By Joe Weigel

Even after months of lockdown orders, circumstances surrounding COVID-19 are changing every day. Still, nobody is sure when the pandemic will “end.” In the last issue of Funeral Business Advisor magazine, I outlined marketing steps to consider during a pandemic. For funeral home owners who want to grow, the time is now to draw long-term conclusions from behavioral shifts and consider how your marketing plan should transition into a post-pandemic world.

Letting your families know that your funeral home is taking care of keeping people safe, but also returning to some semblance of normalcy is key. Especially now, there is a lot of unclear information from companies about when and how businesses can operate. That is where doing some specific optimization for marketing post-COVID-19 can come to the rescue for you and your families.

What’s the best way to prepare for the new normal?

In this article, I have recommended ten steps that every company in the funeral profession can take now to best prepare for business after the coronavirus crisis, which can be very beneficial for your future success:

1. Review Your Website
Now is a great opportunity to thoroughly evaluate your website. Identify information and photos that need to be updated. Look at your competitors’ websites to see if there is more information, imagery, or a FAQ section that should be added. Is the time right to now post your prices online? Or maybe it’s time to allow families to make arrangements online. Or perhaps you need a new site altogether. Regardless, get your funeral home’s website ready for the next stage of business.

2. Explore an Outreach Strategy or Expand Your Current Efforts
Have your families come to expect to hear from you regularly by email, social media, or text messaging? Do not let that relationship drop off—but avoid crisis-related promotions. What you can do now is start a regular dialogue with families. Get creative and think of how you can offer reassurance, social connection, or tangible assistance during and after COVID-19.

3. Reconnect with Families You Have Recently Served (and Those You Are Yet to Serve)
One of the most important things you can be doing now is determining how to reach out to families you served during the pandemic that were forced to reduce or eliminate their funeral service. Remind them that a memorial service or “celebration of life” is possible and can now be planned for their loved one.

The same goes for contacting other families in your community once COVID-19 has passed. As a result of the pandemic, many families may now be more predisposed to preplanning their funerals. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by.

4. Assess Your Digital Marketing Footprint
While having a deep digital footprint in your marketing communications platform typically is critical to success, during a time of crisis it is mandatory. Digital marketing has the advantage of being faster than traditional marketing. An email or social media campaign can connect a marketing message to a targeted subset of families for a fraction of the cost of a TV ad or print campaign, immediately. Become hyper-segmented with your targets. Consider finding platforms that will allow you to capitalize on underpriced attention and think outside the box.

5. Expand Your Online Review Presence
If you do not yet have a plan or strategy for responding to online reviews, now is the time to compile one. The web is filled with online reviews that companies have not responded to. You do not have to go back and answer each one, but this is a good time to make sure your more recent reviews have a thoughtful response.

Create a reviews policy and, if you have a good candidate, train an employee to manage your online reviews going forward. Write a few template responses and go over your brand messaging with them. Coach them on how to respond to negative reviews from families and when to escalate legitimate customer-service issues to the right person. Provide them the tools they need to monitor reviews and get alerts. Show them what you expect as far as measuring the value of reviews. If necessary, employ a simple digital review and reputation management software platform such as Rannko (Rannko.com).

6. Review Your Firm’s “Google My Business” for Families
If you are operating with special hours or are taking special care to avoid the spread of COVID-19, let customers know what has changed. Update your hours and business description, share Google Posts with updates and offers, and make sure your contact information is correct in case people want to reach you. This should be done regularly as things change. This action is crucial, not only for Google My Business but also the dozens of other similar business information websites such as YP.com and Yelp.

7. Examine Your Marketing Properties
There is much you can do during this period to improve your future marketing efforts by performing an audit. If you have not kept an inventory of your assets — website, photos, videos, blogs, presentations, white papers, e-books, email, articles you’ve published — to date, this is a great time to get started.

• Look at each piece with a critical eye. Is it up to date and explain all the services you now offer such as live streaming of funerals, etc.?

• Which images and high-quality pieces can you repurpose for other uses and other channels as well as which ones should be “retired”?

• What content or topics resulted in the most traffic to your website or email responses to your firm?
Note that there also may be opportunities for:

• Adding links to new products/services on your website.

• Updating your site with fresh images and photos that better reflect your safety protocols

• Optimizing your digital marketing CTAs (call to actions) and your keywords.

8. Create Videos Today for Future Use
Even though we all realize that videos are a key tool for your marketing toolbox, there is always an excuse why they can’t get done. Well, now is a great time to record and/or at least make plans for your videos because they can form a basis for all types of other digital marketing content, too.

• Consider embedding the new videos in a blog post and website.

• Take screenshots from the videos and use them as images in social media posts.

• Take quotes from the video and use them alongside images on social media in the coming months.

• Reuse those quotes in press releases and upcoming blog posts.

9. Develop Webinars or Produce a “Frequently Asked Questions” Video
Planning and conducting a webinar can be a very effective way to answer frequently asked questions about your funeral home. This also can be a means to introduce new staff members or new services like live streaming. If webinars aren’t your thing, then make an FAQ video and push it out on Facebook, YouTube, and other social/media portals. Or create an FAQ section that can be added to your website and place your video there.

10. Complete Your Photoshoot and Video
Just like “social media videos,” this may be the perfect time to get your professional company video and/or photoshoot completed. If you can do so, now it can be a very good time to do the project that has been put off year after year, perhaps because you always felt it would interrupt business or families. Because business has likely slowed for videographers and photographers, you can probably get a good price, but you also will be helping them at a time when they may need the work.

In essence, the pandemic has proven that for marketing to work, it needs to be agile and flexible by reflecting the changes in family habits. The pandemic has already changed many funeral homes to the core and the speed with which you respond to these changes will make the difference between failure and success. So, now is the time to get strategic and incorporate a functional and flexible marketing plan. Taking these steps now can best prepare your funeral home for the better days ahead. FBA


Joe Weigel is the owner of Weigel Strategic Marketing, a marketing firm that delivers expertise and results across three interrelated disciplines: strategy, branding, and communications. You can visit his website at weigelstrategicmarketing.webs.com. He also can be reached at 317-608-8914 or [email protected]