It seems to me, and a whole lot of other people including academics, financial advisors, health care professionals, and marketers; today’s world is one of “information haves” and “information have-nots”. Let’s consider funeral service. Funeral home owners and managers, funeral directors, embalmers, pre-need advisors, celebrants—we’ve got the information families need to make important end-of-life decisions. Most families don’t.
And this gap between the two—between families and the professionals who intend to serve them—needs to be recognized, and effectively bridged. The “information haves” need to creatively provide (using as many channels as possible, online and offline) critical information to the “information have-nots”. We need to effectively “fill the gap”.
But that doesn’t mean just tossing everything under the sun related to funeral service on your funeral firm website, much as we do when feeding ducks at the local park. It’s not a matter of scattering information and hoping it meets with the expectations (and needs) of our audience. Hoping they will find what they are looking for, that they are able to digest it, and because we gave them this valuable information, turn to us when they have need of our services.
What is it that Friedrich Nietzsche wrote about hope? “Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man”. No, hope won’t do; not at all.What is needed is simple: investigative research. You may even wish to slip into their shoes, to adopt a consumer perspective; because you’ve got to be able to answer this question with accuracy: What is it families in my community want to know?
And then…you guessed it…you’ve got to deliver the desired educational content in as many ways, in as many formats, as possible. To do that, it’s important to recognize how audience members differ and how these differences affect their selection and use of information:
1. Communication Skills: they differ in their ability to decode and process information
2. Channel Availability: they differ in the extent to which they have ready access to information sources
3. Motivation: they differ in the desire or intent to use the information provided
When you view your audience with these parameters, it becomes easier to see why most experts stress the importance of variable “information packaging”: delivering content in a number of ways, through a variety of channels.
I’ve always been a proponent of funeral professionals as educators. Unfortunately, many aren’t comfortable with the role. Still I say, get out of your comfort zone, and step up! You’re the expert here, and your audience (believe me when I say this) is hungry for the quality of information you can provide.
But you’ve got to know what they are hungry for, right? There are many ways to discover the funeral home marketing trends in your locality, including keyword research, website analytics, and (my favorite), polling your audience via social media and the “old school” means of one-on-one conversation.
Grab your pencil and paper, and head over to the Google Keywords tool, and enter the following search phrases:
What will you learn? Well for me, it was that over 368,000 local searches were done on the phrase what is cremation. And over 18,000 local searches were done with how to plan a funeral. In fact, the only one of those search phrases yielded less than 9,900 (why have a funeral?), and that was green cremation, with 1,000 local searches (on average) during the past 12 months. I know these will be big numbers for you too!
See what I mean? What you’ve got is a snapshot of search trends, one documenting that thousands of people are looking for the kind of information only you, their trusted funeral service professional can provide.
Second, review your website’s analytics, where you’ll better come to know the search expectations and relevant behavors of your website visitors. How long do they stay on your site? What pages are they visiting most often? With regular review of your analytics, and a quarterly visit to the Google Keywords tool, you’ll be able to know for sure if your website is providing site visitors with the kind of funeral service information they are looking for.
Third, talk to people. Wherever you find the moment, ask them about the end-of-life things that keep them up at night. What you’re hearing really is evidence of an information gap: one that you can now fill with updated website content, social media postings and offline educational events.
When you do so, remember, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” (Source) When you wisely fill the existing information gap for families, you’re not only empowering them to make better decisions, you’re positioning you, and your funeral firm, as a trusted community resource.
Reputation enhancement. Greater brand awareness. Differentiating your firm from the competition. It doesn’t get better than that, now does it?