My two main predictions can also be taken as warnings. They are strategies being played out on the internet right now and will only become more of a factor in 2010 – not that they will harm your business dramatically in 2010 but they will start to slowly erode it (if you let them).
1. Virtual Funeral Homes. These are not completely virtual businesses but are physical funeral homes that are creating a virtual presence covering a larger geographically area or even “testing the waters” in a larger or new trade area. We have seen Cremation Societies reach beyond their traditional trade area and you will other websites catering to a larger area, but being headquartered in their established bricks and mortar funeral home. Some may see this as a warning while other may see it as an opportunity.
2. 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 there 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.
I hate to have a negative tone while looking into a bright future, but I just want to make you aware of what is happen in the “virtual” world around you.
What are your thoughts? Please share your comments below…