How the Funeral websites are driving business away from Funeral Directors


Hi I am Paul Tomes, founder of Tributes To and I help Funeral Directors master big business thinking and technology to help improve the experience of their clients families and staff, increase their income and importantly protect their legacy. Today I am going to talk about how I discovered that the internet was driving customers away from my Dad’s funeral business. I am going to show you how misaligned his business was portrayed online versus the professional, caring, established image that he holds on the highstreet. Now you’d probably think these would be the same. I thought the internet would project the same trust, the same care and attention, and the same pride that my Dad’s client families experienced over decades Growing up, I always remember my Dad’s shiny and spotless vehicle fleet, the welcoming funeral home and the warm and approachable staff for whom no details was to small. Whilst it’s taken months to repair some of the damage done to my Dad’s business, we finally turned the corner and now I want to share my experience with you. What I learnt and what I did and so you can start to take the same steps. If I am successful, you will realise, like my Dad that you can no longer afford to be passive about the internet. Even with a traditional business like Funeral Directing you cannot ignore the massive social and technological trends we’ve all experienced over the last 10-15 years. My one hope is that you do something and I am going to make it easy for you. I am going to tell you what you can do today. This realisation, this fire inside me and my comitment to help you, all started to ignite when my Dad gave me a call. My Dad’s basically been a funeral director since the day he was born. My Grandad, Harry, originally founded the business soon after he returned from the war. My Dad grew up in the Funeral Home, he was born in the Funeral Home he started to work for him when he was just 12 years old and then full time from 15. Sadly my Grandad passed away when my Dad was just 22 and along with his brothers he has built on my Grandad’s legacy to make it the company it is today. I am sure my Grandad would be very proud. Anyway.. my Dad gives me a call and says “Paul. I’ve just been called by an internet company to see if we are interested in developing our Harry Tomes Funeral Directors website. He wants 2000 pounds for it. What do you think?” Now at the time I was working in a big bank; basically helping people to make products, processes and technology more efficient and customer focused. One of the things I did was help design and implement internet banking for HSBC. And over the last 20 years I have had the pleasure of working for big companies, with big technology teams all over the world so i guess my Dad felt he was very well placed to ask my opinion More recently I’d even set up a number of websites myself, including one for my consulting business So I said ‘let me take a look into it Dad’ So I started by checking out what my Dad’s business had online already. I basically went into Google, as most people do, and typed in Harry Tomes Limited And I’ll be honest. I found a complete mess. The image didn’t marry up with the how caring I knew my Dad and his staff were. The collection of sites didn’t project the professionalism I know my Dad’s company has. The results did not show a cohesive trustworthy company. For example I found half a dozen mini sites for Harry Tomes Ltd. Some of them my Dad had paid for, some were for free supposedly offering a value added service. Value add? Well you tell me if this is value add! The front page said “Get Funeral Directors here” in a horrible ‘disco light’ kind of background. Completely inapproapriate and distasteful for a Funeral Director. There was some short blurb, taking from a traditional ad, about my Dad’s company and a phone number I didn’t even recognise I tried the telephone number and didn’t go anywhere. As you can imagine I was pretty shocked. I immediately called them up and asked them to take that page down and they said they didn’t even know it existed they said they those were just an automatic site They would try their best to remove it and then they’d call me back Try their best? What? I think it ended up taking 5 weeks to get it removed. As you can imagine 20 years in corporate business meant I was pretty good at raising my voice So gritting my teeth, I politely asked them about the telephone number and eventually got the answer that this was a call counter so they could track the success of their website. Yes! Tracking their website. Not my Dad’s So I asked why it hadn’t been forwarding to my Dad’s business and they said that the package expired in July. Now this was September. They’d “forgotten to turn the site off”. My suspicion is they didn’t even know it was there anymore And more importantly noone had informed my Dad until I presented him with this So I had a lot of back and forth on this but bottom line they took my Dad’s money promised him a value add service and basically detroyed value of my Dad’s business and even when I found out about it, it took ages to unwind Not only would have the site probably put people off by ‘get funeral directors here’ it also meant that if people did decide to call the number they would not have got through for 3 months. Now additionally important, because search engines like google trust directory authorities like yellow pages, they’d picked up this dead number and cascaded it to their own directory sites. Because there were 6 different pages, each with similar but slightly conflicting content, Google gets confused It sees 6 small independent businesses. If search engines can’t match stuff your position in their search results drops. I am going to talk more about the google seven pack, and what you can do, in the next video but Harry Tomes Limited was no longer on the first page when you typed Bournemouth Funeral Directors, even though they were one of the bigger, more established funeral directors in Bournemouth. When my Dad told me how much he is paying other people to take care of his internet presence I was absolutely shocked. So you tell me was my Dad really getting value added service? How about you? I for one dread to think how much business was lost by people calling that disconnected number. OK, so maybe your thinking well no big deal because noone really goes to the internet to find funeral directors. Our business is all about customer referrals. And of course there is still a large proportion of business that my Dad gets because of referrals, or the same family coming back to them or people simply living close to the funeral home. But the world is changing and it’s changing very quickly. Just think of your own behaviours. What do you do when you want to find an electrician? or window repair man, or a service you may not be using often or not familiar with. What do you do? A recent survey showed that over 80% of people these days start their funeral planning online Now combine this with 2011 data that 92% of people use Google as their primary search tool I was getting very worried about my Grandfather’s legacy OK, so at this time I knew I had an internet for my Dad’s business not just about pretty brochurware or website or trusting someone else to take care of it I knew I had to do that Now I started to explore a little bit further Let me tell you about another shocking discovery Obituaries. OK. What about obituaries? Well I am guessing if you are anything like my Dad about 60% of your families choose to write and publish an obituary in the newspaper. And you probably help them with this, as part of your service. You might feel the stress of getting to the newspaper before the deadline. You might have to help shave words off so that the obituary doesn’t cost too much for the family And if ever you’ve had to correct an obituary after it’s gone to print, then I know the frustration. It needs to be perfect and that takes time and causes stress That said, you know your families value writing obituaries and having those obituaries read by others. We know that openly acknowledging a death is an important part of the grieving process. OK so what have obituaries got to do with the online image of my Dad’s business. Well you may or may not be aware that a lot of these local newspapers also publish these obituaries online, for free. All part of their ‘value added’ service, they say. Also means you don’t need to worry about publishing anything online? Or does it? Here’s why I do think you do need to worry I went looking for some of my Dad’s obituaries in the local newspaper on the local newspaper website and I quickly found them The exact wording from the printed obituary, online Fair enough But it felt kind of strange because on the same page of the obituary slashed right across the obituary full width full colour animated advertisement for another funeral director. So while the obituary read Arrangements by Harry Tomes Ltd in the small font, there was this big Green Logo right across the top drawing my attention Now everyone attending the funeral will remember the beautiful and attentive service provided the funeral director But it’s likely that only the family will remember who provided that service Years down the line others may not remember the name of the company but they may subliminally be attracted to that great big green logo when they first learnt of the funeral arrangements. Boom… a competiting company is benefitting off my Dad’s hard work and family focus. Whilst this may seem small and improbable, big business recognise that it’s actually powerful and probable. This is why you see them investing gazillions in getting their brand image in front of as many potential customers as possible. Now, this still holds for small business and we’ve seen those funeral directors in the know are already benefitting from this and I am sure they will be reaping dividends in years to come Publishing content online costs and while a newspaper will position their online obituries as a value added service, the newspaper is really using your content to drive visitors to their site and the sites of their advertisers, which as I discovered includes my Dad’s largest competitor. This doesn’t just apply to newspapers. Just ask yourself what motivates people to provide content for others to view on line. We are all used to a life of free internet services but there is always a commercial motive for the people and the companies who invest in the hardware and software to publish the information Facebook is a perfect example. Why is it valued at 100 billion dollars when we all publish stuff for free Yes, you can get on it for free but behind everything there’s commercial motives. Advertisers are paying big money to get to some of the 800 million people actively using facebook today. The savvier the company, the savvier they are with their online image and their online advertising, the more customers they attract. OK so this might all be sounding a little scary. And I do want you to do something about it. But before you think you have to go employ some high paid technology consultant to take care of it for you, I implore you to take care of it yourself And the great thing is It really is straight forward You can really do it And it won’t take much time The pay off is massive At a high level here’s the steps I took and you can take too. Step 1. Assess your internet presence even if you don’t have a website, there will be dozens of references to your business Step 2. Kill or change anything that doesn’t fit with your high street image Step 3. Go create your website. Now in a couple of weeks I’ll be showing you exactly how you can get and maintain a professional looking web presence that’s free to set up and maintain. Step 4. Start taking advantage of the content you and your client families create on a daily basis. Your obituaries. Step 5. Provide your client families the ability to share their experiences and feelings Step 6. Integrate the internet into your business processes Now, a very simple 6 step plan and I am going to help you with all of those Starting today. So the very first thing you must do, is do what I did Go and assess your internet presence Go to google, or any other search engine and start exploring just discover how you appear online Search for your name, search for your business name Surf for Funeral Directors in your town. What do you see? Go and look at the obituaries in the local newspaper website Take notes. Form a mental picture in your mind at what 80% of people who starting their funeral planning online see and feel. Over the next week I want you to build this picture in your mind. The picture of your online image. What it looks like. Start assessing the gap. The differences between your image online and your highstreet image That’s what I want you to do. This week. I really hope you enjoyed this video I hope it added value to you Go ahead and leave comments and feedback below I am going to personally be replying to as many as I can I look forward to serving you Watch your inbox for the next video next week at the same time. Until then, cherish your heritage, embrace the future, and take a step forward today.

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4 thoughts on “How the Funeral websites are driving business away from Funeral Directors

  1. Very interesting and surprising what comes up in the background on internet sites. A primary place to advertise in many cases, but keeping on top of what everyone is thinking and exploring on search engines is hard work. But I suppose in the long run, well worth it.

  2. I think some of what you're saying is true. But its apparent that the service provider you used to create your website was inadequate and unprofessional.

  3. Here's my comments:(how many advertising funeral company are rude?I'm sorry, but some of the advertising funeral company are not using common sense..
    Pls, no offense.,just asking question.

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