Making Difficult Planning Easier with Technology: The Case of Georgia Cremation Centers

As a third generation funeral professional, Clift Dempsey knows the process of funeral planning very well. And, he knows how difficult it can be for individuals and their loved ones to do. “We wanted to be as transparent as possible so our customers know exactly what they want,” said Clift about his company, Georgia Cremation Centers “and make it very simple and easy.” And that’s exactly what he’s done via the web with the help of northwest Georgia-based SAI Digital.

When Clift started Georgia Cremation Centers in Acworth he planned to serve a five to seven county area. Funeral planning is traditionally done in-person, and Clift simply couldn’t expect customers to drive very far. He was also concerned about the high costs of advertising, especially in the Atlanta market. Local TV and newspaper advertising would be very expensive. So, Clift felt he had to geographically limit his market.

Then he started thinking about his website. “I knew if people were going to go online and look up cremation,” Clift recalled, “they didn’t just want to know about us. They wanted to know what they have to do, what’s required, and, more importantly, what it’s going to cost.” He knew these things inside out, so why not share that knowledge with his customers? That insight led him to develop a pre-planning and quoting tool for his website, which SAI Digital built for him.

“Prices for funeral services are all over the board depending on who you call,” Clift said. It can be very difficult for someone who is facing a loved one’s death to figure out what’s best for them and how much it should cost. Planning one’s own funeral can be even more uncomfortable. Most people don’t want to pick up the phone and call a funeral home because it’s just too uncomfortable. Clift saw a way to change that. “We sat down with SAI Digital and explained the concept: transparency and simplicity, answer lots of questions, and provide a price.”

On one level, the goal for the website was simply to reach more potential customers, more cost-effectively. Georgia Cremation Centers uses Google AdWords, search engine optimization (SEO), and content services to bring people to their website. AdWords is a service from Google that places a small advertisement at the top of search results based on terms related to the advertiser’s business. Advertisers pay a small fee—a few cents per click—to Google only when someone clicks on the ad. The service also enables advertisers to track where, when, and how viewers are accessing their websites. Clift has a contractor who posts content to his company’s Facebook page two or three times a week. This has resulted in approximately 1,300 “likes” in a year, which Clift feels is pretty good for a cremation services company.

All of this is driving more business to and through Georgia Cremation Centers’ website. “We see people at all hours of the day and night looking at our website,” Clift said. Georgia Cremation Centers can answer customers calls anytime without ever having to pick up the phone! And the business is no longer geographically limited. Today, Georgia Cremation Centers is serving 30 counties in Georgia and even has customers in Alabama and Chattanooga. Clift’s goal is to serve the whole state of Georgia.

On another level, the goal was to make funeral planning and pricing easier on customers. Pre-planning and making arrangements in advanced assures that people are prepared and don’t have to deal with details at a difficult time. With Georgia Cremation Centers’ planning and pricing tools, customers can review their options and tailor the arrangements to their budget. Even as this has helped Clift’s customers, the web-based tools have given Georgia Cremation Centers’ new insights into what customers are doing, what they need, who they are, and where they are. “We can see what pages they go to, which urns and features they look at, how long are they on the blog pages” Clift noted, “So it is helpful for understanding what customers want and where we needed to improve.”

The website tools set Georgia Cremation Centers apart from their competitors and gave the company a powerful way to reach customers. Georgia Cremation Centers provides one of only a few online tools for planning and pricing cremation services. Georgia Cremation Centers website is a unique way for people to make cremation arrangements, see the various options, get prices, etc., from the comfort of their own homes… or wherever. “We see that more people are planning,” said Clift, “because no one wants to go to the funeral home to make those plans, but it’s easy to get educated via our website.” People come to Georgia Cremation Centers’ website for answers, decide to buy based on costs, but do business with the company because of the service. All of this leads to more business through referrals as customers share how clear and simple the process can be with friends and relatives.

The added benefit for Georgia Cremation Centers is that most families have already decided on arrangements once they call. The company can serve more families better and faster. This means that Georgia Cremation Centers not only provides better service but also is able to serve a much larger market with less effort and at lower costs. “We can serve families throughout the state without having to have them drive to our facilities,” noted Clift, “which makes it a whole lot easier for the families and us.”

Georgia Cremation Centers has exceeded its business goals because of the website. “It is my business,” Clift concluded, “I don’t advertise via any means other than the website.”