the funeral professional’s #1 resource for business growth and profitability | may/june 2021 funera l b u s i n e s s a d v i s o r m a g a z i n e tm top tier marketing, llc | 8913 stone green way, suite 200 | louisville, ky 40220 page 30
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f e at u r e s may/june v o l u m e x v , n o . 3 2 0 2 1 cover story page 30 new kids on the block with 75 years of experience 1 8 feature editorial memorialization & personalization 2 2 company spotlight affordable funerals network afn is a source for today’s millions of online consumers to connect with their exclusive funeral and cremation service providers in select markets throughout the u.s. and hawaii. 18 4 2 funeral director spotlight the morte girls new york, ny 6 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021 22 42
as experts in lending we help you through the unknown. we’re your lending partner here to help you meet the unique needs of the funeral industry and accelerate your growth. united midwest is dedicated to our customer’s success. here’s what makes us different: we’re specialists few lenders understand the details and costs associated with the death care industry as well as we do. we’re more than willing to spend time discussing your ﬁnancing options and help you ﬁnd the best solution. we understand the funeral industry traditional banks often want assets or real estate as collateral and do not take into consideration the underlying value of your cash ﬂow. united midwest’s sba loan can be a great solution for funeral directors who are looking to acquire, reﬁnance or expand their business and there is little tangible collateral. we’re a top-ranked lender united midwest savings bank is ranked as one of the top 30 small business administration (sba) lenders nationally in both dollar volume and number of loans. we continue to grow by focusing on one customer at a time. contact us today to learn more about financing options for your funeral home business: chad fondriest 614-205-7600 email@example.com www.umwsb.com rates, terms and conditions subject to change. all loans subject to sba lending guidelines, credit review, underwriting guidelines, veriﬁcation of identity, and approval.
c o n t e n t s 2 4 2 8 3 4 3 8 4 8 5 2 28 34 38 60 i n d u s t r y a l e r t s specialty vehicles 10 57 five types of email marketing campaigns and when to use them by welton hong the next normal by nathan bluitt jr. personalization... are we just whistling past the graveyard? by karl weisenbeck 24 contemplating the purchase of a funeral home? how to make it happen... by melissa a. drake & kathy williams a guide to selling your business: part one: preparing, pricing, and maximizing business value by live oak bank how to best work with a marketing partner (or any outside partner for that matter) by joe weigel e x t r a s 1 0 5 6 industry alerts see what's happening with vendors, distributors, and manufacturers. ad index manufacturers and suppliers that make it possible to bring you funeral business advisor magazine. 5 7 specialty vehicles see new and used vehicles. 8 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021
c o n t r i b u t o r s kathy williams is cfo and secretary/ treasurer of american funeral consultants, a full-service consulting firm dedicated to serving the industry. she may be reached at 800-832-6232, by e-mail at kathy@teamafc. com, or by visiting www.teamafc.com. nathan l. bluitt, jr. is president of bluitt and son funeral home, kokomo, in. the firm was founded by his father, the late nathan l. bluitt, sr., in 1957 at which time his family relocated to kokomo from indianapolis. bluitt graduated from indiana college of mortuary science in 1970. he acquired the parker and son funeral home in champaign, il. karl weisenbeck is president of funeral home gifts, the premier supplier of heirloom quality woven and printed tribute blankets, beautiful custom cap panels, keepsake pillows, photo urns and personalization products. to learn more, call 800.233.0439, email karlw@ funeralhomegifts.com. you may also visit their website at www.funeralhomegifts.com. is welton hong the founder and marketing director of ring ring marketing (funeralhomeprofits.com), which specializes in helping funeral homes convert leads from online directly to the phone line. reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll-free at 888-383-2848. live oak bank’s team of funeral home and cemetery loan experts offer a variety of loan products to meet the diverse needs of the funeral profession and can offer small business funding of over $10 million. visit their website at www.liveoakbank.com/ funeral to learn more. joe weigel is the founder of weigel strategic marketing, a marketing firm that delivers expertise and results across three interrelated disciplines: strategy, branding, and communications. you can visit his website at weigelstrategicmarketing.webs.com. he also can be reached at 317-608-8914 or email@example.com. a top tier marketing publication 8913 stone green way, #200 louisville, ky 40220 phone 502.653.8568 facsimile 877.737.3936 www.fmm-media.com michael manley, publisher firstname.lastname@example.org 502.653.8568 matthew ball, marketing director email@example.com 502.653.8569 matthew benoit, digital director firstname.lastname@example.org 502.653.8571 funeral business advisor magazine www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com funeral business advisor magazine is published bi-monthly (6 issues a year) by top tier marketing, llc. 8913 stone green way # 200, louisville, kentucky, 40220. subscriptions are free to qualified u.s. subscribers. single copies and back issues are $7.99 each (united states) and $10.99 each (international). united states subscriptions are $54.00 annually. international subscriptions are $75.00 annually. visit www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com for content and updated frequently and to access articles on a range of funeral industry topics. top tier marketing provides its contributing writers latitude in expressing opinions, advice, and solutions. the views expressed are not necessarily those of top tier marketing and by no means reflect any guarantees that material facts are accurate or true. top tier marketing accepts no liability in respect of the content of any third party material appearing in this magazine. copyright 2019. all rights reserved. funeral business advisor magazine content may not be photocopied or reproduced or redistributed without the consent of publisher. for questions regarding magazine or for subscriptions, call 502.749.0992 or email email@example.com. article reprints for high quality reprints, call 502.749.0992 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. f i n d f ba o n s o c i a l m e d i a may/june 2021 | www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com 9
i n d u s t r y a l e r t s hone your skills: nfda hosts embalming and restorative art seminar brookfield, wi — embalmers of all skill levels are invited to learn from some of the funeral profession’s foremost experts during the national funeral directors association 2021 embalming & restorative art seminar, taking place september 16-17 at the pittsburgh institute of mortuary science in pittsburgh, pennsylvania. this year’s seminar will feature live demonstrations and highlight best practices for ensuring organ and tissue donors are viewable by loved ones and friends. the dynamic and engaging nfda embalming and restorative art seminar offers both experienced and novice embalmers an opportunity to cultivate their knowledge and techniques; everything they learn can be immediately applied when they return to their funeral home. the seminar will be led by some of the country’s most respected authorities on embalming and restorative art and organ and tissue donation: • sarah czajowski, licensed funeral director and certified tissue bank specialist from pittsburgh, pennsylvania • t. scott gilligan, nfda general counsel, cincinnati, ohio • amanda marie ellis king, licensed funeral director and embalmer from springfield, missouri • cara krepp, certified tissue bank specialist from pittsburgh, pennsylvania • jason mishler, cfsp, mbie, licensed funeral director and embalmer and reconstructive specialist from columbia city, indiana these noted experts will lead sessions on a variety of topics, including: the recovery process for long bones, tendons, skin, eyes, heart valves and tissue; embalming donor cases; preparing unembalmed cases; color theory and the biology behind the application of cosmetics; and embalming risk management. participants in past embalming & restorative art seminars have praised the program. one attendee said, “i would highly 10 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021 recommend this conference for any funeral director – from apprentice to 50-year licensee – everyone will benefit from it, whether you learn a new embalming/restoration tip or renew your passion for what we do for families." attendees will pay up to 25 more if they register after august 17; registrations must be received by september 8. - on or before august 17: $325 - after august 17: $349 • nfda member licensed funeral director • nonmember licensed funeral director - on or before august 17: $375 - after august 17: $400 • student/apprentice - on or before august 17: $100 - after august 17: $100 complete details about the 2021 nfda embalming & restorative art seminar, including information on how to register, can be found on the nfda website, www.nfda.org/embalmingseminar. funeral service professionals may also call nfda at 800-228- 6333 for information and to register. for some embalmers who are not yet comfortable traveling – or for whom travel does not fit with the demands of their business – nfda offers several online learning and home study courses focused on technical skills. courses cover a variety of topics and enable funeral professionals to boost their skills wherever and whenever they have internet access. a full list of online learning and home study courses can be found on the nfda website, www.nfda.org/education (select the “home study & online learning courses” button). nfda developed a consumer brochure, embalming: answers to your questions. this brochure helps families understand the embalming process, the value of viewings and visitations as part of end-of-life rituals, and answers common questions they may have. the brochure can be ordered through the nfda resource store, www.nfda.org/store, or by calling 800-228-6332.
f o r o v e r 8 0 y e a r s “ b e t h e m o s t t r u s t e d f u n e r a l s u p p l i e r t o m o r e f a m i l i e s “ b e t h e m o s t t r u s t e d f u n e r a l s u p p l i e r t o m o r e f a m i l i e s b y p r o v i d i n g a n h o n e s t p r o d u c t a t a n h o n e s t p r i c e b y p r o v i d i n g a n h o n e s t p r o d u c t a t a n h o n e s t p r i c e w i t h h o n e s t s e r v i c e .” w i t h h o n e s t s e r v i c e .” f o r o v e r 8 0 y e a r s f o r o v e r 8 0 y e a r s p r o u d l y m a d e p r o u d l y m a d e p r o u d l y m a d e i n i n i n t h e u s a t h e u s a t h e u s a 8 0 0 . 6 3 7 . 8 8 9 1 8 0 0 . 6 3 7 . 8 8 9 1 8 0 0 . 6 3 7 . 8 8 9 1 t h a c k e r c a s k e t s . c o m t h a c k e r c a s k e t s . c o m t h a c k e r c a s k e t s . c o m
industry alerts domanicare partners with live oak bank orem, ut — domanicare (“domani”), the award-winning aftercare solution for funeral homes, is pleased to announce its partnership with live oak banking company (“live oak”). this partnership will develop more relationships with funeral homes that are focused on better serving their families. live oak, a leader in the funeral space, is dedicated to helping funeral businesses across the country through education and access to capital. their team of industry experts understands this unique profession and provides sba and conventional loans to funeral home owners to help them buy, build or expand their business. tim bridgers, svp of funeral home lending for live oak stated, “live oak bank's funeral home and cemetery lending team values our professional partnerships with a priority to provide best in class products and services to help small business owners remain successful. our funeral and cemetery specific expertise, combined with domanicare's expertise will offer our customers faster access to solutions, enabling the business owners to remain focused on their core objectives.” as a result of this partnership, all current live oak clients are eligible to receive a 15% discount on a domanicare subscription, an aftercare service that provides live text follow up with families on behalf of the funeral home to offer aftercare resources, generate positive google reviews, and provide grief support. “with the financial support and dedicated service that live oak provides, and the world-class aftercare solutions that domani provides, funeral homes will be able to care for the families they serve in ways they have never been able to,” said jon lefrandt, domani ceo. this is a strategic partnership that will enable both domani and live oak to offer their services to the profession on a larger scale. domanicare is an award-winning text message aftercare program for funeral providers. they are also the leader in generating google reviews for funeral homes to improve visibility and grow at-need case volume. to learn more about the complete offerings of domani, visit thedomanigroup.com. founded before the start of the great recession, live oak bank is a digital bank serving small business owners across the country. live oak put a groundbreaking spin on what banking could be, focused on service and technology to redefine banking. they offer fdic-insured banking products to help you buy, build and expand your business, along with high-yield savings and cd products to grow your hard-earned money. learn more at liveoakbank.com. 12 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021
industry alerts batesville enhances web platform with value-added features and integrations to cräkn, osiris software and passare management software systems batesville, in — batesville, a leading provider of quality products and innovative technology solutions to funeral professionals, is continuing to enhance its web platform with new personalization and e-commerce features that make it easier to memorialize a loved one, and additions to its growing list of best-in-class partnerships. the company announced new integrations with cräkn, osiris software and passare management software systems that will allow data to flow seamlessly between batesville websites and funeral homes’ management systems, improving the accuracy and consistency of information and eliminating duplicate data entry. helping families tell their stories the funeral home website, which has always been a hub of activity, becomes even more important when people cannot come together to show support at a visitation or service. it is where families tell the stories of their loved ones and where friends and relatives show support. dynamic, customizable obituary themes help them make the stories more meaningful. batesville added to its expansive library of more than 560 themes with new customizable obituary designs representing each branch of the u.s. military service. families can click directly from the obituary to view custom video tributes, share a personal message or purchase a sympathy gift. improving data flow between systems when helping families plan a funeral, every minute matters. most funeral professionals work in at least two or three systems, so data has to be manually re-entered, taking valuable time and increasing the chance of errors. batesville has seen that first-hand from the integration of its own industry-leading mis management software with the company’s web platform and is now expanding that capability by offering integrations with other leading software providers, including integrations with cräkn, osiris software, passare, and others. the web-to-management software integrations eliminate many of the time-consuming tasks that can create delays in posting information and avoid possible disappointments. by connecting their batesville website with their management software, funeral homes can enter service and obituary data once and pass it between systems with a single click. the seamless connectivity improves workflow, reduces time spent on administrative tasks and allows funeral directors to spend more time with families, resulting in a better overall experience. for more information on batesville technology offerings, including the new integrations, contact the technology support team at 800.297.6177 or email@example.com. options for memorialization celebrate spirituality, family, passion, life with a treasured tribute create a treasured tribute 1. choose a photo 2. choose a wilbert legacy print 14 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021
got news? do you have a press release that you would like to share with the readers of funeral business advisor magazine? if so, we would like to inform our readers. send all correspondence, via email, in a text document. please include a high resolution logo and your contact information. send to firstname.lastname@example.org. american funeral consultants announces the retirement of cfo and co-owner, kathy d. williams new paltz, ny — american funeral consultants, a funeral service consulting company announces the retirement of its cfo and co-owner, kathy williams. kathy’s almost- 5 2 - y e a r c a r e e r with the company began in 1969 when, as a recent high school graduate, she took a job with vanderlyn r. pine, a local funeral director and nationally renowned funeral service consultant. after working for dr. pine part-time during her four years of college, she left briefly to pursue a teaching career. after one school year, dr. pine asked her to return, and she began her career with him. in 1991, melissa drake-messina came to work for him, and shortly after, the business (then known as vanderlyn r. pine associates) transitioned into “american funeral consultants.” in 2007, kathy and melissa took over the business from dr. pine and they have owned and operated the company since then. known for quality & service since 1993 afc’s strong legacy of serving its clients with professionalism, expertise, and personalized attention will continue with melissa drake-messina, coo at the helm. kathy is looking forward to having some free time to pursue other activities, but given all of her many years of service and the wonderful clients, colleagues, and friends she’s made along the way, she says “it’s not going to be easy to just step away – i’ll miss it immensely.” “i take great pride in the fact that i have served 50+ years in an industry that i love and think is so important to the welfare of bereaved families and to society,” says williams. “working with funeral professionals has been so rewarding – they are some of the greatest people one could ever want to meet and i have developed a great admiration for what they do and for what they give of themselves each and every day. i look forward to continuing many of the friendships i’ve made during my long career!” k eepsake pend a n t s the opportunity to choose a keepsake pendant presents itself only once. the comfort a keepsake pendant offers, lasts a lifetime. 800-788-0807 fax 608-752-3683 www.madelynpendants.com e-mail email@example.com may/june 2021 | www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com 15
navigate the new normal help families connect meaningfully with keeper’s suite of digital memorialization tools for cemeteries and funeral homes • online memorials • virtual memorial services • interactive kiosks • email marketing • walk-to-grave app • genealogy • aftercare • lead generation book your free consultation or demo today: firstname.lastname@example.org | 1-844-970-7900 be their knight in shining armor. when families need to transport a loved one, it’s up to you to make sure the ship-out goes as planned. that’s why there’s ewa — your one-call airline resource. our transportation experts search all available ﬂights, handle the reservation, pre-pay the charges and proactively monitor the status through the entire process. and you? with one call, you’re the family’s hero — earning their loyalty for generations to come. ewacares.com 866-550-1ewa (1392) your one-call solution for airline reservations & proactive monitoring may/june 2021 | www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com 17
feature editorial spotlight on: personalization & memorialization personalization is defined as the action of designing or producing something to meet someone's individual requirements. extraordinarily little is as important in modern day funeral planning than helping a family honor a loved ones passing than creating an experience that is unique to that individuals life. the art of memorializing a loved one in a meaningful way should be a priority to all funeral professionals. something that the family’s future generations can use to remember that individual. for many families, memorializing a loved one through personalization helps them through the grieving process. a memorialization item is a conversation piece that allows a family to speak about their loved ones in a way that is a direct reflection of the life that they lived. it provides them a reason to discuss those things about their lives that made a positive and meaningful impact on others. it creates a sense of pride that is immeasurable in helping the families cope with the loss of their loved one. it is our job as funeral professionals to provide products and solutions that aid in this remembrance. something that will honor their legacy in a meaningful way. “allowing your families to create a custom memorial service is truly paramount over the traditional options, remarks brandon frazer, general manager of lifelong memories. “the more you can make the funeral about the family you are serving the better overall experience they will have.” asking probing questions to get a better understanding of the person is critical in helping families through this personalization process. “take time to get to know the family and include them in the product design process,” explains brandon. “the more the family is involved in the creation of the service the more meaningful the service is to them.” to personalization and memorialization. for example, tribute videos are not new, but improvement in technology is making this product offering easier for funeral homes to offer. we all have seen social media explode in popularity over the last decade. this phenomenon can no longer be ignored and must be embraced in what we offer. “whether through qr codes or direct links, we are noticing consumers want to pair products to lost loved ones' social media pages,” explains ethan. “after all, they are a living personal history of someone's life.” the increased presence of social media has made these products more desirable because it gives families a way to distribute these memories to many people that would otherwise would not have access. “social media has given the families the ability to share the experiences they have at funeral homes and showcase products from those funeral homes, states brandon. “when people see custom options, they will be asking for custom options from the funeral home when they have a service need which is driving the increase in personalization and custom products.” it is sometime uncomfortable to admit, but funeral homes are in the business to make a profit. and making a profit by providing exceptional service is nothing to be ashamed of. in fact, most families would agree that they would gladly pay fair price for a service that will provide a lifetime worth of memories. “memorialization and personalization products are a great way to add extra revenue to your bottom line,” explains ethan. “products that are customized have a much higher perceived value. these types of products will also help strengthen your funeral home's theme of personalized service that includes books and cards, videos, and photos at the services.” more importantly, we need to help our families in this process. “after attempting to give consumers as much control as possible, i have concluded that consumers want our help and expertise,” says ethan darby, director of consumer relations for trigard. “they want us to guide them to what will turn out the best. often, consumers have a few pieces of the personalization puzzle, but it is up to us to arrange them and even add a few pieces to create the final masterpiece.” but be warned, thinking profit first is not the answer. “i would say if you were looking at personalization and memorialization as a way to directly impact revenues, you're going to be disappointed, emphasized ethan. “personalization is a way to add value to what we do overall. we want to remind people about someone's life using imagery, stories, and songs, and the more consumers can connect with the services we offer, the more value they will see in them.” additionally, families are seeking products that are unique and that they can have input on the design. customization is essential in the personalization process. “families want options,” states brandon. “it's that simple, families want to be able to create their own designs whether it is on a folder, register book or bookmark.” increasingly, technology is become a major factor in our lives, and this is true in the funeral profession as well when it comes memorialization tributes are important components of a memorable service and personalization offerings further enhance the funeral experience. it is important to make sure families know what your funeral home offers. learn more about the importance of memorialization and personalization for your business by receiving advice from top providers in this feature editorial. fba learn more about the contributors to the feature editorial on page 20 18 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021
continued from page 18 trigard was founded in the late 1960’s by the darby family. the darby’s currently own six funeral homes and a cemetery, making trigard the only vault company able to test-market their products right in their own facilities. through research and study, trigard introduced their unique arched cover design and added dimension to their burial vaults, vastly improving the over-all product. the company trade name was born, trigard, for the three layers of protection used in the vault liners. trigard has introduced many unique additions to the burial vault industry. trigard’s aegean series is still one of its kind today, and offers three layers of protection, an elegant look of refined marble, and yet is still affordable. their most recent innovation is the healing tree, an intricate tree design extruded from the cover of the aegean. the healing tree allows families to participate in an interactive ceremony at the gravesite as they say their final goodbyes. the tree design has twenty dove- shaped memory rings scattered throughout the top of the vault. the family can take a memory ring from the healing tree to wear on a necklace, attach to a keychain or simply keep in their pocket as a memento of their loved one. the trigard philosophy is to provide and serve families with the highest level of care possible. the depth of the darby family’s experience, knowledge and drive combine to bring a much-needed passion to death care, a passion for people, and a passion for progress in the industry. our mission is based solely upon serving you, so that you can better serve your families. we will be the best partner to our clients, employees, vendors, and community. lifelong memories is a family business, started early in 1995. in 1998, we introduced the first funeral management software package. by the year 2000, lifelong memories became one of the first companies to offer picture-based personalization products to the funeral industry. we offer a complete range of products from register books to bookmarks, and anywhere in between. we are especially pleased to have been the creators of the original tribute candle. patent number 6,8800,167 was awarded to lifelong memories by the united states patent office for specific techniques and our approach to creating funeral personalization products. lifelong memories is known as the most innovative provider to the funeral industry. our real time cloud-based software gives the busy small funeral home operator the ability to work on a folder from anywhere they have an internet connection. the software includes 100's of predefined memorial themes the family can choose from as a starting point to create their own designs or the ability to completely customize any product layout from scratch. this extensive software development experience over the past 2 decades ensures that the software you receive will be easy to learn and use. intuitive, natural features mean even those who are not completely comfortable with a computer are able to work with this customized software. because of this, lifelong memories can provide unlimited support to each and every customer. lifelong memories always provides you the highest quality and most innovative products available. our family guarantees it. please reach out to us with any questions about our line of products and to begin your journey in serving your families with a completely customized experience from lifelong memories. trigard (217) 260-7880 www.trigard.com 20 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021 lifelong memories (888) 454-3356 www.lifelongmemories.net email@example.com
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company spotlight affordable funerals network (afn) www.afnfunerals.com email@example.com 833.355.3330 how did affordable funeral networks get involved in the funeral industry? founded in 2013, affordable funerals network.com was an online community dedicated to bridging the gap between funeral homes and the families that need them. afn is a philanthropic entity who donates money to good causes to promote the welfare of others. what products and services does affordable funeral networks provide? at afnfunerals.com we know how important it is to have the right people in your corner to ensure that the process of laying a loved one to rest doesn’t add to the painful grieving process. we set out to make sure our client’s experience during their search for the perfect funeral provider is both professional and seamless. to be assured that our objective is both relevant and easier to access we’ve upgraded our business model by building the afn mobile app to add matchless availability and convenience for the 260,000,000 plus smartphone users. currently we have not just one, but three to five afn mobile app affiliates in each city to increase your options when selecting an affiliate in your area. more affiliates will give you more competitive pricing options. what else does affordable funeral networks provide? we’ve also created the afn aid for hospice care with funds that are targeted for the unfortunate who can’t afford hospice care because of being uninsured. as a result, they’re not able to experience the dignity and comfort that accompanies being in hospice care during their final days. each family’s loved one who transitions in the care of any u.s. hospice entity and utilizes the services of an affordable funerals network mobile app affiliate, will have a $100 donation made in memory of their loved one to the afn aid for hospice care by afn to assist those who can’t afford the luxury of hospice care. afn has set a goal of a minimum of $20m annually to be distributed to those in need of hospice care but can't afford the dying process with the dignity and comfort experienced with hospice. what else is important to know about afn? affordable funerals network.com and the premier afn mobile app is also what is needed to market the modern-day funeral home. technology has opened many new doors for the modern-day funeral practitioner with new innovative ways to not only interact with families, but to reach those new families that are checking their phones constantly. it is written that 65% of americans check their phones 160 times per day as per reviews.org. americans are now connected to the world of digital information while "on the go" via smartphones. it has been reported that 97% of americans own a cellphone and 85% own a smartphone. that is a remarkable increase in comparison with pew research's first survey of smartphone ownership in 2011 that stated only 35% owned a smartphone. gen. xers (those ages 39 to 54) are carrying around and using smartphones at a rate of 90%. in excess of 93% of millennials (ages 23 to 38 yrs. young this year) are carrying smartphones with them everywhere they go. baby boomers (55 to 73yrs young) are carrying smartphones around at a rate of 68%. the silent generation (74 to 91) reportedly are at 40%. in all the estimated number of smartphone owners in the united states in 2020 reached 294.15 million. soon there will be a very extensive marketing campaign initiated by afn mobile app to inform these smartphone users of the afn mobile app and their affiliates that are just an app away to serve them from any hospital, nursing home, hospice facility. digital marketing via all platforms, not to mention the word-of-mouth communications network, will place you at so many fingertips by becoming an afn mobile app affiliate. what is the benefit of being an afn mobile app affiliate? • become one of only 3-5 afn mobile app affiliates per market (depending on demographics) who'll become accessible to the 260 million smartphone users who will have the ability to download the afn mobile app free and use when needing to locate a funeral home 24/7 • receive special discounts from our preferred merchants services partner chosen payment when you allow them to serve your credit card merchant's needs. • only pay a one-time affiliates application processing fee of $195.00 to engage the most convenient marketing tool the funeral industry has ever known. • become available to participate in third-party casket sales through the afn mobile app in your respective market. • only pay a service fee when afn affordable app connects you with a vetted at-need or pre-need family. • the longer you hold your position the more equity it gains through the services performed. you are able to sale your position based on average number of calls you receive annually. • let afn mobile app calls be your second stream of income. • enjoy discounts from our corporate partners on goods and services to increase your bottom line. to learn more, call 833.355.3330 to see if your market is available before your competition calls! 22 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021
five types of email marketing campaigns and when to use them by welton hong you might have heard that email marketing drives impressive returns, and that's true. but, as a consumer yourself, you're probably most familiar with promotional emails that offer discounts, free shipping if you buy today, or 20% off if you refer your friends. that's not the best type of email campaign for a funeral home. "flash sale on caskets ends tomorrow!" and "bogo headstones" aren't the type of offers likely to endear your firm to most people. just because traditionally promotional emails are off the table doesn't mean you can't use email marketing to drive leads and conversions. here are five other types of campaigns deathcare firms might engage in. 1. welcome email campaigns welcome emails thank someone for signing up or making a purchase. but it's more than good manners: that sign-up or first contact opens the door for you to further engage with potential clientele. welcome email campaigns are usually a series of 3-5 emails triggered by a sign-up. the first arrives immediately upon sign up (or at least within the first 24 hours). it thanks the consumer for their action and provides one or two bits of helpful information. other emails in a welcome series carry on a sort of one-sided conversation, providing the consumer with additional information in an attempt to prompt continued contact or a purchase. simply put an opt-in box on any of those forms that gives you permission to send marketing emails; if the consumer doesn't uncheck the box, the welcome campaign can launch automatically. you can customize these campaigns to meet the needs of your business and target audience, but here's an example of how one might run if someone requested preplanning information: • email 1: thanking the prospective client for reaching out and attaching information about preplanning • email 2: following up to see if there are any questions and providing a link to a blog post with statistics about preplanning • email 3: an invitation to download a workbook on preplanning to help them get started • email 4: letting them know you're available whenever they're ready and giving them a specific name and number if they want to reach out 2. seasonal campaigns in the retail world, seasonal email campaigns are created around times such as holidays or back-to-school months. deathcare businesses may want to avoid being overt— yes, death rates tend to rise in december and january, but launching a midwinter email campaign based on that premise is unlikely to bear much fruit and might scare off your audience. funeral homes can use welcome email campaigns when someone signs up for a newsletter, requests preplanning information, signs up for a webinar, or requests a brochure. instead, create seasonal email campaigns meant to provide existing subscribers with value and position your funeral home as a caring part of the local community. 24 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021
continued from page 24 reach out with fun summer recipes or tips for beating the heat in the neighborhood, for example, and use soft, subtle ctas that remind people you're there if they have a need. • email 1: remind potential clientele they requested information, acknowledge that life gets busy, and provide a link to download a quick guide or infographic on preplanning. 3. campaigns connected to social funeral homes that want to build a better presence on social might start with email campaigns meant to bring subscribers to facebook or instagram. begin with a compelling social media post that includes an image. include the image and part of the caption in an email along with an obvious link to the post in question. then ask your subscribers to act with ctas such as: • we'd love to hear your feedback on… • come share your story about… • how do you use an urn to honor your loved one? share your picture with others. make sure the cta is relevant to the social post and what you want people to do with that post. if you want to drive more participation, couple your cta with a giveaway. purchase a gift card to a local shop or restaurant and say you'll pick a winner from everyone who responds or shares your post on social. the goal of these types of emails is to engage people across multiple channels and built rapport with members of your target audience. that helps increase future activity on your social media pages and the likelihood people might call on you when they have a need. 4. reengagement email campaigns reengagement campaigns remind people that they were interested in your service at one point and may help persuade them to take action now. this is a great option for reengaging people who previously showed interest in your preplanning services. again, you can customize your campaigns to fit your brand and audience, but an example preplanning email reengagement campaign might look like this: • email 2: provide three ways your firm makes preplanning easy. • email 3: dispel a common myth about preplanning and let the prospect know how they can reach out to find out more or start preplanning. 5. educational series emails educational emails are a common form of triggered email campaign for deathcare firms. this means they're automatically triggered by the action of potential clientele. for example, if someone indicates on your site that they're interested in preplanning, a series of five emails with tips on preplanning, links to preplanning information or step-by-step guidance on how to begin the preplanning process might kick off. you can also send educational email series to your existing subscriber list without a trigger. instead of a monthly newsletter, you might send a short series of emails explaining green burial options or what people can do with cremated remains to honor loved ones. email marketing can drive impressive return on investment—the average is $42 for every dollar you spend. if you're not sure where to start with this lucrative marketing tactic, pick one of the email campaign ideas above and test it out for your deathcare firm this month. fba welton hong is the founder and marketing director of ring ring marketing (funeralhomeprofits.com), which specializes in helping funeral homes convert leads from online directly to the phone line. welton also is a speaker at funeral home conferences and the author of making your phone ring with internet marketing for funeral homes. reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll-free at 888-383-2848. “unlike any other” the revolutionary first call pouch, cot cover, & pet carrier solution. first impressions count! 800.645.8966 | email@example.com | www.kanga-woo.com 26 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021
the next normal by nathan bluitt jr. as professional funeral service providers we all recollect our psychology professors' lecturing on the swiss psychiatrist elizabeth kubler-ross' grief model in her book on death and dying. the five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. they were taught as part of the mortuary science curriculum i received from the indiana college of mortuary science to enlighten us on a person's response to the loss of a loved one. it could be the loss of a parent, spouse, child, sibling, uncle, aunt or a very close friend, which is the reason that there is no typical response to the loss, as there is no typical loss. there's one thing that we do know that is very important, that is that the final stage of acceptance will in most cases arrive, but it's "ita " (inestimable time of arrival) can be the causative agent that could create irreversible damage to our emotions and lives, as well as our livelihood, as we once knew it. it could also become the “stone of remembrance” that'll help us overcome the next loss in our lives, or in our businesses, becoming an opportunity to have a positive learning experience. "opportunity stands by and waits on us to recognize it." - unknown. in the past year funeral home owners and staffers have experienced not only loss, but a complete transformation of certain generational operations and administrative processes and procedures. as a result, we have been introduced to very unfamiliar, but new, innovative ways of accomplishing the same everyday goals necessary to serve our grieving families. the new methods and devises, categorized as technology, have been standing by and waiting on us to recognize them as the quote says. their innovative qualities and unprecedented efficiencies will certainly reward us with a much-improved way to serve our established clientele. technology will enable us to be more bottom line effective, as it positions us to reach the new, somewhat undecided and uncommitted, decision makers (millennials) along with the more mature, tech-savvy individuals (baby boomers) that are not only listening to, but also marching to, a much more advanced and significantly different drumbeat. they're the ones who are "care givers" in search of needed hospice, nursing home facilities, funeral homes and other warranted services for their parents and other loved ones. just as some of the loved ones’ grieving relatives, we stand in denial of the loss or transformation of some of our most coveted generational operation and administrative processes and procedures that will impede our reaching the acceptance stage of our grief caused by our perceived loss. while some experience a level of failure in the processing and understanding of the imagined loss brought about 28 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021 by technology others fail to embrace its' innovative improvements that are appreciated in the world’s marketplace. we could end up experiencing great declines in our firms' volume of business which eventually will affect the profitability, and in some cases cause the demise of a business. for exemplary reasons let's look at blockbuster, a former provider of movies and video games. at its peak, blockbuster employed 84,000 people and had over 9,000 outlets. they were at the top of their game until the rise of netflix and on-demand streaming that necessitated a change in their business model, but they ignored it. former marketing communications director, jonathan salem baskin stated: "digital would have changed blockbuster's business for sure..." another devise that fell by the wayside, ignoring the touch screen-based technology, but apple did not. that resulted in the demise of the blackberry. there are many more to speak of but we've not the time nor space. some funeral directors were forced to offer livestreaming on their list of valued services in march of 2020 due to the pandemic. this accelerated the unprecedented demand for livestreaming. an article on incitecreativeinc.com states "funeral homes need to differentiate, evolve, and stay relevant, particularly in this new norm. relying on faith-based referrals and traditional marketing will no longer sustain the average funeral home.” by improving your marketing strategies and adopting digital marketing, independent funeral homes can be found on local searches and weather the storm. the restrictions impacted by the pandemic have severely affected the bottom line of funeral homes now that families don't feel like they need to invest much money into a funeral experience with so few attendees. no casket, no flowers and smaller attendance has affected the bottom line of funeral homes. now with the emergence of zoom, micro soft teams and facetime in the funeral industry, funeral home owners and managers are in search of even more methods of marketing utilizing that former and not so popular source called, technology. fba "the measure of intelligence is the ability to change" - albert einstein nathan l. bluitt, jr. is president of bluitt and son funeral home, kokomo, in. the firm was founded by his father, the late nathan l. bluitt, sr., in 1957 at which time his family relocated to kokomo from indianapolis. bluitt graduated from indiana college of mortuary science in 1970. he acquired the parker and son funeral home in champaign, il. in 1983. in 1986 he partnered with richard e. williams of williams funeral home, indianapolis and later acquired the firm in 1992. he later sold the indianapolis firm to gerald wilson of the wilson financial group in 2011.
t h e t o p 1 0 t h i n g s t o d o w h e n s e l l i n g y o u r b u s i n e s s : 1. call johnson consulting group. (we’ll handle the other 9.) selling your business is complex and you get only one shot to do it right. with jcg leading the way, you can expect the higher than highest value! contact us today to schedule your free consultation. jake johnson tom johnson johnsonconsulting.com 480-556-8500
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personalization... are we just whistling past the graveyard? by karl weisenbeck not that many years ago, coffee only came in regular and decaf, and most households had a choice between just three television channels. the world has changed tremendously. consumers now expect everything to be readily available, delivered overnight, in any color they desire, regardless of what they are buying. amazon and starbucks created these expectations, and now consumers desire instant gratification. if we think we can serve the needs of the 78 million baby boomers and their families in the same way we served their parents, then we are whistling past the graveyard. in order to charge a premium price for funeral services we also have to deliver a premium experience that meets, and even exceeds, these new consumer expectations. a funeral service that people will talk about. a funeral service that comes home with the family. a service that is shared. funeral homes that do not deliver an unforgettable experience will have to continue to reduce their prices accordingly until they eventually close their doors. personalization is one critical component to creating the wow experience consumers expect. not just taking in some items from the home but creating something that becomes part of the home so they remember you… part of the family. your goal is to wow them at the service and then win space in the living room for the next decade. if you win the living room, then your funeral home becomes part of the conversation whenever a lost loved one is talked about. to optimally execute personalization and win a place in the home day in and day out, you must consider the 10 truths of personalization for funeral directors. think about these ten rules and how they relate to your service. to take your firm to the next level, your personalization must be: 1. impressive. leave an impression. whatever you do must wow the family and the entire service. you are trying to make 34 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021 an impression on hundreds of people. you can’t do this with a few photos on the table, or a fishing pole. too often i have asked funeral directors about personalization only to hear them grasp at worn out concepts all involving the family toting trinkets back and forth from the service to their home. this is your opportunity to tell a life story in such a way that everyone at the service wants to come speak with you. how did you do this? where did you get this? think big. 2. lasting. if part of what you do becomes a gift to the family, then shelf life is critical here and must be measured in years. avoid trinkets or anything that will collect dust and do nothing to serve the family or your business long after the service. you must do something that stays with the family so that when the next call comes years from now, it comes to you. we all have thrown away flowers. think long term. 3. affordable. whatever you choose to provide must be inexpensive so you can add it to your gpl and surprise the family at the service. if they know its coming, its not going to solve rule number one. if it costs more than $100 all in, then it’s not affordable, it become a burden. we have enough expenses; we need more revenue. 4. reorder. think flag fight at a service. when more than one family member at the service has their heart set on keeping something personal that you provided, you are automatically gifted the golden opportunity to step in and say… “that is not a problem, i can get one for each of you”. how wonderful is that? whatever you choose to impress your families, make sure that you can get more, fast and inexpensively. 5. timely. if you cannot have it for the service, or the first viewing for that matter, it doesn’t count. you want to wow hundreds of people at once, and it must be part of your celebration of life.
continued from page 34 6. genuine. this is your contribution to the service. make it real. not paper that looks like a painting or plastic that looks like wood. you want families to rave about what you do, not be accepting of it. if it can be stored on a shelf weeks prior to the service and snapped into place, it is not genuine. 7. easy. it has to be easy, as we all know how crazy things get as the service approaches, ease of ordering is essential. whatever you choose has to be simple to order, create, build, whatever; and it must come overnight, or it doesn't matter. we have but a sliver of time to prepare for the service. we cannot run around town putting something together. time is our most precious commodity. 8. useful. it has to be useful so it will stay with the family. this is the tricky part. it must be able to go home and become part of their lives and more importantly, a conversation piece with their friends. a good rule of thumb that your personalization idea should spark a response, such as “i think about your funeral home every time i use the (fill in the blank).” funeral blankets and pillows are excellent choices as well as useful items. it is easier to put a pillow on a couch than to hang a picture on a wall. the added benefit is that there is nothing more comforting than a soft pillow or touch of a blanket when we want to feel comforted. 9. quality. it matters. whatever you do, it has to enhance your brand. how does it feel? how long will it last? is it top of the line? think mercedes not hyundai. 2021 nfda leadership conference august 1-4 belmond charleston place • charleston, sc a welcome gathering with leading experts and inspiring sessions. return to charleston and renew friendships among colleagues at nfda’s in-person conference for funeral service leaders. registration opens may 19! visit nfda.org/leadership for all the details. 36 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021 10. healing. does it help with the bereavement process after the service? we all know how to help families for the first few days, but the home run is helping them for the first few years. think about something that also helps with aftercare. something that helps them heal. in the old days, everyone had quilting parties after a funeral and the quilt would tell the story of someone's life. the quilts would hang on the wall, sit on the couch and come to picnics and family reunions. gone are the days of quilting after a funeral but there are several close options that fit the bill. it’s time to take a good, hard look at the products and services you offer. what do you do today that would have been impossible ten years ago? how does your funeral service compare to starbucks or amazon? are you creating a wow experience for your families? does the personalization you provide serve the needs of the family? will they come back because they want to or because you are local? my company weaves tapestry blankets and has the benefit and insight of working across multiple industries. in addition to funeral, we serve the home decor, photography, gift, wedding and collegiate markets. i have witnessed firsthand the implosion of the photography industry as digital cameras came online, yet i have photography customers that thrive because they changed. i know gift stores that survived the onslaught from walmart by changing the way they serve their consumers. acknowledging and adjusting to customer’s ever evolving expectations and needs is paramount to sustaining your business and growing your client base. the funeral industry is fantastically stable as we have predictable volume coming from the markets we serve. our competition is not necessarily the firm down the street, it is more often the unique, memorable service that can be created by the loved one’s family in their own backyard. we have to make sure that our families understand that we can work along with them to create a one-of-a-kind, unforgettable experience, and that we are well able to change with the times. businesses that don't adapt fail every day. there are more than 78 million shopping savvy baby boomer consumers, all looking to us to meet their needs. since 2000, 2,600 funeral homes have closed. if your service looks like it did ten years ago, then you are behind the times and at great risk of becoming obsolete. being noticed is great, being memorable is what will sustain your business and to do this you must win a place in the living room. fba karl weisenbeck is president of funeral home gifts, the premier supplier of heirloom quality woven and printed tribute blankets, beautiful custom cap panels, keepsake pillows, photo urns and personalization products to funeral homes throughout north america. it is a division of pure country weavers, a world leader in woven wall tapestries, college stadium blankets, photo gift blankets and corporate logo blankets. to learn more or to request a free sample for your next service, call 800-233-0439, email firstname.lastname@example.org. you may also visit their website at www.funeralhomegifts.com.
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contemplating the purchase of a funeral home? how to make it happen... at some point in time, many funeral directors who have spent years working as an employee decide to pursue ownership. while it once was common for owners to work well into old age, and upon their death to transfer the business to their heirs, this is rare in funeral service today. instead, it has become more common for owners to retire earlier to enjoy life, travel, or pursue a second career. in most cases, their business is their largest asset, and their “retirement” is funded by its sale. is the owner of your funeral home nearing retirement and wanting to step back from the responsibilities of ownership? if so, you may be viewed as a desirable successor, and this could be the ideal opportunity to purchase the firm. however, sometimes being a trusted employee isn’t enough to guarantee that you will be the successor - often, for various reasons, there is no opportunity or it isn’t feasible to buy the firm you work for. if that’s your situation, it’s better to know by having that conversation with your employer. but it doesn’t mean you have to hang up your dreams of ownership – rather, it is an opportunity to start the process of searching for a different firm to buy. are you suited for ownership? explore your motivations for becoming a funeral director. is funeral service a calling? what do you love most about it? conversely, what do you dislike? as an employee, you’ve likely had the benefit of a schedule with set days, nights, and vacations off. however, as an owner, that is likely to change. expect there to be less freedom – you likely will be on-call 24-7, 365 days a year. are you willing to put in the hours required? just as important, will your family support you in this venture? funeral service is a multi-faceted profession which requires diverse skill sets. first and foremost, it is a service industry, and funeral directors must have compassion and empathy for the families they serve. also necessary are technical skills and the ability to multi-task. however, ownership demands yet another dimension – comprehensive business skills for effective fiscal and operational control over the business. strong management and leadership skills also are imperative, as well as communication and leadership skills to effectively direct your staff. if you lack some of these critical skills, seek training to strengthen your abilities. as an owner, it will be important to develop your creativity and 38 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021 be willing to explore new ideas and “think outside the box.” a creative approach can be most successful in meeting the changing demands of families. use your cohorts as resources… what are others doing? could those concepts work in your community? rely on the expertise of your vendors to learn about the possibilities that are available to better serve your families. become knowledgeable about the families you will serve and be prepared to work collaboratively with your staff to develop innovative ideas to suit your business and its market. preparing to buy. if it isn’t feasible for you to buy the firm at which you’ve been employed, do you have the ability and willingness to relocate to another area? do you have the financial resources required to purchase a firm? is your credit history strong? do you have cash, equity, or some other form of asset(s) to invest in the deal? have you prepared a personal financial statement? all of these are important to address prior to finding a firm and making an offer. once you have decided to go forward with your acquisition plan, you should start to pull together your “a team” of advisors, including an appraiser, an accountant, and an attorney, who are qualified to assist you through the acquisition process. an industry-specific appraiser who is also an intermediary can help you locate a funeral home that meets your specifications and can provide you with a fair purchase price for the firm so that you neither pay too much, nor lose the sale because of a low-ball and potentially offensive offer. this advisor also can lead you through the negotiation and purchase processes. they will also work closely with your lender to ensure that your loan process goes smoothly. importantly, your a-team should work collaboratively to facilitate a successful transaction with the overall collective goal of protecting you throughout the process. how will i pay for this? there are several options for financing your purchase. commonly, non-industry lenders and local banks don’t understand the unique nature of funeral businesses and typically lack the ability to lend based on the firm’s cash flow. a loan that is based solely on the value of the real estate and other hard assets while excluding the firm’s goodwill and cash flow can be problematic. industry cash-flow lenders are knowledgeable about funeral home lending and most importantly, they understand the concept of cash flow. that ensures that your loan will be constructed on the financeability
continued from page 42 40 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021 based on the cash flow of the business. a loan package that builds in closing costs and working capital is most desirable. what’s next? you’ve made the purchase – so what’s next? during the after-sale transition period it is beneficial for the seller to publicly “welcome” you as the new owner, demonstrating their ongoing commitment to and support for the business under your leadership. the collaboration of the buyer and seller to create a post-sale marketing effort is a good way to ease into the transition and gain the loyalty of those families served. a well-developed after-sale plan that includes hosting sponsored events, an open house, holiday remembrance ceremonies, and other activities will give the public an opportunity to visit your facility and to meet you. your plan also should include your introduction to clergy, churches, cemeteries, community organizations, hospice, and other such key contacts. your presence at community events, church, and local restaurants will help you become a familiar presence. your “new” employees are likely the cornerstone of your business and they potentially have much to contribute. it will be essential for you to watch them in action - listen, pay attention to their ideas and their ways of conducting business, and ask questions. learn from them – they know your market. then, use your managerial skills to determine what changes could be made and how best to use your personnel to suit your style of operation. effective communication, patience, and acknowledging the “good stuff” they do can lead to constructive adjustments. making it your own during this process, you have likely envisioned all that will need to be done once you’re the owner. if you plan to make aesthetic changes or even major renovations, we recommend that you prepare a capital improvement list that prioritizes projects that you deem necessary over those that can wait. small projects can have a big impact – painting, window treatments, carpeting, and landscaping can lend a fresh new look to the facility that is immediately noticed. create a budget and save for future improvements. having a line-of-credit in place provides peace of mind if a larger, unforeseen repair becomes necessary. be a proactive owner and take steps to make your business flourish. continually work toward improving your own skills and encourage your staff to do so, as well. set long- term goals to bring your new business to higher levels of performance and success. then, when it’s your time to retire, you will have created an even more desirable business for your future successor. fba melissa drake is president/coo of american funeral consultants, a full-service consulting firm dedicated to serving the industry. she may be reached at 800-832-6232, by e-mail at email@example.com, or by visiting www.teamafc.com. kathy williams is cfo and secretary/treasurer of american funeral consultants, a full-service consulting firm dedicated to serving the industry. she may be reached at 800-832-6232, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by visiting www.teamafc.com.
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the morte girls breaking down barriers and pushing back! #funeralsmatter they may be known as “the morte girls,” but make no mistake: doris amen and alexandra mosca are very much alive. their respective careers have spanned four decades and continue to thrive. they became licensed funeral directors in a day and age when a female face was rare, and their careers paralleled one another in new york city, even intersecting at times. a film crew stopped into her funeral home on a june day in 2002, as she and her staff celebrated a friend’s birthday. “we were slicing the birthday cake in the lobby when the production crew walked in and explained that they were looking to do a documentary about funeral service,” remembered amen. “i didn’t expect to hear back from them.” “we would run into one another at a cemetery now and then. it was great to see another female funeral director,” said mosca. but it wasn’t until about a dozen years ago that the friendship between the gregarious, and sometimes sassy, tall blonde, amen, and the more reserved, soft-spoken, petite brunette, mosca, blossomed. the women were brought together through a mutual friend, and a mutual interest in brooklyn’s historic green-wood cemetery. initially discouraged from becoming funeral directors, both women persevered. “at the time, funeral homes were reluctant to hire women. we were told that we wouldn’t be able to do the physical work, and that we’d be a distraction to the men,” recalled mosca. amen recalls feeling hopeful after acing an interview with one firm. but she never heard back. “that spoke volumes,” she remarked. ultimately, they found funeral homes willing to take a chance on a female apprentice. the making of media personalities in the early 1980s, there was a dearth of females in funeral service, and both women quickly caught the attention of the media. amen was one of the first female funeral directors to be featured in a documentary, long before social media and youtube videos made everyone a so-called star. however, four months later, they called. amen was on her way to make a removal at the new york medical examiner’s. when she arrived at the facility, the film crew was already there. in 2003, “dearly departed” made its debut on the learning channel. it turned her into an unlikely celebrity. she remembers learning that some “gravediggers from green-wood cemetery, returning from a trip to puerto rico, saw it on the plane.” for amen, ‘dearly departed’ was the spark for future interviews and documentaries. since that time, her larger- than-life personality has captured the attention of the national media. she has also tried her hand at writing, self-publishing, “i’m dying to tell ya!!!” in 2011, she was profiled by the new york times. the photographs and video that ran with the article were stark and gritty. they captured amen in action as she made her rounds: driving her hearse through dark brooklyn streets, moving a body late at night, and cosmetizing a deceased -- doing it all in high heels. soon the international media took notice of amen, and she became a particular favorite of german filmmakers. early in her career, mosca appeared on the cover of a national trade magazine in an article titled ‘mortician, model.’ the magazine is a publication she writes for today. articles about 42 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021
alexandra mosca (left) doris amen (right) attending green-wood cemetery's annual benefit her in the new york daily news, newsday, and newspapers around the country, followed. she has worked as a model, actress, and writer. but next to her role as a funeral director, she is most gratified by being the author of three books. her first book, grave undertakings, was one of the first of its kind to tell what it’s really like to be a female funeral director. the book was a forerunner to the many subsequent books by funeral directors now on the market. through such writing projects, mosca found a way to incorporate her love of the printed word with her career as a funeral director. today, mosca prefers turning the spotlight on her notable colleagues. “there are so many outstanding and accomplished funeral directors around the country, and i love telling their stories,” she said. changes over their four decades in funeral service, amen and mosca have seen a lot of changes. they are heartened by some, such as the emphasis on personalization, and dismayed by others, like the increasing number of direct cremations. “years ago, in the catholic realm, a direct cremation was unheard of. we were afraid to even mention it to a family,” said amen. “in fact, for my first five or six years in business, i don’t remember having one,” she added. what troubles them most is the portrayal of funeral service in the media. they strongly believe that the spate of articles may/june 2021 | www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com 43
continued from page 42 alexandra mosca doing research in new york city cemetery about green burial, home funerals, and such esoteric subjects as recompose (commonly known as composting) are not the reality of funeral service, but fads. “the families who come to me want some type of service. and certainly, i never got anyone in 41 years who wanted to make their mother into a tomato plant,” said amen. “ten years ago, i thought that turning ashes into a diamond, or an oil painting, was ridiculous. this goes way beyond that,” she added. mosca concurs, offering an anecdote about a woman who asked about a wicker casket she had seen in a casket selection room. explaining that it was used for something called a green burial the woman scrunched up her nose and laughed, “i’d put my laundry in that but never my mother.” “we have respectful dispositions for our departed. we just don’t throw them in a compost heap. that’s your mother, father, husband, wife,” amen declared. the women post how absurd it would seem if a deceased president were thrown into a compost heap after a state funeral replete with all its pomp and circumstance. to push back against such misleading portrayals, mosca and amen created the morte girls, a platform for addressing inaccuracies and superficial characterizations. their mission is clear: to keep sanctity and dignity in funeral service. their social media hashtag is #funeralsmatter. “we call out nonsense when we see it, through our words, deeds and public personalities,” said mosca. the enduring importance of funeral traditionals, rites and rituals, is a recurring theme in many of mosca’s articles. “let’s keep the funeral traditional alive” an article she wrote in 2018 for the saturday evening post, makes a persuasive case for its importance. “it’s deeply troubling that some in society are now judging those who opt for a traditional funeral as not being ecologically responsible. some of the same people have called cemeteries a “waste of space,” lamented mosca. “funerals commemorate a life. that body lived, cried, laughed, and loved. we just don’t throw it away. look at nature. even elephants bury their dead. it is innate behavior,” noted amen. 44 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021
continued from page 44 doris amen classic 1978 superior hearse what’s more, they believe that those who see the body as merely a shell are woefully missing the point. “the body is sacred. it is not just an empty vessel. their face is one you looked at lovingly for years; their hands held yours,” mosca observed. amen, who serves a primarily low-income community, believes that a lot of the increase in direct services has to do with price. “a lot of this is based on cost. i do one day wakes for less than a lot of funeral homes do direct cremations.” albums filled with thank you notes, in the lobby of amen’s funeral home, attest to her clientele’s appreciation. “that people take the time to write these notes is quite encouraging. in fact, i recently received a birthday card from a man whose parents i buried a couple of years ago. tucked into the card was a note thanking me for caring for them.” the future of funeral service with funeral homes closing up in some areas (often the real estate is worth more than the business), and less emphasis in some parts of the country on traditional services, like embalming and visitation, they wonder what sort of careers the younger generation of aspiring funeral directors can expect, and they are concerned. “there’s opportunity in corporate america if you want to go that route. but for those who want to open up a funeral home, go into rural areas or small towns. they’re not going to be able to do it in big cities.” they also urge young people to find a mentor. mentors played a big role in their lives, they say. but they caution aspiring funeral directors not to emulate the youtube celebrity, or the person who has the most instagram followers. they may paint an unrealistic picture of funeral service, the women say. instead, they suggest you learn from an experienced, successful individual who is committed to funeral service. the women are still very much hands on: amen drives her own hearse, while mosca embalms by request (the most memorable of those requests was to embalm the mother of a reputed organized crime member). they continue to be sought-after to share their views and expertise. in june, amen was the subject of another documentary—"dying business”—which premiered at the tribeca film festival, and mosca was featured in newsday’s faces of long island series talking about the difficulties funeral directors faced during the covid -19 pandemic. despite their jam-packed schedules, both women find time for fun, sometimes mixing fun with fundraising, as they support causes near and dear to them such as green-wood cemetery’s historic fund. and when time allows, they take long walks together in green-wood cemetery, the place where their friendship began. fba 46 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021
a guide to selling your business part one preparing, pricing, and maximizing business value by live oak bank editor’s note: this is part one of a two-part series taken from live oak bank’s “guide to selling your business.” the guide is a comprehensive overview for business owners to help them prepare for selling a business. part two will be featured in the july/ august 2021 issue of funeral business advisor magazine and will cover defining, sourcing and finding the ideal buyer and the transition process. to download the full guide, visit www.liveoakbank.com/fba-guide1. congratulations, sellers. you have started down a new path. after investing years of hard work to build a business with value, it is now time for you to consider your options. this is an exciting time filled with possibilities, but it can also be a time of stress and uncertainty. the challenge of selling throughout this process, there are two primary risks to be aware of: the risk of choosing a buyer who does not align with your company culture and your customers, and the risk that the buyer fails to pay you. much of this guide will focus on mitigating these two potential pitfalls. you must be clear and honest — with yourself and with potential buyers — about what is most important to you in terms of who you would consider an ideal buyer, the type of transaction you’d prefer, your vision of a transition, and how you’re thinking about life after the sale. taking time to prepare now will help you secure the maximum value for your business. preparing to sell your business taking time to research and prepare for selling your business could yield many benefits. it increases the odds of getting what you want in terms of buyer profile, price, deal structure, transition, and life after transition. you will be able to negotiate more effectively from a position of knowledge and preparation. it can help relieve fears and anxiety in both your staff and your customers and helps you better articulate the timing, transition and benefits for each of them. it can help you filter out the noise and distraction mentioned above. it boosts confidence that your search will end well and make for a more satisfying transition process. below we will discuss preparations for yourself, your business, your staff, and your customers. let us start with how you begin. the first step is a bit of crystal ball exercise. start with the end in mind and imagine a perfect day after you sell your company to a successor. knowing where you want to be in retirement helps develop the roadmap for getting there. next, create a retirement budget to make that end dream a reality. what will your living expenses be like once you complete your succession plan? what are your revenue sources? will you receive any income from other employment? how much income can you count on from sources such as social security, annuities, or your investments? will your spouse earn income? it’s important to ensure there is not a gap between your projected income and your projected expenses. use your projections to inform the way you plan for a succession. you have options when it comes to your succession strategy. a staged succession is one way to preserve the business that 48 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021
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exclusive from bogati powdercoated adult alloy urns smaller sizes available (941) 751-3382 www.bogatiurns.com when you sell a funeral home to an acquisition company . . . . . . you can be confident that your firm will be part of an elite, successful organization. often willing to pay top dollar for desirable businesses that fit their “ideals” many acquisition companies also offer attractive packages for former owners who wish to stay on in some capacity. for some owners, selling to an acquisition company can help them achieve their goals as they transition to the next phase of their life or career. afc can help you find the right acquisition company that shares the values you’ve upheld and the vision you’ve worked toward. we have the resources and expertise to get you the best price and the best terms, facilitating a transaction that rewards your hard work and ensures the continuation of the legacy you’ve built. teamafc.com 16 plattekill avenue new paltz, ny 12561 800-team-afc email@example.com melissa a. drake coo/president how can afc serve you? kathy d. williams cfo/secretary treasurer • business appraisals • sales & acquisitions • business plans • minority stock assessments • plus, many more services to suit your business goals! 50 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021 continued from page 48 you worked so hard to build. the staged strategy allows your successor to gradually step into ownership and provides you with a gentle path toward exiting the business. this strategy tends to create a positive client experience since clients have time to get to know your successor. as a result, attrition is usually exceptionally low. selling your entire business is probably the simplest option. this is typically the fastest way to transition the business, and you can invest your proceeds. you may decide to stay on as an employee, or you may choose to engage in your post- succession life right away. if you have an immediate need, health issue or family issue, a straight-on sale can be the most satisfying strategy. again, you must find your qualified buyer and communicate the change effectively to staff and clients. pricing your business it is essential to think through deal structure and determine what is most important to you. there are three key components to any deal structure: price, terms and taxes. price companies have a price to earnings multiple and those multiples vary. for example, the average price of all homes sold in the us in 2019 was $123 per square foot, according to realtor.com. that number may or may not apply to your home. the same is true for your business. the multiple is just a starting point, not a valuation. at live oak bank, we strongly recommend hiring an experienced valuation specialist. you need to know what you’ve got before you go to market. often, a valuation specialist can give you good ideas for increasing your business’s value as you prepare. keep in mind that even the best valuation is not the same as a price — and it typically does not equal the final amount paid. think about how important your company’s price is to you. here are some questions to consider: • would you sell to a buyer who does not fit your culture to get a higher price? • are you willing to accept a long-term payment plan from a buyer, with all its inherent risk, to get a higher price? • are you ready to take a less favorable tax structure to get a higher price? terms it is just as important to think about the deal’s terms as it is to think about the price you want. deal terms govern how a buyer will compensate you for your business and how the buyer and seller will distribute risk. if the buyer bears most of the risk — by paying for the business quickly — they usually can ask for a discount. if the seller bears most of the risk — by maintaining equity in the business for an extended period — they can usually ask for a premium. how much risk in the transaction are you willing to bear?
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how to best work with a marketing partner (or any outside partner for that matter) by joe weigel a common challenge for many funeral homes is how to find the best marketing assistance for your firm. you are not big enough to hire a full-time person, but you know you need help. however, the thought of hiring an outside marketing partner can seem daunting, expensive, or even unnecessary—especially in a time where do-it-yourself websites and “plug and play” social media content are widely available. before you engage a marketing professional, you should know what to expect so you can make the best decision for your business. working with a full-service ad firm, pr consultant, outside writer, graphic designer, web wizard, social media agency or other marketing partner entails a certain amount of risk. you hope they’ll be effective at capturing the messages you want while reflecting and strengthening your company’s reputation and culture. how you approach your needs plays the most critical role in whether they succeed. what can you do to reduce the risk and ensure the marketing partner you select will bring you the solution you hope to see? these twelve simple steps are a great start. by the way, many of these steps can be used to work with any outside resource you wish to employ – lawyers, accountants, it personnel, hr professionals, etc. additionally, many of these can improve your current working relationship with a marketing partner. be specific and detailed. don’t assume the partner has a complete grasp of your expectations. share those in a document. one of the most effective tools for doing this is what’s known as a “marketing brief,” a document that spells out your objectives, the details, the audience, any offers, the desired call to action, as well as mandatory items such as logos and regulatory requirements. most marketing resources have such a document that they will share (and help in the completion of it.) i call the one i use the “marketing blueprint”. completing a brief can help you think through all aspects of the project. just as important, it gives you a framework against which you can evaluate the partner’s work. 52 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021 know what you’re after with the project or assignment. “i’ll know what i want when i see it” isn’t direction … it’s a challenge given to the partner to see if they are capable of reading minds. i’ve teamed up with dozens of talented marketing partners over the years, but none of them has proven to be psychic. if you can’t share a strong sense of what you hope to accomplish, even the most talented partner won’t be able to deliver it. direct, don’t dictate. tell the partner what needs to be done but avoid telling them exactly how they should do it. you’re probably working with them because of their expertise in finding the most effective way to convey a message or image. allowing them to do what they do best and tapping into their knowledge and experience may produce results that far exceed your expectations. fulfill your promises. if you expect the partner to deliver the project to you by the specified deadline, make sure you hold up your end of the bargain. when a project requires two weeks of work, and you’re a week late in providing the necessary information, you can’t expect the partner to hit the original due date. monitor the scope. if the marketing partner based their cost estimate on a 4-page project, but now it’s grown into a 12-page project, it’s only fair to allow the partner to provide a revised cost estimate. it’s also helpful if you remind others at your firm of the project’s parameters and avoid what is called “scope creep”. “yes, it would be nice to add three micro-sites to the website design, but our budget only covers the basic site.” be their guide. every funeral home is different, and no two review and approval processes are identical. make sure your partners understand who will have the authority to review and suggest changes to the work. if you know one of the key reviewers has specific pet peeves (such as the overuse of exclamation points in marketing communications copy), make sure you share that beforehand with your partner.
danny jefferson pierce-jefferson funeral service “i’m living a dream. people know it when they get around me. i’m as happy as i’ve ever been.” i had no family in the business or employee ready to tackle ownership. there was no one prepared to succeed me, and protecting my employees and continuing to care for my community was extremely important. other potential partners presented options, but i felt like they didn’t want me - they wanted the business. at foundation partners group, they valued me, and the business. they did exactly what they said, and i’m forever indebted to them. i get emotional thinking about how they embraced me. the business has grown dramatically, and my employees and my community welcomed the change. when looking ahead, ask yourself, “is my potential partner going to do what they promised years down the road?” at foundation partners, the answer is a resounding yes! foundation partners group 4901 vineland road, suite 300 orlando, fl 32811 get in touch 1-888-788-7526 foundationpartners.com
continued from page 52 give clear guidance. when you bring changes and corrections back, be specific and constructive. saying things like “i can’t put my finger on it but i don’t like it” forces the partner to guess. at the same time, don’t make the changes for them, because they may be able to come up with a better way to accomplish what you’re after. if two reviewers provide conflicting feedback, sort out a solution before bringing it to the partner, rather than putting them in the impossible position of having to decide which reviewer’s opinion matters more. evaluate the project. marketing partners bring a lot to projects, from style and cleverness to craftsmanship and expertise, but the most important thing a professional marketing partner should deliver is effectiveness. after the project is complete and being used by your company, let them know how well (or how poorly) their work is meeting the company’s objectives. they’ll be proud of successes and eager to tweak efforts that aren’t meeting the need. establish terms for communication. different companies have different expectations when it comes to communication. some prefer a hands-off approach, allowing the partner to do the work it does best with minimal interaction. others prefer to have weekly (or even more frequent) meetings. express your preference from the start. trust, but verify. “trust but verify” is a russian proverb cautioning individuals to trust the people they work with, but to always verify that their trust is well-placed. in the context of working with a marketing resource, this means always taking the time to verify that 54 www.funeralbusinessadvisor.com | may/june 2021 what they’re telling you is true. it’s a good system of checks and balances that can help you get the best possible results. listen to expert recommendations. your marketing partner will serve as your advisor, providing you with pieces of advice about your project and relaying expertise to help you make better decisions. you hired this resource because you trust them as experts, so be prepared to listen to that advice. focus on outcomes. it’s easy to get bogged down by the minutiae of individual tactics and low-level decisions within a project, but you’re much better off focusing on the bottom line. judge the partner based on the outcomes they provide and keep outcomes as your highest priority. on the other hand in some cases, hiring a marketing resource might not always be the best solution for your marketing challenges. here are two scenarios where you should refrain from hiring a marketing partner. scenario one: you don’t have time to invest in the relationship. marketing requires a genuine investment of time and energy. a marketing partner will require your enthusiasm and expertise, especially at the beginning of the project. you have to be ready to dig into deep conversations, research, and explore insights into your firm, your families, and their needs. if you want to hire someone and never talk to them again until the results are in, a marketing partner probably isn’t the right fit. scenario two: you’re not clear about your marketing goals. the lack of an established goal or deliverable may cost you money with little or no results. avoid wasting money on an expensive marketing partner when you don’t know what you’re after. some marketing firms will quickly understand that you’re new to the game and pile on additional services you might not need – at an extra cost. summary when you get bogged down with any aspect of marketing, it’s time to hire an outside resource. it’s important to note that you shouldn’t hire a marketing partner just because you feel you need to outsource some work. feeling overwhelmed is common when running a funeral home, especially in today’s environment – and it’s part of the equation when working with any outside resource – marketing or otherwise. but if you can stick with it, it’s worth it. when you’re first getting started on the project, you may not see any results from your marketing efforts. it can take a while for you to see the results kick in. sometimes it can take months to achieve the results you want to see. but, be patient with your marketing efforts and your marketing partner, and don’t give up. fba joe weigel is the founder of weigel strategic marketing, a marketing firm that delivers expertise and results across three interrelated disciplines: strategy, branding, and communications. you can visit his website at weigelstrategicmarketing.webs.com. he also can be reached at 317-608-8914 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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