Growing your business can be challenging for some owners and operators within the funeral and cemetery profession. Between competition in your market to adapting to new consumer behaviors, we understand the process of growth can become complex. We asked Senior M&A Analyst, Jarod Bernat to further elaborate significant ways to expand your business.
Question: I feel like our funeral home’s market share has hit a plateau and can’t seem to grow any further. How can I continue to grow my business?
Jarod Bernat: Since the funeral industry is one where serviceable market areas and direct competitors can be easily identified and tracked, it’s easy to keep up with how you compare to “the other guys”. Sometimes it might feel like you’ve exhausted all resources trying to grow within your market, but you’ve hit a wall and case count won’t budge. Whether you’re one of two businesses in a small town or one of 50, there are many ways to address this predicament. And while some solutions can be complicated, much of the fight to break through the wall comes from doing the small things correctly. Here are a few questions to consider in pursuit of improving market share:
Are you physically tracking market share? Put pen to paper (or to Excel), and track case count in your market (ex. Online obituary counts). While this isn’t always 100% exact, it provides a directionally accurate understanding of the trends of your market. The results of this analysis can be enlightening: Which firms have gained/lost share lately? And more importantly: Why? This data can also help answer another question that became much more important in the past few years since Covid: My case count has fluctuated so much since 2020, is it because of overall mortality rates, or am I gaining/losing market share? The multifaceted use of this data is incredibly valuable as you prepare to take the next step in growing your business.
Are your marketing efforts effective in today’s environment? Print ads in the Yellow Pages, ads in the newspaper, billboards… These marketing tools may have been excellent prior to the digital age, but the effectiveness of these dated tactics is dwindling while the cost is not. Today’s marketing revolves around the internet: Google Ads, social media presence, a quality website, Search Engine Optimization, etc. Ensuring you have an effective digital presence is key to sustaining relevance and successfully growing your business in today’s world. It is well worth hiring a marketing expert to assist with these efforts.
Is your website a successful tool for families? Diving deeper into the “digital” point noted above, your website is a valuable marketing tool. It may shock some to hear that not all firms in this industry have a website. And sadly, there are some firms who have such poor-quality websites, that it’s almost like they don’t have one at all. Websites must be easy to access and navigate (that means on mobile devices too!). They need to properly convey the value proposition of your firm (and proof that value has been provided many times before: Customer Reviews!). Lastly, websites need to educate. Many families coming into a funeral home are unaware of how the process of mourning a death and celebrating a life works, what the options are, and how much they cost. Providing transparency on these items will help you be viewed in the most favorable light by customer families.
Are you actively promoting preneed? Preneed sales help you approach the families in your market before they’re faced with the litany of “at-need” decisions that accompany the death of a loved one. This not only provides you with an assurance of sustained future patronage, but also comes with additional marketing exposure. Many preneed agencies will subsidize some or all of the advertising costs associated with adding to your preneed backlog.
Are you an active member of your community? The common trope with funeral directors is that “everyone knows them”. They’re the local youth pastor, they sponsor the local little league, they host the town’s Veteran’s Day BBQ. Being a visible and positive member of your community is essential to building and maintaining a strong bond with members in your community. Additionally, your employees should also be involved in the community as well. Everyone in your organization represents your business, and it’s important that everyone’s representation to the community is positive and ample.
Have you considered a strategic acquisition? If you’ve checked all of the previous boxes already, the next step might be to acquire a competing location, or a strategic bolt-on to your current business. By acquiring a local competitor, you can benefit from revenue and cost synergies realized by combining operations. Additionally, take a look at the demographic data for your surrounding area and find out where people are going. If Census data shows that people are moving to the next town/city over at a faster pace than to your own town, you may want to prioritize an acquisition in the emerging market instead and reap the benefits of that community’s population growth over the next few decades.
There are a number of factors to consider when implementing an effective growth plan for the future. Foresight would happily welcome the opportunity to collaborate on building a strategic growth plan for your business and guiding you through its successful implementation.
Do you have a question for us? Email email@example.com today for a chance to have your question spotlighted in our next blog!