Take a moment and think about all the technology you use daily in the operation of your funeral home. Software, apps, databases and web tools. These are all key to running your internal business operations and processes. But how many of those technology solutions enable you to build relationships with your families and community, seamlessly provide aftercare to your families, initiate preneed sales and drive digital marketing?

Building solid relationships leads to a better client experience and ultimately, more business opportunities. Relationships lead to revenue, so why aren’t the technology “solutions” making it easier to build and manage relationships? Guests at a memorial service are considering their own advanced planning and may become your next preneed client, or a guest offering condolences may choose to purchase flowers for the family. The point is that making a great impression at the funeral and providing valuable aftercare can drive that return business. While the service is first and foremost a sacred memorial, it’s also an opportunity for you and your staff to demonstrate your skills and communicate you care.

In funeral care, client interactions usually take place over 2-3 meetings and culminate in a single ceremony, but with aftercare offerings and online memorial pages, that doesn’t have to be the case. Your funeral home has the opportunity to continue to serve families long after the ceremony. In our digitally connected world, it has become more and more difficult to make meaningful connections in the brief and emotionally intense window we have with our clients.

This is where online memorials can bridge the gap, by offering a unique opportunity to stay connected. Online memorial pages can be so much more than static obituary text, a collection of grainy pictures and comments full of typos. A well-designed online memorial website will have features that allow the family to share memories and return again and again for years to come.

Online Memorial Pages, Bridging the Gap Between Tradition and Digital Life
As a standard, nearly every funeral home offers an online obituary today. In many cases, it contains basic information about the memorial service accompanied by a picture, if one has been provided by the family. If your funeral home is still uploading and maintaining information for client families, it’s likely a time-consuming task for back office staff and rarely leads to further business. While online obituaries are an appreciated service by some families, it is difficult to see any other benefits to your business.

What if your online memorial page offered value-added services to families, drove sales and future business, and gave you the opportunity to begin developing an ongoing relationship as a trusted advisor in funeral care? A well-designed online memorial page offers all those features.

Although common, online memorial pages are not all the same. No longer just a simple obituary, online memorial pages offer features like genealogy, photo and video storage, and event invitation and management. A well-designed digital memorial platform should focus on visitor interactivity by providing the opportunity for a community to reach out and support one another during a difficult time. It should provide opportunities for guests to purchase floral or other bereavement gifts for the family directly through the website. It should enable guests to easily leave a message of condolence, sign a digital guestbook during a service, and share their favorite images of the decedent.

Think of the online memorial page as an ongoing celebration and visitation, where friends and family can return to remember their loved one over time, especially if the final resting place is too far to visit in person. Just like you host events on-site, your website hosts this memorial and all the guests who contribute to it. You wouldn’t ask guests to climb a steep stairway or sit on uncomfortable folding chairs – and so your digital memorialization offering should also be comfortable and easy to navigate.

Technology That Leads to Revenue
Beyond the benefits to the family, an online memorial platform can turn interactivity into revenue generation and marketing opportunities. Every interaction, including each guest book contribution, tribute, photo share or condolence, requires the contributor to enter at a minimum their name and email address. Often overlooked, this simple information is extremely valuable.

An ideal solution would be to store this contact information directly into a digital marketing system. As soon as someone leaves a condolence or purchases flowers for the family, their email address is automatically transferred to your internal marketing system, and they begin to receive communication from your funeral home. There is no need to get technical help to retrieve and send your email lists to other email marketing systems, and no need to ask your staff to learn yet another complex system.

With the right solution, you can use automated emails to provide aftercare support, stay connected and continue to build a relationship with that client family, and their entire community. Some examples of successful automated emails include invitations to your community events, grief support services and reminders to purchase flowers for their loved ones as important anniversaries or holidays approach.

Furthermore, as that individual begins to prepare for their own funeral care, they will be more likely to reach out to a professional they already know and trust – you. They will have had a positive experience with you already and will feel like they know you and are supported by you. When they are ready to make their own arrangements, you will be the first professional they think of.

Driving Preneed, Floral and Product Sales from an Obituary?
Once you’ve collected the contact information of your online memorial page contributors, your funeral home will be able to initiate aftercare. Without creating any extra work for your staff, the email addresses collected from the online memorial page can be seamlessly transferred to your existing contact management system.

As any funeral director knows, effective and consistent aftercare leads to future preneed business. By demonstrating your commitment and expertise to individuals who’ve had a personal experience with your funeral home, you’re marketing your funeral home’s services to the best audience.

There are plenty of marketing consultants who will tell you that connecting with guests during or immediately after a funeral service is not the only way to source prospects. There is always someone selling an overpriced marketing list, direct mailers can be tempting and, if you just had the time to pull together all the email addresses in the files, you could send out a newsletter. The time it takes to evaluate all the marketing options could be a full-time job, not to mention the cost. By collecting contact information from your online memorial page, you cut through all that noise, saving valuable time and money.

Building Relationships Drives Sustainability
As a funeral director, you know that building relationships with the communities, families and individuals you serve is vital to the future of your business. You understand the value in offering products and services that provide comfort and ease of use for your families. It’s that simple – all the products and personalization, services, and specializations are for the sole purpose of building and maintaining relationships with your clientele.

As a standard, you are already offering your families a digital obituary. Elevating that obituary to provide a meaningful tool for your families and their community, while also simplifying and amplifying your direct communication and marketing, is a no brainer. FBA

Mandy Benoualid is the CEO of Keeper, today’s leading digital memorialization platform. Since 2013, Mandy has been dedicated to helping cemeterians and funeral directors create new and meaningful experiences for their families, using cutting edge technology that drives results. Keeper notably works with the US Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration on the Veterans Legacy Memorial project, memorializing Millions of American Veterans. Mandy speaks regularly at professional funeral and cemetery conferences. She can be reached by phone at 844-970-7900, or via email at [email protected]