The digital age has been in full swing for several years now, but it's different in 2021. We're all getting back down to business after the COVID-19 pandemic turned everything on its ear. Independent funeral homes find themselves reckoning with the most significant disruption event they've faced in years.
Long story short, the world was going digital long before COVID reared its ugly head. But COVID massively accelerated this process. That's why it's so critical for independent funeral homes to invest in their online presence and digital marketing strategies. There's nothing wrong with continuing to market offline, but those channels should complement your digital marketing approach. I’d like to highlight some of the most effective digital marketing tools funeral homes should be employing today.
The number-one formula for growing at-need calls is to perform better on search engines, specifically Google. It's the first part of simple equation I express like this:
Google = At-needs / Social Media = Preneeds
The first part means that you need to optimize your funeral home’s digital presence through search engine optimization, aka SEO (organic listings) and search engine marketing, aka SEM (paid search).
When there's a death with no plan in place, a family member will typically go online and do a simple search for a funeral home with the location, e.g., "Tucson funeral homes." The funeral homes best represented on that search have a massive advantage over their local competitors at getting that call.
For the greatest advantage in search engine placement, a funeral home will leverage all three of these areas:
- Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising: These simple ads ensure high visibility on the search engine results page (SERP) for a specific query, and you're only charged when someone actually clicks on the ad, sending them to your website or a specially designed landing page for your business.
- Local search map listings: This ensures your funeral home appears on a map of search-specific businesses on the SERP. At-need clientele need a provider who is close by, and this lets them see your location at a glance. It also increases your visibility on massively popular apps such as Google Maps.
- Organic search results: These are the standard unpaid results on a given SERP. By improving search engine optimization (SEO) for your website, your funeral home appears higher on this list, increasing the likelihood of conversions.
A HIGH-CONVERTING WEBSITE
If your website exists simply to provide an online presence but fails to actively convert visitors into clientele, its potential is being wasted. Today, you need more than a basic website – you need a website specifically designed to increase case counts and promote revenue-producing services.
Make your website much more powerful through conversion optimization efforts such as having a sticky header on every page, providing lots of original, relevant content and spotlighting a clear, persuasive call to action.
The better your website, the better you brand your firm as the elite option in your market, which means you can leverage your services for more revenue per call and fight off competition from low-cost direct cremation providers.
REVIEWS & REPUTATION MANAGEMENT
Every sort of business is now subject to consumer reviews online, and this includes funeral service providers. It’s particularly crucial for a business such as a funeral home to have an impeccable reputation online, because trust is such a critical aspect of the client-provider relationship.
Ensuring excellent online reviews isn't as simple as just doing a great job, although that's certainly the foundation. Be sure someone on your team is monitoring your firm's reputation on sites such as Google, Yelp and Facebook, mitigating the damage of negative reviews and encouraging positive reviews.
Quantity is just as important as quality. With so many more people choosing service provided online, it's absolutely essential that you have a large quantity and high quality of online reviews. For example, more people will trust your firm – and your SEO will be stronger – if you have 60 reviews with a 4.8 overall rating instead of 15 reviews with a perfect 5.0 rating.
Earlier, I noted that Google generates at-needs, whereas social media leads to preneeds. Let's dig a bit deeper into that.
If you want your ice cream sundae to taste great, you put hot fudge on it. If you want your car engine to run properly, you ensure there's sufficient motor oil in it.
Hot fudge and motor oil are both highly effective for their purposes but imagine the consequences if you mixed them up. Hot fudge in your engine would kill it. Motor oil on your sundae could kill you.
The same is true of search and social media. If you want to generate at-need calls, the tool you need is search. If you're focusing on preneed leads, the tool for that is social media.
If you mix them up, it's like motor oil on your sundae or hot fudge in your engine. Search isn't an especially effective tool for preneed. Social media doesn't do much at all for at-need.
But that doesn't mean you should ignore social media. If you use it correctly, it helps brand your funeral home as the go-to option in your area, and it's amazing for educating local families on the benefits of prearrangement.
One big key to social media that surprises many funeral home owners is that most of your organic posts shouldn't reference death at all. Instead, you should be cultivating relationships with the deathcare demographic by posting about wellness, travel, lifestyle themes and so on. That's about 95 percent of your content right there.
"Salesy" posts about services you provide (such as funeral preplanning) should appear infrequently and only after you've taken the time to build a rapport with the audience. For the most part, people don't want to be sold to on social media, so focus first on relationship building.
In this post-pandemic landscape, it’s safe to say that the changes in consumers’ behavior aren’t so temporary. Some may have felt “forced” to use online services during COVID, but most have discovered that they like it. Leveraging these digital marketing strategies will help drive your firm’s at-need calls as well as generate more preneed contracts.
Homesteaders Solutions is excited to introduce a new integration with Ring Ring Marketing. This offering complements your existing marketing efforts with comprehensive digital tools to generate more preneed contracts while increasing at-need calls. As a bonus, Ring Ring Marketing is now offering exclusive benefits for Homesteaders’ customers. To learn more about Ring Ring Marketing’s comprehensive approach and exclusive offers, contact your account executive.
Welton Hong is the founder of Ring Ring Marketing® (www.FuneralHomeProfits.com) and a leading expert in helping funeral homes grow their at-need calls and preneed contracts. He educates funeral professionals through live presentations, webinars, blog posts and articles in numerous major industry publications. He's also the author of Making Your Phone Ring with Internet Marketing for Funeral Homes, Second Edition.