What if your business offered something that was so valuable and so compelling that 99% of customers were satisfied with their purchase? What if within a month of buying from you, a majority of customers recommended what they bought to others? What if you offered something that a majority of consumers believe is a smart thing to buy, but less than 20% of those have taken the time to explore it?
We’re of course talking about advance funeral planning, sometimes referred to as preneed. In recent studies by Homesteaders Life Company in which prearrangers were asked questions about their advance funeral planning experiences, 99% reported being satisfied with their decision and most recommended it to family members or friends within a month of doing it. Other consumer studies reveal that people believe advance funeral planning is a smart thing to do. A 2015 survey from the Funeral and Memorial Information Council (FAMIC) found that nearly 70% of adults over age 40 would prefer to plan their own memorial services – but only 17% actually do it. Why is this the case?
Far too many consumers remain unaware they can plan and fund their funerals or the funeral of a loved one in advance. Even after a person learns that preneed exists, she may have no idea how to proceed even if she believes it is a good idea and wants to prearrange. When a group of consumers believes a product or service is a good thing, but less than 20% purchase it, there is an underserved market — a demand that is failing to be met.
Every day, families struggle unnecessarily at the worst possible time to figure out how to memorialize a loved one who has died. The hours and days following a death are emotional, confusing and generally nerve-wracking. Regardless of whether the death was expected or sudden, survivors are rarely prepared for the process of informing relatives, gathering information and documents and making hundreds of decisions about what happens next. Advance funeral planning can alleviate all of these concerns.
As a funeral professional, you are likely caring and service-oriented by nature. Your disposition, training and experience make you uniquely qualified to handle the stress associated with crises. This also means you can speak from experience in communicating the benefits of advance funeral planning. You know how much of a burden survivors bear when faced with planning and paying for a funeral at the time of need. The reported high level of satisfaction by prearrangers, high incidence of rapid recommendation and the comparably low stress when a prearranged funeral is fulfilled are all great points to cover when explaining your preneed program.
Facilitating the Discussion
No one wants to think or talk about death, but it’s a necessary, normal part of life. Talking about the end of one’s life using specifics can be pretty jarring, but it can also be an unexpectedly joyful experience. How many of us were asked to write our own obituary during high school or college? It was an opportunity to think about a vision for our future, what we might accomplish and how we would want to be remembered.
Start the conversation by asking, “How do you want to be remembered?” There are many ways to segue into this question, from looking at old photos with a parent or grandparent to asking about a specific experience in their life. Funeral professionals can encourage people in their community to have these discussions through advertising messages, signage and literature in the funeral home and by hosting workshops or seminars.
One of the most rewarding and often unexpected benefits of end-of-life discussions is the great feedback you receive from people who feel closer to their loved ones after learning something they might not have known about them. And, as an added benefit, surviving family members can move forward in confidence following a death because they know exactly how their loved one wanted to be remembered.
As funeral professionals, you have countless resources available to help facilitate these conversations. Have the Talk of a Lifetime™ is a national awareness campaign created by FAMIC and designed to help people start conversations that serve as a precursor to end-of-life planning. Matthews Aurora™ Funeral Solutions’ BeRemembered website offers an interactive resource to guide consumers through the process of recording their wishes and sharing them with family and friends.
Making the most of tools like these – promoting them on your funeral home website and social media pages – is a great way to inform your communities about the benefits of advance funeral planning. Looking for more support? Check out our list of resources to promote funeral planning.
The Bottom Line
Preneed shouldn’t be something a person wishes they learned about after losing a loved one. Advance funeral planning is something people will use 100% of the time and often recommend to others. Offer even better services to your client families – and the ones you hope to serve – by communicating the availability and benefits of advance funeral planning and providing the resources to do it.