed to encourage feedback, with places to share memories, photos and videos. 

THE PRICE.  Respectance.com is free to the user. 

AUDIENCE.  Respectance.com is meant to be used by consumers.  Because it’s free, anyone can sign up and create a memorial.  Site content is generated by the creator and visitors.

VERDICT.  A great site for consumers, Respectance won’t generate any real support from funeral directors if there’s no profit.  As far as I can tell, Respectance only makes money if someone sponsors a tribute to keep it free of ads.

Now, www.EternalSpace.com:

THE IDEA.  With graphics that rival a Hollywood blockbuster, EternalSpace.com is the website you’d see in a movie about online memorials.  Slick animations embedded in serene, comforting landscapes turns their memorials into visual, rather than wordy, places to remember and reflect.

THE PRICE.  Eternal Spaces are only sold through websites, so price is set through funeral homes.  Still, I think we’re talking around $600 for an Eternal Space that is guaranteed for perpetuity (fancy word alert!).  From I understand, funeral homes take a hefty part of the fee, with passive revenue made from the sale of tribute gifts.

AUDIENCE.  Eternal Spaces aren’t for everyone.  But those who have an Eternal Space created can share them with anyone on the Internet.  The memory book feature is the single best reason to visit a loved one’s eternal space, as it contains journals, movies, pictures and guestbooks for everyone to create a meaningful memorial of the deceased.

VERDICT.  Hands down, the best looking site out there.  Still, it does require high-speed Internet access and the expense to start one will keep them small to start.  Nevertheless, it’s the most exciting online memorial provider I’ve seen in a while and I’m not that easily impressed.

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Webinar to Focus on How to Become a “Known Shipper”
New Airline Requirements Affect All Funeral Homes

WALL, N.J. ­In just a few months ­(July 1, 2009, to be exact) shipments of human remains originating in the United States must be tendered by “known shippers,” according to a recent announcement by the Transportation Security
Administration. This new requirement affects all funeral homes involved in shipping human remains.

To find out what TSA means by ³known shipper² and how to become one, Kates-Boylston Publications is holding an EMERGENCY WEBINAR on Thursday, March 12 at 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Make sure your shipping
business is protected and you don¹t lose any revenue opportunities! In this 90-minute Webinar you¹ll hear from: Marc Rossi, branch chief, Certified Cargo Screening Program, TSA; Mark Mohr of Continental Airlines, and Robert Ruggerio, a funeral director from Long Island, N.Y., who will walk you through the new requirements and answer your questions. And, if you¹ve yet to explore shipping as a revenue generator, this is your opportunity to better understand this lucrative part of the business.

Make sure you get every shipping dollar available to your business in 2009.

Register now for $49 at www.katesboylston.com or call 800-500-4585.
(You may apply your registration fee toward placement of an ad in the 2010 American Blue Book, which will have a comprehensive section on shipping. For more information about the Blue Book, contact Sales Coordinator Yadira Defilippo at ydefilippo@katesboylston.com or by phone at 732-730-2581.)

Since we got serious about selling our products at various expo’s around the country, I’ve been looking for a vehicle that can hold everything we take to conventions, including our shelving unit, over 50 sample covers, a computer, luggage and more.

Thing is, it had to be stylish, utilitarian AND cheap.

Here’s what I found, for less than $10,000:

car

It’s a 2004 Cadillac SRX.  It’s got a HUGE sunroof (over 3′ long!), a even bigger cargo area and lotsa other bells and whistles.

I especially appreciated the heated seats this morning.

We’ll use this beauty to travel the country, visiting at least four or five trade shows every year, selling our quilted cot covers (check out the redesigned site at www.cotcovers.com).

Next stop?  The Georgia Expo, co-sponsored by the GFDA and the IFDG, starting March 2nd.

Traveling the convention near the end of each day, I heard the same thing from numerous exhibitors:

Today was slow.  No one wanted to stop at our booth.

Made me want to say “boo-hoo, crybaby.” 

Now, before you think me a complete jerk, know that I didn’t actually say it and I don’t mean the phrase as an insult.

Of course, if everyone had experienced the same kind of day, where no one was stopping at booths or buying anything, I’d have been lamenting right along with them.  But our booth averaged 36 sales a day.

Meanwhile, folks I talked to on Day 3 had still not made a single sale.  Others hadn’t even made any promising contacts with industry buyers.

But being the kind-hearted giver that I am – and the needy book writer who has to get some pages ready anyway 🙂 – I’m going to reveal our strategies for bringing visitors to our booth and generating sales.  Here are the steps:

1.  We chose a beneficial location.  Because we didn’t have to travel far (only 40 miles from our workshop to the Orange Co. Convention Center), I was able to spend a little more on booth rental this year and get a better spot on the floor.  But I still spent hours looking at the proposed layout and trying to decide where to place our exhibit. 

2.  We booked early.  We couldn’t have gotten that great location if I hadn’t made the decision early and secured it right away.  Early planning also helped me save for other expenses (we put a little away each month) and keep a look out for deals on our hotel and other purchases.

3.  We considered the competition.  This doesn’t just apply to others who sell similar products, although they’re important.  We actually considered how other booths would look and how those competing with us for a visitor’s attention might try to attract it.  That’s why we went with a wood floor in a contrasting color to the blue carpet the show organizers selected for the group flooring.

4.  I booked enough staff.  Even before we expanded our booth size (see #5) I made sure we had enough people scheduled to work the booth to talk to all the visitors who passed by. 

5.  We saw an opportunity to expand our booth and took it.  When it became available, we upped our booth space from 10×10′ to 10×20′ and made ourselves more visible. 

6.  We talked to everyone who walked by.  This can’t be stressed enough:  we made an effort to engage everyone who walked by our booth.  And we didn’t just say hello and let them walk away.  When they responded to our greeting we engaged them, either by asking “have you seen our beautiful quilted cot covers?” or “can I show your our covers?” or “do you use our quilted cot covers?”  And it worked!

7.  We qualified attendees.  The first qualification was getting them in the booth.  If they chose not to look at the product, they obviously weren’t a potential sale.  But even those who enter the booth might not be “our customer.”  We asked questions like “do you make removals?” or “what kind of cover do you use now?”  Answers to these questions helped us decide whether to give the full-on sales pitch or quickly finish up with the visitor to move on to the next prospect.

8.  We asked for the sale.  After walking people through our product’s features, we asked our visitors if they were ready to buy one.  If they resisted, we reminded them of our 10% convention discount.  If they were still reluctant, we gave them a brochure and reminded them that they’d have to order during the convention to get that big discount.

9.  After the sale, we thanked them.  Funeral directors are also businesspeople, so they understand how important it is to make sales and they enjoy getting a good product and helping out other people.  By thanking them, we reminded them how much we appreciated their business and how integral and important they are to us.

10.  We set a goal and kept track of our progress.  At our busiest times, all five of our booth workers were talking to people and selling covers.  When anyone made a sale, we added it to the total and spread the word to the others, so that everyone knew how far we were from our goal.  Even better, I promised our staff that we’d celebrate with a nice dinner if we reached that goal and that helped motivate my sellers even more.

Every time I hear someone complain that they’re not getting visitors to their booth or they’re not making any sales, I remember the odd little truth about trade shows:  As much as you work to qualify expo visitors, they’re also qualifying you and they’ll walk right by booths where the exhitor fails to invite them to take a closer look.

Before the next NFDA convention (in Boston next year), I’ll be holding a “booth camp” for exhibitors.  I don’t know, yet, how we’ll work it, so stay tuned for more details.

If your fiscal year matches the tax year, time is approaching for you to make those end-of-year purchases that will benefit you tax-wise and make your company stronger for the future.

In our case, the accountant has suggested we invest in needed new equipment now, rather than after the first of the year.  The cost of the equipment will cut into our profits, yes, but we’ll receive a partial tax benefit this year (less profits mean less taxes and there’s always local and state equipment write-offs and depreciation) and we’ll get some much-needed tools to make our products faster and better.

My guess is that your own accountant might suggest a few big purchases (new cars, new chairs, etc.) if she knew that you had been considering them.

Talk to your accountant today.  You just might get to spend some of money on your business, instead of sending it to Washington.

A new Missouri law takes the power of sepulcher (decisions about funeral arrangements) away from the next-of-kin if a durable power of attorney has been designated by the deceased.

The article, published on the Missouri Attorney General’s consumer blog, states:

In the past, next-of-kin had the final say on this issue. So, in the past, if you chose cremation, your family could overrule you and your DPA and choose something else. But now your DPA will have the final say – so be sure to tell your DPA what you want.

Read the full article here.

This Wednesday, July 30th at 4:00 pm Eastern, I’ll be taking part in a teleseminar titled Funeral Blogging 101.

Hosted by Funeral Gurus creator, Robin Heppell, the discussion will include my friends Brian Hanner and BT Hathaway, and will focus on using a blog to promote your funeral home and inform your community.

While preparing a few remarks for the seminar, I found some interesting facts which cemented, for me at least, the reason why I write this blog as part of the marketing efforts for my company.

Because this blog was created to help publicize our quilted mortuary cot covers, I decided to find out how often visitors to this site have clicked over to our retail website (www.cotcovers.com) to check out our product.  Here are the results, compiled on June 28, 2008:

Last 7 Days:  10 clicks
Last 30 Days:  23 clicks
Last 90 Days:  62 clicks
Last 365 Days:  291 clicks
Since Day 1 – October 2006:  359 clicks

Writing a blog was just one part of my marketing strategy for our cot covers, as detailed in the post The Future of Final Embrace, but it’s been very helpful to me personally and professionally.

The hundreds of posts here have helped me hone my skills and I’ve developed wonderful new friendships with my readers.

Professionally, the blog helps me create contacts with important players in the industry and magazine readers, along with those who stumble upon the blog, turn into customers for our quilted cot covers.

Also worth noting:  our sponsors also see impressive click-through numbers.  The Funeral Site sponsored us last year and have had 83 click-throughs to their site.  And since their sponsor logo remains on all those posts that they supported, they continue to get clicks from our readers.

The blog is also an effective incubator for my ideas about the industry and how to market funeral industry products.  The blog continues to lead to unexpected sidelines, like funeral vendor consulting and the book I’m finishing.

Of course, if I just wanted to trade blogging for clicks or dollars spent on my products, I’d choose another medium.

My blogging doesn’t pay for itself with clicks or orders.  But so far, it’s helped me organize my thoughts, write a book, secure speaking gigs, publish articles in trade magazines and meet important and precious new friends.

And I can do it all in as few as 10 minutes a day (but usually a lot longer!).

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