“When you do nothing, you feel overwhelmed and powerless. But when you get involved you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment that comes from knowing you are making things better.” Maya Angelou
VAULTS, CASKETS, AND LAWYERS, OH MY!
It was a Saturday afternoon and people were pouring into our new facility for a Funeral and Cremation Expo. They were met by all types of vendors, casket companies, organ donation booths, cemeteries, hospice experts, elder law attorneys, caterers, and even an adorable dog from a pet cremation specialist (which I was stationed near so I was very happy).
The whole concept of this particular expo was to give them a no pressure and relaxed environment to get information and have some great food.
As people came in, they were given a map and list of vendors to determine who they were interested in talking to or not. As one would imagine, the food was the only section that every single person was interested in but the rest of the booths had a very steady flow of visitors too.
This was a very successful event and took an immense amount of work from our marketing and hospitality director. If you work at a company that is very involved in the community, this is a wonderful idea to put into play. If you are looking to put one on, there is a great article written through the eyes of the vendors and what they are looking for in an expo (remember, you want to appeal to the vendors and show them it is worth their time).
However, the Expo is not what I am writing about today, I am writing about the concept that we used for our pre-planning booth.
THE OXYMORON OF “NO PRESSURE PRE-PLANNING”
When we were initially planning the expo, I was quite perplexed as to how we could pull off our pre-need station as no pressure but still be interactive with everyone and get our name in their mind. It is one thing for people to know they were inside of our funeral home but a completely other thing for them to want to plan with the people inside our funeral home.
Two years ago, I had taken a training with Karl Jennings for his breakthrough Arranger’s Academy program and I kept thinking back to one of his coffee break lessons. He said that people will always plan less for themselves than they would plan for someone they loved. With this thought, he told us that we need to remember that one of the easiest ways to tug on someone’s heartstrings is to put them in the shoes of their loved ones. “How would your grand kids feel about not being able to say goodbye to you?” or “How would your kids feel about you not wanting their family photos on display?” or “How would your brother feel if you did not feed him lunch at your funeral?”
Karl was talking about something completely different but in general, this was the approach I wanted to take with the Expo… Put the people in their family member’s shoes.
As a professional who works with overwhelmed families, I can honestly say the unanswered questions is the part that hinders them the most. The not knowing what the deceased wanted, the not knowing what the right answer is, the not knowing if they are honoring someone’s wishes.
70 QUESTIONS WITHIN 24 HOURS OF DEATH
We all know that if someone gets caught up on one question, that can delay the entire planning process. I never knew how many questions so I began researching and I found out that there are over seventy questions that must be answered within 24 hours of someone passing away.
This was the answer to my booth at the Expo. I needed to find a way to show how big of a number seventy is. Although there is no go to list for these average questions, it did not take me long to come up with that many. In fact, as I began typing the ordinary questions that I usually ask a family, I easily reached 150 and stopped trying.
Now that I had a sheet of paper with 150 questions on it, I needed to come up with a visual way to show these questions. No one was going to pick up a sheet of paper and be impressed with my list. Pinterest was my lifesaver and I found a cute memory tree idea to hang all the questions on. Instead of photographs, I would show the questions.
My husband was a trooper and helped me to cut and glue all the questions. Since the Expo itself was an orange and purple theme, we decided to stay with that so people would know the booth was a part of our funeral home.
DIVERT THE ATTENTION, GAIN THEIR TRUST
The last thing I decided was going to be beneficial to my booth was to have a purpose that was not focused on pre-planning. We put out a newsletter every other month so I made it my goal to get people to sign up for our mailing list and give them a hard copy of the most recent edition. For each person who signed up, they had their name entered into a drawing to win a $25 gift card to Caribou Coffee.
As people began talking to me about the newsletter, I was able to learn a bit about them. I was able to find out what town they were from and oftentimes have something in common with where they lived. I was the friendly newsletter lady, not the intimidating and pushy pre-planning woman.
Interestingly enough, most people pointed the tree out to me before I had to show them. By this time, they were comfortable enough to ask me questions about funerals or whisper some question about cremation. I left that day with a solid list of people who want to be contacted to set up an appointment. More often than not, it was their idea to give me their information, not the other way around.
Beyond the tree, I had a visual display of four different things they could take as their next step in planning their services:
- Stop by the main booth for a complimentary copy of Scott Mueller’s #1 Best Seller on Amazon, What to Know Before You Go
- Set up a no pressure, no cost appointment with me to answer questions and pre-plan their personalized services
- Register for an adult enrichment course on pre-planning at the local high school adult education department
- Sign up for our bi-monthly newsletter and seminar mailing list to receive more information as it becomes available
TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT, SET YOURSELF APART
There are so many different ways to get your name out there. If your company does not have the capabilities to put on an Expo at their facility, get out there and find an event to set up a booth at.
When your salary is commission based, it is very hard to not be pushy with potential clients. However, if you approach this type of situation correctly, the no pressure feeling can appeal to a lot of your clients. Afterwards, be persistent with following up. There is a difference between being pushy and being persistent. That’s a conversation for another day but if you want to read more, Lauren Smith wrote a very interesting article called Persistent vs. Pushy: What’s the Difference?
Try something different the next time around and you may be surprised. People will always have the questions, let them be comfortable enough with you to ask them.