Resurrecting Funeral Directors Association Membership

The Challenge

The Arkansas Funeral Directors Association (AFDA) works to establish, cultivate, and promote programs and policies that strive to mark the passage of life with dignity and instill high standards for ceremonies that are sensitive to the special needs of those who survive.

With approximately 300 funeral homes in the state, and membership currently at about 80 members, the Association was exploring ways increase statewide membership, while retaining and increasing engagement with its current members. A membership of 150 funeral homes was the desired goal. While cost of membership is often the reason given for those who decline membership or renewal, the association also wanted to explore ways to promote the value of the membership itself.

The Solution

CustomXM, a North Little Rock, Arkansas direct mail and print provider, proposed a concentrated effort to promote the value of membership in AFDA in conjunction with their upcoming 2015 Annual Convention. Because of the small existing membership and potential membership population, we recommended the following:

  • A direct mail campaign consisting of a well-organized and visually attractive brochure. This piece highlighted member benefits and included the conference event schedule, as well as member testimonials. The brochure would feature an incentive offer that reflected a substantial savings for members if they acted before the registration deadline.
  • The brochure mailing also included a well-organized registration form encompassing membership renewal and the conference registration.
  • A series of personalized postcards followed the brochure mailing. The postcards highlighted membership benefits and the available training opportunities. The same call to action incentive was also included in these direct mail pieces.
  • A segmented email campaign was launched just before the incentive offer expiration which targeted A) non-members and B) existing members thanking those who renewed early, and asking them to attend the conference and training. Lastly, an informative email that included the conference schedule was sent to the entire database prior to the registration deadline. All emails contained a link to the AFDA website with event information and links to a downloadable version of the registration form.
The Results

As a result of the campaign, AFDA membership reached new levels and the conference had a record number of attendees. Jeff Smith, President of the Arkansas Funeral Directors Association had this to say:

We had a record crowd this year and exceeded our projected attendance for the banquet, Thursday and Friday Continuing Education, and increased membership 20%.
Thank you! Your creative work with our efforts yielded great results.

I Know What I Did Last Summer…

Summertime and the living was (supposed to be) easy.  Theoretically, at least.  Traditionally, our business does experience a slowdown during the summer months.  Or maybe I do.  They say summer allows us time to recharge our batteries, reinvigorate our drive, and rejuvenate our thinking.  I’m not sure if all that is true or if I even understand that. But we did accomplish some very interesting, exciting things during the recently completed summer months:

We built a Wall.  (Actually, we prefer to call it THE WALL.)

If you know anything about me, you know I am a proponent for the correct use of QR codes and all things mobile.  And you may also know that mobile shopping via smartphones is on the rise, and continues to break records from previous years.  Naturally, I felt compelled to do our part. So we built The Wall at McCain Mall, combining mobile technology, QR codes and retail shopping in the state’s largest indoor mall.  This video explains it much better than I:

We built an App. (Actually, we “skinned an app.)

If you know anything about me, you know I am a proponent for making printed pieces more relevant to the end user.  And you may know that I enjoy new, unusual techniques that help accomplish this goal. Enter mobile Augmented Reality.   Using the Aurasma platform, we created our own version of this app that allows us to bring Augmented Reality to the mobile world. We now can literally bring your printed pieces to life!  You will soon be seeing much more of this technology, but we think you should be given the opportunity to try it now.  Watch this video, download the VREAL app, grab a dollar bill and get VREAL!

We built a new sideline operation and website. (Actually, almost.)

If you know anything about me, you know I truly enjoy marketing techniques that involve personal, direct and most importantly unique interaction. What better way to do this than to be given the ability to produce on-demand, short run, direct-to-garment products?  In other word, t-shirts.  And the emphasis is on short-run. You want to have an impact, and you want to make a difference in your personal communications, right? Direct-to-garment, uh, t-shirts are a great solution.  So think very short run – 10, 25, maybe 50.  We are not a screen printer. (But we can help you with that if you need it.)

We also decided that my son, Michael should do something constructive while attending – Arkansas State University, the Home of The Red Wolves. So he created a sideline business called Wolf Prints.  Nice name, nice touch.

So he will be selling shirts to fraternities and the like, but we will sell them too.  We almost have a web site done.  But in the meantime, if you need another creative way to make a statement, give us a Howl!

There you have it – now YOU know what I did last summer.  What did you do?  And more importantly, how can we help you tell others about it?

Find The Wall on Facebook & Twitter


Paul Strack, CustomXM


Is it still ok to think outside the box?

If I recall correctly, we retired the phrase “think outside the box” a few years ago. And rightly so. It was a tired cliché, and its use rarely led to a win-win situation that allowed us the opportunity to wrap our head around it to continue the paradigm shift. So I won’t go there.

Recently, a couple of marketing projects afforded us to avoid that cliché completely, and more importantly, allow us to think inside the box!

The JamBox

A financial services client is a firm believer in highly targeted, direct marketing campaigns. Often, the typical approach involves a message to individuals who desire to increase their wealth. But in this campaign, the idea arose that it might be better to target those individuals who have already accumulated wealth, but have concerns about their ability to pass it along to their heirs. In an uncertain economy, these individuals need assurances that the fruits of their hard work will be preserved. Hmm….how do we convey the message of preserving fruits..hmmm…think about it…ah ha – Preserves!

So we found a supplier of Arkansas-preserves, BlackBerry Jam to be specific, and mailed them to these targeted individuals. It was a very soft sell, we didn’t want to spread it on too thick.

Nothing is certain in life or direct marketing, but we feel pretty confident that this JamBox will get opened, and will receive a second look. We be jammin’.


Corporate golf outings remain popular events. Finding a way to get the most out of your sponsorship often times yields results that are sub-par. Our client knew they wanted to furnish top quality golf balls for this event, but if you are like me, those branding moments never seem to last beyond the 5th or 6th hole. We suggested this time that they think ON the box. We replaced the traditional golf ball sleeve with a customized, branded version that featured the flagship product. Now, every time the golfer reached for a ball, they couldn’t help but notice the sponsor. And our guess is, due to the uniqueness of these non-traditional “goody bag” items, they may have spent more time admiring them than their partner’s golf shot.

Did this approach work?

Here is what our client tells us:

Golf balls and boxes were a HIT! We will definitely do that again – one customer saw the picture of the motor on the box and approached our salesman to make an appointment to visit w/him about switching to our motors…

It sounds like that mulligan we purchased won’t be necessary.

If you are feeling a little boxed in with your direct marketing efforts, give us a call. We can help, and the cliche’s are optional!


Paul Strack, CustomXM


The USPS is trying; really they are…

The financial struggles of the US Postal Service have been well documented, and the news for this year hasn’t seemed to improve any.  In spite of its marketing success, direct mail volumes have continued to decline. And yet, we see this as good news!

How is this good news?  The dire situation of the USPS is bringing about a new way of thinking within some areas of its operation.  The Postal Service is trying to rethink and retool its current business model and is making strides in trying to be more customer-friendly. And like businesses in the private sector (us!), they are looking at ways to grow by implementing innovative programs.

Two of its newest programs provide excellent, simple, and affordable marketing opportunities for small businesses. And in spite of the decline in direct mail volumes, the effectiveness of direct mail marketing campaigns continue to breed success. 

Here are two of the programs that we encourage businesses to consider:

Every Door Direct Mail

This program is actually a rebranding of the Simplified Addressing Process, but it is worthy of a look. In its basic form, Every Door Direct Mail lets business saturate an entire residential zip code (or zip codes) with qualified mail pieces for as little as 14.2 cents postage per piece. Additionally, the pieces can be mailed without applying individual names and addresses, allowing users to easily target a specific geographic area.

So imagine you own a restaurant, a dry cleaner, an auto dealership, an apparel store or a fitness center. You have a special event, offer, or program you need to spread the word about. You want to specifically target residences in nearby zip codes.  And you want to target EVERY SINGLE RESIDENCE. This program is ideal.  No databases or mailing list required. No addressing or labels.  And all at a single piece postage rate as low as 14.2 cents each.

One caveat with this program is the unusual mailpiece size that is required to qualify. By definition, it must be a “flat” or “parcel”.  Some common sizes in this category are: 6.5”x9”; 6.5”x11” 8.5”x11”. Pricing for turnkey implementation of this program can be found here.

For more information, you can visit the USPS site, or contact us and we would be happy to help implement a program for you.

Summer Sale & Mobile Barcode promotion

We mentioned this last week, but it’s worthy of another look. 

For a while we’ve been talking about how QR codes can be used to help bridge the gap between the physical (printed)  and the digital worlds.  These 2d mobile barcodes help make the printed piece more engaging, and often more relevant for the targeted recipient.

Recognizing this, the USPS is offering a Summer Sale on qualified mail pieces that contain a QR code.  During July and August, you can save 3% on postage on Standard and First Class letters, flats and cards that include a QR code that can be scanned and read by a smartphone.

We go into a little more detail in this recent blog post.

Double Whammy

For those adventurous and somewhat spontaneous businesses, you can actually take advantage of BOTH of these USPS programs.  A qualifying mail piece – flat – that is distributed using the Every Door Direct Mail process that is printed with a QR code, may qualify for a 3% savings off the 14.2 cent mail rate.

Yes, the USPS is struggling. And out of its struggles come opportunities for business to enhance their marketing efforts in an inexpensive, and effective way. It’s worth a look.

If It’s Good Enough for Google…

I admit it, when it comes to direct marketing, I’m drinking the Kool Aid.  After all, it’s what I do. It’s my livelihood.  So when I attend seminars on the benefits of direct marketing, it’s easy for me to get excited to learn about the opportunities that can benefit our clients.  Admittedly, I am somewhat biased.

And when I hear vendor partners like Kodak, Xerox, and even the USPS tout the benefits of direct marketing, even someone as jaded (and as old) as me can often lose sight of the fact that they are trying to sell me something. But when I take a step back and look at the facts it becomes obvious that today’s tools can combine for some incredible direct marketing campaigns.

Consider that according to a 2010 DMA study every dollar spent on Direct Marketing returned $11.73 in revenue. And the beauty of today’s direct marketing tools is that now, more than ever before, marketing budgets can be used to produce measurable results – orders, leads, traffic, etc.

What is it that is driving this direct marketing success? Is it about being social? Is it about being viral? Is it about being mobile?  Certainly this all comes into play, but more importantly, it’s about the data we now have access to via these channels.  Data provides us the opportunity to get personal with our clients and prospects.  Good marketing is all about conversations.  Good data, and the various channels we have, makes these conversations possible. 

But why take my word for it?

I recently received not one, but TWO direct marketing campaigns from GOOGLE.  Yes, the behemoth of on-line advertising sent me offers via DIRECT MAIL. 

One was addressed to “business owner”, but the other, using better data, was addressed to me personally.  And it followed direct marketing best practices: it was designed to generate a response; it has a clear and obvious offer; it calls for a specific action; and that action would be entirely measurable.


Will I accept the offer?  Probably not. I will continue to rely on our own Direct Marketing techniques.  After all, if it’s good enough for Google…


 Paul Strack, CustomXM