Community Connections

I read an article this past week and it posed this scenario:

Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore, but so does Susan. They both sell very high quality sea shells that are sold at just about the same price points. What options does Sally have to bring more customers into her sea shell business?

Of course there are a number of ways that anyone can go about bringing in additional business. But as anyone in business knows, relationship building is the strongest way to keep people knocking on your door. So how can Sally, whose business let’s say consists of mostly tourists, build a relationship with the markets that she serves? More on that in a minute…

Community outreach – when an organization reaches out to a local community to provide services, financial means, etc. to directly aid an effort to have a positive impact on said community. It is a fantastic way for funeral homes to build relationships within the communities that they serve. The role of community outreach for any small business is vital to small town economics. It’s also where small businesses tend to shine versus corporations (that is, if we make an effort to practice it).

So let’s go back to Sally. How could Sally potentially build relationships with her migrant tourist clientele? How about establishing a relationship with the local government bureau of tourism? The local town government has a Monday afternoon welcome party for all the vacationers where Sally donates some of her sea shells to be used over and over as table decorations for the party – in turn, Sally is recognized in printed materials and signage for her donations. She also provides all those attendees a little sample sea shell that is tied with a pretty ribbon to an informational brochure that educates the tourist about the local marine life, but also has the name and address of her business for anyone who wants to learn more. Has Sally now established relationships with her clientele? Sure she has… and she also now has positive brand recognition over Susan’s Sea Shell business who has done nothing.

So how does selling sea shells relate to funeral service. It’s much the same, and I would argue probably even a little easier! Unlike Sally who has to quickly establish that relationship within one week of a tourist visiting her community, a funeral home traditionally has multiple opportunities over the course of years to build that relationship.

Let’s face it, there is a nationwide fall in the membership of civic and fraternal service organizations (see this article in the Washington Times) and also a decline in those who regularly attend church or even identify with religion (see NFDA’s Consumer Survey from October 2015). So I’m starting to think that using fraternal organizations and churches as the primary community outreach for your funeral home is becoming slightly less relevant as it was perhaps 15, 30 or 50 years ago.

Generation shifts, workplace transformations, changing priorities and more have changed the way that we live our lives – it has changed the psychology of how we shop. Instead of high schoolers getting jobs at McDonald’s, many are active in multiple sports. Instead of buying a big house with a big lawn and lots of maintenance, many home owner’s have decided to down size their household and its responsibilities in favor of doing things they love in their free time such as running or biking. Instead of going to the corporate grocery store, families are deciding to buy foods locally through CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) or community farmer’s markets.

People are increasingly supporting small business which opens up tremendous opportunity for funeral homes to partner with other local businesses supporting the community that their business survives on. By no means am I advocating that a funeral home should completely abandon efforts with civic, service organizations or within churches. However, I am 100% advocating for diversifying your community outreach efforts to get maximum reach within your given community and to evolve your community outreach efforts with the changing priorities of today’s consumers.

So how do you start revamping your community outreach efforts? Start first by opening the dialogue, but then most importantly by listening. Begin the dialogue with your friends, your neighbors and other local businesses in the community. What is important to those people? Where do they spend their time? What gaps do they have potentially in needing man hour, financial or other types of support to fulfill their outreach agendas? Ask where you can partner with other local businesses to blend your strengths to create a positive impact.

Though, in doing this always keep in mind the “core” of your town. Is your town a military town? You may want to gear more of your time and outreach efforts towards this subsection of audience. Is your town totally into the high school football program? You may want to dedicate more outreach events towards this audience.

So I am going to start the dialogue here among our own funeral professional community. What are unique ways that you reach out to your local community to make a positive impact?

Submit your own UNIQUE, CREATIVE and MODERN community outreach ideas through a contest sponsored by Thacker Caskets! Prizes issued for the top idea! Click the link to submit your idea!!

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