“If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” – Simplifying your Funeral Home’s Marketing Message

I want to share one of my favorite secrets this week. This secret helps me to connect with you and my other readers on an emotional level.

The secret is this:

Don’t make people think. Except when you really want them to think.

Our brains are wired to conserve energy. When someone gives you something to think about, part of your brain always asks whether this is worth the energy. This happens subconsciously, so most people aren’t even aware that it’s happening.

Your brain always asks, “is this worth the energy?”. 

If the answer is no, the brain switches to autopilot, and you’ll start daydreaming. 

If the answer is yes, you’ll continue thinking. But your subconscious brain will check in with you periodically and ask, “is it still worth it?”.

When you are trying to communicate with another person, your choice of words dictates how much energy their brain will need to expend to understand you.

Influential lawyers understand this concept and use it to their advantage.

Johnnie Cochran, Defense Attorney at the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial, is famous for saying, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” 

Mr. Cochran made this statement to the jury in his opening statement. After the prosecution presented their case, he repeated this statement throughout his defense.

When it was time to respond to the evidence, he dismissed each item because it “doesn’t fit” with the prosecution’s premise that O.J. killed his wife. He continued to repeat the mantra, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

However, the crowning moment was when he had O.J. try on a pair of gloves found at the crime scene and announced, “if the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

The prosecution’s case focused on having the jury understand technical details like the testimony of a blood splatter expert. The defense relied on having the jury memorize a simple mantra.

The jury agreed with the defense, and O.J. was acquitted. 

Whether writing this newsletter or creating a strategic growth plan for a client, I try to minimize how much I make my reader think until I’m ready for them to think about something important.

After writing thousands of newsletters, I have found that the key is to think through my message deeply enough that I can write it in simple language. In other words, I always try to think deeply and write simply.

You may have heard of the Flesch-Kincaid index, which can help you evaluate your writing. There are two components, readability score and grade level.

Readability score ranges from 0 to 100, and anything above 45 is considered a good score. 

Grade level ranges from 0 to 14. Most newspaper articles are at a grade 9 level or below, presidential campaign speeches are at grade 8 or below, and most best-selling novels are at the grade 7 level.

It’s not that people can’t read something written at a higher grade level. It’s just that their brain has to work at it, and as I said above, your brain likes to conserve energy.

You should always try to help people understand your message without thinking too hard. You need a high readability score and a low grade level to accomplish that.

“If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” – Readability 100, Grade level 0.6

In other words, a kindergartener would easily understand this message. That’s why it worked so well!

In a trial that lasted eight months and included over 150 witnesses, the prosecution flooded the jury with detailed information. The defense gave them a message that a 5-year-old could understand and won the case. There’s a lesson there.

So how do you apply this to your funeral home business?

Review everything you put in front of a family and ask yourself whether it is asking their brain to work too hard. M.S. Word will tell you the Flesch-Kincaid index of your content, or you can do a Google search and find an online version.

You should definitely review the content on your website and any handouts that you provide to a family. GPLs are notoriously bad for having horrible scores, which is why families struggle to understand the document.

However, you should keep in mind that an at-need family is often in a state of shock. If you can simplify your content down to grade 7 or below, it will make it much easier for them to understand their choices.

Always remember that a confused person will struggle to make a decision. If forced to decide, they will typically minimize the transaction. If families do not understand what you have to offer, they will minimize the transaction by choosing the cheapest option.

The challenge is that writing at a grade 7 level is not easy! You must think through your subject and then find creative ways to simplify the writing. Anyone can write a long run-on sentence, but it takes skill to turn that into something people can actually read.

I was thinking about this issue recently as I wrapped up my new report, “How to Grow a Great Funeral Home Business – the 10 Step Checklist”. You can download it here.

When I first ran this report through my Flesch-Kincaid index, it had a readability score of 49/100 and a grade level of 11.0. Next, I went through my editing process and got readability up to 60/100 and the grade level down to 8.7.

This report outlines ten steps you can take to grow your funeral home business. Hopefully, I’ve simplified my writing so you can focus on the message and not waste time processing long paragraphs.

By the way, this newsletter gets a readability score of 65/100 and is at a grade 8 reading level. Hopefully, your brain has enough energy left to tackle the rest of your day!

Until next time


PS: Click here to get your copy of “How to Grow a Great Funeral Home Business – the 10 Step Checklist”.

PPS: O.J. was taking arthritis medication to prevent swelling in his knuckles. His defense attorneys had him stop taking it months before trying on the gloves in the courtroom. After all… “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”


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