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.
Thanks for commenting Paul! I am glad you shared the things you did, because we see this exact thing happen to so many funeral homes. It is nice to hear a funeral director come out and say it online. FrontRunner has done a few presentations in this area, and while this happens to many, some funeral directors have no idea what is even happening out there online and how it is affecting their business. Kudos for being so aware. Hopefully our Obits for Life initiative will help all funeral directors regain control of their obits and keep them in the right place for their intended audience. Cheers!
Thanks for providing this blog. I agree wholeheartedly with # 5 Loss of Control of your Online Obituaries. It seems there is always someone wanting to make money by linking your obituaries to their media ie: television, radio and other print publications. Our local newspaper has a fee for their online obituary which has it’s own online condolence feature which of course is separate from ours and also costs money to leave it on longer than a specific period of time. After that time period someone has to pay to extend it. I don’t feel that just because a family wants the obituary in print that the newspaper should be able to require them to place and pay the additional amount for their online obituary. Which as you mentioned in the article scatters the condolence messages into multiple books in different locations.
Hi Ashley, Do you have an example of a funeral home website with the “Disney Effect”?
Great question! I would love to give an example, however, it is not our intent to single out any company or funeral home. We merely address it because we speak with hundreds of funeral homes per week and it is a common sentiment against companies who have introduced themes for websites and for their online video memorials that mimic more of an animated cartoon, then a dignified professional presence. Many feel it is not good for funeral service. As funeral professionals ourselves, we tend to agree.
We maintain that Funeral Homes can have a website that is very modern and different from the norm, while still maintaining a dignified approach that is more in keeping with the sensitivity of the subject. We encourage all funeral homes to follow this path, and trust their instincts and their website provider’s advice when it comes to their firm’s brand online. Every funeral professional wants something dignified that gives a great representation of their business and services. When a website looks more”Disney” than professional and dignified for the profession, instincts should tell any funeral professional just that.
On a side note – great job with your online presence, Paul. Clean, professional and informative!
I agree with Ashley, Paul, when she wrote,”Funeral homes can have a website that is very modern and different from the norm, while still maintaining a dignified approach that is more in keeping with the sensitivity of the subject.”
And it seems that’s exactly what you’ve done with your firm’s website – it’s inviting, yet respectful of a site visitor’s social sensibilities and expectations. Nicely done. (And as an aside, I’ve got to be honest with you. I love the font you selected for us in your logo – I love the art deco styling of the 1920s and 30s. Beautiful – and sets a very refined tone.)
Great post, Ashley. I look at funeral home websites every day, and boy do I get to see the good, the bad and the ugly!
On point #4 ‘lack of Functionality’ I would just critique your comment about “Consumers are looking for information to help them, not a phone number to call if they have questions”. I believe you do have to differentiate between ‘at need’ and ‘preneed’. I have seen too many websites where I cannot immediately find a phone number (even when I am looking for one). At need customers are most certainly looking for a phone number.
However, I agree that ‘content is king’ and a good funeral home website should have informative, clear, concise and relevant information. I believe price-shopping has become an important part of why funeral consumers browse online, so websites that do not disclose any pricing can be a complete turn-off, yet at the same time lengthy GPLs are off-putting. I am not too sure about your statement about “simplicity”. I believe you can have an excellent functional website that is simplistic in design, information and navigation.
Another no-no as far as our experience online is concerned is template driven websites with dup content. At the moment in the Googleplex world unique, fresh, authored content is #1 for inbound traffic. Not many funeral websites run blogs, and most of those that do seem to give up after 2 or 3 entries. Yes, okay, I know blogging about death isn’t really that appealing a subject. But it can be done well, as Caleb Wilde has shown us, and surely funeral homes would be much better off putting all their Facebook content (which they then do not own rights to) onto a blog on their own website? As funeral homes become more ‘social’ and more involved in their communities – surely there is a great opportunity for ‘real’ content generation?
Thanks, Sara for the comments on the blog post!
Great point about “Consumers are looking for information to help them, not a phone number to call if they have questions”. I think there are two very distinct markets that are after very different information, however, I too often come across, not just funeral home websites, but others as well that lead you to believe that you are going to find exactly what you were looking for. However, when you get there you find that all you are given is a phone number to call to get what you were after. Today’s consumers are used to getting the information they are looking for online from other industries, and I believe that funeral homes need to adapt to their new consumers who are on the Internet doing their due diligence.
And great comments on the blogging. I am so happy you mentioned this. I just came off of our annual workshop cruise and was speaking a lot about this topic during workshop sessions. A lot of funeral homes are not blogging but it is such a great opportunity for them to become that go-to resource in their community and make the search engines see them more and more.