Great funeral homes and cemeteries don’t just pop up and start making lots of money overnight. Matter of fact, it is very rare that a death care business can open in a new locale served by others and make a profit within the first couple of years. New operations have to be ready to spill some red ink for a couple of years just to get some awareness in the market place. Great death care businesses are built by acquiring business and then holding on to that heritage business forever while they continuously pick up new market share in the community.
I believe that there are three kinds of potential clients in your market share universe:
Heritage Families— These are families that you have served in the past and with great service and proper follow up you should always hang on to these families. They are your firm’s greatest asset.
Pre-Need Families — These are families who have not made a death care purchase but through active marketing and effort you have turned them into a family for your firm by securing some type of pre-arrangement. They are intending to use your service, but have not yet, so they are vulnerable to switching to another firm for what they perceive may be a better price or service.
Open Market Families — These are families that are new to your area or may have lived there for 40 years but have not had a need for a funeral home and have not purchased a pre-need policy. While you might think of these as “younger families” the fact of the matter is that many people in these families are between 55 and 75 years old.
So, everybody wants to get those “Open Market’ families. The crux of my statement today is that the harder you work to keep all of your “Heritage” families loyal to you, the easier it will be to market to “Open Market” families and move them to “Pre-Need” families and eventually “Heritage” families.
My thought process goes like this. . . the better job you do by serving families the more the word of your work spreads. The more that you keep those Heritage families happy, the better the reputation you will have. The more Heritage families you have the better the odds for them to tell others (Open Market families) about you and when an Open Market family needs help, you are who they will call – possibly because a Heritage family suggested you.
It goes without saying that you should have a marketing program and you should actively promote pre-need. However, it may be that how you treat families during and after their loved ones service that matters most of all in your marketing plans. It is not just the funeral business where Heritage customers are important. Have you ever noticed that when you buy something at Kohl’s or Walgreens that you will get an email or postcard from them about other deals they may be having?
Customer acquisition is expensive. . . .they have acquired you as a customer. Now they want to keep you and are willing to spend to do so. It is the same with your customers. . . when you acquire a customer, don’t ever let them go. Pamper them.
Once you serve a family in the death care business do you stay in touch? Do you provide aftercare, seminars, Christmas and Memorial Day remembrance services, go see a widow or widower in a timely fashion to organize and pre-arrange their funeral? Have you worked with a local restaurant to offer a 25-35% off coupon for a dinner on a slow restaurant night. Restaurants appreciate this on a slow night. Most widows and widowers will appreciate it. You can approach it as a service to widows or widowers as a chance to bring a friend and socialize for a night. It’s as easy as visiting the restaurant, printing a coupon with their permission, and mailing them to families you have served.
Our funeral home used to run this ad. . .”It’s our service after the service that sets us apart”. It’s amazing how that got around and how it helped us build market share.
It’s endless on what you can do. One thing you cannot do if you want to grow is to lose the customers that you already have. Take care of your Heritage Families and they will take care of you.