Obituaries play a vital role at newspapers and in the communities we serve. This is one area where technology can improve on the previous ways of gathering information for obituaries. Today’s custom obituary software that takes self-serve entries, automates pagination and provides other options is both a cost-saver and revenue producer for newspapers; but more importantly, the right software improves the customer experience for both funeral directors and families, easing the burden in a difficult time.
There are many features that enhance the customer experience and provide additional comfort to the family, with real-time proofs of the obituary, the opportunity to add multiple photos, civic symbols, religious symbols and more.
Here are some proven ways publishers use automation to create a win/win for the community, the funeral directors and the bottom line.
Educate Local Funeral Homes About New Options
Funeral homes provide a key service in the community and they are your partners in explaining the value of a printed obituary to the families of loved ones lost.
Use your new automated options to establish a relationship and educate the funeral homes in your areas—even funeral homes who are not advertisers or are working with a different company. They are important, so get to know them all!
Keep conversations informational about how they can improve their services, and how obituaries are evolving—with features like Facebook obituaries and online memorials—rather than a sales pitch. Let them know self-serve is an option, they can also call, or send an email. Be flexible and let them buy what they find valuable. Most of all LISTEN to and understand their concerns and the evolution in their business. Find out what you can do to help make their lives’ easier.
Funeral home partners are not a traditional customer. Once a funeral home has signed on, they require very little support, sometimes only a couple of visits a year.
“The funeral home is your best ally. They are recommending what the family should do. If you have a good relationship, they are going to offer obits,” says one top seller who tripled obituary revenues using self-serve in the first year.
Show Funeral Homes How Self-Serve Can Improve Their Services
The ease of placement, instant proofing, and pre-calculated pricing are helpful to funeral homes, but self-serve also allows them to place orders quickly while families are in the office, which is a valuable service for both. Funeral directors guide the family with full services, so the family has fewer decisions to make without help.
Funeral homes can offer all the extra options in the software, such as additional photos, layouts, and symbols that help create a better obituary.
Multiple payment options are another useful convenience. Anything that makes the experience frictionless helps families who are already under the stress of organizing services.
Provide a Printed Family Planning Guide
Some newspapers have found that families and funeral homes like having a brochure that tells all about how to create and place an obituary.
Not only is a brochure something that people usually do not experience in writing, but also in the modern era, the brochure can help families understand what obituaries are for: letting the whole community know of a loved ones passing, telling their story, giving others an opportunity to participate by attending the funeral, sending flowers or posting a condolence to a memorial website. The obituary mentions surviving family members (the brochure can outline which ones and how many to include), designates whether a charitable contribution is in order instead of flowers, and the time and date of the service.
The guide can also show where the obituary will be published in print and online, what it will look like, who it will reach, plus deadlines, options, and contact information.
Most importantly, it should include a “How to Honor Your Loved One” writing guide. It explains to families how to tell the story of their loved one, reminding them to consider important details that the family may have forgotten in a time of grief and stress.
Modernize Options to Appeal to All Generations
Printed obituaries are part of a deep tradition of honoring the departed. Younger family members may not fully appreciate the value of print, however, they will understand the value of online memorials owned by the family, including Legacy.com and Lasting Memories—an ad-free memorial website provided by iPublish. Offering both options is one way to be inclusive of all generations and digital adapters.
Many families now use Facebook campaigns to alert people near and far how to go to the online page and leave a remembrance. These Facebook campaigns often reach colleagues and friends that the person placing the obituary may not know. For example, by (targeting) home towns, schools, companies where the deceased worked, civic organizations or special interests—the obituary reaches people near and far. Even if they are unable to attend a service, posting to a memorial site is a way to support families and leave a permanent tribute for someone special to them who has passed.
Make It Easy
Self-serve options and extra services remove the need for phone calls and email submissions that are overly complicated on all sides. Providing instant proof and final pricing also eliminates a lot of errors. The newspaper should continue to proof ads entered by private-parties and funeral homes to ensure spelling/grammar is correct. A typo in an obituary can be an emotional issue, and this minor service deepens a relationship of trust with the funeral homes.
Offer a Tributes Print Special Section
If there is one recommendation for newspapers to demonstrate the value of the printed obituary and as a community service is it by publishing a special memorial section, called Tributes, which is a monthly, quarterly or semi-annual commemorative print section that features those recently passed in the community.
Families love having a printed issue that features their loved one and celebrates them as part of the community. The Tributes section is something that they can share and save. Funeral homes and families don’t mind the rate increase associated with Tributes, as it provides a true family and community value. These issues are always in demand, so remember to print extra copies to leave with funeral directors or make available at the front counter! Over 50 newspapers across the country are now publishing Tributes with extremely positive feedback from families and funeral directors.