I don't often hear in the same sentence - Funeral Directors and Digital Marketing. When I do, it makes me sit up and take notice. When SAIF, (The National Society of Allied & Independent Funeral Directors), announced a pilot digital marketing campaign, I was intrigued. Could it have been me that influenced the decision?
I placed into Terry Tennens hand, the Chief Executive of SAIF, a copy of my book, Death Goes Digital. It was in Leicester at a SAIF regional training day back in November 2016. Seeing it was unsigned, he kindly asked me to sign it. Paul Allcock, the then President of SAIF, had a copy too. I've pondered before late at night the impact my book has had. I once thought I might have influenced Microsoft to buy LinkedIn for $26.2 billion. But I was wrong on that occasion too!
The project ran from 21st Feb to 21st March 2017. The results are in. I was chomping at the bit to see what happened. The pilot project wanted people typing in a search bar or looking on Facebook for end of life themes to find a SAIF member Funeral Director through the "Find A Member" page of the SAIF website.
It was a "funnel" approach often used in digital marketing. This process allows the monitoring of success at each stage. Type a certain search term you see a Google advert. Look down your Facebook wall, and you see an advert. Click on the image or text. This now sends you to a blog post or video. Each process leading to the next. Allowing you to check how successful the words were used.
Two short videos had the same themes as the blogs. I was confused. While there were two videos with different titles, they were the same video? Was this correct or an error in the campaign?
What Were The Results?
Insight the SAIF member magazine published the results from Genesis. Genesis is the PR and digital agency employed by SAIF to organise the project. Over 100,000 people saw the advertising campaign. The report claiming over 1000 people read the blog posts. This "increased" the numbers of individuals who visited the "Find A Member" page (there were links on the blog to the page) than for the same time last year. The number or % of the increase was absent from the figures. Was this 1, 10 a 100? It didn't say. There was only a snippet of the report in the magazine. Will SAIF publish a detailed report?
Google Advert Results
The report said the Google adverts had 48,592 impressions. An impression counts each time your ad shows on a search result page. These are the links at the top of a Google search page. They have Ad in a green square by the side of the link. From 48,592 adverts shown 557 people clicked on the link. This term is the CTR - Click Through Rate. 1% CTR is a benchmark. This campaign has a 1:15% CTR. Using a CTR companion tool this figure of 1:15% is 52% lower than other consumer services based businesses. Finding and split testing different ads could increase that rate.
Facebook Advert Results
The Facebook advert results showed 55,898 impressions and a reach of 49,034. Impressions are the number of times your ad displays. While reach is the number of people, who received those impressions.
What Can You Learn From This Campaign & The Results?
You can see the goal was achieved to get people to the "Find A Member" page. By how much, we do not know. While getting people to the page is important, getting them to call to a Funeral Director is critical. How many people followed the process through and found a local firm, contacted them and booked a funeral? Is this known? Getting to that page alone is not enough.
The "Find A Member" page is complicated to navigate and find a local firm I think. This was the search for Birmingham.
Having to expand a google map could be a step too far for most people. When I tried the page, it was broken. However, the response from the tech team I contacted was quick and helpful. It is now working again.
With 850+ members of SAIF, I am wondering why there are only 127 people following the company page? Is the page targeting the general public or members? Is this sign many SAIF Funeral Directors do not have Facebook pages? Alternatively, that members do not use the page? Either way, this could be an area for planned growth and development. On the SAIF Facebook page, the post had not been shared or liked many times.
I would want to know more about how effective the videos were used. I raised the view on one video to 30. It was an unlisted Youtube video. "Unlisted" means that only people who know the link to the video can view it. An unlisted video will not appear in any of YouTube's public spaces. (such as search results, your channel, or the Browse page) Why do that when Youtube is the second largest search engine on the web? This would be another question I would ask.
THESE ARE Exciting First Tentative Steps for SAIF
SAIF are encouraged by the initial results.
They should be!
SAIF is moving forward with a digital strategy. To be an effective organisational leader you have to lead from the front. The digital disruption battlefield has no space for timid leaders. There is no room for shouting commands from the safety of the rear to those in the trenches. You have to lead from the front, and this is what they are doing. Whether my by my influence or not... :) it is the way forward.
The pace of digital disruption across all sectors of business is increasing. The funeral industry is not exempt. Business changes quickly. It was not that long ago on a traditional Saturday night I would have been at Blockbuster for a movie. (Making sure I'd rewound the old one - rewind I hear you say, what's that?) Where is Blockbuster now? Gone! Why? Digital disruption. The list of businesses and sectors could go on.
Consumers forced unwilling into a sad situation of buying a funeral are heading online. This pilot project shows that is true. We do not know how much this campaign cost. That information would have been useful to judge its effectiveness. I think it is going to run for another six months. I hope that a fuller report will show the results of that campaign.
3 Key Important Lessons from the SAIF Digital Marketing Campaign
Lesson 1 - The Importance of Experimentation
I have managed people and processes for most of my leadership career. I always found it is wise to use the words "let's experiment" when trying something new. It is easier to get ideas on board when you experiment!
Independent Funeral Directors should be experimenting. Hunkering down, shouting "business as normal" - as the shells of digital change go overhead - is the way I see many Funeral Directors resistance to change. But not in the SAIF leadership. There are many examples how SAIF is experimenting with digital technology for its members.
Online webinars. Through the Youtube Channel, you can see some of the recent training on digital marketing. Only a few people seemed to be watching this excellent training sadly.
Regular & Different Online Content. New SAIF National President Paul Bowley was recently on BBC Radio Sussex. The audio was posted on to the website. There are the regular blog posts by Paul Allcock. They are always interesting and provoking. Experimenting is important to bring about change.
Lesson 2 - The Importance of Process
Having a planned and structured process is critical when working with digital marketing. It takes time. It will not be an overnight success. To be successful with a content marketing strategy takes a commitment to the long haul. It is being willing to change and adapt as you move forward. Testing what is working and challenging methods is normal. Creating the odd Facebook post or a tweet here and there won't achieve much. However, a consistent approach builds awareness and visibility online. Having a process to do that is important.
Lesson 3 - The Importance of Tracking results
This lesson is the most important. Two of the greatest minds in advertising ever were Claude Hopkins and John Caples. Their work on scientific methods for advertising is still as relevant today as it was in their heyday. The #1 critical lesson is to test advertising and find what works. Each week in my local newspaper I see the same adverts from Funeral Directors. Well, that is not entirely accurate, one firm has doubled the size of the column advert over recent weeks. I suppose it is easier now to read the fax number .... who faxs the Funeral Director? Do you measure the effectiveness of an ad? How do you know if that ad is working? Testing and tracking adverts of any kind are critical. Millions of pounds are wasted by not following this important lesson. Lots of it from Funeral Directors.
Congratulations to SAIF on the willingness to experiment! It will work. You will position the Society with a digital footprint online. I am sure that it was a bit of struggle to get started. I am sure that there was some hesitation and resistance. Taking that same message to the SAIF members to experiment with digital marketing and getting them to engage and survive the digital funeral marketplace transitions ahead, well, that maybe be a harder battle to fight.