Preneed has always been a marketing buzzword for funeral homes, but it can be just as profitable for cemeteries as well.
While many people shy away from considering their final resting place, cemeteries have an amazing opportunity to share the benefits of their offerings. By making existing customers familiar with the surroundings, amenities and services your cemetery offers, that, in turn, can lead seamlessly into a preneed discussion.
Funeral homes communicate with families who have used their services before; cemeteries should consider that method as well.
In initiating a preneed program, cemeteries can use their contacts with funeral homes to focus on families who may have already purchased a preneed arrangement. Preneed goes hand in hand—those families may be most likely to also purchase cemetery plots or mausoleum niches, as well as vaults and grave markers.
In lieu of personal interviews—which can also be effective when done at the proper time—cemeteries can query their customers on their preferences for their own last wishes. That can take the form of a paper survey or link to an online survey.
Some questions could include:
- What are their preferences—in-ground grave, mausoleum, crypt or other? Full Body Burial or Cremation?
- What factors play into their decision? Geographic location? Esthetics and amenities of the cemetery? Cost? Religious affiliation?
- Have they discussed their preferences with their family?
- Have they set aside funding, whether via insurance or trust?
- What steps have the families taken towards planning their final disposition?
Gathering and assessing this information is the first step in approaching preneed conversations. For example, if the cemetery learns that 90 percent of the respondents have no plans in place, that’s a great place to open up discussions—perhaps via holding an open house at the cemetery.
By using an operational software like byondpro, cemeteries can reacquaint themselves with their inventory, and update their customers with availability of plots. Digital mapping capabilities provide GPS-enabled maps, which allow operators to view everything including points of interest, plant areas, buildings and more which, in turn, can assist in preneed sales. Such maps can also be integrated with public-facing services, such as deceased search and schedule of services.
Inventory management tools track and manage memorial locations and availability based on sectors like garden adjacencies, religious groupings or other user-defined segments.
Armed with this information at their fingertips, cemeteries should be aware of the pros and cons of preneed planning.
- Saves money for families. Often, the cost of arrangements can be locked in, and money can be set aside for just that purpose.
- Less burden for surviving family members. When preplanning, a person can outline their preferences—leaving little to no guesswork for family members.
- Personalize a final resting place. Just like selecting a dream home, preneed allows customers to select their dream resting place—near a stream, under a towering sugar maple, beside their beloved spouse, just on the edge of their cherished hometown.
- Peace of mind for families. Sure, that can be a trite phrase, but there is something truly comforting about putting one’s wishes in order.
- Allows cemeteries to start building relationships with families earlier.
- Potential for increased cash flow.
There are few drawbacks to preplanning a final disposition. While preferences may change over time, details can often be changed at time of need.
Inflation and interest rates, however, must be considered. Funds placed in trust may not be enough to cover increases in costs over time, depending on when the money is needed. This could lead to a potential loss for cemeteries at time of need.
The death care industry has never been one to promote itself too much. But a 21st-century marketplace—with its mobile trends and changing demographic—demands cemeteries take a more active role in promoting their services and securing their legacy.