It’s critical to keep up with the latest trends in the funeral profession, to know how each generation responds to these trends and why they decide to prearrange their funerals. With that knowledge, you can better connect with your client families and share the benefits of preneed in meaningful ways.
In the most recent Successful Sales Essentials webinar, Homesteaders’ Director-Field Training and Development Wanda Sizemore shared what defines each generation and what that means for funeral service professionals. We’ll share those insights plus tips you can incorporate into your preneed process.
What Defines Each Generation?
Before diving into best practices, it’s important to discover trends among each generation you serve. This leads you to the “why” and “how” in their thought processes around buying habits and helps you connect and serve them most effectively.
This generation consists of people born 1928 to 1945 and, as of 2019 data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, accounts for 23 million people in the United States. They were born around the Great Depression and are often characterized by their strong work ethic. Members of this generation tend to be more cautious and value opinions of experts. They are often heavily cash reliant and averse to taking on debt, and emphasize saving money.
Leading Edge Boomers
Baby Boomers are sometimes placed in two categories: Leading Edge Boomers and Generation Jones. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Leading Edge Boomers consist of 30 million people born 1946 to 1955. A presentation from The Second Half noted that members of this group came of age during Woodstock, the Cold War and the civil rights movements. They tend to be rebellious and self-confident and like to make up their own rules.
The younger half of the Boomer generation consists of 38 million people born 1946 to 1955, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. An article from BridgeWorks shared that this generation may remember Watergate scandal and the oil crisis. Their name comes from the desire to “keep up with the Joneses” and they typically desire more in life, are independent and competitive.
As a member of the Generation Jones, Sizemore noticed, “We started to borrow money because we couldn’t afford to pay for everything we wanted. That’s when we started making more payment plans.” Members of this generation tend to be credit-savvy and sometimes push retirement age past 60 to 65 because of financial reasons and lifestyle choices like spending money on expensive trips.
According to data from the 2021 U.S. Census Bureau, this generation consists of 66 million people born 1965 to 1980 who grew up around MTV, the AIDS epidemic and the entrance of computers. Sizemore noted that, “This generation is less distinct and smaller than their surrounding counterparts, Boomers and Millennials. Because of this, they are largely ignored by the media and tend to feel self-reliant and financially responsible.”
Millennials consist of people born 1981 to 1996 (according to 2018 data from the Pew Research Center), the youngest of the generations we will list here. Diversity is important to them, and they remember the terrorist attacks of September 11, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the explosion of the internet. They typically desire feedback and validation, instant responses and tend to have a fear of missing out.
What Are Their Thoughts On Prearranging?
As each generation gets older, preneed becomes more important to them. According to Homesteaders’ research, 45% of Silent Generation members felt that prearranging is “very important” in 2015 and this number increased from 29% in 2006. This number also increased from 20% to 28% for Leading Edge Boomers.
Action Gap Exists
Across the eldest three generations (Silent Generation, Baby Boomers and Generation X), the gap between saying preneed is important and actually prearranging their funeral is common. For Leading Edge Boomers, 72% told someone their funeral wishes, but only 16% have prearranged with a funeral home (based on Homesteaders’ 2015 research). However, the number of people who prearranged increased from 8% in 2006.
How Prepared is Each Generation?
Among the eldest generations, more than two thirds agree it’s smart to set aside money for funeral expenses (based on Homesteaders’ 2022 research). However, most don’t have a preferred funeral provider or know their final resting place. The Silent Generation is the most prepared: 48% have a funeral provider and 69% know their final resting place.
What Does This All Mean for Your Preneed Sales?
We’ve detailed what defines each generation and that their interest in prearranging tends to increase with age, but how can you apply this knowledge to your preneed sales discussions with potential client families? Below, you will find tips about how to connect to each generation and more about what’s important to them.
Because this generation largely listens to authority figures, Sizemore said, “When you're working with somebody who falls into this generation, consider that they will value what you have to say."
The emotional motivation to prearrange lies in caring for their family (wanting to prearrange so their family doesn’t have to at time of death), ensuring the funeral is an appropriate reflection of their life and the desire to save money.
When serving the Silent Generation, know that they expect more traditional interactions with you and are largely reachable through newspapers, but their internet use is growing each year. See what else matters to the Silent Generation.
This generation’s emotional motivation to prearrange is similar to the Silent Generation, with a couple key differences. Overall, they are motivated by taking care of their family and they also want to make sure the funeral is, “done correctly,” but because they want to have control over the details. You can focus messaging with this group on their ability to have control over what happens at their funeral.
Some barriers to prearranging lie in their lowered sense of urgency and that they are largely unsure of what arrangements they want or may not be ready to deal with the thought of their own death. However, the Boomer generation is a sizeable market, and members are becoming more accepting of the idea of prearranging.
It’s important to remember that this generation may look for greater creativity in prearranging their funerals. Additionally, people ages 50+ have increased their social media usage yearly. According to Pew Research Center’s 2021 data, 50% are looking at Facebook, 49% are searching YouTube, 13% are on Instagram, 7% are on Twitter and 4% are on TikTok. So, having a social media presence for your funeral home is a great way to reach the current and upcoming generations. Check out what else motivates the Baby Boomer generation to prearrange.
Leading Edge Boomers
This segmented group tends to use the internet for information and shopping and are less likely to respond to testimonials. They do respond to nostalgic settings, especially depicting the 1960s. It’s important to note that this group saw an increase in prearranging in 2021, according to a Homesteader’s study.
This group of Boomers responds to messages that are concise and no-nonsense. They enjoy nostalgic settings as well, especially surrounding the 1970s.
For this generation, transparency is important. They tend to use both traditional and social media platforms.
According to a 2015 Funeral and Memorial Information Council (FAMIC) study, around 88% of people ages 40+ find out about funerals via word of mouth and 30% of people ages 40 to 54 find out about funerals via social sites. Sizemore noted, "Periodically, you will be using social media and you will see that a friend of yours has pushed out a link of somebody they know who has passed away. This typically comes from the funeral home site." So, again, having an online presence (website and social) is crucial to reaching each generation.
Sizemore reflected, "I think it's interesting when you look at these generations, the Boomer generation is almost half of it, but I never stop being surprised at how large Generation X is coming up behind it." This is the next largely untapped market for potential clients and although many of them aren’t thinking about their funerals yet, it’s important to begin considering how to reach out to the upcoming generations.
This generation largely responds to influencers promoting a product or service over paid endorsements. They lean into digital communication platforms and social media. They also respond to an appeal to their values – they like brands that make a difference in the community and world.
While each generation carries some similarities, it’s important to attune your marketing to their unique sets of differences and to understand each generation and what sets them apart. This will help you connect on a more individual level with your client families and help you build relationships based on understanding and trust. You have their best interests in mind and with the above knowledge, you can put those intentions into practice.
If you’d like to learn more strategies to boost your preneed, check out our Successful Sales Essentials: On Demand Webinars for ways to more effectively serve families.