’Twas the week before Christmas and all through the funeral home, not a preneed was written not even on a gnome.
With all due respect to all writers famous and not, allow this article on preneed production be a forget-me-not to next year.
I have been told for years that you can’t sell preneed or cemetery interment rights from Thanksgiving until after mid-January. I will explain in simple words, without rhyme, how to boost your preneed program during the Christmas season.
I have written many articles about preneed marketing, including a 300-page book, “The Complete Preneed Perspective.” I continually tell people that selling preneed is easy. The chore is finding the people that are willing to talk to you about the economic reality of making their own prearrangements. If we can keep a good stream of leads coming through the pipeline, then we can keep a solid stream of preneed arrangements.
Remember prearrangement is a written record of how a person wishes their funeral service and their body to be handled at death. Arrangements are one thing and the financial components are another. We have added many complex components over time.
The decisions of funeral and financial matters are exacerbated by other choices requiring a complex understanding of taxes, investments, inflation, insurance company backing and the consumer guarantee. Ultimately for a business owner, preneed writing is the blending of risk and reward. You risk financial shortfalls to get a call that you might or might not have gotten otherwise. The funeral home cannot afford to compute the mix of decision points wrong.
Some people made bad decisions. They didn’t have a happy Christmas. I recall the eyes of several funeral home owners I met with shortly before the first Christmas after the National Prearranged Services debacle became obvious to everyone. These owners were worried that they would never be able to put presents under their tree again. Some had more than $3 million in NPS contracts whose value at that moment was unknown but presumed to be worthless.
Funding was the decision-making problem in this debacle. Had people merely arranged and not funded, things would have been OK. Had they used a common insurance program to place the money in, things would have been OK. The Grinch prevailed on that matter and stole the Christmas spirit as well as the presents.
Marketing preneed from Thanksgiving to early January is not a problem. People die year-round. We know that. In fact, if you want to get geeky about it, people die at a greater rate during the Christmas season. About 50 percent of all deaths in the U.S. in a typical year occur from Oct. 15 to March 15. That is a five-month period. Half of all deaths occur during a five-month period that includes the Christmas holiday season. Therefore, there are more deaths during this time. People are therefore thinking about death more during the Christmas season than most other times of the year.
As you try and find people to talk to, remember that this time of year offers a unique opportunity. It is a time when children that may live outside of the geographic area come home for the holidays. The kids are pragmatists. They want the comfort of knowing their parents have taken care of this important elder care decision. They understand reality. If their parents do not arrange and provide the funding for the funeral and interment, the money will come out of the kids’ assets.
By gathering the kids and parents together you have all of the stakeholders in the room at once. Decisions can be made easily. The one common objection (“I want to talk to my kids about this”) is overcome in an instant.
One of the great aftercare events of all time is a holiday memorial program. The attendees at any holiday memorial program are usually families that experienced a loss of a loved one within the past year or so. A good aftercare event can produce leads for families that might want to talk about preneed. Who will know more about the importance of prearranging than a family that recently made a funeral arrangement? Therefore, there are leads to be gained and sales to be made while the family realizes the importance of prearranging.
There are presents and then there are presents. Those new pajamas will wear out and eventually rip, but funding a preneed is a financial present and a wonderful love letter at the same time. The wife makes the prearrangement decision more times than not. If you market to the wife, this gives her a chance to provide this comfort to her spouse and kids. You must ask for their support on this matter. •
In honor of preneed marketing during this time of the year, I propose we rewrite the lyrics to “The 12 Days of Christmas:”
Happy Holidays everyone!
Reprinted from American Funeral Director Magazine, December 2016, with permission of Kates-Boylston Publications. To subscribe to American Funeral Director visit www.americanfuneraldirector.com.
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