It’s not rocket science. It’s not mind blowing. It’s not new. In fact, it’s pretty flippin’ basic. The funeral business is personal. This is a 100% relationship business. That’s right, relationships – in high school we called this ‘popularity,’ and the prom king always got the girl. The class president wasn’t the most qualified candidate – just the best looking. The funeral business isn’t much different.
The most popular funeral director in town gets the most calls. He’s the one who gets the interview; she’s the one voted ‘best of’ 15 years and running and the one who is most visible. It doesn’t take a brainiac to figure out that the more visible you are the more popular (or top of mind) you will be.
By now you are thinking this article was written for “Cosmo” or “Teen Spirit’” but I assure you it was not. Just hear me out, and I know you will agree…heck, you may even take action on what we discuss.
In most countries across America tradition funeral homes are fighting a surge in price discounters, direct disposal companies, and online cremation services. This doesn’t paint a pretty picture for the traditional funeral director with a huge overhead, a full staff, and a really sick fleet of Cadillacs. While many traditional funeral directors are hiding scared in the prep room trying to figure out what to do, the discounter is hustling. He is out building equity in his personal brand. “Why?” you ask. It’s because he doesn’t have a 75 year family-owned funeral home brand to lean on.
What’s happening isn’t shocking – these upstarts are getting more business by being more visible. While the traditional funeral director is joining more service clubs and spending more money on ‘dead’ advertising (like the guy I spoke with who was spending $14,000/yr on Yellow Pages), the discounter is hitting social media very hard – not only through his business Facebook page but also, and just as important, his personal Facebook profile. He is creating content that is valuable for his audience, content that is explains why paying high prices at the traditional funeral home doesn’t make sense. And this message is making a difference.
Ok, if you’re still reading that means I got it right, so keep listening. What comes next is where you will find the real value.
Here are my top five strategies to consider when building your personal brand on social media (some of you already have a personal brand, and these strategies will help you build on that foundation):
1. Know who you are
Your personal brand is authentic and transparent – the most real form of yourself. Don’t try to build a persona that isn’t really who you are. Building a personal brand isn’t about getting published or getting TV interviews. It’s about managing how your client families and community see you.
By setting the foundation on who you truly are, you can build a long-lasting and genuine personal brand that is appreciated by your community and target audience.
Let me give you an example: I am the funeral guy who isn’t going to wear a suit. I have earrings, I have spiked hair and/or a hat on my head, and I wear a blingy shirt. When people hire me to speak or manage their social media they know exactly what and who they are going to get. I know my personal brand doesn’t sit well with a lot of funeral professionals, but I also know that if they can’t get past the way I look they probably won’t be interested in the radical things I have to say. My personal brand appeals to my target audience.
2. Build solid relationships
As I mentioned earlier, funeral service is a relationship business. Funeral directors (in industry-wide surveys) say that 80% of new business comes by leveraging relationships with happy client families…who will promote you through their word-of-mouth testimonials. In case you were unaware, social media is the new word-of-mouth. Connecting with people in your community is the best way for you to build your personal brand. When people know you and what you offer they are more likely to do business with you. And when they do business with you and you serve them well, they will recommend your funeral home to other people.
Networking and building your personal brand isn’t about selling. It’s about listening and engaging.
3. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself
Self promotion is not selling….again…self promoting is not a hard sell. It’s positioning yourself in a place of expertise. You need to be the ‘go to’ for funeral service in your community…period. Building a positive and strong reputation is best achieved by having confidence to share your vision and brand with your community…without being salesy. The consumer expects to be turned off by your hard-sell, but when you come at them from a confident position of expertise and compassion they will be caught off guard and open up.
4. Put your social game on point
Never before has the online landscape been so juiced to allow you the ability to build your personal brand.
Thanks to social media, you are in control of what people see, hear, and learn about you when they search your name. Make sure you have a solid plan around the presence you project on social media. Your personal Facebook profile can be used to share video, blogs, and opinions. It even can be used to share posts from your funeral home’s Facebook business page – which leads your social followers to build a relational connection between your personal brand and business brand. This allows for more transparency and trust for the business brand because they already trust your personal brand.
Extra tip: step up your selfie game (if you don’t know what I mean just ask your kids).
5. Keep your reputation in check
Be mindful of your public activity and engagement, and of what you post on social media. Your online behavior is a spot on reflection of who you are as a person. Your actions on social media are visible to those who follow you, and nothing is ever really deleted. By the time you unlike that photo or delete a comment on a racy post – someone has seen it and knows it happened. Set your public engagement and what you post against your character and the people who could potentially see your actions: your spouse, your kids, your pastor, you fellow church members, your client families, and your prospect families. The list goes on and on but my point is this… be ever mindful of your actions and content you post, because it is a direct reflection on you as a person and will impact your reputation.
Warren Buffett nailed it when he said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
Building your personal brand is more important now than it has ever been before. The days of sitting back and letting the calls come in are over. You’ve got to work now to attract the attention of your community because, if you don’t, you can bet your favorite trocar that your competition will.
DISRUPT Media is a social media first marketing company that focuses on social storytelling for funeral companies. DISRUPT uses insights gained through analytics to build creative campaigns that achieve actual business goals.