Preneed Marketing: What age to aim at?



When a company commits marketing dollars to a specific purpose they want to make sure that those dollars move the needle  as far as they can.  So, a topic I’m interested in is at what age should a funeral home start putting preneed marketing in front of a potential client?


I’m certain that the target market has changed since I became a funeral director 40 years ago.  At that time, what little marketing we did was aimed at letting those going into nursing home or care centers, as we called them, know that any money you put in a “preneed funeral policy” would be exempt from being used as an asset to pay for your care prior to death.  It was an odd sort of marketing and done as a tactic that would stretch care dollars farther while having a paid up funeral plan as a secondary benefit.


Then, probably in the 1990’s our funeral home decided to be a little more aggressive and market to the relatively young retirees.  We marketed and told those who were going to start receiving Social Security and Medicare that was the perfect time to “take stock” of your life’s decisions and put plans, including finances, in place to have the peace of mind with your funeral plans taken care of.


Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

About the year 2000 we noticed a lot of new people in our community and we wanted to get in front of them so, if for nothing else, they would have the chance to visit our funeral home and meet our staff.  We were hopeful that if they did not have a funeral home choice at that time, they would consider us.  We set off doing monthly seminars at the funeral home for these people based on the idea of learning about death care options and learning about the ability to pay for those choices you make ahead of time.  Again, peace of mind was a bellwether term.  This method of marketing dropped our age to market to from 62 to about 55 years of age.


That is kind of where we have stayed at.  Although we are much more refined in the process now.  We now have a dedicated pre-arrangment counselor who does nothing but meet with potential future clients.  And, we have put more resources into this process knowing that it does pay off down the road.


My only question is are we marketing to the above 55 age cohort and missing some people who may want to prearrange their plans at a younger age?  This article from Yahoo Finance entitled “Dude, Gen X is totally unprepared for retirement, survey finds” led me to believe we should be dropping our marketing down to the age 45 level.


The article points out that over half of those who are Gen X age, those born between 1965 and 1980 making them between the ages of 43 and 58 today, have little or nothing socked away for retirement.  As a matter of fact, the article points out that a full 35% of the 65 million Gen X’ers have less than $10,000 saved and 18% have no savings.


When you think about it there are a lot of reasons for that dilemma. . . . .Individual Retirement Accounts started in 1974 and 401K plans started in 1978 so these workers have lived their entire working careers under, for the most part, self-saved and self-operated retirement plans.  Gone are the defined benefit plans that workers from an earlier generation received.. . . . and, not everybody has the self-control to save rather than spend.


It’s also important to point out that many in this grouping are caught in a double whammy of helping their elderly parents while at the same time raising children and saving for college.  In addition, at least in today’s world, they are facing rising consumer price pressures that creates less disposable income.  .some of which could be used for savings.


So, why do I think that this group may be prime preneed targets.  On the one hand they are scrambling with finding money for savings, but at the same time I’m guessing that if something happened to them they don’t want a burden of death care expenses falling on their children.  In addition, I think that the sense of vulnerability was brought home by the recent pandemic where many saw friends and co-workers die at younger than expected ages.


I also beleive that this group sees many options for death care. .  many more than previous generations and that may serve as an impulse to make their wishes known with a funeral home and lock in their desire  — be that cremation, green burial, alkaline hydrolysis, or human composting.


Finally, there are some bright spots for this group in the years to come.  They may well benefit from the savings of their parents as the greatest wealth transfer in the history of the world will probably be happening between Baby Boomer parents and their Gen X children.  However, while that gives a light at the end of the tunnel, it doesn’t really answer the issues that they have today with the thought of a premature death.


If I was still operating our funeral home I think I would put some resources towards this age group.  It may be done differently such as using a “Death Cafe” model, facilitated by a funeral director, where people just come to talk of their thoughts and learn what is available.  Gen Xer’s are busy and I don’t think the seminar set-up would work, but I do think that the Death Cafe model just might.


Also, discussions about retirement planning or putting children through college aimed at those who “may want to learn” the options available would be a way to bring them in.  Funeral planning can then be brought in as a universal element of financial planning process as one moves through life.  Maybe partnering with a financial planner and mortgage banker might allow for a discussion on the wholistic aspect of financial planning that includes savings, mortgage decisions, empty-nest living, and preneed planning that would interest this age group.


In any regards, I would not rule out this age cohort simply because they “seem too young.”


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