The Partnership Podcast

Families and Facebook with Lyn MacDonald and Mark Moran

August 06, 2020 Golden Charter Season 1 Episode 11
The Partnership Podcast
Families and Facebook with Lyn MacDonald and Mark Moran
The Partnership Podcast
Families and Facebook with Lyn MacDonald and Mark Moran
Aug 06, 2020 Season 1 Episode 11
Golden Charter

Online marketing, customer research and the varied uses of Facebook are all discussed as two Golden Charter Directors, Lyn MacDonald Director of Marketing and Mark Moran Director of Sales, discuss families' changing needs following COVID-19.

Show Notes Transcript

Online marketing, customer research and the varied uses of Facebook are all discussed as two Golden Charter Directors, Lyn MacDonald Director of Marketing and Mark Moran Director of Sales, discuss families' changing needs following COVID-19.

Malcolm Flanders [00:00:04] Welcome to the latest Partnership Podcast, giving you the latest news and views from the funeral profession. Over the last few months, we have regularly heard how customers across the UK have continued to make enquiries about funeral plans, despite, or in some cases due to, all the challenges that have come with the pandemic. Understandably, many were reluctant to talk directly to an independent funeral director during a time when the focus was very much on the needs of the moment. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:00:30] So we continue to see a regular demand direct from customers into our Glasgow office through the telephone. Now we've conducted considerable research over the past few months and established that because of the pandemic, people are understandably considering their own mortality. One specific stat stands out for me. 75% felt approaching their local Independent was the most appropriate thing to do if that Independent was promoting plans, and that's a growing number, up from 71% in the spring. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:01:01] Now in the last few weeks we have started to see customer enquiries and plan sales increase through funeral directors as the pandemic has eased. You heard in my last podcast how Mark Porteous was adapting in the pandemic and now starting to use digital technology to help promote his business. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:01:17] So I thought now is the time to hear firsthand from our own Director of Marketing, Lyn MacDonald, and Director of Sales, Mark Moran, about what's happening across the UK and how all our funeral directors are starting to promote funeral plans again. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:01:31] Welcome to both of you, and thanks for joining me for one of these remote productions. So Mark, I think we can call you a veteran on your second appearance now. So let's start with a question for you. We, like other businesses, have had to adapt during the pandemic. How are we doing? And are our Area Business Managers now all back operational?

Mark Moran [00:01:55] Thanks, Malcolm. It's certainly been a challenging and ever changing last three, four months. It's hard to believe it's only March that it was effectively business as usual. And clearly the change since then has been incredible. And we've gone through a bit of a rollercoaster. Even within Golden Charter, I am confident in saying that all our Area Business Managers are now back and operational, and also our new Telephone Business Managers, our new telephone support team are also fully operational. 

Mark Moran [00:02:34] And I think we recognised really early, our services and the support we gave to funeral directors was very much more of a supportive stance and more reactive. We are seeing a change, though. We've seen a huge, huge increase in customer demand. Lyn will no doubt talk about that. So we've certainly seen that change. 

Mark Moran [00:02:58] We've also refreshed and changed the team structure that we have. And that was always our plan. That was not coronavirus related, but it is very much relating to FPA regulation and the future FCA regulatory state. And that's a lot of the reason why we're doing what we've done. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:03:22] Okay, Mark, excellent. And Lyn, I'd like to introduce you fully to any of our listeners who might not know you yet, but of course, you have been joining me on our weekly funeral director calls over last few weeks, and some will know you already. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:03:34] One thing that I think stands out about Golden Charter's marketing work recently is that it's evidence led and involved a lot of testing and research. Can you talk to us about that and what we've managed to learn about customers’ attitudes to planning? 

Lyn MacDonald [00:03:50] Yes. Thanks, Malcolm, great to join you and Mark on my first ever podcast. Of course, so as you can imagine, the Director of Marketing, my hat is always the customer hat. So we're always really keen to make sure that we understand consumer insights, so we understand what the customer sentiment is, and perhaps now more than ever, given the pandemic and the sensitivity around funeral planning, it was really important to us that we did go to market with research to understand that a bit further. 

Lyn MacDonald [00:04:17] So we have gone out through various YouGov surveys, through independent research that we've commissioned and also through live testing to really gain sentiment within the marketplace. 

Lyn MacDonald [00:04:28] So some key stats I'm keen to share, as you'd expect from a marketer: 82% of those who take part in our surveys agreed that funeral directors should be continuing to promote their services, despite the current issues with the pandemic. 47% of those interviewed did say the pandemic has encouraged them to talk about funerals, and their wishes with their family. It's always been a sensitive subject, but I think perhaps now, the environment we are in, people are more aware of it and it's making them more accepting to talk about it. And 68% of those considering a funeral plan would look to the Internet to get more information, which I think is another shift for us, you'd imagine. 

Lyn MacDonald [00:05:09] Normally it's those 65 or older who tend to be in the market for a funeral plan. And perhaps it's not always the first call, digital, as we might have expected and sometimes our funeral directors don't always see that as a really key route to market for our customers. But what we can see here is, those who take part in surveys absolutely are looking to the internet first to try and give us more information, to inform their thinking and their decisions. 

Lyn MacDonald [00:05:33] And these stats hold true in some of the live testing that we've gone to market with, in terms of testing new leaflet dop creative, which we're really keen to make sure that – what message are we taking to market? Is the message right? Is it sensitive enough? And does it help really kind of respond to the customer demand that we are seeing? 

Lyn MacDonald [00:05:50] And I'm really pleased, again, some of the new creative we're using in leaflet drops and some of our direct mail in particular, 85% of those who take part in the leaflet drop research said it has a really great first impression that would make them want to find out more, in the right tone. So the tone was there. And when we take that through into live testing that held true. So we did see Facebook campaigns work remarkably well. We've seen no negativity at all coming through from that. And indeed, the numbers of enquiries have been increasing year on year for us, through Facebook in particular. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:06:23] Excellent. I suppose with my funeral director hat on then, Lyn, are we at the stage where we're able to draw any conclusions as to what kind of activity is working best for them?

Lyn MacDonald [00:06:35] I think we are. I think we're very close to it now. And I think, yeah, I talked about my customer hat on there for a funeral plan purchasers, but of course, my other customer hat is my funeral director customer hat, and making sure that they are well armed with all the relevant information and details to deploy marketing activity in the right way. 

Lyn MacDonald [00:06:54] And I think what we're drawing there on some early conclusions and green shoots is certainly the importance of Facebook and the digital footprint. So making sure that while our customers can't walk into funeral director branches, that they can get in touch with them via Facebook, via their website, picking up the phone. 

Lyn MacDonald [00:07:11] Facebook, for me is a no brainer. It's one channel that our funeral directors should absolutely be on. I appreciate that there's sometimes a reluctance around lead generation, so around taking that direct message out to market to talk about funeral planning. However, it's just as important to have a Facebook page there with some organic content on it, to make sure that there's a service/staying in touch element off it, so that people are aware of the funeral director's presence in the local community, and they're aware that they are there to help. 

Lyn MacDonald [00:07:39] It's the age old rule with opportunities to hear and see a message. So as consumers, we're quite savvy now, we understand that we look to the internet for more information and we understand that we can see the message consistently across different platforms. So to have it just the leaflet drop on its own is not going to work for you, but if you have that with the Facebook on there as well, so that when, as we said before, 68% considering a funeral plan go online, that 68% are going to find your Facebook account. They're going to see the organic content and some of the other posts talking around funeral plans, which relate directly back into the leaflet drop.

Lyn MacDonald [00:08:13] And we are seeing, as I say, Facebook campaigns have not stopped during the pandemic. We've seen more and more funeral directors coming online and using Facebook, and seeing much, much more positive results than ever before. So we're seeing higher numbers of enquiries coming through, which is driving down the cost per enquiry for investment there. And we're seeing already, so one of our funeral directors was live with a campaign; it's been live for three days, they've had 17 enquiries so far and one sale, as of today. Facebook is without doubt the channel of choice, I think, for funeral directors to consider now more than ever.

Malcolm Flanders [00:08:47] Right. Okay. Thanks Lyn. Those are impressive numbers, actually. And Mark, just stay on digital just for a moment. We talk about digital as being sort of the main medium at the moment. How are business managers managing with either the phone or video conferencing with funeral directors, given that we can't actually see them face to face at the moment?  

Mark Moran [00:09:10] I think the transition for everyone involved in some ways has probably been easier than we would have anticipated. And I think it's a classic example of where, when choice is removed and it becomes necessity, the way we can adapt. And I would be amazed if we ever return to the days of old, which is only March. A sizeable number of funeral directors have commented on how comfortable and how happy they've been dealing with us on the phone, or by using Microsoft Teams. So I think it's here to stay. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:09:53] Yeah. Couldn't agree more. And Lyn, I suppose from a marketeer’s perspective, do you think that having to work in this way has actually opened eyes to the way in which social media can be used to market to customers and families? 

Lyn MacDonald [00:10:10] Yeah, absolutely, I think it's something that we've always known. I think perhaps what it has done is the current trading has, you know, in terms of the pandemic, has helped perhaps speed up that development towards Facebook and digital as a channel. So, you know, funeral director websites, the use of localfuneral and Facebook, our key channels that were always there, and they were key, but perhaps the pandemic's expedited that. So has it changed our thinking or perhaps changed the importance of that for us? No, not at all. I think what it has helped us do is solidify the importance of those channels and perhaps expedited the adoption rate, which is great from my perspective. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:10:48] Great. Thank you, Lyn. So digital is one huge area of change. We can all agree on that. Mark, what's the next big thing on the horizon from your perspective? From other guests we've had on recently, I'm imagining the word regulation will be in there somewhere for you too? 

Mark Moran [00:11:06] Absolutely. We've got two elements to that. We have the changes made by the Funeral Planning Authority to their regulations which took effect from the 1st of January. And secondly, we know that FCA regulation is coming. And I think the key thing as a business for us is the introduction of that funeral director agreement and handbook, which we've been doing a huge amount of work on across the business and involving funeral directors at every stage in the development of that agreement. 

Mark Moran [00:11:47] And the handbook is very much a really detailed piece of work, designed to really put the customer at the heart of everything we do, whether or not that's from a Golden Charter perspective or from the funeral director’s perspective. And we know funeral directors are always putting the customer at the heart of the proposition and we're equally the exact same. 

Mark Moran [00:12:09] And I think the agreement formalises our relationship with the funeral director, but also meets that very specific requirement of the FPA that we need to have formal agreement in place. So it's very much a necessity for us to comply with FPA regulations, but we've gone the step further with the handbook, so that it really starts to bring to life what the agreement means in practice. And I think funeral directors will find a hugely supportive document. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:12:39] Excellent. Thank you, Mark. That is all good stuff and very important, as we know, over the next few months. Okay. Well, that's all we've got time for today. So, Lyn and Mark, thank you ever so much. Do appreciate you coming on to our podcast today. And for our funeral directors, thank you for listening to another partnership podcast, and to both of my guests. If you want to hear more about marketing you can get involved with our new business manager support, or for any of the other topics discussed today your business manager can help you. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:13:14] You can also contact me on [email protected], if there's anything you would like to hear about on this podcast, or if you'd like to contribute. And of course, all ten of our previous episodes are on Until next time, stay safe, and I'll talk to you again on the partnership podcast.