We hear the same refrain over and over: this is a time of unprecedented change in our profession. It’s a time when funeral directors are doing their level best to deal with the two critical effects of these social, technological and economic shifts: declining revenues, and rising costs.
Both can undermine the financial success of any funeral home today, and crush the hopes and dreams of the funeral home owner and staff members. Is it any wonder they find themselves believing the assertions made by technology companies today? This willingness to believe has led many firms to select a funeral home website design with features they’ve been told families want and need. But are they really getting what their firm needs in a website?
I believe they’re not. In fact, I think there are five website mistakes which can undermine a funeral firm’s reputation and standing within their community:
There are a website companies out there that believe that your home page should not be about you, it should be about the products that they are trying to sell your visitors. While there are online opportunities for funeral homes, they need to be done professionally and respectfully.
If your website only comes across as a tool to try to sell people everything from a box of chocolates to flavoured popcorn, or turns their loved ones’ tributes into an online shopping cart, you stand to lose a lot more by turning families off, than you ever thought you were gaining.
While the funeral profession is changing, it is not changing away from quality, class and dignity. Not every website company understands and respects this underlying nature of our profession.
Beware of website designs which project your firm as being more of a vacation travel hotspot than the professional, dignified image the public expects. DreamWorks and Pixar are great for animated cartoons effects, not for funeral home websites. When your image on the web is as important as that in your community, professionalism and a dignified presence will always win over families.
When you compare Google’s top searches being done by the public seeking information on funerals, against those which actually match the information they are looking for; you quickly see the damage firms could be doing to their reputation—and what it could be really costing them. There is no shortage of companies out there claiming they can get your website high on the search rankings—and it can be tempting to buy in. However, if it is just adding tags to your website, or paying for Google Ads; you need to know the public has become far too savvy; they know what they are looking for, and know what to expect from their search results. If your funeral home tries to lure the public to your web site through search engine optimization, without providing the type and quality of information they were seeking; you run the risk of losing any trust they had in your firm.
There is a lot of noise being made about keeping the website simple. The reality is this: death and loss are not simple. Consumers are looking for information to help them, not a phone number to call if they have questions. Unfortunately, the simple fact is, many designers and developers advocate simplicity because they lack the expertise, talent and desire to invest in making your website more functional. Go with a firm proven to have your best interest at heart, not theirs.
The on-going loss of control and pirating of funeral homes online obituaries is, in my opinion, the single biggest threat facing the future of funeral service.
Unfortunately the problem is being precipitated by many funeral homes which either do nothing about; or willingly allow themselves to be duped by, the large suppliers and website providers who partner with these posting schemes to profit off and get at their valuable online traffic and visitor data.
These obituary posting schemes do nothing except effectively pull visitors away from a funeral firm’s website. However, the real damage comes from the well-intended condolences and words of support left by friends and family, now be scattered in guest books on tribute sites all over the Internet; never making it to their intended audience, where they are needed most. That does absolutely nothing to emotionally support the bereaved, or enhance the trust families placed in your firm.
Funeral homes must begin to aggressively claim the copyright that is afforded to them through the writing and compiling of these obituaries, and take back control of this valuable resource. Having the right website solution with an advanced obituary strategy is paramount.
There it is: my list of the top five ways your website could actually be driving families away from your firm. Some of them may surprise you. Some of them may be obvious. Hopefully all of them will give pause to re-think your current website strategy, if needed.
The onslaught of free websites, Sympathy Stores, no cost set-ups and promises of better casket pricing, are luring funeral home owners into doing one of two things: accepting websites which do nothing more than siphon off their online revenue opportunities, or allowing these companies to get access to their valuable data and visitor traffic.
There’s never been a more critical time to educate yourselves and surround yourself with the expertise found in a technology company that you can really trust. Your families are counting on it. Your future is depending on it.
Let us know what you think about the article or if you have any stories to share on your experiences in any of these areas, we would love to hear them! Please comment below.
Ashley Montroy, Marketing Director at FrontRunner Professional, has committed herself to helping funeral professionals understand and excel in today’s digital age. With a long-standing history in the funeral business and her father being a licensed funeral director for over 30 years; she grew up learning the family funeral business. Ashley holds a bachelor’s degree from Carleton University and diploma from Algonquin College. Today, she continues to speak to over 15 state and provincial funeral association groups each year on funeral marketing in the digital age and protecting funeral firms online using experiences and examples from working with thousands of funeral homes in North America through FrontRunner Professional.