Marketing 101

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.
John Wanamaker (1838 - 1922)

One of the biggest challenges that we face as funeral and cemetery marketers is the ability to ascertain what part of our advertising mix is working; and conversely what part is not. Unless your advertising budget is all placed with one specific medium, this is not an easy task. The main reason that marketers have traditionally used newspaper as their main advertising vehicle is based on the tangibility factor. Consumers may enter your funeral home or cemetery with a copy of the ad in their hand thereby giving you the opportunity to see that print works. But, is it cost efficient and does it deliver more than a less tangible medium like broadcast, ie TV and radio? Direct mail is traditionally the most tangible of all advertising vehicles, but without a solid offer, your response rate can hover at less than 1%.

So how do we best track our advertising efforts? By making specific offers in each ad that are unique to the particular media or by incorporating different phone numbers in each medium utilized. How does a funeral home or cemetery make an offer? It doesn't have to be a traditional offer such as a discount. If you are marketing preneed, consumers will not make a spontaneous decision based on seeing or hearing an ad. A simple two step marketing process would be a “ call to action “ offering a free information kit with no obligation. Because 87% of those who ask for literature expect to eventually purchase, the odds are in your favour.

At Mount Royal Commemorative Services, we use radio as our primary medium of choice. Why radio? Because of COMQUEST research that was conducted on the average daily share of time spent with media...

  • Radio: 37%
  • TV: 37%
  • Newspaper: 10%
  • Magazines: 8%
  • Internet: 8%

The only other advertising vehicle that we use is direct mail, which takes the form of newsletters, this to talk to new prospects as well as staying in touch with our database that we have compiled over the years. With consumers spending 23 hours a week watching TV, 21 hours listening to the radio and only 2.9 hours reading the newspaper, broadcast media is the obvious choice. However, advertisers are still spending 55% of their dollars on eye media and 45% on ear media. The radio advertising that we do is tracked scientifically by the use of 5 different phone numbers on 5 different radio stations.

Consumers request an information kit that is sent by one of our preneed counsellors. The names are entered in our database for future mailings of newsletters and the counsellors follow up within ten days to make sure that the kit has been received and to set up an appointment. Once an appointment is made, the closing ratio is well over 50%. The advantage of this approach is that we know what stations are working in terms of cost efficiency and which ones are not. Radio also provides you with the ability to target a specific customer demographic such as ADULTS 55+, something that is more difficult to do with other media. And some AM stations with plenty of inventory may consider working a PI ( per inquiry ) arrangement that pays the station a designated amount whenever the phone rings. A win-win relationship for both parties.

Consumers today are inundated with advertising messages to the point the average North American is exposed to 3,000 on a daily basis. With a satellite dish, consumers have access to upwards of 500 TV channels and over the last 15 years, the three major broadcast networks have seen their share of primetime TV viewing plunge from 70% to 36%. Only 42% of readers recall noting a full page ad in the newspaper and it would take 18 days of reading at 18 hours a day to read a typical Sunday edition of the New York times.

Therefore, the final component to an effective marketing campaign, following media selection and the tracking of results is the creative approach. Because our budgets are limited, every ad that we run should include a unique selling proposition; something that our cemetery or funeral home offers that no one else does. How many times have you heard or seen a funeral ad that sounds identical to all the others? Rise above the clutter by offering added value, by taking the time to educate consumers, and ask them to do something. Marketing is only effective if it delivers results.

Next month, we'll talk specifically about a unique creative approach called educational marketing.