Recommendations from family members and trusted friends are hugely influential, carrying much more weight than advertising messages. Homesteaders’ 2013 survey of policy owners revealed the importance of empowering your client families to share their experiences about prearranging with your funeral home. Friends and family members were, by far, the source most often used to learn about prearranging (apart from the person who helped make the prearrangements).
Here’s perhaps the most significant finding related to leveraging existing client relationships: 98% of respondents would at least consider recommending prearranging – and more than 40% of them already had. When you give your client families the tools and motivation they need to become advocates, you’ll gain a wider audience for your story and the benefits of prearranging with you.
Start From Within
Brand advocacy often starts with your firm’s staff members. Would any employee who answers the phone be able to quickly assist a person who wants more information about advance funeral planning?
Ensure each person at your firm understands the value of your preneed program and what makes your firm different. Prearranged funerals are immensely beneficial: Families don’t have to make tough decisions during a difficult time, and funeral directors are better able to serve those families at the time of need because they can focus their attention on carrying out the plans already put in place.
You can’t earn your clients’ trust and recommendations without first establishing solid relationships in the community. Consider the outreach opportunities that exist, and commit resources toward making connections in various ways. For example, regular, relevant communications can be an effective way to create meaningful relationships with families.
Events and seminars, which often include a social or entertainment component, are also effective ways to educate families about advance funeral planning. Their purpose goes beyond education – these events provide positive, memorable experiences that demonstrate your firm’s commitment to improving people’s lives. The ultimate return on this investment is in creating top-of-mind awareness – which is so important for a funeral home because funeral planning is rarely top-of-mind.
How do you measure the success of your community outreach efforts and your new preneed clients’ likelihood to recommend your firm to someone else? If you don’t offer an opportunity to provide feedback for those who have an experience with your firm, you’ll miss out on valuable information that could help you decide whether to continue or reevaluate your efforts.
Here's perhaps the most important survey question you can ask to gauge the success of a marketing initiative: “Based on your experience, what is the likelihood on a scale of one to 10 (10 being the most likely) that you would recommend our funeral home to others?”
This question is intended to follow the principles of the Net Promoter model, which can help you measure your business's performance from your clients' perspective. Firms that consistently receive scores of 9 or 10 are successfully gaining advocates who are willing to share their stories with friends and family members. Asking the question will also provide a reminder that their recommendations are important.
Establish Ongoing Communication
Finally, consider how you follow up with preneed families and how it affects their overall impression of your firm. Were all of their questions answered? Do they understand the “next steps,” such as talking to their families about their funeral plan? Any person who plans a funeral, whether it’s preneed or at-need, may experience feelings of grief as a result – do they understand your aftercare offerings? Ensuring that clients can answer “yes” to these questions will empower them to walk away from the process with a positive perception and a higher likelihood of sharing their positive experience with others.