Funeral homes that have an active preneed program use different tools to generate leads that will hopefully materialize into a preneed sale. With lead generation, you can cast a wide net with direct mail to reach a lot of people and hope a small percentage return a card indicating some interest. This is quantity over quality. You can have a more narrow approach and do lunch and learn seminars, make presentations at churches, etc. These are local residents who probably know your funeral home and are spending time listening to you talk about the benefits of planning ahead so your chances of making a sale are much greater. This is quality over quantity.
Because quality and quantity are both important, you should have a mix of lead generation tools you deploy. However, there is one tool that creates a higher quality preneed opportunity than any other and that is aftercare. A good aftercare program will create preneed leads even if you don’t have an active program using other lead generation tools. Preneed is the natural bi-product of great aftercare.
But wait, should we really be trying to sell to people who’ve lost a loved one?
Openly saying you’re trying to get more people to prearrange by providing aftercare seems to be frowned upon by many in the funeral business. It’s been called opportunistic, not dignified and even predatory. If any of those were actually true, you’re doing it wrong. If any of those were actually true, you are only thinking the benefits to the funeral home and not the family.
Family or Customer? It’s interesting to see what happens if you apply basic business principles to funeral service, just by changing the word “family” to “customer.” I’m not suggesting you call your families customers, but by doing so (in your mind only), you can begin to see that “families” are not marketed to the same as “customers”. It’s common to see the sensitive nature of the funeral business as a natural reason not to market the same way any other business would. However, thinking your “family” is not a “customer”, can create a mental roadblock when it comes to following up and encouraging prearrangement.
It’s important to understand that creating a genuine aftercare program with hopes of generating preneed sales is no different than any other business providing great customer service in hopes of generating repeat business. It truly comes down to service after the sale. If you remember them, they’ll remember you.
Regardless of the product or service, every business (including a funeral home) only has two jobs. The first is to acquire new customers and the second is to serve them so well they keep doing business with you. The first one can be hard and expensive while the second one can be much easier. If a business fails at either one, it will never survive.
Look at the reasons why aftercare is the perfect preneed opportunity.
Death is top of mind and families will naturally think about their own mortality and getting their house in order.
Providing information and creating an easy way for them to indicate interest is critical to marketing preneed. Aftercare is the perfect opportunity to provide this information.
They have either just witnessed the ease of a preplanned service for their loved one or they have just experienced the emotional and financial toll of not having a plan in place.
You already have a relationship with the family. They know and trust you to help them make a decision that will benefit them and their family.
You have no competition. Unlike a cold preneed lead or an unplanned at-need call, where you compete with others, you have no competition with aftercare. The opportunity to benefit the family and create a greater lifetime value of the customer (err, family) for your business is all yours.
In sales, timing is everything. The best way to sell something is to not sell something but rather to show that you care, be an expert at providing information about the benefits of preplanning and keep yourself in front of likely buyers, the rest will take care of itself. You will magically be in “the right place and the right time.” FBA
Ellery Bowker is the founder of Aftercare.com which helps funeral homes and cemeteries stay in touch with their families during the first year following the loss. He can be reached at [email protected]