Low-cost funeral and cremation providers have been popping up all over the country in response to a growing demand for cheaper funeral options. You may have noticed these funeral discounters appearing in search results when a person searches for funeral homes in your area. Though most operate on a national scale, these low-price competitors optimize content and web pages to make it appear as though they offer services local to your community.
A family that chooses the route of a low-cost provider generally does so because they don’t see (and likely haven’t been shown) the value of paying more for a full service. The old homage, “You get what you pay for” is especially true for low-cost providers. What families receive in exchange for cheaper funeral services is less personalization, less professional care, fewer options, and very little value.
This leads us to our first tip for competing against low-cost competitors:
1. Provide more value to families
For a family to justify spending more for funeral services, your funeral home must provide more and higher quality offerings. Your products and services should immediately and readily provide an answer to the question, “Why should I pay more?”
This starts from the very beginning when you answer the phone and continues throughout your entire interaction with families. Your goal first and foremost is providing the best, most compassionate care to families you interact with on a daily basis. If you feel your care and support is already top-notch, ask yourself, “How could I do even more?” Funeral industry expert Alan Creedy suggests putting yourself in families’ shoes:
“Recently, I was visiting with a funeral staff and one of them mentioned that sometimes they get death calls from neighbors or friends of the deceased before the coroner does and they have to tell the caller they need to notify the coroner before they can respond. I asked them if they gave the caller the coroner’s phone number…They said that had never occurred to them. Customer service often entails thinking for the customer.”
Many families just want to know that they will be treated with humanity and respect during their most difficult times. As funeral directors, you have one chance to make a first impression with a family, and that family will share their experience (positive or negative) with others. Make your first impression “value added,” even before you make any sales. Offer as much as you can legitimately deliver, and then deliver.
Then, beyond exceptional customer service and support, aim to provide the best product and service selection. If families can’t immediately see that your funeral home offers more than lower-cost competitors, prepare to lose business, and fast. But what is value-added when it comes to funerals? Ask 10 funeral directors—from around the nation, in both small and large funeral homes—and you may get 10 different answers. Some things might work better in a small Midwestern town than a booming East Coast city. Learn what your community is looking for and exceed their expectations with your product offerings. Provide superior funeral personalization like customized stationery, memorial candles, tribute videos, thank you cards, and more. Look for all-in-one solutions that allow you to quickly and easily create personalized memorial products to really wow families.
Value can also come in the form of utilizing the latest in funeral home technology. Keep an eye out for the latest industry trends such as webcasting, digital register books, green burial, DNA memorials, or unique cremation options. Keeping up to date on the latest technology shows families you are there to provide the best and most valuable experience possible.
2. Clearly communicate value-added services
Clearly and consistently communicate your funeral home’s key differentiators and your value added services. Be very explicit about how your offerings compare to those of your low-cost competitors. Spell it out where families will be looking, such as on your website, inside your funeral home, and in any marketing communication.
Consider a comparison chart that visually lays out your services and how you differ from the discounters. In the chart include services, offerings, and products that your competitors do not offer. Some possible ideas include:
- Exceptional aftercare and grief support
- One-on-one meetings to learn about the deceased loved one
- Personalization offerings
- Complimentary keepsake books
- Guaranteed return of “pure” cremains (i.e. not a mixture of someone else’s)
- Modern technology offerings
We see many funeral homes try to differentiate their firm based solely on how long they’ve been in business or that they are “family-owned.” While this information may be important to your funeral home, families will not make a decision based on these facts alone. They must be shown not only the value that your funeral home provides but what they would be giving up if they elected to do business with a low-cost competitor.
3. Focus on out-running other full-service firms instead of just the discounters
Even if you’ve done your job communicating value-added services, there will always be families that choose lower-cost options simply based on price. In these cases, you must focus your efforts elsewhere.
Take for example the Kia vs. Lexus analogy. The two car brands are targeted at different consumer markets because of their stark price difference. One that purchases a Kia likely does so because they are unable to afford a higher-priced alternative. However, because Lexus is marketed to be more luxurious and provide more value for the driver, those that have the money will likely choose to purchase this vehicle over a Kia.
Funeral homes are no different. As previously mentioned, your firm must clearly communicate the value that families receive when working with your home in a way that justifies the higher price tag. Value shoppers will feel compelled to work with your full-service firm since you provide so much more than a low-cost competitor. However, there will surely be instances where a family chooses to do business with a funeral discounter (Kia) since they cannot afford your firm’s (Lexus) prices. In this case, you must focus instead on competing with and out-running other full-service firms (Mercedes, Audi, etc).
Ensure your competitive advantage is apparent when value shoppers are looking for funeral homes in your area. Be aware of their offerings and how yours’ compare. It’s a constant game of, “Who can provide more?”, “Who has the best products?”, and “Who offers the best care?” Stay grounded – stick to your mission, but be creative. Provide something that no other funeral home in the area can offer. Some unique ideas may include:
- Advanced technology solutions like digital registries
- Offer your assistance writing clever obituaries
- Unique personalized keepsakes like tribute blankets, candles, guestbooks, and more.
- Green or natural burial options
The true feat is learning about your community and direct competitors and researching how you can provide that one product or service that makes it impossible for families to choose any funeral home but your own.
4. Boost SEO
Ensure proper search engine optimization (SEO) so your funeral home’s website doesn’t get lost in local search results. Many low-cost funeral and cremation services don’t operate out of one area, but rather on a more national scale. According to Cremation Solutions, these national funeral discounter chains “steal local customers by ranking higher in web search results than actual regional and local funeral homes. It is even more devastating to funeral home profitability. These optimized sites reel in your funeral homes potential customers and snatch them out of your grasp with professionally written SEO website copy that targets your area.”
Low-cost competitors have the ability to dominate search results and overshadow funeral homes that operate on the local level, making it harder for families in your community to find your website. And unfortunately, less traffic means less business.
So, what can you do to halt this seemingly unstoppable low-price competitor train? Guarantee your website is as optimized as possible. Follow good on-page SEO practices ensuring keywords are found in title tags, page content, in your footer, and in photo alt tags. Ensure your website is easily navigable by both search engines and site visitors; a good rule of thumb is that it should take no more than three clicks of the mouse to reach every page on your website. And don’t lose mobile traffic because your site isn’t properly optimized — look for funeral home websites that are mobile-friendly and come pre-loaded with SEO.
Make it a goal to enable families to differentiate on value rather than price. Help them understand what they are getting, why they should pay more, and most importantly what they are giving up if they choose a low-cost competitor.
Have other suggestions on how to compete against low-cost funeral providers? Leave us a comment in the field below.