Making Your Preneed Program Build Value for Your Business

Posted by Dr. Marty and Kara Ludlum on 05/05/2015

A quality preneed program is a vital part of a successful funeral home.  It is essential for your firm to survive in the long term. A preneed program must increase the value of a funeral home into the future.  Many funeral directors worry about investing trust funds, using the right insurance product and having a good program for obtaining leads.  These are important.  However, the most important factor of a successful preneed program is offering the right product.

The right product?

What do we mean by “product”?  The right product is meeting the consumer’s desires.  It might be hard to swallow, but consumers don’t really WANT to buy caskets, vaults or funeral services – funeral directors know consumers NEED to buy caskets, vaults, funeral and cremation services.  Funeral directors should strive to find the right mix of what consumers WANT and NEED in order to have a successful and palatable product.  Finding the best technology combined with the appropriate internet presence can be essential keys to building a preneed program that will take your funeral home to the next level.

Too many funeral directors don’t focus on what the consumer wants and instead emphasize what the funeral director needs.  Funeral directors need the death certificate completed.  Funeral directors realize that when the death has occurred, families cannot remember dates or details.  As a result, many preneed programs capture information needed to complete the death certificate, cremation and other administrative forms.

Many funeral homes gather only the death certificate and a few basic service details in their preneed information gathering programs.  In these cases, the preneed sales pitch should be:  “Fill out your death certificate now and save money.”  This sounds silly, but it is easy to see how the consumer could want more.  If you do an internet search using “how to plan your funeral in advance”, you will find there are a number of people out there gathering preneed information.  These sites completely bypass funeral homes! 

Consumers want to personalize their funeral, not complete the paperwork.  They want to leave notes for their family, write stories to mention upon their passing, upload special photos and pick memorable songs. Consumers never prearrange because they are concerned about how their death certificate will look.  This is not at all important to the consumer.  Does your preneed information system emphasize only death certificate information and basic service details?  If so, you may want to re-examine how you can use technology to emphasize the consumer’s needs.

Primary in this process is keeping records.  An easy way to make sure you record the right information, always always always ask “why”?  Then save that information.

Grandma picked these two songs for her funeral.  Task completed.  We know which two songs to play at her funeral.  Are we done?  No.

Ask why!  At the preneed arrangement conference, Grandma explained why.  The family would probably love to know why those two songs were so important to her.  Was that song playing when she was baptized? Did she sing that song as a little girl in the choir?  Was that information written down?  Those details are so vitally important to the family, but get lost in the shuffle of trying to complete the death certificate or the order of service.

Uncle Jack picked this photo for his memorial.  Check that off the list.  We have the photo for the memorial.  Task completed.  Not really.

Ask why!  Why that photo?  Was that his wife’s favorite?  Was it taken on a special occasion . . . a wedding, getting out of the Army, graduating college?  Was it taken at a special place . . . Niagara Falls, Mexico City, or the White House?  These details would mean so much to the family, and the information is right there at the preneed conference, if you only record it.

You need a system that will handle your entire preneed information gathering – pictures, letters, and stories.  Don’t just rely on a fill-in-the blank one page form.  Select software that will include all your preneed products including trust and insurance funded items.  Remember, financial details are the starting point for gathering information, not the ending point. 

The Right Technology to the Rescue!

Technology and the internet can be the funeral home’s best friend.  But if funeral directors are not careful, this valuable tool can become our replacement.  Use technology as a tool.  Storing and editing photos is now inexpensive and readily available.  Saving documents and letters no longer takes file cabinets full of paper.  Even low priced video cameras for your computer are surprisingly cheap (under $100).  A brief video from your relative explaining their wishes can be a great help for the funeral director and a tremendous value for families.

The more details you gather, the more of an emotional bond the family will have to your funeral home.  You should view conducting a funeral as a relationship with the family not just a financial transaction.  Offering a discount is nice, but if the only reason consumers chose your firm is financial, you will always risk losing that family to someone offering a cheaper service.

Build the relationship with the customer (and the family) by recording those details.  Focus on the wants of the customer while providing for their needs and your preneed program (and the future of your business) will thrive.

Conclusion

Many times in anticipation of meeting with a family to make arrangements, you have struggled with what to say.  Imagine this scenario of the future:  you may not have any words you feel would be comforting, but imagine being able to surprise the family when they arrive at the funeral home with a letter from their loved one crafted by the deceased with their own words for just this occasion.  Become the keeper of such treasures and you will always be treasured by families in your community.