Archive for the ‘Funeral Directors’ Category

What is Value?

Friday, June 14th, 2013

Lately I have been struggling with the word “value”. We have been born in interesting times where everything changes. As soon as you buy the new “must have” it is instantly out of date. You drive a brand new car off the dealer’s lot and its value has depreciated by thousands of dollars. If so much is changing so quickly, where do we find value in what we buy for either our businesses or ourselves?  How do we know we are giving a solid value to our families with our services? What products or services can a service business comfortably purchase? Are we so used to helping others that we forget that there are services to help us.

This question of value caused me to search for the definition of value in the dictionary – on the Internet. I realized I did not own a hard copy dictionary anymore. Clearly, I do not see the value in keeping one on hand. I went to http://dictionary.reference.com/ and this is what it said:

  1. An amount, as of goods, services, or money, considered to be a fair and suitable equivalent for something else; a fair price or return.
  2. Monetary or material worth: the fluctuating value of gold and silver.
  3. Worth in usefulness or importance to the possessor; utility or merit: the value of an education.
  4. A principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable: “The speech was a summons back to the patrician values of restraint and responsibility” (Jonathan Alter). (more…)

The Love We Shared

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Question: I am a new funeral director and I was wondering if you have any advice you can give me on how to relate to older people. My grandparents passed away when I was young and my parents are still living. How do I connect to a generation that  is foreign to me?

Answer:

Great question! By connecting to your families– as I have stated in other articles — a funeral becomes much more meaningful to them. To your families this funeral is all about them. It is about the loved one they have lost. Your families are trying to remember the connections they had to their loved ones. They want that relationship and that person’s life to have meant something that goes beyond death. There are a few ways to go about establishing rapport with your families that show them you care.

Talk about the loved one:  Before you conduct any business matters ask the family to tell you about the loved one they have just lost. What is their greatest memory? What is something they will always remember about their loved one? Were they a hunter? Did they enjoy the outdoors? Perhaps this person made beautiful quilts or knit. Listen to what the family has to say and then pick out nuggets of information and suggest you incorporate what you have learned into the service. For example, if the loved one was loved to fish the family could bring in some fishing poles or put a picture of that person fishing on the cover of the funeral program.

Ask the family before proceeding: As you are going through the funeral planning ask the family before proceeding to the next phase if they are comfortable talking about this section of the funeral arrangements. For example, many people do not want to go into the casket selection room. Mentally it is too hard on them to have had their husband/wife/parent living the night before and today they are putting them in a casket. Asking shows consideration for their loss. It shows that you care. If they are not comfortable show them a picture in a book or suggest you pick one out for them. Perhaps they would like to come back the next day to make a selection, or suggest cremation.

Share stories that relate: Share your stories that relate to their stories. If you had a friend who died who loved to fish you could share that story. However, be aware that it is not helpful for you to talk about your own personal problems to the family. Remember, this is first and foremost about them, not about you.

Touch the families: It is okay to shake hands, give hugs, and pats on the back. People know then that you care. When you greet people it is an okay to gently and briefly touch them. Some older men feel most comfortable with a handshake. Women are okay with hugs from other ladies and handshakes from the men. It is a judgment call. The most important thing is if you are comfortable with it they will know you mean it.

I would suggest you visit some seniors at senior living places. Many people are lonely and would love the company. You can get to know about their lives and what interests people in that age category. You might surprise yourself and find out how much you enjoy the visit too!

What Ifs…

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Everyone has wishes for the New Year. I thought I would add some What Ifs…

We all have had those days where one hardship happens after another. At some point we might have been inclined to say, “What else can happen!?!” Instead of thinking about the next hardship that might be around the corner you might think instead about what GOOD THING could happen next. By changing the focus from the negative to the positive we change our thinking patterns to look for the good instead of the bad. This new thinking shapes our life in mysterious ways. Positive thought seems to beget positive happenings in life. Watch for it! It truly is amazing. Here are some “what ifs” to challenge you to think and act in new ways.

What If… you take one thought or action that you fear and overcome it? The first step to do this is to think about your fear. For example, if you fear making the first step in meeting people you think about it and decide a good way to say hello to a stranger. Then the next step is to take the initiative to say hello. A true life story: when my husband and I moved to our new neighborhood last year we threw a block party just to meet people. I was amazed how people who had lived next door to each other had never met and they had kids the same age! No one wanted to take the first step, or make the first attempt at risking getting to know each other. (more…)

Do You Own Your Domain Name?

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Have you ever heard that things come in three’s?  This week three different times I found myself discussing the ins and outs of domain name ownership. Domain names are tricky little buggers and the process can get confusing. To help clear up some questions here are some things you need to know.

First you must determine if you own your domain name. Just because a domain name has been used on your website does not mean you own it. You only own your domain name if the registrant is listed under your name. Just this week a person I was speaking too was upset (and rightly so) because he found out his previous website vendor had registered his domain name in the name of the website company. The vendor was holding his domain name hostage and did not want to turn it over to the owner of the business. The business owner was flabbergasted. He said, “I have started this company, I own the company that name should be MINE.” Yes, however, in the eyes of the register companies the person whose name is listed as the owner is the legal owner. Period. The only way around this issue is if your business name is trademarked. Then the person who holds your domain name has to sell it back to you at cost. (more…)

How Would You Rate Your Funeral Home?

Friday, January 11th, 2013

When Renee lost her little girl, the funeral director she chose for the service brought her books about loss that he selected specifically for Renee and her children. This kind, caring man proceeded to tell Renee that the outpouring of support from her church and community was so immense that everything would be taken care of. In the months that followed her tragedy, he called to check in on Renee and her family. When she ran into him a year later at a school sporting event, he threw his arms around her and asked how she and each of her other children (whom he called by name) were doing.

Renee’s experience was exemplary, but not everyone has the same kind of compassionate care. We recently asked on our Facebook page at facebook.com/mygriefsupport “How was your grieving experience affected by the care you received at your funeral home?” Here were some of the responses.

When Therese’s son died, she was met at the door by an efficient but cold man, whose first words to her were, “And what was your son’s name?” After she managed to choke out her response, she was led directly to the caskets in the back of the funeral home where she was instructed to pick one out. (more…)

Do’s & Don’ts

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Since people in our culture have not had much opportunity to be socialized regarding how to act at a funeral or how to be helpful to the bereaved, it falls upon professionals to assist people in these areas.

Below is a list that can be copied and given out at services, left at churches or presented in school classrooms. In the instances of particularly harsh or draining deaths, I would suggest that information about that loss is placed first on the handout. This helps the people who are grieving so that they do not have to repeat the same story ad nausea.

People on Beyond Indigo (www.beyondindigo.com) have told us repeatedly things that were NOT helpful for them while they were grieving.

Don’t Talk About God: Please don’t tell us our loved one is with God. We really would rather have our loved one still here with us on earth. Especially in the case of a deceased child the reminder he/she is not with us just hurts us more.

Don’t Bring A Ham: Right at the time of loss everyone feels like bringing us a meal. Please, if you know we have food to feed an army save your generosity for another time. I will be grieving for three to seven years. A meal will be really nice once everyone leaves after the funeral. (more…)

Grief Support Makes a Difference

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Question: Does grief support really make a difference? Our funeral home is trying to decide how we can help. However, we are not grief therapists. Is it our place to help people grieve after the loss of a loved one?

Answer:  People on Beyond Indigo tend to be vocal about grief support and their needs. One was brought to our attention years ago when someone told us, “Where were you eight months ago when mom died? Why weren’t your services offered at our funeral home?”  Thus we suggested to funeral home owners that offering grief support at the time of need was a great idea — especially when our members were telling us this is what they wanted!

Grief support is necessary and it does make a difference. We had a member write in:

“I believe this site saved my marriage, quite possibly even my life, but most definitely my sanity. Lasting friendships have been made and I have learned so much about people. Sooner or later everyone will be touched by death, having a website like this where you can direct someone is just a God-send. Kelly, thank you ever so much.”

What worked for her? We have found that people need a place to find out that they are: (more…)

Moving On

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Question: After the funeral is over, families and friends resume their normal lives leaving many widows or widowers adrift in a home full of memories. Often their homes are packed full of things that need to be sorted through and given away. Some widows and widowers choose to move to another domicile due to finances or to be nearer to family members. This task often appears overwhelming. How do they tackle this big hurdle of moving or cleaning out their home? Any suggestions?

Answer: When a loved one dies a person usually suffers multiple losses. Part of these losses requires changing the way he/she lived before the loss to make a new life after the death. At some point, people are going to make this change by moving, or giving away items. They may need to sell possessions to make ends meet. This can be an extremely daunting task. Here are some suggestions that might help your families.

  1. Before A Death: If you are anticipating the death of a loved one, and it seems appropriate, discuss your future plans before he or she dies. Get their opinion. Talk to them about your ideas. Let them help you decide what personal items should go to people and/or organizations.
  1. Determine if a move is really necessary: Consult with a financial planner/CPA/relatives. Look at income and expenses to decide what the best possible method of living for you will be.
  1. Moving is a big change. Death is a big change. If possible, do not try to move closely on the heels of your loss. If possible, give time for the dust to settle, for a new routine to develop, and to look at places you want to go. Time will give you a more objective view of your situation.
  1. Make A List: Make a list of all the things you want to accomplish within the next year regarding your housing situation. Be specific. Make goals month by month. Enlist a “helper” to give you support. This could be someone to tell about your goals, and to help chart your progress each month. Look for someone to come into your domicile to help you organize, lift, sort, and remove.
  1. Inviting Friends & Family: If your loved one has died recently, invite friends and family over to take mementos NOW that belonged to that person. Have them go through clothes, tools, kitchen appliances, hobby materials, etc. and take what they want. Give the rest away to a worthy organization. Many organizations will come to your home and pick items up from the curb.
  1. Cleaning House: Prepare for your move by throwing lots of unnecessary things away. Think in terms of recycling vs. giving or throwing away. That is, if someone else can use it, that has recycle value. If not, throw it out to make room for fresh air and space in the rooms as well as your emotions.
  1. Thinking About The Move: Take this opportunity to look at your lifestyle. Do you like to golf, swim, play cards, or socialize? Any one of those types of activities could determine the type of housing looked at for a future place to live. Do you like a religiously oriented community? Do you want to share meals with other people?
  1. Your intuition: When considering any changes, remember to listen to your intuition, and let yourself be ruled not only by what your “head” says you should do, but by what your “heart” or “gut” tells you is the best choice for you. Ultimately, no matter how much advice you get from others, the choices to make changes are yours, and you can reach inside yourself to find the right answers.

Content – Treat It Like Royalty

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Yawn—content is so boring, right? Why should we care about content? Throw a few words up on the page, call it good, and move on. Hold on! Not so fast. Content is the star player in any online marketing program. Key functions of content are:

  1. Search Engine Optimization Placement: Content plays a major role in how/where your website is placed on Google. In February 2011, Google made a change to its algorithm, emphasizing high-quality content as a key search engine optimization requirement. This change was called Panda. Bottom line—template content is out and original content http://www.beyondfunerals.com/blog/2012/10/content-–-trea…t-like-royaltyis now “in.”
  2. Education: As consumers, we know about cars, food products, cleaning products, and beer because of the amount of advertising we have seen on these subjects. However, we know minuscule amounts of information about funeral homes and their services and why we should pay for it. We just know as a family member that we “sorta need it.” The job of content is to educate people about what the service is, the benefits of the services, and, frankly, why people should pay to have that service conducted.
  3. Engagement: If the content on your Internet marketing platforms is stale, boring, flat, and so on, then why should the consumer read it? The content needs to be written correctly in the proper style for the platform (website, Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, eNewsletter, YouTube, newsletters, and so on) where it is placed, and it needs to ENGAGE the reader. If the content is not compelling, why should the consumer read it and, more importantly, why should they come back?

Placement for Engagement

Multiple times I have been asked: “Can I write the content once and copy and paste it across all my platforms?” No. Resist this urge to write material once, check the box, and just plaster it out there willy-nilly. You will lose your audience. Each platform has its own style and guidelines for the way content should be displayed, the length, and the tone of how it is delivered. Sure, the message across all the platforms can and should be the same, but the exact content in each place needs to be avoided. General guidelines are as follows:

  1. Online Review Areas: Everywhere people can leave you reviews online must be managed and monitored. The content on these pages needs to be accurate and updated on a regular basis. Once a review is left, then a thank you note needs to be given for positive reviews and an educational note placed for a crabby review. Each thank you/educational note needs to be unique to the post and should not be a standard reply.
  2. Website: Most funeral directors websites I see fall down on the job when explaining the services they offer and why people should use them. Website content needs to be 400 to 500 words per page, needs to educate the family member on what the facility does and why they provide those services, and it needs to be optimized (coded) to be found in Google. The content style needs to be informative and educational in nature. Because protocols do not change every week in the funeral home, do not expect to change content about what services you provide on a constant basis. Instead, a blog should be used for weekly educational updates. 
  3. Blog: Confusion reigns over what in the heck a blog is. Think of it as an online magazine that is educational in nature. Resist putting cute updates about the office pet on a blog (those type of updates go on Facebook/social media). Focus on short paragraphs, bullet points, and easy to understand educational topics that are timely. For example, during the holidays would be a post about reaching out to loved ones especially the elderly.
  4. Social Media Platforms: A good framework for the tone and style of social media is a coffee shop. Conversations on social media areas are fun, chit chatty, ongoing conversations with a hint of education thrown in for flavor. Numerous times I have heard funeral directors say they wrote a beautiful article that is educational in nature and are disappointment nobody thought it was useful on Facebook. However, the picture of the office cat doing something cute went viral. The educational piece is great but needs to be placed on a blog. Correct placement is everything with content.

Monitor Its Success

Marketing needs to be monitored to make sure it is generating the results that are desired. Are people engaging with the content? Are they reading it? Is the post/page/tweet being passed to other people? To find out, monitor the statistics. Each platform mentioned above has its own statistics program that is included or can be added to determine the success of the created content. Monitoring, adjusting, and changing the content based on results is an ongoing process—but a necessary one.

“Old” People Aren’t on the Internet, Are They?

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

How often have you heard or thought “old” people are not on the Internet? “Old” for this conversation is being defined as someone over the age of 40. Of course “old people” are still using the Yellow Pages, right? Therefore, you don’t need to be marketing on the Internet because your clients don’t use it. However, in reality, people of all ages are on the Internet. Consider these statistics:

  • G.I. Generation (Age74+) — 30% are online
  • Silent Generation (Ages 65–73) — 58% are online
  • Older Boomers (Ages 56–64) — 75% are online
  • Younger Boomers (Ages 46–55) — 81% are online
  • Gen X (Ages 34–45) — 86% are online
  • Millennials (Ages 18–33) — 95% are online

Source: (http://www.sitejabber.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/sjgen.png)

Instead of asking if “old” people are on the Internet, the appropriate question to ask would be: What device and what platform are they using to access the Internet? “Device” can be defined as how one accesses the Internet. This could be through a standalone computer, a laptop, a tablet/device, or a smart phone. Once a person has a device, they have multiple choices, or platforms, of where to search for their information. Think of a Google search, online review sites, websites, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, eNewsletter, blogs, and so on as various platforms. As a searcher, a person has the luxury of selecting a platform of choice to do all his or her searching. However, a business needs to be found on most, if not all, of the platforms because this is where people are looking for your services.

Another way to look at it is your business needs to be found where people are searching. Your business information needs to be educational in nature and your website needs to be built so it can be viewed on the most popular devices and seen on the current platforms. Questions to ask when reviewing how your business is viewed on devices and platforms are:

Device Check:

  1. Pick up a mobile phone. Do a search for your website. Can it be seen easily or do you have to scroll left and right or top to bottom to find the information you are seeking? Your website needs to be mobile friendly — meaning it can be viewed on a mobile device.
  2. Hold an iPad. Can you see your website on an iPad or are parts of it missing? An iPad/iPhone does not support Flash. Many people are surprised to find out what is missing on their websites when they are viewed on an iPad.

Platform Check:

  1. When doing a search on Google for veterinarians in your city and state (for example, Maple Grove MN veterinarians), is your website found on the first page? If it is, is there a link to your website or does it go to maps.google.com? If maps.google.com is listed instead of your website, how do people then get to your website? What is your score? Is it less then 25? Be aware that Google just changed, and your score is going to determine whether people will click on your Google listing to view your website.
  2. Check your website on IE 7 and above, Safari, and Firefox to see if your website can be viewed and looks the same on every platform. Many times, I have seen beautiful websites built to only one type of browser that look like a train wreck in a different browser.
  3. If you have a Facebook business page, do not count on it being found in the Facebook search, which is rather dismal. Instead, is there a way to go to your Facebook page from ANY page on your website?
  4. If a searcher were looking for your business on YouTube (second largest search engine), Twitter, Pinterest, a blog, or an eNewsletter, would you be found?

Why is this important? Because older people ARE on the Internet — but they just might use it differently than you. My 90-year-old grandmother is on the Internet, but she just chooses to use a standalone computer, and her platform of choice is email. Whereas, my 71-year-old mother uses multiple devices (standalone, laptop, iPad, and iPhone) depending on where she is and what she wants to search. Many of us are this way. We search where we want to search on the platform and device of our choice. So instead of asking the AGE of your audience, ask about what device they are using and where (platform) they are looking when searching for your business or services. Because if you don’t know where people are looking for your business or how, you are literally barking up the wrong tree.