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For the past year, our sales team has crossed the country, visiting newspapers and their local funeral homes to learn why families choose to place obituaries – and why they don’t. In the process, we discovered that both newspapers and funeral homes want to work more collaboratively to support the obituary category.

“We are partners in this together, but we haven’t really been walking down this road together very well.”

A funeral director at a recent panel on the future of the obituary

According to John Heald, Legacy’s Senior Vice President of Channel Development and a former funeral home owner, newspapers should drive a stronger relationship with their local funeral homes. “Funeral directors are your de-facto obituary agents, and they’re vital to keeping newspaper obituaries strong and healthy. It’s easy to maintain that relationship if you follow a few key steps.”

1.) Visit Your Funeral Homes Often
Stop by as often as possible, but “Once per quarter is key,” says Heald. “Try taking some sales aides to start the conversation.” Legacy has created a template that you can use, but it’s best when customized to your newspaper.

2.) Put a Logo and URL in Every Notice
Logos and URLs bolster the marketing value of each obituary a funeral home places and should be a standard part of your package. Says one funeral director we met: “We open the Sunday edition and see all of our logos and we’re like: ‘We’re beating our competition.’” 

3.) Provide Sales Aides and Support Materials
Sales guides with obituary examples in clear categories (think “Good/Better/Best”) help directors prove the importance of an obituary during that crucial arrangement-making window. “Our mortuary counselors say that the flyers are extremely helpful.”

4.) Offer Additional Incentives
Even a cup of coffee has a reward program these days, so some directors wonder why they “do all the work, collect the money for the obit, and get ZERO from the newspaper.” Tangible economic benefits like commissions and rebates (regulations vary by state) make funeral homes feel valued and encourages their sales efforts on your behalf.

5.) Thank them for their support, regularly and often!
This easy-to-overlook step lets your funeral homes know you appreciate their hard work. “Just try it,” says John Heald. “You’ll be amazed what a difference it makes.”

Are you interested in an in-market visit or a custom analysis of your obituary market share? Contact us at [email protected] to get our expert assistance.

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Tracie Martin

Tracie is a member of the marketing team at Legacy.com, with experience in marketing and content strategy, sales, account management, and consumer services.