This episode is about how to enhance and refine your funeral home or cremation provider website content to better engage and generate calls from shoppers.
Topics discussed / In this video:
00:56 Rob talked about the Last Episode, Google AdWords campaigns
01:45 Brian discussed how to improve website content so that they can drive more shopper calls
02:20 Funeral home websites debuted back about 1996/97 and its goals
03:25 How ineffective content bothers shoppers
03:37 Website navigation importance
06:01 Define the target audience of the website
06:21 Most important core question for website content, What can you do for me right now?
08:47 Upcoming Cremation Conference
09:02 Rob discussed how website’s content has to match the desires of the people
09:35 Brian defined the 4 primary target audiences for Funeral Homes
10:36 72 percent of death care shoppers are women
11:59 How to craft effective website content
18:37 Brian discussed why pictures are very important in webite content, shared an example of Cunningham Turch strategy
24:00 Rob discussed how to request for the “Six point website content review”
24:46 Brian emphasizing the importance of the “Six point website content review”
26:00 How products should be presented in a way that’s most effective
26:42 Upcoming conference in Saint Petersburg in September
27:30 How to get early bird discount for CremationConference.com
Links to Previous Episodes Mentioned In This Episode:
10 Money-Saving Tips For Funeral Homes Using Google AdWords
Robin Heppell: [00:00] On today’s show, we’ll be talking about what is typically the biggest turnoff to shoppers when it comes to most funeral home websites, and that is ineffective website content. The majority of funeral home websites are very similar, especially when it comes to their content.
[00:16] What specific things can you do to make your website stand out to shoppers? We’ll talk about that and more on today’s episode.
[00:23] [background music]
Announcer: [00:24] Welcome to “Strategy Talks,” by Funeral Results Marketing, where funeral professionals discover the latest marketing strategies that get results. Now, join Robin Heppell and Brian Young as they share their insights and experiences to help you and your firm during these ever‑changing times in the funeral profession.
[00:40] [background music]
Robin: [00:40] Welcome to another episode of Strategy Talks by Funeral Results Marketing. Now, before we dive into today’s topic, I wanted to let you know to stick around until the end of the show, and we’ll tell you how to get a free six‑point website content review.
[00:56] In our last episode, we talked about 10 tips to help you save money with your Google Ad Words campaigns, so that you can get more shoppers to your website. As you know, that’s only half the battle. After you get shoppers to your website, you’ve got to stand out and interest them.
[01:13] Today, Brian is going to be talking about what, typically, is the biggest turnoff to shoppers when it comes to funeral home websites. With an increase in the amount of competition from non‑traditional businesses, including hotels, churches, and others, it’s more important than ever to really impress with your website.
[01:30] Brian, most funeral home websites seem to say the same thing. Many of them look pretty similar, too. What kinds of things can our listeners do to improve their website content so that they can drive more shopper calls?
Brian Young: [01:45] That’s a really good question, Rob. I think one of the first things we have to do is remember what’s the fundamental goal of a business’ website, right. If you take it all the way down to the core, the fundamental goal is to boost the bottom line. That might be directly by winning shopper calls from interested or impressed shoppers.
[02:04] It can also be indirectly by generating interest, establishing or increasing credibility, providing great customer service. You can also measure your marketing effectiveness as you’ve talked about before. Then maintaining top‑of‑mind brand awareness from people who are viewing obits on your website.
[02:20] There’s a lot of different ways that website can boost the bottom line. As far as this core question of what can we do with content to boost the benefit of the website, I think it’s also important to remember that funeral home websites debuted back about 1996/97, and far more people were still having pretty traditional funerals back then than there are today. As you know, today we’ve got celebration of life movements just exploding. A lot of people are doing non‑traditional things.
[02:51] Back then, the goal of the website was to have an online phonebook page and that’s really it. People said, “Yeah, I just need a way for shoppers to find me and call me, the owners of funeral homes.”
[03:02] Now that we’ve got so many consumers going in the direction of celebration of life services, using all kinds of venues to do that. Well, staying relevant and attractive is a far more competitive problem for funeral homes.
[03:14] Before we can solve any problem, we first got to understand the problem because when the problem is clearly understood, then the answer quickly emerges. What is the problem? You already said it twice.
[03:25] It’s ineffective content. That’s what bothers shoppers. A website is a communication vehicle. People are going there to hear what you have to say, what you have to offer them.
[03:37] Before I even delve into content, which is the core point of this podcast, I wanted to point out the fact that some websites, you get tripped up before you even get to digging into the content. That’s because of the website navigation.
[03:52] Sometimes, websites have so many pages and they’re jumbled up in the navigation that consumers have a hard time finding that. That’s an even bigger problem here in the death care industry because as Dr. Alan Wolfelt has pointed out, an at need person has at least a 40 percent reduced capacity to absorb information.
[04:13] Having a navigation structure for your website that’s extremely simple, that’s a must. If you don’t have that, it’s crazy. There’s too many websites that I’ve seen in the industry where the navigation makes it hard for the shoppers to get to the information they think they want to find.
[04:30] Either there’s too many choices…I’ve seen websites where a huge box drops down. As soon as you hover your mouse over one nav title, a huge box drops down with about 30 choices in it, maybe 20, 30, 40 choices?
[04:45] That’s tough for somebody whose brain is working just fine, let alone having their ability to process information reduced by 40 percent due to the shock and trauma of an at‑need situation.
[04:57] Another problem is sometimes there’s too many clicks just to get to that information, whether it’s on the home page or maybe I’m trying to find out about price of their packages. First, I’m on the home page, then I end up on a section page, and then from there, I get to a topic page. Then, I finally get to the information.
[05:15] That was already a too long of our process. On top of that, in a lot of cases, online shoppers will come back to your website later or show it to a family member. Maybe someone in the family is doing the preliminary shopping and they’re going to get back in touch with their brother or sister or their siblings, the decision makers and show them what they found and what they narrowed it down to.
[05:35] Now, it’s hard to find information. Without anymore on that, navigation has to be simple or we can’t even get into the topic of the website content. With that kind of precursor laid out there, let’s talk about the content.
[05:49] As we said, the biggest problem is ineffective content. Funeral home website content is often ineffective or under effective because of what? What makes it that way?
[06:01] Probably the biggest single problem is the people who crafted the website didn’t stop and define the target audiences of their website. Who are the target audiences of a funeral home website versus a cremation business website versus a cemetery business website? Who are each of those audiences and what do they want?
[06:21] If you’re not effectively answering the questions of each group, we’re not going to resonate. Of course, the most important core question is what can you do for me right now? That’s what people want to know, especially Americans. What can you do for me right now? It’s all about me right now. I’m shopping you and I want to find what I want to find fast.
[06:39] Too often, there’s still this lingering desire out there, because funeral directors are all about taking care of people and they’ve been taking care of people face to face or over the phone for decades. Their desire is for the shopper, the family to just call us and we’ll tell you everything you need to know.
[06:57] Unfortunately, that’s old school. While the reality is you could do a better job over the phone in many cases and probably almost all cases, but funeral home shopper’s ‑‑ not necessarily low-cost cremation shoppers, but certainly funeral home shopper’s ‑‑ the reality is they don’t want it that way in too many cases.
[07:19] The number of shoppers who don’t want it that way is growing quarter by quarter. We know that because the volume of traffic on the funeral home website page is growing quarter by quarter.
[07:31] Anyway, the desire to learn about the options to learn about what solutions a funeral home can provide, shoppers want to know that before they pick up the phone and call somebody.
[07:42] If the funeral home is talking about those things ‑‑ and I’ll get into some specifics here in a minute ‑‑ that’s a big advantage because with so funeral homes doing it…I have a lot of success stories I can share.
[07:53] I know you do too, Rob, of funeral homes who put a large number of specifics out there whether it’s prices or not. I’m not just talking about prices. I’m talking about a large number of specifics which I’ll get into in a minute. It makes that funeral homes stand out.
[08:07] Also, not showing or not talking about the types of things shoppers are most interested in and that’s what frustrates them. They came there to find out what can you do for me?
[08:18] If it boils down to, “Call us, we’ll help you. Here’s our staff information. Here are pictures of our facilities. Here’s some veterans’ information, here’s social security, here’s pictures of our urns and our caskets,” as far as the services section, what can you do for me?
[08:33] If that content is shallow or not in existence…Also, details about cremation that your funeral home handles, that’s a big missed opportunity. There’s a lot more details that we don’t have time for today.
[08:47] I’ll just say for those of you who have been following us and know about our upcoming cremation conference that you can learn about at cremationconference.com. We’re going to be getting into some more specific detail, but that gives you an overview of what’s causing the problem.
Robin: [09:02] It makes sense then that the website’s content has to match the desires of the people coming to it or they’re going to leave unimpressed. Maybe a lot of us have never really thought about defining who these audiences are for our website, what their personas are, or what are their avatars. We’ve maybe heard those terms in marketing’s.
[09:26] What are these target audiences and how do we make our content effective at connecting with them so we can get that shopper call?
Brian: [09:35] That’s the core of the question. First of all, we have to define the primary target audiences. For the funeral home, that’s pretty simple. There are four. There’s the at need crowd, there’s the pre‑need crowd.
[09:50] There are those who want to read an obituary and maybe sign the guestbook, maybe they’ll send flowers, but basically, it’s lumped up in the obit seekers. Then, there are those folks who want to find directions and service information and/or your contact information.
[10:09] That’s really the four primary audiences. The reason we know that is because of the volume of visitors on certain times of pages.
[10:18] Other topics that are out there, maybe you have grief support information on your website, maybe you have community activities. There’s a number of different good things that can be persuasive and help you win calls, but that’s not where we see the lion’s share of time spent on the website. This is how we know about what the four primary target audiences are for a funeral home website.
[10:36] Something that we don’t know from funeral home websites but we know from other research that I want to point out here because it’s important to this conversation is that 72 percent of death care shoppers are women.
[10:50] This should greatly influence how content is presented on funeral home websites. The challenge has been that the funeral home industry is predominantly a male dominated industry, at least in terms of ownership.
[11:02] I’ve seen the numbers in the mortuary schools. There’s increasing numbers of ladies of all ages coming into the mortuary schools, so that ratio is shifting.
[11:12] Among owners, it’s predominantly a male dominated industry. Fellas, we’ve got to look at this and say, “Well, I like the website, my buddies like the website, but does our target audience like the website? Is the kind of content we’re offering and the way we’re presenting that content, is that really resonating with the shoppers?”
[11:32] Because if I can get two or three more calls a year out of my website from people I impress, let alone one or two more a month, we’re talking about sometimes five figures worth of revenue increase, for just tweaking your content.
[11:48] Primary audiences are at need, pre‑need, obit seekers, and people who want directions or service info or a phone number. Among that audience of shoppers, 72 percent are female.
[11:59] Now that we know that, let’s talk about how to craft effective content a little bit. Granted, this is a big topic. It’s hard to kind of pack into a podcast, but obit seekers, that’s pretty easy.
[12:11] They want to read the obit and probably, they want to find what other people have said, if they can read the guestbook. They might want to see the service information, where’s the service, when is the service.
[12:23] Another thing that’s common in one of the four groups I mentioned is people who want to contact you. They want to find a phone number. I just put out here that it’s still in many cases very wise to put a phone number in an easiest to see place, somewhere at the top of your website.
[12:39] We wouldn’t normally advocate for that in other industries necessarily. But, in this industry, again where at need shoppers have a reduced capacity to absorb information, which really means it could be right in front of them and they really might not be seeing it or picking up on it, so making that phone number easy to find is helpful.
[12:57] Also, on your Contact Us page, there’s been a trend in the last couple years where for whatever reason, web developers are starting to put a paragraph of text on the Contact Us page and the phone number’s buried at the end of the paragraph.
[13:11] Well, there are a lot of people who expect to find what used to be at least the old standard, and I think still is really the standard universally. If I go to the Contact Us page, I’m going to find your business name and address and phone number typically if you’re a brick and mortar business.
[13:25] When it’s not there, it’ll be frustrating for, especially folks who haven’t kept up with the newest trends, not that we haven’t had phone numbers in the footer for a while, several years now regularly. Still, there’s a lot of older visitors who aren’t super web savvy and I’ve seen that they regularly go to the contact us page.
[13:44] Now that we’ve talked about that, let’s get into really where our bread and butter is, which is appealing to at need and pre‑need shoppers. How do we craft more effective content to engage with these folks and interest them in what we have to offer as a business?
[13:59] I just want to throw out here two concepts. Predominantly, almost across‑the‑board, content on funeral home websites is informational, but it’s not very persuasive and I’m not talking sales‑y. I’m not talking about like when you write an advertisement and at the end, we have that call‑to‑action. “Call now today and we’ll take care of you!”
[14:21] That’s not at all we’re talking about. That can really kill your business, as I’m sure you already know. You’re probably flinching as you hear me say it. We’re talking about information that, by its very nature, is persuasive. You’ll see what I mean in just a second.
[14:35] If we specifically answer the question of what can you do for me, we’re going to connect with people. The ideal way to answer the question of what you can do for me is a mixture of showing and telling, not just telling.
[14:51] How many of you’ve been on a website and there will be three, five, six paragraphs of information going down that page? It’s a long book.
[15:00] While it’s true that in the arrangement room, a family is sitting across the table from you, will be looking you right in the eyes and be very engaged as you convey all that information, it’s also true as the web statistics and studies show that those same people don’t want to read all that on the website. They’re not reading lots and lots. They want to see it.
[15:21] If you haven’t heard it before, I’ve heard Rob mentioning it. You’ll hear us mention again that families like to watch video. Videos for a while now has been the hottest medium there is. If we can show and tell and not just tell, that is powerful.
[15:37] As far as what specific topics can we be showing and telling about that will engage the consumer, I’d like to give an example from my wife and I’s honeymoon. We went to Kauai. Loved that island. Been back a few times over in Hawaii, called the Garden Island.
[15:54] On the beach area where we were down the south side, there’s several resorts there just stacked up in rows as you’re used to seeing on the beach. There’s a Sheraton property, there’s a Marriott property, and there is a Hyatt property, granted it’s a Grand Hyatt. For the sake of this example, there’s three high quality hotels stacked up.
[16:14] All of them have great beaches, sitting right against the ocean. Which one am I going to pick? They’re all good quality. I know I’m going to have a great time in Hawaii on the beach, so it could be very easy in that situation to boil it down and say, “Well, I’ll just see which one’s the cheapest because they’re all about the same.”
[16:38] Isn’t that the exact challenge that so many of funeral homes are having today? That if you’ve got a couple competitors in town or more, maybe you’re in a state where you’re just packed with competitors like Pennsylvania or Ohio, but competitors are everywhere and when everybody looks about the same, isn’t that terribly hard to compete on anything besides price?
[17:00] If you go to the websites of these hotels, what you’ll typically find for big resort hotels is they’re not just going to tell you what their prices are and what the room sizes are, they’ll show you a lot of pictures. They’ll talk about how many swimming pools they have. They’ll talk about how long their beach is.
[17:17] More than just informational facts, they’ll also start putting together some interesting things for you. You’ve probably noticed in the recent years that vacation packages are starting to include different themes.
[17:30] For instance, they’ll have a gourmet cooking package. You go to the resort and then every day for two hours, you attend gourmet cooking class and there’s a chef there and you learn how to do beautiful foods. If you’re a foodie, this is fantastic. Now you’re getting to do your favorite activity in a beautiful place in the world.
[17:51] They’ve got cooking packages, they’ve got yoga packages, they got water aerobics packages, they’ve got spa packages. I’m sure all you fellas have known for a long time they have golf packages.
[18:01] But the point is, they’re presenting their business and the physical facts of what they can provide you, along with ideas of how you can enjoy their location. They try to come up with unique packages and special, different ways to enjoy that space.
[18:19] How many of you are just starting to dabble in that as you’re just trying to create packages and appeal to the families that are out there looking for a celebration of life? Probably a few of you are. Depending on how many of you may be listening to this podcast. On average, you’re not but there’s some people who are.
[18:37] I’d like to give you another example that I think really demonstrates this on a funeral home level. One of our clients, a man I’ve had chance to work with for a long time in Northern Virginia, Michael Turch, he has several funeral homes down there called Cunningham Turch.
[18:54] On his website, we put up pictures of something I rarely see in the industry. These are giant poster boards. Actually that’s a bad description. If you go to the trade show and the trade show booths of your stand at the national conventions, you’ll see in each of the booths where the vendors are, they’ll have these backdrops behind them.
[19:14] Sometimes they’re posters that roll up, kind of like a miniature movie screen. It’s tall but it’s narrow. Other times, they’re an eight foot curved wall or flat wall of these bottom‑to‑top graphics. Cunningham Turch will create beautiful graphics and put it on these backdrops and I know of almost no funeral home that does that.
[19:35] I said, “Wow, that’s really amazing. I haven’t seen anything like that. We need to get that as a picture on your website.” So he set up a day for a photographer to come in.
[19:44] They turn on all the lights, got the lighting right, created a beautiful scene at the front of the funeral home, we took pictures and the pictures have worked great, but before we could even get the pictures on the website, they had a family come in during the time, just before the photo shoot was supposed to happen.
[20:00] That family had called in about half an hour, an hour before, said, “Hey, we saw your price for your low‑cost cremation package, your cheapest offering there and that’s what we’re coming to get. That’s all we want.”
[20:12] Anyway, they were coming in and when the family arrived, it was still 15 minutes or half an hour before the photo shoot, you have to walk past the chapel entrance on the way to the arrangement office.
[20:22] As the husband and wife walked by, they looked in there and they saw those huge poster displays and they said, “What’s that?” These were backdropped onto the side of the casket and some flowers there.
[20:36] They stopped, turned and walked right in the chapel. They were seeing something they’d never seen before. This was a perfect example of why it was so important to get this content on the website. They walked out having paid for a funeral, $4,300 funeral I think it was, including graphics like this because they had seen something they hadn’t seen before.
[20:56] It wasn’t just a funeral. No, it was different, it was new. How much of it was different and new? Really just the graphics. They had a chapel like other funeral homes have. They had nice staff like other funeral homes, they had pretty flowers like any funeral home can get upfront, or the family will order them.
[21:12] But this was new and different. It changed the whole context of what they thought of as a funeral. Now you can see those images and how hard that firm has worked to get their content up on the web so that when you arrive at that funeral home website, you’re seeing things you haven’t seen before.
[21:31] Getting back to the original problem that Rob identified at the beginning, which was users finding content they don’t like, ineffective, un‑useful content. If we’re having content on the website that shows pictures of what we can do and if we’re describing our services not just as a general price list reprint, “Our package with the service costs X and it includes these bullets.”
[21:57] And, “Our package with a viewing and a service costs Y and it includes these bullets,” and, “If you just want to have cremation with a private family viewing, that costs Z and here are these bullets,” that’s just purely informational. There’s nothing in there to engage my imagination. There’s nothing in there that makes you say, “Wow, that’s a neat idea.”
[22:18] You might be saying, “I don’t have big, tall backdrops like that firm you were just talking about.” But, you know what? There are special things that you do or have done, that if you start articulating those and putting the intricate facts within the context of these vivid, colorful ideas, they get people’s attention and more importantly, remember, the target audience is 72 percent women. Female.
[22:43] Woman notice details, right fellas? They notice when we forget the details. Quite often, if your wife is like mine. When we start cuing in on the details, when we start offering neat ideas of what they could do in your funeral home, when you start showing instead of just telling, that approach of creating website content changes the way in which your funeral home is viewed.
[23:06] Now, you stand up, you’re different than the three or four guys down the street who all have industry websites with canned, standard, industry content because they didn’t want to take the time to write their own. They just accepted the generic content and now you’re different. [coughs] Excuse me.
[23:21] Does that give you a chance to compete more effectively online and win more interest from shoppers? I think it does. More importantly, the time spent on the page and the kinds of phone calls you get also demonstrate that it does.
Robin Heppell: [23:34] Hey, Brian, that’s great. Obviously this is a huge topic that you could spend hours and hours going into great detail. I think we’ll do that in a future podcast. We’ll maybe drill into some specific pages and see what types of content changes and improvements can be made to really empower the listener to go ahead and do that.
[24:00] Especially compared to what we typically find on most funeral home websites. Here we are and if you’re thinking you need a little bit of help with your website or if you just think it could be stronger, make sure that you request your free, six‑point website content review.
[24:19] There will be a button on the show notes page that you can register for that and see if there’s things that you can do to boost your website’s ability to win more shopper calls. Brian, I know you have a bit of a process, maybe give them an overview of the things that you’re looking for, maybe a sneak peek of what’s included in that review.
Brian: [24:46] Sure, Rob. The bigger topics, they’re broken down into nitty gritty. Each encompass a fair bit but the first one’s very straightforward. It’s effective navigation to evaluate how easy or challenging it is to get to key content for shoppers. The second area is we look and see how well defined the content is for each of the target audiences.
[25:12] The third area is we look at how emotionally engaging the information about the firm is. That’s really a key one to making the phone ring more rather than less. We also look at, is there the right kind of information about services available on the website? I know that kind is a bit subjective and a large topic but we get into that and evaluate that.
[25:32] We also evaluate how meaningful the pictures and video are. Does it engage? Does it really connect? Does it show something special or does it just look like a stock photo or video? Is it hitting on some heartstrings, hopefully, in the right kind of way? Or kicking on the imagination?
[25:48] Because somebody’s imagination comes on when they’re looking at your website and can easily think, “I want to work with these guys. They know what they’re doing,” and they’ll get a special kind of experience I want to have for my mom or my dad.
[26:00] The last point is, we look to see if we have the right kind of information there about products, presented in a way that’s most effective.
Robin: [26:08] That’s great. I think anyone that wants to improve, we can drive traffic to websites and pay to get people there or build great rankings in our search engine optimization, but as you said earlier, that’s just part of the battle. They need to then be engaged and you have to impress them. That leads me, if you’re interested in this, make sure you sign up for the six‑point content check.
[26:42] Also, join us in Saint Petersburg in September for cremationconference.com where Brian will be talking in more detail about website content as it pertains to winning cremation shoppers. Also, over the last couple of months, both Brian and I have been pumping out a lot of content.
[27:04] There’s lots of things that you can do to educate yourself on how to market your funeral home or cremation business. We’re up now in our 10th and 11th podcast episodes. There’s a number of webinars that are available on demand, available through the website at funeralresultsmarketing.com for the conference.
[27:30] Just simply go to cremationconference.com. The early bird discount will be ending at the end of July, so make sure that you register before then and get your room booked. We’re not really stopping through the summer. We’ll have our podcast coming out pretty well on a weekly basis. Stay tuned for the next one.
[27:54] Brian, I’ll turn it back over to you here to wrap things up.
Brian: [27:59] Sure, Rob. I guess I’ll ask our favorite ending question. What’s your burning question about online marketing for your funeral home? If you leave it here, we’ll try to answer it on an upcoming episode, as we always do.
[28:11] If you like what you’re hearing, again, we ask you, please leave your comments on the blog or give it a rating in iTunes or Google Play because it’s important to us and we hope that you find this important to you and if you share those comments, they’ll make their way out to the industry and become important to others if we’re doing a good job.
Robin: [28:28] And, Brian, on that point, we have received some questions. Once we get a few more, we’ll actually have, I think, a separate webinar where we go through and answer a series of questions.
[28:43] Make sure you leave them here to get your question answered and if it’s a big topic, we’ll tackle it in a podcast episode and if it’s a specific question, we’ll add it to the questionnaire, our marketing Q&A webinar.
[29:01] But once again, we really thank you for your time, spending it with us today. As we say, it’s our goal for you to serve as many families as possible and provide them with more meaningful services. Make sure you check back soon for another episode of strategy talks by funeral results marketing.
[29:21] Until the next episode, this has been Brian Young and Robin Heppell.
Announcer: [29:25] This has been another episode of strategy talks with Robin Heppell and Brian Young. To ask a question or leave a comment, visit funeralresultsmarketing.com/talks. To make sure that you never miss an episode, you can subscribe to this podcast for free on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher.