What will you do to grow your advance sales during the next 12 months?

It's important to work on your business not just in your business. Sometimes it takes an outsider's advice to help get you on the right strategic track. Do you want your funeral home to do better during the past 12 months than in the past year? Do you want new families in your client base, strengthening your funeral home financially and increasing its role in the community? Some might focus on last year's negative results and sulk. But I've got a few easy-to-implement marketing strategies that might help.

The first step is to measure the health of your business – get a yearly check-up, so to speak. Here's an easy self-measurement:

Market Share

  • How many funerals did you do last year?
  • How many did your competitor(s) do?
  • What was your average at-need sale without cremations?
  • How many funded preneed contracts did you write in 2006?
  • How many in 2005?
  • What was your average preneed sale without cremation?
  • How does that compare to your at-need average?


  • How did you fund your preneed contracts? Insurance __ Trust __
  • Did you use an insurance company that will be a good provider in the future? __Yes __ No _____
  • Did you earn the maximum commission rate? __Yes __No
  • Is your preneed contract growth reliable, or can you expect future shortfalls?
  • Can you easily get a better preneed funding arrangement? __Yes __ No


  • How are you going to offset the rising rate of direct cremation replacing traditional funerals?
  • Are your preneed contracts generating shortfalls for your loyal customers?
  • Did your preneed program bring in new families you have never serviced before?

Critical Questions

Will you...

  • Package your preneed plans so your preneed average is higher than your at-need average?
  • Earn enough upfront commission dollars to fund your advertising and preneed program with no out of pocket expenses?
  • Break even or gain in market share?
  • Hire the right people to manage and follow-up preneed inquiries?
  • Commit to a solid preneed training program?
  • Establish a compensation program designed to attract, motivate and retain successful counselors?
  • Make sure someone is charged with running the preneed program? (You need to appoint a champion to be directly responsible for the success of your preneed.)

You need planning and management to successfully blend all the ingredients you need. But it's crucial to do so – not just to grow, but to protect your current operation and income from competitors. In most funeral homes, preneed sales management is not a full-time job. But it's a necessary one. Often, the owner supervises. Unfortunately, many owners lack the necessary patience and coaching skills. Owners often have other management priorities that leave little time for the preneed department. They often find themselves consumed with properly servicing at-need clients. When owners find themselves managing preneed reactively, and not for long-term planning, they miss out on what's needed to reach the next level to fully protect their future. In order to reach that goal, you must define what you expect and determine how to get there. Especially for most preneed counselors and programs, clearly defined goals and successful lead systems are critical.

It is easy to figure out what some realistic goals should be (for example: preneed contracts should equal 0.60 X your annual at-need calls). So determine your goal now. What does this mean for you? Write it down somewhere. If you serve 100 families a year at-need, you should be able to write 60 funded preneed contracts within the same year. If you serve 250 families at-need, you should write 150 preneeds a year. And so on...

Now, it's a lot harder to figure out how to get there, what systems to use and what paths to follow without wasting a lot of money trying to figure it out. You can try a bunch of different ideas. Prepare to experience some failure and so on, or you can let someone else use their money to figure it out for you. There are some very good people in the industry who can consult with you and help set up the course/systems that have proven successful in the past. That can both shorten your learning curve and save you the cost of trial and error. I can even help point you in the right direction, based upon our 28 years of preneed experience around the country. Fill out the above survey and fax it to me (Fax 504-837-4983) for a complimentary analysis.

Preneed Sales Planning

As I said above, a big part of the challenge is to set goals and objectives for your preneed program. That's simple if you think all you need to do is handle the "walk-in" & "call-in" business. Plans are more complicated if you?re trying to grow your business by getting new families, preserve traditional funerals, and counter the rising cremation trend. Consumers' definition of "value" - what they want from a funeral service – is beginning to change. Most funeral homes should have a similar vision at this point. You will need to ensure that there is a persistent, consistent approach to developing and retaining business. You must track its implementation with a validation schedule.

How are you going to pay for this?

Part of the health checkup survey above asks if your preneed contracts are getting full up-front commission value and back-end growth from your funding source. Each insurance product out there has its pros and cons. You need to pick the right one that works best for your situation and your area. That can be tricky. You can't listen exclusively to the insurance company or trustee rep selling product in your area. Different companies might be a better fit for various towns, situations, and the people in them. Each city is different. You can best help your families and maximize your earnings by using the right mix of plans with the right products. If you?d like to see my comparison of preneed funding options and companies, drop me a line!

Developing a Marketing Plan

Frequently, funeral homes use a top-down process toward implementing a preneed plan that hands down a goal or dictate to care well for every family that calls. Unfortunately, you need goals in the preneed side of this business. And ideally, those goals should be achieved from the bottom up. Use systems and plans as building blocks for an overall tactical sales plan. This will help ensure that your goals are specific, attainable, measurable and profitable.

You need to base that planning process on a sound understanding of current marketplace trends and savvy preneed systems deployment. That's why you should do a demographic survey of your service area. It costs less than $300 and can save you thousands. You should also include a critical look at the strengths and weaknesses of your funeral home. Examine your preneed counselor and the competition. Every one should have a clear idea of your goals and how to get there, what paths the counselors will follow to reach families before they need you.

If you need advice on those systems - paths for counselors to follow, I covered the four primary ones in a booklet called Blueprint to Preneed Success. I can send you one if you call or e-mail me (504-837-8868 or succeed@preneed.net ). Check-ups are good to evaluate and ensure your future health – whether personal or for the business. On the outside, things might appear ok ... but undetected problems can rob you of a healthy future. Good luck with your annual check-up – and let us know if we can help!

Quinn Eagan started in his family firm and has continued in the funeral business for 28 years. He is the President of PFP – Preneed Funeral Program, whose marketing systems have sold over $1 Billion of funded prearrangements. His firm has trained preneed representatives at more than 600 funeral homes in 27 states and across Canada. To contact Quinn, call him at quinn@preneed.net or call 800-529-7729.