Have you planned your pre-need marketing?

I noticed yesterday when I drove past the local fairgrounds that everything was getting set up for our county fair.  I then realized, wow, it is the middle of August and fair time already.

For many of us in the upper midwest fair time signifies harvest and the start of another school year just around the corner come Labor Day.  Back when I was operating a funeral home, it also signified that it was time to ramp up the pre-need sales program once again.

So, I don’t know when pre-need companies and their statistics would tell us is the optimum time to be marketing pre-need funeral policies to the consumer.  I do know, however, that we always did a very large percentage of our pre-need business during the last third of the calendar year — between September 1 and New Year’s Day.

I’ve never conducted a survey on such, but I have several ideas why that time period was always successful for us to run extra ads on the radio and in the newspaper. . . and nowadays on-line. . . about the values of pre-arrangement.  While New Year’s Day marks the beginning of a new calendar year, for many people, especially those who have raised children, Labor Day is the real start of their “New Year thinking”.  New grade levels are being started in school and families begin planning for this new year that ends with school being out in May or June.  Our family is no different, our youngest being a college Junior this year, and we are starting to think about the “New Year”. . . when we will take vacations, go south for part of the winter, who will host the Christmas celebration for the family. . .and the like.

I’ve also found from the people I have served and kind of being in the same place as them now. . . retired and an empty-nester. . . that I continue to have the same school year type thinking. . . . much more planning related than calendar year planning.

Here are some observations that I have on why it is a great time of the year to let potential pre-plan consumers know of the value of pre-arrangements:

  • As mentioned above, these retired people are making plans for “this year” right now.
  • Many of those couples, especially in the snow belt areas, will be leaving their homes for one to six months of living in a nicer climate down south.
  • Of those couples that do leave for the southern climates, I know from experience that many think about what would happen if one of them died during that time away.  With interest peaked from an advertisement, you might just see that couple come in to visit about that issue.
  • Having that discussion with a funeral director or pre-arrangement counselor may cause the couple to pre-arrange in greater detail so that they can share with family during the holidays what they had done prior to going south.

The peace of mind and value that you can give these families prior to going south for the winter can be a great benefit for them not only at that time but well into the future.  I’ve always felt that if funeral directors or pre-arrangement counselors can spur a discussion by a family on the following three items, that discussion would be well worth it for the family, even if they don’t  officially pre-arrange or pre-finance at this time:

  1. Will you be buried or cremated?
  2. Where will your body or cremated remains be placed for permanent memorialization?
  3. How will you pay for the services that your would like?

In my discussions with families, and I pre-arranged hundreds of families over the years, I felt that the first two questions really got them talking openly about their wishes and the third question then led to putting away money to pay for the services at a later date.  I would tell them knowing the answers to the first two questions and then setting up an account for Question #3 got them about 90% of the way to formal pre-arrangements.

So, as we move into the New Year of school starting in America, make sure your funeral home has some plans to connect with those folks who may want to make pre-planning a part of this year’s “to-do list”.  My guess is that having a plan and making a conscious effort to increase pre-planning during the last third of the calendar year will pay dividends to your funeral home.

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