Marketing has and should be completely changing the way a funeral home does business in 2018. Consumers have changed: they expect different things now than they did 5 years, 2 years and even 1 year ago. Traditionally, funeral home marketing consisted of newspaper advertising, church bulletins, and great service. While great service still applies, it is different now. When people didn’t have the Internet, they relied on the newspaper for news. They relied on who their family used before for a funeral home. Times and trends have changed dramatically. Overlooking these changes or failing to adapt could put a lot of funeral homes at a disadvantage.

“Consumers are in the driver seat today, thanks to the Internet: They find answers on Google. They spend their time and use what they see their friends and families use on social media networks like Facebook. Newspapers are distributed less often, yellow pages are thinner, TV commercials are skipped over thanks to people having the power to record their shows, smartphones have changed the way we listen to music leaving little room for radio commercials, and people have a different voice than they had years ago. Now, if families have a great or even poor experience, it’s not the people that live close by or a close friend that hears about it, it’s the online world that hears about it,” explains Ashley Montroy, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at FrontRunner Professional.

“If a customer leaves a negative review, the best thing a funeral home can do is be there to respond. One piece of advice here would be to get more online reviews, people actually choose a business from these and especially on Google, these reviews show up front and center. Advice: spend a few minutes and search your business name, a few past services and some common things typed into Google to find funeral services or your firm. Then, take a look at your social media presence. Did you like what you see? This is what families are seeing and it’s your reputation. I know every funeral director cares so much about how clean their floors and cars are, but they also need to start thinking about how they look online because that is all part of a company’s reputation today,” Ashley continues.

Paying attention to your funeral home’s online presence is more important today than ever before. If firms want to grow in today’s industry, they need to be marketing and advertising where people are reachable and showing families they are current and up to date on the latest trends. Having a great website is one of the most important pieces of the entire marketing puzzle. It is what appears when consumers turn to Google for answers, and it should be integrated into your social media and even offline marketing strategy.

“No online marketing technique will work without the foundation of a great website. That’s why we do a comprehensive audit of a potential client’s website before we even determine whether to contract with that client. (We won’t partner with a particular funeral home unless we can clearly provide a substantial return on investment.) Once we take on the challenge, we focus on ensuring the site is designed to generate premier targeted traffic and—especially—convert that traffic into clientele,” states Welton Hong, Founder of Ring Ring Marketing.

Funeral homes that are using the older methods of advertising are in a passive mode. They are putting ads in static areas and hoping that people either go to that medium (i.e. Yellow Pages) or remember their name (newspaper and billboards). With these advertising avenues, it’s a ‘sit and wait’ type approach. With online advertising, you are immediately jumping in front of someone when they are searching for your specific services.

“The social part of social media is great for nurturing people who have already taken the effort to follow you and/or ‘like’ your page, but social media is not a great way to find new business. New business is found via search engine optimization and/or paid click ads (via Google or Facebook). With those online methods, you are finding people at the exact time they are searching for a provider,” explains Jeff Arnold, President of 4Spot Marketing.

In addition to maintaining a great website, it is also important for funeral homes to utilize social media. Funeral home owners operating in today’s industry need to be aware of their online reviews – not checking them or following up is a big mistake. Many funeral homes still don’t believe people go online to check them out, but nothing could be further from the truth.

“If you own a funeral home, it’s imperative that you monitor and work to improve your business’s online reviews. The difference between a 4.1 overall rating and a 3.7 (out of five stars) is massive—it has a huge effect on at-need calls and preneed as well,” adds Welton.

Another mistake funeral homes may make is misunderstanding the role of social media in marketing. Social media should be used for educating, providing information, and attracting attention—not for selling services. That comes later in the marketing process. Nothing is a bigger turnoff to social media users than a heavy sales push.

“Many funeral homes and cemeteries view social media as something that’s new, flashy and always changing, and they treat it as such. They try to establish a presence with everyone, which is a mistake. The best thing to do with social media is to concentrate on the basics and limit the platforms you use to one or two. If you get the audience, message, creative and timing right, you’ll be doing better than most. Others view social media as the answer. It is believed to be the only option to connect with your families, which is short-sighted. Too many funeral homes and cemeteries focus all their efforts on building their following solely on social platforms. Social alone does not work. You need a website, blogs and traditional advertisings as well as public relations,” expounds Joe Weigel, Owner of Weigel Strategic Marketing.

There is more opportunity today in 2018 than ever before. There are more options to meet and get to know families online than your business has ever had in person. There are 50 people in a room, but thousands of people online. That is why social media is such a huge advantage for your brand: you have an opportunity to let people know your business and the people behind your business every single day, so they feel like they know and trust you before they even walk in your door.

Learn more about what your funeral home can do to avoid marketing mistakes in this feature editorial. Read on to get tips and advice from the industry’s top strategic marketers. FBA

“The old method of advertising involved the Yellow Pages, newspapers, and billboards, and required the customer to try to remember the name of the advertiser during a very stressful time in their lives. With the new marketing techniques available, you can reach people the exact moment they are searching for a funeral service provider, so it is much more powerful,” begins Jeff Arnold, President of 4Spot Marketing.

“You can expect immediate results with Pay Per Click advertising. There is a slight launch time, where we are able to gather data on traffic, clicks, keywords, etc., but as soon as you start a campaign you should see some positive results — depending on the desired result. Many people like to focus on pre-planning to get folks into their location and ‘on the books’ early, while other will target the immediate need. Either way, if the campaigns are focused and targeted correctly, you can get your desired results fairly quickly,” he adds.

Key performance indicators on social media can be next to impossible to track.

“I heard the example of trying to track social media results as being compared to dating your girlfriend. You regularly open the door for her and show courtesy and the end result is marriage, but you can’t track exactly which time you opened the door that may have caused the relationship to go from casual to serious. Social media is the same way … you simply keep providing value until eventually, hopefully, they take action. With PPC advertising you can track the cost per click and the cost per conversion using tracking data. The cost per conversion is a big factor, as it doesn’t matter how much traffic you get if they aren’t taking action,” continues Jeff.

4Spot Marketing offers a full range of services from organic SEO to PPC with both Google AdWords and Facebook Advertising. For those more advanced funeral homes, they also have a full- service business automation department.

“We can build out complete advertising campaigns that can highly target the market they are going after. We can help instruct on the types of educational campaigns that can help them capture the pre-need audience and continue to nurture until they have a need event,” Jeff explains.

A funeral home is considered a small business, and in small businesses today people tend to wear 15 different hats. And while that may seem like the right thing to do, it keeps firms on this hamster wheel of doing what they know, and what they feel has always worked. So, they may ignore how their families are changing and not focused on shifting their marketing.

“It’s easy to do the same thing you’ve always done, but it doesn’t mean it is what is the most effective. Challenge yourself this year to get more for your business – whether it’s more calls, more happy customers, more advice to people. All of these and more can be done with a diverse marketing plan,” suggests Ashley Montroy, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at FrontRunner Professional.

“Traditional marketing is expensive, and untrackable. Digital marketing costs much less and is completely trackable so you never say ‘I don’t know what that brought in’ again. It’s easy to find yourself just going through the motions. Marketing practices continue year after year without thinking about how consumers have changed. So, the same, expensive marketing tactics happen and money and time are wasted,” Ashley continues.

FrontRunner can take care of everything from website design, social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (paid Google advertising) to offline brochures, print advertisements and branding. Where they see the most success for their clients is when everything is integrated. FrontRunner can create funeral homes a website with all of the right messaging and tools, make sure it ranks on Google, and completely take care of their social media marketing as well.

“We can coach them so they are making the right decisions and show them where their biggest opportunities are, or we can fully manage their marketing for them. With digital marketing, we build the strategy, create the content and execute everything on their behalf so they rank on Google and do what needs to be done on Facebook to grow their business,” explains Ashely.

FrontRunner’s all-in-one software gives firms the technology they need to get their job done as quickly as possible, and the marketing strategies with a dedicated marketing team to grow their business like never before.

“A major consideration in almost all of our funeral home campaigns is that the client would like us to handle all of the online marketing ourselves. In other words, funeral directors don’t necessarily want to change the way they do business, and we don’t need it to do so. If we’ve done our job right, they can completely focus on serving their clients, while we focus on supercharging at-need calls,” states Welton Hong, Founder of Ring Ring Marketing.

“Of course, we also provide all the information a client wants or needs about exactly what we’re doing on the campaign. Funeral directors who want to be substantially more involved with the internet marketing process are welcome to do so. It’s their marketing budget, after all: They deserve to know exactly how it’s being spent. Ultimately, that’s the only major way our strategies impact the way the funeral home itself does business now: Funeral home owners must allocate more of their marketing budget now to online marketing, because the internet’s influence in death care decision-making is growing by leaps and bounds every year,” Welton adds.

Ring Ring Marketing offers a comprehensive suite of marketing services, from broad techniques such as reputation management, pay-per-click advertising, local search optimization, email marketing and website content generation to more surgical tools such as geotargeting, remarketing and social media marketing.

“That’s just a small sample of what we offer, but again, we only employ the specific tools that are right for each particular client. That’s incredibly important to me; we treat your money exactly like it’s our money. There’s no point to investing your marketing budget in efforts that won’t solve your needs in a cost-effective way,” explains Welton.

Internet marketing for funeral homes really works. That’s the most important thing to understand.

“The internet has transformed how business is done, and in 2018, with the ubiquity of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, the audience really is online now. And I’m not just referring to the younger generations. More and more people in older demographics make the internet their first choice for researching even traditional businesses such as funeral homes. That evolution will just keep amplifying,” Welton emphasizes.

Many funeral homes put great strategies together, but they don’t follow through with the implementation. Execution done right is a disciplined process, a logical set of connected activities by a funeral home to make a strategy work. Several suggestions to help funeral homes execute their strategies are:
• Set clear marketing priorities
• Collect and analyze data
• Evaluate the strategy on a regular basis

“While there certainly is something to be said about tracking website traffic and social media engagement, at the end of the day, it’s all about the bottom line and making the cash register ring. That said, the two most important indicators of success are how many at need calls are you conducting and how many pre-need contracts are you writing,” says Joe Weigel, Owner of Weigel Strategic Marketing.

Weigel Strategic Marketing offers a variety of services for funeral homes in today’s industry:

Strategic Marketing Plans – WSM makes it their mission to understand each business and can develop a robust marketing and communications plan tailored to grow your business.

Marketing Collateral – Brochures, flyers, sales sheets and print ads that convey key messages in a clear, coherent and visually appealing fashion.

Content Creation – WSM uses their expertise to create both digital marketing and social media campaigns that get posted, retweeted, liked and shared.

Copywriting – Whether it’s copy for an ad or content for a website, WSM has the expertise and experience to make your message resonate with your audience.

Public Relations – Writing press releases is a specialized craft. Many people try; few do it well. WSM knows how to create clear, succinct releases that get attention.

Client-authored Articles – When you need a bylined article written that is intended for publication, WSM can provide focused writing that gets the reader’s attention.

Media Relations – WSM has earned a reputation among industry peers and the funeral media for securing coverage in both consumer and funeral service media outlets.