It’s the time of year again when kids are headed back to school, ready for a new year filled with new lessons to fill their growing brains. So, in the spirit of “Back to School”, we thought we would share some preneed insight and pass on some time-honored and proven wisdom surrounding preneed success.
You learned your ABC’s in grade school but now as a funeral professional, do you know the ABC’s of Preneed Success? Read on to discover tactics, strategies, and general principles and rules of thumb that all contribute to a successful preneed program. After all, we are never too old to learn something new.
This might seem counter-intuitive to what you think preneed represents, but don’t discount a good aftercare program as part of your preneed strategy. Families who have lost a loved one know first hand what it’s like to plan a funeral, and when there is no pre-arrangement in place, the burden can be overwhelming. Beginning the preneed discussion as part of your aftercare program can be a tremendous help for families who want to ensure they and their loved ones are prepared so they don’t have to go through the ordeal of planning a funeral again.
B: Brand Identity
Before beginning a marketing campaign, it is a good idea to make sure your Funeral Home brand (i.e. your logo and other imagery that families will associate with your funeral home) is consistently represented across all marketing materials. Make sure your logo looks the same on your website as it does in your mail piece. You want families in your community to immediately recognize your funeral home when they see different marketing pieces.
Being cognizant of the pervasive rise in cremation across the U.S. allows you to cater your marketing efforts accordingly. An active preneed program can lock in more traditional services now while also securing future business for your firm.
Understanding who your primary market is will tighten your marketing strategy, saving you time and money. According to our research there are over 64 characteristics of the typical “pre-planner,” including everything from age to marital status to home-ownership to whether they are registered to vote. Knowing these traits will increase your return rates allowing you to spend more time with families who have a genuine interest in planning ahead.
E: E-mail Marketing
For many preneed marketing strategies, direct mail is the foundation to an active preneed program (PFP included). But, with all the advancements in technology and with different generations adopting the various ways to engage with companies online, e-mail marketing can be a valuable component of your preneed marketing strategy. It gives families the opportunity to instantaneously respond while the topic is still fresh in their minds.
As the most popular social network, Facebook presents a large opportunity to not only engage with your community, but also to market your preneed services. Millennials may represent the largest slice of the network’s users, but that doesn’t mean seniors don’t have a presence. Facebook allows you to place ads tailored to your audience based on demographic and behavioral traits you select. That means you can advertise in front of the exact market more inclined to have an interest in pre-planning.
G: Generational Differences
Understanding the different motivations that lie behind each generation is an important aspect of your preneed marketing strategy. Each generation has different reasons for pre-planning, reasons that should be addressed in your marketing. And with the millennial generation getting older and beginning to take care of aging parents, they too can be part of your marketing strategy as they will start to be more involved in the decision-making process.
Working with your local hospice organizations can help bridge that uncertain and stress-filled gap that exists between end-of-life care and death. By providing pre-planning resources to hospice organizations, families can discuss final wishes with their loved ones and gain an extra sense of peace of mind that those wishes will be carried out. That can mean anything from providing helpful materials for hospice workers to pass on to family members to conducting seminars at the local hospice facilities. The goal is to form a positive relationship with hospice, so that transition can be as seamless as possible for families.
When you place your preneed funds in insurance policies, the money is guaranteed, growing over time and covering the cost of inflation; investments are regulated, inspected and safeguarded, so there are no unwelcome surprises; and the policy face amounts grow tax-free eliminating any added costs to the family.
Jargon is what you want to stay away from, meaning industry-specific terms and phrases that may confuse or disinterest families. When crafting your marketing pieces, you want to use language that your general audience will both understand and appreciate. Ensuring your message is conversational will help it resonate with families on a more personal level.
If you are used to relying on walk-ins (those who simply walk in to your funeral home ready to pre-plan) for your preneed and are ready to embark on a more active preneed program, you may not know where to start or how to most effectively begin. That’s why it can be beneficial to work with a marketing partner who specializes in helping funeral homes like yours succeed in building up their preneed. Preneed marketing organizations have the preneed know-how, so leave the hard work to them and focus on what you do best: serving families.
L: Lead Nurturing
For many families, pre-planning is a major decision, one that takes careful time and consideration. Consequently, they may not be ready to take that step with your firm when you initially follow up with them. However, that doesn’t mean they are no longer interested. Sometimes it’s just about the right time and the right pain point to help them reach that decision. That’s why it can be helpful to follow up with a lead nurturing approach where you continue to touch base with the family and present them with additional points that may have yet to consider when weighing the pros and cons of pre-planning.
Families have distinct reasons for wanting to pre-plan, and the message in each of your marketing pieces should speak to those reasons. Whether it’s speaking to veterans about securing their entitled benefits or to married females about how they can ensure their family is taken care of, each group can be addressed with the right message as part of a tailored and measured preneed program that can segment the market based on such factors.
In a perfect world, every sale would follow a linear process . . . marketing – inquiry – sale! But that is not always the case and expecting your preneed sales to follow that formula can result in a lot of missed opportunities. That is why it is important to follow up with families and continue to convey the different benefits of pre-planning (see Lead Nurturing). Also important to keep in mind is that the preneed inquiry does not always follow a standard marketing piece . . . it can present itself at a service, during their aftercare experience, or with an unexpected walk-in. So always be prepared to discuss preneed and know its value proposition.
Sometimes, a family may be interested in discussing pre-planning but is hesitant to take the next step, which is why the promise of a free offer can be just what you need to get to the next stage of the sales funnel. While fun, free gifts for the sake of the gift can be exciting, it’s best to keep the offer relevant to the service you are providing to ensure you attract qualified inquiries (e.g. a free planning guide).
P: Proven Preneed Programs
The keyword here is proven. You don’t want to blindly embark on a preneed program with a marketing partner without first knowing its track record for success. A successful, proven, preneed program will have calculated and measured results to show that it works, and it works well. So before implementing a preneed program in your own firm, find out how well the program has performed in the past and how those metrics will be applicable to your firm and your market.
Q: Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis (aka Tracking and Measuring)
Without any sort of tracking and measuring system, it is nearly impossible to know how well your preneed program is performing and what needs to be improved for greater future success. That is why both qualitative (surveys and testimonials) and quantitative (sales stats and data) analyses are imperative to a good preneed program.
More specifically, your firm’s preneed to at-need ratio. When you engage in an active preneed program, you can expect to see your preneed to at-need ratio increase to up to 40-50%. Achieving those numbers means going out into the community to educate families on the benefits of pre-planning through a targeted direct mail campaign, seminar program, or other proactive marketing strategy that will reach families interested in pre-planning.
We’ve been doing seminars for 15 years, so we’ve learned a thing or two along the way about how and why they work. Seminars are a great complement to your preneed marketing strategy because they allow you to more thoughtfully convey the benefits of pre-planning while re-framing the discussion in a less intimidating way. For instance, our seminars are focused around the power of memories and the role they play in helping families plan for their future. Talking about preneed in this way creates for an enjoyable evening and you end the seminar with a much higher rate of interest in learning more.
Training is one of the most crucial factors of preneed success. You can have a flawless program, but without the proper training you’ll be looking at a lot of closed doors. Training is most successful in the field, not in a classroom. After all, you can’t learn how to ride a bike in a seminar. It’s important for counselors to shadow other successful counselors so they can witness good habits in action.
U: User-Generated Content
According to a Nielson study, word-of-mouth referrals are the most trusted form of advertising with 92% of people relying on it to make their purchase decisions. How can you make this work to your preneed advantage? With user-generated content. That means getting families involved in crafting content that will promote the value of preneed. That can be anything from testimonials posted on your website and Facebook to getting a member of your community to write a guest blog post about their experience with your funeral home or the role memories have played in helping them plan for their future. The options are endless, but the goal is the same: getting families to be an advocate for pre-planning and the voice for sharing its value.
V: Value Proposition
When crafting the ins and outs of an active preneed program, it’s important to establish the value proposition of your offering. In other words, what is it about preneed and planning ahead that will resonate with families and persuade them to take the next step? Once your value proposition is established, it’s important to include it as a vital component of your message used in all of your marketing pieces.
Include information on pre-planning on your website. In today’s digital age, baby boomers and seniors are looking for information online and will often check your website before following up for more information. It’s even more helpful to provide an online response form so they can request more information while it’s fresh on their mind.
X: eXclusive Access
Funeral homes who choose to partner with PFP to implement preneed marketing systems gain exclusive access to the programs in their area. That means that we help you, and only you, achieve preneed success . . . not your competitor. This is something to keep in mind when choosing whether to work with a marketing organization. Not only will you have a partner adept in growing your preneed, you may also gain exclusive rights to those programs in your area.
For your preneed program to really take off, you not only need to invest in things like marketing and training. You also need to invest in YOU. That means committing to taking the steps to implement an active preneed program and seeing it through. A truly successful preneed program is a confluence of the right marketing strategy, the right materials, and the right people. And that begins with you making the decision that the time is now to move your preneed program forward. Are you ready?
Z: Zzzzzz . . .
Whew! Now that you’ve mastered the science of preneed success, get some rest! You’ve earned it! (And when you wake up, feel free to contact us if you want to take the step and take your preneed program to the next level. We’re ready when you are!)