AMA Houston: "Marketing to Death | Plan Now & Rest in Peace"

January 14, 2012

"Dying is like getting audited by the IRS. It is something that only happens to other people ... until it happens to you."

That line summarizes the challenges of the death care industry:  they need to convince people that pre-planning is key.

Presented by Philip C. Jacobs, Senior Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer Service Corporation International (SCI). Summary written by Michelle LeBlanc of Blue Sky Marketing. 2.4 Million Americans Die Each Year ...  According to the Federal Trade Commission, "Funerals rank among the most expensive purchases many consumers will ever make. Yet even if you're the kind of person who might haggle with a dozen dealers to get the best price on a new car, you're likely to feel uncomfortable comparing prices or negotiating over the details and cost of a funeral, pre-need or at need. Compounding this discomfort is the fact that some people "overspend" on a funeral or burial because they think of it as a reflection of their feelings for the deceased. " Thank you, FTC, for bringing that to our attention and now back to our speaker And yet convincing people to plan is the challenge... One of the more interesting things that Phil brought to the table is that that marketing death care has the same inherent challenges as any industry:  lead generation for pre-planning for their 3,500 sales people in the field, gaining share of voice in an industry populated by mom and pop entities (think of the family from "Six Feet Under"), and managing relationships with industry partners. As the only national brand (with a 13% market share), they have a unique marketing challenge. SCI's Marketing Vision: All Americans have a funeral plan through SCI's prearranged funeral planning. Messages that Seem to Resonate with Consumers:
  • Have the conversation.
  • Protect your family by preplanning.
  • Tell your story your way.
  • This is not funeral planning: this is a celebration of life.
  • The most memorable services are pre-planned by the departed.
All roads lead to digital data collection (even in death care marketing). Phil led the push to contemporize SCI's approach to marketing death care pre-planning. SCI has reframed their approach and provide easy access to pre-plan funerals online. They have recently launched an iPad App with a "Tell Your Story" focus that engages consumers with questions feeding an algorithm to identify their personal end-of-life  style. This complements their existing website portals engaging consumers for planning. Even in death care marketing, a sound digital strategy is key to lead generation. Random Aside: The National Museum of Funeral History is based here in Houston.  Their tagline is brilliant:  "Any day above ground is a good one."

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