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How much of your marketing is based on what your customers want versus what you want to tell them? Agency president, Dan Katz, explains the reasons why so much funeral marketing, including social media, traditional media and other sales efforts fail, and what you should think about every time you create a new marketing communications effort.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

The rules have changed – not just in politics but in funeral marketing. LA ads president and creative director Dan Katz puts politics aside but talks about important lessons learned from this past Presidential election that puts convention on its ear.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

What you’re doing with your advertising, social media, websites and public relations to promote your funeral business may not be enough. The word of the day is: Programs. LA ads president and creative director Dan Katz shares a few ideas on why having programs rather than a series of tactics can be the right and simple answer to elevate the success of your marketing efforts this year.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

As both president of LA ads and a private pilot, I’ve discovered that many lessons learned in flight training and in the cockpit apply to marketing and managing a funeral services business. Here’s one of those lessons.  (For more lessons from the cockpit, read my post, “What I know about marketing I learned at Flight School.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

 

looking back

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”  – Soren Kierkegaard

The last quarter of 2016 is almost history and as we stand poised to welcome 2017 in less than 2 weeks, we hope for a future that is successful, rewarding and where your dreams will be realized. Having seen the start of more than a few “new business years” during my career, I’ve learned that you can do one of two things in preparation for the coming year. You can yet again try to create a brand new marketing strategy for the coming year or you can pause, look back and do some serious reflecting, resolving to change, or improve some aspect about how you will initiate your future marketing campaigns. For some people, looking back over the past year may be something better left in the rear view mirror; on the other hand, burying your head in the sand can be seen as the primary ingredient in a recipe for another disappointing year. So, before one celebrates the dawn of a new year…take time to ask yourself what are you going to do to change? What does success in 2017 look like to you and your team?

Speaking for myself and our firm, the end of each year is met with a healthy dose of optimism for the coming year. We see 2017 through a lens of hopefulness, that things will continue to get better. Is that just us or will you and your organization also view the coming year with a level of anticipation that you haven’t had for a few years? Hey, it’s been tough for most everyone out there, especially in the funeral profession, but let’s remember that at least a few organizations — perhaps some of your own competitors — have fared better than most despite these trying times. So what have they done to plot a course for a more optimistic and profitable path for success in 2017?

Depending on marketplace factors (cremation growth, tightened economy, uncertain political future) coupled with how well you were able to strategically position and market your company, the past year was either seen as a success or another year of same-old, or even a disappointment.  The question that begs to be asked here is, how much of last year’s growth or lack thereof was because of something you had no control over, such as good or bad luck, and how much was because of something you specifically chose to do or not do?  I’ve found through personal experience this is the time to be totally honest with yourself.  As Sigmund Freud said, “Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.”

Hey, I’m all for a bit of luck but you probably don’t want to continue betting future success on lucky things happening in the coming year.  With this in mind, here are a few questions to ask yourself as thought starters as you begin the process of looking in the rearview mirror at this past year and through your windshield to the next:

  • What marketing activities worked for you and which ones didn’t in 2016?
  • What 2 or 3 trends did you notice have taken place in your industry and outside of it that you need to incorporate into 2017 activities?
  • What 5 pieces of really good customer feedback did you receive this past year that you need to take deliberate action on?
  • Is there one part of your marketing activities that if it got more attention could yield better results?
  • What are the 2 mission-critical initiatives that absolutely need to be accomplished by June 30th 2017?
  • What are the top 3-5 problem areas that could impact your bottom line or stunt the growth of your brand if you don’t tackle them now?
  • What are the 3-5 opportunities that could grow your bottom line, brand visibility and preference?
  • How did your marketing (from strategy to execution) match up with your competitors? Was it “beige”- boring or was it “full of color”- impactful?
  • What do you produce, offer or do that excites your audience and makes them think “Wow!”

As marketers, one thing we know for sure is that change will not stop in 2017. The marketplace will continue to shift on us, and so will the economy. But by reflecting back on 2016, taking control of your marketing activities rather than being tossed around by the waves in the market, along with thinking optimistically about what 2017 can hold, this New Year might actually be a year worth celebrating.  It will be for us and hopefully will be for you as well.

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Rolf Gutknecht is vice president, director of account services for LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Rolf on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Rolf on LinkedIn.

dhc-brandingOne of the costs of getting older is seeing your parents get older, and that unfortunately means spending more time in hospitals.  This past week, my father-in-law was admitted to the local hospital with various heart issues. The hospital is part of the Dignity Health family.

As I drove into the main entrance, in the planter ahead of the garage were three foot tall 3-dimensional orange letters greeting me with “CARING.”  Passing one of the driveway fences, an attached orange sign declared “Every breath matters.”  Stepping into the main lobby, more 3D oversized letters spelled out “HELLO.”  Throughout the hallways, large posters offered various thoughtful messages and insights about Humankindness, which is the company’s main marketing theme (“Hello Humankindness”).  I even saw the same great posters in the basement hallways which are mostly used by the hospital staff. You couldn’t miss the point. And just as important, neither could the staff.

This is what branding is supposed to be, not just a slogan or logo or corporate color scheme but a complete experience.  “Environmental branding” unites the marketing messages presented in ads, commercials and online media with how the customer experiences the company at the street-level. More than that, it serves as a declaration of a company’s way of being. (You can’t promote that humankindness is important if you treat your families dispassionately, or worse.)

This idea of environmental branding is nothing particularly new, as everybody experiences it at their local Target or Starbucks or market or gas station. In essence, it is designed to get guests or customers (and employees) to align themselves with the brand while within the setting. Done correctly, it wins loyal and raving fans.

So, if environmental branding works in the retail setting, why not in other areas…such as hospitals. Or cemeteries or funeral homes?  Can you think of better opportunities to ease a family’s worries and let them know they’re in the best of hands and at the same time set the business apart from its competition?

Part of what makes the Dignity Health program work so well is that it’s not being done by other hospitals. Most hospitals look and feel like most other hospitals.  But Dignity hospitals deliberately look different and so it registers on the “audience” differently. That’s the value of being disruptive. Dignity has stepped outside the box and it’s paying off.

Unfortunately, most funeral providers are behind the curve when it comes to stepping outside the box.

Recently, we spoke with a funeral home owner whose own private office featured an amazing wall-mural of painted flowers. It was beautiful.  It was art.  The owner told me it was done by one of his family members.  I asked him why he didn’t do the same thing in the lobby, where families could see something unique and wonderful.  He said he was nervous about doing so because it’s not what families expect. I said that’s exactly why he should do it!  And yet, he hasn’t.

Although cemeteries are by nature “environmental,” they often miss the marketing opportunities available throughout their parks, such as branding with unique messages and signs in the parking lot, at the entries, along fences, and in the office lobbies. All I often see are the hours of operation, days of flower & decoration removal and service directionals. Ah, what superb opportunities missed!

I would offer this up to anyone running a funeral home or cemetery:  If there’s a Dignity Health hospital in your area, pay it a visit and see how they’re creating a complete experience – one that’s not too distant in spirit from what a cemetery or funeral home traditionally offers: care, compassion, dignity.

Dignity Health has done it right. Now it’s your turn.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

 

cem-dec-2016-coverWhittier, CA – LA ads client Rose Hills Memorial Park has been selected as this year’s winner of the prestigious ACE (American Cemetery Excellence) Award. The award, presented by American Cemetery & Cremation Magazine, one of the leading publications serving the funeral and cemetery industry, recognizes the most outstanding cemeteries both within the United States and abroad.

This year’s award honors the largest memorial park in North America, whose history spans 102 years, and reflects one of the most culturally diverse communities anywhere in the nation.  While Rose Hills provides approximately 9,000 burials annually, its commitment to caring, individualized service has remained its hallmark since its opening.  The cemetery has been acclaimed nationally for its cultural diversity, its social responsibility and its community involvement, including a massive water reclamation project that began well before California’s drought crisis, and the effort to literally reshape itself to offer aesthetically and spiritually exceptional spaces for burial and remembrance within in the principles of Feng Shui, reflecting its growing Asian community.  Throughout the year, Rose Hills hosts numerous religious, cultural and veterans’ events, drawing many thousands of attendees from across Southern California.

“We are extremely proud to be the recipient of this significant award,” said Rose Hills president and CEO, Patrick Monroe. “To be officially recognized as the best cemetery in the nation acknowledges our mission to serve our entire community with passion and excellence.”

In addition to its spectacular grounds and exceptional family service, Rose Hills was cited for being at the digital forefront, developing multiple websites, specialized landing pages, Facebook pages and other key social media platforms that speak to its many different audiences in their respective languages and cultures. Most recently, the cemetery launched a light-hearted series of YouTube videos (“Short Takes”) that answer questions people often want to know about cemeteries and funerals…but were afraid to ask.

From Cemetery & Cremation magazine: To help these groups feel “included,” Rose Hills has sought out multiple marketing agencies that specialize in selected populations. Today, three agencies serve Rose Hills: LA ads, responsible for English-language and “general” audiences and lead agency for creating the messaging strategy for all agencies; ARAS for Latino (Mexican) and other Spanish-speaking families; and InterTrend for reaching Asian communities, notably Chinese but also Korean, Vietnamese and others.

“People tend to think that a cemetery is about honoring preserving the past.  We feel here that Rose Hills is just as much about looking forward to the Future,” added Mr. Monroe.

Former ACE winners include Curlew Memory Gardens in Palm Harbor, Florida; Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York; Springvale Botanical Cemetery in Victoria, Australia; and East Lawn Memorial Parks in Sacramento, California.

About Rose Hills Memorial Park & Mortuary

Founded in 1914, Rose Hills Memorial Park & Mortuary, #FD970, has since grown to be the largest memorial park in North America. It is a full-service memorial facility with a modern mortuary, flower shop, reception center, and premiere cemetery property to serve the community in both pre-need and at-need situations. It serves 10,000 families a year. Rose Hills is located in Whittier, California, with approximately 1,400 acres of property for current use or future development and is considered to be the largest single-operated cemetery in the world. Although it is purposely secluded, Rose Hills is only minutes away from any point in the Greater Los Angeles or Orange County area, and offers a full range of cemetery and funeral services to meet the memorialization needs of Southern California families. For information, visit www.rosehills.com.

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