The pressure to compete on price is mounting, but consumers want services beyond cremation too.
Consumer groups and low-cost providers are making price a focus for cremation. However, when we marketing cremation services on price alone, we risk becoming just another commodity like everything else that you can buy online with a coupon or an "on sale now" tag.
What is a commodity? Something to be traded and purchased based upon price alone. Commodities are things for which a special description is unnecessary because the service or good is always the same. The market treats commodities as essentially the same, measured in a standard unit and interchangeable.
How do funeral homes respond to families concern about prices without allowing themselves to be shopped on price alone?
Understand the problem with price as a primary value proposition
The loss of a loved one is an important moment in which the process of grieving should lead to healing rituals. Competing on price alone presents a significant problem: When we allow the details of burial to be reduced down to a simple variable - price - we risk also devaluing the importance of the grieving process itself. The moments in which family and friends gather, important memories are shared, and love and concern are offered to those who are grieving are truly important. This kind of support should be a part of the discussion about the important details surrounding loss. The tensions that can arise in a family are already significant, and removing support from the equation can create a setting for increased stress and a grieving process that does not result in resolution.
If we present cremation as a price only commodity, options that support healthy grief and healing can be missed entirely.
A second big problem is that price-based competition removes from consideration the other critical elements from which a consumer receive true value - the quality of service plus expertise in an environment of care. Since these things do matter, it does consumers a disservice when they are removed from consideration.
6 Steps to Marketing Cremation Services without Becoming a Commodity.
- Present cremation within the context of supportive services and options.
- Don't make price the primary value proposition.
- Provide a clear pathway to discuss price, so that people know their costs are your concern too.
- Provide options that address price but retain supportive options. Label these service packages in such a way that people recognize the value option.
- Ensure that the positive and supportive experience you provide is first experienced on your website.
- Share about resources for grief and healing with every customer.
Who is searching online for cremation?
In a 2019 survey commissioned by Story Collaborative, we asked people what they thought was the most important factor in selecting a cremation provider. The group that focused on price the most was Generation X, those born between 1965 and 1976. Millennials were far more concerned with funeral options as were Baby Boomers. The spike in price concern will continue to peak as the 50 million people who are Gen X'rs become the primary decision makers for their families. If this trend holds true, the focus on cremation and price could almost double as this generation matures. It is positive that Millennials don't hold this view currently, which suggests that the trend will change as their influence grows, but with the oldest Millennial in their mid-thirties, this will take a while to develop.
Searching Cremation but that's Not All
While people are choosing cremation at a rate this year that will reach 53.5 percent, with a forecast that the national cremation rate will now reach eighty percent by 2035 according to the NFDA's 2018 study. While they are choosing cremation, that is not how they begin their online search.
The Google search trends chart above shows the difference between the volume of online search that focuses on "cremation" versus "funeral." Searches for "funeral" are consistently occurring at twice the rate of cremation searches. Spikes occur most likely due to high profile funerals.
Since people aren't starting their search with "cremation," then funeral providers who effectively meet them online with cremation marketing have a distinct advantage in the education of consumers about the value and options for other services such as memorial services. This requires a search engine optimization approach (SEO) linked to valuable content.
What about those who are searching for a specific funeral rather than for their own family needs? These searches are important for funeral homes too, because, it is an opportunity to build awareness about their company while they serve the needs of those who plan to attend a service.
Pathways to pricing
What is a pathway to pricing? Smart websites that take people quickly where they want to go and the price is something they want to know about cremation in particular. In the past, almost no information was available until a funeral director met to discuss details. Today consumer expectations for self-education online require that funeral homes meet them at least part-way. If no avenue for learning about price is provided then some portion of consumers will simply visit another website. In the area of cremation, there are plenty of providers who will quote prices.
Since we don't want to allow price to become the primary focus, it is important to understand the consumer expectation about access to pricing information but to provide that information in a way that educates and presents all the opportunities for support and service. This can be approached as a "pathway to pricing," collecting contact information and presenting some service options before sharing pricing. Pricing can then be presented in a range or in a package that includes services as well as cremation.
Many studies document the fact that the speed of response an inquiry makes a big difference in the way that consumers decide about were to purchase services. Speed of response can satisfy the concerns of someone for whom pricing is a primary issue.
Marketing Cremation with Online Education
Another helpful approach is to set the bar for what is really required for quality, professional cremation services. Educating consumers in your cremation marketing about what they should expect as it relates to caring for their loved ones, and providing a dignified cremation can put pricing into context, and set cremation providers committed to high quality apart from any who want to only provide the lowest cost service.
The website environment in which you focus cremation marketing should educate and provide an experience that helps those searching for cremation to raise their expectations about quality and the healing rituals that can support the family in their time of grief.