What to do when a villain comes to town

Growing up, I was a big fan of Western movies. Spending an afternoon watching a John Wayne movie was one of my favorite pastimes.

The plot was often predictable.

You’d have a small prairie town, being preyed upon by a villain. The local sheriff wasn’t able to stop the villain so eventually, the townspeople would get together and decide to bring in a “hired gun”.

The hired gun would deal with the villain, often using strategies the locals had not considered. Eventually, the villain would be defeated, and order would be restored to the community.

Sometimes, the hired gun would stay in town. But more often than not, they would pack their saddlebags and head off into the sunset.

This week I started a project with a new client. He has a good funeral home business in a mid-sized midwestern city and has multiple villains making life difficult, which is what led him to me…the hired gun.

I love this phase of projects because I take a good look at the villains and find their flaws.

Developing a marketing strategy that highlights my client’s strengths while bringing some awareness to the competitor’s flaws is always a good starting point for a project.

In this case, the competitor is running a campaign that focuses on longevity.

“We’ve been here since 1880 blah blah blah”

That’s a pretty common theme for funeral home marketing but it is also a theme that I would never recommend. Here’s why…

The GI generation and the Silent generation care about longevity. But the Baby Boom generation does not care and in fact, they are actually repelled by that marketing theme.

Baby boomers are far more concerned with what kind of experience they are going to have at your funeral home and how you are going to help them tell their story. The fact that your business has been around for over 100 years does not mean that you offer a great funeral experience.

Today, the vast majority of your marketing should be aimed at baby boomers. They are the decision-makers and in most cases, they have not committed to a particular funeral home.

Yes, you are still caring for the older generations. But they already know who you are and have hopefully already made some arrangements.

What’s funny about this competitor is the owner just moved into the community. He bought a local funeral home and now wants to make it look like his family has been here for generations.

For now, I’m not going to worry too much about this competitor/villain because he’s wasting his money with his current campaign.

A good hired gun knows which villains are a real threat and which ones are just making noise and will go away eventually.

This theme of a “hired gun” is actually my main message this week.

If you own a funeral home in a competitive market, you need a hired gun. That does not mean you need me. But you need someone who can offer a fresh perspective and help you grow your business.

There is a role in the corporate world called the Chief Marketing Officer or CMO. The CMO has the ultimate responsibility for generating revenue, while the CFO manages the money, the CIO manages the technology etc.

Funeral homes, and most small to medium-size businesses do not have the need or budget for a full-time CMO.

Fortunately, a new type of business consultant has emerged called a “Fractional CMO”. That’s your hired gun!

I’ve never used that title, but I definitely consider myself to be a Fractional CMO. My clients are all investing in marketing, and they retain my services to make sure that their money is spent properly.

I’d recommend putting that term into your favorite search engine and review some of the articles on this topic. This is a tremendous opportunity for funeral home owners because it can give you access to people who can help you navigate the next ten years.

The funeral industry is going through a major transition from serving the Silent Generation to Baby Boomers. It’s turbulent times and going through this on your own may not be a wise decision.

I feel this is so important that I am planning to record a webinar later this month to help people select a good Fractional CMO. I’ll send out the link when it’s ready.

Why would I do this? Simply because I can’t help everybody, and the time will come when you need a hired gun.

A good hired gun would have told our competitor that running a longevity campaign on a classic rock radio station is probably not a good use of his marketing budget. Instead, he listened to the station’s sales rep….rarely a good idea.

Until next time,


PS: Remember to Google “Fractional CMO”. Learn about this role now, so you can get a hired gun when your villain comes to town.

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