Moving potential clients up the ladder

We’ve all been targets of other businesses.  Have you ever received a printed piece of mail for something?  As you surf the internet are certain ads continuing to come up on the pages you go to?  If that has happened to you. . then you have been targeted.

I first really noticed the targeting concept on my computer about 8 years ago after I had priced out a Carnival Cruise vacation for our family.  I had not purchased anything but did spend considerable time on the Carnival Cruise web-site researching itineraries and prices.  I then noticed that after that, for a considerable amount of time period, many Carnival Cruise web ads would appear on the pages I went to.  It wasn’t hard to realize that this was no accident and I was being targeted as a potential purchaser.

I’ve served as Chairman of the Board of two large non-profit Christian based companies that deal in Senior Living, Home Care, and Hospice Care.  I love the board meetings when we ask the computer savvy employees from the marketing department to let us know how they are helping potential customers find us.  It is absolutely fascinating in how they can find buying habits and potential clientele for our business units, especially in this internet age.

So, while I believe that there is something to be said, and customers gained, by knowing how to mine the internet and digital world for potential death care clients, I also believe that the old fashioned way of client acquisition via prospecting is also valuable.  Most funeral homes will need help in setting their internet and/or digital strategy, but the old-fashioned gum-shoe prospecting can be quite reliable by your own team if you set up some goals and parameters to mine that field of potential clientele.

I start by assuming that there are basically five groups of potential clients for your funeral home business.  They are, in descending order of strength of relationship the following.

  1. Heritage Clients with Pre-Need Policies in Place — Heritage clients are those whose families have used your firm for another loved one at some time.  Most Heritage families continue the patronage of the firm that served their preceding family members.  If a member of a Heritage family has a pre-need policy through your funeral home, that is a pretty strong indication that that person will eventually use your services.
  2. People with Pre-Need Policies in Place — I place this group of people 2nd on the list of those with a strong sense of using your firm in the future.  Most people in pre-need will tell you that about 93-97% of pre-need policies select at-need services with the firm they made the initial arrangements with.  Those that don’t generally move out of the area.
  3. Heritage clients — I list Heritage clients (without pre-need policies) third on this list.  Some people might argue that they might be second, but the lack of a pre-need policy, in my opinion, gives them the opportunity to leave for a competitor easier.
  4. Open clients — I define “Open Market Share” families as those families that have never used a funeral home in your community and maybe have never thought about using one yet.  The earlier that your funeral home can interdict in the lives of these families, the better chance you will have to seize this business.  This is where sponsorship and involvement in things such as community night outs and summer concert series can be vital to moving the market share needle.  Give these families a chance to get to know your firm before they know the other guy.
  5. Competitor Heritage and/or Pre-Need families — This can be an odd place to pick up market share but it happened for us a lot.  Maybe they were not totally satisfied with the last funeral conducted for them by your competitor or they thought it was more expensive than it should be.  These can be tricky situations to move up the clientele ladder list, but there are subtle ways to go about it.

For over thirty years, the key to growing market share was always the idea of moving these potential clients “up the ladder”.  If you can get an “Open client” to use your firm, that family becomes a “Heritage client”.  And, if you then can get a pre-need policy on that surviving spouse, you have a “Heritage client with Pre-need in Place”.  The higher that you can move clientele “up the ladder” the better chance that you will eventually serve them at-need and grow market share.

This thought process of “moving potential clients up the ladder” should be a constant thought process of all employees.  It can be a great advantage for your firm over the years if you are continuously working on moving all the potential clients out there “up the ladder”.

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