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Jennifer Bailey
By Jennifer Bailey on October 06, 2021

Reaching families the natural way: 5 truths about emotional decision making

Emotional decision-making influences the way you reach families. Here's how:

Did you know that 95% of decision-making is unconscious?

The most obvious example of this is breathing, or even parking your car in the same spot at work every day. But what about more serious decisions, like a marriage proposal, buying a house… or even, planning a funeral?

In a study by Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman, it was found that customers actually make most of their purchasing decisions subconsciously. That’s because our decisions are not ruled by logic, but rather emotions. In fact, it was found that people who have a brain injury or who have difficulty generating emotions are incapable of making decisions at all.

This is why we humans benefit so much from meditation or prayer, which enables us to focus on our emotions while gaining logical clarity; but also why we have a difficult time making conscious decisions, especially when we are thrown into a lot of information and decisions at the same time – giving us shell shock.

Families may feel overwhelmed and inadequate when they aren’t prepared for what’s ahead of them – whether it’s advanced planning or if a death has occurred.

So, what can funeral homes do to help families through this difficult time? Real estate professionals should be marketing to buyers by appealing to their emotions, providing value, and becoming a resource through all the confusion and stress – both before, during, and after the transaction.

5 Truths about Marketing to the Emotional Decision Maker

1. The family is the hero, the director is just the guide

Goodhearted funeral directors all want to be the hero for the client in need. But while your care and values make you the hero in the funeral home, your family, and yourself… remember that you are merely the guide for the client. And in their world, they are the hero.

In every story and in every movie ever written, there is a hero, who has a problem, who meets a guide that helps the hero solve their problem so that they can win the day and be transformed.

For example, in Warner Bro’s live-action version of Aquaman, the super hero-to-be Arthur Curry is in big trouble when his half-brother Orm tries to kill him in the Ring of Fire until the strong and beautiful Mera comes to his rescue, helps him escape, find the trident and then eventually… become the Ocean Master which saves a ton of lives. You can see from this very simple example that without Mera as his guide, he would have never achieved his potential.

Be the Guide, Not the Hero

The client is the hero of their own story. But funeral professionals have a unique opportunity to be a resource and a helpful guide who can honor their clients after they’ve won the day.

2. Consumers perceive new information by relating it to something else they understand

When you are trying to memorize someone’s name, how do you do it? By visualizing someone (or something) else with the same name, right? That’s because we live in a subconscious world that is controlled and ran by things we know and understand.

For example, if you are trying to sell a new kind of all-day breath freshener that is new to the market, you might help the consumer remember what it feels like to have freshly brushed teeth. Or even better, help them remember a time when they had coffee breath during a meeting (don’t lie, we’ve all been there!).

With new families, it may be more difficult to help them understand everything that will happen during the planning process. This is where the director, as the guide, can come in and help families absorb the information in ways they can not only understand but remember. We can do that through emotional language, stories, and even metaphors, parables, and allegories.

Here are some examples of metaphors that are often used to help people get through a difficult situation:

  • It’s about the journey, not about the destination
  • Sometimes you have to swim against the waves
  • Trust your inner compass
  • Each star has its own place in the sky

Here’s a video that’s totally worth watching about how the brain receives information and how to activate the brain to receive information:

3. Everyone has fears and anxieties

Funeral home professionals know this the best, every single person is dealing with some level of grief and anxiety, and they are on a journey to try and resolve it. By understanding the depths of what keeps them up at night, directors will be able to equip families with the right solutions.

There are plenty of stressors in both immediate and advanced planning, like dealing with finances, making personalization choices, handling distant family members or joint sibling decisions...

But there are deeper fears and anxieties at work beyond finances and siblings. St. Jude’s Hospital is able to capture the feelings of a child going through treatment with this ad campaign “Because of St. Jude” by uncovering their raw thoughts and emotions:


4. The human mind is built for puzzles

When was the last time you sat down and did a jigsaw puzzle? If you haven’t, you seriously should. According to this strange thing called anatomy, there are apparently two sides of the brain – and playing different kinds of games can stimulate different parts of the brain.

“Puzzles play with words, numbers, shapes, and logic in a way that impels us to uncover the solutions that they hide. We are thus engaged in a mental hunt for something, much like a detective in mystery stories or a scientist looking for the reason behind some phenomenon.”

– Marcel Danesi (University of Toronto)

So, believe it or not, going through the maze can actually bring some relaxation. We are built for understanding complexities, finding solutions to our problems, and enjoying “the quest” so to speak.

Here are 5 things you can do to stimulate the puzzle solver in your planning families:
  1. Give them advanced homework: preplanning workbooks, information about crematon options, journaling pages for an obituary, etc
  2. Ask them focused and important questions and don’t be afraid to get a little personal. Someone needs to do it and we know that families don’t always like to talk about it. These don’t have to be publicly shared or even written down. 
  3. Break the process down into steps so they know what to anticipate 
  4. Have them research green burials or something else new and different that they may not already know; they don’t have to be specifically interested in having a green burial to do some reading
  5. Put together a packet of information for them to take home

5. Bad Memories are Easier to Remember

Hippocampus. There’s a new word for your dictionary. It’s the part of the brain that stores your life episodes, and it’s also where increased brain activity can be triggered by negative emotions, like fear and sadness.

There’s only one takeaway here, and that’s to make sure you give your families a good experience. Every situation is unique, and there is no possible way to control the many facets that can push and pull the experience they will have; but what you can do is continue to be their trusted ally, putting them first in every situation and giving them the best experience with you, their guide, that they could possibly have.

This goes without saying, but it can make a huge impact on your sales and marketing as well. The majority of people (8/10) will go elsewhere if they read a bad review of you online, and customers who do have a bad experience are 2-3 times more likely to write an angry review than happy customers will be to write a positive review.

Appealing to emotions, providing value, and becoming a resource

It doesn’t take much to reposition your thinking and becoming a true resource for your client families. Because despite the problems we all know exist, the real problem is not finding value in your marketing activities, but finding marketing activities that create the value.

And when we talk about being the first funeral home to get the referral or the first call, we all know that it’s not visibility and word of mouth alone – it’s a dedication to amazing customer service and being a guide for your families time and time again. Because visibility isn’t in the eye of the consumer, it’s in the heart.

Published by Jennifer Bailey October 6, 2021
Jennifer Bailey