When it comes to funerals, there are those who plan and those who don’t.
When talking to families and promoting your funeral home’s services in the community, you’ll need a marketing plan that gets the attention of both.
The Great Divide: Preneed vs. At-Need
Both preneed and at-need marketing require a fundamentally different approach to reaching your client families. One is about searching for families (preneed), the other is about making it easy for families to search for you (at-need). So how can your funeral home easily do both? For part one of this blog series, we’ll dive into preneed marketing.
Preneed: Reaching Out
In a perfect world, all your client families would be preneed. Think of the time, money, and stress they would be saving.
But we know that’s not the case, and there are several reasons out there why families don’t think about preplanning:
- Money. Money is tight for a lot of people. There are a lot of competing expenses, and if some families can’t afford even a $500 unexpected expense, it’s not surprising they don’t want to put down thousands of dollars for funeral costs if they don’t have to. But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t at least plan for a funeral.
- Time/not thinking long-term. There is a lot of planning and preparation that goes into a funeral. Some think it isn’t worth their time, and others — like Millennials and some Gen Xers — just aren’t looking that far ahead.
- Lack of knowledge. One of the biggest reasons people don’t preplan is because they’ve never had to plan a funeral before. They don’t realize the effort it takes to plan a funeral, and therefore put off planning.
- Don’t like thinking about death. For others, the thought of death is something they simply want to avoid. It’s understandable — death is not a topic people like to dwell on.
- Just cremate me. This is a growing attitude lately, but there is so much more to cremation than most people realize. What happens to the ashes after cremation? What about a memorial service for your friends and family? Planning ahead can easily answer those questions.
Understanding the reasons people put off planning can help you tailor your strategy, and maybe even change some minds.
Lead generation — it’s just a marketing term that means finding potential client families. The method of generating leads depends on a lot of factors, so how you do so comes down to what works best for your funeral home.
Direct mail works for rural funeral homes with more traditional families, and using a social media strategy is a smart choice if you’re looking to net progressive Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. And if you’re looking to grow the overall amount of client families, using both strategies isn’t a bad choice.
It’s important to remember that lead generation — or getting client families to respond to your marketing — is only as effective as your message.
Don’t Pitch, Persuade
First, don’t think of it as making a sales pitch. You’re not selling, you’re persuading. You’re simply trying to show the benefits of preplanning to your client families.
And who better to learn persuasion from than the man who basically wrote the book on it — Aristotle.
In Aristotle’s Rhetoric, he describes the three modes of persuasion as Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. Sound familiar?
In a nutshell, Ethos is the speaker’s credibility, Pathos is the appeal to the heart of your audience, and Logos is the appeal to their logic. Now let’s frame the three modes of persuasion in the context of funeral preplanning and show how it can help you craft your message.
Here are some ways to establish Ethos:
- Show your expertise. Tell families how long you’ve been involved with funerals or how long your funeral home has been serving the community. Earn their trust by showing them you know what you are talking about.
- Use language your families will understand. It’s easy to throw out terms that you’re all too familiar with, but remember that families aren’t funeral experts.
- Make yourself available to families. Whether through phone or website, make sure families have access to you and resources to answer any questions along the way.
Here are ways to persuade with Pathos:
- Highlight the emotional value preplanning can bring. Remind families that “It’s not just for you, it’s for your friends and families after you’re gone.”
- Use stories and metaphors to help tap into the emotional connection. As humans, we naturally relate to people better when the stories are more than just facts and figures.
- Be authentic. Show them you are there to simply help. You’re not a salesman, you’re a member of the community. A lot of stereotypes exist in the funeral profession, so you may need to show families preplanning isn’t some scam — it’s a beneficial way for them to save their loved ones a lot of stress, time, and money.
Finally, here are a few tactics to approach Logos:
- Make sure your message is easy for families to follow. There’s no need to make things too complicated. Simple is better, and a refined persuasive approach will make it easy for families to see the benefit of preplanning.
- Make a person’s arguments against preplanning weaker, while simultaneously making the argument for preplanning stronger.
- Use concrete evidence and numbers. Show your families exactly how much money they can save by preplanning, and show them how much time they can save, too. Perhaps even bring up the fact that those who are grieving are prone to overspending on funerals, which is something they would want their loved ones to avoid doing when they die.
Using actual data allows a family to visualize the tangible benefits of preplanning.
The reason Aristotle’s approach to persuasion is still so prevalent today is because it works. It’s that simple. What Aristotle’s modes of persuasion allow you to do is appeal to both the left and right side of the brain.
The left side is the one that listens to facts and logic, and the right craves emotional connections and vivid storytelling. When you marry the two in your message, your preplanning persuasion is that much stronger.
In part two, we discuss the different approach and strategy needed for an effective marketing plan toward your funeral home’s other focus — at-need families.