How cemeteries can get the most from digital marketing and social media to meet the needs of the changing buyer and increase pre-need sales.
Your Pre-Need Audience in 2023 and How To Reach Them
Targeting your audience begins with understanding them. We explore tools, techniques and strategies for reaching pre-need customers in 2023.
| Read time: 6 mins
If you had supposed the phrase, ‘evolving landscape’ would appear in the first sentence of a blog relating to pre-need in 2023, well, frankly, you would be correct.
But let’s first ask the question - what does a pre-need customer look like in 2023?
While no two customers are exactly the same - each with their own unique preferences, circumstances and personal considerations contributing to distinct needs - we might look to some broad characteristics, shaped in part by cultural shifts, changes in attitudes, demographics and consumer behaviour, to start painting a picture of what they look like.
That’s important for one very good reason - to be able to target an audience effectively, you must first understand them.
With that in mind, we consider some factors that will help the right messages find the right audience, in the right place, at the right time.
Understanding the evolving pre-need audience
So what does that ‘evolving landscape’ look like and how might cultural shifts and changing perceptions towards end of life planning be influencing consumer behaviours and expectations for pre-need?
Changing attitudes and behaviours
With discussions around death and dying becoming less taboo (perhaps in no small part to the impact of COVID), a normalisation of conversations around burial options point to a greater openness to discuss end of life planning, including pre-need planning;
Valuing the ability to tailor funeral and burial arrangements to our unique values and preferences and traditions, suggests a greater interest in personalisation and alternative forms of burial;
In a similar vein, our growing eco-awareness, and interest in sustainable options is leading many to consider eco-friendly burial options and methods of memorialisation as alternatives to traditional burial methods;
Technology, of course, continues to influence consumer behaviour - how we interact with goods and services is changing as the customer experience increasingly becomes a digital one. Importantly, we’re looking online to research, plan and arrange goods and services, and expecting access to digital tools and resources.
Related to that idea, is the prioritisation of more streamlined, simplified processes and procedures with an expectation of user-friendly online platforms, as well as a transparency in service offerings - as we become price and value aware, we seek to understand associated costs and expect clear communication on service options.
In understanding cultural shifts and changing mindsets, we can start to adapt offerings, communication strategies and service models to meet customer needs in the most effective way.
Researching options in 2023
In recognising the value in planning ahead, we may see consumers becoming more proactive in seeking information about available options, pricing, services and providers, and as we become more tech-savvy, using digital platforms to research and compare, with online resources, search engines websites and social media playing a significant role in the decision-making process.
As younger generations, and millennials in particular, increasingly have an influence on buying decisions, they are also bringing their own buying behaviour into decision making - self-educating, looking to social proof, online and personal network recommendations .
As we become more information-driven, more research-driven, and look to testimonials and recommendations, it starts to become clear where our audience is looking, and therefore, where we need to be.
Identifying your pre-need audience
As said, in order to effectively reach our target audience, it’s important to understand them.
And while we start to appreciate some broad characteristics of modern pre-need consumers - tech-savvy, research-orientated, price aware, emotionally-driven - we can also begin to dig deeper into what the pre-need customer looks like.
Market research and analysis
Market research plays an important role in identifying and understanding the target pre-need customer - providing valuable insights into their needs, preferences, behaviours and demographics.
Identifying specific characteristics such as age, gender, location, and background will help you to tailor your messages, your services and your communication strategies.
Research into needs and preferences will help you to understand motivating factors and what influences buying decisions - what services or features are most important to them and how you can address any specific pain points in the process relating to end of life planning.
In a similar way, this can help you to develop marketing messages that resonate - addressing specific needs, alleviating concerns and emphasising your unique value proposition.
Importantly, market research can also help you to understand what other providers are doing - how and where they’re engaging with consumers, what messages they’re using - and, in turn, use that information to help set you apart.
There are a number of ways you can carry out market research. Which of them you choose may of depend on the resources you have available, but some common methods include:
Surveys or questionnaires - these can help you to gather quantitative information on demographics and preferences, with structured questionnaires providing greater insights on attitudes, motivations and intentions. A good place to start is an online survey tool such as SurveyMonkey.
Interviews and focus groups - these are better for qualitative information, allowing you to dive deeper into personal experiences, motivating factors, perceptions and values around pre-need planning.
Online research and data analysis - online research tools can help provide a broader picture of the market, including trends and buying behaviours. Utilising website analytic tools such as Google analytics, search engine data and social media insights will also provide a picture of online behaviour and preferences - what people are searching for and what’s important to them.
Your own data - you already have a wealth of knowledge from existing families and customers - data on demographics, backgrounds, interment preferences etc. That information can be used to help complete the picture.
Creating buyer personas
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of the ideal customer, and a very good way to understand your target audience, as well as helping you to focus on those individuals who may be most interested in pre-need services.
Identifying and articulating needs and interests, challenges and pain points, and unique characteristics can help you to tailor your content and messaging and develop your offerings to meet the specific needs, behaviours and concerns of your audience 
The level of personalisation this affords may help to increase the likelihood of engagement, and by targeting those already inclined towards pre-planning you can help to build stronger relationships and increase conversion rates through more meaningful interactions.
Reaching and engaging your pre-need audience
Armed with those insights, you can begin to create marketing strategies and campaigns that will resonate with your target audience.
Traditional marketing strategies
Traditional marketing channels can still have value in resonating with pre-need audiences:
Print media, such as magazines, and local newspapers catering to your target demographic can still be effective in capturing attention;
Direct mail is a good way of sending personalised messages to those who have expressed an interest, or those who have met certain criteria through your research, and can be tailored to highlight the benefits of pre-planning and showcase service offerings;
Hosting events or seminars are another good way to engage with your audience, providing an opportunity to interact one-to-one, and similarly, community events provide a chance to distribute information or offer consultations, or form partnerships that can help to build trust and credibility.
Digital marketing techniques
Utilising digital marketing techniques are essential to reaching and engaging with your audience in 2023, and learning how to optimise your online presence will help you to communicate with a broader audience, and increase the likelihood of potential customers discovering what you have to say.
Utilising social media platforms such as facebook and instagram are of course a must. Which of them you use will be dependent in part upon the audience you want to engage with - although it's worth bearing in mind that facebook still remains the largest social platform among consumers.
Make them places for fresh and interesting content, share educational pieces, updates and stories about pre-need services and their benefits - be sure to encourage conversation and reply to comments, building a community around pre-planning topics.
Webinars and online events promoted through your digital channels provide an opportunity to educate and engage in real time, to provide expert advice, as well as valuable insights and the chance for attendees to ask questions.
As more of us go online to carry out research and consider available options, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) becomes ever-more important.
Google’s search algorithm uses over 200 factors to rank websites  so it’s important to improve your visibility and attract visitors by optimising your content and your website. Carrying out keyword research in the first instance will help you to identify relevant terms that people searching for pre-need services are using.
Your website remains a valuable resource for people researching pre-need options, so it’s important that it does what you need it to.
As a platform to showcase your offerings, ensure that it not only gives the right first impression but that it educates and informs - providing all of the relevant information visitors need to make informed decisions. Importantly, make sure that it provides clear and accessible contact information - and uses ‘call to actions’ that encourage visitors to supply you with their contact details.
When they’re on your site, use it to build trust and credibility through the all-important social proof.
The value of testimonials and case studies of people that have used your services can not be understated - in fact, according to a BrightLocal survey, 80% of American consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Let your customers tell your story for them - in this way, it's not a salesperson making the argument for you, rather someone who has been through the process speaking from their own experience.
We’ve really only scratched the surface in terms of strategies in reaching pre-need customers in 2023.
The key takeaway is that in order to reach your audience, you must first understand them. It is in understanding who your audience is that will allow you to develop the right messages and employ the right tactics that will allow you to speak directly to them and influence their buying decisions.
Inc., R. Jenkins
Hubspot, P. Vaughan
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