Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Real Business #6 - Tester & Jones

While many companies have had a difficult time recently, Crowborough-based Tester and Jones is a business which has been truly recession-proof - funeral services.

Both Stephen Tester and Glenys Jones had a number of years of experience in the funeral business before launching Tester & Jones in January 2005. Stephen admits that the first year, as with any new business, was hard.

“There were times during the first year when we wondered if we’d made the right decision, but we stuck at it and after about 12 months, our hard work paid off. We started to see the business growing,” says Stephen.

“Like any business, networking is important,” he explains. “We went along to meetings of the Crowborough Business Partnership and made sure that local professionals and places like care homes knew we were there.”

Adds Glenys: “We also took part in community events – such as the Crowborough Hospital Fete – as well as fundraising for charities such as Cancer Research UK and Hospice in the Weald.”

Over the five years, the number of funerals Tester & Jones has conducted has increased four-fold and its reputation is spreading outside of Crowborough – with services being conducted in places including Mayfield, Eastbourne and Tunbridge Wells and as far afield as London, Margate and Chichester.

Customer service has played its part in the company’s steady growth.

“We have developed strong bonds with the families who we have helped through difficult times and we are passionate about looking after people,” says Stephen.

Around 18 months after establishing the business, the team launched a bereavement support group and this has been really well received. The group meets once a month and goes on trips and organises other socials.

“Nowadays, the group almost runs itself and they are even talking about arranging a holiday” says Glenys. “It gives people the chance to sit and talk with others in the same situation.”

Moving forward, while networking has done a lot to build business locally, Tester & Jones is looking at ways of continuing to build its presence outside of Crowborough. It has recently ‘refreshed’ its advertising and is now thinking about launching a website which, so far, it has survived without.

“We appreciate that people search for a lot of things online nowadays – including funeral directors,” says Stephen.

The Marketing Eye says:

Choosing a funeral director is often a spontaneous decision made amidst a maelstrom of emotion.

The bereaved don’t spend a lot of time comparing providers and are rarely in the mood to shop around, which means word-of-mouth recommendations and being front of mind when the time comes, are paramount.

The work that Stephen and Glenys have done to raise their profile locally is excellent. They have placed themselves at the heart of the community and shown real innovation with the bereavement support group. The fact that the group is starting to run itself is positive, but Stephen and Glenys need to make sure that their brand remains associated with it. A regular communication, such as a newsletter, will help with this.

Generating awareness further afield is more difficult. Stephen and Glenys need to decide on the areas they want to target if they are going to use their marketing budget effectively.

Searching for a funeral director online is most likely to happen when the responsibility for organising the funeral falls to relatives who are in a different part of the country, or if a particular type of funeral is wanted. A website will provide the ability to explain the various services on offer and reassure potential clients that their requirements will be dealt with professionally and compasionately.

If the business is specialist in certain types of funeral, it could look into search engine optimisation and paid search to maximise visitors to the website. This can be centred on geographic locations and will make sure that the Tester & Jones name comes up when people are looking for funerals of a particular type.