While Covid-19 has had a profound effect on customer views, attitudes, and behaviours across the board, consumer desire for pre-planning has taken centre stage for funeral and cemetery professionals.
While the last two years have been onerous for consumers worldwide, affecting nearly every industry, the pandemic has taken a special toll on funeral and cemetery last responders, who have borne the brunt of assisting families affected by the infection. As a result of the increased awareness of one’s own mortality in the aftermath of the Covid deaths, customers’ perspectives towards the value and importance of pre-arrangements have shifted significantly. As discussed in the 2021 Foresight Companies Consumer Behavior Study (FCCBS) data released this summer, 75% of respondents indicated that making advance arrangements for their end-of-life care is critical, a 30% increase over the 2020 FCCBS results. Consumer interest in pre-need climbs to 80% among those who have experienced the death of a loved one. This presents a significant potential to support client families since cemetery property and funeral services are being sought more actively than ever before.
The marketplace demonstrates the validity of these consumer research findings. The major consolidators all report substantial pre-need sales increases, with SCI, the industry’s largest public consolidator, reporting a 57 percent increase in pre-need funeral sales and a 36 percent increase in cemetery pre-need sales in the second quarter. During a May earnings call with Toronto-based Park Lawn Corporation, CEO Brad Green stated that “our pre-need funeral business climbed by roughly 22%” and that “we continue to see increased pre-need sales activity.”
Operators of funeral homes and cemeteries can capitalise on the current surge in demand for pre-need services by addressing three critical aspects of their businesses.
Pre-Planning: Recognize Your “Why” and Passion
Consumers are expressing an increased desire to plan ahead and make pre-arrangements. However, as an operator, you must determine why you should be more engaged in pre-need sales; otherwise, you will be blindly following the herd. At its most basic level, the reason you perform what you do is to assist families in times of need. Serving families or assisting families in healing should be your “why” when it comes to pre-planning, and this should remain your passion—otherwise, executing your pre-need sales programme will feel hollow.
Having and articulating the “why” for which you sell pre-arrangements to your family establishes that connection and gives your pre-need sales programme purpose. Additionally, the conviction you have internally driven the mission towards and via your sales staff, internal or external. Making this objective the focal point enables emotional connections to be made with families making pre-need funeral preparations or pre-need interment rights purchases. As operational leaders, we must elicit emotional responses from our employees or associates, which in turn will elicit emotional responses from our clients or consumers to purchase what we have to offer—all of which is underscored by our goal to serve them even before a need arises.
One of the primary ways you can serve your families passionately in pre-need is by acting as a trusted advisor and transparently teaching consumers about pre-planning and pre-need sales. Transparent pricing and open communication about flexible product offers are two customer-centric approaches for consumers to express how they wish to be handled. The pre-need customer has made it quite apparent that he or she desires transparency (data from FCCBS shows among all customers and all service types, at-need or pre-need).
This indicates that operators whose salesforces are purpose-driven, who embrace the reality of a consumer who expects clear, concise communication, and who encourage online research by providing online pricing and implementing a flexible sales process in a customer-centric manner will have an easier time completing the pre-need sale and will be well-positioned for growth.
Make Investments in Your Salesforce
Is your team aware that consumers now place a much larger premium on their own mortality than ever before? Can they transform these emotions into persuasive sales presentations and compelling product offerings? Are they equipped with the necessary tools for success?
This means that operators of all sizes have an immediate opportunity to profit from this newfound attention. The victors will be those who communicate the chance for consumers to reclaim power, which the pandemic has robbed many of them of in a variety of ways. According to the FCCBS, about a third of all customers have lost a loved one or someone they know as a result of the epidemic, while another survey conducted by Axios-Ipsos found that one in every three Americans knows someone who died of COVID-19.
The very proximity to loss, many of which occurred without pre-need preparations in place, creates an environment in which an entire part of the market is ready to shield themselves and their loved ones from the financial and emotional expenditures that result from a lack of pre-planning. Consumers who do not have pre-need preparations in place are clearly eager to explore purchasing today. This re-evaluation of the importance of taking control of end-of-life planning, especially easing the burden on relatives left behind, is critical for individuals responsible for funeral or cemetery pre-need salesforces. Consumer sentiment (perhaps as a result of the epidemic) has emphasised the critical nature of having pre-arrangements in place more than ever before.
Investing in your salespeople begins with securing their commitment to your mission and “why.” If your sales team is external, such as an insurance or trust provider, you must express this vision clearly and consistently. If your sales team is internal, your interviewing, hiring, and training processes should account for this. Regardless of the method, successfully implementing pre-need sales campaigns involves strategy and a well-thought-out plan to accomplish your goals. After all, a goal without a strategy is only a fantasy. As a result, your plan should effectively assist you in achieving your objective of serving more families, increasing market share, and increasing future volume.
Please keep in mind, however, that salesmen are motivated by a desire to earn money—this does not mean that this motivation is mutually exclusive with your own aims and ambitions. Do not be afraid to solicit feedback and accept suggestions from your sales staff that will help you execute your plan more effectively.
Reassess Your Marketing
Over the previous 18 months, ordinary customers have been forced to make new choices depending on the availability of their chosen brands, or the absence thereof. Indeed, 28% of consumers altered their brand choices permanently. As a result, marketers worldwide are rethinking their approach to retaining present clients or regaining past customers.
Funeral home and cemetery operators that promote pre-planning and reposition the funeral director or sales counsellor as a “final responder” will gain a significant competitive advantage. Combining this message with an experience that seems and feels consultative and instructional on their terms should pique their interest in completing their objectives and sharing their positive experience with their friends and family.
According to The Foresight Companies, the 2022 Pre-Need Toolkit comprises the following:
Recognize and Concentrate on the Opportunity
Recognize that consumers have a revived interest in and value for pre-arrangements.
Concentrate on how pre-need sales are changing for today’s consumers in terms of how they purchase, the information they want, and the experience they expect. Consultative, open, and transparent in your approach.
Prepare your business — ensuring they realise the importance of a seamless sales and arranging experience, a seamless technology experience, and a flexibility-focused approach.
Convert your organization’s mindset to one that is customer-centric.
Evaluate your product and service offerings, message, digital presence, and lead generation activities to determine how consumers react to them.
Finally, monitor the effectiveness of your marketing strategy—are you receiving more queries, leads, or sales? As with goals and action plans, your marketing plan should be quantifiable so that you can track your market penetration and effectiveness. Also, don’t be scared to get assistance.
The bottom line is that there are more customers interested in learning about pre-need than ever before, as well as more customers eager to purchase. The question then becomes whether they will purchase funeral and/or burial services from you or your rivals. According to the study’s findings, customers are primed and eager to make pre-arrangements. Consumers have spoken, and you may gain a competitive edge by seizing the opportunity to connect with them.
When the research provided in this white paper is implemented, the answer is straightforward: they will choose the one who best meets their demands. It is important to seize the opportunities that lay ahead in order to connect with these consumers. If you have any additional questions concerning consumer behaviour changes, require support with any aspect or step of strengthening your pre-need sales campaign, or are unsure where to begin, we can assist you!
Afterlife Funerals offer prepaid funeral packages. Learn more at https://www.afterlifefunerals.com.au/funeral-fund-aus/