Welcome Bill Summers to our team

We are pleased to announce that Bill Summers has joined the Funeral Innovations team as Director of Sales. Bill will enhance our current sales process and make it more effective and efficient. In addition, Bill will manage our sales team as our company continues to grow.

“Funeral Innovations is the recognized leader in social media marketing for our profession. They were the first and they are still the best. Social media is now the essential marketing platform that successful funeral providers use to reach the community and develop stronger relationships with families. It is my privilege to work with this team of superstars during this exciting time for our clients.”

Bill comes to us with 18 years of sales experience in funeral service, and extensive knowledge of sales development and management. Prior to joining us, Bill worked as Regional Director of Sales for Batesville leading a group of field consultants to successfully help accounts in twelve Midwestern states. Last year, Bill helped his team deliver record-setting market share growth. This background in management and marketing strategies will now help our partner firms grow their own market share within their customer base.

Bill also has extensive experience helping clients increase preneed sales using both life insurance and trusts. He has worked closely with funeral homes to develop strategies for lead generation and preneed sales staff development. This experience is a perfect fit with Funeral Innovations’ partner firms who want to utilize modern marketing techniques to attract new leads.

Bill is the father of four and along with his wife Mary Claire they are proud to make Des Moines, IA their home. Bill says, “Des Moines is a fantastic business community and this central location lets me travel and work easily with clients all across the nation. I’m eager to get to know every one of Funeral Innovations partners, including our newest customers and anyone else who wants to work with the easiest, most effective and most successful system to help you manage your company’s online presence.”

If you would like to congratulate Bill on his new position, contact him at Bill@funeralinnovations.com.

How social media can help save your funeral home

Reputation

It’s probably something you don’t think about too often.

As a funeral home owner, thoughts cross your mind about losing business to competitors, what will you do with the business when you retire, how else can you serve your community, etc. but the problem that Dale and Jodi Clock faced this past winter is every owner’s nightmare.

A little background.

Clock Funeral Home of Muskegon, Dale and Jodi’s funeral home, operates three locations in western Michigan. Clock Funeral Home of White Lake, a separate funeral home, operated independently by Dale Clock’s cousin, was in Whitehall, Michigan. Two separate companies with separate owners and staff.

Early this year, bad news emerged about Dale’s cousin. Long story short, Thomas Clock failed to responsibly and respectfully cremate a body, fill out the correct paperwork, in addition to deceiving the family. (one local news source’s story)

When the news came out about Thomas Clock’s funeral home, unfortunately Dale and Jodi’s company was right there in the spotlight as well, even though they weren’t affiliated. Name association alone left them to fend off negative ramifications from what happened.

Dale and Jodi needed to do some serious damage control, fast. People were calling frantically asking to pull their preplanning contracts and go elsewhere. Social media was buzzing about what had happened, and the name Clock Funeral Home was all over the news. Their reputation was getting muddled with that of Thomas Clock’s.

Dale and Jodi jumped into action. They chose to host a few open houses, sent out an email newsletter explaining the situation, spoke with local newspapers and television stations that asked them to comment, and chose to educate the community on who they are, heavily through Facebook. They wanted to reassure everyone that they could still be trusted in the community as professional, funeral care providers.

Here at Funeral Innovations, we created custom posts for Dale and Jodi as they worked to rebuild their reputation. Through the Social Media Copilot, we boosted these posts within the affected cities so they would be seen by more people in the Whitehall community. We helped ensure the Clocks ‘ reputation be restored by reaching the right people with the correct message.

Pictured above is one example of the posts we created for the Clocks, accompanied by more information regarding their firm and the opportunity to call for more information (click here to see this Facebook post, its reactions and comments).

We also created and boosted some custom posts to promote the open houses that they decided to hold. Facebook is a great tool to help get the word out about upcoming events – and we helped them use it wisely. You can see the spike in the amount of people reached through their Facebook page during the time the posts were boosted (see image below).

“Within two weeks of the whole thing coming out in the press, we held an open house in the community at a church and it was primarily Facebook that advertised. Facebook got it out there and it took off. It got shared a lot,” said Dale.

Dale and Jodi were happy to use Facebook to share their message. Dale noted, “It would have cost us a fortune to put that kind of news out” referring to traditional forms of media.

Jodi, who is the more Facebook savvy of the two, wasn’t nervous to use Facebook as the main source of education in this situation. Even before the bad news hit the media, Jodi and Dale had decided to start educating their community on the difference between their funeral home and Dale’s cousin’s business. Jodi remarks, “I had seen such a huge response of support with Facebook once we put it out there… I felt that both Dale and I were united – we couldn’t get the word out fast enough on Facebook.” The work they’d already done, in part by our Social Media Copilot, to build their Facebook community, helped in setting the facts straight in this time of crisis for their business.

Jodi did a fantastic job to stay on top of the comments received on posts. She answered questions and redirected any doubts.

The Clock’s put out an email newsletter that was an informal, personal letter to their families explaining the situation. They stated the facts to alleviate any doubts but also shared their emotions. It didn’t feel stuffy or overly formal (you can read the letter here). They sent it out through our Email Copilot, which already housed hundreds of email addresses from their customers.

 ~~~~~

We wanted to share the Dale and Jodi Clock story because we all can learn from it. When bad news strikes, all defenses must go up, including social media. It’s not just an option anymore to be on social media, to post when it’s convenient. In this case, and many similar cases where reputations are broken, it’s important to reach out on the most effective platforms.

In our industry, Facebook needs to be taken seriously, as a source people turn to for information. 63% of Facebook users get their news on Facebook, a 17% increase from 3 years ago, according to a recent study by Pew Research Center.

For the Clocks, social media has done them lots of good in the past years. This situation was no different. They reacted quickly, knowing how fast social media works, and were able to help themselves…and even thrive! Their choice to proactively speak out to their community on many media platforms really helped them overcome this potentially crushing incident.

When we asked the Clocks their advice to others in the industry, Jodi offered, “Make your Facebook page interesting and a place others want to follow…you’ve got to be relational and talk about what’s going on it the community. Let them know who you are.”

Dale added, “Be transparent, be straightforward, don’t be afraid to put out your feelings and tell what you provide. If you’re too straight-laced, if you come across as a business you’ll come across too stiff. Facebook allows you to be more open and more personal.”

Kudos to the Clock’s who really did a fantastic job!

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Facebook Reactions for Funeral Homes

Earlier this year, Facebook released a huge change to their product, with a redesigned “Like” button called Reactions. The Like button has always been a core part of using Facebook, providing people an easy way to show which posts they enjoyed, while giving positive feedback to the person or brand who posted it. However, Facebook recognized that people wanted to express more emotions than a simple “Like” could handle, which resulted in the release of their much anticipated Reactions feature.

Now in addition to “Liking” a post, you can choose among other universal emotions, such as “Love”, “Laugh”, “Wow”, “Sad” and “Angry.”

Reactions seem to be a perfect fit for funeral home’s Facebook posts. For instance, previously if you posted an obituary on your funeral home’s Facebook page, your followers were conflicted in how they expressed their support. Do they click “like” on your post, even though somebody’s death is obviously not something that’s not at all likable? As a result, many people did not interact with obituary posts at all.

Now, it’s much easier to express support for a funeral home’s post. We are seeing the use of many different reactions in response to obituaries and other funeral home’s posts, such as Sadness, Love and Anger, like in the obituary shown above.

By all measures, it appears Reactions have been a huge success for Facebook. As you continue to post to your funeral home’s Facebook Page, keep an eye on the different reactions your posts are eliciting. They provide a key insight into how strongly people feel about your posts, which can guide your strategy to continue posting content that generates an emotional response in your community.

Personalize your obituaries with cover photos

An effective online obituary is one that encapsulates each unique life. The obituary itself tells the story, while the tributes and memories color the emotions. Photos and videos help illustrate that which words cannot describe.

With each different way you can bring the obituary to life, you help the family and friends create a truly permanent, online memorial of their loved one.

We’ve now introduced a brand new way to personalize your obituaries with our obituary Cover Photos.

You can choose from our beautiful graphics to represent the person’s life, interests, hobbies and personality. You can even upload a custom image provided by the family. See a cover photo in action here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to provide the ultimate personalization to your families? Talk to us about getting Obituary Cover Photos for your funeral home!

Over 100 new Facebook Posts for Cremation, Pet Loss and more!

The Social Media Copilot just got bigger and better. We’ve just added a bunch of new feeds with over 100 beautiful, custom posts to share with your community on Facebook.

The new feeds include:

  • Cremation Education
  • Affordable Cremation
  • Pet Care
  • Pet Famous
  • Pet Grief
  • Pet Happy
  • Pets & Holidays

If you’re not yet using the Social Media Copilot, it’s time to get onboard! It’s easy, effective and affordable. Contact us now to get started!

Celebrate and Share Holidays and Special Days on Facebook

The wait is over: the Social Media Copilot’s 2016 Holiday and Special Day posts are live! And this year they are bigger and better than ever.

Let’s back up a moment and discuss why it’s critical to post content on relevant holidays and special days throughout the year on Facebook.

  1. Show your community that your firm is about celebrating life, not just focusing on death
  2. Holiday and special day posts are proven to get more engagement and reach
  3. Become the trusted hub for social media content
  4. Spread your brand with beautiful, viral posts

55 Custom Built Graphics

This year our Social Media Copilot holiday and special day feeds are bigger than ever with a whopping 55 custom built graphics celebrating all the major holidays as well as fun and important national days and months throughout the year.

Best of all, your logo is automatically added to every photo before posting, ensuring your brand gets maximum exposure!

Get The Posts Now!

If you’re a Social Media Copilot Premium customer, you’ve already got the posts. Just login to your Copilot and click “Schedule All” for the 2016 Holiday and Special Day campaigns. One click and you’re done; the Copilot is amazing, huh? :)

If you’re not using the Social Media Copilot Premium, what are you waiting for? Sign up now to get all these great posts, huge fan growth, unparalleled community reach and much more. If you’re using the Talk of a Lifetime version of the Copilot, or Copilot Pro, contact us to upgrade today.

Top 5 Digital Marketing Trends for Funeral Homes in 2016

We all know the funeral industry is changing. People are becoming more price sensitive, folks shopping around more and funeral homes continue to feel the pressure from local competition and online offerings. The good news is that by taking advantage of the latest marketing trends, smart funeral homes can position themselves for both immediate growth and lasting success.

Below we’ll look at the 5 dominate marketing trends your funeral home should pay attention to this year. While some of them are brand new, others have been around for awhile but are now becoming more effective through the use of technology.

Finally, be sure to read through to the end, where we announce an amazing offer to help your funeral home succeed online, absolutely free!

Without further ado, let’s see the trends.

1. Facebook Ads

It’s no secret that Facebook has been aggressively adjusting their news feed which has resulted in fewer people seeing your Facebook Page’s posts organically. While on the face of it, less reach seems like bad news, right? Actually, it’s a great opportunity! What Facebook is doing is making its paid ads more effective (and important). Best of all, if you set your ads up right, you can get really great ROI! Let’s take a look at 3 kinds of Facebook Ads you should consider.

Boost for Engagement

Facebook offers the ability to boost your post (i.e. pay Facebook) to reach a broader audience. But to get value from this kind of ad, you must be careful to set it up properly while boosting the correct types of posts. Start by selecting your most engaging content; posts that position your brand in a positive light. One way you can do this is simply wait a few days after posting to see which of your posts performs the best organically, then boost those for greater reach and exposure. Next, when you boost the post you want to be sure you are selecting a targeted audience of people within your community, so that you aren’t wasting your budget on folks who can never become customers. Finally, be sure to monitor the results to see which audiences are responding the best, then adjust your future ads to target more of those people.

Awareness Ads

Perhaps your funeral home is holding a special educational event, a candle lighting ceremony or is releasing a new offering or special. Facebook is the ideal way to build awareness for your event or offering! In this case, you’ll want to create a custom graphic promoting your announcement (make your graphic 1200px by 627px and be sure to abide by the 20% text rule) then boost your post to a very targeted audience of people in your community who will be most interested in your offering.

Promote an event or offering on Facebook

Conversion Ads

While the aforementioned types of ads are intended to build awareness and engagement of your brand, it’s also possible to generate actual leads by getting people to click back to your website or provide you their contact information. To be clear, if you are looking to sell something on Facebook, such as a preplanning package, prepare to be disappointed! Facebook is not a good medium for direct sales. Instead, you can use Facebook to build interest and educate your audience, then provide some call to action or giveaway to move them down your marketing funnel and closer to a sale. For instance, you might give away a free eBook on preplanning, a downloadable Living Will, preplanning reminders, or any other offer in return for their email address or contact information. From there, you can use drip marketing techniques (discussed below) to heat up the lead and result in a sale!

2. Mobile-First Mindset

Mobile devices now account for over half of all internet usage! It’s an amazing milestone, but one that probably doesn’t surprise anyone who sees people glued to their phones everywhere they go.

For your marketing plan to succeed, you need to ensure you have a mobile-first mindset, meaning you take into account mobile internet users with all of your digital marketing.

For example, your website should employ a responsive design to ensure it looks perfect no matter what sized device your visitor is using. This is even more important when you consider that Google now penalizes websites without responsive designs, making it less likely that your website will show up in search results for people on their phones. If you don’t have a responsive website, or don’t know where to start, contact us now and we’ll get you where you need to be!

When you send emails or newsletters, be sure they have a responsive design as well, since they are likely to be opened on a mobile device and 80% of people will simply delete an email if it doesn’t look good on their phone!

When you create Facebook Ads, you should keep in mind that almost half of Facebook’s users only use Facebook from their mobile device! That means you should cater to their mobile experience. For instance, if you are asking someone to click on a link from your Facebook ad and leave their Facebook app to go to your website, there’s a good chance you’re going to get poor conversion rates. Fortunately Facebook has just released a new kind of ad, called Lead Ads, that let mobile users submit information to sign up for your offer or newsletter without leaving their Facebook app! 

3. Email Newsletters

While newsletters have been around for a long time, they are now more popular than ever!

Newsletters are particularly valuable for funeral homes and cemeteries, since they allow you to take your message directly to your community, and speak to them with their full attention, right from their inbox. You can educate your families on the value of pre-planning, announce events, and position yourself as the experts within the industry to build the all important top-of-mind awareness that leads to more customers and better word of mouth marketing.

Many people need to see your message multiple (or even a dozen or more) times before they are ready to take action. The best marketing approach is one that saturates your audience with your message across multiple channels. You might prime your audience with simple and engaging posts on Facebook, then bring them a more in depth article through your newsletter.

You can get started with newsletters by using popular tools such as MailChimp or Constant Contact. If you really want to save time, and want access to a huge library of newsletter stories for funeral home audiences, consider using our very own Email Copilot!

4. Retargeting

Retargeting is an extremely effective form of advertising in which your ads are only shown to people with whom you’ve already made some sort of contact. On the web, typically retargeting is focused on showing display ads across the web to people who have previously visited your website. You’ve probably noticed this done to you before: perhaps you were shopping for a new vacuum cleaner on Amazon, and then sure enough, you start seeing ads for vacuum cleaners on Facebook!

Here’s how you can make retargeting work for you.

You’d probably agree that it’s more effective to show an ad to someone who already visited your funeral home’s website, right? After all, they are at the very least familiar with your brand already, and maybe be interested in something you offer. You then simply install a pixel to your website (or particular pages on your website) to track visitors, and create ads for those visitors to see across the web, including on Facebook and Twitter. You can use tools such as PerfectAudience, Google AdWords, AdRoll and others to set up your retargeting campaigns.

5. Drip Marketing

Drip marketing is an email marketing strategy that sends (i.e. “drips”) pre-written set of messages to customers or prospects over time. The emails are sent automatically after being triggered by some action indicating interest.

Drip marketing serves a different purpose than your email newsletters. Your newsletters have a broad audience and maintains general interest. Drip marketing, on the other hand, is very targeted and sent just to people who initiate the trigger. Further, with drip marketing, once somebody starts the campaign, they get each email message in the series in the exact order, unlike newsletters where someone only starts getting new emails from the time in which they subscribe.

Using Drip Marketing, you can generate interest using some sort of giveaway, for instance, perhaps you are giving away a free Living Will. To sign up, folks just need to enter their email address. From there, they get a series of emails automatically over time, explaining how to use the Living Will, progressing to a discussion of preplanning, and culminating with calls to action to get started.

Want more information about this powerful marketing technique, and examples of how you can use it within your funeral home? Sign up for our free email marketing e-course now!

Free Technology Office Hours!

I know this can be a lot to sort out on your own. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone! We are offering free technology office hours to help answer any questions you have about your website, Facebook, digital marketing or any other technology. Just click here to book a slot to chat with us and tap into our expertise for free!

See Your Business Results in Real-time

We are super excited to announce the new Funeral Innovations Business Dashboard!

Now any Funeral Innovations client can immediately see a summary of their business results in realtime, across their web, Facebook and email platforms.

Let’s take a look at what’s new:

At A Glance

The At a Glance stats give you a quick look into your critical results over the past month, as well as the performance relative to your firm’s monthly averages. Want to drill down further? You can change the duration to show your past week, day or even year.

Performance Charts

The performance charts provide an interactive chart showing you the results of some of your key business metrics over time. This provides you a visual overview of how your website and marketing engines are helping you reach your goals.

Activity Feed 

Our revamped Activity Feed shows you a real-time look at the critical activity occurring within your web and marketing channels. This includes flower & gift purchases, newsletter signups, boosted Facebook posts, visitor inquiries, review submissions, preplanning submissions, announcements, milestones and more! You can simply click on any activity notice for the full details.

It shows everything that’s important, all in one place.

Try it now!

Take the new FI Dashboard a spin for yourself now. Just login to your Funeral Innovations account and you’ll be brought there right away. And of course we’d love to know what you think, and hear what else you’d like to see!

 

7 Tips for Funeral Homes to Get More Engagement on Facebook

At Funeral Innovations, we help funeral homes succeed on Facebook. One critically important step for succeeding on Facebook is engaging your audience. The more you engage your audience, the more you build your brand loyalty and reach. But many funeral homes aren’t sure what kind of content they should post to engage their audience on Facebook.

We have helped funeral homes reach over 5 million people on Facebook this year alone, so we know a bit about what works and what doesn’t!

I’d like to highlight some tips and ideas for engaging your audience on Facebook in a way that helps you achieve your business goals through real life examples from some of your peer’s Facebook Pages.

Let’s get right into it!

1. Photos and Videos Get the Most Engagement

Humans are visual. Photos and videos catch people’s attention as they quickly scroll through their Facebook news feed and thus get the most engagement. Photos get over 50% more engagement than text-only posts, and videos do even better! According to Facebook, “Bright, colorful images depicting human interaction are particularly successful.”

So it’s time to start flexing your artistic muscles and create some eye-popping graphics! Here’s a great example we shared for one of our partner firms.

 

2. Keep Your Message Positive

People go on Facebook to see interesting stuff, find out what their friends are doing, smile, laugh or learn a little something. They don’t go on Facebook to focus on death or mortality. But as a funeral home, how do you balance your message to keep it on topic but not too focused on death? Just be sure to keep your message light and up-lifting. Here’s a great example that got tons of engagement: almost 700 likes!

 

3. Educate Your Audience

Most people don’t know much about our industry, but on Facebook, people enjoy learning new and interesting things! That’s great for funeral homes, since education is one of the best forms of marketing. Help your community understand what it is you do, and why it matters. Perhaps you post about a day in the life of a funeral director. It might sound boring to you, since it’s your job, but I guarantee it will pique the interest of people in your community!

Some other ideas:

  • Post pictures of different rooms or parts of your facility and/or grounds and describe what they are used for
  • Highlight each of your employees and what their role in your firm entails
  • Describe the different types of dispositions along with pros and cons of each
  • Help people understand the benefits of planning ahead
  • Provide some history of your firm and grounds
  • Describe the traditions and history of different funeral services
  • Offer grief tips and helpful articles on dealing with grief
  • Offer some funeral etiquette, such as what to wear to a service or how to write a condolence letter

What other ideas can you think of?

 

4. Toot Your Own Horn

It’s ok to brag every now and then, especially if you’re sharing some flattering words about your firm from someone you’ve served. That’s the power of posting testimonials: you provide folks with social validation, meaning they see just how valued their peers in their community find your service.

One way we do this for our clients is we collect reviews from their customers. For the positive ones, we ask the reviewer for permission to share it, and then we put the review on a graphical background to create what we call a Review Board, then post them to Facebook. The graphic helps the post get people’s attention, and this ensures that a lot of people in the community see just how valued the firm is!

Here’s one example:

5. Show How You’re Different

Let your fans see what makes you different from other firms and other businesses in your area. What is it that makes you so great? Show them! Perhaps you provide the ultimate personalization and craft unique celebrations of life. That’s the case for Robert’s Family Funeral Home in Forest Lake, MN. They helped honor someone within the hockey community with a unique and memorable celebration you see below. This really resonated within the Forest Lake community, and the post got tons of engagement and positive feedback.

 

6. Humor is OK. Actually, it’s Good!

People go on Facebook to smile and laugh. Often, they don’t associate those traits with a funeral home, but it’s ok for a funeral home to be funny sometimes. In fact, it helps your brand by showing that not only do you know how to be serious, sympathetic and supportive, but that you also know how to make people smile. Here’s a great example!

 

7. If It Works Once, Post it Again!

This is a powerful little secret that most people don’t know about. If you have a post that gets good engagement once, you really ought to post it again! The reason is that even the most successful posts on Facebook are only seen by a small fraction of your fans, those who happen to have logged in within the first few hours after you posted it. The rest of your audience never even sees it. Don’t let a good post go to waste by only posting it once! What we do for our clients is we monitor their posts, and if one gets great engagement, we wait a few months and post it again. Almost always, it does just as well or even better the next time around. This ensures the best posts get seen by as many people as possible. This is the Boomerang feature, which is automatically included in our Social Media Copilot software.

 

 

There you go: 7 tips and examples that will help you go viral and get positive engagement on your Facebook Page.

Of course, if you’re still struggling to get the results you want from your Facebook Page, or simply don’t have time to manage it properly yourself, we’ll be happy to help! Check out our Social Media Copilot solution, which has helped funeral homes reach over 5 million people in their communities this year alone. It’s the most advanced, proven and effective solution in our industry! We make your Facebook strategy simple and effective. So contact us now and let’s Go Viral Together.

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Introducing the Email Copilot – The Simplest Way to Build Email Newsletters Ever

Funeral Innovations today introduced the Email Copilot, the funeral industry’s first turn-key email solution. With more than 90% of the adult population in the US having an active email address, funeral homes and cemeteries are looking to take their marketing message and branding to the inboxes of their community. Many owners see the need to expand their marketing to email, but most have avoided it due to the time required to create the content.

The Email Copilot provides a turn-key solution where you can create professional email newsletters in less than 5 minutes.  Unlike other email platforms available, the Email Copilot includes a large library of industry specific stories. With a simple click, you can take a selected story and customize it with your own wording and graphics to create a beautiful, personalized newsletter.

“We are very excited about the potential of the Email Copilot. Email is an established technology that has proven results in terms of marketing effectiveness. Our Email Copilot solves the challenges of creating an effective monthly newsletter, without breaking the bank. Best of all, firms using the Email Copilot to send newsletters are seeing email open rates up to 200% higher than industry average!”, says Greg Young, Co-founder of Funeral Innovations.

To compliment the original stories, there are several features of the Email Copilot that help collect newsletter subscribers through your website and Facebook page.  All the emails collected are verified, ensuring your email list is valid to avoid spam reports.  

If you would like to learn more about the Email Copilot, visit www.funeralinnovations.com/email or contact us to arrange a demo today.