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how to go from free to fee

part four:

understanding your market & defining your niche.

Surely you are familiar with your local marketplace competition...

You know the firm owners names. You’ve crossed paths several times in town, and maybe even chatted in line for cocktails at a few industry trade shows. You’ve heard the feedback about their services - the good, bad and ugly - from past customers, and from prospects who ultimately selected your firm over theirs.

You feel fairly confident that you know the competition, evaluating them as peers.

But have you ever taken a giant step back to evaluate them from the perspective of a client?

In the death care industry, competition is often defined by one single variable… the cost of their services in relation to the cost of yours. This singular data point can become an obsession. The price point of service becomes the scapegoat for all woes, often singled out as the cause of slowing market share growth and declining business volume.  For families looking to honor the life of their loved one, the cost of service is certainly a factor in selecting a funeral home… but it is not THE deciding factor! As we discussed in Part II of our series, “People Value What They Pay For,” cost is simply one data point out of several they use to select a funeral service provider. And the values of each of these data points are entirely subjective!

So how can we step out of our operational role and view our market from the eyes of a potential customer?

True competitive analysis can be one of the strongest tools for business growth you have in your toolkit, but can often be difficult to get started. Fear not! We’ve compiled four tips to help you get started understanding your business from the perspective of a customer. This week, we will learn how to identify your competition (no simple feat..) and the power of a “secret shopper.”

Step one: Who are my top three competitors?

You may think you know the other businesses within your competitive set… which is a great start. But, it’s important to validate your instinct with facts. So, let’s look at this question from the point of the consumer. Create a list of firms you are familiar with purely based upon their word-of-mouth reputation. Include those firms with both glowing and less than positive reviews.  This will help you capture the impact of reputation-based marketing.

Next, pretend you have never been to your town, city or state. Go online. Search for ‘funeral homes in (your zip code)’ and ‘cremation in (your zip code).’  Which firms pop up? Are they different from those noted on your word-of-mouth list? Are they the same? This search helps you understand the digital footprint of firms in near you. This step is critical because it could help identify competitors you were not aware of – for example, firms from neighboring towns advertising in your area or firms that have invested in digital advertising to attract customers from your area.

Once you’ve compiled your ‘reputation’ and ‘digital’ lists into one singular list, add your firm to the list. Now, the fun part begins 😊

Step Two: Secret Shopping

While it sounds like my attempts to hide online clothing purchases from my spouse, “secret shopping” is simply documenting the journey of a prospective client as they interact with a business at every stage of the buying cycle. It’s called “secret shopping” because the employees engaging with the ‘shopper’ have no idea they are reporting back to you with a detailed report of their findings. These reconnaissance reports provide you with unbiased insight into your operation. And they can be brutal…  

Next week, we will share our 'secret shopper' questionnaire and best practices for gathering actionable data insights.

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