Funeral homes don’t market themselves on the internet.
A funeral home marketing plan is best accomplished through word of mouth in the community. It can also employ print advertising, in newspapers or the Yellow Pages.
That’s just how it is. That’s how it’s always been done. And that’s the way it always will be.
And…it’s time to forget all of that.
This is a new age—a digital age, to be specific. Newspapers have been struggling for years, and many of them frankly are on the brink of extinction.
The print Yellow Pages directory is ignored by all but a small segment of the population, mostly elder people. Everyone else tosses that big book right in the recycling bin.
While certain offline funeral home marketing strategies still retain some effectiveness, hoping for a Yellow Pages listing (and even a display ad) to save that day is a losing proposition.
More often than not, today’s families will find you online. If you’re looking to supercharge your at-need calls in 2019 and beyond, you need to focus your attention and your marketing dollars on the internet.
Now, we’re sure that many of you reading this are marketing your funeral homes online—at least to some degree. That’s a message you’ll hear from a variety of funeral home marketing companies. No business can survive these days without at least a website and an email address, and a funeral home is no exception.
However, by itself, a website is just an essential aspect of doing business in the digital age. It’s really not much different than having a phone number.
You’d never even consider having a business without a phone number, and that’s all a website (by itself) is these days.
When we say “by itself,” here’s what we mean: A website can be an amazing marketing tool. It can be an amazing generator of both at-need and preneed contracts. (This guide focuses on at-needs, but obviously preplanning is important as well.) It can be utilized in a way that generates far more leads than any traditional advertising methods.
However, all too often, none of that happens. For many local, independent businesses—but especially for many funeral homes—the website does little more than exist. It’s an online presence and nothing more. It could be an incredible resource, but it’s reduced to little more than untapped potential.
And in those businesses, the website is often where the online aspect of a funeral home marketing plan begins and ends. There might be a little attention placed on search engine marketing, but it’s often rudimentary at best.
Some of these funeral home owners remain unfamiliar with pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, one of the most powerful lead generators available to funeral homes today. They know little about local search, mobile marketing, the importance of reviews, etc. They might be cognizant of various funeral home marketing ideas, but they have no idea how to execute them.
And that’s okay. Because given that you’re reading this, we know you’re interested in doing everything you can to make your funeral home as successful as possible.
And because many of your local competitors likely aren’t digging into funeral home marketing strategies the way they should be, you have a great chance to dominate your market in at-need calls by simply employing some of these tools.
Yes, the very fact that the death care industry (at the local level, at least) has been slow to adopt to the digital age is what makes it such a great opportunity for you.
While they’re stalling, you can take advantage of all the latest funeral home marketing trends. You can jump to the top of organic rankings for your geographic area.
You can have the dominant local website for attracting at-need clientele and converting visitors into contracts. You can have the overwhelming share of reviews (and the highest-quality ones), marking your funeral home as the leader in your market.
Sound good? Then let’s get started.
SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING
At its essence, search engine marketing (SEM) simply refers to funeral home marketing strategies you execute through search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
We don’t want to entirely ignore the latter two, because all three of these search engines are important. However, in this handbook, we will focus almost entirely on Google.
That’s because Google has a dominating market share—over 90 percent of search in America is done on Google, and pretty much anything you do that helps your visibility with Google will do the same with the others.
Of all the funeral home marketing ideas we’ll cover in this guide for generating at-need calls, search engine marketing remains the foundation. If your funeral home fails to do a good job here, you won’t attract visitors to your website, and thus you won’t be converting visitors into phone calls for at-need services.
With that said, you could be doing an amazing job with SEM, driving tons of traffic to your site, but if you don’t have a high-converting site, it won’t matter. Your site must be optimized to convert. If it’s a bad website, regardless of how good your funeral home marketing plan is, you won’t get the call.
I’ll get into that in more detail later, but for now, just remember that the two go hand in hand: Great search engine marketing generates the traffic. A great website monetizes that traffic (by turning it into at-need calls). One doesn’t work without the other.
Over the past year, more than 1.2 million people searched for funeral homes on Google. Of those searches, more than half searched on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. That’s how dominant mobile search is now. Put a pin in that, because we’ll dig in deeper on that point and how it relates to other funeral home marketing trends later.
So we’re in a time when many more people are searching for your services on mobile phones. This is especially true for at-need situations, because when a family is dealing with the death of a loved one, they’ll often turn to the research option most immediately at hand—a smartphone, which is connected 24/7 to the internet.
If they’re in a hospital and a family member just died, they likely don’t have a laptop (and definitely don’t have a desktop computer) at hand. But they all have their phones.
(Additionally, there’s been a massive spike in household adoption for voice-controlled computing devices, aka “smart speakers,” over the past year, so optimizing for voice searches is becoming important as well. It’s a trend we need to follow closely when considering marketing strategies for funeral homes.)
Let’s look at what these family members discover when they do a search for funeral homes in their area.
Say, for example, they’re in Colorado Springs. If they do a search on Google (as most people do) for “funeral home” or “funeral” or “burial” or “cremation,” they’ll be displayed a search engine results page (SERP) for providers of these services in their area. (In the vast majority of cases, they don’t even have to type in “Colorado Springs.”)
When the SERP appears, it will have three different elements:
- At the top of the page, the searcher will see pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements, which are foundational to the top funeral home marketing strategies. These are paid ads (as opposed to organic listings).
- Beneath that, they’ll see the local business search section, a listing of three local providers, that is accompanied by a map. These are unpaid (free) listings. This list of three providers is commonly called the “Local 3-Pack.”
- Finally, they’ll see the organic search listings. These are the unpaid (free) listings of businesses in the area, typically ranked in order of what Google considers the most useful to the searcher. When you’ve employed great search engine optimization (SEO), you tend to be among the very top of these listings—and being in that area is crucial to your success.
Here’s how each of these elements works:
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
PPC isn’t just one of the top funeral home marketing trends right now. It’s one of the most commanding tools for delivering at-need calls immediately, so we’re going to cover it in considerable detail.
These are paid ads. On a SERP, you’ll typically see a total of seven of these ads: four on top, three more at the bottom. (Google used to show more of these ads on the right side of the SERP, but it’s stopped doing that.)
When you employ a well-designed PPC campaign, you’re essentially paying to jump to the top of search results for your industry and your geographic area. Instead of waiting for SEO to kick in and improve your organic (unpaid) rankings, you get prime real estate up top. These ads get a much higher click-through rate (how many people click the link) than listings lower on the SERP.
PPC ads have a variety of other benefits, including:
- Cost-effectiveness: With PPC, you only pay when someone clicks your ad. And virtually no one will be clicking who is not in need of your services. If your ad is targeting at-need calls, you’ll get clicks from urgent leads.
- Virtually instant website traffic: When you start a PPC campaign, you’ll have ads on the front pages of SERPs for Google (and other search engines, if desired) within only a few days.
- Flexibility over print: You can do banner ads and streaming video with PPC. You also can alter your ads anytime on the fly to ensure maximum effectiveness. None of that is possible with print.
- Laser targeting: You’re only advertising to people looking for exactly what you provide. You also can specifically target by location to reach local clientele.
To create a PPC campaign for your funeral home marketing plan, you use keyword analysis to determine the keywords that fit your business like a glove. That includes terms specific to death care and its services, along with specific geography.
Your campaign also should include negative keywords, which sounds scary, but this simply means keywords you want to exclude when people search for them. For example, if you don’t do pet cremation, you would exclude terms such as “pet,” “dog,” “cat,” etc., so searchers for such services won’t see your ads. (This works wonderfully, which is why it’s currently one of the key funeral home marketing trends.)
Regarding geography, your campaign can be a macro or micro as you like. Options include city names, a defined radius, and zip codes.
For example, if you want to exclude certain less desirable neighborhoods, you can exclude the zip codes in those areas. Additionally, if you have a full-service funeral home and a direct cremation service, you might want to use a limited radius for the funeral home and a broader one for direct cremation.
This is another great benefit of PPC and an excellent tool when marketing for funeral homes. It lets you only run ads during the times of day you prefer.
Many funeral homes are available 24/7, so they have their ads running constantly. However, some don’t need that. Perhaps they can’t handle that much business, or they prefer to only get calls during certain times of the day. You can select the time ranges in which your ads appear, ensuring they’re only displayed when you want them to be.
Faucet of Leads
This is another important aspect of PPC. It means at any time, you can adjust how often your ads appear.
As part of your comprehensive funeral home marketing plan, you can effectively turn on the faucet full blast, letting your ads appear all the time, to generate as many leads as possible.
Alternatively, if you have more business than you can handle and need to suspend lead generation for a bit, you can pause all of your ads—that’s turning the faucet off entirely.
Or, if you’re moderately busy and would like to keep generating a flow of leads—but not the “full blast” option—you can set your ad buy to just let leads drip in for a while.
Ultimately, these decisions are determined by your maximum daily budget for PPC and how much of a lead flow you wish to accomplish. It can be adjusted at any time and takes effect virtually immediately.
PPC on Mobile Devices
While PPC advertising is a great at-need calls generator on any type of device, it’s especially effective on mobile devices—which is great, because more and more people search on mobile every day.
On a mobile device, the PPC ads at the top of the SERP virtually always take up the full real estate of the phone screen. You won’t see anything else until you scroll down. All of the unpaid results are hidden at first. That’s why it’s critical, given the popularity of smartphones, that you stake your claim for that real estate with PPC ads. It’s a core aspect of marketing for funeral homes.
Another consideration: With everything else smartphones do these days, it’s sometimes easy to forget that they’re actually phones. In your PPC ad, there’s CALL button function right there in the ad. With the single tap of a finger, a family can call you for an at-need situation. They’re already on a phone, so you get an immediate conversion.
Note that you must be sure to turn on the call button when you set up your PPC ad, because it’s not activated by default. When you have the function enabled, leads bypass your website and go straight to calling you. It’s one of the very best ways to grow at-need calls.
Local Business Search/MAP
Again, this section appears directly under the first batch of PPC ads, as long as there are PPC campaigns in your area. It’s a way for Google to spotlight what it considers the very best providers in a given industry in the area. (So it’s important to be in here.) There’s no cost for this; Google does it for free. No more than three businesses appear here, so you want to be among them. It’s one of the most critical aspects of marketing for funeral homes.
Here are the main factors Google considers for whether you make the grade:
- Have a complete business listing on Google. Be sure you’ve claimed your Google My Business listing. Then, make sure everything is filled out, and especially that your business’s name, phone number, address and business category are all accurate. You also can add photos here. Definitely do so—upload a minimum of 10. You can add videos as well, and I highly recommend doing so.
- Have a high quantity and quality of online reviews. The more the better, and the more positive, the better. Both quantity and quality really matter (more on that later).
- Have many high-quality citations. Even if you’ve claimed your listing, Google doesn’t know whether you’re legitimate unless you have citations (other places on the internet where your business name appears). In citations, your business name, phone number, and address all must be identical. That’s extremely important. Make sure all of your business info is uniform across the internet.
Again, these are the old-school “search results” you’re familiar with from the very first days of Google and similar search engines. These listings are not as powerful as they used to be in the days before PPC ads and Local Search, but they still definitely matter. Some searchers remain wary of paid ads and tend to click on organic listings.
To get the best organic listings (and thus capture all those at-need calls), you must employ great SEO. That’s one of the key marketing strategies for funeral homes you’re likely already familiar with, and it’s one with so many facets, we can’t really get into all of them here.
But the most important thing to know in 2019 is that websites can’t game the system the way they used to do. That’s “black hat” SEO, and webmasters who try these tricks now see their websites severely punished in organic rankings.
For SEO, what Google really wants to see from your website in 2019 is lots and lots (and lots of lots) of great content. That means plenty of original, relevant content that really educates the visitor on everything you do and everything you know about death care services.
The three words that define great SEO and top organic rankings today are “Content Is King.” That’s not only text content but also images and videos, plus (where appropriate) other content elements such as graphs and infographics. The more high-quality content, the better.
Now that we’ve covered the essential aspects of search engine marketing, let’s look at website conversions: how to turn website visitors into actual at-need clientele. Without that, none of the other funeral home marketing ideas you employ matter much at all.
We mentioned in the last section that content is king, and indeed, a website that’s rich in high-quality, original, relevant content also tends to be one that’s great at converting.
However, many other funeral home marketing strategies factor into this consideration. In fact, we actually have a 37-point checklist! But for our purposes here, let’s focus on the seven most critical factors in getting website conversions for at-need calls:
- Clear call to action (CTA) on all pages. Most people coming to your site for at-need situations are in despair, so you really need to guide them to the next step. You need a great call to action, paired with your phone number, on every page. This is ideally in the top right corner, in the form of a recurring header. Also, make sure the phone number is big enough to see easily.
- Unique selling proposition (USP). How are you different from your local competitors? Figure out how to differentiate yourself and really show it off. Where is your key strategic advantage? Play that up. Every successful business needs to know its USP.
- Business profile video. These days, people love to look at videos. When people see video of your funeral home and what your directors (and other staff) look like, that builds credibility. These videos are ideally no more than a minute long, and these days, the price for a professional videographer is very reasonable.
- Credibility (pictures, videos, testimonials, logos, Yelp, etc.). Remember that these families need help immediately. You need to let them know that you are a credible, legitimate, superior service provider. Display pictures of the funeral home and pictures and bios of the staff. Also include several great testimonials by satisfied clientele.
- Social media buttons. If you have a social media presence, make sure you’re displaying the buttons for those platforms and that they can be clearly seen. This is one of the most basic funeral home marketing trends to follow.
- Ease of contacting you. Check your website to see how easy it is for people to find your phone number. Pull up the site on a mobile phone and make sure the number is always there, no matter where you are on the site, for you to “tap to call.” (That means it’s coded so someone on a phone can simply call you by tapping the number.)
- Google Analytics. This free service helps you know how well your engagement is working. You can figure out where visitors are coming from, which pages they’re checking out, and how long they stay. This data is incredibly helpful for improving conversions.
REVIEWS AND REPUTATION
Reputation is everything in the local funeral home industry. If you don’t have a strong reputation, you’re in serious trouble. No one wants to entrust the care of a recently passed family member to a funeral home that doesn’t have a stellar reputation. This is paramount to any type of marketing for funeral homes.
And regardless of what your reputation might be offline (in your community), it’s just as critical—if not more so—to have a phenomenal reputation online. That means that your funeral home has a lot of five-star reviews (or their equivalent) on platforms such as Yelp, Google, and Facebook.
If someone in an at-need situation comes across a funeral home with a 2.5-star average rating on Yelp, there’s no way they’re contacting that business. That’s just not good enough. In fact, studies show most people won’t bother contacting a business with an overall rating of less than four stars.
Similarly, if a home has virtually no reviews on Yelp or other platforms, it’s highly unlikely to get that at-need call. People want to know a funeral home has plenty of experience and an investment in the community. So you really need a great quantity, in addition to quality, of reviews.
As part of your funeral home marketing plan, the three platforms you absolutely must monitor for reviews are Google, Facebook, and Yelp. Having poor reviews (or too few reviews) on any of them can be devastating to your funeral home.
There are many ways to generate more reviews from satisfied customers. However, it’s obviously crucial to solicit reviews in a thoughtful, discreet manner. A funeral home isn’t a pizza joint, and your process in this area obviously must be as respectful and reverent as in everything else you do.
With that said, it’s fine to ask satisfied families to review your business when you feel it’s appropriate. You also can include this query in a thank-you email or at the bottom of digital and print invoices.
One important caveat: Yelp has a very strict policy against directly soliciting reviews, so we recommend playing it safe there. However, if a family inquires about wanting to review you on Yelp, there’s nothing wrong with saying you’d appreciate that.
You want to generate positive reviews, of course. No funeral home marketing plan will be successful without them. However, it’s just as important to head off negative reviews. If you’re good at following up with families when services are over, you’ll often prevent negative reviews online. Be sure to ask whether they had any issues with your services. If so, do what you can to rectify their concerns before they feel the need to criticize you online.
We also employ automated tools with many of our clients to ensure positive reviews and head off negative ones. These tools help satisfied clients report their appreciation with the click of a button.
If they’re not satisfied, the tool encourages them to contact you directly before they leave a negative review, letting you handle the problem before it goes further.
Be advised that we’re careful with the language and process here, because Google updated its policies in 2018, advising businesses that they’re not allowed to directly prevent someone from posting a negative review by routing that person away from the review option (known as “review gating”).
Take this seriously, because you don’t want to get into trouble with Google. But the way you create your messaging, either on your own or through a software solution such as ours, can greatly improve the likelihood of a dissatisfied client reaching out to you before publicly panning your business.
Finally, let’s talk a little about how important mobile devices are for your funeral home marketing plan in 2019 and beyond.
Earlier, we discussed the degree to which mobile devices have become pervasive in Americans’ lives. Smartphones truly have become indispensable among every generation and demographic. To be successful today, you really must embrace mobile devices in everything you do. (And again, this is starting to become true of “smart speakers” as well.)
It’s unbelievably important that your website be mobile-friendly. If it was designed several years ago and looks great on a desktop computer, but it looks terrible (and operates poorly) on a smartphone, you’re in huge trouble.
Today, it’s not simply just as important that your website work as well on mobile as on desktop—it’s more important. Mobile is becoming the dominant interface for at-need clientele, so you must follow suit.
This also relates to the issue of mobile load time, meaning how long it takes a site to load on a mobile device. Mobile users are accustomed to immediacy. A recent survey showed that 53 percent will abandon a site if it doesn’t load within three seconds.
Do you know how quickly your site loads on a smartphone? Are you willing to give up more than half of your potential clientele because it’s too slow?
You can test out the mobile-friendliness of your funeral home website very easily through a Google tool. Just type in “mobile friendly test” on Google, and it will come up. Punch in the data and review the information it provides, particularly as it relates to speed.
Additionally, there are specific mobile marketing tools that work wonderfully for potential at-need clientele, and they provide some of the best ROI of all funeral home marketing strategies.
The nature of at-need death care services lends itself to mobile marketing. As we noted earlier, if you’re at a hospital and a loved one has passed, it’s natural to go to your smartphone to determine how to proceed. Your other computers simply aren’t available.
A core aspect of mobile marketing is geotargeting, one of the most beneficial funeral home marketing ideas you can implement today. You can create a campaign that reaches out selectively to people within a given geographic area. At-need clientele will often seek out a funeral home that’s nearby, so you can target such individuals purely based on their proximity to you.
Another method is geofencing. This lets you build a “virtual fence” around a particular location to send advertisement messages specifically within that area. Obviously, a hospital would be a perfect location to utilize this tool.
These marketing strategies for funeral homes take advantage of the fact that mobile devices upload very specific location data in real time to show where they are. This information is invaluable when you’re creating a mobile marketing campaign. It helps you connect specifically with people in need of your services, providing a benefit for all parties.
You can also create advertisements on search engines such as Google to target very specific locations. When someone in the target area simply searches for “funeral services,” “cremation,” “burial” or similar terms, your ad will be positioned to immediately catch the searcher’s eye.
Finally, mobile marketing is incredibly beneficial because it’s one of the easiest marketing methods to track. When you receive a phone call, a clickthrough or a website visit through mobile marketing, analytics provide you all the information on how that contact originated.
That might have seemed like a lot of information on how to grow at-need calls for your funeral home, but really, it’s only scratched the surface. This is just the foundation for a comprehensive online funeral home marketing plan.
We don’t want to bog you down with too many highly technical details about the process, although we’re always happy to go over every single step for someone who’s interested in what we do. Unlike many other funeral home marketing companies, at Ring Ring Marketing, client communication is one of our highest priorities.
We really hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to online funeral home marketing strategies. If you’re interested in learning more about rapidly generating at-need calls, please feel free to contact us anytime. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll-free at (888) 383-2848.
Founder, Ring Ring Marketing