The Precarious Gap in Preneed Marketing

Why meaningful follow-ups are the key to reaching families

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE AMERICAN FUNERAL DIRECTOR

You’ve worked hard on your latest marketing, returns are streaming in steadily, yet the results at month end are stunning—and not in a good way.

What happened? Getting from preneed marketing to prearranged funeral would seem to follow a pretty clear path, but a piece seems to be missing, a gap also known as the follow-up.

The broken part

As you’re busy prepping your next marketing campaign, it can be easy to forget that preneed started because of customers. It was never a manufactured desire.

Still, getting customers to act remains a challenge. Over 70% of people are interested in preplanning, but fewer than 25% of them actually go through with it. Reaching out to remind them about why it will help their loved ones heal is important.

Yet generating leads is only the first obstacle. Where most preneed programs get hung up is in the process of working out what to do with them.

Here’s how this usually plays out: a campaign generates returns, some of which result in easily scheduled appointments and prearranged funerals. Yet the vast majority will sit, either because the individual who raised their hand isn’t yet ready to preplan, or because the funeral home lacks sufficient staff. Either way, leads fall through the cracks.

The problem with this is the missed chance to share the value of funeral service with a family who may not yet appreciate why it matters.

What’s more, a preneed follow-up is the perfect time to introduce families to your brand. They are not only more receptive to your message, but they are also more likely to share your message with others, a form of word of mouth marketing which 83% of consumers trust more than any other.

Yet perhaps worst of all, not calling someone back when they’ve expressed interest is not just a missed business opportunity—it’s poor customer service.

Stick-with-it-ness

For most companies, 79% of leads never convert into sales, so they resort to a bigger spend. Yet pumping up your marketing budget without getting better results is a little like wishing a tire unflat. The true culprit isn’t spending too little, it’s too little nurturing.

The cost of acquiring leads is high. That’s no secret. But companies that master the art of nurturing leads possess a distinct advantage: they generate 50% more warm leads for two-thirds the cost, a ratio that quickly adds up in their favor.

To effectively nurture leads, however, it’s important to have a framework in place. When advance funeral planners are expected to follow-up with leads, they are constrained by the time and organization it requires. They shouldn’t have to worry about keeping track of every touchpoint or determining when a second, third, or even tenth follow-up should take place, which could be months away.

Not to mention most salespeople get frustrated by the frequent rejections follow-ups entail. Nurturing leads requires sensitivity and its own unique skillset, one which differs from a planner’s talent for meeting with families.

Finding the right fit

Finding the right candidate to nurture leads for your funeral home takes time. But the most important trait to look for is one you’re already very familiar with—a talent for making meaningful connections.

The best candidates are kind, empathetic individuals who understand the sensitive nature of the funeral profession. They should be caring, and they should derive immense satisfaction from knowing what role they play in people’s lives.

One of the first things we learned when staffing Precoa’s Funeral Planning Center is that we needed to turn every notion of the traditional call center on its head. Since so many follow-up programs are known for burning through leads, we did just the opposite. Others care about quantity; we care about efficiency and quality.

The right fit is someone who is proud to represent your funeral home, an individual who can picture you proudly sitting beside them as they conduct each follow-up.

Learning as you go

As with any new strategy, a learning curve for any follow-up system is inevitable. Developing the appropriate cadence takes time, as does crafting a script that is focused yet flexible, and it’s also important to craft an incentive structure that rewards quality appointments that hold.

Finding the right follow-up strategy for each lead source is obviously another challenge since some individuals will have more skill and tact at handling sensitive leads.

And of course there’s the matter of how to measure success. What we’ve found is that measuring set and hold rates works best. The number of appointments set can give you a sense of your overall efficiency when following up with leads, but the hold rate—the number of appointments that hold instead of canceling—is the best way to measure quality.

In fact, we have a dedicated confirmation team that follows up with families after appointments have been set. Their role is to walk families through what they can expect and to confirm that they understand the purpose of the appointment. This gives advance funeral planners an even better chance of success.

What we’ve also found is that transparency is essential. Our advance funeral planners can always see when the last follow-up call was made, the call duration, and how many calls have been made, in addition to seeing detailed notes from each call. When they meet with a family, a relationship has already been established that they can effectively build upon.

Conclusion

Mastering the follow-up is the only way to maximize your preneed marketing spend. It is the most direct path to expanding market share and reaching more families, but it does involve a tradeoff.

Is the investment of time and resources worth it? Yes. You’ll see an increase in efficiency and a decrease in cost. The answer is also a resounding yes from both consumer experience and branding standpoints. Follow-ups are ripe opportunities to have quality conversations with families who are interested in preplanning and who may not know the value of funeral service.

Given the right training and a commitment to making quality connections with families, a great follow-up team will connect your preneed marketing to results that you can count on.

Add Precoa's Funeral Planning Center to your funeral home and start spending more time meeting with families and less time playing phone tag.

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