It’s no secret that digital technology has taken a front seat in marketing. Businesses large and small, old and new, rely on digital marketing and the ability it provides to target, test, measure and optimize every message to every audience subset—to reach and influence consumers throughout every stage of the marketing funnel.
Because consumers today are so connected to their mobile phones and computers, digital marketing strategies can be used to reach them wherever they are, whenever marketers want, in a dizzying variety of ways. We’ve all been targeted by display advertising, social media advertising, email marketing, content marketing campaigns, survey capture forms, text messaging and more.
The funeral business is no different. But while the way you go about marketing your funeral home has probably changed dramatically over the past five or 10 years, your No. 1 marketing priority hasn’t changed from the days before digital: it’s still connecting and engaging with families.
Today, baby boomers are the core target audience for funeral home marketing. Research shows that, like their younger millennial counterparts, they are active consumers of digital media. An overwhelming 82 percent of boomers use social media—mostly Facebook—while 95 percent use search engines and email (SOURCE: DMN3, 2018).
Although they’re not nearly as reliant on social media and digital platforms as millennials, a significant portion of leading-edge boomers (those born between 1946 and 1955) use Facebook 11-plus hours per week (DMN3). And like younger consumers, they regularly visit and research information on company websites after being exposed to business messages on social media sites.
So it’s reasonable to conclude that no funeral home marketing plan is complete without strategies that target baby boomers online.
Yet, results measurement can be misleading.
With the advent of social media came the ability to measure what’s known as “engagement.” Suddenly, counting impressions gave way to counting “likes,” “shares,” “comments” and “reposts.” These engagement measures are what we call “vanity metrics” because they make marketers feel good and because they look good on paper. Vanity metrics have been adopted as a proxy for evaluating a marketing campaign’s impact.
But more recently, the marketing world has grown skeptical of the value of vanity metrics. An article published in the Harvard Business Review explains why social media marketing by itself is not effective unless it’s part of a comprehensive, multi-channel campaign. The article pointed to recent research that showed 80 percent of U.S. companies are unable to quantify the value of their social media efforts. Further, the research found that 87 percent of chief marketing officers at Fortune 500 companies acknowledged that they are unable to document whether social media creates new customers.
Harvard Business Review’s researchers found that vanity metrics don’t work the way many marketers think they do. In contrast to conventional wisdom, the simple action of liking a brand is not the same as endorsing it in the traditional sense, because people tend to click on “like” indiscriminately; therefore a like is not indicative of an individual’s behavior or intent to purchase from that brand. Liking a brand isn’t even predictive of a person’s future exposure to it: Because of Facebook’s complicated algorithm, there’s no guarantee that a follower will ever see a brand’s posts in their newsfeed, or that a follower’s friends will be aware of their endorsement of that brand. Therefore, likes alone do not conclusively influence behavior and purchase intent among friends.
Preneed has a long purchase cycle, one in which the audience’s interest must be nurtured. Within that span, we have the opportunity, and obligation, to be respectful of prospects’ time and attention, so we have to be highly intentional about every marketing interaction.
Social media is just one of many touch points to be used throughout the preneed marketing pipeline. Utilizing traditional marketing demographic data can help a preneed marketer build and refine their target digital audience and can also enable them to create personas—highly refined consumer descriptions that enable businesses to understand and categorize the motivations behind different target audience segments. Tying it all together into a multichannel marketing strategy, with informative content, advertising, and customized messaging that explains the value of preneed and why it matters, is the key. You must strike a careful balance between design, testing, tracking and follow-up at every touch point.
It takes a tremendous amount of resources to be truly effective. You need preneed experts who are available on-demand to nurture prospects, follow-up with inquiries, respond to chat requests, and reply to emails with information tailored to each particular lead source. When the need for preneed planning or funeral services arises, families will make their first call to the provider who has invested in building a relationship with them. Most funeral homes can’t do it all alone; that’s why partnering with a multichannel preneed marketing expert is crucial. Using fewer inhouse resources, you will be able to serve and provide a path to healing for more families in your community.
Salt Lake City—The annual NFDA convention is always the premier venue for showcasing the newest trends and advancements in the funeral industry. This year in Salt Lake City, the recently announced integration of Precoa, preneed sales and marketing firm, and Everdays, a digital platform that builds social communities around milestone life events, was one particularly noteworthy development in the preneed field. The collaboration is billed as bringing a new level of reach and scale to preneed business.
Over the last decade and a half, Precoa has made a name for itself with its unique brand of ProActive Preneed, an integrated sales and marketing platform based on years of research, customer experience insights, market-specific data analysis and testing designed to increase funeral home market share.
“What makes us different is our ability to significantly increase preneed sales within a sensitive profession,” said Tyler Hornibrook, Precoa vice president of marketing. “Every touchpoint of every marketing channel is optimized for preneed prospect conversion.”
How did this initiative come about? “About a year ago, members of our executive team called 50 of our funeral home partners and asked them, ‘What should we start, stop, and keep doing?’ ” Hornibrook recalled. “We got a lot of valuable feedback, including a desire for more robust digital capabilities. We realized that by leveraging our market-leading preneed expertise with the latest technologies, we could provide greater value for both funeral homes and families.”
Shortly after the company heard from its partners, Precoa kicked off a broad internal initiative to enhance its digital marketing capabilities. The result was a trio of ground-breaking digital products, each designed to help funeral homes reach more families and convert more preneed prospects.
Said Hornibrook: “With Everdays, we’re able to facilitate meaningful connections between our funeral home partners and the communities they serve. Within this integration, our first priority is to educate the community on how to support the bereaved by providing valuable content and creating a platform for connection. Precoa’s purpose is to enrich life through meaningful connection, and this integration enhances our ability to do so.”
Everdays, a social media platform developed for creating social communities centered around funeral announcements, opens new avenues for Precoa and its funeral home partners to serve even higher numbers of families.
While helping partners grow market share is among Precoa’s goals, the company’s integration with Everdays will enable both companies to fulfill a common, unmet need.
Mark Alhermizi, Everdays founder and CEO, said the inspiration for Everdays came after the death of his father in 2014. “The old system was broken,” he said. “There wasn’t a good way to get the word out about my father’s passing, even after spending thousands on obituaries.”
Frustrated, he theorized that a mobile-based app that facilitates information sharing, engagement and building a community of support for the family of the deceased could earn a place in the market. Launched in 2016 at the NFDA Expo, the original version of Everdays, called Requiem, was a very simple consumer product that enabled users to send text messages to their contacts and readily facilitate information sharing around a death announcement. The app received positive response and was quickly recognized for satisfying a market need.
“We’d gotten excellent at building a large, engaged community around a passing,” said Alhermizi. “A funeral home creates a death announcement for a family, and using our app, the family will broadcast the announcement to their contacts, and those contacts will share it with more contacts.”
But being a simple consumer product was just the beginning for Everdays. Seeking advice from funeral industry heavyweights—including Randy Schoedinger, CEO of Schoedinger Funeral and Cremation Services, and Jay Dodds, COO of Park Lawn Corporation—Alhermizi learned that preneed is where he could evolve and grow the product to provide value core to a firm’s business. “We realized we could help a funeral home sell funeral services, but preneed is really far more essential to their long-term business success,” he said.
An Everdays announcement becomes a mini social network all by itself. But the current version of Everdays, a cloud-based, enterprise-grade SaaS platform, now enables participants in that mini social network to share all of the decedent details—from content, images, messaging and chat to automated tribute videos, robust funeral event management tools and RSVP list tracking. Alhermizi says the typical community ranges in size from 300 to 500 members, but they’ve had one as large as 28,000 members. All of their engagement creates a valuable prospective preneed audience attached to every announcement.
Now, when an Everdays announcement comes from a Precoa-partner funeral home, the advance funeral planner is at the center of the community, providing helpful, funeral-specific information through automated chat and messaging capabilities. The interaction positions the advance funeral planner as the face of the funeral home. He or she builds a relationship with families by delivering value to the community, and at the right time, he or she can introduce the idea of preplanning.
“Rather than focusing marketing on just the informant, we’re reaching people while they’re engaged with the Everdays platform,” says Alhermizi. “They’ve received value and are so much more receptive to supportive, educational information about preneed.”
“Precoa is a cutting-edge, progressive company that understands the preneed consumer better than anyone else in the market. That’s why we’re excited to work with Precoa,” says Alhermizi.
Hornibrook says Precoa has been highly impressed with Everdays’ technology and its ability to educate a community. “As a company, we believe that funeral services have the power to transform and improve the quality of people’s lives, and Everdays enables us to reach a much larger, more qualified audience with that message.”
As part of its promise to provide the highest quality preneed experience for funeral homes and consumers in America, Precoa, the national leader in preneed sales and marketing, has announced a new venture with Everdays, a digital platform that builds communities around milestone life events. By utilizing the power of the Everdays technology, Precoa partners can now extend their preneed programs to reach the larger communities that Everdays provides around each passing.
“One year ago, we kicked off a broad internal initiative to enhance our digital marketing capabilities. Today, we're pleased to launch three ground-breaking digital preneed products. These innovations will help our funeral home partners go beyond likes and clicks and start connecting and converting online,” said Precoa VP of Marketing, Tyler Hornibrook. “With Everdays, we're able to create organic and meaningful connections between our funeral home partners and the communities they serve. Our first priority is to educate the community on how to support the bereaved by providing valuable content and by creating a platform for connection. Precoa’s purpose is to enrich life through meaningful connection and this integration enhances our ability to do so.”
Having connected 1.5 million families, friends and communities since its launch 18 months ago, the Everdays platform has quickly become the new standard for both consumers and end-of-life professionals when it comes to creating a social community around a passing. By tapping into Everdays’ uniquely broad reach and rich communication tools, coupled with Precoa’s ProActive Preneed®, Precoa has created a new digital paradigm that uses real-time conversation to build up a funeral home’s relationship with not just the informant, but the greater community Everdays gathers around that family.
Everdays’ CEO, Mark Alhermizi elaborated on what this means for the profession. “Everdays is announcing over 1,000 deaths across the U.S. and Canada per month. We’re helping funeral homes go far beyond the informant to reach larger audiences for marketing messages and to invoke their support networks for the family which—up until now—have been unattainable. But, none of this would be possible by software, alone; Precoa’s expertise in messaging and relationship building is at the core of this quantum leap.”
With today’s online modern channels alongside the Everdays app, funeral homes now have the capability to build enduring relationships with the community surrounding each family. With 97% open rates and 85% click-through rates, Everdays clearly shows communities have embraced the new dialogue.
“Building relationships using Precoa’s new Everdays integration starts from the moment the family walks into your funeral home and continues forever,” said Kevin Desmond, Vice President of A.J. Desmond & Sons Funeral homes in metro-Detroit. “And with a direct connection with each family’s broader community established, our preneed messaging is much more impactful.”
Everdays and Precoa will be exhibiting at the 2018 NFDA International Convention & Expo Center on Oct. 14-17 in Salt Lake City in booth 429 and 1011.
Precoa (the Preneed Company of America) is a national leader in preneed sales and marketing, committed to enriching life through meaningful connection. Precoa partners with leading funeral homes, providing the best resources in preneed with its fully-integrated ProActive Preneed® system to help families across America begin healing following the loss of a loved one. Founded in 2004 by Bret Davis and Mark Hornibrook in Portland, Precoa employs more than 330 people, plus a network of more than 600 independent preneed agents, nationwide.
About Everdays, Inc.
Everdays is the largest and fastest growing social platform building communities around milestone life events. Everdays provides free memorial announcements and keeps users up-to-date about deaths in their life’s network, enabling them to share memories, events and condolences when loved ones need it most. To learn more, visit www.everdays.com.
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