In a world where technology changes on a monthly, if not weekly, basis, no business should stand idly by without changing to keep up with consumer expectations. This is especially important in a world where anyone, at any time, can pose a threat to any business by using technology to do, or appear to do the job better. Unfortunately, there are too many businesses that do not understand this threat. In the death care industry especially, many firms are already feeling the impact of new players that have found ways to capitalize on their families by using, you guessed it, the latest technology.
Far too often, funeral professionals are read the riot act about how far behind the eight ball they are when it comes to technology and “the way things are being done now’. Unfortunately, many are tuning it out and hoping that ‘how things have always been done’ will continue to bring them success.
The truth is, funeral homes cannot be pushed towards changing or seeking to reinvent themselves, at least not by us marketers or technology providers. The best we can do is use our experience to educate them on how funeral homes just like them are being affected by the change, both positively and negatively. The last thing we want is funeral home owners to look at each other years down the road and say they wish they adapted.
Best-selling author, CEO and thought leader, Gary Vaynerchuk, speaks often on this subject. He suggests that every business should seek to be their own biggest threat or someone else will be, a mindset he carries with as he runs his own companies. “The only job I have every day” Vaynerchuk says, “is to wake up and put this company out of business. We need to be the ones putting ourselves out of business, not letting someone else do it for us.” A lesson that could help many funeral homes better adapt to family habits.
Consumers now turn to Google instead of making a phone call when they want answers. Retail giants like Amazon, Costco and Walmart have entered the market using the Internet, dipping their toes into death care, leaving many funeral homes trying to catch up.
So, what can firms do to prepare themselves? The answer isn’t all that difficult. Sure, it is different than what funeral businesses are used to. However, we live in a world that is constantly evolving and just because we deal with the topic of death, doesn’t mean our customers are not using technology in search of information on that topic.
As an industry, we must cater to this. Using technology properly can and will get more eyes on your funeral business and I am going to focus on a few areas to show you how this happens.
Technology Gives You More Time to Help Families
How can you focus on using technology and bring innovation to your funeral home if you spend all of your time working in the business and no time working on the business?
For many funeral homes this comes downs to the amount of time being invested in paperwork, accounting and record keeping that could otherwise be automated. When trying to modernize your firm, look at all of the things you do to get the job done. Are you writing everything by hand, typing information into multiple Microsoft Word documents or using multiple pieces of software? Technology can streamline these processes and save hours of time and money, giving you more time to better serve your families or work on the business.
Technology Gets More Eyes on Your Business
All over the world, families are finding funeral homes through Google searches. They are getting to know funeral directors on Facebook long before they need their services. Digital marketing for any business today is extremely important, if not imperative. And though I do not want to create any added pressure, having a website and social media presence is only the bare minimum. Each of these mediums changes all of the time and if you are not there at every turn, ready to be there for your families on their terms, your firm stands to lose.
Facebook alone has over 1 billion active monthly users and this means likely thousands or hundreds of thousands in your community. So, if you are not on the world’s largest social media network, you are losing out on valuable opportunity to connect with families, something that would have cost thousands of dollars traditionally with no way to track the success. These days it is around every corner, on every smartphone, and over half of consumers turn to social media for their buying research, and even more turn to Google to find answers.
Technology Helps Your Firm Meet and Exceed
Connecting with families can be difficult, even using the most popular channels, if you are unable to shape your firm’s messaging around their expectations. Today’s most progressive funeral homes keep up with consumer habits. Families research online, expect quick responses through email or even chat, and seek instant information to make their decisions easier. They care less about where it comes from as long as it is available, even if it means a funeral home other than yours is supplying that information.
Before you panic, remember that the same technology solutions and marketing channels are available to every business. Start by researching what families are looking for. Did you know you can see exactly what your families type into Google each and every month? This is just a fraction of the powerful information that is available to help your business improve online. With so many resources available, it has never been easier to be found by your families.
Technology Brings You MORE Revenue
(When Done Right)
Revenue is the lifeline to any successful business. Aligning yourself with the right website provider can not only generate you the new revenues you need, but it can also make or break your reputation online.
The ability to sell flowers, gifts, urns and more online to millions of consumers worldwide has attracted many third-party companies to our great profession. These companies get away with capitalizing on death care because funeral homes simply do not understand technology and the Internet or choose to put it on the back-burner. As a profession, we need to invest more in technology. As business owners, we need to protect what we’ve built. Online companies, not just your competitor up the street are making billions of dollars each year. This is money that should be yours, website traffic that should be yours and it is services that you should be offering YOUR families.
Next Steps: Be Progressive & Take Advantage
Start with what you can control and know that technology is not your enemy. Technology saves your staff hours on paperwork every and has the power to bring you more business every single day. The best option is to seek out a technology solution that brings all your needs into one place. Instead of relying on multiple pieces of software, Microsoft Word alone or writing all paperwork by hand, find a technology provider that will help you get the job done with one piece of software, and one point of data entry. In this day and age, you can’t afford to be inefficient.
From my experience in working with more than 2,500 funeral homes across North America, I have seen the direct impact of technology on funeral homes, both for better and for worse. For example, waiting three days to post an obituary to your website instead of making it the first thing you do can be a big problem. If you get an obituary on your website, even before it goes to the newspaper and publishes on their website, you’ll be the primary source for obituary information, and the go-to place for flowers, gifts and other mementos. In fact, firms that post the obituary on their website immediately generate ten times more revenue per death record. We’ve seen many funeral homes generate $70,000 per year or more just from embracing the obituary fully on their website. This small, habitual change to your business practices will make your firm more profitable and will help mitigate the risk of outside threats that can come from technology and the Internet. It is time to let technology bring you more business and position your firm where your families spend their time, online. You will thank us as you close out your year end.
In closing, just remember that keeping up with trends and innovations in technology can be difficult, but it is not impossible and quite easy with the right partner in your corner. Once you do this, staying ahead will be easier than you ever imagined. It’s time to embrace technology and make it work for your firm. FBA
Ashley Montroy, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of FrontRunner Professional, is committed to helping funeral professionals understand and excel in today’s digital age. Ashley holds a bachelor’s degree, diploma and multiple marketing certificates, and has a long-standing history in funeral service. Each year, she teaches firms how to build marketing strategies and protect their firm online at state, provincial, and international association conventions across North America. Recently voted a top 5 speaker at the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) convention, Ashley uses her passion combined with FrontRunner’s experience of providing technology and marketing solutions to more than 2,500 funeral homes, and empowers funeral professionals to not only understand their markets, but educates them on the tools and knowledge they need to truly grow their business. She can be reached at [email protected]