New York State Funeral Directors Association

Don't Be Bashful When Asking For Reviews

I want to tell you about one marketing initiative that independent funeral home owners really need to do if they want to ramp up both their at-need calls and their preneed business.

It's also the one thing many owners (and funeral directors in general) don't especially want to do—which probably isn't a coincidence.

If more of them felt comfortable doing it, it wouldn't be such a challenge.

Which is too bad, because once they get the hang of it, it's really not hard at all.

So, I hope you're asking, what do you need to do?

You need to get used to asking the families you serve for reviews.

I know. For some of you, I might as well be encouraging you to spend a day at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Customer checking reviews on mobile phone

I work with a lot of funeral home owners, and this is the one area where I find a lot of resistance.

It's not like I don't understand: Funeral professionals never want to be viewed as being callous in any way.

They don't want to look like they're as concerned with their own businesses as they are with the families they serve.

Regardless, in this digital age, the online reputation of local businesses has overtaken offline reputation—and by that, I mean community word of mouth—in importance.

I recently searched for Google reviews of funeral homes in 10 American cities with metro area populations over 200,000.

You would expect the larger funeral homes in these well-known cities to have close to 100 reviews by now.

But that's not the case.

In one, the most-reviewed firm had 26 reviews. The runner-up had only 13. No other funeral home in this relatively large metro area had Google reviews in the double digits.

The same was true in many other similarly sized regions. There was the occasional outlier: One area had a funeral home with 44 reviews—a fraction of what it should have, but comparatively spectacular in the industry.

This is understandable to a certain degree. Many funeral homes still don't prioritize aggressive marketing in general. They're less inclined to promote themselves online.

And many funeral directors remain uncomfortable with pursuing online reviews from families after providing services.

Granted, people in general are less inclined to take it upon themselves to review a funeral home that helped their family than they would be to review a hotel or restaurant. It's just not something that quickly comes to mind.

But that also goes to the very point I'm making: If you ran a hotel or restaurant, you wouldn't have to be aggressive about soliciting reviews. You would get them whether you want them or not.

At a funeral home, you must take the initiative. If you don't set goals for positive review generation and stick to them, you'll never hit the quality and quantity "tipping points" that will make your firm dominate local competitors in search results.

Even worse, if you're sitting back and being entirely passive about online reviews, about 80 percent of time you'll either be receiving no reviews or negative ones.

Families don't necessarily think to submit a review of a funeral home, especially when the passing of their loved one is still fresh in their minds.

You could provide the most amazing service in the history of the profession, but it won't necessarily occur to the family to review you.

That's why you must get comfortable with the notion of reaching out.

Do so thoughtfully, of course; it's also obviously a good idea to only inquire among families who clearly felt that you did an excellent job.

If you're not entirely sure, you should wait for the next one. A severely negative review can do more harm than 10 or 15 positive ones.

This is also a good place to note that Yelp, despite being one of the biggest names in consumer reviews, prohibits business owners from directly soliciting reviews.

You could try, of course, but if you got caught, Yelp can hit you with some serious penalties.

So I suggest you focus on Google reviews and Facebook reviews, which are really just as powerful as Yelp for deathcare online reputation anyway. If you give it a shot, I think you will be very pleased with the results.

Welton Hong of Ring Ring MarketingWelton Hong
Welton Hong is the founder of Ring Ring Marketing® and the author of Making Your Phone Ring with Internet Marketing for Funeral Homes, 2010 Edition.

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