On January 1, 2010, I posted my Funeral Futurist Predictions for 2010. In that article I introduced to you a new kind of competitor for funeral homes, that I dubbed: Online Call Poachers (see the original excerpt at the bottom of the article). In a nutshell, “Online Call Poachers” are websites that put themselves in between someone looking for a funeral home and the funeral home themselves.
Since the time of my first warning, more potential call poachers have come onto the scene. And what boggles my mind is that some of them become darlings of the industry. They get press and endorsements from associations, consultants and online media.
“Hello People!! Don’t you see what they are doing?”
Let me explain their business model…
They create a website that offers helpful information to the general public about death, grief, funerals and funeral homes. The information could be in the form of FAQs, Videos, Price Quotes, Funeral Home Ratings or being a Funeral Home directory. Now, not all of these information / directory sites are bad – it’s the next step that’s important to note…
How do they make their money?
If they are just selling advertising – that’s ok. It could be Banner Ads or Google Adsense and if the site is good, it will make enough money to stick around, and if it sucks it won’t be around (in the eyes of Google) very long. Google doesn’t like directory sites anymore. Over the last couple of years, Google has devalued online directories as they – Google – want to the be the directory and want your funeral home to be one of their directory listings – that is why they gave you Google Places.
However, if the site becomes a CPA (cost per action) site – then the Rangers and Game Wardens should be alerted. You see, CPA is where the big money is – not in selling banner ads. How this works is that the website gets paid when an action is taken, such as filling out a form requesting funeral costs. This is a “textbook strategy” taught by online marketing gurus.
Who pays them? You do or your competitor, or both depending on the model. They will either sell the lead to the highest bidder or have you and your competitors pay to have your prices listed with them.
Then it is up to consumer to choose and if that is the case they will probably choose a funeral home based on price since you are two handshakes away from being able to explain the value of the services you offer.
The bigger problem that I foresee is their exit strategy… because I doubt they are in it for the long haul.
What they have done is studied the demographics and worked the numbers – the backroom conversation goes something like this… Since there are X number of people are going to die in the next 10 to 20 years and if we just get X% of the market we’ll make a ton of dough! NOTE: Venture capitalists don’t invest in startups unless there is the “ton of dough” potential!
So this is what really worries me…
In the short term, these call poachers will drive up the costs of your online advertising whether it is banner ads or pay per click.
And in the long term, since it is more than likely that the “ton of dough” won’t happen (because both you and I know how hard it is to win that call); they are going to pack it in and they will have an online property that they will try to unload at a discounted price but there are only a few potential buyers – maybe funeral corporations or larger suppliers – and the smaller funeral homes helped fund it.
So my critics will now say that this article is self serving, that I would rather have you do business with me instead of them – well, duh! But here’s my angle…
I would rather help you create your own online property where the only handshake is between you and your potential client family – no middleman.
The other difference is that you and me – we’re different – we’re not like them – we’re lifers – we’re in it for the long haul! And if something ever happened to me, you still own that online property that we created.
So my advice to you is just BEWARE – ask yourself how are they making their money now and in the future. The only thing that you have control over is what hangs on your own domain name – make sure that you are in control!
If you are interested in “cutting out the middleman” and building your own online market domination program, send me an email and I will let you know what to do next!
Also, I would love to hear your comments about my Call Poachers article – positive or negative, just leave your comment below…
Online Call Poachers. You probably haven’t heard of this term, but I couldn’t come up with a better way to name this “new player” into funeral service. These are information and resource websites about funeral service. They provide helpful information to consumers, answering questions, and maybe even providing a directory of funeral homes. These were once thought of as helpful directory sites but as they continue to add more information to their websites, they will become “funeral information juggernauts” that will rank at the top of Google and the other search engines for funeral related terms – even local terms.
Some of these sites may charge for featured listings in their directories, but what will be inevitable is that they will start receiving first calls (as people hit the Internet for information upon learning of the death of their loved one). At that point, they hold in their hand a Call that could get passed on to whoever they want to give it to – in some cases the highest bidder. They will become the online equivalent of the minister or hospice worker who can steer a family to one funeral home over another.
I am not saying that all directories and resource websites will do this but some will. This form of Lead Capture – or what I call in our industry “Call Poachers” – is actually an Internet Marketing Strategy that I have seen be taught and used in other industries where these marketers become conduit for leads and then direct them to the highest bidder. For some funeral homes, they be happy paying the “finders fee” to these companies, while others may want to control the “virtual real estate” in their market by being the go-to source for funeral information in their area.