How To Market Cremation In A Way That Will Change Your BusinessJuly 9th, 2015
Here in the funeral profession, we have a lot of, uh… passionate feelings about cremation. Many families come into a funeral home totally uneducated about what a funeral service can provide them and clueless about what options they have. So, they choose the cheapest option they’re presented with – direct cremation. Viewing service before the cremation? No thanks. Cremation burial? That’s okay. Ash scattering ceremony? No.
But while many of us complain that our families simply don’t appreciate what we do or understand the value of a beautiful funeral, the truth of the matter is, we’re the problem that needs to be fixed.
We, as a profession, need to stop focusing on what we can do to steer our families towards burial, and instead shift our focus towards marketing cremation in a way that is both valuable to families and a great service for our business. Why? Because cremation is here to stay, and will soon become a “standard” in providing service to our families… and if your funeral home doesn’t embrace it, you’ll soon be left behind.
How You’re Underselling Cremation At Your Funeral Home
A couple of weeks ago, while at the Illinois Funeral Directors Association Conference, Mike Nicodemus (NFDA) gave a great seminar all about marketing cremation for profitability. In this session, he brought up a conversation that he has overheard time and time again while working in the funeral profession:
Family member: “Hi. I’m calling because I am looking at cremation for my Dad who passed away.”
Funeral director: “So, you want direct cremation?”
Family member: “I guess.”
Funeral director: “Okay, let me get you my prices.”
For those who may not see the problem in this conversation, listen up. There is one fact that all funeral professionals should know – cremation families are only sure of one thing, and it’s that they want cremation. That means that, very rarely, will your families be the first to mention a cremation service, personalization options, cremation burial, or of any other of the service options you offer, because they don’t know they exist. While most of our families believe they are informed, most are actually unaware of the choices they have.
We also need to stop assuming that families are choosing direct cremation simply because it’s the cheapest option, because that’s not always the case. In fact, it rarely is. Nicodemus reported that consumers want the following from their funeral service:
- – 20% are looking for the low end, low cost solution
- – 5% want the high end, best possible option
- – 75% want the best value for their money
So it’s up to us, as a profession, to show families just how valuable cremation can be as an option for their loved one. And how do we do that? We need to first begin to value it ourselves.
Putting The Value Back In Cremation
Unfortunately, people both inside and outside of the funeral profession have began to think of cremation as a means for disposal, instead of a dignified end-of-life option. The problem with this is that disposal = cheap, while dignity = value. If families see dignity in your services, products and options, they will happily pay the money to have the service they believe their loved one deserves. But if they see you as just a means to dispose, they are going to save money wherever they can.
Therefore, it’s time to put the value and dignity back into your cremation services. Here are a few tips from Nicodemus for doing just that:
1. Don’t Undervalue Your Services
For some reason, many funeral professionals are afraid to charge full price for the quality of services that they provide. They want to be the nice guys and help families however they can, so they try to make things easier by letting burial subsidize cremation costs. But if you’re seeing a cremation family, are you spending less time speaking with them? Are you employing less staff to work at your funeral home? If the answer is no, then why are you charging less for your fees and services?
“How many times are you able to call up your dentist or doctor with pain at 2am, and have them say, ‘Sure, I’ll come over right now so we can get that taken care of?’” Nicodemus asked at IFDA. “Funeral professionals are one of the few that have this high level of instant service, so why are you undervaluing yourself and trying to come down and please those low end-driven consumers?”
Don’t apologize for the cost of cremation or be afraid to lose a call because you are charging the right price for the hard work you put in. People will pay a higher premium to do business with a company that has great customer service and high value to their products and services.
2. Educate Your Families About What You Provide
Many families today are not aware that they need to mourn in order to begin the healing process, let alone understand the ways in which a funeral begins to meet this need. And many funeral professionals don’t tell them. So it’s time to start bringing education to the forefront of your marketing.
Create a value-based script for phone calls to your funeral home, and role-play with your staff until everyone knows what they should say when a family calls with questions. Don’t just answer “yes” or “no” when people ask if you offer cremation. Don’t just throw a price tag at them. Instead, walk them through their options, compare the benefits of each one, and show the family what they don’t know by acting as the expert. Pretty soon, they’ll be saying, “Wow, for $X you do all that?!”
Also encourage families to come into your funeral home, visit your location and meet your staff before they make a selection. Show them you care and that you believe in what you sell. Reinforce their decisions by letting them know what a wise choice it is that they’re making.
If families see the value, and they see all of the hard work and effort that is going into the service they paid for, they will feel much better about their spending.
3. Build Customer Loyalty
People feel connected to brands and businesses that are loyal to them, and they will be loyal to those businesses in return. So it’s important to nurture those relationships and build loyalty with the people you want walking through your door. After all, your families’ word of mouth opinions carry more weight than all of your advertising combined.
This doesn’t just mean providing your families with a positive customer experience when they are planning a funeral, but also giving great service long after the funeral is over. For instance, sending condolence letters, quarterly newsletters that update them on your happenings, holiday programs that remember their loved one, and more. When you do these programs regularly, families come to expect them. They’ll reach out and call, wondering when these events are going to be. They love it, because you remembered them.
With programs like f1Connect website platform’s 365 Days of Grief Support, your families can even feel your commitment and support from their own home, as you help walk them through every step of their grief journey. When a family signs up for these daily email affirmations, they receive an email every day from your funeral home filled with messages of hope and healing long after they have left your building. This lets them know that you are there for them, and it will help to build loyalty.
4. Build Relationships With Your Community
Building loyalty and rapport with local families isn’t the only relationship-building you should focus on. It’s also important to stay connected with other local professionals, such as hospice centers. Why? Hospice recommends a cremation society 3x more often than a funeral home. And if they also don’t see the value of what your funeral home provides, this will never change.
To encourage a better relationship between your local hospice centers and your funeral home, consider holding open house events for local hospice members where they can check out your facilities, ask questions, and see how you have helped families in the past. This small gesture may just go a long way towards helping more people learn about the value of your service, and help create a new resource for bringing families into your funeral home.
5. Show Families Their Options
Many people have never had to plan a funeral before, and even fewer have looked into all of the creative service options that are out there. So when you ask your families, “would you like to have a service before the cremation,” it’s no surprise that many of them say no.
Even if families agree that they would like to have a service in addition to cremation, it’s hard for them to visualize what they might want if they have never thought about it before. So instead, you need to present them with many options that will inspire them and encourage them to celebrate the unique life.
For instance, with the f1Connect website platform, families can flip through a variety of different service options, ranging from ultra traditional to out of this world, with unique ideas in between. No, your family might not actually want their father’s ashes shot into space, but it will create a spark of an idea or get the conversation started about what dad’s hobbies were or what he might have wanted for his ashes. Presenting these true examples of what people have done in the past for cremation services will help put your families in the moment, and help them visualize the options available to them.
To learn more about how f1Connect can help to educate your families about the value of your services, click here.
What else do you think funeral professionals can do to help put value back into cremation? Do you agree with Mike Nicodemus when he says that it starts with those of us in the funeral profession? Be sure to share your thoughts with us in the comments below!