7 Common Big Mistakes that Your Website Might be Making
Article by: Dan Heaman, The Foresight Companies, LLC
I look at funeral home websites at work every single day. It’s part of my job. And at least once each day, I find a website that leaves me asking “What are they thinking?” A good website is something you should consider as an employee. Except this employee is on duty 24/7/365, and doesn’t complain about missing lunch, has no problem answering questions on Christmas Day and won’t show up hungover after a long holiday weekend.
And unlike most people, I’ve been on both sides of the fence by working at a funeral home and assisting in the maintenance of the firm’s site and on the consultant side…from the outside looking in.
Considering that there are 20 to 25% of funeral homes that still do not have a website, let’s call that Big Mistake #1. Whether you are a small, rural firm with a limited market area or a large regional multi-location entity, you need a professional online presence. That means a unique, up-to-date and informative website. You must have one. Period. Professional websites are well within the realm of affordability, so there is very little excuse for not having one.
Big Mistake #2 is having a website without updating it. I never realized that there are still first-generation websites still alive and well in cyber-space…and many belong to funeral homes. Telltale signs include a copyright date from sometime in the last decade. These are becoming rarer but still 90% of funeral homes don’t update their website. You also need to update staff photos, facility shots (forget about your cars…nobody cares unless you use vehicles that are antique or otherwise unusual). If you include a downloadable GPL or pricing information, those are extremely important to keep current. (See also Big Mistake #6, Failure to include pricing.)
Big Mistake #2.5 is not having current ownership information, photos and biographies on the site. Ours is an intensely personal business, and people want to know who to look for when they come in the door. An amazing number of family-owned funeral home websites don’t mention who the owners are or who works there. You are costing yourself business that may have been yours due to the goodwill that you or your staffers have built (especially in larger markets) because people aren’t able to associate that goodwill with your firm.
Big Mistake #3 is simple enough. Your phone number needs to be large and easily found (and it should be on every page in the same location). If you go to the trouble of creating a website with the goal of converting a browser to a customer, don’t make it hard for them to find your phone number to close the deal. And in the same vein, lose the impersonal Contact Us form and give them an actual email address to an actual person to reach out to with email questions. And email@example.com doesn’t cut it anymore.
Big Mistake #4 would be a failure to make your website text a conversation. Don’t just speak at the customer, speak with them. Successful writers will tell you that they write in their own voice. You should do the same. It sets your firm apart and creates a warmer, more personal experience for the user. Do not be afraid to let some of your personality shine through, as long as it stays professional.
A plain-vanilla, cookie-cutter website (from whatever source) is Big Mistake #5. Just because it was free/cheap does not make it the best option for you. If you take your business seriously (and if you want to prove how different and better you are than the rest) don’t have the same crappy template website that the place across town does. You wouldn’t run the same ads as your competitor, so why would you get your website from the same place. Show some pride in your business and your brand by creating a professional and unique website. This is especially true if you happen to be trying to educate people why they should come to you, even if you cost more. To an online shopper, funeral home A with impersonal website costs less than funeral home B with impersonal website, so therefore, funeral home A gets the business because “all funeral homes are the same” so why pay more for the same service…right?
Which brings us to Big Mistake #6: No GPL or pricing information on your website. I’m sure there are those out there who say (in a suitably whiny nasal voice) “I don’t wanna give my competition my prices.” Guess what, Sparky? I bet that they already have them, just like you have theirs. Now picture in your mind the relocated adult child of someone who is dying in your town. That adult child is doing some research late one night before they come back. They see the site of one firm that is warm in appearance, friendly in its tone, and fully informative by answering as many of their questions as possible (including costs of goods and services as well as pictures of merchandise).
Then they look at cookie-cutter website of Brand X funeral home that hasn’t been updated in 5 years (but still has “Coming Soon” on the Staff page), has no pricing information or merchandise imagery, but it does have 1000+ boring words of the company history. The phone number is buried so far on the home page that they have to scroll down to see it. There are some grainy photos of the chapel circa 1988, and it may or may not look exactly the same.
Who do you think is more likely to get the call from that family?
That ties neatly into Big Mistake #7, which is the absence of a thoughtful Social Media strategy which in turn drives traffic to your website. A Facebook page is the bare minimum, with frequent postings of useful information for your market area, including the death notices of families you are serving. More forward-thinking professionals are including Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and other outlets to build relationships and engage in conversation with their community. It is a rare low-cost marketing vehicle that can make an enormous difference with your website traffic. It creates one more tie to the community, but please use it wisely. Your funeral home’s business page is not your personal soapbox. Keep your political opinions, religiosity, sports team preferences, et cetera on your personal (preferably set on private) Facebook page.
And some totally free, bonus advice: make it as easy as possible for someone to pre-arrange through your website, and include a shopping cart for payments. This literally can make you money while you sleep, and you don’t have to pay overtime to someone to meet with the family at 2am when they had the time and inclination to make those plans. To some, the idea of coming in, meeting with a funeral director or preneed salesperson and making arrangements at the funeral home is just enough to keep them from doing it, but a user-friendly pre-arrangement section of your website pulls them in while they are still hot. Any forms that you need them to sign for legal purposes can be quickly and easily handled at their home after the fact by your staff.
Your online presence is a key component of your firm’s brand and broadcasts non-stop. Will you manage it to your benefit or will you allow the fast-growing population of online browsers & buyers to seek out and find your competitor instead?