Imagine a young woman preparing to plan a funeral for one of her parents. “Alexa, who offers the most affordable cremation service near me?” she says to her Amazon Echo, as she walks in the kitchen. The answer to be provided by the popular digital assistant, of course, is a matter of search engine optimization. However the query will not go through Google, the world’s most popular search engine. Instead it will be answered by Bing – the long overlooked “other” option. Chances are, the funeral home that gets recommended will also be receiving a call from this young lady. Is this what you picture choosing a funeral home to be like? Probably not.
If this scenario has you a little lost, listen up. Because this is what funeral home technology looks like in the very near future. And it may not be easy to spot the changes that are taking place.
You see, this year is going to be one of unprecedented progress. One where preconceived ideas about “what is possible” get thrown out the window in favour of a constant (and collective) effort to find new angles to connect with families. Ultimately, 2018 will redefine death care as we know it and shape what funeral service will look like in the future. You should pay close attention to the following funeral home technology trends if you want to stay ahead of the curve. This is part one of two to help you explore why technology should be an integral part of your funeral home operation. The most progressive firms will be taking things to a whole new level this year.
Let’s just say it: ranking on Google is not the only important factor to search engine success. However, ranking on other search engines like Bing or Yahoo has become increasingly important. Put simply, catering to all three search engines leaves no stone unturned and no online opportunity missed. The scenario I opened with is a prime (no pun intended) example of just how much search engine diversity is on the way. For example, if your website is geared strictly to Google alone, and you have no strategy for Bing, you will lose out on ALL queries generated through Amazon’s Alexa. By the same token, if your funeral home does not have a presence on Yahoo, you will also be missing out on some of the action. While Google’s power is not to be understated, it is especially important to have a well-rounded search engine marketing strategy this year.
Facebook has recently changed its news feed algorithm and that will have a major impact on businesses who rely on the platform for targeted advertising. Having an advertising budget for Facebook is not what it used to be. Yes, ads will still be seen by users, but they may cost more. The new name of the game is creating content that people will want to engage with and share with their friends. In 2018, it will be more difficult to buy your success on the world’s largest social network. Now, creating better, more relatable content is going to be your key to attracting more families.
Today’s consumers expect to be offered many different payment options when making a purchase. Crowdfunding, online payments, check, ApplePay, cash, financing, multiple payments, split bills and the list goes on. Accepting payments is now a measure of customer service. Is your firm ready? If you can’t offer families any option they are looking for, then you are not. In addition to helping to make funerals more affordable, flexible payment options help families make planning decisions without cost as a burden. In late 2017, we released FuneralPay, a suite of tools to help your firm offer this level of service to families.
If you have read our blog before, you will be familiar with the sentiment that having a funeral home website is the bare minimum to succeed. I mean, everyone has a website. What makes yours stand out? One small trick to improve your website is to make small updates frequently. Take your welcome message, for example, simply tweaking it to reflect a season, holiday or important community happening can go a long way to making your website more life-like. Similarly, updating images, adding recent video or incorporating a social media feed will have visitors feeling like your website is active and “open for business”. You no longer have to rely on a webmaster to do all of these things, either. We have developed the industry’s first DIY website platform to give you the power to control the look, feel and function of your funeral home’s site.
In an industry so heavily reliant upon face-to-face contact and relationship building, it seems blasphemous to suggest that anything could be “automated”. But hear me out. There is nothing wrong with automating certain things about your funeral home’s marketing. Maybe it is an automatic response email or a form that pops up after someone spends X amount of time on a certain page. You can even schedule a newsletter or a monthly email to keep in touch with families you have served in the past. Setting these up may take a little time up-front, but once they are, you will have extra time to focus on other things, aside from your funeral home marketing. For smaller firms, it can make up for lack of staff and for larger firms, it is an easy way to maintain a pristine business image.
Funeral home technology has taken on a new meaning. No longer is it about solutions, softwares, applications or even devices tailored specifically to the funeral industry. In 2018, progress in funeral home technology is all about the extent to which funeral homes adapt to and use the latest available tech. It is time, as a profession, that we stop separating what consumers actively use everyday from our expectations of technology.
We understand that this can be a lot to take in at one time. So we want to help you make sense of what funeral home technology will look like this year and for many years to come. Stay tuned for part two of this blog next week as I discuss more trends that your firm needs to pay attention to this year.
Brandon is the Marketing Communications Manager at FrontRunner Professional. He holds a Social Sciences degree from McMaster University and a Graduate Certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications from St. Lawrence College. His creative writing and innovative ideas bring new life to the company, FrontRunner’s clients and funeral directors world-wide.