Four cornerstones you must have to build your preneed business (part 2 of 2)

Date Published: 
March, 2005
Original Author: 
Samantha Franck
Assurant Preneed, Atlanta, GA
Original Publication: 
ICFM Magazine, March 2005

An effective preneed program takes work.
You need to generate leads in a variety of ways and give your salespeople the incentive to succeed.

In part one we focused on the first two components of a successful preneed program: program planning, monitoring and alignment and counselor recruiting, hiring and training. These components must be established prior to implementing the last two components: lead-generation and lead-management programs and incentive and recognition programs.

Component #3:
Lead generation and management
One hallmark of a successful preneed system is a diverse lead-generation program. If one or two lead-generation sources are successful, by all means continue to implement those tactics, but consider broadening your marketing mix. If your firm is successful now, imagine the potential for added success if you implement additional lead-generation tactics.

A successful preneed program should include the following four lead-generation sources to increase leads, build brand in the community and increase market share:
1.    direct mail
2.    seminars
3.    referrals
4.    family follow-up

Direct Mail. Direct mail is an effective way to promote your preneed program and funeral home and/or cemetery brand to target audiences in your market. While the industry standard response rate for direct mail is 1 percent, a well-researched and executed campaign can garner response rates up to 10 percent.

When selecting a direct mail campaign from your preneed provider or another source, consider the following to increase the response rate:
• Does the mailing include a business reply card?
• Is the call to action clear in the direct mail piece?
• Is there an incentive for consumers to respond?
• Is the funeral home and/or cemetery contact information easy to locate?
• Is the font large enough for seniors to read?
• Does the piece appeal to the diverse age group in your target market?
• Do the photos include pictures of active seniors?
• Is the piece—both the design and marketing copy-appealing?

Seminars. Seminars are planned community presentations designed to communicate the value and benefit of advanced planning. Seminar topics may include social security, estate taxes, veterans' benefits and legal issues in addition to preplanning and prefunding.

Although presenting the benefits of preneed at your local church or Kiwanis meeting can be successful, your firm can achieve more qualified leads by hosting a seminar because your audience has essentially prequalified itself as viable leads.

Seminars are an effective way to:
• increase the number of leads by sharing the preneed story with a large audience;
• promote your company's brand in a professional and caring manner;
• provide a valuable community service by educating the public on preneed and possibly other important life planning issues; and
• increase your firm's market share cost effectively.

Referrals. Referrals from satisfied customers are often your best leads because they are free and provide immediate contact opportunities. Successful firms use referrals as an ongoing means of generating highly qualified prospects.

When requesting referrals, counselors should simply ask a satisfied customer if any friends, family or business associates could also benefit from this service. This will provide a constant inventory of warm leads. As an incentive, you may also choose to reward referrals with discounts and/or promotional gifts.

Family follow-up. Contacting the family of the deceased within a week of the funeral or burial is one of the most effective ways to secure future business and create additional preneed business. Your company will benefit from family follow-up for a couple of reasons.

First, it ensures that the family was satisfied with the services. If the service did not meet the needs of the family, then it provides you with an opportunity to correct the situation.

Second, you create goodwill for your firm by expanding the family's care beyond the initial service.

Third, you establish the opportunity to secure future at-need business with the family and possibly referrals. The family's positive experience will ensure they consider your funeral home or cemetery when the need arises, and might provide referrals to their family, friends and business associates.

It is essential that the funeral home director or whoever is handling arrangements at the cemetery set the stage for preneed at the conclusion of the at-need arrangement. He or she can introduce the preneed counselor who will be conducting the follow-up, or explain to the family the counselor will be calling them shortly and provide the family with the counselor's business card.

Managing your leads is just as important—if not more important—as generating them. Software programs and training should be available through your preneed provider to help counselors manage and track sales, collect marketing information and follow up with prospects.

Component #4:
Counselor incentive and recognition
Recognition is an important part of any preneed program. Rewarding counselors and managers with incentive trips and programs can boost confidence, morale and loyalty to the funeral home or cemetery. An employee who is recognized and appreciated is more inclined to continue to be successful.

Your preneed provider should be able to help you design incentive and recognition programs for your firm as well as sponsor its own program, whether it's an incentive trip to an attractive, high value destination or a newsletter that acknowledges top performers and provides insight for superior results.

In conclusion, it is important to remember that implementing and developing a successful preneed program is challenging, but every funeral home can achieve success. It requires the consistent application of the basics: program planning, monitoring and alignment; counselor recruiting, hiring and training; lead generation and management programs; and incentive and recognition programs.