By Thomas A. Parmalee

Karen Golden-Osborn is celebrating her twentieth anniversary as the founder of Future Planning Services, which helps independent funeral homes with preneed marketing.

“We have, in essence, been helping independent funeral homes connect with their community on a proactive basis,” she explained. “These efforts over the years have encompassed various strategies and – as with all marketing strategies – there are many layers in meeting members of the community where they are.” She added, “We are always seeking to bring new and effective strategies to our independent funeral homes, which brings us to introducing geofencing through Digital Dominance and our technology partner.”

Digital Dominance is a separate service from what Golden-Osborn offers through Future Planning Services. She serves as general manager of the entity – and she’s bullish about what geofencing could mean for funeral homes – especially given that it is so underutilized.

“Geofencing isn’t necessarily new technology, but many funeral homes are not utilizing this technology,” she said. “It has proved to be a prudent use of advertising dollars, and it can be utilized for both preneed and at-need branding.”

She continued, “While Future Planning Services is a preneed marketing provider, this particular technology known as geofencing is advertising, or branding.  This advertising can be implemented alongside any current efforts now in place, and it can be experienced without any long-term contracts or commitments.”

In short, the geofencing services that Digital Dominance provides are not meant to replace any current relationships assisting in marketing efforts, whether that is a current marketing preneed partner or advertising, Golden-Osborn said. “It simply ensures that a funeral home’s name remains prominent on the devices that people use daily.”

So, what exactly is geofencing and how can it help your funeral home? We caught up with Golden-Osborn to find out. Edited excerpts follow.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I have been in funeral service since 1990 and started my career in San Diego. I pivoted to preneed in the mid-1990s, working with SCI and Loewen. For the past 25 years, I have focused exclusively on marketing for independent firms. My work has carried me from the West Coast to the East Coast.  While preneed development has been the driving factor, true marketing encompasses all media to assist firms in developing their brand within their service area.  We have developed many types of marketing over the years, which engage communities with our client firms, and we continue to do so to this day. At this time, we are elevating our services to the next level through Digital Dominance and our geofencing services.  Through Digital Dominance, we are focused exclusively on helping firms utilize technology to expand their brand digitally through devices, which virtually everyone is utilizing in their daily lives.

Why did you launch Digital Dominance and what services do you provide to funeral homes? 

We help funeral homes them meet their community where they are: on their devices.

Firms need only provide us with basic information, set a budget, and we do the rest for them.  When they know they are capturing their audience 24/7, 365 days a year by engaging this technology, it is an easy decision for them.  In fact, the response has been so positive that we have embraced this as a primary offer to funeral homes across the country. This particular service complements what funeral homes are already doing for marketing.  We have structured this to stand alone, so that a funeral home can keep whatever else they may be doing in terms of marketing and advertising and add this service to it.  They do not need to discard their current practices, or switch any other advertising, or efforts they may be engaged in.  Digital Dominance is as the name suggests – it digitally helps a firm dominate their market area with geofencing without any effort on their part, the technology does the work.

Tell us a little more about geofencing.

First, “geofencing” is simply a “tactic” within the umbrella of programmatic display targeted advertising.

Although geofencing is exploding in popularity, many businesses don’t know what it is and have never used it. While geofencing is an excellent tactic for the funeral industry, it is not a standalone strategy or tactic.

Where are ads through geofencing placed?

No doubt, one would geofence and target competitors’ businesses, and doing so can provide immediate or imminent need opportunities, as well as preneed planning opportunities.  Other potential targets may be hospice, nursing homes, senior centers, specific neighborhoods, or anywhere an audience is known to consist primarily of elderly people. Again, it would not be recommended to use geofencing by itself and think that it’s going to be a “silver bullet” lead generator.

Targeting ads at the locations of competitors through geofencing is an integral part of a well-rounded strategy that incorporates other tactics and strategies for engaging the audiences who may matter most to the funeral home.

Also, we have the ability to geofence residential addresses, but, first, we would research known data about those who live in those households, and we would target them accordingly. This is called “addressable geofencing.”

Do we know how many funeral homes are actually engaging in this type of marketing – and can you tell us a little more about ad placement strategy?

In talking to independent funeral homes, it appears many firms are not utilizing this technology.

Funeral homes do choose their own rooftop, as well as those of their competitors.  Firms generally choose from 15-20 rooftops to geofence, so it is an abundant number of rooftops to run a campaign, which does not compromise a funeral home’s choices.

The roof tops we do offer as suggestions to geofence are competing funeral homes, hospices, long-term care facilities, residences and also their own rooftop.  Hospices, and long-term care facilities would be receiving at-need messaging – and consideration can be made for preneed messaging to neighborhoods or residences.  If a funeral home is working with a marketing partner already engaged in geofencing, then of course the funeral home can decide to message 100% at-need branding or combine at-need and preneed branding.

Are there any privacy concerns or potential blowback to doing geofenced ads? Or has anyone expressed such concerns to you? What would be your response?

Privacy is always important. All programmatic display campaigns will meet or exceed privacy laws for each state, otherwise, the campaign will not run. This especially includes HIPAA compliance.

Do you get other objections with this type of marketing?

Pretty much any objection is more so due to how new this advertising methodology is and the fact that it’s almost a guarantee that using this technology will be new to the funeral home. We go to great extremes to explain and devise proper strategies coupled with a suitable monthly advertising budget. The execution of a campaign is nothing more than computer code, so it always executes. However, the outcome and results are, first, predicated upon the strategies put forth. And, of course, one’s desire to respond can have everything to do with the funeral home’s reputation, online reviews, its digital footprint, familiarity or brand recognition, prices, personnel, etc.

Where exactly do these ads appear?

Ads follow a person’s behavior once that person has become part of our targeted audience pool. Then, it’s just a matter of following one’s behavior:  Physically where they go. Over 700,000 apps and millions of sites trigger the delivery of an ad in real-time to the specific device the user is consuming content on … like a smartphone, laptop, desktop, or tablet.

There are millions of places in which these ads can appear. A few examples, CNN, FOX News, Words With Friends, the WeatherBug app, the Wall Street Journal, Morningstar, Local News Online, Solitaire, Computer Gaming apps, WebMD, etc.

On average, people spend less than five minutes per day on Google and 1.5 hours per week on Facebook and Instagram. Yet, the average person spends nearly six hours per day on the internet. It’s obviously not time on Google nor Facebook and Instagram, so where are they? On the “rest” of the internet checking out everything imaginable via apps and sites. In fact, 98% of online activity is via apps – not sites. There’s an app for that, right!

The ad exchanges have more than 11,000 publishers distributing the content. Whereas, Google and Facebook are “private market placements” and not part of these ad exchanges. Advertising on those platforms requires separate campaigns, know-how, strategies and media spending.

Do you have any recommendations as to what such ads should say or look like? 

Every ad should be custom designed to the purpose and the brand requirements, when applicable. Creative can be in the form of banner and display ads, gifs, animated ads, video and streaming TV commercials.

How much does it cost?

In the world of programmatic display, it’s all about impressions. A single impression = a single ad delivered to a user (a person in our captured audience pool). It’s best to develop a monthly budget. For example, typical monthly budgets are a minimum of $1,500 to $2,000 and require a three-month commitment. Simply put, campaigns of a lesser duration will invariably fail and anyone allowing short-term duration campaigns usually is more interested in their bottom-line and not results for the funeral home.

Is this option also something cemeteries should consider – and do you work with them, too?

Cemeteries would do best by focusing on “preneed / burial plot” opportunities. Yes, this is an option for them, and we extend this to cemeteries also.

Do you have any final thoughts to share? 

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of proper, well thought out strategies. We provide that guidance; many others do not. And, lastly, as Ted Turner said it, “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise.”

 Learn more about Digital Dominance.


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Comments (1)

  • Amazing! I would love to know more please if you cold email me any information on this please!

    Sean Peggs | June 26, 2023 at 11:15 am

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