Who is Telling the Story of Funerals in Your Market?

February 5, 2013
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Article by: Colin Firth, mysendoff.com and guest writer for the Frontrunner Pro Blog

We have all seen the life insurance TV commercials airing across North America that say, “Funerals are expensive, and the price of an average funeral can cost over ten thousand dollars.” There is also the other version in which a gentleman explains with disbelief and shock in his voice, “A friend of mine died and the funeral cost over ten thousand dollars!”

As a funeral professional, you probably cringe and heave a deep sigh of frustration every time you see these commercials, which are usually aired during the prime time viewing hours. Rest assured that some of your families are listening to these advertisements because if the commercials weren’t effective, the insurance companies wouldn’t be running them in these expensive time slots.

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The truth is that you are probably right to cringe, but not only because of the exaggerated prices the commercial claims in the hope of scaring someone into purchasing a life insurance policy, you should be cringing because someone else is telling your funeral service story with misinformation that devalues and turns your service into nothing more than a commodity. With their message, these commercials have effectively turned the idea of funeral planning into nothing more than a financial transaction, ignoring the true value and compassionate service and dedication that funeral professionals provide.

But this education problem isn’t just limited to these TV commercials because in today’s Internet connected world, one cannot overlook the online discounters, casket and urn sellers and cremation providers that can be found with a simple Google search. Want a casket for less than $599? These discounters are out there and you can bet the consumers will find them easily enough. Whether your families ultimately purchase from a discount website, the fact that some of them know about the discounters can be enough to rock even the most seasoned funeral director back on their heels during an arrangement meeting.

With all of these new players nibbling away at the traditional business models of funeral homes, it’s little wonder people have often made their minds up on their choices before ever speaking with a funeral professional. Letting someone else become the messenger of the funeral service has been a critical error that could and should have been avoided by the industry when these new players appeared on the scene because, in some cases, they have now built a wall of misconception between you and your clients long before you ever had the opportunity to speak with them.

The result all across North America is that funeral professionals are now fighting the growing belief among some consumers that their services are nothing more than an invoice and the value of tradition is often secondary to price. This marginalizing trend is very sad considering the lifelong effort, long hours and compassion that most funeral professionals put into serving their families. But if anything good comes out of these changing consumer perceptions initiated by these new funeral pricing messengers, maybe the changes will serve as a wake up call to the industry that needs to adjust the way they present and position themselves through a new education and communication effort, one that will benefit the funeral professionals and of course, the families they serve.

Despite all of these new pressures on today’s funeral professionals, it isn’t too late to change if you are willing to accept today’s new reality for funeral service education and online marketing. Going out to the public with a controlled educational effort gives you the opportunity to tell your story on the true value that you provide.

As legendary entrepreneur Richard Branson of the incredibly successful Virgin group of companies says, “Change is here to stay, but change shouldn’t be feared, it should be managed.” So the real question for 2013 is – are you going to start to push back and create your own educational and communication effort for today’s online consumers?

Keep in mind that this change toward creating an education and new communication effort shouldn’t be feared, as it really isn’t as complicated as you might expect. There are two simple solutions to an educational effort that are right at your fingertips and very simple to implement and help you take back the role as the preferred funeral resource in your market.

Your website is the first piece of the puzzle for your education and communication effort and it should be updated regularly with new content that informs, educates and keeps visitors returning. You need to become be the preferred funeral resource in your community by increasing your website’s usefulness but this is a challenge to accomplish if you are only offering the same information that you have had posted for the past few years.

Given your busy schedule serving families, you are probably busy enough without having to worry about finding the time to write and post fresh new content for your website. This is understandable since you are a funeral director not a professional writer. But there are some innovative and simple content sharing options now available from one of the industry’s leading technology solution providers, FrontRunner Professional. They can help you with new funeral-related content that is automatically posted to your website and other social networking platforms with a simple software plug-in feature.

The other solution to your communication and educational efforts is that 900-pound online gorilla called Facebook. With this social media giant’s explosive growth in popularity over the past five years, you can be assured that over fifty percent of the people in the area you serve are connected to this social media network. You need to be in front of them with a Facebook presence because for the true innovators in any type of business, traditional media and old marketing methods are quickly being pushed aside by Facebook and its social media reach.

Now for some of you, this is where you roll your eyes because you think that Facebook is just for teenagers who like to show the world their crazy party pictures or share their silly comments. But those days are long gone as Facebook is now the mass media marketing tool for any type of business to build a network of followers. Some of the best features with Facebook are that it is completely free to use, and they have already saved a page for your funeral home (as they have with all North American businesses). Just like personal Facebook pages all that you have to do is go to facebook.com, open an account and take possession of your page. It is a pretty simple process that takes less than five minutes.
It is important to understand that with a presence on Facebook you are in 100% control of your content and marketing message. Any comments or messages that appear on your funeral home’s Facebook page have to be approved by you before posting, so the argument about tarnishing one’s image is a moot point. Facebook can be a game changer if used as an education and community-marketing tool. It really only takes a few minutes of time each day to update with new posts, and you can even share new content on your Facebook page that you have recently posted on your funeral home’s website.

The fastest growing segment on Facebook is now the Baby Boomers who keep in touch with their network of old school friends and family members and most of them store pictures and memories that one day can be used to tell their life stories. According to a recent survey commissioned by the highly respected Funeral Service Foundation, these Boomers want to talk about their funeral planning as they see their funeral sendoff as their “final crowning performance.” Clearly these Boomers and their network of friends are the people you want to reach out to with your funeral education message by encouraging them to talk about their sendoff plans and options. Facebook can be that conduit for you to reach these Boomers to help them initiate the conversation about their pre-need planning.

For your funeral home’s Facebook page you can build your own marketing network of contacts by providing useful content and information that brings the topic of funeral planning and education into the mainstream. By encouraging people to “like” your page and share your content with their network of Facebook friends you build on their network of friends and your marketing reach grows exponentially. You can encourage dialogue, provide useful funeral-related links or even events and achievements of people in your community. These regular posts will be automatically shared with your network of “liked” connections on Facebook directly onto their own Facebook page. Don’t overlook the fact that if you share new content and stories from your website on your Facebook page you can even use it to direct people back to your funeral home website, thus completing the social media and website loop.

So, you now have a couple of innovative ideas to help you take charge of the education and communication of the funeral information in your community. Next year at this time, if the question is posed “Who is telling the story of funerals in your market?” hopefully the answer will be that you are. Because after all, there is nobody better at serving the needs of your families than you, and in today’s changing market this now includes their funeral education needs.

Colin Firth is the founder of mysendoff.com, an innovative Internet-based business created to serve funeral professionals. In partnership with FrontRunner Professional, mysendoff.com offers a content and story sharing program for funeral home websites and social media programs.

“Originally published in Funeral Business Advisor – Canada, January-February 2013 issue”

Ryan Thogmartin

CEO at DISRUPT Media and ConnectingDirector.com
Ryan Thogmartin is the Owner and CEO of DISRUPT Media.

DISRUPT Media is a full-service creative agency built for the now. We partner with death care companies to drive deep-rooted brand loyalty and measurable leads through social media.

More Fans. More Conversations. More Leads.

Ryan is also the founder of ConnectingDirectors.com. ConnectingDirectors.com is the leading online daily publication for funeral professionals with a reader base of over 45,000 of the most elite and forward-thinking professionals in the profession. With ConnectingDirectors.com Ryan has created a global community through an online platform allowing funeral professionals to Stay Current. Stay Informed and Stay Elite.
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