Recently I was reading a business plan of a public company funeral home consolidator and when talking about how they look at the pre-need market, they mentioned that they look at Pre-Need as a “defensive posture” for holding on to call volume. That was interesting to me because I have always looked at Pre-Need as more of a “go get people outside of your market group” to build business. I’ve now decided that you should not look at Pre-Need as one of these business philosophies, you should look at Pre-Need as both of those philosophies.
I’ve always thought about my funeral business, or any other business that I’ve been involved in for that matter with this point of view, “If you are not growing, then you are declining.” And, I’ve also decided that going after both points of view – defensive strategy and offensive weapon – leads to the greatest growth that you can get. For without a defensive strategy to hold onto “Heritage” families, you risk going backwards on call volume. And, without the ability to try to go offensive and move into borderline markets that you don’t serve very often you are forfeiting potential additional services and letting the competition from that area have it easy.
Don’t kid yourself, it doesn’t matter where you are, the guerrilla marketers are out there nipping at your heritage market. Have you seen the low-priced direct cremation ads on television, have you been told of your families Googling casket, urn, or vault dealers for a better price? If you don’t have some type of plan to go on the offensive, you will only lose market share — sometimes being in a growing community or neighborhood can mask the real risk as everything looks great until the day comes that you realize somebody has been pre-selling what was your old market.
So, be defensive, and make a pitch for pre-arrangements to families you have served. Odds are that they will sign up and continue their heritage at your firm.
But, also go on offense. Look to neighborhood communities where you have not always had a large concentration of calls and promote pre-need in those communities as well. Using local newspaper web-sites is pretty inexpensive and maybe there are reasons why some in that community may be looking for another death care provider. Today’s business climate does not allow you to just sit back and wait for the consumer to come to you. . . you need to go out there and get that consumer and win his business. I’ve thought of this over and over lately with the bankruptcy of Bon Ton Retailers who operate department stores like Herbergers and others. While the dynamic is a little bit different than funeral service. .they sat back while the Amazon’s and eBay’s of the world moved right into their customers homes and offices with product offerings which sucked the life out of the heritage retailers.
Funeral service is a different product, but the consumer today is looking for the product that will give them a solution. Don’t always count on winning customers the same way you have for the last 100 years. . . . guard your flank, but go on the offensive!