Any Road Will Get You There

When our youngest son, Kyle, graduated from high school, he announced that he wanted to go on an adventure before heading off to college. He had worked part-time during the school year, saved his money, and hoped we’d agree.

My wife and I gave him three conditions. He needed to take a friend with him, have a plan, and be back in time to get ready for college.

Kyle quickly agreed to our conditions and recruited Mike, his best friend, to join him. The two boys set up a shared google document and started “planning” their trip.

Soon, every dinner conversation was filled with him asking questions.

Kyle – Should we take my Mazda or Mike’s Jeep?

Me – That depends on where you’re going.

Kyle – Can I borrow your camp stove?

Me – Yes, but you might not want it depending on where you’re going.

Kyle – Can I use the big tent?

Me – Yes, but again you might now want it depending on where you’re going.

Me – So where are you going anyway?

Kyle – We haven’t decided yet.

Me – Then none of this matters until you pick your destination.

This whole conversation reminded me of the line in Alice in Wonderland.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there” – Lewis Carroll.

Eventually, they decided on a multi-week backpacking trip, which meant that my 6-person tent and 3-burner camp stove weren’t needed since they wouldn’t fit in their backpacks. Plus, they chose Mike’s Jeep since it would let them get to a more remote trailhead.

Kyle realized that planning begins by deciding where you want to go, and only then does the equipment list become important.

I was reminded of Kyle’s trip this week when I reviewed a new client’s marketing plan. He had spent three years working with another marketing firm and saw no improvement in his revenue or bottom line. So he fired them, hired me, and asked me to review their marketing plan.

They had provided a reasonably detailed plan that explained how they would help my client spend his marketing budget. They allocated a portion toward Facebook marketing, Google marketing, print ads, TV commercials, and even a few billboards.

I noticed a big problem with their marketing plan. The business goals, overriding growth strategy, and core messaging were all missing. 

This is the equivalent of Kyle not knowing where he was going on his trip. The equipment list changes once you know where you’re going.

Marketing has two sides; strategic and tactical.

At a very high level, strategic marketing outlines what you are trying to achieve, while tactical marketing covers how you will try to achieve it.

When growing a funeral home, a strategic marketing plan should answer questions such as:

  • Are we trying to increase revenue, call volume, or both? 
  • What’s our strategy for winning calls that would otherwise go to a competitor? 
  • What’s our competitive advantage, and how do we describe it to families?
  • What unique funeral experiences can we provide families?
  • What are the key messages we want to deliver to prospective families?
  • What is our target market, and what is the best way to reach them?

A tactical marketing plan will answer questions such as:

  • How will we build relationships with the “centers of influence”? (e.g., clergy, hospice, etc.)
  • How will we create a loyal customer following of families we have served? (e.g., Facebook)
  • How will we reach new at-need families? (e.g., Google)
  • How will we reach people interested in pre-planning? (e.g., workshops)
  • How will we develop top-of-mind awareness so that families think of us when they have a death in the family? (e.g., TV, radio, billboards)
  • How much money and resources will we allocate to each marketing channel?

In 2022, I decided to split my Funeral Success business into Funeral Business Builder and Funeral Success Marketing. Funeral Business Builder (FBB) is my strategic side, and Funeral Success Marketing (FSM) is my tactical side. The main reason for splitting the business into two parts is that only some clients need both sides, whereas many clients need help with one or the other.

The result was that 2022 was our best year ever. But it’s important to note that our clients grew too. We succeed when you succeed; it’s a win-win.

At FBB, my primary focus for 2023 is to create customized Strategic Growth Plans for funeral home owners who are serious about growing their market share, revenue, and bottom line. 

By the way, growing a funeral home isn’t just a marketing problem. Download my 10-step checklist to learn how to grow a great funeral home business.

Even if you are considering selling your business in the next few years, a plan like this can give you the roadmap for increasing EBIDTA and your eventual sale price.

At FSM, our primary focus for 2023 is on implementing three new packages; At-Need Builder, Business Builder (at-need + preneed), and Marketing Partnership.

Whether you need strategic help or tactical help, a conversation with me is the starting point.

Until next time


PS: Kyle returned from backpacking and has become quite the trip planner. He’s currently in Japan. I’m glad he learned how to plan, but I didn’t expect it to take him to the other side of the planet!!


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